David Horsey / Los Angeles Times
Country music veteran Hank Williams Jr. is doing his best to become the official troubadour of the we-hate-Barack-Obama crowd. During a performance at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 17, Williams told the audience, “We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S., and we hate him!”
The throng of heartland Americans cheered enthusiastically.
Last fall, ESPN stopped using a Williams tune as the theme song for “Monday Night Football” after the singer made an analogy between Obama and Hitler during an interview on Fox News. In a subsequent Rolling Stone interview, Hank accused the president of making “a call to the Koran or Mecca or whatever” for political guidance.
As bizarre as such comments are, Williams has not gone quite as far as another musician, Dave Mustaine, lead singer for the heavy metal band Megadeth. At a recent concert in Singapore, Mustaine made the claim that Obama staged the shootings at the Batman movie in Colorado and the Sikh temple in Wisconsin as a pretext to institute a ban on guns in America. Mustaine makes Williams almost look genteel.
Williams long ago killed off thousands of brain cells with booze and a wide menu of drugs, so it may be that he actually believes Obama is a Muslim who despises America, the military, farmers and probably Mom and apple pie. We can assume Mustaine has also gorged on illicit pharmaceuticals, so he may not comprehend that his allegation about Obama’s complicity in the recent massacres is not only insane, it is obscene.
But what about the people who cheer for them? For those people, there seems to be a curious satisfaction derived from hating the president. Rationality and factuality have nothing to do with it.
Obama is hardly the first president to become an object of vitriol and revulsion. Long before his presidency and the Watergate scandal, liberals loathed Richard Nixon. Ronald Reagan was considered a dangerous warmonger by the peace movement. Bill Clinton’s sordid love life so incensed some folks on the right that they tried everything, right up to impeachment, to bring him down. Conspiracy mavens on the left continue to be convinced that George W. Bush was the true mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
Passions were less pronounced about Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, perhaps because they were milder men with less provocative political views and uncomplicated personal lives. What seems strange is that Obama elicits such extreme dislike when, in fact, he is an exemplary family man and his policy positions would have made him a conventional liberal Republican not that long ago.
Many will argue that the hatred has everything to do with the color of Obama’s skin. Unquestionably, race is a factor for some people, but the phenomenon is bigger and broader than that.
Hank Williams Jr. is really typical of a large number of Americans who simply do not like how the country has changed. (One of his songs is a nostalgic tribute to the Old Confederacy built around the lyric, “If the South would’ve won, we’d have had it made.”) In the minds of folks like Hank – addled by talk radio tirades, apocalyptic evangelism and Internet fabrications – Obama has been morphed into a creature who embodies everything they believe is wrong with the urban, multiracial, feminized, gay-tolerant, secular society America has become.
They do not really hate Barack Obama, they hate today’s USA.