Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Mirror for Ms. Bachmann

I finally got to see Chris Matthews pay out the rope for Rep. Bachmann. I'd seen transcripts, with nuggets such as this, but so many people were clogging the tubes, I had to wait my turn.

"What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America,"

Gee whiz, I'd kinda thought we'd established that witch-hunts were a bad idea, even BEFORE Jefferson's time. I was obviously wrong in believing that "Have you no decency, Sir?" was a phrase that still resonated. Clearly, millions disagree. Fortunately, those millions do not include the honorable old warrior Colin Powell.

"Mr. McCain says that he's a washed up terrorist, but then why do we keep talking about him? And why do we have the robocalls going on around the country trying to suggest that because of this very, very limited relationship that Senator Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow Mr. Obama is tainted. What they're trying to connect him to is some kind of terrorist feelings. And I think that's inappropriate. Now, I understand what politics is all about, I know how you can go after one another and that's good. But I think this goes too far, and I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It's not what the American people are looking for."

Powell also spoke passionately against the insinuations by some Republicans that Obama is a Muslim.

"Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian," he said. "But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated [with] terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

Now, that's the most diplomatic bitch-slapping I've heard in recent times. It will never be all that quotable; Mr. Powell is, I'm afraid, no master of the pithy catch-phrase. But he's certainly capable of pithing essentialist idiocies.

..Mr. Obama is now [called] a socialist, because he dares to suggest that maybe we ought to look at the tax structure that we have. Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who pay them, in roads and airports and hospitals and schools. And taxes are necessary for the common good. And there's nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is or who should be paying more or who should be paying less, and for us to say that makes you a socialist is an unfortunate characterization that I don't think is accurate.

Powell has stated that he will be voting for Obama and that he still considers himself a Republican. I think it would be fair to assume that his conclusion is that people such as Mr. McCain and Ms. Bachmann do not meet his standards for probity and disciplined leadership.

Nor do I think Powell confuses reactionary social impositions with any sort of Conservatism, and while I might be wrong, I think he'd tend to guardedly agree with the next bit.

I personally think that the only decent position on matters of individual choice that should decently be considered to be private was best stated bluntly by one of the most contradictory, maddening and controversial politicians in North American history; one of the very few foreign leaders to ever be noticed by the American people - aside, of course, from Fidel Castro.

We take the position that there is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. * Comment in the Canadian House of Commons on the decriminalization of homosexuality (1967-12-22)

That's a very Libertarian idea, when you think about it. It's certainly widely quoted by Libertarians, though they tend to file off the serial numbers. And though he was a self-described Democratic Socialist, that was an economic, not a social position. I might add that he's been as much of an influence upon me as William F. Buckley - and for essentially the same reason; both men were far more interesting and useful when wrong than any two ordinary politically significant figures stumbling upon the right idea for the usual populist reasons.

I thought of Trudeau in reference to Mr. Powell, who has finally come to his parting of the ways with stupidity and who has taken the high ground as the only strategic and tactical option available.

He did not say it as eloquently as Trudeau on the eve of the FLQ crisis, but in essence we are seeing similar times and a similar impatience with those who think that violence and chaos are the proper response to political frustrations.

Pierre Trudeau - "There are very few times in the history of any country when all persons must take a stand on critical issues. This is one of these times; this is one of those issues. I am confident that those persons who unleashed this tragic sequence of events with the aim of destroying our society and dividing our country will find that the opposite will occur. The result of their acts will be a stronger society in a unified country. Those who would have divided us will have united us." - Announcing the War Measures Act to a national television audience, October 16, 1970

I hope very much that leaders and statesmen such as Colin Powell can indeed rise to this challenge, can indeed forestall what seems to me a crisis of spirit and a rising tide of intolerance. While it's not at all fashionable to equate the rhetoric of Palin and McCain with the actions of people responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, it's damn clear that they are not as far apart as any reasonable person might wish.

Reasonable and civilized leaders do not foment hatred, do not cultivate suspicion of their rivals, do not brandish the noose and the burning cross even in the subtlest and most deniable way. The reason why should be brutally obvious, but perhaps McCain and Palin are indeed willing to "rule in Hell rather than to serve in Heaven."

But as with all Faustian bargains, the devil is in the details. The telling details are, in both cases, those who are willing to do "whatever it takes" (Palin's infamous phrase) leave a swathe of destruction behind them - and that echoing emptiness, that conspicuous, Shermanesqe path of political arson and the rape of propriety leads unfailingly to those responsible.

The Karma comes due when such people meet principled opposition and act toward that opposition as if that person were their own mirror image, projecting on that other all the evils, all the spitefulness, all the shameful guilty reservations about their own progress to power that they believe to be known only to themselves.

With Palin, McCain and their few remaining apologists, it's simple to discern their mistakes, their failures, their regrets and their gaps of leadership and comprehension, for all those things are precisely what they accuse their opponents of. They are unused - sadly - to contestation with their betters.

They are sadly shallow people, quite apparently proud of their inability to deal intelligently with complex issues, or at least unwilling to be caught thinking in public, lest "Joe the Plumber" accuse them of being "elitist." As Obama has been pilloried for saying, "it's as if they are proud of being ignorant."

No "as if." They are proud of it. They celebrate it. And they persecute anyone and any thing that bodes even the slightest possiblity of penetrating their shells of willful parochialism. These are Palin's Patriotic Americans.

I'm quite sure that the majority of her supporters would enthusiastically agree that yes, they ARE "Good, patriotic, "God-Fearing Uhmurikins" with no discernment of why this condemns them as both Unchristian AND Unamerican in their abuse of both Christ and Constitution.

Aside from being wrong, it's the sort of dumb-as-dirt wrong that leads to the sort of mess the world is now in, thanks to George Bush and the half-smart and the fully stupified folks who put the crap-flinging Chimp in power.

Well, frankly, I think it's my damn right to expect the best and the brightest, and my responsiblity to support them whenever I can. Since and including Ronald Regan, and not sparing either Clinton or Carter, all successful presidential and indeed most congressional candidates have been or styled themselves as being "low bid candidates;" the champions of Joe Six-Pack and the true and natural representative of the dumb-ass wings of each party.

In this, they were not entirely disingenuous, in that they were as easily bribed with shiny trinkets and meaningless photo-ops as were their constituents. Can we say "Keating Five?" Can we say "Enron" and "Energy Policy?" Oooh, I KNEW that we could!

I'm not one to worship at the altar of Obama. I think him a skilled politician, a remarkably good speaker, certainly a potential statesman and certainly as smart as any cracker's whip - but I do not think him better than what we should ordinarily expect of our elected leaders. I think he is a good example of what sort of people we should consider our due. It's not that difficult to choose to be an honest broker, to choose to act according to principles and to try, as often as humanly possible, to achieve something worthwhile along the path of fulfilling one's own ambitions. That is my minimum standard for myself and for anyone I choose to associate with. I do not think that a particularly high standard.

And I think that it's a standard we - not as citizens of this country or that, but as civilized persons participating in our various cultures and societies - should realize we MUST live up to in order to have a civil society to prosper within.

But I have my doubts that the United States will survive that realization. It certainly will not, cannot and should not pass through this trial unchanged. It may not survive without violence, it may not survive in recognizable form. The irresponsible and unconscionable efforts by Right-Wing conservatives, the social subversions committed by traitorous theocrats have carved out rifts between people that could well be fatal to any meaningful resolution. More personally, I found myself less and less inclined to even wish to live in a society that included people who see nooses as "fair comment" and the conscious, deliberate and malicious bearing of false witness against their neighbor as being "their Christian duty."

Fuck 'em, said I, knowing that that would be the least worst fate they envisioned for me. It was all too easy to see me and mine shoved into a cattle car on a one-way trip to a nuclear-powered microwave incinerator.

I, personally, see no profit in trying to fight that good fight there when I could do as much here in Canada and, bluntly, for a Canadian society that has far less bad karma coming due. I make no apologies for the fact that I prefer to live in a culture, a nation and a society where none of the party leaders are people who's positions insult my intelligence or who think it proper to appeal to my most base instincts.

Je suis un Canadian! Vive la Confederation! Vive la Civilization! VIVE La Banque du Canada!

It's not difficult to point to Ms. Bachmann as being an exemplar of all that is wrong with the United States in general. But in fact, Ms. Bachmann is the direct responsibility of those who elected her, those who contributed to her campaign and those colleagues in Congress that permit her to caucus with them, valuing political expediency over the consequences of tolerating such a poster child for petty partisan patronage.

It's inconceivable to me that such a lackwit could have gotten on a ballot by any fair, legitimate, intelligent process. The fruits and nuts point to the health of the tree and it's roots. Bachmann and her ilk in elected office at all levels are the bitter fruit of a poisoned tree.

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