This morning I received one of those particularly nasty e-mail forwards alleging that Barack Obama is a Muslim, and that if you are a Muslim you can't possibly be a good American. (Visit my website to view the e-mail and my rebuttal.) I also got one that alleged that teaching about the Holocaust has been prohibited in the UK because it offends Muslims, which had been thoroughly debunked months ago and has reappeared again.
I cannot stress strongly enough the danger and divisiveness of this type of politics of identity - the so-called Culture War - the pitting of "US" against "THEM." The United States is well on the path to becoming a Sudan or a Bosnia or an Iraq. While rational people can disagree on issues and still like each other, when one side is accusing the other of being "imperfect" Americans, there is little common ground.
Today, the Dow has fallen almost 500 points to below 10,000. This should be a rallying cry for Americans to work together to solve our problems. But John McCain and Sarah Palin have ignored this crisis and continue to practice the politics of division. Even Obama has resorted more and more to negative advertising to combat or pre-empt the McCain smears. To borrow the name of a newly-created offshoot of the AARP: Divided we Fail! (Check out their website to learn more about Divided We Fail and sign their pledge against partisan bickering).
Today William Kristol had an OpEd in the NYTimes today called "The Wright Stuff." Could it possibly be a tactic of the NYT to select the most naive and simple-minded conservative writers for their OpEd page? Brooks is at least readable, but this guy writes mostly junk. He is just fanning the flames of the Culture War. Here is a very well-put comment posted in response to Kristol, which I especially like because it refutes Kristol from a Christian point of view:
October 06, 2008 1:22 pm
The problem with a politics of personal destruction is the collateral damage. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth undermined every single Vietnam era veteran who served honorably only to be disrespected by a culture at home that wanted nothing to do with the war. Imagine the Republicans playing the same tune as the anti-war protesters did during the 60's and 70's. The same is true today. Smearing Obama with Jeremiah Wright sound bites undermines the Church and misrepresents the entire history of prophetic preaching that is seldom practiced anywhere in America today except in predominantly black churches. Perhaps you should go back and re-read the Hebrew prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah to say nothing of Amos. Conservative America is much more comfortable with false prophets who proclaim that we can remain righteous as a nation by voting against abortion and gay marriage while not giving a second thought to all the people who are killed by war, gang violence, drugs, poverty, disease, malnutrition, lack of health care, etc, etc. Kristol, you stand on the wrong side of history and Christian ethics in this matter.
— PJ, Charlotte, NC
UPDATE: Apparently, at a rally today, when John McCain asked the question "Who is the real Barack Obama?" someone in the audience shouted out: "A terrorist." McCain continued in his speech, without addressing the "terrorist" remark. This has been covered on quite a few blogs this afternoon. John Arbinder, writing for the Atlantic says, "Judging by McCain's slightly startled reaction, he clearly didn't anticipate that reaction, and McCain's in no way responsible for the utterances of anybody in his audience. But he must have some idea of how deeply this fear/outsider/other meme has spread . . ."
One comment on AmericaBlog, sees cause for alarm in McCain's casual acceptance of the comment:
I'm just wondering what McCain's supporters are going to do next, now that McCain and Palin have convinced them that Obama is a terrorist. A reader writes in our comments:
This is dangerous, very, very dangerous. There are nutjobs out there, with just a little bit of encouragement, will do something very bad. The Secret Service needs to take action to put a stop to this type of behavior now.
Another comment, this time from a reader at CNN.com:
Lesley - October 6th, 2008 7:43 pm ET
If Palin and McCain keep this up and someone takes a shot at Obama, there will be no where for them to hide. They will be directly responsible for it because they are loading the gun with their desperate attempts to win this election. This is truly disgraceful and has gone beyond negative campaigning. It is dangerous campaigning and they will be responsible for a potentially deadly outcome.
And from the same site:
Smart in Ohio --October 6th, 2008 7:32 pm ET
McCain 2000: "Uh, I, I just have to rely on the good judgment of the voters not to buy into these negative attack ads. Sooner or later, people are going to figure out if all you run is negative attack ads you don't have much of a vision for the future or you're not ready to articulate it." [The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 2/21/2000]
This quote seems pretty appropriate right now…