About once a year or so I have a confidence crisis. When it happens I’m able to convince myself that I can’t go on writing about politics and hate and fear and unfairness. This year it was even worse, brought on by the very real fact that the dreaded Republicans swept the elections last November and are now in almost complete control of our lives.
The Republican rout is depressing and demoralizing, setting in rock-hard concrete, as it does, the image of us liberals as big, fat losers. We had such a beautiful message–and we lost. We had such plans for a kinder, more equitable future–and we lost. We’re such nice people–and we lost.
But we will survive and go on. I know that. Our problem is local and, so far, not lethal. In the bigger world outside, unfathomable horrors persist. A barbaric group of subhumans get away with slaughtering some 2000 Nigerians, mainly women, children, and the elderly, for–who knows what? Two lone radical terrorists murder 12 journalists in a Paris cartoon magazine office as retribution for blasphemy. A murder spree in a Paris kosher market is seen as a ghastly punctuation mark.
It’s as if there is an overload switch that goes off whenever I’m at a point where I begin to believe half the world is mad and the other half is pure evil. (There is a tiny percentage who are good but their numbers are so small they barely register. Or so it seems when I’m in this state.) I shut down. I read Dave Barry. I curl up on the couch and watch the Hallmark Channel.
I admit there are times when I am a coward, but sometimes I relish those cowardly moments. I understand now how video snippets of precious kittens could hit the billion watcher mark. It’s R&R, it’s therapy, and, in a world like ours, it’s necessary.
So I was all set to just not think about all this for a while, but then I came upon an article by Edwin Lyngar. The writer, a former right winger now turned liberal, warns us liberals that in order to defeat these people we have to take a page from their playbook and “learn to talk big and fight dirty.”
When I lived conservative values, I attended many events with like-minded people. Conservative movements foster a herd mentality. Even when someone stood up to “lead,” he or she often regurgitated well-accepted talking points while crowds nodded in unison. Listen to talk radio or watch Fox News, and you can barely tally the number of times you hear, “yes, I think that’s true.”
A perfect example of thoughtless regurgitation is when callers on talk radio mention “Saul Alinsky Democrats.” Still others like to sling the insult of “Obama’s Chicago political machine,” with no context whatsoever. I’m going to make the obvious point that few if any of these callers have read one word of Alinsky, and fewer still have any direct, pointed or even third-hand knowledge of “Chicago politics.” These goofy phrases have become totems of the insider, and like children, these listeners mindlessly repeat what someone else has said as if they had insight.
Now that I’ve been in the liberal camp for a few years, I’ve noticed the complete opposite with the politically engaged left. They often identify as “contrarian.” They question everything and have a hard time taking a firm stand, even when 70% of the public is with them (on minimum wage, for instance). In an ideological battle, the tendency toward inclusion and reflection can become a handicap. As a side effect of all this soul-searching, the left becomes ineffectual at fighting even the worst excesses on the right. I’m boiling this down to a false dichotomy to illustrate a point. Of course there is every gradation of political belief on the right and left; yet our system itself is incapable of nuance, because only one side has even heard of the word.
It’s true that liberals of all stripes tend to over-think things and strive to a fault to consider what’s best for everybody. We–or, at least, I–do try to reason with the wingers, and waste a lot of valuable time trying to figure them out. But, as much as I admire most of what Edwin Lyngar had to say, when it comes right down to it, I don’t want to get down and dirty with them.
I want to understand their tactics so I can head ’em off at the pass, but I sure as hell don’t want to emulate them. They’re nasty. They’re hateful. We don’t need a double dose of that.
At the same time, we’re heading into a new and dangerous era, with right wing politics and fundamentalist religion at the forefront, and no cute kitten image is going to obscure what is absolute fact: The Republican takeover will put in place unprecedented barriers to our constitutionally-endowed liberties.
After promising to do it for decades, they will finally be in a position to dismantle any signs of what they tout as liberal Commie secularism. They’re already giving essential, science-based committee chairs to avowed anti-science legislators. They’re doing it as an in-your-face gesture–a joke on us–with no regard to our health or the planet’s future. They’ll work overtime to try and overturn Obamacare and Roe v. Wade. The rich will get richer and the poor, poorer. Our infrastructure will continue to crumble, but not to worry. Public lands will be sold off to private interests and we’ll be the better for it. Pollution will turn out to be good for us.
The chambers in congress now ring with Old Testament bible passages proclaiming the advent of God in his proper place as lawmaker. Dozens of representatives were elected almost exclusively on the strength of their religious views, and they see their elections as a mandate from their Maker.
We’re in for many battles on many fronts, and Edwin Lyngar is right that we need to study our enemy and get strong. I’m pretty sure I can do it without calling anybody a Shithead, as he suggests, but if that’s your thing, I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.
But we’re not them. We’ll never be them.
(Cross-posted at Ramona’s Voices)
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