Conservative talking head Ben Stein recently wondered if President Obama’s “real strong hatred of America” is “because he’s part black.” It was my daily reminder of something unsettling but painfully clear: The Right doesn’t want to talk policy.
Conservative rhetoric has become so vile, so unproductive, so nauseatingly predictable that it’s been rendered undebatable. A conservative talking (yelling) point isn’t about issues. It’s about jumping up and down and stomping its feet like a 3-year-old mini-Donald Trump. It’s misplaced anger. Noise. And trying to debate noise is about as nebulous and unfruitful as a waging a “War on Drugs.”
Maybe it’s because conservatives are consistently on the wrong side of history when it comes to issues like Civil Rights, war and equality. It’s just easier to scream.
To today’s conservative American, issues don’t matter. Facts don’t matter. The truth definitely doesn’t matter.
And when the truth stops playing any role in what you’re screaming about, there’s a lot of room left for hypocrisy.
I had hoped the Right’s response to the Syrian men, women and children who are trying to flee terror in their home country by seeking refuge in the “Land of the Free” would be different. I had hoped that I would be surprised by basic human compassion and moral fortitude.
But right on cue, the Right’s “Outrage Machine” flipped itself on and vomited out its latest batch of in-your-face hypocrisy. Here are some of the most egregious examples:
“Syrian refugees should be banned from the U.S. because they’re a terror threat,” but “there should be absolutely no gun control — not even reasonable background checks.”
According to the federal Government Accountability Office, more than 2,000 suspects on the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist have legally purchased weapons in the U.S. in the last 11 years thanks to the NRA’s obscene power and the Right’s confusion about what a “well-regulated militia” actually means.
If conservatives’ concerns about letting Syrians come to America were really about public safety, that would be a starting point for a conversation. We could have a reasonable discussion about how Syrians must wait 18-24 months and must pass the most detailed background checks in the world before being admitted to the U.S. We could talk about how France—just days after the Paris attacks—agreed to let 30,000 Syrian refugees into their country, because they know that turning their backs on people in need doesn’t stop terrorism.
But the Right’s concern isn’t public safety. It’s an obvious exercise in “othering.” It’s part of a sad, final grasp at white male privilege in a country that is rapidly becoming more diverse.
Today’s right-winger derives no greater, perverse pleasure than when he’s oppressing and/or turning his back on desperate people who are “different” or have different religious beliefs. How do we know that’s true? Well…
“We should only allow Christian Syrians into the country,” but “I, myself, am a Christian.”
“The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)
But in case that’s not enough to silence so-called Christians who want to pick and choose the verses that suit their political agenda, the Good Book has plenty more to say about how we should treat refugees and immigrants. Carson, Cruz, Trump and Jeb! and Georgia’s very own Gov. Nathan Deal must’ve missed those parts.
Believe it or not, Christianity—like all world religions—does not suggest that its followers should close their borders because they liken the world’s tired, poor huddled masses to “rabid dogs.”
We value “religious freedom,” but “Mosques should be closed. Muslims must be segregated and monitored in databases.”
The Right loves comparing people to Hitler and the Nazis. If you support women’s rights, protecting the environment, taking on the NRA or happen to be the first-ever “black/Muslim/atheist/Kenyan/liberal/Communist” President of United States, well-known conservative loudmouths have compared you to one of the few groups that pretty much the entire world can agree is pure evil.
It’s not an analogy that should be thrown around lightly.
But when the conservative Presidential frontrunner openly says he “would certainly implement” databases to track Muslims, there’s no fitter comparison than that of prewar Nazi Germany.
Different religions. Same exact concept.
More than 400,000 Americans died in World War II in order to protect the world from tyranny and the type of demagoguery being preached by the Right. The conservative attack on religious freedom is completely un-American and disparages the lives that were lost fighting for what we, as a nation, believe in.
“We shouldn’t house refugees with so many homeless American veterans,” but “I help elect public officials who consistently vote against veterans.”
The first “argument” is specious enough. The United States is the wealthiest country on Earth and compassion isn’t a zero-sum game. Helping one group in need doesn’t mean we can’t help another.
But if you think you’re sincere in your support of veterans—and you consistently vote for Republican officials—you don’t get to pretend anymore. The game is up.
The GOP’s abysmal record when it comes to taking care of the men and women who have served our nation is a shameful reminder that being “pro-War” and “pro-military” are two very different things—and, in many ways, are exact opposite concepts.
In just the last few years, Republicans have voted to slash health and retirement benefits for veterans and their families, voted against helping homeless and disabled veterans and their families and voted against a bill that would that would help provide jobs to veterans.
It’s all there in the Senate and Congressional voting records. So just stop the charade.
Where to Stop?
When hypocrisy becomes the norm for an entire group who follow a particular political ideology, we see it everywhere.
Conservatives rail against welfare for our nation’s most needy, but support corporate handouts.
They repeat the ‘pick yourself up by the bootstraps’ diatribe, but actively fight to keep wages artificially low for working Americans.
They fight tooth-and-nail for their open carry “rights,” but shrug their shoulders when a black 12-year-old boy playing with a toy gun is gunned down by police in a park.
Most conservatives love the fetus, but hate the child—until that child is of military age, and even then, that “love” is fleeting.
It’s tough to debate people who are gripped by fear and appear to have a very loose grip on reality. What can you say to the out-of-touch teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off who accuses the president of “hating America” but got his start in politics as a speechwriter for—wait for it—Richard “I Am Not a Crook” Nixon?
There are a few things we can do.
Don’t let the Right’s hypocrisy go unchecked. Call them out without worrying about rocking the boat—not by yelling louder, but by combating fear with the truth; hatred with love; outrage with compassion.
It’s a longshot that anyone who continuously bombards themselves with the delusional “reporting” of Fox News and talk radio will stop yelling and listen long enough to change their minds about anything.
But truth, love and compassion are values that go a long way. And you don’t have be of one particular faith to live by them.
Brandon Hanick is communications director for Better Georgia, a progressive political group based in Georgia.
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