If you hear someone softly crying, "I'm melting, I'm melting," in the distance, it's not the wicked witch from The Wizard of Oz but Fox News. One must listen through the din of hysteria that dominates almost every program. The shrinking credibility of the right wing, like the shrinking of a defeated witch, will be very good for innocent children everywhere. When Fox News tried to strike fear into the public heart by claiming that President Obama's televised speech to schoolchildren was secret indoctrination, the wind whistled down the empty canyons of Mediaville. They turned up the volume with cries that Obama was the same as Kim Jong Il, that he was brainwashing a future generation of liberals, that his tactics were identical to those used in Stalin's Russia. Common sense contradicted these delusions -- not that anyone at Fox News believed them for a second -- and such socialist presidents as the first George Bush and Ronald Reagan had delivered the same sort of benign address to the nation's schools. One had to smile at the lengths the right has to go to in order to evoke a quiver of nervousness, much less the full-blown seizure of anxiety and fear they used to trigger. Why, then, not admit victory and smile? The deathers and birthers aren't making an impact, with the former trotting out the specter of bureaucratic death panels to end Grandma's life, the latter wandering about in a daze as they hold Barack Obama's birth certificate up to the light, certain that they will spot a counterfeit. It's an amusing -- and sad -- spectacle but not a dangerous one. Therefore, it's time to stop fearing this shadow play that was once so real. Step by step, Barack Obama is returning the country to its senses. Rational adults are in charge. Enormous challenges are being met with moderation, honesty, and candor. That's the real victory, which goes far beyond politics to the very character of America. By embodying those same qualities, all of us mount the best defense against the haunting memory of the reactionary decades when every form of unreason turned this nation into a surreal circus of wrong-doing. In other words, it's just as important to change your response to Fox News as it is to undo the social damage of the Reagan-to-Bush era. Without a new attitude, the same futile tug-of-war will continue. I am not suggesting that the fate of a Van Jones, driven from his advisory role at the White House by an old-fashioned witch hunt, is anything to smile at. At its most venal, the far right will contract until only the Glenn Becks remain. Sincere, rational conservatives know that this is happening. They cringe when Rep. Joe Wilson shames the entire Republican Party by calling the president a liar in public. They shake their heads when Fox News trumpets toxic nonsense about mandatory abortions under the Obama health plan. When a piece of furniture sits on a base that's too small, it topples over. As the Republican base dwindles to Southern white males and various credulous hangers on, the whole party is set to topple just as inevitably. But this isn't a post about gloating. A vigorous two-party system is necessary to the body politic. The rights of the minority need protecting, which means not just ethnic minorities but the far right minority. The whiners and grumblers at Fox News will find an audience, just as auto wrecks find rubbernecks on the highway. In place of gloating, we need to exhibit the confidence and good humor of people who have stood on the outside for a long time while protecting the truth, who have spoken truth despite the ethos of lying in Bush's Washington, who understood that the essence of America is and always will be progressive, tolerant, and accepting. Isn't that reason enough to give Fox News a smile once in a while?
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