Is America losing its mind?

Posted on Tuesday 18 April 2006

Polimom’s been growing concerned by the increased rhetoric and accompanying threats and comments being made by the left and right factions. It’s been going on for quite a while, but the divide between otherwise sane Americans appears to be extending far beyond ordinary partisanship, and I think we should be considering what this means. (I wrote on this at Polimom, Too this morning, also.)

A couple of particularly nasty recent incidents are the Jill Carroll hostage-release, and (now) the Michelle Malkin vs. Students Against War.

In both cases, bloggers with large radical right audiences attacked someone on the left under an “anti-Americanism” banner. In the case of Jill Carroll, the most vicious of these was Debbie Schlussel, who lowered the bar to the nether-regions in her zeal to villify.

Nasty as that was, the rightwing blogosphere, for the most part, separated itself from her, and one blogger posted an article that has since stuck in my mind (here’s a snip, with my emphasis):

Do we now only care about American hostages if they are Republicans? Bush supporters? Supporter of Israel? Our Iraq policy? Do we cease caring if they support Palestinians? Sunni Muslims? Where are the boundaries?

Or should it be that we care about Americans because they are Americans – or better still, that we care about people of any nationality, race, or creed who have been abducted and threatened with death unjustly.

Debbie, if you can’t understand that basic bit of humanity, then you’re truly lost – and nothing any blogger says or does will make any difference.

An American hostage was freed. I rejoice in her freedom. I don’t ask her political views. Ted Kennedy and Michael Moore are every bit as American as Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln. I don’t have to agree with them to say that, should they be taken hostage, I would pray for their safety, and thank God upon their release.

It’s morality at so basic a level any child could grasp it…

So yes, I’ll apologize. I’m sorry I assumed you knew that the right to dissent is one of the most basic rights a citizen of a democracy has…and I’m really sorry you couldn’t wait one day to start tearing down Jill Carroll – one lousy day, to celebrate the freedom of an American captive.

Bloggers who write flaming, hostile rhetoric are a dime a dozen (on both the right and the left)… but owners of enormous, influential sites are somehow rallying and empowering people to make vicious personal attacks upon the other side; their “enemies”.

As much as I detest the flaming and spinning, I have a choice in what I read and where I then file it, mentally. So does everyone else…. so I have to conclude that when somebody like Michelle Malkin writes a hateful, paranoid rant, and people then make death threats against the target of Michelle’s ire, those people are insane. Likewise, folks who hate all things Bush, read an inflammatory spin on an Indymedia (or other hard-left) site, and then attack the right, are also out of their minds.

Somehow, we’re crossing the lines from disagreement, debate, and opinion into a much darker place, and I can only describe what I’m reading as hate. We aren’t just divided along some partisan metaphorical line any more; these folks appear to hate one another enough to want death and violence.

What is happening to America?

* * * * *

Update: Don Surber has decided to take a stand.

Update II:  Jon Swift writes a letter.

6 Comments for 'Is America losing its mind?'

    April 18, 2006 | 10:29 am

    Thanks for the link and the thoughtful post – it’s indeed troubling, and as a fellow blogger, I try to walk the thin line between condemning outrageous rhetoric and contributing to it. There’s a one-up-manship about the whole thing that’s seductive, and ultimately, I agree, quite harmful…

    April 18, 2006 | 12:25 pm

    I tend to be a spouter. I say what I feel, but I also am willing to take responsibility for what I say. I agree with you on this one, completely. I’ve likened it to a “silent Civil War” that is becoming increasingly vocal.

    As a kid, I remember watching the Civil Rights marches on TV. Dogs, firehoses, my parents’ comments. It was probably when I first became a political person, although I didn’t know it. It was a very polarizing time, and I was distinctly unlike my parents in my views, even at that age. Then came Vietnam over a TV dinner and that was followed by escalations of nastiness. “America right or wrong” bumper stickers are burned into my consciousness. I remember people looking at me and my hippie friends with distinct hatred. We were, in their view, anti-American commie bastards. Watergate seemed to be a weird “bounce back” wherein the people who looked at us with hatred, suddenly saw that perhaps their faith in Nixon had been misplaced. It had certainly been betrayed. From then on, while factions and polarization continued, it seemed to get a tad quieter, and not so venomous.

    I really feel a bit of deja vu watching today’s news. Another war, more kids going off to fight it, people in the streets over the war and immigration reform, a President who seems arrogant and out of touch. Both sides fierce in their opinions. The difference this time is that the numbers are so much more evenly split than they were in the 60′s and 70′s. I think that makes it a bit more dangerous.

    Every poll cites a 49/49 percent view, it seems. Perhaps it’s that 2% who are truly in the middle. Of each 49% side, there is a 10% “nut factor”, in my opinion. These are the zealots, and zealotry is dangerous.

    I freely admit that my tendency is to see all things Bush as bad, my initial knee jerk reaction. I am, however, able to see that it IS a knee jerk reaction. I may still have the same opinion after a little thought and research, but I really do try not to just live as a reactionary.

    I’ve had a great number of discussions with Vietnam Vets over the years, in which we both tried to explain our 60′s opinions and stances to each other. It has been a wonderful experience. What most of these discussions have come to is an agreement that not all Vietnam Vets were in My Lai, and not all protestors were at Oakland Airport spitting on returning servicemen.

    I think looking back might help us in this current era. We gotta stop this, “you’re with me or against me” trip or we’re going to implode.

    Timothy Ell
    April 18, 2006 | 8:16 pm

    Well here here. I am as far on the left as you can go, or so I’ve been told, and this is exactly what I’ve been thinking. When does calling someone a “chink eye’d bitch” – The Michelle Malkin thing — help anyone? I thought what she did was wrong, and if I had anything to say to her it would be my reasons why, not meaningless threats and insults that only reinforce to her what she was saying in the first place. Do any of these people who are so rude and loud want to be in polotics? No. Do they wish to help solve any of the many problems? I don’t think so. Why do they do this? What is the psychology behind it?

    I like to tell people why I’m on the left, and used to I could point someone to a specific blog and say “See…see all the sane people and what they have to say!?” Needless to say, I just hit em with the boring facts and don’t point em to blogs any longer. I cannot defend the idiots who have keyboards and complaints. And the extreamists! Whoa…

    Come to think of it though, I also wonder why we have to label Left and Right, Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Neocon, etc. Doesn’t that just help to separate everyone? What team are you playing for, because you are playing for one!…that’s not how I do business.

    Great article, I will stop back sometime.

    Timothy Ell

    danny bee
    May 1, 2006 | 3:15 am

    This is indeed troubling, sir. what is happening is this i think; blogging makes it easy for people to say things quickly and without really thinking and without face to face contact and without EDITING, so each time something happens in USA now, the blog army comes out, one million strong, and people say things that divide us from each other. there is no longer any ROOM for agreement or raprochment or unity. AMERICA has lost it, because of the instant gratificiation of instablogging. it is like the entire country is calling everyone else NAMES. it’s over . we have lost the war, ourselves. we did it to each other. i say this as someone living far ouside the USA and watching in sadness and my country disintegrrates via the blogworld….Sad

    May 2, 2006 | 7:26 pm

    [...] If bloggers learned nothing else from the Michelle Malkin / SAW incident last month, it should be that providing personal information for purposes of attack or intimidation has no place in an ethical environment. [...]

    June 30, 2006 | 5:53 pm

    [...] While I was doing some reading up for my own little review of Superman Returns, I happened to be directed to a review of the movie done by one ‘Debbie Schlussel’. It’s surprising funny stuff, simply because she attempts to make the loosest of connections and draw the longest metaphorical bows I’ve seen – and I’ve done Film & Narrative analysation classes. I’m not American and thus I’ve never heard of her before, apparently she’s a member of MENSA, is a right wring columnist and appears on the Howard Stern show a bit. Apparently she’s also regarded as a bit of a complete raving lunatic (which would explain the Stern appearances I guess) and possibly insane (as referenced here, here, here and here). [...]

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