BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
Radicals, zealots, and demagogues roam among us today. These are known to some of us, but not to all. The more radical the political demagogue, or the more zealous the religious demagogue, the more dangerous these are to society as a whole. The more numerous and zealous the followers of demagogues, the more dangerous they are to all of us. The more radicals and the more zealots there are standing around, waiting for a demagogue to follow, the more volatile our society and our country.
As a young lad during the late 1930s, this writer recalls well the belligerent, shouting voice of Adolf Hitler on the radio. Even if not for that distinctive voice, I could sense the significance of those radio speeches in the attitude of adults.
On a summers’ eve one could hear that disquieting voice outdoors as it came through the open windows from radios all around the neighborhood. Adults, including my father, might be found gathered in small groups discussing in low tones what was happening. Lads like me with big ears were listening. “War” was often mentioned in a tone of dread and anxiety.
That angry, bellicose voice echoed around the neighborhood, punctuated by cheers of “Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!” from thousands of voices. It demanded attention, but it was also a bit frightening. Hitler’s voice elevated the naturally bombastic qualities of the spoken German language to a threat level. Instinctively we knew this man was up to no good, and we sensed that he was extremely dangerous as a result of the masses of zealots who followed him.
Some of us can also remember the voice of “The Kingfish,” Huey P. Long, the political demagogue from Louisiana, and we recall the enthusiasm of his followers. That voice was silenced by an assassin.
Vaguely I recall the screeching voice of Amy Semple McPherson, and the negative articles against her in the religious publications at my grandfather’s home. I gathered that she was taking money and leading people to hell, all in the name of religion. Her voice was soon muffled as well. But she had an impact on many, and she threatened mainstream religious people back in the 1930s.
Not all would-be demagogues make it long in this world. From recent events, one might project that Glenn Beck’s heyday on the Fox News channel is coming to a close. It is doubtful he will ever have such a platform again from which to spout his religious and political venom, conspiracy theories, or lies and near-lies. But he has had a huge following of gullible zealots. Who knows what comes next?
Still we have quite a line-up of demagogues among those mentioned as Republican presidential candidates. Newt Gingrich has been a demagogue on the national scene since the 1990s, and he still has a following despite his moral and policy lapses. Donald Trump ought to have “demagogue” stamped on his forehead, and just below that “bully.” While Gingrich is dangerous because he is smart, Trump is just a cagey bully, who happens to have a following that thinks he is smart. And, no, Trump does not really think President Obama was born abroad. He knows better. It serves his own shady purpose to spout lies and fools’ folly.
Michelle Bachmann has taken over much from Sarah Palin. Each engages in her own kind of demagoguery, and neither has respect for facts or truth. Both are dangerous because each has her following of semi-literate, unthinking zealots. Both are Tea Party queens, known to be popular but ignorant and illogical. Perhaps that says enough. Just as the Tea Party has its billionaire backers, so do both Bachman and Palin. Either can raise millions in a few days.
Billionaire and corporate money make Palin and Bachman dangerous, along with the millions of gullible Tea Party zealots who should know better.
When radical zealotry and religious zeal run in the same crowd, a horribly combustible situation is created. Much of the political zealotry demonstrated in this country has an emotional religious base. These are loose cannons.
These zealots do not always recognize right and wrong, because God has spoken to them through his modern day prophets – or directly. Such people are irrational. They are difficult to reach, because they do not reason. Facts and logic have no place in their minds. Their perceptions are closed, and their minds are shut.
This is the state of “democratic discourse” in America. It is extremely difficult for those with positions based in humanistic values, facts, and logic to deal with those in politics who loyally comprehend only their own ideological zealotry. In the end, they must be held accountable for their irrational zeal.
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer