Every election season, the Republicans are masters at ginning up a controversy on a wedge issue. They screech about a terrible “problem” they claim is facing the country, dooming it, threatening its very existence -- and guaranteed to get their supporters out to the polls.
Gay marriage is always a reliable stand-by for them, as they apparently see the traditional institution of marriage as somehow doomed if two guys or women get a chance to make it official. In the 2004 election, they put amendments on the ballots in many states to ban gay marriage, or else to proclaim that a marriage can only legally be defined as between a man and a woman, and it helped turn out right-wing voters, and, in some states like Ohio, helped tip the balance over to the GOP. (I still haven't heard any of them explain how two guys getting hitched in P-town can threaten a marriage between a man and a women anywhere, but, hey, as Stephen Colbert said in his devastating White House press dinner speech, reality has a well-known liberal bias.)
Sometimes the issue they fixate on is something really, really innocuous, like a flag-burning amendment, you know, for that huge epidemic of flag burning that, er, is sweeping the nation.
Well, this year, the big controversy is singing the national anthem in Spanish (gasp!!!) It's become the new bête noire among the right-wingers.
Just as background, in the midst of the marches recently among immigrants asking for a fairer shake, a British record producer released a version of the Star Spangled Banner in Spanish.
Well, that was all the right-wing needed: dusky immigrants, speaking a different language, the flag - all rolled up into one issue. It was a natural for them.
The Fox and MSNBC cable shows, and the hate mongers on talk radio, leapt into action, drumming up outrage over this supposed travesty.
A Republican senator has already introduced a resolution stating that the anthem should only be sung in English.
And George Bush, of course, had to weigh in on the topic, asserting last week, "I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English. And they ought to learn to sing the anthem in English."
Now, on the scale of the real issues facing this country, you know, little things like the war in Iraq, the incompetence and corruption of Bush and his cronies, the impending bankruptcy of Medicaid, the huge national debt, the deteriorating environment, the...well, you get the idea, anyway, on that list, how the national anthem is sung is somewhere around, oh, number 4,385.
But to hear the right-wing outrage, you would think it is the gravest threat facing us as a nation today. Again, it's one of the wedge issues at which the right-wingers are masters at capitalizing on. And it works. Polls now show Americans overwhelmingly saying the anthem should only be sung in English. Two weeks ago, no-one gave a rat's ass, now it's a big issue. And in the upcoming 2006 Congressional elections, woe to any Democrat who dares to duck this issue, or says something sensible like, “I'm just glad people are singing an anthem to our country.”
And, as usual with these people, the hypocrisy is astounding. As Atrios noted, in Kevin Phillips' book about the Bush clan, American Dynasty, which I wrote about here a few weeks ago, the author wrote: “When visiting cities like Chicago, Milwaukee or Philadelphia, in pivotal states, (Bush) would drop in at Hispanic festivals and parties, sometimes joining in singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in Spanish, sometimes partying with a "Viva Bush" mariachi band flown in from Texas.”
The AP reports that the U.S. State Department's own web site offers four Spanish language versions of the anthem, as well as translations of other American historical documents, to help non-English speakers learn what their new country is all about.
And Think Progress notes that in 1919, the U.S. Bureau of Education itself commissioned a Spanish language version of the anthem.
But that was before cable news, talk radio and pandering GOP politicians figured out how to drive wedges between us and stir up hate.
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