Frightening Ignorance

Elie Weisel is a Holocaust survivor who has written moving books and articles about the Nazis, and their effort to exterminate the Jews. He has been the recipient of numerous honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize. Recently, he objected to the use of pictures displaying Nazi atrocities on signs carried by “teabaggers” protesting healthcare reform–making the (obvious and reasonable) point that equating an effort to extend health care to intentional genocide serves only to trivialize what happened during the holocaust.

The response by the extremist faction of the Republican party? According to Politico and several other sites, Weisel’s objection unleashed a torrent of abuse and anti-semitism. Here are just a few: 

Everyone knows that Obama is George Soros sock puppet. Wasn’t Soros Jewish once upon a time? May the Schwartz be with you.

The jews need to clam up and accept the fact that they are in a Chritian country.

This hollowcost thing is totally overblown by the jewish.

Eli Wiesel should just go back to Indonesia. I don’t see him condemnig the terrorist shooter at Fort Hood.

Elie is a whiner. She should stop her whining. You didn’t not complane when the libs were calling Bush Hitler.

You know what? The fact is that at a time in history, The Rosthchild family controlled practically everything.

In the wake of Obama’s victory last November, we saw an unsettling and deeply troubling display of racism. As the response to Weisel demonstrates, the bigotry is not limited to African-Americans. It encompasses Jews, and immigrants–especially Mexican immigrants. In the wake of the tragedy at Fort Hood, the rightwing blogs have been filled with vitriol aimed at Muslims, including calls to expel all Muslims (even citizens!) from the country. (It does no good to ask these protectors of American purity why there aren’t similar calls when similar acts are perpetrated by Christians–recognition of hypocrisy isn’t their strong suit.)

It really pains me to say this, because I was an active and committed Republican for 35 years, but the party has been completely taken over by this base of angry, largely uneducated, haters. The reasonable Republicans I’ve worked with and known are leaving in droves, loathe to be associated with the teabaggers and know-nothings who are calling the shots.

The GOP made a Faustian bargain. For years, party elders courted the radical Christian Right, and gladly benefitted from their votes, volunteers and money, calculating that they could continue a relationship that was almost entirely one-way. Throw the rubes a legislative bone now and then, employ the rhetoric they wanted to hear, but otherwise ignore them. Those Republicans are now reaping the results of that cynical calculus. The GOP can’t win elections with just the votes of these irrational, angry activists and thugs. But if these people continue to be the face of what was once the Grand Old Party, they can’t win the votes of the vast majority of Americans who are people of good will.

If there is a moral to this sad story, it’s “beware of the beast you feed.”