January 11, 2011

i promised myself a rose garden


Both my inbox and this comments section have been getting some very beautifully-written screeds exhorting us to be nicer in politics - ending the epithets and rancor that is currently gunking up the national debate. My lifelong friend The Budster, in particular, was as passionate as I've seen him outside of a Dook game, so I hope he won't be chagrined to hear that I'm sorry... I just can't be nice.

Liberals and progressives have lost. We've lost every single political fight in recent history: homosexuals are still second-class citizens, we're still at war on the other side of the world, corporations are now people, pretty much anyone can buy and conceal a semi-automatic weapon, we have no environmental policy, and we still legally kill our own people with the death penalty.

To make matters worse, the other side is not content with winning: they are on a scorched-earth campaign to eliminate resistance. Back in 1964 when the Civil Rights legislation went through, conservatives took their lumps and moved on; these days, they want to simply repeal the new health plan as if it never happened. They don't negotiate; they eliminate.

They speak in words calculated to stimulate our fight-or-flight hormones and convince simple folk to vote against their own interests. When problems occur, they find a weak subset of Americans and blame it all on them. Their lectern is huge, their microphones are deafening, and they are winning.

And now, after another gunman has targeted a Democrat (and killed 6 innocent people in the process), WE'RE SUPPOSED TO JOIN THE RIGHT WING TO TONE DOWN OUR RHETORIC? I'm sorry, but motherfucking FUCK THAT. If the neo-conservative carnival barkers were to suddenly cut their hatemongering by 95%, and those of us on the left were to quadruple our loathing, it'd still be grossly unequal.

Our beloved Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was instrumental in overcoming Republicans to get health coverage for the first responders during 9/11. When the bill passed, I got all the political emails declaring victory. I love my Senator, but procuring get basic health coverage for sick and dying firemen NINE YEARS AFTER THE WORST ATTACK ON AMERICAN SOIL is not a victory, it's a Shakespearian tragedy. It's a sick reminder that we don't own any debate; we are only renting.

As soon as progressives stop being angry, the only ones speaking will be wingnuts. All liberals ever wanted was for things to be a little more fair, and for people to take care of the fuckin' planet. Conservatives conjure up fat welfare moms counting their cash, gays buttfucking each other in front of children, and Mexicans coming over the border and cackling as they take your jobs. Then they invoke God and rile up their base with ugly lies and end-times paranoia.

Lower the volume, calm the rhetoric? Stop the denouncing, the demonizing? Put a moratorium on the name-calling and come back to the table in hope of finding common ground? That's all well and good, but for the right wingers, I have only two words: you first.

Posted by Ian Williams at January 11, 2011 11:09 PM
Posted by: Anne at January 12, 2011 5:41 AM

I'm torn, Ian, between my idealistic (and spiritual) belief that meeting rhetorical violence with peaceful words and demeanor are the way to defuse some of the rage, and my fear that you are right -- time to fight fire with fire, and then some.

Posted by: Sean at January 12, 2011 6:36 AM

Ian, I know that the content of this site is largely about maintaining a certain level of interest, and these foaming-at-the-mouth diatribes certainly do that. And the first day, when I heard about the nine year old girl, I was so disgusted and heartbroken that I lashed out at Palin et al, because I desperately wanted someone to blame, just so I could say, "if we stop *this*, then we can stop *that*".

But it doesn't hold water. The right's rhetoric could be twice as bad as it is, and it still wouldn't be to blame for the shooter's actions. The kid is a paranoid schizophrenic, his brain wasn't taking in information from a website or a facebook page and then converting that information to action. He's desperately ill, his actions are a by-product of his illness. It would be like blaming a person with the flu for being hot because they were reading about global warming.

The only reason I say anything here is because the speech that you decry isn't bad because it's hateful, it's bad because it's easy and appeals to our lowest, most emotional reactionary selves. And the Palins of the world know this, they know that they can throw meat to the lions, and the lions who don't need their meat cooked will lap it up.

As liberals, as progressives, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Non-reactionary, non-emotional. We mock people who say, "I just feel it in my gut," we back up what we say with hard science and math.

In today's blog, you back up nothing you're saying. No specific quotes from right-wingers, but some bizarre 95% and quadruple math stuff. You say the right wing is "winning", but you don't say how. Particularly since you mention the civil rights laws of 1964, and we currently have a black president, it seems absurd. You say a gunman has targeted a Democrat, but you don't back that up, you ascribe deliberation to a man who is desperately sick.

In the end, this post doesn't help anything. At all. There's no solution here, no solace, no understanding, nothing. Just red meat for idiots on our side of the aisle, just another knee jerk that can let the no-blood-for-oil crowd feel morally superior yet again. And you've got a lot of readers and a huge chance to say something significant here, but this post is just another piece of tinder added to the bottom of a bonfire.

Here are two pieces that I think actually illuminate what happened.


Posted by: josie at January 12, 2011 8:24 AM

It's Karl Rove's fault. Blame him for this mess; He started it.

Posted by: John Galt at January 12, 2011 9:28 AM

"As soon as progressives stop being angry, the only ones speaking will be wingnuts."

Once again, Ian, you're way ahead of the curve; wingnutting it all the way. Too bad you don't run this stuff past somebody like Sean before pulling the trigger on a verbal bomb like this. Oh wait; am I allowed to say 'bomb' and 'trigger' anymore? Just can't keep up with the PC business... And you say the right is winning?

Posted by: Ian at January 12, 2011 10:03 AM

Sean, if the implication is that I'm posting these diatribes in order to troll for page hits, there are certainly better ways I could be doing that. That criticism also negates everything I write on these pages as salacious and hollow.

I don't give a fuck if Jared Loughner is schizophrenic or not - I'm reacting to the general statement that "both sides of the political divide have to tone down their rhetoric", because just the MERE ACT OF SAYING THAT means we're playing by the other side's rules (see terms like "partial-birth abortion" for other examples).

This particular entry has no facts and "specific quotes" because I don't feel like linking every last thing Beck, Limbaugh, Malkin, Boehner, Angle, Va. Foxx, Coulter, Savage, the cast of Fox & Friends, etc. have said. That would be three weeks of work by itself.

And I think my list of progressive defeats is pretty clear about how the right is "winning", and just because we have a black President doesn't mean this country has any sort of clue about race.

Again, I'm happy to tone down the rhetoric as soon as the other side shows the slightest bit of compunction about toning down theirs. The onus is on THEM, not us. You say liberals should hold themselves to a higher standard... how exactly has that been working out for us? It's one thing to keep to the same set of rules, but not if we're playing Scrabble, and they're playing War.

Posted by: Bud at January 12, 2011 11:16 AM

Ian, you missed the point of my comments.

I'm NOT saying we shouldn't be angry or that we should stop arguing passionately for what we believe in. We HAVE to do that. (We should also realize that from their point of view, the conservatives also have to do that).

I'm saying we should make our case without personal attacks (insults) and that we should call the other side on it when they make it personal against us. To your credit, that's basically what you did today. Kudos.

And as I said yesterday, after each side makes its case, TAKE A FRAKKING VOTE ON IT and move on. We have too many problems to stay mired in this playground bullshit. One side has to play the part of the adult. Of necessity, that's us. Maybe the other side will reciprocate. Maybe they won't.

Either way, we win.

Because when one side of an argument is kicking and screaming while the other is calmly but firmly standing their ground, it's easy for the spectators to tell who the asshole is. When both sides kick and scream, the spectators tend to get confused.

Finally, we've won more than you recognize. 40 years ago, gay rights wasn't even on the table. Now, more than 50% of Americans support gay marriage and that will keep rising. We have troop withdrawal timetables for both Iraq and Afghanistan. Corporations have been recognized as persons since 1886; only now many of us are working to change that. Most of our rivers and streams are cleaner than they were 50 years ago. And use of (and support for) the death penalty continue to wane.

We can't win them all, but we have won quite a few. If we take and hold the high ground, we will win even more.

Posted by: Bud at January 12, 2011 11:26 AM

Oh, and I neglected to say - when both sides of the argument can argue without demonizing each other, we can begin to make serious progress against the problems that we all share. Obviously, that's the biggest win of all.

Posted by: Paul G at January 12, 2011 12:42 PM

I'm with you, Ian.

Posted by: littlerattyratratrat at January 12, 2011 12:44 PM

What Bud said.

Posted by: Salem at January 12, 2011 4:06 PM

I don't worry when the President makes a trip to visit our troops, and yet I'm completely uncomfortable with him in Arizona.

Posted by: jane at January 12, 2011 4:21 PM

Ian, does that rant really make sense to you? when you think it through, what is the logical outcome of such a strategy? not in a philosophical sense, or spiritual or any other high fallutin' sense, just in practical terms. bottom line it means that you are helpless because the other guy is the one with the power to change it.

that is guaranteed to maintain the status quo.

i'm just saying.



Posted by: dob at January 12, 2011 9:10 PM

Jane, if enough people are repulsed by the sustained incivility, hostility, and insanity exhibited by the Tea Party wing of the GOP, we can vote them into irrelevance.

Posted by: jane schulberg at January 13, 2011 6:53 AM

dob, i think that is exactly what will happen.

and, since we can't either shoot 'em or bury them in the yard, it is our most feasible alternative.

from my typing fingers to god's ear

Posted by: wottop at January 13, 2011 12:08 PM

When it ends up beign about who can win in the short term instead of governing then you get what we have. All the rhetoric is just means to the end of winning. If you can get voters to vote against their own self interests, then all the better.

We, as voters, ALWAYS get what we deserve.

Posted by: kent at January 13, 2011 1:41 PM

Is it demonizing when you're debating someone who is in fact demonic?

Posted by: Kevin_In_Philadelphia at January 13, 2011 4:34 PM

This and the previous post perfectly sum up my feeling about this country and its inhabitants. Still considering a move off continent.

Posted by: Kevin_In_Philadelphia at January 13, 2011 4:37 PM

Also, anyone who uses "John Galt" as a pseudonym at any time is a worthless fucking douchebag and a mjor part of the problem.

Posted by: the other lee at January 14, 2011 6:39 AM

I'm with Ian

Fuck em

Posted by: John Galt at January 18, 2011 9:43 AM

@kent: I've been wondering that for years.

@Kevin_In_Philadelphia: Not a pseudonym; I lay the blame squarely at my parents' weird sense of humor. And by the way, making stupid assumptions like that doesn't help things much either, ya douchebag.

"I'm happy to tone down the rhetoric as soon as the other side shows the slightest bit of compunction about toning down theirs."

Listening to the chatter on the right, it seems that's the thinking what got us here in the first place. The right is responding to the rhetoric from the left. Difference now is that the right is getting into the swing of things with this newfangled Internet thingy, whereas in years past it's pretty much been owned by the left. I for one am glad to see the balance.

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got to say. Just my opinion, it might bring your blog a little bit more interesting.

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