The whole world saw the virulence of the right wing over the weekend. The irrationality. The bigotry. The anti-Americanism that runs deep in veins, hearts and souls.
Using expressions like "nigger," "faggot," "baby killer," and John Boehner's sad, yet comical, "Hell no's" make us lose our breath as we realize again that these are actually our fellow citizens. "Unhinged" is the most accurate way to describe what the right wing extremists are right now. The door has flown off the frame.
So what is really gnawing at the "Party of I Don't Know?"
Let's clear racism out of the way first. It's a symptom. Clearly the rightists are terminally apoplectic that there is an African-American at the helm.
The outraged, foaming-at-the-mouth Tea Party-inspired mobs are virtually all white. (Try a Google image search and look at the crowds.) Republican Party enrollment is 95% white. The power structures of the states making up the Republican base are preponderantly white. The money behind all their guff is white.
There is something deeper in the right wing malaise, and it is from those depths that the racism, homophobia, disrespect and stubborn resistance to progress spring: they believe their own press.
Now that their illusions have been shattered by the health care reform vote, they are as hormonal as teenagers, as moody, sullen, hair-triggered and hare-brained.
A day doesn't go by that "Morning Joe" Scarborough or Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and now Glenn Beck pump up the hydrophobic base by saying something like, "America is and has always been a center-right country." They must live in some dream town that most of us have never visited, one we don't recognize from even basic textbooks.
Every single thing that has made us great in our own eyes or in the eyes of the world has been, well, socialistic or communalistic. Without exception.
That's the country I see and love. A bunch of driven, talented, educated, dedicated people who say "Let's band together and_______." (Fill in the blank) Not to say we haven't had plenty of nasty bumps, bruises and regrets in the America I know. (Recalling this weekend that Representative John Lewis was nearly beaten to death by Alabama State Police in Selma in 1965 reminds us that we still hike the long, rocky road to essential equality even after 400 years.)
Despite the right wing's hallucinatory thinking, government involvement in every important event of our history is a given.
Begin with the Louisiana Purchase, a government action much maligned at the time passed the House by only 2 votes. Then continue the historic tour on the Erie Canal, which the State of New York funded to the tune of $7 million in 1817. Using a factoring process by putting the 1817 price in relation to current GDP, the cost of the canal would be about $125 billion today. (By those lights, New York State on its own could build a New York to Buffalo/New York to Montreal high speed train as well as a mega-fast internet network and still have money left over for Broadway tickets for the entire state's population.)
Seward's Ice Box - Alaska - cost about 2 cents per acre in 1867. Unenlightened government would have just skipped it. Good thing we owned it in 1967 or the Soviets would have been in our kitchen.
Speaking of railroads, not just the transcontinental line but practically the entire nationwide system was made possible by government largesse and encouragement through "granted" land, loan guarantees and favorable laws. Building the railroads without government involvement was inconceivable. (Ditto for our road system, water, sewer and schools.)
One could go on, whether it's the building of all hospitals for which taxpayers foot 55% of the bill for construction, or public universities, space exploration, or, or, or... the list is endless.
So just how do the righteous rightists come up with their anti-social material? They believe not only their own press, but a truncated and bowdlerized version of American history.
What do you think all the tricornered hats and Revolutionary War regalia of the Tea Party are about? History didn't really happen, it's a Saturday morning cartoon. You might as well trade in Foghorn Leghorn's version of the Civil War for Ken Burns's.
Take the real Boston Tea Party. It actually helped in the struggle that later brought about representative government in the 13 colonies. What the Tea Partiers then wanted, they got. What the Tea Partiers of today want is a retreat from representative government into a rule by mob, or at the very least by a narrow-minded subset of a minority party.
In their version of American history, "men were men and women damned glad of it." The only thing that mattered was grit, hard work and pluck.
The Homestead Acts of 1862, 1909 and 1916 had nothing to do with it. The Social Security Acts of 1935 and '65? Irrelevant.
And never would the GI Bill have seen the light of day in 1944. (Arm blown off on D-Day? Fix yer own dad-blamed problems and stop mooching off the government.)
The Tennessee Valley would still be doing its homework by kerosene lamp.
National Parks would be trailer parks.
In the extremist view of history, only myth lives. It's too tiresome to do the real studying (by lamplight or otherwise) that might lead to a deeper understanding of the role government has played from the outset of the American odyssey.
If all government intervention in our lives has been so bad, how did we get where we are today? How did we get to "The American Century?" How are we now poised for the second American Century?
Somehow the radical right believes ignorance paves the path to power. They found out something quite different Sunday night.