Shining some light on the dark underside

January 13, 2011

I read the text of President Obama’s speech in Tucson last night and watched it just this morning.  If you haven’t actually listened to it yet, you probably should.  It is, as he’s given to from time to time, a remarkable performance–humble and sad, visionary and inspirational, humane, all the characteristics of the Obama that drew us to him during the campaign and all too often get washed out by the noise of daily politics.

From cruising around the blogosphere last night after the speech, I gather that even some of the more conservative punditocracy were praising the speech.  I haven’t seen any reactions from Republican members of Congress, but when Charles Krauthammer gives a Democrat the nod, the Democrat must have done OK.  So let’s just say, for the sake of conversation, that Obama’s call for renewed civility and decency in our political discourse made a mark on the people with the loudest (that is, the most mass mediated) voices: elected officials and pundits.

Then I made the mistake (or, faced the demon–choose your metaphor) of beginning to read comments sections of stories about the speech.  I don’t know if YahooNews draws an especially nasty crowd or what, but it didn’t take 2 minutes from the end of the speech before screeches of “traitor” and “communist” and “worst President ever” and “he wasn’t even born here” showed up.  Today, out of the first ten comments, two of them say, “Google FEMA Concentration Camps and find out what Hussein means to do to YOU!”  Nobody explicitly calls for his assassination or violence directly against him, but let’s just say that his call for decency seems to have fallen on some deaf ears.

One of my favorite bloggers, Ed at Gin and Tacos, wrote the other day that one of the big problems in our current political scene is that nobody seems willing to call out the crazies.  What the hell is wrong with them?  How can anybody listen to a neighbor (much less a Congressperson or respected “journalist”) propagate the kind of insanity that we’ve come to take for granted without responding to it?  And I’m not just talking about the militaristic metaphors and the “climate of hate” that’s been flying around for the last few days.  I’m talking about somebody I defriended on Facebook because they thought it was hilarious when Barack Obama got his lip split playing basketball and said something like, “Damn, I wish I’d learned to play basketball so I could have smashed his face in.”  About the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!  If one of us peaceniks had said anything of the sort about George W. Bush, we’d have been accused of being TRAITORS (gasp).  In fact, some of us did say terrible things about George W. Bush (if there were an emoticon for a raised hand, I’d use it here) and were routinely called traitors.  Of course, we were also called traitors when we said nothing at all about GWB, but that’s another story…

Anyway, so my question for now is this.  If the big voices in our country got the message last night, and have begun to realize that the way we talk to each other is counterproductive, horrifying, unworthy of us, call it what you will, how do we get that message to the people who really need to hear it–our neighbors and co-workers, the people stockpiling weapons caches in case they need to revolt, the people who hide behind anonymity to threaten others’ safety and well-being, and so on?  There’s an argument to make that it took decades of building up to this level of anger and viciousness and that it will, therefore, take decades to build it down.  We don’t have time for that.  How do we accelerate that process?

I guess another way of asking the question: how do we, as activists, organize in our own communities (physical, virtual, professional, …) to support a more productive, humane discourse?  How do we even begin to talk about rebuilding trust, believing that what people who think differently are doing isn’t automatically an attempt to destroy us?

Once trust has been breached, it’s very difficult to rebuild.  At least right now, that’s the biggest challenge I see.


Extremism on both sides? Let’s make this perfectly clear

January 9, 2011

I wrote a post about a month ago in which I disputed the “liberals and conservatives are equally vitriolic” claim, but feel like it’s worth saying something else about that.  A friend posted this link on Facebook this morning, and I (not to put too fine a point on it) DEFY any of you to develop evidence that liberals have planned, attempted, and executed this many acts of horrific violence–just in the last TWO YEARS.

Or put it this way: sure, there are plenty of angry lefties.  I’m one of them.  But the “Both sides are just as bad” argument is total bullshit.

 


Where were the Tea Partiers when…

January 7, 2011

This list flies around e-mail distribution lists from time to time.  A debate I was having on Facebook last night with a high school friend who’s very conservative made me think about it; I’m glad I saved it the last time I received it.

Subject: YOU FINALLY GOT MAD…

You didn’t get mad
when the Supreme Court stopped a legal
recount and appointed a President.

You didn’t get mad
when Cheney allowed Energy company
officials to dictate Energy policy and push us to invade Iraq.

You didn’t get mad
when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn’t get mad
when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn’t get mad
when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn’t get mad
when we spent over 800 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn’t get mad
when Bush borrowed more money from
foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents combined.

You didn’t get mad
when over 10 billion dollars in cash just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn’t get mad
when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn’t get mad
when Bush embraced trade and outsourcing
policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the country.

You didn’t get mad
when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn’t get mad
when we didn’t catch Bin Laden.
You didn’t get mad
when Bush rang up 10 trillion dollars in combined budget and current account deficits.

You didn’t get mad
when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn’t get mad
when we let a major US city, New Orleans, drown.

You didn’t get mad
when we gave people who had more money
than they could spend, the filthy rich, over a trillion
dollars in tax breaks.

You didn’t get mad
with the worst 8 years of job creations in several decades.

You didn’t get mad
when over 200,000 US Citizens lost their
lives because they had no health insurance.

You didn’t get mad
when lack of oversight and regulations
from the Bush Administration caused US Citizens to lose 12
trillion dollars in investments, retirement, and home values.

You finally got mad


when a black man was elected President
and decided that people in America deserved the right
to see a doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption,
torture, job losses by the millions, stealing your tax dollars to make the
rich richer, and the worst economic disaster since 1929 were all okay with
you,
but helping fellow Americans who are sick…Oh, Hell No!!


Where did the USA go?

October 31, 2008

It’s probably too close to my bedtime to take this question up, but I have to get it out of my system…

At the DNC, Al Gore’s speech asked why this campaign is so close.  I wonder that too.  How on Earth is it possible that anybody could vote for that ticket?  How is it possible that they might win?  Can anybody *really* imagine Sarah Palin as President?  Can anybody really imagine John McCain with the authority to make decisions about war and peace?  Does anybody who isn’t already filthy rich really want to hand more of our hard-earned money to people who already own everything?  Does anybody really believe that making the rich richer will help anybody but the rich?  Does anybody really believe that offering health insurance tax credits to middle and low-income citizens will help them get insurance?

If you can answer yes to any of those questions, we don’t live on the same planet, much less the same country. 

It’s unspeakably frightening and sad that anybody believes a word that comes out of the mouths of those liars. 

Barack Obama and Joe Biden are no princes, to be sure.  But both are committed to giving our country back to the people it should belong to: US.

Or in the punk-rock anthem terms of the Dead Kennedys’ “Stars and Stripes of Corruption”:

“This land I love it too/I think I love it more than you/I care enough to fight the Stars and Stripes of Corruption.” 

God (Gods/Goddesses) bless Jello Biafra.


I didn’t watch the third debate but…

October 16, 2008

…by all accounts except Faux News, it sounds like Barack Obama did what he needed to.  He was clear (as clear as candidates can be in any debate format) about his policy stances; he was clear about his relationships to Bill Ayers and ACORN, both of which are non-starter issues that McPalin has blown up into huge smokescreens because they have nothing else to say.  And it’s become quite clear that pretty much nobody but ultra-right wackos give two shits, or even one, about either of those issues.  They realize that neither of them has jack to do with their pension funds or whether they can afford medical treatment.  Duh.

So I’m hopeful that McPalin may have finally tossed its last (metaphorical) firebomb and missed.  Any other useless, baseless attack on Obama is just going to look frantic, which it will be.  In the larger picture, I’m actually starting to believe that the pendulum of sanity might be swinging back towards reality a bit.  Many of the videos of ultra-right-wackos at McPalin rallies have made national news.  People are seeing what the vocal elements of the Republican party look like.  Or more precisely, the media is finally shining a light into the dark corners of the party and exposing the crazies for what they are.  It’s my hope that the sanity wing of the Republican Party (such as it is) will finally tell the crazies to bugger off.  They’ll tell the angry mob types, like Ann Coulter, to shut up.  They’ll tell the televangelist-preacher-freak crowd to shut up.

The general public’s reaction to the threats against Obama’s life, the calls to “kill him” and “cut off his head,” and so on, indicate that Barack Obama was right in his acceptance speech at the DNC.

Enough.


Traitors (again, or more of the same)

October 11, 2008

Last summer, across several threads of this blog, I (and people like me) got accused time and again of being a traitor because I don’t support the US occupation of Iraq, because I’m an academic (and therefore must be advancing a revolutionary agenda every time I teach), because I don’t support Israel’s right to kill Palestinians (and for the record, neither do I support Palestinians’ rights to kill Israelis), etc.

At the time, I was infuriated by the accusation.  It galls me to no end for neoconservatives to accuse anybody who disagrees with them of trying to destroy our country.  I’m still mad about it, as you might imagine if you’ve been called one of the worst things in the world.

The last couple of weeks of presidential campaigning have put the nastiness of last summer into some perspective.  For one, I’ve realized that neocons toss around the word “traitor” willy-nilly.  They know perfectly well that I do not actively work to destroy or undercut the Constitution or our country.  They also know perfectly well that Barack Obama isn’t trying to destroy our country.  I guess the short version is that I’ve become innoculated against the charge because they apply it to everything and everybody they don’t like.

Second, although some of the folks who were fighting with me on the blog got pretty nasty, it’s nothing compared to the threats that are emerging from (and being stoked by) the McPalin campaign.  Even Republicans are getting nervous about the simmering violence and hate being aroused, especially by Sarah Palin, on the campaign trail.  The Secret Service, it seems, have decided that the freak who yelled “Kill him!” at a Palin rally last weekend probably wasn’t talking about Obama.  Huh?  Who else would he have been talking about?  And with the increasingly violent and frequent shouts of “Off with his head!” and “Traitor!” and “Treason!” and others, why would anybody believe that Obama wasn’t the target?

I, like many, are afraid of what might happen as a result of this increasingly vicious tone.  However, having been the object of a (very minor because I’m not very important, but still…) smear campaign, and having faced death threats because of an editorial I wrote for the Philly Inquirer some years ago, more than fear I feel deep, tragic sadness that the very-far right-wing has come to this.  It wasn’t enough to slaughter innocent Iraqis and Afghans in wars they weren’t even fighting.  It wasn’t enough to see a ruling cabal installed in the White House without even winning an election, and hand over the reins of our government to a small group of people who serve their own interests only.  It wasn’t enough to label anybody who disagreed with them unpatriotic or treasonous.

Now they have to attack a presidential election ticket that couldn’t be less traitorous, less “Socialist,” less dangerous to the core values of the US Constitution, and they have to incite levels of hate and fear to do it.  It’s humiliating, as a citizen not just of the country but of the world, to know that others all over the planet believe these snakes speak for our nation.

So, here’s a plea to all you McPalin supporters who are so angry about Barack Obama’s success that you advocate violence towards him and his supporters–

SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!  You’re hurting your candidates.  You’re hurting your party.  You’re hurting our nation. You’re much more dangerous that Obama/Biden could ever be.  I don’t believe you’re “traitors” any more than I believe I’m a traitor, but your hatred and violence are bad and wrong.

Enough.


John McCain and Sarah Palin are the terrorists

October 7, 2008

By now, we all know that Sarah Palin’s role in the McCain campaign is to provoke false accusations and threats of violence towards Barack Obama.  Her speech in FL on Saturday, in which Palin accused Obama of “pallin’ around with terrorists,” was nothing short of slander.  McCain’s speech yesterday, in which he accused Obama of simply insulting McCain every time McCain questioned his record, was disturbing not just because of its content, which was full of ugly lies and distortions, but more so because of the crowd’s reaction.  I’ve never been in a lynch mob, but I have to expect that it sounds much like that crowd did.

Worse, even, than those was the rally yesterday at which a McPalin supporter yelled “Kill him!” “Him,” of course, is Barack Obama.  A perfect opportunity for Sarah Palin to demonstrate that she’s anything other than a bloodthirsy psychopath, instead, nothing.  Nothing.  Let me say that again.  Nothing.  One of her audience members advocated assassinating a sitting US Senator and Presidential candidate, and Palin said nothing.  Neither has John McCain said anything.

It’s another round, much like the Dayton mosque attack last week, of the McPalin campaign propagating bloodlust among their supporters, and saying NOTHING when that bloodlust finds public voice and action.  These candidates actually support a strategy that results in attempted and threatened murder.

No matter how close Barack Obama and Bill Ayers might ever have been or might ever be, Obama hasn’t done anything near as horrifying as this.

This isn’t just electoral politics.  This is terrorism.  It’s honing in on people’s darkest fears and basest instincts, and letting people like this crawl out from under their rocks.  It’s recruiting bad people to their cause, knowing that at least some of them (and the Dayton mosque attack is evidence of this) will actually follow through on their threats.

More than ever, I’m deeply, deeply troubled that any sane person could consider voting for the McPalin ticket.  If you don’t toe their party line, you could be next.