Monday, September 20, 2010

You Can't Debate The Far Right

I've said this before and I repeat it here:  You can't debate the far right because you have to spend all of your time correcting the falsehoods they've been fed. 

I'm old enough to remember when political discourse was based on policy and actual facts.  Liberals and conservatives used to argue actual ideas based on real information that both agreed on.  It was good for the country too - no one has a lock on the truth or good ideas and debating those ideas helped us move forward.  To paraphrase what former Senator and Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern said once:  We need both conservatives and liberals in America.  We need conservatives to slow down the exuberance of liberals and liberals to speed up needed change when conservatives slow things down too much.

Those days are gone.  Conservatism has been replaced by knee-jerk reaction from the right against any and everything the liberals propose.  Absolutely nonsensical claims from the right are now the norm, bolstered and fed by rightwing hate radio and TV.  I don't need to rehash them here - you all see and hear them everyday.  The fact that most if not all of what the far right claim as truth is easily debunked matters nothing to them - tell them the truth and you get back the lie, over and over.

The right is looking more and more cult-like as the days go on as well.  There was a book named Holy Terror written in 1984 just before the Religious Right took over the Republican Party.  The authors made the point back then that some Christianity was very cult-like in that its adherents could listen and see nothing but Christian materials (news, music, television, etc.) all day, every day if they chose to.  Thanks to the explosion of cable and the internet the rightwingers can now spend their day listening to rightwing talk, visiting rightwing "news" sites and finish their day watching Fox News if they choose.  All with not a single time having to deal with real news reporting or information.

And that's exactly what they do too.

If this described just the more fervent members of the "conservative movement" there would be not as much reason for concern.  Both sides have their extremes - I've heard a version of Glenn Beck's "FEMA camps" going back as far as the days of LBJ and Nixon coming from the left who breathlessly assured me that both Presidents were secretly building concentration camps for anti-war demonstrators.  My response then as now to such madness was to nod, smile and back away slowly. 

The dangerous part is that the nuttiness that used to confined to fringe groups that were dismissed and derided is now coming from Republican candidates and elected officials.  When people on the internet and out in the streets talk about Obama being a socialist and talk about secession and revolution just because an election didn't go their way needs to be watched but is mainly harmless.  The prospect that people who are or can be elected to propose and vote on actual laws acting to put that crackpot-ery into effect should scare the hell out of anyone with a lick of sense.

What to do?  Those of us with "a lick of sense" and more need to realize that we're not going to reach everyone, but everyone needs to know how the modern far right thinks.  Arguing with the idiot right is fruitless and a waste of time (although, admittedly, driving them even crazier is big fun):  they are absolutely convinced that they, and they alone, have the truth and everything to the contrary is "liberal propaganda."  Realize as well that the truth doesn't set anybody free - repeating it over and over and over until it sinks in does. 

Don't count on the Democrats to do this for us either - the Dems are and always have been timid when it comes to confronting the ridiculous right.  Don't count on the corporate media for help either - when they aren't pushing fluff, they continue to carry the GOP's water for a very good reason (for them):  the GOP is more likely to give them more goodies, tax and legislation-wise, than the Democrats.  What we need to do is blog, post, talk to our neighbors and get the facts out there.  Be our own media, as it were.

The most important thing to do this year?  GET OUT, VOTE, AND BRING YOUR FRIENDS.  I know some of us are disappointed that voting Democrats back into power in '06 and '08 hasn't brought everything we hoped it would, but it has done a lot of it.  Swallow hard if you must, but sitting home and letting rightwing nuts come to power by default is not an option.  Arguing may not work with the right but defeating them sure as hell does.  Then we can say to them what Dubya once said to one of his detractors:  "Who cares what you think?"

Saturday, September 11, 2010


(this came from my email and is too good not to share...)

- being a conservative means I can be selfish and not feel bad about it.

- being a conservative means all the problems of the world can be attributed to liberals.

- being a conservative means I never have to acknowledge flaws in my philosophy.

- being a conservative means anything a Democrat does is bad.

- being a conservative means I can pretend we only have a liberal media.

- being a conservative means I'm more concerned about protecting a definition than I am about protecting the rights of Americans.

- being a conservative means that I'm sorry if I offended you, but I'm not really sorry for what I actually said.

- being a conservative means I never have to try to solve any problems in the government because I insist government is the problem anyway.

- being a conservative means I can lay off workers to boost profits then complain about lazy unemployed people.

- being a conservative means I am staunchly pro-life and will put a bullet through the eyes of any liberal who challenges that.

- being a conservative means you folks are going to hell because you don't live your life the way *I* think you are supposed to live your life.

- being a conservative means you can blame problems on poor people instead of the rich ones (who actually run things).

- being a conservative means believing in spite and fear instead of hope and change.

- being a conservative means knowing for certain that gays and lesbians are worthless and weak, yet letting them marry would destroy civilization as we know it.

- being a conservative means you get to yell your talking points and write in all caps, especially the word "LIBRUL!"

- being a conservative means sometimes people have to starve if it proves my point.

- being a conservative means pretending the Republican party was born the night Ronald Reagan was elected.

- being a conservative means knowing that everything that was bad up to 2006 was Bill Clinton's fault; everything bad that happened from 2007 to 2009 was Nancy Pelosi's fault, and everything after that is Barack Obama's fault.

- being a conservative means even when I'm wrong, I'm right.

- being a conservative means getting my pension through the teachers union, even though I HATE unions.

- being a conservative means I can view all things I don't understand with contempt and not have to make the effort to change.

- being a conservative means I can accuse President Obama of being divisive because I didn't vote for him and he won anyway.

- being a conservative means being more concerned about the flag than the people and the country it stands for.

- being a conservative means I am not a racist -- black people are the real racists.

- being a conservative means the news I don't like hearing is just liberal propaganda.

- being a conservative means being against Social Security, Medicare and Civil Rights, because justice is "socialist".

- being a conservative means that if I just scream "JESUS!" the loudest, I don't have to actually live by any of his teachings.

- being a conservative means I don't have to think; somebody's taking care of that for me.

- and best of all, no matter how badly I screw up, I can always get a job at Fox News or a conservative "think" tank.

9/11, Nine Years Later - Haven't We Had Enough?

Today is the anniversary of 9/11.  The ninth anniversary.  I'm not turning on my TV to watch any of the ceremonies.  I'm not going to watch any TV specials about that horrific day - I've already seen them.  Don't I remember 9/11?  Of course I do.  How can any American forget?  None of us, I imagine.

I remember being woken up early for work by my late wife to the news.  I remember seeing the pictures on my TV of the damage from the first plane hitting one of the World Trade Center Towers and thinking it wasn't that bad (What was on my TV was a close-up of the damage with no sense of perspective as to how large that fiery hole in the building actually was).  I remember the horror of watching the second plane hit the other tower and realizing that this was no accident, this was a deliberate attack.  I remember the story of the passengers on another plane paying the ultimate sacrifice over Pennsylvania to prevent their jet from becoming another missile to be used to attack the White House or the Capitol building in DC. 

I remember something else as well - watching all of this from Oregon and not feeling much fear over it.  I remember going to work, delivering mail as a letter carrier, and the look of shock on the faces of people when I pulled my mail truck into a particular apartment complex to deliver their mail.  I remember this conversation with one of my customers too:

Customer:  "You're working today?"
Me:  "Of course, why wouldn't I be?"
Customer:  "Aren't you afraid because of where we're at?"
Me:  "You mean the state capitol?"
Customer:  "Yes."
Me:  "There's 50 of those across the country.  I think we'll be OK."
That was all nine years ago.  NINE.  YEARS. AGO.  Some people would like us to act like it just happened today.

I've never been to New York but from TV and other sources I understand that going to "Ground Zero" now means visiting a construction site, not the barren tangle of twisted iron it once was.   There will be a new skyscraper there to replace the two that collapsed, plus an underground mall and a memorial museum in remembrance of the worst terrorist attack on American soil to date.  This is a good thing - it means that city is rebounding from the tragedy and mass murder it suffered. 

The ceremonies to remember the people who's lives were cut short on that day by hate will continue, as they should.  I have been to another, actual Ground Zero site: Peace Park in Hiroshima, Japan - the site of the first atomic bombing.  The building that stood directly under the air burst nuclear bomb in World War II still stands there and there's a museum there as well.  They still hold ceremonies - religious and civic - to remember the people who died on that day too.

Let's not forget another anniversary date in American history:  April 19th, 1995.  That was when two American extreme right terrorists attacked  this country at Oklahoma City in what is still the largest act of domestic terrorism committed on American soil as well.  There's a memorial there as well as annual ceremonies to remember the people who died that day.

What's different between Hiroshima, Oklahoma City and the 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon?  Only one of them still essentially shuts down a country to remember it.  This is not a good thing.

There's a difference between remembering and obsessing and we're getting very close to doing the latter when it comes to 9/11...if we haven't already reached that point.  Of course, there's benefits to some to do this:  political gain, for one - financial gain for others and sometimes the two overlap.  It's disturbing and ghoulish to use the deaths of over 2,000 people to try to get votes and sell seminars and DVDs on hating Muslims everywhere.

It's not just some Americans who are seeing the political gain here.  The constant selling of fear is just what the terrorists who attacked us wanted when they did their deed.  The people who flew airplanes into buildings in New York and into the Pentagon didn't do what they did in hopes of taking over America, they did it in hopes that we'd become so fearful that we'd bankrupt ourselves fighting them and step into traps they set (like, say, Iraq) so we'd be otherwise engaged and they'd be able to pursue other goals.  Look at the root word of "terrorist" - it means to invoke terror in others by attacking their victims to gain political goals. They aren't called conquestists. 

How do we really fight terrorism?  Be vigilant, do what we need to stop them if we can but stop being so afraid.  In it's entire, murderous history terrorism has never achieved the goals it set out to accomplish.  Not ever.  Personally, you and I have the same chance of being involved/hurt/killed in a terrorist attack now as we did prior to 9/11:  under 1%.  Those are very good odds in our favor.  Live your lives fearlessly. 

And finally, let us never forget the events of this date and those who were killed in it but don't make it the central point of our lives or our national policy.  It's time to let 9/11 go.