Sunday, February 11, 2007

Poison Pie

My personal Obnoxiousness Radar has been working overtime lately, and not just because we are ruled by bumbling incompetents whose grasp of the intricacies of foreign policy conduct is on a level with 4th grade boys. (Thanks, George and Dick, for the next generation's worth of fear, hate, and intractable international relationships you've set in motion for us; thanks, too, for all the current and future lost opportunities for peaceful resolutions resulting from your Jerry Bruckheimerization of the Defense Department, and castration of State. Thanks for your theocratic-corporate hijack of the federal government, the new definition of "torture" and the new theory of presidential infallibility, and the progress we've made on the road to quasi-monarchy and the Gulag Intercontinental [with your eyes on the potential for space, can the Gulag Galactic be far behind?]).

No, it's not just Douglas Feith playing dumb about a needless war he helped create, and it's not just Scooter Libby lying his ass off to shield one of the most loathesome weevils to feast on the heart of the Republic since its inception. It's not just the sight of those invertebrates in the Senate mumbling amongst themselves in a desperate attempt to fend off the appearance of having an opinion about a war that's destroying all stability in the Mid-east as well as the last of their own tattered morality.

It's also getting up every morning and listening to NPR air self-cannibalizing opinions amongst black leaders and academics that maybe Barack Obama just isn't "black" enough to be credible with African-American voters. It's listening to Bobby Rush proudly label himself a "race" politician as he dismisses his former opponent, implying that Obama's success will be had at the cost of his "blackness". It's listening to people wonder how Obama will be able to relate to American blacks without having had a legacy of slavery, lynching, and racism behind him, while they suggest maybe Hilary Clinton (whose experience of slavery and lynching is well-known) might be more acceptable. It's listening to the astonishing idea that a man born in a black African village, to a black African father, is somehow less black because he has been well-educated, well-traveled, and not living in poverty, while at the same time hearing that, well, he may be all right after all because he identifies himself as black and married a black woman, even though he has a white mother. And then it's listening to Tucker Carlson talking out of his ass about how Obama's affiliation with a black church, a church that affirms parishioners' committment to support and uplift other African-Americans, raises questions about whther Obama is a "real" Christian, and about his ability to represent whites.

And speaking of the unchristian accusing others of being unchristian, it's listening to Bill Donahue, one of the great religious bigots polluting the airwaves, pissing and moaning about how some bloggers working for John Edwards had mean things to say about Catholic doctrine and the Church's behavior towards women (we all know how fair and tolerant the Church has been with women throughout its existence). The fact that the blogosphere is chock full of people spouting off pungent, informal critiques seems lost on Donahue; the fact that there is a difference between criticism and expressions of pain rooted in personal experience and true hate speech is a distinction he refuses to acknowledge; and the fact that the postings in question occurred before Edwards hired them is irrelevant to him. Conveniently forgotten, too, are all his own contemptuous remarks on the religious convictions and creeds of others, his swipes at Judaism and Islam, and his convenient amnesia when Catholicism is smeared by right-wingers like Jerome Corsi. His idea of being a good Catholic is to shut your yap, and buy into his revisionist approval of Pius XII. After all, the Nazis did their best to exterminate bad could they have been?

And while we're on the subject, it's the rabid attempts at muzzling anti-war and human rights advocates by smearing them as anti-Semites every time one suggests American foreign policy irrationally favors Israel, that the Christian Right pushes for such favoritism because it furthers their own mtyhological agenda for The Rapture, and that maybe, just maybe, the Palestinians are being subjected to human rights abuses. Because these are views held by liberals, and because many liberals are also Jews, we now have the weirdness of Jews being labelled anti-Semite in the U.S. for criticizing the Israeli government, while Jews in Israel doing the same thing are just...Israelis. I suppose this was to be expected in a country where even the mildest protest of abuses of power results in everything from inferences of traitorism to death threats.

What else? Well, there's the death of public civility on streets, trains, buses and in cars, and the failure of American parents to teach their children anything at all about manners and etiquette. This has led to the Cincinnati rock concert philosophy of life: that we all must be in a constant battle for supremacy with one another, whether it's who goes through a door first, gets a parking space, or gets to change lanes. All of this is directly anathema to the idea behind etiquette: that in order to create a tolerable and decent community, we must all behave graciously and with grace toward each other, meaning at times we back off, suppress our egos, and let someone else have something at our own expense out of sheer kindness. Meaning we treat others as if they were our dear friends, or at least unfortunately demented relatives not responsible for their own behavior.

And maybe starting at this most personal level, we could infect the rest of our culture with it, and some day see an end to the poisons benoaned above. It could be a start.

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