Barbarians at the gates:
The Alamo election
By James McEnteer / The Rag Blog / November 4, 2010
Our national 2010 midterm elections demonstrated that many citizens of the United States now suffer a siege mentality: against the Islamic world and other perceived barbarians at our gates; against socialists, homosexuals, minorities, and recent immigrants, documented or not. That turns out to be the majority of the Earth’s humans, many of whom reside among us. We are a house divided against itself.
Whites of European ancestry professing heterosexual Christianity have run the show in the USA since before the country’s independence. They are now feeling surrounded and outnumbered as the United States more accurately reflects the proportional population of the planet.
The paranoia of the powerful old guard goads them to tweak the Constitution: “Freedom of religion? Great — except for Islam. Freedom of speech? Certainly — as long as it doesn’t affront our majoritarian values. A presumption of innocence? Everyone’s entitled to that except terrorists of course, whom it’s okay to torture and lock up indefinitely.”
Members of the straight, white majority feel themselves slipping into minority status in our multi-cultural society. Their nativist rage and increasingly vocal intolerance reflects their fear of losing a power based less on achievement than on skin color and inherited privilege. They have taken to hiding behind hate speech and ever-higher walls of gated communities. While such fears may be understandable, they are not acceptable.
If our society is to meet the many daunting challenges ahead of us, it’s counterproductive to refight battles for racial and religious and cultural tolerance that we won more than 200 years ago. We can not afford to be squabbling over who is “more American” as the world burns. We have to move on.
Several years ago I published a book tracing the profound influence of Texas values on U.S. political policies of the past 200 years. The creation myth of Texas warrior culture is the battle of the Alamo in 1836. The Alamo myth — still taught in Texas public schools — conjures a small band of 180-odd freedom fighters battling for independence against a much larger Mexican force bent on suppressing their rights.
But it was a borrowed revolution. The only native Texans in the Alamo were those of Mexican descent. Whites who died there — of Scots-Irish ancestry — came from Tennessee, South Carolina, and elsewhere. Driven by violent race hatred, these men killed Native Americans with impunity and enslaved Blacks, before rising against the Mexican authorities largely because they despised their skin color, language, and religion.
After they died in the Alamo their martyrdom ignited racist outrage and a thirst for vengeance that remains unslaked almost 200 years later.
The astonishing rate of execution in Texas — which accounts for more than a third of all U.S. executions — is only one vestige of the retributive “take no prisoners” Alamo attitude. Minorities are disproportionately represented on death row in Texas, as they are in the general prison population nationwide. Texas — like many candidates for public office in the 2010 elections — makes a show of circling the wagons to keep “them” (outsiders) at bay.
Such primitive behavior is not logical. But logic is not the point. When right-wing extremists opine that Barack Obama holds a “Kenyan, anti-colonial world view” it sounds nonsensical. It’s a code phrase meant to signify that Obama is not one of “us” (right-thinking traditional Americans, white and Christian).
The right tried to make the election about the non-Caucasian, perhaps socialistic, Islamic sympathizer, Barack Obama. He represents many nativist fears of change. His attempts to conciliate his enemies cannot succeed because their hatred of him is not logical, or based on any policies. It is visceral and beyond rational discourse.
Rush Limbaugh has said of the president, “I hope he fails.” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said, “Our goal must be to make Obama a one-term president.” Not a single positive policy suggestion sullies the agenda of Obama’s enemies. All they want, the country’s welfare be damned, is to wrest control of the agenda for their corporate masters.
The very hope Obama’s election offered the rest of the world, that the United States might rejoin the global community of nations for the common good, is what worries conservatives most. The problem and paradox is that the harder and dirtier Obama’s political enemies fight to exclude Obama and his ilk and maintain “purity,” the less of the republic there is to save.
We must not allow the American democratic experiment to end in suicidal bigoted imperial rage. Those who would recreate the Alamo will share its fate.
[James McEnteer is the author of Deep in the Heart: the Texas Tendency in American Politics (Praeger 2004) and other books. He lives in South Africa.]
I do think Mr. McEnter has nailed it. Those right wing Extremists (to the DHS) are simply barbarians. They consider the reasoned intelligent thinkers on the left, such as Mr McEnteer, to be elitist jerks.
They claim to dislike Mr Obama over his policy choices, but they are incapable of even comprehending policy, economics and finance so we know that claim is a lie. They hate President Obama simply because he is black, and has three vowels in his last name.
More articles like this are needed if the left is to come roaring back in 2012. We must point out over and over to those who were tricked in 2010, that the right are angry, stupid, brutish, racists incapable of fairness or reason. The truth of it will become evident once it is repeated often enough.
Good start Mr McEnteer.
Jim – the Alamo myth – of doomed resistance to the inevitable – is an apt one. After years of economic and political dominance the US – like the British Empire (and many others before it) is losing its grip.
The truth is that the “elitists” are those who believe that they can protect American hegemony against the onslaught of the cultural, ecnomic, and political upsurge of the “minority of billions” that lives outside (and, as you point out, also within) the US.
Our economic, politlical and social policies, both domestically and internationally, have painted us into a lonely and indefensible corner. Even our friends and allies shake their heads over the way our noble experiment has gone wrong.
Given the results of this election – massively-funded propaganda appeals to the lowest impulses in our population, to which a significant proportion of that population responded – it seems unlikely that America has the insight or will to turn aside from the – as you say – suicidal path of “defending” what is rapidly becomiong an “empty fortress.”
As we’ve surrendered our basic values at the behest of demagogues seeking personal aggrandisement even at the cost of our country’s future, we’ve become increasingly bumptious in trying to preserve and protect….what exactly? A country where the poverty rate is growing even faster than the wealth of the top billionaires? A country whose standard of living is in rapid decline – now 37th in Health care world-wide behind countries like Costa Rica and Iceland? A country where elections are “marketed” to the highest bidder and our Federal Government is ruled by people in the top 5%? In short, a country that looks increasing like what O’Henry disparaged as “banana republics?”
It may be that American politics is proving Lincoln wrong – with modern advertising and mass-marketing strategy, you CAN at least fool enough of the people enough of the time.
Sadly, keeping folks “drunk on religion, sex and TV” can only lead to an eventual rude awakening, when a new generation of Americans is forced to ask “how did we get in this handbasket, and where are we going so fast?”
de Toquville predicted that America might well wreck on the shoal of inadequate education of the electorate, leaving it vulnerable to manipulation by demagogues in their own interest. That he had that insight in 1811, long before radio, television, Madison Avenue, even before the real development of newspapers is remarkable. That is has proved so accurate is thoroughly depressing.
Well, not to be contrarian –;-0 — but hey, the Republican landslide of the midterms has carried quite a few Hispanic and other minority candidates into many offices never before held by anyone other than straight white males. Lots of women, too, in case you missed all the “Tea Party feminism” talk of the last few months.
So I think it is a little more complicated than saying that all these folks who voted out the Dems are racists, and that we do ourselves a disservice by pretending it is so.
Certainly, racism, fear of “the other”, nationalism, and exclusionist elements have more of a home among the Tea Partiers and Birthers than among progressive forces. But the devastating economy, offensive health care plan, and perceived continued bailouts of our corporate looters, at the expense of “America as we know it”, are far more widespread in their effects. And obviously there are a lot of minority people who no longer consider themselves benefitting from Democratic party loyalty.
Solutions aren’t going to be found if we don’t see the problem more clearly.
while of course the outlook isn’t unrelievedly bleak, we also shouldn’t make the mistake of imagining that only those of European descent are racist, or that all women are femininsts.
It is encouraging that the right is moving towards accepting (or rather, attempting to co-opt) women and minorities. Although they may start off with “tame” versions, like the Phyllis Schlafley “Kirche, kuchen und kinder” feminists, eventually some of those co-opted will wake up, find themselves in the midst of the Right Wing, and raise some hell trying to make it theirs.
The process might be analgous to the Founding Fathers reference to “all men” being equal, which they primarily intended to refer to themselves, but eventually – 150 to 200 years later – became the seed of the truly democratic impulse that has, gradually, extended the freedoms and protections of our government to all citizens.
I don’t think the victories by women and minorities in this election cycle point to much beyond what having Michael Steele as Republican Chairman signifies – an attempt to “blackwash” (if you will) the underlying racism of the extreme right-wing, reactionary, nationalist faction – now the leading force – in the Republican Party.
As long as they can claim that Michale Steele is one of their “best friends” no one can accuse them of racism. As long as Sarah Palin can be represented as a Tea Party standard bearer that fact can be used to deflect completley-valid criticism of the anti-feminist nature of many Tea Party positions.
I agree that clarity of vison is the key to solutions, and that the failure of the Democratic Party (and especially Barack Obama) to fight hard and passionately for the progressive values of its core constituency – including women and minorities – is one of the keys to its failure in this election cycle, but in my opinion the women and minority candidates who were elected under the Republican banner (by-and-large) hardly represent a step forward for the groups they are claimed to “represent.”
Ned – oh, I agree, absolutely; but don’t like seeing the election results ascribed almost solely to the effects of racism and chauvinism. The Democratic Party hasn’t been as effective at serving the needs of minorities and women as they’d like to think. The “mainstream” women’s movement has maybe concentrated too much in recent years on success in the business world and not enough on raising up women from poverty. So Democrats can’t necessarily count on that support. We also gotta realize that not everyone who watches and believes Fox News is white or male! Where is the genuine progressive media alternative?? Don’t even say NPR or MSNBC!!!!!