Monday, April 25, 2011


One of my best friends in college recently wrote to me, in part,

Barack Obama ran for office in 2008 on many liberal planks. I gave him $500. He has abandoned almost all of them. His press secretary castigated "professional liberals" who would not get in line. He has declined to fight for many correct liberal positions. He gave away the public option in the health care debate at the starting line. We have not heard a peep out of him on climate change--the most important issue of all.

Another guy I know thinks -- is certain -- that Barack Obama is (and I quote) "purposefully destroying the USA, bringing it down without firing a shot, that he is a radical muslim and black activist whose concept of US as a great land which has discovered, invented, helped, aided, pioneered and yes, made some awful mistakes."

I assume he left something out of the final dependent clause, but the meaning is clear: Obama hates America and wants to destroy it.

Two minds. One talks reality, the other talks mythology.

Well, I guess it proves one thing: Obama is hardly the crazy liberal portrayed by the RWS™. He's got both ends of the spectrum pissed off. Don't they say the perfect contract is one in which both parties think they got screwed?

Both of the aforementioned people are smart. Ivy League educated, matter of fact, and each has a post-graduate degree. I fully understand disagreement with Barack Obama, from both the left and the right. Count me, in several things, among the former. But, coming from a well-educated and otherwise thoughtful person, the crazy paranoid stuff is simply beyond my ken. From the uneducated, incurious, gullible, hate-filled, Foxobeckially misinformed racists, the folk in a recent video I posted; sure. But this guy I know, this smart guy, mystifyingly, he'll never stop believing the above and I can't figure it out. Worse: to bolster his position, he keeps referring to things that have been debunked over and over (merely one example). And he always will. (The missing phrase above is, no doubt, regurgitation of the RWS™ myth that Obama doesn't believe in [the meaningless at best, destructive at worst, concept of] American exceptionalism. Also false. Debunked. But who cares about facts, right?) (Added: here's the latest Foxodrudgery, already riling the riled.)

Lately I've read a lot of articles about how the mind closes, about the mechanisms at play in the brain to defend its hold on those things that keep it free of discordance. Funny, huh?: the times seem to have gotten thinkers thinking about that stuff. Wonder why that is. The election of a black man to the presidency has sent the nation into flights of paranoia and dysfunction never before seen. Yeah, there were Bush-haters. There was, as the Obama-deranged Charles Krauthammer coined the term, "Bush derangement syndrome." But -- at least for me -- it was based on things that actually happened, that really did nearly destroy this country: his tax cuts, his deregulation, his unnecessary (one) and abandoned (one) and unpaid-for and mismanaged (two) wars. Turning surplus into unprecedented deficit. His politicization of the Justice Department, his theologizing of foreign policy. On and on. Whatever else it might have been, my "hatred" was not paranoid; it wasn't based on internet rumors fanned and fomented by (who knows which?) crazies or liars.

And yet, despite the fact that George Bush actually came goddamn close to bringing us down, I never thought that was his intention. Enriching his buddies, sure. Not caring about the consequences, evidently. Proudly ill-informed? Was the Pope a Nazi? But deliberate destruction? A bridge too far, even for me.

So, much as I understand criticism -- too little stimulus or not enough; too many tax cuts or not enough; mishandled oversight of TARP or did it too well (it made money, after all); should get out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or up the antes -- the kind of stuff I hear from this guy I know defies understanding. False on its face, disproved without breaking a sweat, it lives like mold in a damp basement. (As I recall, that guy I know has never actually shown anything real that demonstrates Obama's hatred for and deliberate destruction of the US; we are, after all, in virtually all ways better off than when he took over -- not as much as we'd like, but demonstrably better; and whereas Obama has, sadly, continued many of Bush's destructive policies, he's not the one who started them. So who's the America-hater?)

Whatever the beliefs some people hold, it appears that when facts arise that contradict them, it's preferable simply to ignore those facts. Discount them. It's how conservatives roll: studies show it. Needed beliefs, embedded like fossils, are too precious to let go. Facts are irrelevant. In the case of right-wing Obama-hatred, what are those needed beliefs, so strong, so impervious, so seductive? I can guess.

Much as I rant and rave here, as partisan as I most often am, I don't think I hold insupportable beliefs. And if I do, I can't imagine not amending them if evidence showed any to be false. That Obama has been a bad president, sure, make the case, based on policies. That he's a Muslim extremist intent on destroying us: based on what, other than that debunkery? The mind blows. I can't deal with it any more. I like arguments. But this. This is a brick wall.

Fact is, it seems to me the ones actually, literally, openly, make-a-case-for-it rejecting our most basic democratic principles are the newly-powerful Republicans. From tossing out a cityful of elected officials to turning voting rights on their head, the evidence is real, not imaginary. Given our improving (not fast enough) economy, job creation (too few, but better than Bush's losses), stock market growth (not back to where it was), seriously attempting to improve health care for millions (too capitalistic, not at all socialistic); and given the behavior in Michigan with more to follow, which, as Rachel Maddow said recently, implies a belief that democracy is the problem, not the solution -- given all that, about whom is it saner to say they're literally trying to destroy the foundations of America?

Riddle me that.

So here's the thing: much as I share my college friend's frustrations with Obama, it'd take a hell of an alternative liberal candidate for me to vote against him in a primary, even as symbolism. And for me to vote for a Republican, they'd have to come up with an as-yet unknown opponent, thoughtful and brilliant and fact-filled, reasonable, in ways heretofore unseen, as so far all of their crop of potentials have pandered to or fomented the paranoia, the birtherism, the anti-knowledge and simple-mindedness of the teabaggers.

Were Barack Obama to lose on the merits, so be it. A case can be made. But because of lies and delusions? It would mean the end of reason. And therefore, since democracy depends on at least a minimal amount of thoughtful citizenry, the end of us all: the real actual not made-up true literal undeniable and irreversible "purposefully destroying the USA, bringing it down without firing a shot."

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