Unregulated Capitalism and Christian Fervor: Report from the 9/12 Rally at the Capitol

Comparing Obama to Hitler and Al Qaeda, and claiming to be agents of God, protesters in Washington-supported by a coalition of conservative Christian groups, as well as pharmaceutical lobbyists-raise the bar on unreasonable discourse.

In a Hagerstown, Maryland parking lot next to the Cracker Barrel off Interstate 70 Saturday, they started to assemble just after dawn, waiting for the eight buses that would deliver them to the 9/12 march in Washington DC. They waved yellow Don’t Tread on Me flags and carried signs that read, “Stop B.O.” A man with an oxygen tube strapped to his nose shouted, “Which bus is Sarah Palin on?”

A single man stood in the middle of the crowd, hoisting a pink sign that read, “If you don’t like socialized medicine, pay your own hospital bill.”

“I thought other counter-protesters would be here,” said Eric Mackley, as crowd members glared and jeered at him. “I can’t believe I’m the only one. As they prepared to board, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD)-whose Web site quotes him pledging to help “my constituents use facts to guide Congress’ health care reform debate”-gave the crowd a genial send off with a well-known, but fake, quote attributed to Founding Father James Madison:

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments.”

(The quote, used for years as an argument that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, has been never been found in Madison’s writings. Even the Republican activist who popularized it, David Barton, admits it should not be used.)

Then, Congressman Bartlett sent the crowd off, reminding them that they are agents of God.

The buses filled quickly with people from both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and Martinsburg, West Virginia, people whose ancestors may have fought against each other a century-and-a-half ago. Now they were on the same side.

At about the same time, 10 miles south, a group of Civil War reenactors were beginning a march to the Antietam Battlefield where 23,000 American soldiers were killed, captured, or wounded on Sept. 17, 1862-casualties of this nation’s irreconcilable divide.

God Bless the Free Market

An estimated 70,000 people came from all over the country to attend Saturday’s 9/12 rally, just one in a series of Tea Party events that began in April, only a couple months after President Obama took office.

To a person who doesn’t see the world this way, the event was baffling.

Just as one might believe that America’s health- are system is in need of serious reform, pointing to the 50 million uninsured, people at this protest believe just as fervently that a public option will create a socialized society that will bankrupt this country.

And it will kill Grandma.

In the beginning, the Tea Parties didn’t have a clear direction; but since the health care debates of August, the groups have streamlined their message a bit. Still, talk to any one person for more than a few minutes and the complaints against President Obama veer off from health care into myriad directions: from federal stimulus spending to opposition to ACORN to “Did you know the printing of money is unconstitutional?”

Signs ranged from “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy” to “Free Joe Wilson” to the all-encompassing, “End all unconstitutional, anti-Christ, socialist, federal, deficit-spending programs.”

Another sign said, “If al Qaeda wants to demolish the America we know and live, they better hurry because Obama’s beating them to it.” If they were universal in anything, it was in a combination of undying support for unregulated capitalism (ironic in light of the fact that it was a year ago this week that the free market led to global economic collapse) and Christian fervor.

“A religious person believes his rights are divined by God,” said Ken Schwenger, a 45-year-old father from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “A secularist believes one gets their rights from government. Rights by man, by government is subject to change. Rights by God aren’t subject to interpretation.”

But no one was here to spread the message of St. Matthew: “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” This was all about the Gospel of Supply-Side Jesus.

Hitler a Great Speaker

Robert Goerlich of Chicago stood behind a large poster of President Obama with a Hitler mustache and Nazi uniform. The sign read, “The New Face of Hitler.” Next to the poster was another one of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wearing a cleavage-busting Gestapo uniform that read “She-Wolf of the S.S.” People stopped to praise the posters and take pictures. “Thank you,” one woman said.

Another man, laughing, said, “Well, I understand your point, but he’s not as bad as Hitler.”

“I think he’s worse,” Goerlich said sincerely. “He’s trying to do what Hitler could never do, take out the U.S.”

“If he takes out the U.S., we’ll take him out,” a man from the crowd shouted.

When asked to explain how one could possibly compare Obama to Hitler, Goerlich said, “They’re both charismatic. They’re both good speakers. Obama hates America and wants to destroy it.”

A woman listening from the sidelines shouted, “How can he love something when he wasn’t raised in it?”

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