Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, October 10, 2008

My fellow prisoners . . .

The prospect of hard times raises lots of concerns, obviously, but lean years turn into catastrophe when they create civic and political collapse. The economic catastrophe in Germany gave us Hitler, Mussolini and World War II. Soaring unemployment in Europe today will exacerbate an already tense climate of anti-immigrant sentiment and who knows where that might lead?

Then there's the U.S.A. The Great Depression gave us FDR and the liberal approach to saving capitalism called the New Deal, which in turn gave us almost half a century of post-war stability and rising living standards. But what few people today remember is that there was a countervailing fascist movement in the United States as well, exemplified by the "father of hate radio," Catholic priest Charles Coughlin.

As the gravest national challenges approach since the height of the Cold War and the attendant era of social unrest, the McCain campaign for president has descended into depravity, whipping up racism and tribalism, and accusing the man who is likely to become president, and members of his party, of treason -- of being allied with enemies of the United States and dedicated to the destruction of this country. Literally. And the followers of Sen. McCain and his running mate -- who is in actual fact an ally of enemies of the United States and quite likely is covertly an enemy of the United States herself -- are incited to murderous frenzy by their rhetoric.

Here is Sen. McCain apparently threatening to prosecute Barney Frank and Chris Dodd for causing the financial crisis. And here's the New York Times on the McCain campaign's obsession with William Ayers:

Senator John McCain joined in the attacks on Thursday on Senator Barack Obama for his ties to the 1960s radical William Ayers, telling an angry, raucous crowd in Wisconsin that “we need to know the full extent of the relationship” to judge whether Mr. Obama “is telling the truth to the American people or not.” . . .

But what has been most striking about the last 48 hours on the campaign trail is the increasingly hostile atmosphere at Mr. McCain’s rallies, where voters furiously booed any mention of Mr. Obama and lashed out at the Democrats, Wall Street and the news media.

“I’m really mad!” shouted a man in the audience in Waukesha, where Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, were conducting a town-hall-style meeting. “And what’s going to surprise you, it’s not the economy. It’s the socialists taking over our country.” . . .

Mr. Ayers is now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lives in Mr. Obama’s neighborhood. He was named citizen of the year in Chicago in 1997, has worked with Mr. Obama on a schools project and a charitable board, and gave a house party when Mr. Obama was running for the State Senate.

Sarah Palin, as we all know, calls this "palling around with terrorists," and McCain campaign advertisements also accuse Obama of consorting with a terrorist, while campaign surrogates essentially say that he is a terrorist. As we have all heard and read, people at McCain and Palin rallies have screamed out that Barack Obama is a traitor and terrorist, and called for his murder, all without the slightest response from the candidates. The polls so far show no indication that this is working to win over voters, but we should all fear the consequences after November 4 when Obama is elected president and a substantial proportion of the electorate actually believes, because the Senator from Arizona and leader of the Republican Party has told them so, that a terrorist enemy of the United States is preparing to seize state power -- a terrorist enemy who also happens to be part of a long-oppressed and marginalized ethnic group, the son of a foreigner who adhered to a religion seen as alien and hostile.

What will happen to civil order and national unity then, when we need it the most? And who then puts country first?

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