Monday, May 24, 2010

The Rising Tide of Intolerance in America

This past week we've had Rand Paul, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky and a Tea Party favorite, call for businesses to have the right to discminate against, well, anyone they want. Yesterday John Stossel on Fox News was defending Paul's call for repealing part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the "right to discriminate." To me that is defending the absolutely indefensible. I'm watching the rising tide of racism and all sorts of intolerance with disgust. In the wake of current right wing efforts to justify and legalize discrimination of all sorts I thought it was time for me to take a stand.

I believe in equal rights and equal protection under the law for all Americans. I really don't care where you or your family or ancestors are from. It doesn't matter what religion you believe in or if you believe at all. I don't care what color your skin is. I don't care if you are male or female. I certainly don't care about your private life or who you are attracted to. When it comes to the law we should all be equal.

Politicians like Rand Paul or Tom Tancredo, who called for a return to Jim Crow era literacy tests at the Tea Party Convention earlier this year, strike me as more than a bit phony when they claim they aren't racists. When you defend racism or call for undoing the laws that ended institutionalized de jure racism in this country then what are you if not a racist? Tolerance of and defense of racism is, in and of itself, a form of racism.

The Tea Party movement isn't "beautiful" as Sarah Palin would have us believe. The radical libertarianism of Ron and Rand Paul would turn back the clock on civil rights 50 years or more. I have studied history and know full well that during times of economic difficulty there is a growth of fringe political movements, especially those on the far right. That phenomenon isn't unique to the United States. What is unique to our country is the fear raised among the ignorant and small minded on the far right by the election of an African-American President. It has magnified and multiplied the growth of the far right to something far beyond the fringe into something truly dangerous to American freedoms as we have known and enjoyed them.

Am I accusing all Tea Party supporters of racism? Consider the enthusiastic applause former Congressman Tancredo received in Nashville for a speech that David Duke would have been proud of. Consider the defense of Rand Paul. If Tea Party supporters aren't racist they are at least tolerant of the racism in their midst. Once again, tolerance of and defense of racism is, in and of itself, a form of racism. So, yes, I am most certainly making that accusation. I will repeat it often between now and the November elections as well. Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes it isn't popular at all. There is a truly ugly undercurrent of racism and intolerance in the Tea Party movement that keeps rising to the surface.

Some friends have suggested I shouldn't speak out. Doing so, they say, might hurt my business or my chances of going back into a corporate job rather than working freelance. I shouldn't "limit" my opportunities. Frankly, if someone would discriminate against me because I believe in equality and tolerance then I really don't need their business and don't want to work to promote theirs.

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