The historical record is replete with haters. The closest I have ever come to them, happily, is in a small museum in Topeka Kansas, Wizard of Oz country there in tornado-land. A superseded public school is home to the Brown versus Board of Education Museum: http://www.nps.gov/brvb/index.htm.
It is a National Park historical site. I have been there several times.
Each time I have an involuntary, visceral reaction to the one of the displays. Each time I think about it long afterwards.
The display is a narrow hallway in darkness. On each side are flat panel TV screens nearly life size projecting the segregationists of the day defending their ways and shouting abuse at half a dozen black elementary school children. I saw those images on the family television as a lad, and they were distressing then, but to experience it now – sound track turned up – is, nearly, frightening.
There they are, the proud white men and women, screaming – cords distended in their necks – and shouting, gesturing and posturing to compare blacks to apes, and inevitably they have Bibles in hand. The original footage is black-and-white, but I imagine their faces red. These are the haters. Once seen, never forgotten.
Where are they now? They are all around. Do not doubt it.
There are plenty of other haters then who were less visible, but these haters did us the favour of revealing themselves for what they were. Haters. There is no other word for it: H A T E.
These days the Haters seldom assemble for network television cameras to rant the rant. But surely they are still among us, no less numerous, and no less venomous. Full of hate, they still have a Bible at hand.
Perhaps it is an example of a long fallout (pace geology) that the object of so much hatred now is the government itself. Attorneys-general, Presidents, and National Guardsmen enforced integration, all agents of government, that demonic force ruining lives far and wide.
Are they Timothy James McVeigh’s brethren and sisteren? When they lift their eyes from a Bible, they see the world through the cross-hairs of a rifle sight.
I said “a” Bible twice because it is their Bible; it is not mine. Theirs is a book of hate, betrayal, fire, vengeance, righteousness, and more righteousness, and again righteousness. Mine, the one I read in Sunday school, chapel, New and Old Testament Religion at the church school I attended, this is a book of charity, faith, loyalty, sacrifice, endurance, compromise, fidelity, concession, compassion, hope, kindness to strangers, and the like.
I am not at all sure what conclusion to draw from any of this, but I see a connection in that hard continuity of hatred, which is readily to be found on the Internet and contemporary politics. It is there but not on prime news television this time around.
In the quest for office in the last generation the politicians everywhere have tapped that vein of hatred. They no longer run against rivals. They no longer have opponents. Rather the rivals are manifestations of evil. They are Satan’s hand. They are God’s enemies to be smote. When the educated, privileged, political class descends to this hatred, it is not surprise that such debasement is spread further by others.
Hatred is the only explanation I could think of for the vituperation heaped upon Bill Clinton years ago. At my remove Clinton seemed to be a harmless cracker who joshed and joked his way past an incumbent, patrician President who had no interest in people. Clinton continued to ah-shucks his way past a very competent but out-moded opponent a second time. In the first instance in 1992, Clinton was mightily aided by the loose canon of a third party. That was Ross Perot for those of fading memories.
The public and published vituperation of Clinton for those eight years gave me pause for thought, but that was only the part above the waterline. A few friends seemed to think I would be interested in the Internet traffic in trashing Clinton, and so for a time in the 1990s I had a daily dose of the bad things smart people could think of to say about him. He, of course, gave them plenty of ammunition. It wore thin quickly and finally I did ask these friends to cancel my subscription to their feeds. But it was an insight into the minds of smart people who took the time to hate. It went way beyond rationality. It was emotional, Mr Spock! That Cracker Clinton had not right to be president, votes or no! That was the nerve that flinched beneath the daily tirades. They got their wish when that draft dodger, the junior Bush, restored the dignity of the office by wearing cufflinks.
But Clinton’s constant bath in the hatred was as nothing compared to the cyber malevolence now spewed out about Barrack Obama. It is unbelievable. It goes beyond the Blue Dogs and Swamp Rats that now typify Congressional debates.
The Haters are still there and hard at the unending work of hatred, but they do not gather quite as conspicuously for the cameras. Not yet anyway. And when they do gather the message is coded. The Bible seems to have been supplemented by the Constitution, but like the Bible before it, it remains largely unread by those that shout the loudest about it. The totemic reading of the Constitution in Congress in 2011 was a sorry spectacle. Surely somewhere in there it says no black man can be president was the coded message. It did do that in its original form with its affirmation of slavery. The United States Constitution is a noble document, one written before the Industrial Revolution, before ‘electricity, the train, telephones, radio, television, automobiles, airplanes, rockets, nuclear weapons, satellites, or space exploration. There's a lot they didn't know about. It would be interesting to see what kind of document they'd draft today.’ Indeed. The quotation is from Ross Perot, by the way.
Had the Framers, as those who participated in the writing of the Constitution are reverentially called, today might have spent their time praying over the Magna Carta before going out to shoot a soft target.