Immediately after the first Bush inauguration, I stopped at a red light, and a young man who couldn't have been more than 18 pulled up beside me, rolled down the window, and indicated that he'd noticed my "Hail to the Thief" bumper sticker, affixed there in honor of the contested 2000 presidential election. Informing me that I was an "America-hating Communist," he mimed firing a pistol at me and instructed me where I should go; it wasn't to the Good Place. As he squealed off, I noticed on his pick-up several flag decals, a Christian fish symbol, and a Bush/Cheney sticker.
Shocked and slightly afraid, I cleared my car of all political expression when I got home.
But, in keeping with certain American traditions -- like the constitutionally provided one of free expression -- I opted again last fall to politically adorn my auto, thinking that a simple red, white, and blue Kerry/Edwards campaign logo would be less inflammatory. Nope. One morning, while pumping gas, another customer approached my car. "Un-American Christian-hating bitches like you should be shot!" he yelled. When he drove off, I noticed a black "W The President" decal, an "I Support Our Troops" magnetic ribbon, a Christian academy sticker, and a large American flag on the back of his SUV. Once again, I was stunned by the hostility and aggression of a total stranger.
I have told friends about these incidents, and they have shared similar experiences. What's going on?
Why are some of the supporters of this president so riled by simple expressions of an opposing viewpoint? How did certain Americans become so enraptured with a sense of political supremacy that acts of profanity and belligerence toward their neighbors are deemed acceptable? Could it be that those who crow the loudest and the proudest about spreading freedom to other parts of the world just might be in favor of intimidating those who practice freedom here in the good ole U.S. of A.? Is this mindset connected to what appears to be a new insatiable lust for war?
Had the word "fascism" been used in the same sentence with the word "American" by the likes of Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin, or Gore Vidal, it would not surprise anyone. But no less a conservative Republican icon than Paul Craig Roberts, a former Reagan aide, apostle for supply-side economics, and Wall Street Journal editor, noted what he called the "brownshirting" of America in a recent issue of The American Conservative. And, in that same magazine's latest issue, Scott McConnell's piece, "Hunger for Dictatorship," discusses in some detail what he sees as the possibility of incipient fascism in America.
Notes McConnell: "[O]ne of the biggest right-wing talk-radio hosts regularly calls for the mass destruction of Arab cities." He quotes approvingly an observation from Mises Institute president Lew Rockwell, a fellow conservative, lamenting "the dramatic shift of the red-state bourgeoisie from leave-us-alone libertarianism, manifested in the Congressional elections of 1994, to almost totalitarian statist nationalism." McConnell continues, "[T]he very fact that the f-word can be seriously raised in an American context is evidence enough that we have moved into a new period."
Tremendous ironies abound. The most obvious is that those who are writing so candidly about this deeply disturbing development have supported the politicians who gave rise to it -- a growing brand of religious/military/political zeal that these former fellow travelers are now willing to call openly by its proper name. n
Cheri DelBrocco writes "Mad as Hell," a column that regularly appears on the Flyer Web site.