Tolerance in the US? Sure, if you’re white, straight, and Christian.

Yesterday, I see this picture of a man taken at an Ohio Romney/Ryan rally yesterday (October 12, 2012):

and today, I see someone I knew in high school post this status update on Facebook: “Today at noon local time in over 8,000 locations around the country, people are praying in public for our country and to preserve religious freedom that it was founded upon. Please join me in front of [deleted to maintain the anonymity of the person who posted it].

Have these people all lost their bloody minds?!

Apparently tolerance in the United States only matters if you’re white, straight, and ‘Christian’ — and only then if you are of a like-minded world view.

So, let’s deconstruct the inane bullshit for just a moment by beginning with Asshole #1 — ‘Putting the white back in the White House’. My reaction yesterday is and remains,  I think it does give us a glimpse into the racism that is still prevalent in the United States among the hard right folks.

This has been evident since the 2008 election cycle where we say Sarah Palin whipping crowds up into a frenzy about whether Barack Obama was an American who ‘palled around with terrorists’. We have seen this in the ridiculous ‘birther’ discussions that keep popping up (nice euphemism for the ‘black guy’, huh?). We’ve seen it in the discussions of whether the president is “for America” or whether he’s fundamentally destroying the country. All of these are thinly veiled and more socially appropriate arguments for what this dipshit thought was appropriate to wear in public — these folks can’t stand that President Obama is a bi-racial black man and he’s our elected leader (and by the way — elected without question and a Supreme Court case unlike President Bush… yet no one leveled the same claims in his direction).

Need proof? In 2010, there was a much discussed Daily Kos poll conducted by an independent research group measuring registered Republicans beliefs about the President and a number of political issues. Now, this poll has been critiqued by Republicans as not being representative and biased and all of that kind of stuff. So, let’s look at it from a demographic point of view…

  • The poll measured 56% men and 44% women. According to a CNN/AP poll of Republicans in 2006, 52% of all GOP’ers are male, so the Daily Kos poll is within an acceptable level of variance.
  • They measured 89% white respondents and other/ refused made up 11%. Actually, if anything it’s under-representing how WHITE the GOP actually is — according to the US Census Bureau in 2009.
  • As far as age goes, 18-29 Daily Kos 9% (32% Gallup, 2009); Daily Kos 30-44 21% (Gallup 30-49 were 38%), Daily Kos 45-59  33% (38% 50-64); and Daily Kos 60+ 37% (41+ 65+). So, aside from under-representing young peoples’ responses, it’s not too bad on the rest of the categories, so the Daily Kos could be said to be representative of older GOP beliefs rather than younger GOP beliefs.

Bottom line, based on demographic comparisons — it’s pretty representative for older members of the GOP. So, what did the Daily Kos poll reveal that was so damning about members of the GOP’s racism and intolerance?

  • A majority of those polled (i.e., 58%) either believed that President Obama was NOT born in the US (36%) or at the very least, they weren’t sure (22%).
  • A majority of those polled (i.e., 76%) either believed that President Obama wanted the TERRORISTS (43%) to win or at the very least, they weren’t sure (33%).
  • A majority of those polled (69%) believe Barack Obama is a racist who hates White people (36%) or at the very least, they weren’t sure (33%).
  • An overwhelming majority (73%) didn’t believe that openly gay men and women should be allowed to teach in public schools, and the majority of the remaining GOP’ers weren’t sure (21%).
  • A full 1/3 of those polled (34%) believe birth control is ABORTION and nearly 20% weren’t entirely sure — so over half even have a problem with birth control pills.

Were the questions loaded? Yes, but the wording on them should have prompted a social-desirability bias meaning that in normal civil society, no one should ever WANT to say that their President wasn’t an American who wants terrorists to hurt the US/ Americans. That suggests in normal social science research that a lot of those undecideds probably leaned more towards the “Yes” response, but knew that it was inappropriate for them to believe that way.

No other president has ever had to deal with these fundamental types of questions (ignoring the last two social questions). While many presidents and their policies have been well-critiqued, no other president has ever had fundamental questions about their citizenship and loyalty to the country they serve questioned. Yet, here’s a guy whose political beliefs are fairly moderate — why does his cabinet look like the Clinton administration’s … because President Clinton was a moderate liberal too. Why are those on the left dissatisfied with Obama? Because he’s not that damned liberal…he’s a political and social moderate.

I’m not one who sees racism around every corner, but we have a serious problem among a substantial proportion of our population with regards of fundamental questions of racial equality. In fact, new research suggests that racial prejudice is likely to negatively influence this election even more than we would have ever suspected. This isn’t limited to presidential politics either — the US Army is having to battle and purge White Supremacists from their ranks fueled by the modern Crusade against Muslims.

So, am I surprised? Absolutely not. Especially, when you bring back into the fold Asshole #2 who thinks that our religious freedoms in the United States are under attack. Now, keep in mind this person meant CHRISTIANITY is under attack in the United States. It’s a little early for the Christmas season, but this status update seems to be opening the store doors before black Friday for this one. Since when is it difficult to be “out” as a Christian in this country? Sure, columns on Al Jazeera are making the argument that religious fundamentalism is becoming more central to Republican politics, but an increasing amount of polling and academic research is suggesting that at least 20-30% of the American population view themselves as fundamentalist Christians.

So, when the Daily Kos poll reports that the overwhelming majority see gays as a threat to public education and an unsettling number even view birth control as abortion, I absolutely agree that religious freedom in the United States is at risk, but not in the same way that these people who wear their Christianity on their sleeve seem to think. The freedom to practice religions other than Christianity is at serious risk — just ask the 2.6 million Muslims in the US who are facing attacks on their ability to practice their religion in many ways from zoning problems for Mosques, facing job discrimination, and increasing violence. Jon Stewart has consistently attacked the religious right on their hypocritical views on ‘religious freedom’ identifying hypocritical and hyperbolic arguments on a lot of different issues (e.g., the ‘war on religion‘, or employment).

Freedom of religion is not only about the freedom to practice any religion that we want, but it is also the freedom FROM having any government sanctioned religious beliefs forced on the populace. Remember, the first amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof“. That means that the government isn’t allowed to “establish” (i.e., endorse) any particular religion or religious beliefs as part of laws. That means that someone else’s religious beliefs regarding sexuality, marriage, etc. should never be forced on me (as a non-Christian) in the United States.

In some ways it seems like we’ve made progress on that front under the Obama administration — gays can now serve, DOMA was found unconstitutional, and more and more states are legalizing gay marriage. Yet, in others the growth of Christian fundamentalism has made it difficult to have conversations for women about birth control, about the government mandating birth control as part of insurance coverage, and about the availability of abortions despite Roe v. Wade establishing it as constitutionally appropriate. To me, it seems that where we’ve made grounds in some areas, we’ve moved backwards in others. In fact, the typical GOP stance as anti-choice has been expanded in the official 2012 GOP platform (which both Romney and Ryan defacto or directly endorse) supports the personhood amendment, which would not only outlaw abortions in the US, but would outlaw or limit access to birth control, in vitro fertilization, prevent doctors from treating women with life-threatening conditions, and certainly throw the US back another decade in stem cell research. This is a religious position that is being forced into a public policy context.

So, let’s put this into perspective — the growth of Christian fundamentalism in the United States is not only a threat to what America is — a secular nation created for anyone — but the Christian fundamentalists themselves are much more like the Muslim fundamentalists they claim to want to protect us from.

Yet, in this country the new and more radical religious right find it alright to question the President’s patriotism, heritage, and intentions for this country because not only is he a half-black guy, but his views happen to differ from theirs. There couldn’t be anything less American than the views articulated by the modern ‘conservative Christian’.

To be honest, I’m just tired of the bullshit. Why can’t we just call bullshit right now? In part, a lot of liberals lack the internal fortitude to laugh at the ridiculousness and call it ‘malarky’. I respect Vice President Biden because he can/does call people on this kind of stuff. We should all come out of the closet and start calling them — if we are squeamish about using the word bullshit (or just find it disrespectful to a perfectly good fertilizer) to talk about them, then use Biden’s word “malarky”. But it’s time that we started standing up for tolerance — expanding its definition beyond those who dominate the public sphere.

Is calling bullshit nice? Probably not, but fuck nice. I don’t care if there are racists (I’d prefer people to be more enlightened) because they remind us of the small-minded bullshit that is a threat to modern civil society. I don’t care if there are fundamentalists (though I wish there weren’t) because they remind us of the incestuous and dangerous nature of dogma left unchecked. What I care about is that these views are allowed to drive conversations and voting behaviors without social sanction.

When people try to claim that America is attacking the freedom of people to be Christians, we should laugh at them for being fucking ridiculous. If someone’s a racist or fundamentalist they should be a social pariah because they’re assholes. It’ll only be at this point that we can have meaningful discussion about policy and the path our society wants to take. Until then, we’re just going to keep using euphemisms and letting assholes get away with it.

Just some closing food for thought, I know whose side I’m on, do you?

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