The GOP’s Grinch?

DARON DEAN REUTERS Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich gestures while speaking at the First Coast Tea Party town hall meeting … Continued

DARON DEAN

REUTERS

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich gestures while speaking at the First Coast Tea Party town hall meeting at Jacksonville Landing in Jacksonville, Florida November 17, 2011.

People learn from their political leaders and candidates, and one thing America may be learning from leading Republican candidates today is that it’s okay for Americans to be mean to each other.

Let’s face it. This is the Christmas shopping season from hell, where people pepper spray others who are between them and the “deal,” walk past and even over a man having a heart attack to get their shopping done, and where the crazy Target lady is the model American shopper. Just be sure you don’t get between her and the latest sale, even if you’re having a heart attack.

Meanness is learned. It’s an attitude that has crept into our culture and become startlingly visible in this awful Christmas shopping season.

This meanness has alarmed none other than Glenn Beck. “If somebody’s having a heart attack and we just step over them to get to the sale, what have we turned into?” he asked.

Golly, Glenn. Where could the American people be learning to be this mean?

Well, one place folks may be learning meanness is listening to the GOP candidates who seem to compete with each other not on policy, but who can say the meanest things about the poor, the struggling middle class and perceived enemies both foreign and domestic. Newt Gingrich is currently leading the polls in the Republican race to be that’s party’s presidential nominee, and he excels at mean.

In fact, Gingrich exhibits a condition that Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Seuss Geisel, described in regard to his famous character, the Grinch, in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Grinch’s problem was that he had a “heart three sizes too small.” Though to be fair, Gingrich is not the only GOP candidate who can be described this way.

Having hearts “three sizes too small” has already been on display in the Republican debates in cheering execution of prisoners, death for those without health are, as well as ridiculing a gay member of the military.

It’s Mr. Gingrich’s turn at the top of the polls, and he has the ability to be quite mean, as in these two remarks about all the people protesting joblessness and gross income inequality at Occupy Wall Street demonstrations: “If you don’t work you won’t eat” and “Go get a job right after you take a bath.”

This is especially mean as the problem is there are no jobs. People are at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations because they want a job. Would you sleep in a park if you could get a good job, Mr. Gingrich?

Children should work according to Gingrich. No more of those free-loading child labor laws. Speaking at Harvard, Gingrich called child labor laws “truly stupid,” and recommended poor children be put to work as janitors in their own schools. “Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school,” he argued, apparently willing to overthrow one of the major achievements of social policy of more than a century and a half.

All the Grinch did to the Who-children down in Who-ville was take their toys; Gingrich wants to put them to work as janitors.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small,” wrote Dr. Seuss in Horton Hears a Who!
Yes, Horton, that’s the morality that underlies the social policy prohibiting child labor.

But the GOP politics of mean is bigger than just one candidate. When Gingrich called for a “humane” approach to immigration policy in the U.S., it was quickly said that he “risks alienating conservatives.” Why, because conservatives hate “humane” approaches to solving social problems? Apparently so. Rick Santorum immediately hit Gingrich on “amnesty for illegal immigrants.” We can’t have that.

So, I’m asking, ‘Is it the Grinch who stole Christmas, then, or the GOP?’

Remember: Christmas doesn’t come from a store, and public service should be about being good and not mean to each other.

About

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her most recent books are "#OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power" and, as contributor and editor, "Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War."
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