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Hope versus hysteria
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President Obama's first 100 days are complete. Fortunately, the energy generated by his election and inauguration has not subsided. Unfortunately, there exists now a most divisive war of words within our nation's discourse. Some would argue that this is standard operational procedure for our democratic process, that the collision and confluence of ideas is healthy dialogue that ultimately serves to strengthen the USA. Nonetheless, this is not that.

I've heard more from Dick Cheney in the last 100 days than I ever did during his 2,922 days as vice president, and he is insisting that the president has weakened our national security. Ideologues like Beck, Limbaugh and Hannity have pushed the panic button using revolutionary rhetoric to encourage certain Americans to "take back" their country. Former presidential candidate Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and public enigma Chuck Norris have stoked the fires of Texas secessionism. Newt Gingrich and Rep. Michelle Bachmann speak only with apocalyptic fervor. With spokespersons like these, the loyal opposition has really degenerated into lethal antagonism.

It's interesting how revisionist history has been utilized to encourage political hysteria. Irresponsible rhetoric coupled with distorted history causes many Americans to possess a warped nationalism that prevents objective examination of our own history. As a history major during my undergraduate days almost 20 years ago, I was shocked at how incomplete the American narrative is as taught within our public school system. In short, it never ceases to amaze me at how ignorant the general public is about American history. In recent weeks, contempt for the current administration has erupted into historical inaccuracy regarding economic theory, tea party demonstrations and threats of secession.

Certainly, we will not reach a consensus while considering the two stimulus packages adopted by Congress, the first under Bush and the second under the Obama administration. The body politic should understand that the previous and the present administrations have been unified in their efforts to help the USA avoid complete economic collapse. These actions were endorsed by both liberal and conservative economic intelligentsia. There is an outcry and demonization of the president and government as frivolous, careless big spenders. I don't know if the policies of this president will succeed, but I do know that history is on his side.

The Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s did not end as a result of conservative economic theory. It ended as a result of New Deal policies and the implementation of a World War II military build-up. In other words, government spending brought us out of the depression and government regulation has prevented another one. Historical novices will omit the fact that America was not a super power until after World War II. For better or for worse, we are where we are because of a strong federal government and a consumer based economy stimulated by government spending. We mustn't forget the GI Bill honorably awarded to America's soldiers upon their return from the European, African and Asian theatres. This not-so-meager moment in history is why most economists have stopped short of labeling President Obama a socialist, Marxist or fascist. This brings me to the real tea party.

The Boston Tea Party of Dec. 16, 1773, is among our nation's most popular protests as it provided the foundation for the Declaration of Independence of our nation. From the fact that British colonies were taxed by parliament without political representation, we adopted the democratic principle, "No taxation without representation!" Unlike the original tea party, last month's tea party demonstrations were by definition anti-taxation, anti-stimulus and anti-federal deficit. The beauty of our country is that we have the legally protected right to protest and to oppose publicly our democratically elected government. But what does it say about the collective intelligence of a protest against rising taxes and government overspending when the current administration actually lowered the tax liability for most of the Americans present? President Obama, on behalf of the Lee family, thank you for our tax break.

And finally, there exists this disturbing discussion about secession. Actor Chuck Norris wrote an op-ed about unifying fringe groups who would be empowered by Texas becoming an independent nation. I sat tight waiting to hear officials from his state condemn his rant. I'm still waiting. Instead, in February of this year the Texas legislature, following two dozen other states, moved to affirm sovereignty from the United States as contained in the 10th amendment. Gov. Perry suggested that Texas' 1845 annexation provides for the legal authority to dissolve its statehood, another baseless reading of history. The final straw was when former presidential candidate Ron Paul defined secession as an American value that is "worthy" of discussion. Wow! History and the law define secession as treason, but for the political opposition it's virtuous? Forgive my patriotism here, but for anyone who casually considers or fails to condemn secession, I declare that you spit on the grave of every soldier's remains, who heretofore were resting peacefully at Arlington National Cemetery.

People, we have an American president with a beautiful family, a 70 percent approval rating, stellar international diplomacy and the hardest job on the planet. For those who continue to cast suspicion on the authenticity of his citizenship, the validity of his faith and the sincerity of his charisma, I encourage you to use history to inform your hope and to disarm your hysteria. If the so-called swine flu has taught us one thing, it's that we are unavoidably vulnerable to each other and we will need a strong government to keep us safe. Gov. Perry, the federal aid you requested in the form of vials of flu medicine have already been delivered. God bless America.

Eric Lee is the pastor of Springfield Baptist Church in Conyers.