GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 21, 2013

Letter: Will diversity polarize the 113th Congress?


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Even though some say the incoming 113th Congress will be more polarized than the 112th, it is already fascinating to watch because it is a Congress that, for the first time, is truly beginning to look like the real America we all live in today.

The numbers of women in both the House and Senate increased, rising to 20 in the Senate alone. The numbers of Latino, African , and Asian American members also grew.

The Senate now has its first Buddhist member and two more Muslims were sworn into Congress on Jan. 3. Gay Americans saw their numbers in both the House and Senate increase as well. The list goes on and on.

If the polarization that resulted in the 112th Congress being viewed negatively by the vast majority of Americans spills over into the 113th, one can be sure the bulk of the responsibility will lie with the far right, Tea Party bloc within the GOP House caucus.

Right wing posters in the Daily Times’ comment threads resent my saying that, among a significant number of Tea Partiers, racism, xenophobia and other forms of bigotry are ugly sub-themes of the group’s agenda.

What else, for example, explains Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona stoking the anti-immigrant anger and fear among that state’s Tea Party and Minuteman movements by claiming undocumented immigrants are responsible for all kinds of heinous crimes in the state; including the ficticious “... wave of brutal decapitation murders...” Brewer campaigned on in 2010?

What else explains the comments in 2011 of a Tea Party Georgia state senator who, after the escape of a a gorilla from an Atlanta zoo, assured his constituents during a radio interview that they had nothing to fear because zoo officials had confirmed the gorilla was “...a cousin of Michelle’s... “?

What else explains the Tea Party’s support for residents of a Tennessee community’s efforts to stop the construction of a mosque in their community?

What else explains the call earlier this month by a white, Tea Party state senator in Wisconsin for the outlawing of Kwanza because, in this white Tea Partier’s view, the holiday is really a black, radical, socialist plot to undermine America?

The list of this kind of well-documented bigotry is as long as one’s arm. That’s why I feel confident with my prediction that if partisan polarization continues to paralyze Congress, it will be the Tea Party caucus that bears the bulk of responsibility for that sad reality.

After all, with all those Asian, African, Latino, gay, Muslim, and Buddhist Americans serving in the Halls of Congress, the overwhelmingly white, Christian, Tea Party caucus will have to do all it can to protect the nation from the agendas of such people, whose true “Americanism,” it believes, is subject to question.

MICHAEL COOK

Gloucester and Vieques, Puerto Rico