It's harder to be Liberal than to be Conservative. Liberals have to think. Conservatives just have to hate.
I've spent no small amount of time recently trying to figure out when America started going crazy. I think I'm beginning to realize that this is not a new phenomenon. I think the homophobes and tea partiers and hate mongers in the headlines are not necessarily new nutcases... they're just coming out of their shells, so to speak. I think, for a long time, I felt insulated from the crazies because I lived in a liberal city, worked in a progressive environment, and try not to surround myself with people who have aluminum hats in their wardrobe (to keep out the government's probing satellite rays, of course).
I have long believed that they are a loud-mouthed group of playground bullies who think volume equals being smart or right or even lucid. I still believe they are nothing more than that. But what is becoming increasingly worrisome is their ability to make smart people think stupid things.
They say you can't shout fire in a crowded theater, but the reality is that people can and will do it. And when they do, 500 people who know better will still run in panic, trampling all in their path.
The same with the political crazies. Now, I have no love of the Republican party. But I have believed that even the most vociferous Republican had a degree of common sense, practicality and respect for other people. That apparently is no longer the case in Texas, the Carolinas and other states and communities where Republican lawmakers have adopted platforms laced with paranoia, hatred, bigotry and plain old insanity. Where were the voices of reason? Drowned out by the screamers who envision an all-white, all straight, all protestant, all gun toting, non-tax paying nation, where nobody needs to responsible to or for anything. They forget that it's been tried before. In Germany, in 1939. It didn't work then either.
I listen to people I thought I knew, who are allowing the hate speak to creep into their conversations. I read letters to editors that are laced with paranoia and buzz words that suggest that anger, hatred and distrust will fix the economy, fund our schools and keep mass transit moving.
I don't for a moment believe that the crazies are in the majority. I don't for a moment believe that the loud-mouths who claim to speak for a majority of any community actually do or ever will. But I do believe there is a real danger that the crazies can and will force intelligent, well-meaning and thoughtful people into submission... that smart people will be rendered dumb... and that too many people who know better will keep quiet... giving tacit approval to the idiots.
We are seeing more and more of a gang mentality. Gangs are made up of small groups of cowards who believe they can take an entire community hostage, using fear to force them into submission. The right-wing crazies in tea-party rallies are no different than thugs roaming the streets. And unless we recognize that gang mentality and face them down, we're going to allow them to turn their insanity into our reality.