Reality TV loving America finds itself in the midst of a first class reality check, and a vast number of Americans cannot believe that we have exposed unchecked the true ugliness of the darkest corners of the soul of this nation. We have always known that there were: rabies-sick racist bigots cheering every violent hate crime, twisted religion zealot Armageddon-loving Raputurists prepared for the incineration of this Earth in the name of their beliefs and their right of dominion, political and corporate psychopathic genocidal criminals to whom every life, even entire nations are expendable, walk amongst us with the full belief that are above all laws of man.
But somehow Americans have comforted themselves in the fallacious hope-filled altruisms we have been spoon fed since birth like opiates that the American spirit is better than all that evil and the principles mouthed in every political and patriotic speech will inevitable and automatically triumph over all ills and that our resilience will conquer every foe, heal every wound and cure every ill of our society.
The individual’s belief that he/she could never bring themselves to the heinous and hideous conscienceless (or even contemplation of such things) destruction, ruination or casual barbaric taking of human life, the perverted debauchery of torture and sexual depravity.
We believe that most folks have some good in them that will prevail and that they want neither dominion over all nor the imposition of their will, their moral code on their neighbor. The horror of the torrent of words pouring down upon us urging the mob to strike will be held in check by our laws and our judicial system and the inherent deterrence provided in theory by that institution will resolve, prevent or ultimately punish in the name of justice those who would become the demagogues of violence and the perpetrators of anarchistic civil war in our streets; that is an illusion, a delusion when men take the law into their own hands with the design of ridding themselves of those with whom they disagree. We are on the verge or animalism in this society and the stage is set for a tragic play.
From The Rightwing Nut House!
KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL!
Am I talking about Democrats? Or am I quoting Johnny Rico’s battle cry from Starship Troopers?
As much as some Democrats and liberals remind me of cockroaches, the answer is a qualified “no.” I say that because if I was indeed crying out for the termination of liberal’s life functions, that would be wrong, although anyone who 1) took my threat seriously; or 2) tried to make the case that I was inciting violence would, under normal circumstances, be seen as something of a raving loon.
But that’s the state of political discourse today. Intent on stifling any post-Obamacare dissent, many of our friends on the left have discovered that over the top, exaggerated, hyperbolic rhetoric is not usually a good thing - except when they engage in such and target conservatives and Republicans. Then, all manner of free speech is allowed, even considered necessary, in order to stifle opposing viewpoints.
And connecting my “Kill them all!” cry to some yahoo throwing a brick through a Congressman’s office is, if possible, even loonier. Five seconds of extra thought to such a notion would tell you that not only would said yahoo probably be unable to read and therefore would miss my transgression against civility altogether, but the chances of him coming across my blog post in the first place are astronomically small.
Hence, I feel perfectly comfortable in crying out “Kill them all!” After all, who’s to say where I am directing my battle cry? Maybe I only want congressional liberals to expire? Perhaps I am only targeting black liberals with my eliminationist rhetoric? It’s even possible that I am only advocating that three toed, humpback, mustachioed, gay Democrats be given the deep six?
The only way to deal with restrictions on speech is to speak the supposedly offending words and offensive language in the loudest, longest, most exaggerated manner possible and keep doing it until those seeking to stifle your First Amendment rights are shown to be the tyrannical louts they truly are.
It’s time to take off the kid gloves and start TARGETING these Democrats for SPECIAL TREATMENT. HANG THEM FROM THE YARDARM, I say! PUT THE CROSSHAIRS over their district and FIRE AWAY. Don’t be NIGGARDLY (couldn’t resist) in your criticisms. RACK THEM. You might even consider DRAWING AND QUARTERING them - metaphorically speaking, of course.
Why stop there? HANGING IS TOO GOOD FOR THEM! OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! BLEED THEM! MAKE THEM HOWL! STICK A FORK IN THEM! PUNCTURE their balloons. SLAP THEM SILLY! SLAP THEM UPSIDE THE HEAD. KNOCK THEM OVER THE HEAD WITH A TWO BY FOUR!
Getting hysterical over a figure of speech may be taking the idea of “eliminationist rhetoric” to its absolute, most frothingly idiotic limit. It isn’t a question of whether such language incites violence; it doesn’t. It isn’t a question of whether the user actually intends to hang someone from a yardarm or wishes to use the Medieval torture device, the Rack, to injure or kill a political opponent because the very definition of a “figure of speech” precludes such a possibility:
A Figure of Speech is where a word or words are used to create an effect, often where they do not have their original or literal meaning.
What we have is the old liberal trick of ignoring the author’s intended meaning of words and phrases in order to substitute their own, politically motivated interpretation of what is written. Hence, if I quote Johnny Rico by writing “Kill them all!”, I am not making fun of liberals, I am actually calling on those shadowy tea party folks to put a bullet through a Democratic Congressman’s head. It doesn’t matter that my intent was to make liberals look like idiots. It is that some liberal schmuck decided he could make political hay by pointing hysterically to my figurative use of the phrase and triumphantly accuse me of advocating the death of Democrats.
Goldstein has been tracking this phenomenon for years. He always explains it better than I:
As I’ve explained on countless occasions, however, language simply does not exist in the absence of intent. Intent — the intent to signify — is what turns signifiers into signs, marks into language (and so, potential communication). In an instance where we don’t know the intent of the author or utterer, it is our job as receivers of a communication to try to decode that intent. And that’s because the intent and the message are irrevocably tied together. Which is why when we aren’t interpreting by way of appeals to authorial intent, we aren’t “interpreting” at all. Rather, what we are doing is treating marks as mere signifiers, and then we are attaching to them our own signifieds — in essence, writing our own text. To then turn around and attribute the text we wrote to that author is not only wrongheaded, it is pernicious: after all, we are still privileging intent. It’s just that we have now privileged our own, while attributing that intent to the writer/utterer.
Intent is always present; whose intent gets privileged determines whether or what we’re doing is “interpreting” or “creative writing.”
When the left “privileges” its own intent, substituting their own interpretation of a word, or a phrase for what the author was trying to convey, it becomes impossible to communicate on any level whatsoever. How can there be discourse when both sides cannot agree on the meaning of language?
I hate to see the right attempting this nonsense - and not doing it very well. When Ed Schultz says on his show that if there is another Oklahoma City-like terrorist attack, that Glenn Beck and other righties should “blow their brains out,” no one with any respect for language believes that Schultz is advocating the death of talk show hosts. He is using a figure of speech to shock his audience (and garner ratings). He is not signaling some kook to kill Beck. He is not using language to incite violence against anybody. Those who interpret Schultz’s use of the cliche as anything other than the radio host doing his shtick are guilty of exactly the same kind of idiocy the left uses when critiquing, for example, Stephen Green’s call to “tar and feather” congressmen.
Political violence is unwanted in America. So is deliberate exaggeration of the threat of such. Ten recorded incidents against Democrats (and a couple against Republicans) do not a civil war make. The notion that tea partyers, bloggers, pundits, or anyone else on the right is advocating, inciting, or wishing for violence against Democrats is balmy.
That is, if everyone were truly interested in defining intent correctly, rather than reinterpreting speech in order to score political points and stifle the opposition.
During the Bush years, people on the far right constantly suggested that liberals who were against the occupation of Iraq, illegal wiretapping of Americans, the torture of detainees or any other Bush policy were “with the terrorists.” To them, our dissent “emboldened” terrorists and “put our troops in harm’s way.” Apparently, we (gasp) hated America.
If only those people could see themselves today. They would see their beloved leaders inciting hatred, racism and threats of violence toward the current president, Democrats in Congress and pretty much every “enemy” out there, and they would see themselves falling for it hook, line and sinker.
Influential conservatives like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and even some congressional leaders are using inflammatory language to stir up the far right. Unlike liberals’ policy-driven arguments made during Dubya’s reign, this language is directly emboldening right-wing extremism.
The same lunatics who claimed that liberals were in league with terrorists are now using the threat of violence to intimidate for political gain. This means they have become, yes, terrorists. Last week’s events show how they’ve lost their collective mind:
The right-wing media demonized Marcelas Owens, 11, whose mother died due to inadequate health insurance and who dared to stand next to President Obama when he signed the health care bill last Tuesday. Two days earlier, teabaggers who gathered on Capitol Hill saw their claim that they’re not bigots go up in smoke. They shouted racist epithets at a few African American Congressmen (even spitting on one), and you can guess what word they hurled at Rep. Barney Frank.
Once the reconciliation bill passed, House Minority Leader John Boehner described it as “Armageddon.” Palin reacted by urging her followers on Twitter and Facebook to “RELOAD” and to target specific politicians. She even included a helpful link to a map of the United States pinpointing specific districts using rifle cross hairs. Glenn “Progressivism is a Cancer” Beck was, well, Beck.
All the fear mongering from conservatives in Congress and in the media has resulted in teabaggers using increasingly disturbing rhetoric. Some nutcases are ditching their silly “Obama is a socialist / communist / Nazi / Muslim / Kenyan” signs for ones implicitly advocating for armed insurrection to stop reform. One such sign read, “If (Sen. Scott) Brown Can’t Stop It, a Browning Can.” Browning, of course, is a company that makes guns.
Reports of vandalism at Democratic offices nationwide and death threats against pro-reform Democrats and their families are becoming increasingly prevalent. One particularly nutty far-right militia leader justified this by saying, “if we do a proper job … we might just wake up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary.” How can you not call people like him terrorists?
The far-right fringe is becoming increasingly violent because many of them believe they’re at war. They believe Obama and the Democrats are destroying America and replacing it with a government that’s somehow both socialist and totalitarian. It’s easy to understand how this ridiculous thinking has set into the minds of so many when their heroes are incessantly calling them to arms.
Conservative leaders were outraged when Homeland Security released a report about the threat of right-wing extremism last year. Yet, their rhetoric over the past year has helped to justify this concern. Safe to say, they owe Secretary Janet Napolitano an apology.
Prominent conservatives must build upon their weak condemnations of violence (or lack thereof) by ceasing to incite this extremism. The only way to quash it is to marginalize it, which is difficult with fear-mongers like Palin, Boehner and Beck throwing them paranoia-inducing bones. They have a responsibility to tell their followers the sky isn’t falling; if they don’t, should a right-wing terrorist actually deliver on violent rhetoric, the blood will be on their hands.
Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com.
Republicans Need To Control Rhetoric
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This from an excellent Huffington Post article written by Caroline Myss:
These Republicans have, in essence, raised a call to arms against their own countrymen and women during a time when this country continues to fight a war started by Republicans for bogus reasons, a fact which we must never forget. Representative Michele Bachman from Minnesota screamed to her constituents recently, "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous ... Having a revolution every now and then is a good thing."
Representative Steve King yelled, "Let's beat that other side to a pulp! Let's take them out. Let's chase them down."
As for Sarah Palin, our Republican Court Fool, here's a sweet quote from her: "In Alaska, you know what we do with people like that? We hunt 'em down and shoot 'em between the eyes." Note that she is busy trying to backtrack on that remark and a few others like, "Don't retreat, reload", saying that she was actually referring to "voting 'em out at the polls". What? Since when is "shoot 'em between the eyes" a slogan for inspiring voting? Is this woman insane or what? Or does she think we are? Or is she coming very close to committing sedition? I remind you that this nation is still at war and inciting acts of violence against the government while the nation is at war borders on sedition. This may not be an anti-war protest in its purest sense but at its core, the ambition to weaken this government is crystal clear.
Further, do I sense a threat in these words or am I just reading between the lines? Nope, I think the word "shoot," means exactly what it says. Is she rallying the troops and suggesting that people plan the murders of their opponents? Is she supporting the assassination of Senators or Congressmen and women who are on the opposing team or, even the President? Exactly what, in her hysterical, arrogant lunacy, is she saying? Her website instructs her fan base: Don't retreat, reload.
It appears at least that Federal agents in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana are in agreement with the sentiments of this post since yesterday they launched a raid against a Christian militia group called the Hutaree.
Gee I wonder how long we have to wait before the Feds storm the Palin compound in Wasilla?
And I hope Palin's reality show crew is there to capture the entire thing on film. Now THAT would be must see TV!
Posted by Gryphen at 5:45 AM
Unbelievable. If a comedian, a cartoon or someone else makes a statement, they are absolutely driven into the ground by Sarah et al. If she says something, she claims it is twisted, skewed or misinterpreted. Bullshit! We had to hear weeks and weeks about a Letterman joke, then calls for her firing, and yet she can call people to arms and doesn't need to retract her statements or the cross hairs on their districts. We had another round of stupidity when Family Guy aired an episode but telling people to reload, take aim, and take people out is absolutely ignored. BULLSHIT!
I am truly surprised to see Carolyn Myss write a politcal article. She is a spiritual intuit and healer. She is correct, that the inciting of violence by people like Bachman and Palin makes everyone "else" a target to a nut.
This is why everybody should write to Discovery and quote Sarah Palin’s own words to them. If she is seen as a liability, the TV show goes away. She is inciting domestic terrorism, plain and simple. Imagine how Discovery would look if indeed one of her followers takes Palin seriously and shoots the target of one of Palin’s reckless rants “between the eyes.”
Palin’s conduct is unconscionable and beneath contempt. She is so incredibly vapid, I’m not sure that she truly means or even understands the things that she is saying, but she still bears responsibility for any of the ensuing violence which she is trying to foment. How long before someone is seriously wounded or even murdered? What should be our response to Palin then? What should be our response to Palin now?
Gryphen, isn't it time you expose this woman? Let the whole world know what a fraud she is? Then she can slink off into obscurity to lick her wounds, and her screechy voice will never irritate our ears again.
Sounds like a plan to me!!
One, don't just write to the Discovery Channel, sign the petition at:
They almost 6,000 signers now. They need more.
Secondly, go over to Mudflats and read today's readers' comments: seems that someone reported Sarah's Facebook rant to the FBI. Another reader turned Sarah's posting into Facebook as "domestic terrrorism."
About time. Seems that Scary Sarah really went off the deep-end this time when using obvious code words to the base while supposedly discussing basketball. Unbelievable. Takes no imagination at all to see what she really means.
Thirdly, Gryphen and others are right: something has to be done about this hate-mongering. HuffPo also has a great opinion piece reminding us about Timothy McVeigh and connecting his sense of victimhood to Sarah.
THe high school color of Wassilia is Blood Red! There are BIG Red Warrior posters all over the School. Your visually swiming in blood red images all around the school. I think they have this depressing style of art work in there school to scare visiting sport team. The kids are programed to KILL, FIGHT, WIN, HIT THEM, TAKE THEM OUT OF THE GAME, EXT.
This is a disfuntional system that we teach in America. Wassilla takes it to the estream, maybe because of all the far right big churchs that want the trobbled kids to take there disfuntional home life out on the sport field or gym.
Kids that get this kind of programing early in life, just might like the Right Wing Extremist metality.
After all, we need Warriers for the 7 mountain movement. SP is not only the tea party queen, she is using the tea party to advance the 7 mountain armagettin movement.
To Sarah Palin, this is all a game and she is always the winner. Power is everything to her, and if she can influence somebody to take an action, she's in her glory, even if it's a negative action.
The power to provoke any kind of response is so essential to her sense of self that she simply does not care what effect it produces.
She is sick.
Welcome to The Soapbox
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Posted by Luke Hassall at 10:44 PM
Somewhere in a home or apartment in the Capital, a leading conservative ponders changes to established policy. He faces great pressure to offer something new and dynamic. The status quo has run dry and as he squeezes his alabaster hands he longs for an answer. He knows that he must adapt, and his party must to if it is to remain strong. He knows that the population cherishes those parts of the welfare state that they themselves use, even if many people look askance at those areas they don't, such as benefits for the unemployed. The system cannot be thrown away, even if some noisy radicals often encourage him to do so.
He knows that despite his personal religious convictions and traditionalist morality, the world is a diverse and complicated place and to try to impress those views across the public space will eventually lead to ruin. In the 21st century, he knows the foolishness of deriding his opponents as radical Marxists, that such rhetoric is best left 50 years in the past. With a sigh, as much of relief as of indignation, he sits down at last to right a program for a new Conservative era. One that prizes national unity above culture-war divisionism, one that balances property rights and economic freedoms against the popular hunger for stability, one that respects his opponents and doesn't pretend democracy is legitimate only when he wins. His will be a big tent movement, holding on to the traditional while bringing in new kinds of voters, and leaving no sector of the population unappealed to.
This seems at first a work of fiction. And if we assume the Capital in question is D.C., and the conservative an American, it is very much a fiction. But it is also something that has happened many times over in recent years across the rest of the Anglosphere. It is a scene that would not be at all out of place in Ottawa, London, Canberra, Wellington or even Pretoria. In these countries, with such close social, historical and cultural ties to the US, the conservative movement has done something it seems highly resistant to doing here. It has accepted modernity and tried to apply conservative principles to the real world in a logical and reasoned way. The US right is a mile away from being able to do that. In the rest of the Anglosphere we have seen the rise of a crop of new, young conservative leaders, Canadian PM Stephen Harper, New Zealand leader John Key, the British and Australian opposition leaders David Cameron and Tony Abbott, and even South Africa's Helen Zille who has succeeded in convincing the very socially conservatively inclined Afrikaaner community to back her in a program that mixes a modern approach to diverse society with core conservative values.
These leaders have learned to pick their battles. They don't pick fights where they know that society is abandoning the traditional position, hence their support for Gay rights. They've learned that a radical right economic program alienates people. They seek to reassure traditionalist voters about changing social mores, but also make real (rather than token) gestures to pull in new and diverse voters. They've gone back to the basics of conservativism, the things that once made the movement great and admirable. They campaign as Safe Hands, reliable and careful, the formula that once enabled Republican Patricians to win elections in New England, but which fell apart as the theocons and Neocons devoured the party from within. They've cast aside the BS of the 20th century right to assume the mantle of protecting an orderly society and mediating social conflict. For the GOP, an orderly society is one where all the problems and diversity are hidden under the rug or in the closet.
They are the kind of conservatives people like me would be proud to support and associate with. And so long as the GOP remains the party of fear and hate-mongering populists, tea-party radicals, parliamentary obstructionists and reactionary traditionalists, would-be-conservatives like me will continue to look abroad. And hope.
The Tea Party is steadily becoming a household name across America. Their movement stands upon these core values “…to attract, educate, organize, and mobilize” fellow American citizens “to secure” consistency of “Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets”. So what’s not to like?
In theory, this is a mission that everyone American should stand behind but there have been some political leaders that have made their views clear about the Tea Party - some good, some not-so good. The three main political figures making their views known about The Tea Party Movement include Former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, California GovernorArnold Schwarzenegger, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
As the Tea Party was celebrating its one-year anniversary, House SpeakerNancy Pelosi commented on ABC’s “This Week” that she shared some of the views that the Tea Party represents. But she also emphasized that the movement has some areas that is directed by the Republican Party.
In the past, the House Speaker has even referred to the Tea Party movement as “Astroturf” – a “faux grassroots movement”. A year after her “Astroturf” reference, Pelosi is admitting that the Tea Party movement will have some influence in upcoming elections.
On the GOP side, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has dismissed the Tea Party movement stating the group is “just an expression of anger and dissatisfaction.” Interestingly enough, Gov. Schwarzenegger made the statement only days before he was to meet behind closed doors with President Obama where he was expected to ask for more government help for his state.
During an interview in February 2010 with Terry Moran on ABC’s “This Week”, Gov. Schwarzenegger stated “The Tea Party is not going to go anywhere.” He also replied to a question put forth by Moran asking if theRepublican Party was the party of “no”. He answered “…when it come[s] to the party itself, they [Republicans] have to do everything they can in order to win in November. So they’re going to say no to everything…”.
Former Governor Sarah Palin has been in the spotlight maybe even more so since she resigned her position as Governor of Alaska. She too has made statements about her views on the Tea Party movement. In one interview with Fox News’ Glenn Beck
Sarah Palin has been a strong supporter of the movement, often making speeches for the Tea Party and criticizing the Obama administration. During one speech for the movement, Palin stated “you’d better stop lecturing and start listening”, referring to the current administration. She has also gone so far as saying, “The Republican Party would be very smart to absorb as much of the Tea Party movement as possible.”
Three strong political figures – three interesting views. The concept of the Tea Party movement is a simple one. But politics has turned into nothing more than a high school football game – doesn’t matter who is better, just route against the other team and when you lose, blame the referee for poor judgment.
Charles Hayes, author of September Universitysaid, “those of us who do not do the intellectual work required by citizenship in a democracy may simply depend upon the ideas of those we deem wise enough to think for us.” Judging from the images that have been circulating from the Tea Party rallies, there are plenty of people in our country who continue to avoid the intellectual work that’s needed to be informed, how else can we explain the buzz that continues to follow Sarah Palin.
If it weren’t for the potential harm stirred up by the rhetoric at these rallies, these scenes would be comical. They’re certainly great fodder for late night T.V. But this past week, following the passage of the healthcare bill, several offices of democratic politicians were vandalized and there was at least one death threat (see the video below).
Regardless of your political persuasion, those of us who stand on the side of civility and true sharing of ideas cannot sit on the sidelines and allow these rallies to gain the kind of credance that is given to them by Faux News.
The Right dominates AM talk radio and Fox News but progressives dominate alternative media and we can be a force to be reconned with when we use the media to get out our message.
If, after watching the video below, you decide that the TeaParty movement is nothing to be concerned about then do nothing. But if you want to counter the affects this movement is having, there a some things you can do. Here are a few:
- April 6th is LA Net Neautrality Action Day – contact congressional representatives Joe Baca and Loretta Sanchez and let them know you support Net Neutrality. For more information call Common Cause 213-252-4552. Click to learn more about the term Net Neutrality.
- Share this article. You can do this by clicking the word “share” at the bottom of the article. A window will open that offers several ways to share.
- Offer suggestions to other progressives by leaving a comment.
- Let us know about other opportunities, events, books etc. that provide meaningful information for voters.
- Read Charles Hayes piece, Coffee Time: Reason, Bigotry, and Tea Party Angst. Support writers by commenting and forwarding their articles.
- Find out about the Coffee Party movement
Like a shadow play, where the movement of puppets is amplified onto a much bigger screen, the clash over healthcare reveals, and represents, profound and volatile social divides—both in the halls of power and in society as a whole. And it reveals the potential for conflicts at the top and bottom of society to spin out of control, and create unexpected openings for something really radical to burst through.
* * *
When thousands of "Tea Party" protesters descended on the Capitol to protest health care reform, they called Representative John Lewis (an African-American and veteran of the Civil Rights movement) a "nigger." They called Representative Barney Frank (who is openly gay) a "faggot." They spit on Representative James Clyburn, who told reporters, "I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus."
The Republican National Committee put out a fund-raising appeal that included a picture of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, surrounded by flames. The committee's chairman declared it was time to put her on "the firing line."
Sarah Palin sent out a tweet: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" And she circulated a map showing the districts represented by Democratic congressmen who voted for the bill, with rifle-scope cross-hairs marking their districts.
Democrats who voted for the bill began receiving death threats. One was told snipers would kill the children of lawmakers who voted yes. Several Democrats had their district offices vandalized, and a gas line was cut at a home that tea partiers announced as being the home of Rep. Tom Perriello.
The Invocation of "Civil War"
At a "Tea Party" rally at the capital, Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa shouted, "If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they'd be the folks who were standing with us the last few days. Let's hope we don't have to do that! Let's beat that other side to a pulp! Let's take them out. Let's chase them down. There's going to be a reckoning!"
Speaking of King's rant, a columnist in The Des Moines Register wrote: "Where have we heard that sentiment before? The cry for secession, the call to violence, the reference to chasing 'them' down. The only thing King didn't mention to complete the link to the Civil War was race. But others in the movement he champions have been less restrained, even spitting on and used the N word on African-American members of Congress."
It is significant that a mainstream commentator invoked real parallels to the buildup to the first U.S. Civil War. These parallels have serious implications for those who desire real change to correctly understand, and act with appropriate urgency and focus.
All This Over Healthcare Reform?
All this over a healthcare reform bill that promises so little (see sidebar, "What's In the Healthcare Reform Bill?") The question is: What is really behind all this?
Underneath the eruption of fury over the passage of the healthcare reform bill are two opposing and clashing conceptions within the ruling class of this country over how to maintain the "social contract" in the United States.
That "social contract" requires that a significant enough section of people are convinced the government represents their interests, that society is relatively cohered and stable, and at least broad sections of the "middle class" accept the legitimacy of this capitalist system. And it requires that the use of force by the powers-that-be (and only the powers-that-be) is seen as legitimate. Foundational to the system maintaining power is the repressive apparatus that today locks down millions in prisons, enforces police-state conditions in the inner cities, and spies on and represses dissent and dissenters.
The social fabric that once held America together is coming unglued. Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991, and the U.S. becoming the sole superpower in the world, radical changes have taken place both in the world and in the U.S. economy. These includes the disappearance (or moving) of millions of relatively high paying manufacturing jobs that provided "the American way of life" for significant sections of people. And the current economic crisis is greatly intensifying this. In several states, unemployment levels are approaching those during the Great Depression of the 1930s. This is further contributing to a widespread feeling of instability and insecurity.
And the economic crisis has had a much worse impact on Black and Latino people. Today, for example, the median wealth for single white women today in the U.S. is $41,000 (half of all single white women have more wealth than $41,000, and half have less). By contrast, the median wealth for single Latina women is $120, and the median wealth for single African-American women is $100.
And there have been other big social changes. The position of women in the workforce has changed radically over the past decades. Attitudes towards lesbians and gays have changed. There have been big demographic changes in the makeup of society; soon, half of all children born in the U.S. will be non-white.
These changes are taking place in a society where real, if limited, advances were made by Black people and other oppressed nationalities through the civil rights and Black liberation movements. These and other concessions made by the system during and in the wake of the 1960s—like affirmative action, changes in what is taught in schools, and the right to abortion—are under siege. In many cases, these concessions have been brutally truncated. But these changes have all been destabilizing factors ungluing the traditional white supremacist and male supremacist social cohesion in America.
Along with these domestic challenges, the U.S. occupation of Iraq and war in Afghanistan have created serious problems for the U.S. empire. Bush and company thought they could relatively easily bludgeon the Middle East into complete subjugation. But the U.S. has been bogged down in Iraq for over seven years. And the U.S. is deeply mired in Afghanistan. These difficulties have created openings for rival powers and allies to maneuver and look for openings to expand their influence and role at the expense of the U.S.
On One Side: A Fascist Agenda…
The extreme nature of the situation is reflected in, and revealed by the extreme remaking of U.S. society called for by the section of the ruling class identified with the Republican Party.
To them, church and the family—and traditional fundamentalist Christian religion and draconian, repressive family values—must assume a radically greater role in the functioning of society. God, guns (in the hands of racists, anti-immigrant vigilantes, and fascists), and religion are asserted with a vengeance.
In many ways, at the heart of this agenda is the kind of virulent racism that was openly unleashed against Black congressmen, and the kind of vicious enforcement of traditional gender roles that made the only openly gay congressman the target of particular venom.
As a critical component of this reactionary re-cohering of America, these forces demand an assertion of virulent dog-eat-dog, look-out-for-#1-individualism, as they rail against "big government." At her website Sarah Palin proclaims: "Protecting good health is largely a matter of personal responsibility." (Think about the cruel and insane implications of that statement in a world of toxic workplaces, global epidemics, looming planetary environmental disaster on the one hand, and on the other hand tremendous resources that could be mobilized to cure disease and improve people's health.)
When students across California protested draconian cuts in public education, reactionary talk show host Glenn Beck declared that "[E]ducation is not a right. The Constitution doesn't mention that one. Let me clarify: The United States Constitution doesn't mention that one. But there are some constitutions that do mention it, like the Soviet Constitution. Let me help 'save education': Rights do not come from government, they come from God."
A key element in all this is the insinuation of Christian fascists and reactionary politics into the functioning of the U.S. military—which has historically "stood above" particular disputes within the ruling class. In February of 2009, an episode of Glenn Beck's show on Fox "News" called " War Room: 'Bubba Effect'—Martial Law, Looting, Hyperinflation, Depression, Chaos, America Implodes," posed a scenario of an armed fascist uprising to "take back America," and restore its white, Christian roots... and its destiny... as divined by God. A major part of this scenario was projecting that this fascist uprising would be supported, not opposed by the U.S. military (search for "Glenn Beck" and "Bubba Effect" at YouTube).
For many years, these forces have been forging organization in the U.S. military through networks of Christian fundamentalist evangelicals, and movements which recruit active-duty soldiers, police, and veterans to disobey any orders they deem illegal or against the Constitution (as it has been radically re-interpreted by the Christian Fascists).
The Democrats—Same Basic Objectives… Real Differences
Nobody should underestimate how much the agenda that dominates the Republican Party requires the tearing up of ideas, structures, and values that have overall kept "America together" since its founding. The Republicans are fortearing up and rewriting the social contract forged by the founders of the United States in the U.S. Constitution—and in particular, the concept of the U.S. as a secular nation.
The Democrats are convinced that this agenda—for a Christian fundamentalist theocracy based on extreme individualism and brutal repression—is not a viable way to maintain the U.S. as the world's dominant superpower. Nor do they see this as a viable way to re-cohere domestic social stability of the U.S.
While disagreements over foreign policy are not surfacing sharply at this moment, there are significant, and potentially explosive differences between these factions of the ruling class over how (but not whether) to deploy the U.S. military to enforce the interests of the U.S. empire.
There is a major economic crisis. And there is a widespread sense of insecurity and disorientation in society. The Democrats insist that in order to maintain this country, there needs to be a secular government, and a baseline sense of economic security and basic social services. Reportedly, there was a tense meeting between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—who played a key role in pushing the healthcare reform bill through Congress—and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel (who apparently was counseling Obama to back down on healthcare reform). Right before this, Pelosi issued a statement that "We can't say to [the American people], at the end of the day, well, we had an idea, we had a vision, we had a majority, but the process did not allow us to make a change for your lives." Pelosi was essentially saying—in a message that appeared to be directed at the White House and other leading Democrats—that their credibility, and the legitimacy of the system, was at stake.1
But for the Democrats, maintaining a minimal social safety net is narrowly defined. It includes public school systems and some government role in health insurance, but not addressing the profound inequalities in this system. Social justice is "not on the agenda."
One sharp illustration of the terms of what today stands as the liberal ruling class agenda is the message conveyed in a series of meetings held at the White House with—among others—Rev. Al Sharpton. In an article about Sharpton's role, the Wall Street Journal summarized: "Mr. Obama has resisted calls to target an economic agenda to African-Americans, saying programs that help the economy generally will 'lift all boats.'" Such "lift all boats" formulations—that oppose acknowledging or addressing the history and reality of discrimination against Black people, Latinos, Native Americans and others—have traditionally been the watchwords of Republicans and the "right." Sharpton's role as point man for the White House in this is particularly outrageous.
There are, in short, two sharply and bitterly clashing agendas within the ruling class that exploded with the passage of healthcare reform, and the Tea Party rebellion.
They Don't Have Things All Sewn Up… Another Way is Possible
The emerging contours of seismic social conflict are not good for the people, to say the least. Theocratic fascistic forces are mobilizing their base of racists, fascists, and religious lunatics with the incendiary rhetoric that erupted into physical attacks in the aftermath of the healthcare bill. Arrayed against them, in the current alignment of forces, the Democrats are determined to forge a "lean, mean" state that administers minimal social services. Both visions are horrors that the masses have no interest in.
A powerful element in this whole equation is the subjugation of Black people, and their ongoing resistance. The Republicans demand the overt assertion of ugly white-American supremacy. The Democrats promote diversity at the top—bringing forward Black and brown faces in high places—while maintaining structural white supremacy in every realm of society from jobs to housing, to education to culture. And doing this while blaming oppressed people for their own oppression. And the Democrats' agenda maintains the unconscionable, illegal, and unconstitutional warehousing of hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino youth in prisons.
Even with the integration of some African-Americans into the middle class, and a few into powerful positions in the ruling class (including, now, the White House), conditions of Black people—especially those "on the bottom" of society in the inner cities, remain desperate. This is an intense contradiction for those who rule this country, that poses the potential to erupt out of the framework in which the ruling class can contain it. That is something that has the potential to contribute to a revolution. And that potential is also recognized by those who pull the strings of the Tea Party fascists, who see this potential as a profound threat to their whole agenda.
Complex and Serious Challenges
The vast majority of people in this country have no interest in maintaining this oppressive system. People do, however, have an interest in defending people's rights, and opposing the unbridled racism and imposition of oppressive values that the Tea Party types are spearheading.
Doing this will be complex and challenging. Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has gone deeply into those challenges. He recently emphasized: "There may be a need, and in fact almost certainly will be a need, for conscious revolutionary forces to take the lead in opposing certain fascist initiatives which take form, to a significant degree at least, as attacks on bourgeois-democratic rights and norms and, in certain cases perhaps, even some figures identified with bourgeois democracy and liberalism; but, let me underline, this must be done not by way of promoting and defending bourgeois democracy and bourgeois-democratic political leaders, but instead radically recasting this and directing it against the whole system of bourgeois rule, that is bourgeois dictatorship (which is what is actually embodied in the dominant political structures in this country) and the capitalist-imperialist system this enforces." ("UNRESOLVED CONTRADICTIONS, DRIVING FORCES FOR REVOLUTION," available at revcom.us)
Nothing in the world develops in a straight line, and a conflict which starts with one set of terms, and "alternatives," could be ruptured into a different kind of conflict with a different, revolutionary outcome. As conflict between rival sections of the ruling class intensifies, and even breaks out into open clashes, the legitimacy of the entire old order could be called into question.
When two sections of the ruling class are at each other's throats, as the social norms that people have accommodated themselves to are torn up, as the whole way society is organized is thrown up for grabs…people will try (and exhaust) all kinds of roads and programs. But in the midst of that, a real revolutionary alternative can come to the fore. This could be possible if—going into such a situation—millions knew about the revolutionaries and their program. It could be possible if—going into such a crisis—millions were aware of revolutionary leadership. And it could be possible if there was a revolutionary core around which people could rally. Under those circumstances, a whole new revolutionary state power could be wrenched out of the situation.
Any resolution of the current situation will involve great dislocation, suffering, and sacrifice. The question is, will all that simply lead to a reconfiguration of the existing system of exploitation and oppression? Or, can a revolutionary solution be wrenched out of that?
1. Other commentators have focused on remarks by Barack Obama along the lines of saying healthcare reform should be passed, popular or not, because it is the right thing to do. But those comments were made for public consumption, after Pelosi's position was established and it appeared likely that the bill would pass. Pelosi's comments, on the other hand, were more candidly speaking to her fellow Democratic Party leaders. [back]