Monday, November 01, 2010

A View From A Bridge

The Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear was a success by nearly any measure...unless you're a right wing hack with an axe to grind. Putting aside the mushy moron maniacs, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert exposed and skewered the drumbeat of fear that both sides of the nation, this humble blogger included, have pounded out.
For my part, I could point out that I am tired of being smeared with a brush of tar. I strike back because it's one thing to disagree with my politics and the effect that has on the nation, it's another thing to accuse me of hating my country or being evil. Nations survive nearly everything. Look at Germany, which in the past hundred years alone has been beaten twice in World Wars and suffered both the utter tyranny of right-wing fascism and the divisions of left wing socialism, and today is still among the most powerful and influential nations on the planet.
But that would be an excuse and also a digression...
I came across a plea from the UK:

Bank regulation, healthcare reform, rescuing the financial system ... the president has done many good things in his "yes we can, but" two years. But he still hasn't learned how to govern as a centrist or a populist which is what you have to do to govern the United States.

But anything he can do badly his opponents can usually do worse, as George Bush so often proved. So let's hope that Middle America decides tomorrow that it would prefer an honest prig to some of the shyster rascals offering themselves for office. America, we still need you, but we need you sane.

If the rally on Saturday taught us anything, it is to discount anyone who comes at us with hate and fear. Anyone who tries to get our vote by telling us that so-and-so is Hitler is someone who doesn't deserve the time of day. As Stewart said in his keynote, "There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. "

When some rightwinger tells you Obama is a Muslim terrorist socialist hellbent on destroying America, change the channel. It doesn't matter how much "evidence" he claims to have. He's lying and you know it, so why listen to him? And if you DO listen to him, what does that say about you? If you believe him, it's because you want to believe him, you want to believe that some Muslim terrorist socialist fanatic somehow managed to bamboozle 60% of the American public into electing him, when that clearly would never happen here.  

When people complain about a cultural center a half mile from Ground Zero, ask them for the facts: is it illegal to be Muslim and want to reach out in this nation?

When people tell you universal healthcare is bad, ask them if its better that 40 million people live with the fear of losing their homes because they can't afford to let a corporation profit from their bodies?

And moreover, don't let me or anyone else do your thinking for you. It's your life. Take responsibility for it. Inform yourself. Pay attention.

Fear is ignorance. It's one thing to fear a wolf that's actually at the door, it's a very different thing to fear a wolf that might show up at your door someday if traffic is just right and he manages to get on the right train, walk the right street, and press the right door bell. It's one thing to fear the bear in the woods IF you're already in the woods, it's another thing to fear the bear that's in a cage at the zoo. 

Most of life is about preparation, in my experience. Things happen, sure. Horrible things, terrible things. Our mainstream media makes sure to supply us with healthy doses on a daily basis of fear. Just watch the evening news tonight, but instead of swallowing everything Couric or Brokaw or Bill O'Reilly feed you like a little baby sucking the spoon mommy thrusts in his mouth, bring your laptop to the couch with you, and Google the news. Sure, you'll see those stories, but for every fire or tsunami they cover, there are six other things going on that are more relevant to you, things that you need to know about because, guess what? By the next election cycle, those will be the things candidates and their handlers will try to scare you with. 

There are facts out there. When someone tells you a fact second hand, you are hearing it thru his or her filter, and trust me, most of the filters I've seen in this country need a good scrubbing. Go find out for yourself. Skip "Glee" this week and spend that hour of's called TiVo or a VCR, use it!...learning five facts about the news you're hearing. 

People are fallible. Obama is fallible. I'm fallible. And here's the shocking news: you are fallible, too. 

When Christine O'Donnell was haunted this year by a stupid comment on a show many years ago about dabbling in withcraft, she wasn't mocked for that comment. She was mocked because she set a narrative for herself that she was above sin, above humanity, and infallible, and that we should listen to her because she has the answers, and she not only failed to live up to that narrative (as seems to happen anytime someone sets that narrative, usually a Republican) but we saw that narrative was a sham from the get-go. She was saying now whatever it took to get her fifteen minutes of fame and possibly steal an election.

Same for Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, except they were more successful at avoiding the exposure of their narrative until the concrete had set. Still, none of them is going to get elected to high national office, and they know it. This is why they avoid the topic at all costs, except to tease a little more money from the rubes.

As fallible as they are, could any of us stand up to the withering dissection of politics? This is why Obama ran as soon as he could, because he didn't want to leave a trail. This is why George W. Bush paid great money to hide his TANG records. This is why Presidents nominate cyphers to the Supreme Court. And all of this is damaging to the nation. We need people we can be sure are sane, not ideologues. People who can reach out and compromise with the opposition because, like it or not, those folks deserve a say in how the nation moves forward too.

Barack Obama tried and got his hands burned not because he was wrong to reach out, but because the opposition was going to play dirty.

"Playing dirty" is not a good enough excuse to not try. Getting burned and not trying anymore, that might be. But Clinton managed to get stuff done with Republicans and he was under investigation for impeachment for most of his second term. Obama is going to have to do that, especially if both houses flip (unlikely).

I suppose it's hard to fathom a comedy show in DC not being political and kudos to Stewart and Colbert for pulling it off. A lot of liberals were angry that the rally wasn't more political.

These liberals miss the point. At the end of the day, we're all Americans, and we may be right and they wrong, but that doesn't mean we get to dictate terms of a surrender. We have to make the case, and in terms the other guys can understand. We can lecture all we want, but as Obama put it on The Daily Show last week, when people are afraid, they don't think so clearly.

Fallible, in other words. We have to communicate with them on their level. And we don't have to persuade everyone, we just have to persuade enough of them of the rightness of our cause. We don't have to find each and every nutbag in a bunker and describe to him how he benefits, but we have to find the moms in minivans and the dads at the bowling alley and the soldier at boot camp and the girl behind the counter at Burger King and explain it to them in terms that mean something to them.

Tomorrow, we will lose some power to the people who want boogeymen in the closet and zombies under the bed because that's how they retain power, distracting us with fear while they do things that truly will be fearful. There's not a whole lot we can do about that, even if I think the rally over the weekend may have finally brought some sense to some of these people and may salvage a few races that we might have lost.

But the lesson to learn from this season is to take nothing for granted in American politics. You're one apathetic electorate away from disaster.