Monday, February 6, 2012

March of the Crazies

As I was reading the New York Times on Saturday morning, I happened upon two stories that give a good indication of just how dangerous the reactionary right-wing in this country can be.

The first story has been all over the news this past week. The Susan B. Komen for the Cure foundation is one of the country’s largest charitable organizations in the fight against breast cancer. You’ve undoubtedly seen their ubiquitous pink ribbons on the back on people’s cars, and may have even given donations over the years to help this organization in its important work.

Last week, Komen, caving under pressure from conservatives who are determined to kill off Planned Parenthood, made an announcement that it would no longer be helping to fund Planned Parenthood’s successful program of offering breast exams to low income women, because there was supposedly a question about whether they have used taxpayer funds for abortions (they don’t and never have). Fortunately, the sane majority of our country was outraged by this decision, and Komen received a barrage of hostile emails from people who, not surprisingly, were disgusted by the politicizing of this issue. Reeling from public pressure, the Komen foundation finally announced that they would, in fact, be continuing to fund breast exams through Planned Parenthood.

The other story that caught my attention was one that hasn’t been in the media much, but may even be more important than the Komen story. The Times reported today that over the past few years activists associated with the Tea Party have been using their clout to attack local programs to conserve energy, limit sprawl, and promote public transportation. Apparently, they view these green initiatives as part of a “United Nations-led conspiracy” to undermine the freedom of Americans to live as irresponsibly and destructively as they want. Although normal Americans might laugh off this type of activism as the by-product of the paranoid and delusional mindset of the typical Tea Party fringe lunatic, the protests that have occurred in recent years have actually caused some important environmental legislation on the local level to be undermined, according to the Times.

In a recent post, I argued that younger Americans are increasingly becoming more progressive in their politics, so you would think that the type of right-wing activism that is trying to kill off Planned Parenthood and eviscerate all decent environmental programs (not to mention deny women, gays, minorities, union workers, and immigrants their legal rights) would be doomed to fail. And, indeed, it will fail in the end. The problem is that the right-wing in this country is well funded, vocal, and highly motivated, and progressives, unfortunately, are not. In the short term that means that reactionaries like those who seek to cast doubt upon the reality of global warming, for example, can do a great deal of damage to our planet and the people who live on it.

Fortunately, progressives—and I speak of real progressives here, not Democrats, who haven’t stood up for their beliefs since the time of Lyndon Johnson—are learning to fight just as tenaciously as their reactionary counterparts. The efforts to defund Planned Parenthood have failed so far precisely because people on the left were able to shame the Komen foundation. This shows that political overreach on the part of the right in this country can be thwarted, but it will take constant vigilance on the part of everyone who considers themselves part of the sane majority.

Rabid reactionaries may score some victories in the short-run: they’ve already succeeded in causing grave harm to an environmental movement that has been teetering on the precipice of irrelevance for some time now. But the future is not theirs. It belongs to those on the left who have the courage and conviction to stand firm during the dark times that are undoubtedly ahead of us.

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