Quiet contempt for President Obama is one thing. Harmless-crazy is another. But beyond the pale, paranoid-with-a-plan (and some power) is something else all together.

It’s clear that the bizarrely adverse reactions to the President’s planned speech to schoolkids on Tuesday have nothing to do with the speech itself (President Bush made a similar one in 1991) and everything to do with stoking fear, exploiting ignorance, and fanning the flames of paranoia–flames that seem to be spreading like a California wild fire.

Those who are caught up in this frenzy of hate, created mostly by talk-radio blatherers and Texas politicians, seem determined to teach America’s children a lesson come Tuesday: Don’t be suckers for socialist propaganda!

But that’s not the lesson they will learn. The hidden curriculum at work here is this: Don’t respect Barack Obama nor the office he holds; certainly a low point in the history of American pedagogy for those who may care that their children learn something about civics–and civility. 

But this is not about the children. This is about an irrational anger gone completely out of control. This is about latent racism and pathological envy of a man who displays, in situation after situation, measured calm, intelligence and grace, a willingness to engage his detractors civilly, and, unbelievably, an intact sense of humor. 

You don’t have to agree with all or even any of President Obama’s policies to see–if you’re really looking–that he is not the crazed commie, constitution-hating, kill-all-the-grandmas-and-the-unborn-babies liberal demagogue that his despisers would have us believe. The disconnect between what the purveyors of paranoia imply about Obama’s character and what is evident to those who observe him regularly would be laughable if its effects in recent weeks weren’t so chilling.

It’s probably fitting that this summer of our discontent, with nonsense about death panels and the very real presence of assault weapons at health care rallies, has come to this bizarre ending. But it’s disheartening nonetheless. And it’s hard to imagine that we have served ourselves or our children well.