Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Your Country or Your Life

Remember all the times Cheney and Rove and all the other Bush-era sleazoids claimed and still claim that they "kept America safe" during the last eight years? Well, I do not think that word means what they think it means.

In fact, I'm thinking maybe they weren't really talking at all about little trifles like Katrina and 9/11 and two invasions and economic collapse and whatnot after all - stuff that most normal people would cite when discussing national security. Maybe they meant "safe from attacks by our kind of people as long as we're in power." You know, Goodfellas-type "safe."

What got me thinking this was Paul Krugman's column today wherein he makes the following connection: "Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment." And I thought, if we had this with the centrist Clinton and now the centrist Obama but not with the extremist right-winger Bush in between, this must be what the extremist right-wing means by "safe." Safe from them, as long as they're the ones in charge.

It just seems like the creepiest form of blackmail, doesn't it? "Nice country you have here, more or less. Wouldn't want something should happen to its citizens. Now, hand me the country and I'll make sure my boys keep their guns closer to their vests." What a barrel they have us over - your country or your life! Yet another damned-if-we-do and damned-if-we-don't situation, only they're playing it on a grand scale now.

As long time extremist-watcher Sara Robinson notes, in her open letter to conservatives, "The assassins themselves are ratting you out. They're telling us, straight up, that they were inspired to act by the hate radio talkers that you empowered." (If you need a further scare, see Sara's 2009 timeline of right-wing extremist-perpetuated hate crimes.)

These people celebrate warped thinking. They seem to constantly need a straw-enemy to scapegoat, no matter how absurd their claims about their so-called opponents are (especially in the age of Google where interested citizens can be more in touch with the "Other" than ever before). Hilzoy notes, citing a C.S. Lewis quote, "If you give in to 'the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible,' it's easy to see how you could end up thinking things about them that it is implausible to think about any group of human being." There just doesn't seem to be any logical thought at work here any more, it's all lizard-brain visceral nastiness and bullying. I really miss the days when I could have substantive debates with my conservative friends. Heck, I really miss having conservative friends! (I think that's a big difference between these rabid extremists and most people I know; we covet and yearn for friendship, for more people to love, and they just want more people to hate.)

The last straw of this straw-enemy thinking is how the frequency of words suddenly meaning their opposite has increased. Time was we all knew what fascism meant. It didn't need explaining. Same with socialism, liberalism, and tons of other words and phrases that used to be descriptive rather than pejorative. The majority of these language-bending slurs and invective are flung like so much monkey-poo by pre-judgmental extremist loonies who occasionally get hoist on their own petard, as in Digby's example, but far too often get rewarded with big ratings. Heck, even otherwise sensible media people obsess over these folks. "Does Rush Limbaugh Have Too Much Say?" ask folks like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Well sure, as long as you keep obsessing over his every bouncy-bouncy word!

I'm not saying we should be ignoring these people. Certainly not now that their words have encouraged their followers to more and more heinous actions. But I'm suggesting that we stop accepting them, and stop giving in to their blackmail. Don't give them the satisfaction of seeing their twisted rhetoric repeated and "analyzed" ad nauseum from your mouths or on your blogs. All sensible people can agree that what they say is horrible and dangerous. Let's try to do something constructive against these words, rather than becoming party to spreading them.

My country or my life? It should never be a choice. Both, please.