Friday, October 10, 2008

I Will Reach Across the Aisle, My Friends, and Sneer

This has been an interesting week, on so many levels. I'm desperately trying to finish a couple of short stories for the Tennessee Williams Festival deadline, but have found myself distracted. Gee, that NEVER happens.

These distractions, though, are different. Indeed to call them distractions is to demean the profundity of the ideas.

For years now, nearly all the years of the Bush presidency, I have said that our country is in the midst of a silent civil war. No Gettysburgs here, no Antietams. This civil war has been raging over dining room tables and in family rooms with CNN or Fox news as the soundtrack instead of cannon shots. And just as the civil war divided families, this 21st century civil war is doing the same. Blood isn't flowing across carpets, but huge silences are in a lot of cases.

Okay, okay, so we were told as kids never to discuss religion or politics. That, IMO is total bullshit. That's how we got into this mess in part. No one talking to the other guy. Oh wait, there were a couple times when I tried that and it turned into a shouting match, or an angry email from a family member, or oh yes, the big SILENCE.

I am an American. I consider myself a patriot, but not a nationalist. I don't see them as the same things.

For many years I have watched as America turned into something different from my view of it--wait maybe I should have said something other than my aspirations for it. Car commercials, 100 per night, offering bigger and better and shinier options. After Christmas commercials saying, "Now go get what you REALLY wanted," demeaning the sweetness of giving a gift. Insurance companies telling me I'd be in good hands if I would only buy from them, or that they'd be there when I needed them. (I'm still amazed everytime I see an AIG commercial still on the air. What you want MORE?) I could insure everything I was in hock for, just in case something happened, and the folks holding the pawn ticket on my car/house/boat/motorcycle/RV/you name it could get paid. Banks were giving themselves cutesie names like WaMu, one step checking, one stop shopping, hey here at Chase we'll even let you know if you're about to be overdrawn. Money. Spend it, give it us, you DESERVE this fill-in-the-blanks cool beans thingie that comes in twenty five colors to match your shoes that you just bought on Bluefly for $600 bucks. Our stockholders will be thrilled and you can zoom by the homeless under the overpass while checking your navi and the kids are watching the latest BluRay edition of their favorite movie. Better drive a bit more slowly though, cuz odds are you don't have health insurance, and boy oh boy the bills you can rack up in a hospital---you don't wanna know. It seemed to me that people were just working and working and working, if they still had a job, so they could buy, buy, buy some more.

I aspired to an America that was more than just a rabid consumer of stuff, to be traded in, insured, or buried with. (Did ya hear? Ol' Joe wants to be buried in his Escalade! BAAHHAA is Martha ever upset. It's not even paid off and think what she'll have to pay for the burial plot! Ol' Joe, he was a pisser!)

When my husband and I moved to New Orleans, one of the reasons among many, was we just felt like we were spending our lives lining other people's pockets. My husband is more mercenary than I, he does like his toys and his stuff. I have a different relationship to "stuff" than most people I guess. Right now I have way too MUCH stuff. I prefer having less stuff and more friends. I'd prefer to sit down and have a drink with someone who's discussing an idea than a car, and one of the ideas that's been discussed this week with friends is the labelling of a "good" American as a "Joe Six-pack" kind of person.

It started in a conversation with a friend of long standing who usually disagrees with me politically. She said, "I find this whole Joe Six-pack thing demeaning and it pisses me off. It's like they're trying to make it appear that regular people don't THINK. They just buy a new plasma screen, watch football and Nascar and don't care a whit about what's going on." We went on to discuss the "tiering" of society into four tiers: The One Percent Club comprised of the CEO's and Paris Hilton's of the world; the Joe Six-packs who buy the newest biggest truck they can find and hoot YOOOOO ESSSSS AAAAAAYYY at the slightest provocation (these allegedly being the only real Americans in the tiers, oh wait, except the CEO's--I mean after all they ARE capitalists); the Intellectual Liberal Elite who are a bit effete, have no sense of humor and are mostly closet Socialists who find fault with everything American and should really go live in Europe; and finally, The Underclass which is made up of minimum wage workers, welfare mothers, mentally ill/homeless/drug addicts who don't vote or give a rat's ass politically one way or the other.

All of these tiers talk about one another but not TOO one another it seemed to us. The divisions are huge. You can jump over a giant rain puddle and maybe get your feet a little wet, but you can't leap across a chasm without probably getting killed. I'm seeing the chasms getting deeper and wider and more disturbing then ever.

In this Op-Ed piece, David Brooks talks about how "Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare." He talks about how Reagan was open to ideas, but the latest generation of Republicans, while saying Reagan is their hero, seems to have closed their minds to ideas and instead use people like Sarah Palin to reach their "base" adding to the social class warfare. (A really good piece, I hope you click the link.)

He goes on to say:

"The political effects of this trend have been obvious. Republicans have alienated the highly educated regions — Silicon Valley, northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham. The West Coast and the Northeast are mostly gone.

The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1. It took talent for Republicans to lose the banking community."

So, okay, the Republicans want the "Joe Six-packs." I get it. But fomenting a level of anger against the Obama camp to the degree that it has is a bit frightening. Not just disagreement but anger. Lots of people are angry right now, angry at the financial meltdown, conflicted about the war in Iraq, the deficit, you name it, but this WaPo article about a McCain rally is really scary. The degree of anger is nearly pathological. Socialist? Terrorist? (Nevermind McCain's gaffe at another rally calling us his "fellow prisoners"--HUH?)

I learned this week that Joe Biden's Secret Service code name is "Assassination Insurance," thanks to Ann Coulter. Again, HUH? That's funny? Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran was "just a joke told to other military guys at a VFW." HUH? That's funny? Oh wait, I'm one of those folks with no sense of humor. Gotta remember that. ::::::::::::note to self::::::::::bloodletting is funny::::::::::::

Well I am going to have to agree with CNN's David Gergen, who said on the Colbert Report last night that they really need to dial it down a notch. He said, "McCain is a better man than that." I hope he's right. And I really hope that the new civil war doesn't wind up being a real one complete with guns and that hilarious bloodletting stuff.

Enjoy the clip. The Gergen section is about half way through the video for those of you short on time.

EDIT: Evidently the AFL/CIO feels similarly. This from The Boston Globe:
Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor October 10, 2008 04:43 PM

The head of the nation's biggest labor federation is joining the chorus of voices warning about the increasingly angry crowds coming to John McCain's campaign events.
At rallies this week, McCain's criticisms of Democrat Barack Obama have been met with shouts of "terrorist," "liar," and other harsh words.

"Sen. John McCain, Gov. Sarah Palin and the leadership of the Republican party have a fundamental moral responsibility to denounce the violent rhetoric that has pervaded recent McCain and Palin political rallies," said John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, which has endorsed Obama. "When rally attendees shout out such attacks as 'terrorist' or 'kill him' about Sen. Barack Obama, when they are cheered on by crowds incited by McCain-Palin rhetoric -- it is chilling that McCain and Palin do nothing to object.

"In a world where unspeakable violence is too often promulgated by extremists, it is no small or trivial matter to call someone a terrorist -- or to incite potentially dangerous individuals toward violence," Sweeney said in a statement. "John McCain, Sarah Palin and Republican leaders are walking a very thin line in pretending not to hear the hateful invectives spewed at their rallies. McCain should end this line of attack in the strongest possible terms. Anything less puts McCain in the same camp as the racists and extremists who are bringing their angry rhetoric to his campaign events."

1 comment:

Maitri said...

Great post! It accurately describes what is going on in my family and the ongoing "America I aspired to" thoughts. What is our nation, are we doing here? What is the end goal? Democracy or more short-term self-service?