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Columns

July 25, 2009

The birth of a notion for ignorance

"Education is dangerous," said Hermann Goering, Adolf Hitler's second-in-command and head of the Luftwaffe. "Every educated person is a future enemy."

I know I'm probably over-reacting, folks, but the much-played recent TV and Internet video of state of Delaware Republican Congressman Mike Castle having his town hall meeting hijacked by screaming zealots was downright scary.

A woman in the audience grew increasingly louder and more shrill while insisting that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States and therefore isn't eligible to be president of the United States.

Cheers erupted in the crowd even before she invoked her father's service in World War II and led the room in a raucous and somehow defiant-sounding recitation of the Pledge of Alligiance.

There was something about that loud, insistent commandeering of patriotism _ no matter how ignorant the cause _ that was reminiscent of the 1921 Hitler-supporting Brown Shirts meeting at the Munich Hofbrauhaus.

Hitler's thugs beat up their opponents in a melee at the beer hall that came to be called the "Saalschlacht" _ or meeting hall battle _ in Nazi propaganda.

While there were no actual blows struck during the Delaware unpleasantness, poor, shouted-down Mr. Castle _ a Republican moderate who almost assuredly did not vote for Mr. Obama _ appeared to be the only sane person in the room.

"If you're referring to the president," the professorial gentleman said with a quiet, dismissive dignity, "then he is a citizen of the United States."

This was greeted with hoots and boos from the crowd, which didn't want the facts to get in the way of their anger and bluster.

"You can boo," said Castle, who is said to be considering a run for the Senate, "but he is a citizen of the United States."

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