I received an email from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., this week that caught my attention. It wasn’t personal, but rather one of those fundraising e-blasts that fill one’s inbox if one signed up for political newsletters. Usually I ignore them, but this one had such a catchy subject line—– “Biden is Putin 2.0”—that I decided to take the bait.
“We have just witnessed a major injustice committed by a despot who has no respect for human rights,” the email began. “No, not Putin…President Joe Biden.”
It gets worse from there.
Greene hurls a series of absurd accusations at the administration before asking for financial support: “I desperately need your help to make sure I’m still in Congress to stop Biden’s tyranny. Please donate today. ‘today.” It ended with “God Bless America,” which, given the content of the email, sounded more like gaslighting than patriotism.
Russian President Vladimir Putin bombed a maternity ward and children‘s hospital during an agreed ceasefire. Meanwhile, Greene is trying to piss off supporters of the so-called tyranny of a president who, last I checked, was trying to get a child tax credit extension through Congress. to help reduce child poverty – an extent in which Greene State, Georgia, ranked sixth.
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In somewhat peaceful times, this fundraising email would be considered partisan hyperbole designed to annoy a sleepy base. But these are not peaceful times. When a nuclear power plant in Ukraine was attacked earlier this month, NPR reported, “Russian forces repeatedly fired heavy weapons at the plant’s massive reactor buildings,” and one shell landed. just 250 feet from one.
Maybe some members of Congress needed a reminder that war is raging and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
“Remember Pearl Harbor, the terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your skies were black from planes attacking you,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in English in a video address to US lawmakers on Wednesday. “Remember 9/11, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories, into battlefields, when innocent people were attacked from the air, yes, just like no one was there was waiting, you couldn’t stop it. Our country is experiencing the same thing, every day, right now.”
It is appropriate for Zelensky to cite the attacks of Pearl Harbor and 9/11, because like today, the country was deeply divided before these events. Will a surge of patriotism unite Americans this time as it did when the United States was attacked?
Before the attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans could not even agree on whether the president had been legitimately elected. The Supreme Court decision that handed over the White House to George W. Bush was not yet a year old when the World Trade Center was attacked. So while Bush made history by becoming the first man since Benjamin Harrison in 1888 to win the presidency despite losing the popular vote, let’s just say it wasn’t the kind of story that brought people together. What brought us together was the attack on our homeland. Bush went from a slightly declining jobs approval rating in the summer of 2001 to the highest in Gallup history at 90% at the end of September.
Likewise, the country was not united in the years leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Just as Biden was struggling to get his ambitious Build Back Better plan off the ground, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had seen elements of his New Deal suffer setback after setback — and not just from lawmakers. By the fall of 1935, Gallup had found that 60% of Americans thought “government spending on relief and reconstruction” was too great. In response to a conservative Supreme Court that struck down some of his initiatives, Roosevelt announced a plan to fill the court with liberal justices, a maneuver some on the left have urged Biden to attempt. That’s how deep the partisan divide was.
And then Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States was unequivocally drawn into World War II. As happened to Bush after 9/11, the country rallied behind Roosevelt. That’s not to say Republicans agreed with all of his liberal policies or decisions, only that there isn’t much documentation of members of Congress comparing him to Hitler on the brink of war.
I don’t believe the country is more divided than it has ever been. From my perspective, the Civil War era still holds that title. However, we seem to be more confused about what it means to be patriotic, a concept already complicated by our racist past.
Either way, as Russian forces prepared to play roulette with Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Greene was about to speak at a conference hosted by a white supremacist who encouraged pro-Putin chants before bringing her on stage.
“God bless America” indeed.
Look, criticizing elected officials is a staple of American society, so I’m hardly advocating censorship of Greene’s political speech. But in these circumstances, she herself should exercise discretion. It is not at all clear how far the United States can fight a proxy war before ending up in a direct war. Now is not the time to choose party over country, especially for a few campaign dollars.
The Americans understood this after Pearl Harbor. We understood this after 9/11. Now that Biden is sending an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine while branding Putin a war criminal for the first time, hopefully it won’t take another attack on our homeland for the Greens to the right understand it today. .
LZ Granderson is an Op-Ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times.