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Artist, Heather Oliver             

At Long Last, Have You Left No Sense of Decency?

– Joseph Welch to Joseph McCarthy

The Tuscon tragedy (with more like it almost certain to follow) has really been a matter of time, because the extreme right in the US has shifted the goalposts of discourse and legislation so far that a Taliban mindset passes as normal.  An amazing part of the aftermath is to hear people say “Both sides must moderate their rhetoric.”  This would be funny if it weren’t dangerous.  As for Teabagger messiahs — ignorant bigots with narcissistic personality disorder who don’t care to understand the real meaning of terms like treason, death panels and blood libel — Professor Anthea Butler said it best.  An excerpt from her essay:

“What matters is that people like Palin, Beck and others can’t take time to figure out that this time is not about them, but about those who have lost loved ones, and their incredible hubris in not owning up to their own sideshow of hate.”

Even as we speak, Republican Party functionaries in Arizona are resigning, having received death threats from Teabaggers and their ilk.  The Westboro Baptist cult intends to picket the funeral of the 9-year old shot during the Giffords assassination attempt. The Arizona legislature, instead of banning the carrying of concealed weapons, is dithering about how many feet must separate the Westboro cultists from their targets.  And other legislators are calling for involuntary incarceration of the mentally ill, rather than address the fact that anyone can buy a semi-automatic weapon from Walmart.

I have mentioned the Weimar Republic before in such discussions.  The downspiral to fascist theocracy is accelerating.  We’ve let it go too far.  All of us are guilty of accepting increasing extremism and curtailment of civil rights.  We will all pay the price of our aquiescence, while the extremists finally get their Rupture.

Update: I urge everyone to compare Obama’s speech to Palin’s video.

Cartoons by David Horsey (top), Monte Wolverton (bottom)

15 Responses to “At Long Last, Have You Left No Sense of Decency?”

  1. Michael says:

    Thank you for this.

    Michael

  2. eilidh says:

    The Weimar Republic is exactly what’s coming to mind. There’s so much anger among people (and it is justified, too, as the middle class is being unravelled, in the US as well as in Europe), and it’s going in exactly the wrong direction. The scary thing about movements like the Tea Party is that such senseless, violent rhetoric appeals to people with valid grievances. But instead of offering viable solutions it’s dragging everything to what will eventually be death and destruction.

    I want to be hopeful. But I find it difficult to be. The US has spent the best part of a decade issuing warnings on Islamic fundamentalists and their being a potential threat; but they’ve got a budding fascist movement right in their backyard left unchecked.

  3. Dylan Fox says:

    I have to confess, I’m not a fan of big government either. Not at all. The government claims it has a monopoly on the ‘legitimate’ use of force, and the use of force can almost never be legitimate in my opinion. Unfortunately, this makes me a wingnut Tea Party Fascist. But I also don’t believe in big companies, either. Any company where the CEO never meets the customer is too big and should be broken up, because that’s when companies start serving themselves instead of their customers and employees. I believe that companies exist to serve people–their employees and customers. Not the other way around, which is how things are at the moment. Hell, I think any entrenched system of centralised power should be broken up because we all know where they lead. So, where does this put me in the US political spectrum? I can either be a Tea Party Fascist or a bleeding-heart liberal. I can either be black or white. No middle ground, no compromise. And if I don’t want to be black or white? If I want to be something else? Well, the political system doesn’t give me any other options so I guess I’d have to opt out entirely. And that, I think, is the problem. The two point system breads two point thinking, thinking where you’re either one or the other with no middle ground. That’s the mentality which leads to demonization of the other side and war-like language, which leads to fanaticism and hate.

    Of course, this is just me looking in from the other side of the Atlantic. Maybe I’ve got everything arse-backwards, but that’s the impression I’ve picked up from the media output I’ve seen from the US.

    Unrelated to my rant, a friend of mine makes a very good point about appeals to tone down the rhetoric. There Glenn Beck is, saying we need to tone down violent language in politics, right next to a photo of him posing with a hand gun. http://katie.casey.com/2011/01/youre-doin-it-wrong.ht

  4. Athena says:

    Michael, you’re very welcome.

    Eleni, I agree with you. We see to be reverting to a feudal state that has a few very rich and the rest are disenfranchised and destitute.

    Dylan, what do you define as big government? Because there are many things Europeans (people in the UK included) take for granted that are considered “big government” in the US. Trust me, the contemporary “left” in the US would be right-of-center in Europe. And I wouldn’t take the US media at face value, if I were you. Read Morris Berman’s A Question of Values; it’s very enlightening on this topic.

  5. Dylan Fox says:

    Well, there’s only so much I can talk about ‘big government’ in the US as I have no personal experience of living under that government. But in the UK, for example, before we went into Iraq one million people marched on the Houses of Parliament to demand we didn’t go in. The government voted to go in anyway. To get a million people to march in a country where it’s a struggle to get over ten-thousand people to sign an online petition is a huge achievement. But the government is big enough to ignore it. The government in our country doesn’t govern in the interests of the people who elect them, it governs in the interests of those who fund the system. And those who do exert any sort of influence over it are those who are in positions of power and privilege–the newspaper editors, the business leaders. If the clear and present voices of one million voters can be dismissed, what chance does any organisation without millions of pounds behind it have, let alone any individual? When the government doesn’t have to listen to the people who elect it, it’s too big.

    To take a parallel, you can see a similar thing developing with companies. Online retailing has allowed individual sellers and small businesses access to customers they’ve not enjoyed for hundreds of years. If Sony send me a faulty product and then swindle me out a refund, what do they care? They’re so big, the concerns of individual customers don’t matter to them and the only organisations who can exert any influence over them are huge and have lots of money behind them. But the individual sellers are totally different. I brought a CD from an Amazon seller, and the track listing Amazon themselves had put up wasn’t quite what was on the CD. Nothing to do with the seller. But when I contacted them, they were very apologetic and offered me a full refund. (Of course, this puts an obligation on me as a consumer not to take advantage.) That’s kind of the difference between big government and small government that I mean.

    Of course, I know there are things big government can provide which a smaller government couldn’t. Things like regulatory oversight and universal health care that’s free on point of delivery. I don’t have a solution yet, but I’m working on it.

    The polarised nature of political thinking in the US is something I’ve seen a lot in the media and in Americans whom I hear talking on line. If someone expresses the view that people should pay tax to support the unemployed, then they’re called a liberal and then everyone assumes they have a whole bunch of other views based on that and attack them for being a Nazi-apologist bleeding-heart Communist. I shall add the book to my reading list–thanks for the recommendation.

    And sorry for the enormous comments hijacking your post!

  6. Athena says:

    Dylan, comment length is not a problem. However, whether government is responsive to the governed is not the topic here nor is my point abstract. Have you heard Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, Malkin, Coulter hold forth? Have you read Palin’s speeches? Also, size of government does not correlate with responsiveness: dictatorships are often small-scale governments, as their only concern is to maintain their grip on power. On the other side, US citizens rarely vote or protest and have pushed unions essentially out of existence. As a result, the people who get elected here are neither representative nor civic-minded.

    US society is hyper-atomized, totally sold on “if you can’t make it it’s your fault” and has no safety net. There is no uniform school curriculum; religious fundamentalists can protest any and all science courses (most usually evolution). Gun laws are lax and prison sentences rigid and harsh for minor transgressions. US consumers, 1% of the world’s population, consume 25% of the world’s resources. Etc, etc.

    These are not exotic unknown facts. The country was very different when I came here in the mid-seventies, as I wrote in my article Government of the People. The triumphalism and exceptionalism were there, but there was also a “Can do” attitude coupled with efficiency, reliability and rock-solid infrastructure. Now the country is very similar in customs, outlook and prospects to… I’d say, Pakistan. On a good day.

  7. Dylan Fox says:

    Ah, I think I see what’s happened here: I’ve opened my mouth and expressed opinions on something I don’t know enough about before giving myself the time to realise that. My apologies, not only for being a loud mouth but also for not thinking for long enough to understand what you were saying. Thank you for taking the time to respond to me anyway :)

  8. intrigued_scribe says:

    The comparison between Obama’s speech and Palin’s video just highlights the staggering differences between somber, eloquent respect and destructive zealotry.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  9. Athena says:

    Dylan, that’s what we’re here for: discussion. Read Berman’s book, it’s an interesting start (de Tocqueville remains relevant as well).

    Heather, you’re most welcome! I cannot fathom how someone with aspirations to be a political leader can express her/himself in the manner that Palin does. I was chair of a tiny department (a dozen people) — unifying is Management 101 stuff.

  10. suburbaknght says:

    I truly cannot understand why gun ownership exists as a right in modern America. While there was a need in Revolutionary War era America* it is no longer Revolutionary War era America. We modified the constitution to remove rights (18th, 20th) and to give rights (most of the others). The rights in the Constitution are not God-given rights but protected privileges. The 2nd amendment is one we need to talk about and get rid of as doing more harm than good.

    Reactionary? Hardly. I’ve been saying this since I first learned firearms safety, over a decade ago.

    * A need that was based on hunting, not as the NRA will tell you, self-defense. When the British confiscated firearms from colonial towns, many families went hungry because they couldn’t hunt in the spring while waiting for early yield crops. This was the primary concern of the founding fathers: food, not a God-given right to carry an automatic handgun that’s more likely to be accidentally used on a small child than an intruder bent on doing harm.

  11. Athena says:

    Alex, I agree. First, there is some air of sanctity around the constitution, as if it had not been written by humans. Second, it’s very strange to think that the need for basic rights (hunting for food) has been twisted to this ghoulish privilege. It makes me think of D. H. Lawrence’s saying, “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.” Now Lawrence was wrong on many things. But the US was founded on triumphal exceptionalism and isolate individualism.

  12. suburbaknght says:

    Oh, I fully support the sanctity of the Constitution, but the sanctity is based on a principle of fallibility. The Founding Fathers were great men but one of the reasons for their being great men was they recognized that they were flawed and human as everyone else (and yet people are so shocked when skeletons fall out of their closets). They created a judiciary to interpret the constitution because they knew it would need to be reinterpreted as the world changed. They created a system to change the constitution for the same reason, but made the process difficult enough that it could only be enacted in great need.

    While I believe originalism must be considered when interpreting the Constitution, it’s height of foolishness to consider originalism the ONLY legitimate viewpoint. Setting aside that there is no originalist viewpoint regarding abortion or universal healthcare, the original viewpoint was that the original viewpoint would need to be changed.

    And there’s always this:
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/area-man-passionate-defender-of-what-he-imagines-c,2849/

  13. Athena says:

    Yes, people rarely let facts get in their way of their beliefs. I mean look at the anti-vaccine crowd. Wakefield has been thoroughly discredited, but they keep banging their drum.

  14. Walden2 says:

    A quote from a Tea Party member on NPR last year said it all, when she said she joined her local TP because she is a “doer, not a thinker.” A fascist regime’s favorite kind of drone.

    What this group boils down to is that a certain swath of Americans are bothered and frightened by the fact that a black man is now President of the United States (even half black is just too much for them). Trying to bring down Big Government is virtually a cover for their real motives, which is to bring America back to the “good ol'” Jim Crow days.

    We have a long way to go as a society and a species. I just hope we evolve in time or it will be the Fifth Reich in America. And speaking of that, what is not mentioned or remembered much now is that before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, there were more than a few rallies in America supporting the German Nazi Party. Plus a number of big corporations in this country were making secret deals with Hitler to work for his New World Order should the Allies lose WW2.

    Hey, dollars or marks, it makes no difference. Just so long as the bigwigs remain in power and the masses are kept fat, dumb, and relatively content.

    Somebody tell me I am just being paranoid, please.

  15. Athena says:

    Racism is certainly a component in all this, but the country had been drifting in this direction since the mid-eighties. The two Bush administrations just accelerated this trend and used 9/11 as a convenient vehicle to enforce their agenda essentially unopposed by tarring opposition in any domain with the brush of “traitor”. So I wish I could say you were paranoid, Larry — but I’m as worried as you are.