Y'know, I was never this politically active before I went to prison. During that time, I witnessed fear, hatred, racism, and no small amount of gratuitous violence on a daily basis.  When I was released, I tried to leave it all behind me in the realm of bad memories.  I succeeded at first.  

My first job was doing political surveys over the phone.  Mostly for out of state municipal candidates in local elections.  The questions were always somewhat one-sided, and I always ended up feeling cheap and sordid by the end of my shift (and not in a good way, either). I believe it's referred to as "push polling". 

As the presidential election drew closer, the nature of the surveys began to change.  They became more serious, and, thankfully, more balanced.  The answers I received, however, ranged from troubling to downright scary.  The fact that Barack Obama was a person of color was a deal-breaker, and that was that.  That got me curious.  Anyone who scared such hateful and ignorant people was worth looking into.  So, I started doing my homework.  I alway knew that the right wing's main ideology was that Washington is always the enemy, stealing their hard-earned money to redistribute it to the undeserving and shiftless poor (some of whom just happen to be immigrants or black).  The more I looked into the opposition's stance, the more outraged I became.  Rush Limbaugh, who recently advocated a return to segregated buses, was always a joke, and dismissed easily enough.  The same thing goes for Hannity and all the other nut-jobs at Fox News (scaring old, white people since 1996).

Then, there's Glenn Beck.  He had done everything short of calling for armed insurrection.
Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen writes: “Beck has spent months — literally screaming and crying — insisting that the president is a socialist/fascist/communist/racist who’s trying to destroy the country through totalitarian means. Major media outlets have plenty of irresponsible voices, but Beck has been unique in his insane rantings. It wasn’t hard to imagine some of his viewers/listeners getting so worked up, they might at least consider doing something dangerous.”

Beck has recently backpedaled away from this, saying, "But just one lunatic like Timothy McVeigh could ruin everything that everyone has worked so hard for."  Of course, he doesn't mention the thousands of innocent people that could be hurt or killed by such an act.  His only concern is the protection of his twisted ideology (and his job).  But, once you yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater, it's a little hard to take it back.

I'm really starting to get worried now.  Reading some of the signs carried during the recent "million-moron march" quite literally sickened me.  Recently a Muslim woman came in to my workplace.  She wanted my help picking out a bottle of wine for a Jewish friend for Rosh Hashanah.  (Unfortunately, I was of little help to her.  Being a atheist, most religion looks the same to me.)  Still, I thought it was really cool, and was thinking "Only in America".  My next customer, who in all other respects was a sweet, little old lady, leaned close to me and whispered, "I wish they were all dead."

It broke my heart.  Such hate and ignorance, spoken so casually, was the same I witnessed in prison.  The base, primal fear of anything that looks and acts different might have served some purpose early in our evolution.  The irony is, that same fear may also end us as a species.

Me?  I like diversity, reason, and compassion.  I like the fact that I can get on a bus and hear six different languages spoken. I've met a lot of good people from all over the world, and my first thought isn't, "Why can't they look and act more like me?"

Perhaps prison served its intended purpose.  It made me want to be a more active, responsible person; to leave behind something positive when I go.

So, to all you conservatives out there, so desperate for an enemy to hate.  Relax, you found him.