Friday, October 10, 2008

Beyond labels, not beyond redemption

Looking forward, as we must now that a change for the better is likely in November, I begin to think about who will be on board and who needs to be on board in order for Obama to successfully enact much of the repair and reallignment he promises. Lincoln Mitchell posts his view of this prospective new government at HuffPo but I am wary of strategizing in strictly partisan terms. I prefer the vantage of HuffPo editor and general journalism maven, Thomas Edsall who, seeing that we can only go forward from where we already are, bids us look at where we are.

Looking back over my words of the last week or so, I am embarrassed at how many times I have written as if "Republican" or "conservative" was a specific and uniform moral disease, one I seem to presume stems from ignorance and congenital viciousness. And while viciousness is lately much in evidence at Republican political rallies, I still have to admit it is a stereo type that does not fit all who call themselves Republicans. It does not matter whether in pain or in enjoyment: I wrote in fits of sarcastic anger that blur into reflexes, as if the stereotypes, by explaining the brutal wrongheadedness that offended me, were becoming cherished beliefs about an entire group of people. Reality eludes the self-assured. In a calmer and more considered view, I admit that in order for Obama to win convincingly and in order for him to govern effectively, as we desperately need him to do, a few Republicans are going to have to pitch in. Whether they still call themselves Republicans at that point is a stupid thing on which to stupid as fretting over what I call myself.

I don't have much trust in labels of affiliation despite my partisan bluster. I have said, or at least repeated what others have said often enough about Obama: he is seldom tagged with the label I most prefer to wear: Progressive.

Fascist is another word I have slung but trust me, I do not use it lightly or in hyperbole. The standard motives and the social stresses that competent historians point to as fertile ground for a nation's transition into fascism are here. The Wagnerian motifs play softly in the background but are always around. I am not talking about skinheads either. Go to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and spend a day studying what quality of people can be brought in line when fear is mastered as a political tool. The first thing you must have is merely a population that disdains introspection about its own part in the problems that beset it. Such a population would embrace a wretched rash decider rather than a Hamlet-esque leader like Kerry who burdens himself with awareness of the divergent alternative views and priorities that contend for preeminence. The second thing that greases the slide toward fascism is a body politic that is easily numbed to the injustice or suffering of others, and more basically, just given to viewing any ethnicity or other identity category as "other", as "that one" or "one of them". When we shed the inconvenient truth of another person's humanity, their equality and their entitlement to life and liberty are empty words, if even that, to the mob given to fascist emotional politics. I use the term in dead earnest.

Generalizations about the character of political antagonists are rarely productive but how desperate is our need to understand why others take such destructive views and adopt such hostile attitudes! Often and mostly in vain, I have tried to analyze in my posts here what wrong turn a conservative takes. There is little hope of succeeding in that analysis since consevative is merely a label and vast disparities are lumped into the category, even when it is self-identification. Take the sad Mr. David Brooks for instance, who is a world away from the politics seen of late in the hustings of the Republican nominees. His job has shrunken with the prospects of his favorite politcal party so that now he works chiefly as an apolgist. He has been honest at times, such as in his dismay with Palin. But in his latest stab at the fuller view of a national political discourse, he both makes and mauls his case for cooperation:
But over the past few decades, the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts. This expulsion has had many causes. But the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare. Democrats kept nominating coastal pointy-heads like Michael Dukakis so Republicans attacked coastal pointy-heads.

"pointy-heads"? Way to go, Brooks. If you can't see any better than that, how do you expect to be seen?

With which of the parties accross our political spectrum can I still have meaningful dialog, with whom can I still work...and who is beyond redemption? None is beyond redemption. Sad to say, all that is on display in our politics this season is basic human behavior. But those who need redemption will not heed me. They must redeem themselves. We are easily led into error and anger and those who would lead us there for their own ends are profoundly irresponsible. There has been a decline approaching complete absense of getting to know our fellow citizens. There are better ways to meet the "other" guy than political rallies.

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