I live in West Virginia. Fortunately my town, Shepherdstown, is relatively progressive, due to the presence of the Shepherd University Community and a large quantity of artists and theatre people (we are the home of the Contemporary American Theater Festival every year, drawing thousands from around the country each year for a month of new plays).
West Virginia, however, despite having a Democratic Governor and two Democratic Senators, scores very red in the Presidential Polls (50% McCain to 44% Obama in the current Rasmussen reading), due, I think, to our really close to poverty populace… at best lower-middle-class… and all the conservative fears that go with it.
I work in Hagerstown, Maryland, about 14 miles away, in that Democratic state’s heaviest Republican area – Washington County. As I cross the bridge over the Potomac each day to head from WV to MD, I go through Sharpsburg through endless displays of McCain/Palin signs. There are 2 or 3 very small towns I go through as well, often stopping for coffee at small establishments on the way.
I hear a lot of talk.
Listening to call-in shows on the car radio, I’m hearing endless local comments that Obama was brought up as a muslim, that he favors Al Qu’ida, that he has the most liberal voting record in the Senate (in reality, he is seventh in line of others who are much more liberal), that he votes against the troops, that he pals around with William Ayers – a terrorist!, that he is involved with criminals, the mafia, Tony Rezco, etc. etc.
These are not people who read my blog, I know. Nor do they watch television other than Fox, apparently. They cannot be spoken to (I’ve tried on several frustrating occasions – but backing up truth with proof is utterly meaningless.)
And, underneath, there is certainly a racial element affecting all of the arguments. This scares me the most, not because I am of a minority race, I’m not, but because of where such feelings can lead in the future. The recent Sean Hannity show, with anti-Jewish statements which were thrown back in Sean’s face by Obama’s Communications Director, Robert Gibbs, is a case in point. If we use racial reasons for backing or attacking candidates, why not use religious or cultural reasons? Why not cop America up into separate components that can’t work together, can’t appreciate each other and, finally, can’t live in peace with each other?
My wife is a secular Jew, my son is, therefore, half Jewish. I am an atheist… does this mean I can’t get along with the tremendous volume of born-again Christians who are waiting here in WV for the Second Coming?
What people say, devoid of reason, can indeed make one crazy… it keeps me awake at night, thinking about the voices on the radio and the people yelling “Kill Him” and “Terrorist” and “Traitor” at Sarah Palin rallies. It makes me crazy to hear the things both Palin and McCain say at these rallies, or in interviews with the seemingly anti-semitic Sean Hannity, yet cannot say directly into Obama’s or Biden’s faces at their televised debates. Such cowardice is something to be afraid of, since cowards are folks who shoot in the back, as I recall from growing up with western movies and folk songs (like “That dirty little coward/who shot Mr.Howard/ and laid poor Jesse in his grave”.)
With 26 days to go, I’m expecting it to get much, much worse.
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