It's never a good sign when you find yourself longing for the halcyon days of George W. Bush. But after a year in which right-wing activists and politicians identified America's greatest threats as mosques and infants, you could be forgiven for feeling a bit nostalgic for the man who responded to the 9/11 attacks by emphasizing that "Islam is a religion of peace."
So, is America Islamophobic? It depends. For the overwhelming majority of Muslims, America's still a pretty sweet place to work and pray (just watch out for these fellas). And as conservatives like Jeff Jacoby are quick to point out, when it comes to reported hate crimes, Jewish Americans still have it worse. Much, much worse. But with precious few exceptions, anti-Semitism is confined to the paranoid fringe; you'd never see a slew of presidential candidates line up to, say, protest the construction of a synogogue.
2010 was the year Islamic fearmongering officially went mainstream. Here's a quick look back at how the heck it happened. Enjoy.
I've just finished Lee Sandlin's Wicked River, about the Mississippi River's heyday in the 19th century. It's well worth a read if you're into that sort of thing; Sandlin's a lively storyteller, although most of the stories need little more than a nudge to get going anyway. His narrative is rich with pirates, revivalists, hucksters, antebellum paranoia, alligators, and gratuitous violence**. Here's a representative sample:
Johnson records one fight that broke out over the question of whether a celebrated duel in South Carolina had been a sham: "When Mr. Charles Stewart stated that those gentlemen that fought actually fought with bullets, Mr Dahlgren said that they must have fought with paper bullets. Mr Stewart then said that if any man would say that they fought with paper bullets that he is a damned liar and a damned scoundrel and a damned coward." The two men began pummeling each other, Stewart with a walking stick and Dahlgren with an umbrella. They then pulled out pistols and began shooting at each other.
Then their friends joined in with Bowie knives. Sandlin floats the rather preposterous theory that alcohol may have been involved.
Just before Christmas, George W. Bush traveled to North Carolina to pay a visit to the one man who, perhaps more than any other, made his political ascent possible: Billy Graham. But the aging evangelist's contributions go far beyond simply helping 43 sober up and find Christ on a beach in Kennebunkport. As a charismatic young preacher in the post-war era, Graham galvanized southern evangelicals who had migrated to the Golden State. Socially conservative, business-friendly, a new political brew fermented in the cul-de-sacs of Southern California. The results: Yesterday's religious right, today's tea party, and the Reagan and Bush presidencies.
There is less soul in the entirety of Train than in the palest single member of Collective Soul. "Hey, Soul Sister" is soul for people who refer to peanut butter and jelly as "soul food." It makes the California Raisins look like the second coming of Sly and the Family Stone. It's so white, Sarah Palin just named it her running mate for 2012.
Snap, crackle, and pow!
Anyway, having spent a quarter of the year driving around aimlessly in a car, I feel somewhat qualified to offer my opinion on the horrible sounds that came from FM radio. So here's one they missed: "Way Out Here," by Josh Thompson. Thompson mixes the mandatory checklist of a pop country hit—truck, truck being fixed, truck with girl standing next to it, yeoman farmers, yeoman farmers with trucks—with an aggressive "Real American" streak; unlike other kinds of people who shall remain nameless, Thompson croons, "We won't take a dime if we ain't earned it." With apologies to Train, if any song of 2010 were to be Sarah Palin's running mate, it'd be this one.
So is it worse than "Hey, Soul Sister"? You be the judge:
Not to be an insufferable fact-checker or anything, but what's up with the flag in this video? It's got the requisite 50 stars, so why does it look like it survived Washington's Crossing?
Some of you may remember Repent Amarillo as the far-right group whose planned Koran burning last September was foiled by the shirtless "Dude, you have no Koran!" dude. As its name suggests, the group's mission is quite simple: pressure the Texas city's 67,000 godless residents to repent for their sins and find Christ. To that end, organizers have created their own nifty "prayer map," which carefully charts various local hotspots for spirtual warfare (the group has already claimed victory for shutting down a Masonic lodge, a swingers bar, and a strip club.)
Now, Repent Amarillo has set its sights on an institution more powerful, even, than the Crystal Pistol: Santa. Here's a video the group just released, in which they execute the big man via firing squad, as part of an effort to teach kids the true meaning of Christmas. Guys, Fred Clause wasn't that bad!