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Ignorance becomes hate

I was listening to a podcast of yesterday's Fresh Air while driving to my office today.  It referenced a recent Harris Poll that measured extreme views of President Obama.  The most striking numbers in the poll are these views of President Obama held by people who identify themselves as Republicans:

Majorities of Republicans believe that President Obama:

  • Is a socialist (67%)
  • Wants to take away Americans' right to own guns (61%)
  • Is a Muslim (57%)
  • Wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one world government (51%); and
  • Has done many things that are unconstitutional (55%).

Also large numbers of Republicans also believe that President Obama:

  • Resents America's heritage (47%)
  • Does what Wall Street and the bankers tell him to do (40%)
  • Was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president (45%)
  • Is the "domestic enemy that the U.S. Constitution speaks of" (45%)
  • Is a racist (42%)
  • Want to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers (41%)
  • Is doing many of the things that Hitler did (38%).

Even more remarkable perhaps, fully 24% of Republicans believe that "he may be the Anti-Christ" and 22% believe "he wants the terrorists to win."

Now, before you dismiss this as unimportant, go back and read all the numbers again.  These are the opinions of a large number of people in our country.

Even those who oppose Obama's policies would have a hard time finding any evidence that substantiates any of these 'beliefs'.  Formally, most Republicans dismiss these as extreme views.  However, I don't think that Republican leaders do enough to denounce these beliefs.  Don't get me started on the role of outlets like Fox News in beating these drums.  And, these views are leading to threats and violence as we have seen in the response to the passing of the healthcare bill.

Many of my right-leaning friends make jokes where some of the views above are the punchlines.  I'm a believer in humor and am the last person to preach censorship.  But, with so many people in our country thinking these extreme things about President Obama, I worry that we are approaching a tipping point where another Timothy McVeigh type of incident could occur.

And, the Tea Party fervor runs the risk of turning from speaking out to acting out.  Extreme falsehoods that are propogated to those who are ignorant of the facts can turn to hatred pretty easily.

So, rather than chuckling and dismissing claims that Obama is a socialist (check his income -- he's a capitalist) or, even worse, a Nazi, I'd like all of us to denounce and speak out against such rubbish.  If you think that the government is getting too big or has deficits that are too large, go ahead and shout from the rooftops.  If you want to rally to repeal the healthcare bill, go ahead.  Make your argument on the policy merits.  And, have the decency to believe that Obama's point of view is due to a legitimate different view of the role of government in our society or how to manage the government budget, rather than the work of a dictatorial racist Anti-Christ.

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