Noah Baron, Associate Editor
Ideology: Progressive | Writing from: “Fake” America
The Great Backlash started with Nixon’s presidency. He successfully mobilized resentment against those “anti-American” college students who were protesting the war in Vietnam, something which political scientists frequently credit for his victory. It’s rare that you see anyone burning the American flag anymore, or that you see anyone holding posters of Ho Chi Minh or Chairman Mao – yet for the culture warriors, the flag-burning issue is still of great importance; the paranoid accusations of socialism still flow freely from their lips on a regular basis.
The Conservative movement seems unable to move past the backlash mentality – that there are “real Americans” who live in Red States (or who at least vote Republican), and then there are “fake Americans,” those latte-sipping, tofu-loving, freedom-hating pink-commie fascist liberals who shop at Whole Foods and live in New York or other apparently insufficiently American parts of America.
According to those who subscribe to the backlash mentality, the big issues of the day aren’t, say, the economy, or really any things that will have any effect on the day-to-day lives of everyday Americans – no, the most important thing is the supposed culture war with the America-hating liberals and the Democratic Party. In the minds of such people, these un-American Americans (back in the good ol’ days, we had a Congressional committee dedicated to rooting out such people!) are overeducated, out of touch, don’t work with their hands (they probably couldn’t even perform manual labor!); they have expensive taste and sip champagne with one finger in the air; they’re elitists; they don’t go to church – or worse, are outright atheists!; they’re vegetarians (or, God forbid, vegans), promiscuous, and terrified of guns and farm implements; and – worst of all – they’re out to convert our pure children to homosexuality.
Such people are, without a doubt, as obnoxious as they are delusional. On September 11th, 2001, it was New York City – not Jesusland, Arkansas – that was attacked for being a symbol of the infidel America. On September 11th, it was the brave members of New York City’s fire department – most of whom probably voted for Gore – who went into the burning building to save the lives of business executives (most of whom, by the way, probably voted for Bush). Are they somehow less “American” because they live in a blue state or voted for a Democrat? Would it make them less “American” if they were vegan? I don’t recall religion being a requirement of citizenship, either.
Republicans like to point out how frequently they go to Church – as if this activity were all that is required to live a moral life. However, it’s the South that has some of the highest divorce rates in the nation, while America’s very own Sodom, Massachusetts, has the lowest. Not only that – there are plenty of religious liberals (myself included) who live in blue and red states alike, and I suspect there would be many more if they weren’t so appalled by the shameless hypocrisy and bigotry that spews forth from the mouths of so many so-called religious “leaders”.
And by the way: the liberals I know can fix cars; they go to church or synagogue; they grew up or work on farms; they can’t afford (or even like) Gucci or Prada (or even know what those are); they love cheeseburgers and a good steak dinner; they’re in committed monogamous relationships; they’re modest beyond measure. But my entire point here is that these things are not what define them as Americans. What makes them Americans is, foremost, their birthright, but also their boundless generosity, their ingenuity, and their work ethic.
When people like Ann Coulter accuse liberals of being “treasonous” or advise conservatives not to speak to them, they feed into the delusional culture war mentality – a mentality in which liberals are not people with simply a different point of view: they’re actually the enemy; a mentality where the position of Christians in America today is somehow analogous to that of the Jews in Germany on the eve of the Holocaust; a mentality where free speech is believed to protect only those who don’t offend their holier-than-thou sensibilities.
To those who doubt that such sentiments exist, we really need only to point to the scions of the Conservative movement – or even the so-called moderates within the party. It was the McCain campaign which referred to the “real” Virginia, which of course would be voting Republican; it was Sarah Palin who referred to the “pro-America areas of the country”, which of course would be voting for her ticket. That such people can rise to the highest levels of the Republican Party is quite frankly almost as profoundly offensive as what their comments imply.