It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling to find my voice these last few years. Those of you who have been following this blog since 2002 probably recall the days when I was a great deal more hostile than I am today. I wish I could say that I’ve tempered this because of some transcendent cognitive shift or, even better, my fellow herd-mates actually doing less to piss me off. It is true that my Ph.D., publications and other projects have given me a more proactive outlet for these emotions, but only among (let’s face it) a very, very small segment of the population both equipped and amenable to engaging on this this level. In other words, eggheads.
No, if I have been more civil on this blog of late it is because I have been self-censoring. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing - the motivation for thinking before I blog still rings true. I want to see some rather profound changes in the world I live, and that starts with me. Poking fun and otherwise berating people for their beliefs, no matter how willfully ignorant I feel they may be, will not lead to change. In fact, the opposite is probably more true – calling someone out on their idiocy is just going to make them a louder, more defensive idiot. So I am trying (with at best a modicum of success) to be the change I wish to see.
That said, I remain a work in progress and have chosen to remain fairly mum throughout the last election season. Yet following on Monday’s post about civility in the media, I do recognize that while my censorship may not add to the rampant taint among armchair pundits, it certainly does nothing to help either. I want to be certain that I am not using civility as an excuse for cowardice; that friend, family, peace-activist or hater, if you’re being an asshat, I hope to have the courage to tell you so. And I hope for the insight to tell you in such a way as to heal, not hurt. I still don’t know if these aims can coexist.
Would, therefore, that I were a humorist instead of a cynic, I might be able to publish something constructive instead of telling you outright that if you think Obama is a socialist I strongly believe that you are either willfully ignorant of what this means, a weak-minded sheep, or an unabashed racist and I defy you to provide a smidge of evidence to the veracity of this nonsense. But if you think he is on your side, that Obama spends his days trying to fight for the middle class, then you’re just as deluded.
I lobbied for Obama. I did it because I believed (and remain convinced) that he is infintiely more qualified for the job than McCain/Palin would have been and have neither regretted my efforts nor my vote. But this president, like any other in my lifetime, is beholden to the same neoliberal machine as the Republicans you probably voted for (even if fooling yourself into believing that a ‘Tea Party’ candidate is not a Republican). You don’t get elected to high-level office in this country without espousing the values of top-down economics, regardless of party. The fact that you keep voting against your own economic interests is an indication of how strongly our global hegemons have convinced you to identify with their value system. And I believe that this identification lies at the root of much suffering in the world.
I love you all, but will continue to shout - in the nicest possible way - that I think you’re being a tool until either the machine breaks down, we achieve class consciousness, or both.
UPDATE: As Doug Kendall was kind enough to point out, "we know precisely how President Washington would have responded if the armed rebellion suggested by Barber materialized: he would have crushed it. We know this because just such a rebellion - the Whiskey Rebellion - happened during Washington's presidency ... President Washington would have "gathered the armies" if Barber made good on his veiled threats, not in support of, but in opposition to, Barber's objectives.
Apologies for the radio silence over the last week. I have contracted some kind of lung infection (whooping cough?) back in April that flared up again this past week. Nothing like oxygen-deprivation to make you appreciate your health! In any case, I've been trying not to upset myself by consuming too much news, so was more than a little perturbed to wake up to find this video in my inbox featuring an imaginary conversation between Rick Barber, a frothing lunatic (who, incidentally, is running for Congress under the Tea Party umberella) and the founding fathers during which he claims that simply impeaching Obama "may not be enough", that the government should maintain no oversight or regulatory authority over business, and that taxation should be abolished. The climax comes at the end where, after erroneously claiming that the founding fathers rebelled over a tea tax, a very stern-looking Samuel Adams implores him to gather his armies.
I could not imagine a more scathing indicment of public education than a potential congressman reducing a bloody, historical battle against corporatism and the divine right of kings to a meaningless, self-serving quibble over beverage taxation.
Libertarians embrace a worldview trending towards anarchism (or at least government minimalism), a position with which, as a Neo-Gramscian Marxist, I have an abundance of affinity. In fact, on a long enough timeline (where units are measured in centuries anyway), I’ve little doubt that this is where the human condition will trend – presuming we manage not to destroy ourselves in the process. For those of us in the present tense, however, Libertarianism, like Marxism, gets a bad rap for the fact that some of its most visible proponents are either vacuous, dangerous opportunists (Palin being the most obvious example) or else otherwise intelligent individuals who are transparently inconsistent and self-serving.
Case in point of the latter is Dr. Rand Paul, the movement’s latest media darling, who was elected to the Kentucky Senate seat last week. The news outlets and blogosphere are in an unusual flaming accord this week over his recent example of government overreach in the Civil Rights Act of 1964: (WSJ: Paul's Civil-Rights Remarks Ignite Row, Wash Post: Rand Paul comments about civil rights stir controversy, Eugene Robinson: GOP's Tea Party invite might still be in the mail, The Hill: Rand Paul causes Civil Rights Act controversy with desegregation remarks, AP: Rand Paul Is 'Kentucky Fried Candidate' Over Civil Rights Comments, Lexington Herald-Leader: Paul's statements on discrimination stir controversy, NYT: Tea Party Pick Causes Uproar on Civil Rights, Salon: More historic legislation Rand Paul wouldn't have supported, PoliticsDaily: Rand Paul: An Anti-Government Conspiracy Theorist? (h/t Americablog).
If you’ve been asleep at the wheel on this one, Paul’s position is that the act, which covers a wide range of civil rights issues on interstate commerce, is but a single an example of federal intrusion in the individual liberties of business owners to determine the nature of their clientele. In the context of this example, Rand concedes that this would naturally expand to the right refuse service to people of color, gays, Jews, etc. Paul’s continued inability to staunch the blood flow on this kicked the GOP spin machine into overdrive and lead Paul to cancel his appearance on Meet the Press – only the third person in 62 years to do so.
I care far less to what degree Paul may personally be racist than I do in the fact that this degenerative myopia is completely consistent with the Libertarian platform. However persuasive I may find this mode of thought in the abstract, it presumes a fundamental faith in humanity to do the right thing without the force of law. Individual liberty is not an absolute - it comes with the caveat that one person't liberty cannot infringe on anothers. With regards to the Civil Rights Act, we state that you are free to operate a business in our country, but you are not free to restrict your operations based on the color of someone's skin.
Indeed, the universe may trend towards global justice, but it has a long, long way to go. The restaurant owner who hangs a no-blacks sign up in his window will, in the 21st century, probably get run out of (most, though not all) towns by a combination of enlightened objectors and those too embarrassed to wear racism on their sleeve by frequenting a regressive patron. But what about no-gay, no-Democrat, no-punk, no-Catholic policies or the every-more-likely no-Arab policies? Sometimes our laws exist to compel American ideals even when our citizens find them offensive for the simple reason that we share our national identity and don’t want bigots forming an outward part of our cultural landscape.
For the time being, I still manage to disconnect my emotional processes from the issues enough to understand the difference between personaility and ideology, but herein lies the problem – this may be a particularly egregious example of Libertarianism carried to its logical conclusion, but it is nevertheless conssistent with the overall platform. Where the movement’s present incarnation really breaks down is in its outward hypocrisy in preferencing the liberty of commerce over individual or collective liberties. Indeed, lost somewhat in the row over lunch-counter segregation is the fact that Paul also had harsh words for Obama's supposedly ‘un-American’ stance in blaming the oil spill on, well … the company actually responsible for it. In Paul’s universe, the same liberty that allows corporations to escape the regulatory oversight of those who would be affected by disaster should likewise extend to absolving such entities of blame when their self-policing predictably breaks down. As Robert Slayton points out:
Advocates like Dr. Paul claim that they are speaking on behalf of the little guy, against the steam-roller of a large institution like big government. The problem with this claim is that there is another big institution that harms the ordinary citizen in our world, and that is big business. And in that case, libertarians have little to condemn, and thus show their true colors. … So their dirty little secret is out. Libertarians are not really for the little guy, against structures that would grind down our individuality. They're really just right-wingers, pro-business and anti government, the only institution with the power to limit large corporations when they commit abuses. Rand Paul is sincere, but in his blindness and dogmatism, he becomes a shill for big business, not the champion of citizen's rights he claims to be.
Without doubt, we exist in an era where power is increasingly consolidated into the hands of a few multi-national corporations which, unlike government, have no responsibility for social welfare. In the U.S., capitalist malfeasance has been kept in check through a strong judiciary whereas in Europe there is strong regulation. Yet if we are to judge the Libertarian movement by it’s leaders, then we must conclude that it is a facade for what right-wingers have always pushed for – a system of commerce in which neither mode of enforcement remains available to protect citizens from the dark side of the profit motive – a conservative nanny state where the government is expected to stay out of the way - expect when necessary to ensure that capitalist movements are free from civilian oversight. In this manner, it is a disease masquerading as a solution, spouting the ideals of liberty while covertly working to dismatle the very freedoms it's adherents espouse.
Image: 9-12 March in DC-58, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from andrewaliferis's photostream
Frustrated by recent political setbacks, tea party leaders and some conservative members of the Oklahoma Legislature say they would like to create a new volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty. … But the militia talks reflect the frustration of some grass roots groups seeking new ways of fighting recent federal initiatives, such as the health reform plan, which requires all citizens to have health insurance. Over the last year, tea party groups across the country have staged rallies and pressured politicians to protest big government and demand reduced public spending.
In strongly conservative states like Oklahoma, some legislators have also discussed further action to fight federal policies, such as state legislation and lawsuits.
Excuse me - ‘some’ legislators are talking about fighting back with the law?
Image: 9-12 March in DC-71, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from andrewaliferis's photostream
As the Republican gubernatorial candidate points out, such militias are indeed permitted by the second amendment (though check out his statement for an accidental denunciation of the gun lobby’s overreach), though it is unprecedented for a state to legislatively enlist a private military to fight against the federal government. Moreover, it is entirely unclear on what kinds of military actions would be able to repel the evil onslaught of health care.
But during the 15th anniversary week of the OKC bombing, the money quote comes from J.W. Berry, a Tea Party leader in Tulsa, who argues that since it’s done with the full cooperation of the legislature, that “it's not a far-right crazy plan or anything like that.” Berry began soliciting support for the movement through his newsletter article, “Buy more guns, more bullets.”
Welcome to the growing pains of that hopey-changy thing.
Gary Hart picks up on a meme that has been troubling me for a while – namely that the common denominator among the disparate cells of the Tea Party is anger. But who the hell are they to claim a monopoly on anger?
One thing needs to be made clear. If anger is the admission dues for membership, then I qualify. I'm as angry as any tea-partier. So tea-partiers have to get over the notion that only they have a right to be angry. A lot of Americans are angry who don't necessarily therefore want to impeach Barack Obama, or spit on congressmen, or scream at town hall meetings, or bring down the government of the United States. No one, including the tea party, has a corner on anger.
One of the reasons I think that people have a difficult time taking teabaggers seriously is that, despite boasting a national sympathy of somewhere
between seventeen and twenty-eight percent of Americans, they lack any unifying platform. More specifically, their grasp of what they don’t like has not, to date, extended into a coherent articulation of what they would do differently. Shouting a cacophony of nebulous buzzwords – free-market, small government, anti-socialist – lends the appearance of a political ideology without actually having to engage with any of the intellectual rigor mandate in proffering an alternative.
Like Gary, I am no Palin-come-lately myself. I became so angry in 2000 at the Supreme Court’s Gore v. Bush decision that I’ve spent the better part of a decade working to dismantle the opportunistic, corporatocratic policies that are being jammed down our gullets. Am I a touch less angry with Obama behind the wheel? To quote Palin, ‘you betcha’. But let’s be clear – we’re talking about a kinder, gentler machine gun hand here. I have my eyes on the real problem - the usurpation of global democracy by an unchecked oligarchy of free-market ideology.
And herein lies the ultimate irony – after years of voting against their economic self-interest, the angry masses are being crushed by the free-market ideologies they so fervently supported, yet remain zealous enough to believe that the answer lies in greater commitment to a free-market. I would say that Palin and her ilk would do well to read a little bit of the Marx they claim to so despise as I would imagine they would find a great deal of themselves in his work.
I know that may be too much to ask, but I do hope the Tea Party soon learns that the real problem is far bigger than a single politician or party. And I hope they learn this lesson before somebody gets shot.
We've been seeing a lot more stories lately of cities and states resorting to unpopular measures to make up for budget shortfalls. For example, the radical conservative Colorado Springs - you know, the city that recently made the news for banning puppet cleavage - has not only sharply curtailed or eliminated public works such as street lights and highway maintenance, but even police and fire protections in the wake massive tax cuts.
The entire teabagger premise of taxation is based on a separation between self and the collective. If you see government as something forced upon you, then there is logic to not giving 'them' your money. I, on the other hand, really don't want to be bother filling in potholes and chasing down serial rapists, nor do I want to be bogged down in the details of how to coordinate these and other activities with surrounding communities, states, countries, and the world-at-large. I would much rather hire others to do those things for me. As Winston notes:
The Tea Party doesn't seem to get that "government" actually covers an amazing range of things that you want -- roads, police, firemen, hospitals, schools, consumer protections, environmental protection, and on and on. Oh, and libraries.
Though to be fair, I've seen little evidence that teabaggers would care about the latter.
Ali A. Rizvi has an excellent piece up at THP on the anti-intellectual faction that seems to be dominating the Teabaggers.
By painting educated, well-earning, science-embracing, articulate, introspective, intellectual citizens as un-American, the Republican party has built an entire base made up of those who not only don't possess these attributes, but enthusiastically abhor those who do. Not only are these factions now split along lines of educational achievement, socioeconomic status, and cultural and religious values, but most significantly, along an "intellectual divide".
The entire article is worth a read. This is something that’s been increasingly irking me for the last decade. I mean, it’s one thing to be ignorant – a state of being with which I am more than a little familiar. But it’s another thing entirely to wear that ignorance like a badge of honor. I mean, these are the kids that sat in the back of class throwing spitballs at each other and now they’re on the precipice of public office.
The latest inanity, of course, comes from FOXNews wingnuts gleefully pointing to a snowstorm as somehow debunking mountains of data showing a steady rise in global mean temperatures. Because, you know … it’s snowing. And, er , it can’t snow when it’s, ya know, warming out.
On a totally unrelated note, I ate eggs this morning. That means that I will eat eggs every morning. And THAT means that EVERYONE will too. Mu-ha-ahahah!!!
Oh, an for my dear friends outside the United States, check out this link to find out how to view the above clip.
Seriously, I could care less about this story. We all know that Palin has a limited ability to think on her feet, so if she needs a little help to remember her talking points, power to her. I mean, anything is better than the kind of verbal flatulence she spewed during the campaign. But when she does it WHILE slamming Obama for using a teleprompter … well, that’s just mock-worthy!
Conflict and Conciliation: Faith and Politics in an Age of Global Dissonance
Despite the peaceful foundations of global monotheistic religions, the broad diversity of interpretations can lead to a sharp paradox regarding the use of force. Inevitably, we must ask ourselves: How can those who ascribe to peaceful beliefs suspend their own moral foundation to beat the drums of war? ... read more
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A self-indulgent blog for people just like me - PhD, author, photographer, entrepreneur, husband, father, music-lover, and uber-geek. More about Jay