Tim Egan, in a searing Op-Ed for The New York Times, illustrates just how far the core values of the Republican Party and its adherents have strayed from the America that the Founding Fathers sought to create when they decided to set down what they (probably) thought were some very basic, easily understandable points, in a document called the Constitution. Indeed, as Egan states, our country’s Founders would likely be nauseated at the beliefs now espoused by Republicans.
In numerous surveys of a party that has adopted the worst pathologies of President Trump, Republicans have shown themselves to be explicitly anti-American. The Founders would gag. So would Abraham Lincoln.
Egan’s isn’t some heated, hyperbolic accusation. It’s supported by the polling data. Egan starts with Republicans’ own polled, professed views about the First Amendment, a minor clause in the Constitution that gives all Americans the right to express their views, via the press or otherwise.
Just under half of Republicans now believe government should be able to shut down “biased or inaccurate media.” And close to half of Republicans have adopted Trump’s authoritarian view that the news media is “the enemy of the people.”
If you’re going to call yourself an American, this is very basic stuff, right? Egan rhetorically asks, “[W]hat part of ‘Congress shall make no law’ abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, do these citizens not understand?”
The answer apparently is “the part where the Constitution applies to anyone who disagrees with me.” Actually that meshes perfectly with an insular mindset honed, socialized and brought up to think solely in terms of itself, without regard to the fact that other people even exist at all. It’s a perfectly understandable mindset when you consider that the most important issues to Republican voters revolve around abortion, guns, and their own taxes. These are all issues that depend on a willful, self-centered denial of the interests of others.
But here’s a hint—if you actually think the majority of expressed views by your countrymen that differ from your own make them the “enemy”—and because of that you want to silence them– it may be wise to for you to re-think who the actual “enemy“ is.
Then there’s that other part of the First Amendment (yes, Republicans, there are actually multiple parts!): the one which prohibits the government from imposing an official religion. Even more, Republicans just don’t seem to get this:
A majority of Republicans think Christianity should be the established national religion. And half of all Southerners — the deepest, most anti-American part of Trump’s base, with the DNA of Civil War traitors still coursing through the region — believe the United States was founded as an “explicitly Christian” nation.
But it wasn’t—and it isn’t. The sad truth is that if you want to call yourself an American, you have to accept the idea that I—or anyone else in this country—can say that the “Christian” religion—or any other religion for that matter—is wrong, is inaccurate, or is a pile of made-up lies. Or even that your God doesn’t exist at all (except in your head) to validate your prejudices and grease your ability to form social relationships.
You are in turn free to wag your finger and tell me (and anyone else who disagrees with you) about the legitimacy of your particular religion, and that we’re wrong, misguided, or are all going to hell. But the invisible contract your parents signed when they decided to give birth to you within the borders of this country says that you can’t impose your religion on the rest of us, no matter how “right” you think you are. Sorry!
If you can’t accept that, fine, but don’t call yourself an “American,” because by definition you’re not. But please don’t just take my word for it.
George Washington made clear it was otherwise in a letter to a Jewish congregation in 1790 celebrating religious tolerance and diversity. “The citizens of the United States have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy,” he wrote.
Jefferson expressed a similar feeling, touting a homeland for “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”
Egan points out that the same holds true about immigration, the very weapon that blowhard demagogues like Donald Trump have wielded throughout this country’s history to whip up resentments among Americans ignorant of their own history. Abraham Lincoln put these types of racists in their place long before the Civil War, forcefully repudiating the xenophobic views of the self-styled “Know Nothing” party of the 1850s, a description which meshes perfectly with the philosophy of the modern Republican Party.
The modern-day Know-Nothings are the pink-faced mobs calling for a wall at Trump rallies. They are the architects of a government policy that puts children in filthy cages and forces them to drink fetid water, that sees helpless and newly orphaned babies as subhuman — all while laughing at the cruelty.
Are we really supposed to believe that this wholesale repudiation of our country’s values embraced now by practically every voice in the Republican Party is due to some type of “economic anxiety?” There was plenty more “economic anxiety” during the Great Depression. It didn’t transform half of the nation into a frothing bloc of religiously intolerant, anti-American xenophobes or result in the wholesale abandonment of our core principles.
So what really happened to these people? Was it bad toilet training at a tender age? Lousy parents? An overdose of privilege? Or maybe just the venom spewed for decades into their neural systems by outsized megaphones like “talk radio” and Fox News?
No one seems to be sure. But they’ve sure turned out to be piss-poor Americans.