The Collected Thoughts and Musings of an Aspiring Political Philosopher

Friday, September 4, 2009


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Birthers. Tenthers. Now we have "Indocrinators". What's the next steaming pile of crazy?

As I write this, schools around the country are sending out "permission slips" for parents to sign to view the Obama webcast, and in some cases are refusing to show it at all. This, because angry and irate parents are innundating schools everywhere with phone calls and emails complaining that their children will be "brainwashed" by President Obama. These people believe that exposure to even a few moments of encouragement to do well in school, take responsibility for their lives, and work hard in their communities is tantamount to socialist indoctrination, Hitler-Youth propaganda, and the beginnings of a Black Panther/SEIU/ACORN takeover of our country.

What's next, permission slips to view old newsreels or films about FDR, or Ike, or Lincoln, or Truman, or Nixon, or Kennedy? Permission slips to read history books that contain anything vaguely "political"? This is where we are as a country today? Have we become so divided as a country that we politicize our own children?

When I was in 3rd grade my class wrote letters to then-President Ford. I guess it was some sort of contest or something, because we all got invited to go meet President Ford and get our class picture taken with him. We took the school bus from Iowa to DC. I really don't remember much about the trip, and the White House was a blur, but here's the kicker:

Every parent, Democrat or Republican, was excited and thrilled that we were going. Everyone in town was thrilled. It made the papers, and people of all stripes cut out the article, putting it in store windows for everyone to see. I heard many years later that some grumbled about Ford's politics, but not a single parent would have let us miss that chance, and thought it was marvelous. My mom, a devoted Democrat, was bubbling with excitement for me. Today? Even the brief appearance by our current President in a classroom webcast brings horror and cries of outrage from ultra-right-wing parents who do not want their children to even LISTEN to a liberal President. THEIR President, liberal or not.

Where is the respect for the OFFICE, if not the man? Did the Bush years so damage our country, that we no longer hold dear the values that have built and sustained this country? Does it go back to the Clinton "scandals" that Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich were so anxious to promote to divide and conquer in the House and Senate? Are these the final fruits of Nixon's corrupt administration? Whatever the cause, or causes, it has led to a disintegration of respect for the Office of President, no matter who occupies it or what their political or ideological views may be.

Those that are doing this are profoundly un-American, even anti-American, in every sense I know of the terms: "At long last, have you no decency?" This is disgusting, shameful, repugnant behavior for anyone who calls themselves a citizen of this country. They have no sense of shared citizenship, shared country, or shared history. They do not believe that liberals (or even those who identify themselves as moderate Republicans and conservatives) should be allowed to exist in "their" country; we're no longer "fellow citizens" to them. To these people, liberals and all those to the left of John McCain (and many include him as well) are interlopers, somehow alien and diabolic, who are out to destroy "their" country. They really, truly see us as the ENEMY; not in some hyperbolic political or ideological way, but as actual enemies of the State. THEIR State. Though they're somewhat tolerant of moderates, to them liberals are a cancer, a blight, a pestilence, an abberation that must be wiped away to restore the moral clarity they claim only for themselves.

For to them, liberals (and moderates: no room for "independents" in the "You're with us, or you're against us" crowd) are a light shining on their hypocrisy, exposing their lies, and contradicting their dystopian worldview: a worldview that justifies endless war as a "righteous cause", that amplifies and rationalizes class distinction and income inequality, that shows how they wrap themselves up in the Constitution with one hand while taking an eraser to the parts they don't like with the other. Liberals are the antithesis of all they hold dear. And what they hold dear is fear, power, greed, money, exclusivity, and hatred. They are Golem, enamored by "My Precious". They see nobody else, care for nobody else, think of nobody else, except for themselves and those few who share their twisted, myopic worldview.

Today, years after invading Iraq, when it has been proven conclusively that Saddam Hussein was not trying to build a nuclear bomb or creating chemical weapons, more than 25% of the American public still believes he was actively building WMDs. Think about that a minute. More than ONE IN FOUR PEOPLE you walk past on the street still hold onto a belief that has been disproven time and again. Why? Because those in their tribe, their authority figures, told them it was true. Anyone else who comes forth with proof otherwise is ignored, because the information doesn't come from their tiny group of trusted sources. More than ONE IN FOUR. And that's just the WMD issue.

George W. Bush said, "They hate us for our freedoms"; he thought he was talking about the terrorists, but he was really talking about his own followers. The Teabaggers, the Birthers, the KKK and NRA crowds (which are increasingly hard to tell apart), the Bachmanns, the Palins, the Becks and Hannitys and Coulters... these people hate, loath, resent, and try to destroy anything they consider "liberal" because they are deeply, deeply fearful of what liberalism represents: trust, love, openness, diversity, equality, compassion, compromise, and acceptance. Liberals represent freedom; they represent repression.

These people are not "conservatives" in any commonly-used sense of the word, and we should stop lumping them in together with true conservatives. If they were, we wouldn't be having these kinds of problems. True conservatives have open minds, use reason and judgement, and are willing to compromise and work with liberals, even when the two vehemently disagree.

No, these people are conservative in the most limited of senses: they are Tribalists. They see only themselves and those in their tight inner circles as being worthy of attention. They dearly love one another, and have true compassion for their neighbor... as long as their neighbor isn't "one of those". They are open and accepting... as long as you agree with them. They are trusting... as long as the person they trust is either a recognized authority figure, or someone whom they have authority over. They believe in equality... as long as it's within their very narrow group of "acceptable" people (remember who wanted "separate but equal" segregation?). They believe in a good education... as long as it doesn't include "dangerous" subjects.

They cannot imagine life outside of their chosen tribe, and if they do, it is by categorizing everyone else as "other" and somehow not quite human, not quite worthy. Friendships outside their tribe are limited and always subject to scrutiny. These people are closed off from the rest of the world, and see no reason to join it. But they certainly expect the rest of the world to conform to their worldviews, and if it doesn't, all hell breaks loose.

So if Tribalists represent something so closed off, so fanatically afraid of "the other", what do you call the rest of us, liberal, "true" conservatives, moderates, non-aligned? For the sake of the rest of this, let's just use one term: Real Americans.

Real Americans encourage understanding of other people and other ways of doing things. They are interested in other cultures and other beliefs. The toleration threshold for differing opinions and worldviews is very high, and though not perfect, Real Americans generally adopt the attitude of live and let live, agree to disagree. They actually go out of their way to demonstrate compassion for their neighbors, no matter what they believe. They try to live by the adage of Samuel Johnson, "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good". Real Americans are big on freedom of education: that learning and knowledge is what keeps us free, and that it expands the mind of man so that new ideas and new innovations can grow and prosper. When the world doesn't hew to the Real American's mindset, the tendency is to at least try to expand that mindset to see other points of view. If the world is unjust, they seek justice through peace and cooperation, not force.

The people screaming at townhalls, glorifying Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, consistently re-electing people like Michelle Bachmann and James Inholfe, and now calling our school districts to rabidly and irrationally complain about the President of the United States of America speaking to children about the IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD EDUCATION are not Real Americans, they are sick. I don't mean that as a perjorative, I mean it literally. From the standpoint of the rest of Real America, they are ill, not in their right minds, rationally impaired, cognitively dissonant, living in a false reality of their own making: crazy, if you will.

Some tribes of the American Indians believe that a crazy person is actually someone to respect, a sign of being inhabited by a spirit. But they don't necessarily venerate them; they understand that spirits can be benevolent, neutral, or malevolent. What we have here is a malevolent spirit, occupying more than ONE IN FOUR people in this country, and though we need to show it respect, it is the same type of respect you show a dangerous, wild animal.

This malevolent spirit feeds on fear, hate, and anger... but mostly fear. Fear of the unknown, of the "other". Instead of wanting to live in Real America, these people all want to live in Mayberry, living Ozzie & Harriett lives, where everyone is a Good Christian who goes to church on Sunday, everyone is white (except for Ol' Joe, the Negro porter down at the railway), everyone gets good grades in school and never kisses on a first date (and God forbid, never see each other naked until the night after the wedding, if then), and everyone gets along (so long as everyone does what they're supposed to do). These are people who saw the first half of the movie Pleasantville and were thrilled to see their ideal life playing out on the big screen, only to stalk angrily out of the theatre after the flowers began to acquire color. Life just isn't "right" unless everything always stays the same, when everything is comfortably black and white. As we heard during the 2008 elections, this is what these crazy people think is "Real America"... a fantasy from TVLand.

And of course, when things aren't "right", when things are changing and upsetting to them, they scream bloody murder. They shout "traitor", "communist", "Nazi", "socialist", and worse. Why? It's certainly not because they understand the dictionary meaning of these words, it is what they represent. They represent "wrong"; they represent radicals, upsetters of the status quo, people and ideas that uproot the very foundation of their beliefs. These are not actual descriptors of liberals or Obama himself; they are epithets of fury cast to label what they cannot describe, what doesn't fit their tidy world of make-believe. They see swarming demons in the mist, and unable to cognitively accept what they are seeing, seek more familiar terms to describe the indescribable. They are quite literally being driven mad by the demons they feel are attacking them from all sides: and they are doubly maddened because they know they are losing.

Which is why we must be ever more vigilant for the wild animals these people will more and more closely resemble in the coming months. As every shred of what they thought was true about the world is shown to be false... that Stepford-like perfection of exclusivity and blind obedience to authority, the rightness of class, racial and income inequality, the belief that they are God's Chosen laying a path for His return... they will become more virulent, more irrational, more strident. And more violent.

Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, Coulter, and all the rest make today much, much different than the upheaval and violence of the 60's. Here we have a well-armed, in many cases military-trained group of people who feel marginalized, threatened, and convinced that not only their own government, but their own NEIGHBORS, are a danger to them and their way of life. They will do everything they can to stay in their fantasyland, and they are willing to say and do anything they feel is necessary to maintain their Pleasantville lives.

Add to this a fatalistic radicalism from a bastardized and hardly-recognizable version of Christianity that would have Jesus throwing up His hands in disgust, and you have a recipe for suicide bombers, snipers, "citizen militias" armed with military-grade weaponry, lynchings, vandalism, and worse. Thanks to extreme-right-wing talk radio and Fox, we have our own al-Queda, whipped into a frenzy of hatred and unremitting anger. And this time, they are not "foreigners" with dark skin and funny accents. They are our neighbors, and they see US as targets.

This, my fellow Real Americans, is what we are dealing with now. And this will go soon from words, to actions. At any time, and I fear it will be sooner rather than later. What will we do to protect ourselves, our families, and the country (the Real one, not their dystopian fantasy one) we love?

In the movie Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, as the Genesis planet was collapsing all around them, Kirk and the Klingon commander were locked in a deadly struggle. The planet was falling apart, boiling lava spewed everywhere, and for a moment, the Klingon slipped and fell off the edge of a precipice, grabbing on with one hand. Kirk, feeling compassion for his enemy, reached out to try to pull him back up. Instead, the Klingon grabbed Kirk, and began to pull him over the edge with him. Realizing that the Klingon would rather kill them both than see Kirk live, Kirk finally makes his decision: he sits back, raises his boot, and repeatedly kicks the Klingon in the face until he loses his grip and falls into the lava below.

With each kick, Kirk says, "I"...(kick)..."have had ENOUGH"...(kick)..."of YOU!!!"...(kick, scream, toasted Klingon)

With this latest demonstration of ultra-right-wing crazy, I am there. I am done trying to reason or cajole these people. I am past trying to ignore their tantrums. I am finished trying to convince them with facts or subtle argument. I know that nothing I say, not even the evidence of their own eyes and ears, will change their un-American behavior. These are Klingons. I am Kirk. I am ready to say to these people:


We must remember, these people are still our fellow citizens, but this simply must stop. Our stability as a nation depends on it. And so, with as much love and compassion as you can muster:

When Real Americans go into battle on Fox against a Malkin or a Hannity, look them in the eye and say, "I. HAVE. HAD. ENOUGH. OF. YOU!!!"

When Real Americans confront right-wingers at rallys, townhalls, and protests, we must loudly proclaim, "I. HAVE. HAD. ENOUGH. OF. YOU!!!"

When Real Americans see "Servants of God" use the pulpit to spread hate and lies, denounce their hypocrisy with, "I. HAVE. HAD. ENOUGH. OF. YOU!!!"

When Real Americans hear their elected leaders repeat talking points from hate-radio and Fox to spread fear and confusion, call them out with, "I. HAVE. HAD. ENOUGH. OF. YOU!!!"

When Real Americans are faced with their neighbors ranting in church, at work, at sporting events, at the grocery store, and in our schools, speak out, "I. HAVE. HAD. ENOUGH. OF. YOU!!!"

And perhaps hardest of all... when Real Americans sit down to eat with their families, or go out with their friends, and they begin spewing the lies, hypocrisies, and hate, we must screw up our courage and lovingly but firmly tell them, "I. HAVE. HAD. ENOUGH. OF. YOU!!!"

Are you there? Are you Kirk too? Are you ready to say ENOUGH!?!?!?

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(revised and edited from original... thanks for the suggestions, WildRocket!)


Scribe said...

Excellent post, sir.

Lex said...

Welcome to today's edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions. Here's today's question:

Q: "Are these the final fruits of Nixon's corrupt administration?"

A: Yes.

This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.

Lisa said...


Steve Bremner said...

Well spoken. Did you lose your Facebook account? Your name is no longer there and you have no picture on the posts you made to my links.

Chuck said...

It's just the latest from both sides. We've had claims that 9/11 was a Bush-Cheney conspiracy, that the Clintons murdered Vince Foster and dozens of other people, and that Reagan cut a deal with Iran so that they would not release the hostages, while Carter was still President. Everyone and their mothers have a theory of who shot JFK. And the fact that one conspiracy -- Watergate -- was true means that all the others are, as well. And those are just Presidential conspiracies. Throw in Ollie North and Janet Reno and we can have a lot of fun.

Both extremes are culpable and their loudness compels the parties play to them, not to anything sensible. Until we stop playing choose up sides and condemn them all, they're going to be running the political show.

judy said...

I got this eloquent response to this link from Tracy Heller Regis:

Yes it does sum it up. Overall it’s pretty scary and disturbing what some people will say and do and what people will believe; fear and ignorance are a frightening and dangerous combination.

However more than being angry at the individual nutty people running around, I am increasingly furious with our elected officials and other people in charge for actually giving this group of nuts such a loud voice and for treating them with any degree of seriousness. One of my favorite books is The End of Faith by Sam Harris; he makes a number of excellent points. One of the premises of his book is that it’s completely taboo to give someone a hard time about their religious beliefs, we’re not allowed to call someone out for saying or doing ridiculous things, someone’s faith always exonerates them from bad behavior (and I would argue it’s a lot of religious groups giving us our grief now). Another point he makes is the fact that liberals, such as ourselves, are also very much to blame, because we preach acceptance of everyone’s ideas and don’t want to step on toes or be impolitic, and that is a big problem we face. At some point as a rational body we have to start saying: “You are not evolved or thoughtful enough to engage in this debate. Or sorry you don’t appear to have developed any critical thinking skills, and as a result we can’t and won’t take you or your opinion seriously.”

I feel bad for a number of people who hold these views because they really don’t know any better. I wonder if I was given no valid information in my life, what would I think? I may well be as narrow-minded as they are. So then I wonder who is really to blame for this terrible divide in our country right now. The answer I keep coming up with is all of us. We support all the overly dramatic TV shows that are demoralizing, we tune into FOX news and other programs that don’t focus on issues only on drama, and we don’t care about real journalism anymore; people enjoy the drama of a good, insulting fight. Now as individuals, maybe we don’t support this behavior or trend, I personally don’t, but collectively we do, otherwise it wouldn’t be happening. The current culture has to change.

The founding fathers were strongly against the common man having much power because they didn’t believe most people were up to it, case in point right now. Our democracy is built on the idea of majority rules, with minority rights, sadly right now we are letting the minority group of lunatics make the rules, and have all the rights. We let them frame every debate that takes place in this country, and we allow them to paint intelligent and sincere individuals as ridiculous buffoons. It makes me sick to my stomach, I can barely read the news each day I get so angry.

So since I can’t change the people around me, and fighting with them doesn’t do any good (I know, I tried) I’m instead working on being a better person myself and hopefully that will have some positive effect in someway, somehow. I’m hoping that if I can be less angry and more reasonable then I’ll be better poised to set a good example. Admittedly, almost daily I fantasize about calling someone a fucking moron, or lunging across a room to throttle some idiot, but I’m doing that less and less. I really don’t know what else to do. Also I try to avoid discussions with the 1 in 4 crazies, because even saying “I have had enough of you,” may somehow give the impression they are saying something worthwhile that I’ve had enough of, when in fact they are doing no such thing.

How’s that for my two cents worth!!!!


John S. Cline said...

Thanks Judy, and Tracy, for that wonderful response! I too am often at a loss to know how best to respond to the craziness. I swerve between anger and apathy... and daily feel growing fear for the country I love. Sometimes, saying "I have had enough of you!" works wonders... it stops them in their tracks, when they realize that you're calling them on their BS. Others just keep plowing ahead, further and further into the abyss. And if 1 in 4 is beyond all hope of reaching, it means that 1 in 4 kids are growing up with this same poison being pounded into their heads, so that they will grow up and perpetuate this nonsense into generations hence.

Until we take back our media, which is the real culprit here, I fear nothing will change.

I do take heart, though, when I see the younger people, like my three boys, who seem to think all this ranting and raving is just plain silly... or really, really annoying. Even young people on the other side of the political aisle, like Meghan McCain, speak out against this craziness. So perhaps... just perhaps... all is not yet lost.

Thanks again Judy for posting your friend's response... and to all those who responded here, thanks to you as well!