I spent Saturday night in ER at Duke Hospital. No biggie. I fainted two or three times at a Mexican restaurant, before what was supposed to be a fun evening with my friend Ann at a David Sedaris event downtown.
Much of the night I was kept up by the chatty night nurse, Ray, who shared his unasked-for opinions on politics, death, and the economy. Ray is a cheery conservative who thinks he’s funnier than he is—to me anyway. He said that it was his goal to keep me bored all night, and at some point, I told him, “So far, so good.” He liked that one.
He also told me that Obama’s stimulus plan—Ray called him “O-boo-boo”—ha ha ha ha ha ha—could be explained this way: if somebody handed out a million dollars every minute since Christ was born, the sum total would not equal the debt that Obama is incurring. I countered that Bush hadn’t done such a bad job cranking up the debt either, and that touched a nerve with Ray—something you don’t want to do when a guy’s drawing your blood every three hours—and he said there really was no comparison.
He also regaled me with his boyhood memories of replacing, along with some other mischievous lads, the American flag with the Nazi swastika flag in high school, which he and the other guys (really fun guys, apparently) sieg-heiled instead of reciting the morning pledge of allegiance. Boy, was the nun pissed!
In three days, he said, he is going to the state capitol in Raleigh to participate in an anti-government rally, which he dubbed the new Boston tea party.
Or maybe it was the new Mad Hatter’s tea party—it was three in the morning, and I wasn’t taking careful notes.
In a provocative blog in The Smirking Chimp on Friday, Stephen Rose charges Republican mouthpieces with what appears to him to be possibly sedition.
Rush Limbaugh publicly longs for Barack Obama to fail, Michelle Bachmann says most of her colleagues inside the government actually hate America, Spencer Bachus has a secret list of seventeen (card-carrying?) socialists in Congress, and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck urge their viewers to take their country back after just 80 days of the worst tyranny these fellows have ever witnessed, apparently.
To be sure, these people have a right to free speech, including harsh criticism of the President and their own peers in government, and, to borrow Jon Stewart’s catchy phrase, “to speak crazy to power.”
I have to confess that I, too, have had my faux-seditious fantasies, so I understand a little of the right wing’s emotions here. My particular daydream during the Bush Presidency was an assassination staged by me and five or six oiled-up go-go boys in gold G-strings—sort of Manchurian Candidate meets Barbarella on Brokeback Mountain.
No, I never really wanted to destroy the government, though I wanted somebody somewhere to take some sort of stand against the madness of Bush and his cohorts. Despite the crassness of the fantasy elements, my concerns were genuine and patriotic, not self-serving or nihilistic.
The fantasy was less seditious than what Bush himself was doing in dismantling the nation’s civil liberties, its military, its democratic elections, its economy, its global reputation, its educational system, and its infrastructure and in “downsizing” the government from within, in a way that was more suggestive of a will to kill and skin than to preserve and protect.
My fantasy was a way to let off steam—in the absence of effective political opposition to what Bush was doing (and to this day I blame the Democrats, as a whole, for this absence)—and I seriously would have regretted an actual assassination—though, I hasten to add, impeachment and some prison time are still very much in order.
Rose’s argument (if not his accusations) falls apart for me partly because he equates Obama with the nation—an equivocation that I find distasteful, as much so as when previous Presidents—and George W. Bush, most flagrantly of all—assumed that they and the nation were identical.
But I do see Rose’s point. Obama’s enemies have been relentless in attacking the new President not just for being no better (yet) than his predecessors, but for perpetrating an unprecedented hoax and subverting the American way in favor of … they can’t agree what … socialism? Islam? Satanism? secularism? gay rights and abortion?
Rose explains, “[T]heir strategy is immediate lie-fabrication and fact-distortion while creating an atmosphere of ‘imagined’ mistakes way before the effectiveness of policies can be measured. Are they attempting to incite many of the most unstable and paranoid people in our society to sedition?!?”
I am all for keeping a careful watch on our nation’s leaders—even while recognizing that the task is difficult, perhaps even impossible. But as reasonable people we are not free to simply fill in the gaps of our knowledge with whatever conjectures our ape-shit wet-your-britches panic inspires in us at a moment of global crisis.
So far I have seen nothing in Obama’s performance as President that suggests that he poses a distinct threat to the country or its best traditions of liberty, justice, and opportunity. For me, George W. Bush would be a hard act to follow in this respect. I have seen nothing in all the blogs and vlogs I’ve checked out so far that convinces me that Obama’s dangerousness is even close to Bush’s.
For that matter, what Obama is doing (even if misguided and ineffectual—and it may well be both or neither—time will tell) seems to be, in most respects, a continuation of the path taken by the previous three administrations, albeit with somewhat less arrogance, oiliness, and presumption of a divine right to leadership.
The rightwing rhetoric that I hear sounds opportunistic—exploiting national crises the right’s own political agendas fanned the flames of. Republicans were ready to blame Obama and liberals for the bad economy well before Bush and the Republican-majority Congress even left office.
What is more, they wrap their hysteria in high-flown appeals to liberty—which they have no interest in spreading beyond their own venal interests, the Constitution—for which they have shown little respect in the recent past, and our revered founding fathers—to whom they bear no resemblance whatsoever.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence, to judge from the document itself, did not view themselves as sabotaging the British monarchy and deliberately framed their action as, in fact, an attempt to protect the integrity of existing colonial governments—to oppose King George because he “refused his Assent to Laws” and forbad the passing of “Laws of immediate and pressing importance,” thus negating the colonists’ natural rights to, among others, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Analogies to the Boston tea party appeal to Americans’ rebel image of themselves. Despite our outward buttoned-down doughiness, we Americans like to see ourselves as James Dean—but more cautious as motorists. But the tea party of 2009 is a gimmick, a cynical and self-serving gimmick that betrays the wit and true risk-taking courage of the Boston patriots long ago.
And let’s face it, if Republicans were in charge now—but this time Republicans like McCain who (I suppose) actually wanted to save America, rather than gang-rape it while it sleeps—they would be pushing new taxes—just as Reagan and G.H.W. Bush did—and probably pumping the same big bucks into the corporate sector that Obama is—but, I suspect, with one-fifth the concern for how either of these actions affects ordinary American workers.
Obama is not perfect. He may not even be good. And he’s certainly not immune to the typical flaws of most politicians of all ages. But he has not yet revealed himself (to me, anyway) as the Great Satan that his detractors seem to think he is.
In the other party I mentioned, the Hatter’s mad party, the March Hare invites Alice to have some wine, which isn’t there, a point Alice sensibly raises. Then the March Hare criticizes Alice for daring to sit down to a party without being invited—having not in fact been invited to share whatever is actually there on the long table—a nice but familiarly quibbling point. Alice counters by saying that she was not aware that the party was just for the Hatter and his two friends, “all crowded together at one corner,” since “it’s laid for a great many more than three.”
To which the Hatter responds in the voice of conservatives and exclusionists everywhere: he tells her to get a haircut.