Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

This is America [UPDATED]

The tragic mass-murder in Tucson produced an almost instantaneous backlash against what many perceive to be vitriolic political speech in this country. This prompted an equally swift defensive pushback from those who felt their side of the political debate was being unfairly blamed for the act of a person who they argued was clearly mentally-disturbed

Most of the focus seems to be on guns. People point to the use of gunsights on maps and calls for “2nd Amendment solutions” as examples of political speech that has gone too far. I think it goes deeper than that.

The problem isn’t necessarily guns. After all, guns aren’t dangerous unless they are pointed at someone. The problem lies with the divisiveness of political speech in this country. It lies with the demonization of fellow Americans.

This demonization began long before Sarah Palin began to talk of “real Americans”. It has been going on for decades and is usually used by the Right to smear their opponents. If someone points out the only too real faults of this country, they are immediately attacked as an “America-hater” or traitor.  

I speak of this from experience. I have not only been called an America-hater, but also, a traitor to my race and my country, a “nigger lover”, a Commie, and worse for pointing out less admirable portions of our history. I have been told that I should be shot, or hung, or to “love it or leave it” for simply stating historical facts.

What hope is there for this country if people can be accused of seeking to destroy America when they speak in favor of expanding health care coverage? Or to be called traitors or accused of siding with terrorists simply for supporting the rule of law and calling for proof of guilt before someone is imprisoned for life?

It is easy to despair, at times, when trying to push back against the all too common insular, intolerant hate for the other that permeates our society. Yet, those feelings of despair should be fleeting for truth eventually wins in the end. Attitudes in the general public change as it becomes apparent that the lies used to demonize others are not based on fact. This can be seen in the changing attitudes towards gays in this country. It is a slow process that can seem glacial at times, but, like a glacier, it is an unstoppable force.

Hate relies on lies and opinion, not on observable fact. It loses when the facts become so obvious that the lies no longer sway people. We cannot counter opinion with opinion. We can counter faulty opinions by pointing to facts that counter the lies that form mistaken opinions.

Talk of “real Americans” implies there are “unreal Americans”. When Palin talks about “real Americans”, she means conservative, white Christians who believe America is anointed by God. Taken to its logical conclusion, anyone who does not fit in this group is an enemy of the country and should be marginalized or destroyed. It is this attitude, more than talk of guns or 2nd Amendment solutions, that endangers our republic.

There are many lessons to be learned from the tragedy in Tucson; lessons about gun control, mental health care, the tenor of political rhetoric, and more. Yet, one lesson, more than any other, needs to be promulgated far and wide. And that lesson is that we are all Americans.

I can think of no better way to spread this lesson than to repeat this observation by Allen Ginsberg, a historian from Maine (no, not the Allen Ginsberg) as related by Mark Shields in a discussion with Jim Lehrer and David Brooks. This is America.

MARK SHIELDS: It’s the college town. It’s really a wonderful city. And it was shaken to its roots. And I think there was an emotional need to affirm. And I think this was a form that the affirming took, was the cheering.

There was one observation that was made this week I just have to pass on to you by a friend of mine, Allen Ginsberg, who is an historian up in Maine. And he said, this week, we saw a white, Catholic, Republican federal judge murdered on his way to greet a Democratic woman, member of Congress, who was his friend and was Jewish. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year-old Mexican-American college student, who saved her, and eventually by a Korean-American combat surgeon.


MARK SHIELDS: Dr. Rhee, that’s right. And then it was all eulogized and explained by our African-American president. And, in a tragic event, that’s a remarkable statement about the country.


I came across this video on BalloonJuice. It was so apropos that I couldn’t resist adding it to this diary.


  1. Jjc2008

    this week, or heard them.   But sadly, John, you, I and many others already know the positives of a melting pot, the wonderful things diversity can bring, and the fact that one’s skin color, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, are simply enhancements to their humanity.  It’s the people who refuse to hear and see because they fear change that need to read this.

    I continue to believe that the silence of those who know bullying (and imo, that is all hate rhetoric is ..a form of bullying) is wrong, is giving permission.  

    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

    – Thomas Jefferson

    What is tyranny except an organized form of bullying.  Rush, Sarah, O’Reilly, Beck…..and many elected officials (Bachmann, King) are BULLIES.   It’s so obvious.  Those on the right in office or running for office are scared to death to cross Rush or Beck.  Pawlenty was practically wetting himself in an effort to backdown from what was nothing more than NOT DEFENDING Palin’s map of gunsights.  

    Like you I have been called lots of names, called “a Jane Fonda” wannabbee for opposing Vietnam; called a bleeding heart, pinko commie for everything, from being an active democrat here in the land of Focus on the Family to marching for peace or for circling Rocky Flats to get them to end the pollution with nuclear waste.  But even worse, I have angered friends for calling them on the use derogatory terms for Mexican, for black’s or for me (some think I am way too sensitive for telling then  I do not like the term “wop” for Italians…).

    My thought is this.  We need people with voices in the MSM to STOP calling Rush and entertainer and start calling him a BULLY.  Cause that’s what he is.

    And if I ever meet Brian Williams, the first thing I would tell him is, “NO Mr. Williams, Rush does not have a legitimate pov.  Bigotry, racism and sexism are not legitimate…….not any more.”

  2. But clearly I’m excluded from the conclusion:

    We are all Americans

    I don’t think the nation state is going to wither away any day soon, and certainly it’s the best vehicle yet devised (since the city state) for democratic accountability, governance, tax raising, social cohesion and investment.

    But is national identity still the rallying cry it was? From the American revolution onwards, national pride (even if it had to be relatively quickly constructed in your case) was the main force again the colonial regimes and empires that then dominated the world. But then nationalism culminated in Two World Wars, and we constructed powerful and important international agreements, from Bretton Woods, Geneva Conventions, the UN, IMF, World Bank and then Nato.

    America led the post war boom, but in a deep spirit of transnational co-operation.

    Our lives are even more internationally embedded now, thanks to trade, global finance, the movement of money, electronic communication and exchange, and of course travel and migration.

    I still think of myself as British, but in much more hyphenated way I think than my forebears (who weren’t mainly English anyway). My friends and family have different national pasts. Thanks to the EU they can live and work almost anywhere in Europe (and even draw benefits).

    Likewise, in the States, there is not only the fractioning off between Blue and Red states. There are also migrant communities who have cross border identities…

    Isn’t it precisely the problem that many Arizonans look around and say “We’re all Americans. But they aren’t…” And others root around for your President’s birth certificate, or find endless other ways to impy he’s UnAmerican

    Such a vast country – so many different traditions, backgrounds, and voluntary affiliated high different tribes. Is national identity enough to fight the prejudice and hate?  Where do those undescribed ‘Others’ fit in?

    Obama seemed to promise a new wider definition of what it meant to be a true American. That was the heart of his appeal back to the conference speech in 2004. His is, in many ways uniquely, an American Story.

    But vast swathes of your country still don’t accept that. It’s getting better. Look at this…

    However, as you might expect, blogging in the US from the wrong side of the pond, I’m still a little wary of any unity that tries to define us by exclusion.  

  3. sricki

    humanity in general rather than just Americans, but I’ll try to stay on topic as you suggested.

    What is so tough about combating the mentality that there are “real Americans” vs. “fake Americans” in this country is the reality that we are not really fighting an “enemy” — just a destructive falsehood that seems to have permeated many aspects of American life for some people. A lot of people, in fact. But the rub is that those people still aren’t our enemies. They’re just us, and wrong. Many people, along the full range of the political spectrum, are so insulated from each other that they have managed to dehumanize their political opponents. Right and Left alike, people seem to either A) perceive their opponents as being barely human components of a mass faceless horde swarming in to destroy the country, or B) allow the politicians they revile (e.g., Sarah Palin, Nancy Pelosi) to represent the faces of everyone they disagree with.

    This of course has been going on for ages, and not just in this country. We fear what we don’t know, and we despise what we don’t agree with. Well, perhaps not all of us, but a pretty large percentage of the population. But think about it — if the people we don’t agree with aren’t wrong, then we’re wrong, and that’s really, really scary. Recognizing that we’re wrong naturally leads to the realization that we need to change, and change is incredibly difficult. People tend to resist it with everything in them, even when change would be in their own self interests. They look for evidence to support their preexisting beliefs rather than founding their beliefs on the basis of available evidence. The maintenance of irrational cognitive distortions and faulty beliefs is a human phenomenon rather than a purely American one, but sometimes I feel that Americans are particularly adept at it. That’s probably just because I live here.

    Living in the Deep South, most of the clients I work with are hardcore Christian conservatives, or still intensely religious anti-abortion/gay rights Democrats, who think people like me are immoral (for either my politics, my lifestyle, my irreligiosity, or all of the above). I do not share any of those things about myself with them because I think it would be detrimental to their therapy (so often the source of a piece of advice or insight affects whether one decides to consider it). I know how many of my clients feel about people like me, but I find that it bothers me less and less. They are, after all, merely mistaken, and I have not yet come across a client I really disliked once I learned his/her story. I think that this is part of our problem. Our unwillingness as a nation to really try to understand each other. We personalize our politics, not our fellow citizens. Sad.

    The unfortunate thing is, I don’t see it changing in politics in the foreseeable future. Toning down some of the rhetoric on the national scene might help in the long run, but for now the grudges against each other and the suspicions of others’ motives are here to stay. Those things will not fade away with the passing of any generation currently drawing breath in this nation. I don’t see it changing in my lifetime. Movements will come and go with the political winds. Further traumatic events like the recent shooting in AZ may occur, which may force us to address the issue in more organized ways. I do not, however, think it likely that we will be treating the underlying problem anytime soon. In fact, I think it more likely that we’ll make it worse in coming years. Even as we become a more globally connected, interactive society, we insulate ourselves further — and we do it quite intentionally. Our technology can be used to foster a herd mentality and connect us with people who perpetuate our false views just as easily as it can be used to expose us to variety and differences of opinion. And what do most people seek out, really?

    Still, as you and others have pointed out, we have indeed made great progress. We are slowly working toward equality and justice for various groups. I just think we’re going to remain as politically polarized as we are now indefinitely. The talk of real Americans and fake Americans will continue for a long time.

    I think I have wandered off topic and rambled unnecessarily despite my attempts to keep it together. Forgive me, I’ve been a bit under the weather, and maybe my head still isn’t screwed on right. Maybe there was a coherent thought somewhere in the above mass of text.

  4. creamer

    Web sites and search engines have made it easier for those who hate or anyone else to find like minded people. I fear its also made it easier to profit from it.(hate)

  5. creamer

    she showed a direct correlation between guns and gun deaths. The following can be found at

    Complied by the Violence policy center.

    States with the Five HIGHEST Per Capita Gun Death Rates

    Louisiana–Rank: 1; Household Gun Ownership: 45.6 percent; Gun Death Rate: 19.58 per 100,000.

    Alabama–Rank: 2; Household Gun Ownership: 57.2 percent; Gun Death Rate: 16.99 per 100,000.

    Alaska–Rank: 3 (tie); Household Gun Ownership: 60.6 percent; Gun Death Rate: 16.38 per 100,000.

    Mississippi–Rank: 3 (tie); Household Gun Ownership: 54.3 percent; Gun Death Rate: 16.38 per 100,000.

    Nevada–Rank: 5; Household Gun Ownership: 31.5 percent; Gun Death Rate: 16.25 per 100,000.

    States with the Five LOWEST Per Capita Gun Death Rates

    Hawaii–Rank: 50; Household Gun Ownership: 9.7 percent; Gun Death Rate: 2.58 per 100,000.

    Massachusetts–Rank: 49; Household Gun Ownership: 12.8 percent; Gun Death Rate: 3.28 per 100,000.

    Rhode Island–Rank: 48; Household Gun Ownership: 13.3 percent; Gun Death Rate: 4.43 per 100,000.

    Connecticut–Rank: 47; Household Gun Ownership: 16.2 percent; Gun Death Rate: 4.95 per 100,000.

    New York–Rank: 46; Household Gun Ownership: 18.1 percent; Gun Death Rate: 5.20 per 100,000.

    VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “More guns means more gun death and injury. Fewer guns means less gun death and injury. It’s a simple equation.”

    That would seem to indicate that where there are guns the likelyhood of them being pointed at somone rises. Maybe the theme that “guns dont kill people, people do” is one of those inacurrate themes that the MSM allows to be portrayed as fact.  

  6. yes…that is my America.  I’m not sure what is behind many of my fellow citizens feeling so threatened by all of our people aspiring for the best this country has to offer.  Shrug.

  7. Jjc2008

    Can’t get much cuter.  Or poignant.  Sarah would probably shoot the bird, and Rush would call them lib lovin’ critters not worth watching, and Glen would insist they were conspiring to take over the world and change everyone into animal lovin’, gun hatin’ commies….

    but I LOVED IT.

  8. DeniseVelez

    I just want to thank you for having my back after I staggered off to bed last night at GOS.

    Saw it this morning – and have no time to comment further cause I have to head out to school.

    Smooches for Mooses 🙂


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