Men and women wander the streets of America carrying weapons and shouting slogans of hate and violence. Over half of members of the Republican party believe their president was born in Africa and is a secret Muslim with connections to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. Simply express the words, “Wall Street” and fury enters the eyes of most Americans who believe themselves to be oppressed and violated by bankers, hedge fund managers and anyone who works in the firms which manage the nation’s economy. Tune in Rush or Glenn and one can only wonder if their weird ideas about concentration camps and death panels is actually believed or simply another ploy to secure more viewers to their programs of hate and violence.
This is not the first time in American history in which such forces of hatred have been heard in the land. The decades preceding the Civil War witnessed an explosion of anti-Catholic fear that is remarkably similar to the one now expressed against Muslims. Convents were attacks, churches burned and bills introduced to limit entry of Catholics into America. The famous “Know-Nothing Party” had former president Fillmore as their candidate in the 1850s and he secured nearly 15% of the vote in a presidential election.
Perhaps, the fundamental difference this time around is presence of media which enables hate messages to be sent all over the land to receptive minds seeking answers in a time of conflict and change. The central question is how can sensible leaders confront paranoia when it is felt by so many millions of Americans? We suggest President Obama must learn to be clearer in his presentation of ideas, he must focus on job creation and not simply refer to a stimulus plan, but pinpoint exactly how and where jobs are being created. He must offer a vision of the future that encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to believe that vision includes them.