As a bleeding heart liberal living in Arizona’s wild-west, I am really struggling at the moment. The euphoria of Barak Obama’s election seems a dim and distant memory. The right wing backlash to both his election and healthcare reform has been fierce and not a little frightening.We have seen Democrat congressmen and women being spat at, racially abused and subjected to harassment, hate mail and death threats.
The insufferable Sarah Palin has placed a map on her Facebook site on which 20 Democrats are ‘targeted’ in rifle scope crosshairs and urged opponents of the healthcare legislation to ‘reload’ rather than retreat. Given the tinderbox atmosphere in this country and the fact that she allegedly has 1.4 million followers on Facebook, the use of military metaphors and imagery are decidedly incendiary.
And then there is the Tea Party movement, that rag-tag collection of myopic, irrational, bile-ridden, small-government extremists. The likes of Palin, Ron Paul (the right-wing libertarian who ran for President) and the shock-jocks, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are its’ champions. These rabble rousers are responsible for a whole slew of anti-Obama and anti-government falsehoods : Obama is a Muslim, he was not born in the USA, he is a Socialist (if only!), he is un-patriotic, he consorts with terrorists and his government is planning to introduce martial law and detain dissidents in internment camps. Some of the banners that have been on show at Tea Party rallies are sickening. For example, there was one that had a picture of Obama dressed as a Nazi with a Hitler moustache which read: ‘Barak Hussein Obama…The new face of Hitler’ and another which read: ‘The American taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s ovens.’
Furthermore, hundreds of hate-crimes have been reported as immigrants and minorities are targeted by newly galvanized, armed, ultra-nationalist and white supremacist groups. Repellant symbols of the pre-civil rights era, such as burning effigies of Obama hanging from nooses and Ku Klux Klan cross burnings, have re-appeared.
As far as Arizona is concerned, it is run by a bunch of benighted Republican lawmakers who are hell bent on dragging the State as far to the right as it is possible to go in American politics. It has just passed a law making it legal to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Essentially, they have rejected all forms of gun control. And their motivation? Pure ideology; the right to bear arms as outlined in the second amendment of the constitution. Only two other States, Alaska and Vermont, have an equivalent law.
Equally as jaw-dropping is the Arizona Legislature’s passing of what is commonly accepted as being the toughest anti-immigrant measure in the United States. It directs local police to be pro-active in determining the immigration status of someone they believe might be an illegal immigrant. In other words, it is carte blanche for aggressive racial profiling. In addition, it creates a new crime of trespass for those who are found to be undocumented and introduces criminal sanctions for day laborers and anyone that hires them.
There is also strong support for sending National Guard troops to the border and it has even been suggested that they adopt a shoot-to-kill policy.
In the pipeline is a package of tax-cuts, despite a $2 billion State deficit, and a raft of socially puritanical measures. These include requiring adolescents to obtain parental consent to use birth-control medication and to have treatment for STD’s, increasing the amount of time it takes to secure a divorce from 2 to 6 months and jailing minors for sending sexually explicit images of themselves to each other, on their mobile phones.
Moreover, along with 15 other States, Arizona has signed up to the politically motivated constitutional challenge to the healthcare law. Their principal argument is that it is unconstitutional to mandate individuals to take out health insurance against their will. However, the consensus amongst legal experts is that Congress has long had the constitutional authority both to regulate commerce within and between States and to tax and spend for the general welfare. The obvious comparison to make is that of car insurance which is, of course, obligatory.
Arizona has also become the first State in the country to abolish SCHIP, the children’s health insurance program, thereby leaving thousands of kids without cover. It will now be obligated to re-instate it along with other voter-approved health insurance programs it had previously cut.
This quote from the Arizona Daily Star encapsulates the dogmatic and propagandized nature of so many Americans:
‘He’s moving the country into a socialized country, Jim Fall of Wrightwood, California, said of the President. He worries that Obama is “too radical left-wing” and that government has grown too big, saying: ‘He is constantly in our lives more and more and more and more.’
Healthcare is a perfect illustration of the paranoia surrounding the federal government. The economist, Paul Krugman, has pointed out that the government actually pays 47% of medical bills whereas the private insurance industry only pays 35%. He finds the fear-mongering over “socialized medicine” to be both amazing and depressing.
There is an out-of-touch-with-reality aspect to American society, in which a “don’t confuse me with the facts, let me believe what I want to believe” mindset is prevalent. There is an old-line about an American being someone who eats his (government inspected) breakfast, drives on the (government provided) highway, goes to his (government subsidized) defense-related job, is glad his parents are receiving (government provided) social security and Medicare, puts his paycheck into his (government insured) bank account and then calls a talk radio station to complain about excessive government.
According to the National Priorities Project, Americans have collectively spent more than a trillion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. That is an average of over $7000 per person. And yet the gargantuan military-industrial-prison complex is somehow airbrushed out of the equation by the very same people who claim to be furious that those who fail to take out health insurance under the new act will have their tax increased by $95 in 2014, $450 in 2015 and $750 in 2016.
However, interminable war does not seem to concern mainstream America which believes that it is the sine qua non of maintaining liberty at home. Maybe they should heed the words of James Madison, one of their founding fathers, who wrote in 1795: “Of all the enemies of public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.”
The European concept of the social contract between government and the people, whereby you pay tax and receive welfare and services from the State, surrender some individual sovereignty in return for social order and have both rights and responsibilities as citizens, appears to be alien to millions of Americans. Here, the poor do not get rescued as a right of citizenship but through charity.
The huge irony is that the Marxist concept of false consciousness, which means that the masses believe that they are acting freely and rationally in their own self interest, whereas the reality is that they are unwittingly subscribing to a system which is antithetical to their best interests, is alive and kicking in the USA.