Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Hate and Ignorance

Recently I did something very out of the ordinary: I joined a Facebook group. And not just any group, but a petition group with a political bent to it. Last week I started to see friends joining a Facebook group that not-so-subtly hinted that the death of the President of the United States would be an answer to their prayers. Beside the absolute lack of class this demonstrates, the fact that this would make Joe Biden the leader of the free world ought to trouble anyone.

So I joined a group petitioning to have this removed. I don't really want it removed; I really don't care what foolish and hateful things exist online, as long as I am seeking out and finding things that make my life better. Nor am I unfriending the people who joined the aforementioned tasteless group; petty and childish behavior is best left to the kinds of people who join these groups. But I found joining the petition group a good way to voice my disapproval and disgust. (Ranting, I have found, also helps.)

In addition to the hypocrisy of folks who a few years back were saying that calling into question the judgment and executive power of the President is tantamount to treason now praying for the death of the Commander in Chief, I find the idea of thinking you're clever for following the lead of someone who formed a group of hateful people disturbing. The herd mentality at its worst, really.

But it's not at all out of character among the hate-mongers and demagogues who rally against government spending, taxation, and regulation. I read the other day a spot-on analysis of the historical illiteracy and dangerous rhetoric of the Tea Party protesters who shout out epithets and threats aimed at anyone they consider to be too liberal. We're in a historical moment in which the shrillness of one's crying is equated with the quality of one's argument, the hyperbole of mislabeling one's foes is considered clever and intelligent.

It's especially disgusting to see people with whom I worship getting caught up in this. Elder Cook's message from General Conference--"We can disagree without being disagreeable"--and President Uchtdorf's--with the emphasis on compassion, love, and mercy--seem completely at odds with the loud and caustic voices that would render illegitimate an administration that won a hefty majority of the popular vote and an overwhelming majority of the electoral vote. To call President Obama or a democratically elected Congress "dangerous" or "rouge" is to fundamentally misunderstand what the Constitution puts forth as the means of establishing a government.

It also shows an utter lack of faith, hope, or charity. If you believe, as the Church clearly teaches, that this nation has a divine mandate and role, that the founding documents thereof are divinely inspired, and that freedom is a central part of God's plan for humanity, then demonizing, dehumanizing, and disrespecting that government carte blanche demonstrates a lack of vision, a perspective so clouded by the talking heads on television, talk radio, and the web that reason and discourse have no place in your heart or mind. And that's a truly sad state. If the current administration is in the wrong, then time will right those wrongs--exactly the thought that kept my head held high from late 2000 until November 4, 2008.

One final note to hopefully show that this is not just a bleeding heart liberal getting his feelings hurt. This is something I believe deeply. On a sunny Tuesday morning nearly nine years ago I watched, at the end of a terrible day for our country, as the President--a man I did not vote for, did not like, and never did think highly of--returned to the White House. I sat in front of the television with my wife and two young children, praying for his safety. None of us truly understood what had happened that day, but we knew we couldn't stand another tragedy, and it was a relief to see the leader of the nation safe. And even when that administration engaged in policies and acts that I considered wrong and wrong-headed, I still insisted on saying "amen" when prayers for the leaders of our nation were offered. I don't think it's too much to ask even the most politically conservative among us to give an elected leader who has sworn to protect and defend the Constitution that kind of prayerful support, regardless of who that person is.