Holy Molly: A right paranoid assembly in cowboy territory

Holy Molly: A right paranoid assembly in cowboy territory
Comment: Texas lawmaker wants Americans to swear oath of allegiance in front of the Israeli flag in latest example of the confused and paranoid thinking of a sliver of America's 'cowboy' right.
5 min read
01 Feb, 2015
The far reaches of the American right: an ideological hodgepodge of bigotry and myth (Getty)
Insecurity seems to have hit record high among a few conservative Americans, whose favorite brand of politics is scaremongering.

Whether it is an imagined Islamic Sharia takeover, a secret Muslim president or an invasion of non-English speaking Latin Americans, these mostly white Americans live on the edge and thrive on populist slogans and an ideology full of contradictions.

     When myth meets bigotry, you wind up with lawmakers who think the pledge of allegiance should be recited in front of an Israeli flag.
The most recent incarnation of this kind of conservative politics took place this past week, when an obscure group, the Patriot Defense Foundation (PDF) Inc., called for a rally to protest the Muslim Capitol Day in Austin, the capital of Texas.

Organized by the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) since 2003, the Muslim Capitol Day is an annual event where Muslim-Americans visit their state’s capitol, meet lawmakers and staff, familiarize themselves with the political process and voice their concerns to their local representatives.

But, following the example of the PDF, Molly White, the Texas House Representative from Bell County, posted a status on Facebook, objecting to the visit. 

Because Muslim-Americans were visiting the Capitol in her absence, White wrote: "I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws." She added: "We will see how long they stay in my office."

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White's status caught the attention of America’s national media and turned PDF’s insignificant rally, which saw the participation of a mere two dozen people, into a bigger issue.

PDF is an obscure “corporation” founded in 2015 with a membership that seems to consist of two people, its president Dianne Savage and her husband and only “board member” Charlton Savage, as per their website.

On her Facebook page, Savage posted a video railing against an exhibition in a West Virginia high school in which students described, “Islam, the culture, the dress, their beliefs, the food they eat". Savage urged Americans to call the school and voice their concern. 

In the same video, Savage expressed her unequivocal opposition to tolerance and against teaching it in schools. “We need to send a strong message across the United States that ‘We the People’ are not going to tolerate this, and that was one of the words the principal used that we have to tolerate.” Savage added; “I let her know very strongly, we do not have to tolerate anything, this is America, you come here and you assimilate, we do not assimilate to you once you get here, we don’t have to be tolerant.”

Savage seemed unaware that assimilation requires that Muslim-Americans visit the Texas Capitol and engage in Texan democracy. Had Muslim-Americans planned to implement Sharia, like the Savages claim, then visiting the Capitol would be the antithesis of their project.

The PDF rally was not entirely parochial, however. Israel was heartily invoked and embraced. Pictures from the small rally show protesters holding placards that read, “God Bless America and Israel,” which probably explains White’s statement about an Israeli flag in her office.

Cowboy culture

White is serving her first term as a Texan lawmaker. Her tenure started at the beginning of this year. This freshman representative is also a member of "3C Cowboy Church of Salado", a rural congregation with a distinctively “Western” American flavour. It is a "cowboy" characteristic that is increasingly coming to define a section of US conservatives, as evident in Clint Eastwood's controversial and Oscar-nominated movie American Sniper.

Thinking of America as a cowboy culture is one thing. Incorporating Israel's majority Jewish culture into this monolithic America is something else. Add in the efforts of such conservatives - often pro-gun, anti-abortion types - to glorify cowboy violence, it is clear this has little to do with Christianity and everything to do with politics. If Christianity - and its central tenet of tolerance - were the issue, then these same conservatives would not ferociously protest Latin-Americans, most of whom are Christian, settling in the US.

This cowboy bigotry is not about Islam, or Christianity. It is a hodgepodge ideology of contradictory ideas about an imagined America that is not diverse or tolerant and that is certainly not Christian.

In this intolerant world, patriotism is a mesh of violence, guns and support of Israel. Why Israel? Because this monolithic America was presumably founded on "Judeo-Christian" principles, whatever that means and even if the US constitution says otherwise. In addition, for these cowboy conservatives, Israel is also important because it is prophesized to be the stage for the Armageddon at the end of times and the second coming of the Messiah.

When myth meets bigotry, you wind up with lawmakers who think the pledge of allegiance should be recited in front of an Israeli flag. And then they doubt the patriotism of Muslim-Americans.

Thankfully, White and the Savages are not representative of America or even its conservatives. They are a sliver of ultra-right wingers whose antics often cause a stir.

And the resulting backlash is typically driven by non-Muslim Americans from a diverse spectrum that includes Christians, Jews, liberals and other citizens who value diversity, equality and tolerance.