Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Stars & Bars on People's Cars

The other week in my November 6th blog about the post-election day results, I briefly touched on the fact that Americans as a whole are getting tired of the climate of fear intolerance and hate created by the Tea Party in this nation as a direct result of President Obama being elected in 2008. 

I wanted to share a couple personal observations about how I see the extremist right-wing media message crafted by the current president of Fox News Channels and former Nixon, Reagan and Bush media consultant Roger Ailes (with the blessing of Rupert Murdoch) filters down through the various conservative media pundits (Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck etc.) and ends up on everyday Main Street.
If you look closely at the back window of the pickup truck in the photo pictured above, you'll see some anti-Obama stickers and a "McCain-Palin '08" sticker just above a NASCAR sticker professing the pickup driver's support for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s #8 race car.

I took this photo with my iPhone while I was stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of Quakerbridge Road and Route 33 on Thursday morning August 29th of this year on my way into work in Hamilton, NJ. While I respect the Constitution and everyone's right to free speech, I couldn't help but be curious about the kind of person who would be driving around with stickers like that prominently displayed on their vehicle.

My guess is he or she would probably be listening to Rush Limbaugh or some other conservative talk radio host whipping their audience into a frenzy of anger with the usual assortment of distorted facts, outright lies and tired cliches about the President and other "liberals". What's interesting about this truck is the 9/11 memorial painted onto the back of the truck on the left side. That struck me as somewhat contradictory. 

I lived in Manhattan on September 11th, 2001 and one thing about that horrific tragedy was how it unified most Americans; for a time anyway. The attack was perpetrated by a group of extremist jihadists who'd been indoctrinated with a radical Islamic mindset which essentially encouraged them to murder innocent people in the name of their religion. 

Unlike the quirky fictional television cable news host Will McAvoy (brilliantly played by Jeff Daniels and written by Aaron Sorkin), I don't think the Tea Party is the "American Taliban", but I do think the almost religious fervor they inspire amongst their ranks almost always ends up being expressed in a manner that is negative, fearful, obstructionist, intolerant and angry. 

Remember that long summer 4 years ago when red-faced Tea Partiers packed into Congressional town hall meetings across the nation and angrily shouted-down politicians trying to communicate with their constituents about the Affordable Health Care Act?

Who can forget Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina yelling out "You LIE!" to the President of the United States during a State of the Union address on September 9, 2009? That kind of rage ends up filtering down to individuals across the country and some of them see it as an endorsement of much worse kinds of hatred and bigotry. Let's be frank, the Tea Party has basically made it OK to be a bigot in America again.
The other week on my way to work I was stopped at a traffic light preparing to turn left onto Route 29 near the border of Trenton, NJ and I notice this large pickup truck in front of me. 

It was one of those trucks with the full extended cab and I could see this older white couple seated inside talking as they waited for the light to turn. There was a small Confederate flag sticker on the back left bumper that left me with a queasy kind of feeling.

It wasn't like some of those pickups you see on the road now and then with the full actual Confederate flag filling the back window of the pick behind a gun rack, but this one was small enough not to attract too much attention, but large enough to be seen none the less. With the atmosphere created by the Tea Party it's hard to discern what the person who puts that Confederate flag on their vehicle actually thinks and means by openly displaying it - especially when you see it here in New Jersey. 

Are they racist? That's the very first thing that popped into my mind as an African-American driver when I saw that flag on the pickup the other day. Something about the flag just disturbs me because of the legacy of what it represents - a terrible war that killed more than 500,000 Americans and a vanquished foe who went to war for the right to keep black people enslaved in a state-sponsored system of enforced human bondage.

Controversy and fallout from the Confederate flag flying over state capitols (including South Carolina and Georgia) continues to this day. As reported by David Slade and Jeff Hartsell in the Charleston Post and Courier in August of this year, South Carolina removed the Stars & Bars from atop the state Capitol building but placed it on a memorial on the grounds; which the NACCP and others are still fighting to remove.   

Just like the Swastika the Stars and Bars should be banned in my opinion but here we are 148 YEARS after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox and people of all races are still actively engaged in attempts to remove that symbol of division, death and human bondage. It's not fair for me to judge someone I don't personally know who puts a Confederate flag on their vehicle, but I can't help but wonder what's really going on deep inside their heart when they do.

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