Saturday, October 29, 2011

The New Barbarism

There must be something in water Republicans are drinking, or maybe the stress of having to accept Mitt Romney as the eventual standard bearer has had more fragile minds snap because they have been saying some very odd things of late.

First there was the backbench Florida State representative who blurted out an unthought, unedited comment on how capitol punishment by lethal injection was too soft of a punishment. His solution was to fire up the electric chair or use a firing squad. No, seriously, the man was making the argument that cruelty towards condemned prisoners was a good thing. He went on record that mercy was a bad idea; that cruelty should be met with cruelty. It is like the 8th Amendment of the Constitution, did not matter, and we could go back to the glory days of Celtic ceremonies, where the condemned where burn alive as sacrifices to the fierce pagan Gods.

But why stop a small handful of individuals when you can go after a whole class of people the way Alabama did? Unless you live under a rock you have to know the class of people Republicans love to hate; the brown menace, the “illegals.” Lets just ignore the emotionally loaded term of illegal alien, and how toxic it is, for just a moment and just gape in wonder at the Draconian solution that Alabama made policy.  Almost every public employee is required to turn in people they deem suspicious of the heinous crime of not having the proper papers to prove residency. It has been a shop of horrors with children of naturalized citizen being handed papers stating that they were suspect. Thousands of naturalized and native born citizens got fed into the hopper of the Alabama law just because they had the wrong last name and wrong skin tone. The blow-back has been hideous. Hispanics are fleeing the state of Alabama in droves, shredding whole communities. Alabama’s agricultural infrastructure took a big whack, with tons of produce left to rot in the field. Panicked farmers offered top dollar for someone, anyone to pick the crop, all to no avail. But the cherry on this ice cream sundae from hell was that other states in Dixie were looking to double down on Alabama’s insanity.

But leave it to the NRO to top all of that, or race further to the bottom depending on how you look at these things.  In a totally incoherent rant NRO takes on the evil, rotten, no good Commie, Pinko, Bed-wetters at Sesame Street. No, I am not making this up, it seems that Sesame Street has an anti-capitalist agenda. The gist of the screed is how dare Sesame Street bring up the issue of “food insecurity.” Again, I am not making this stuff up. Julie Gunlock goes on a tear on how good we have it because only 5% of the public is food insecure. That is supposed to be great that one in twenty US citizens goes hungry on a regular basis. After all so many outside the US are doing so much worse, so be grateful for you hit or miss ramen pack. Amanda Marcotte brings out the snark on the issue, just to point out how bad it gets on the Wingnut right. Compassion seems to be a dirty word among the right wing chattering class.

There is a common thread through all of this and it is the politics of resentment.  It is a group of people letting there hate flag fly free and large.  You saw this in the support governor Rick Perry got from people when he was accused of executing a innocent man. These people were in full vicious troll mode, claiming it took a brave man to knowingly execute an innocent man.

Actually it takes a craven, amoral political hack to do such a thing. It takes a pandering fool, a man willing to sell out his soul wholesale to the most base emotions of the electorate. It takes a total cad.

This long slow slide into degeneracy by the party of Lincoln began all the way back, to the days of Nixon. From tricky Dick onward the Republicans were all about the triumph of the squares over the cool folks.  The party of memory, quickly became the party of reaction and retrenchment. From there it has become the party of petty revenge.

There is a new Barbarism on the march. It is bitter. It is angry. It is angry at the social changes that occurred since the conformist 1950’s. It is angry about the change in the status of women, blacks, and other non-whites. It is angry about the erosion of its middle class life style. It is angry about many things and it more than willing to self-destructively act out against those it sees as the culprits. It is mean, and its ornery. You saw it in action when it cheered for Perry line about the number of  executions Texas performed.  It cheered to Herman Cain’s throw away line about a electrified border fence.  It revels in its political incorrectness, taking pride in its own obnoxiousness. It is anti-democratic in nature and deeply authoritarian.

We have not seen a political conversation this dysfunctional since Vietnam. Back then it was the left that had taken leave of its senses, gone over to rigid political nostrums wholly disconnected with reality. Today the right seems determined to out-do the old radical left with its rigidity of its one true faith. As with any other sect, there are tests, the only way to answer questions of faith. The Orthodoxy of the right seems more rigid with each passing election and ever more hostile to reality. No fact, no datum, no proof is accepted if it conflicts with the ideology. No thinking is allowed. If the facts conflict with the ideology, the facts have to go. To make those fact go away, an all-out attack on the messenger bearing those facts is the response. Character assassination, vile lies, and appeals to raw emotions are the stock and trade of the right-wing. When that does not work, there is raw violence to fall back upon as Edward Tiller and Gabby Giffords found out. If you can’t use reason, you can harass, beat, bludgeon, bomb, or gun down those who you hate.

Still we have no one to blame for this state of affairs, other than ourselves. Our un-involvement in the political process, our disinterest, our cynicism allows this barbarism to continue. The people engaged in this new barbarism are like the Vikings of old, only small bands of miscreants. They are a bunch of bullies. Stand up to them and they will eventually back down, cowards always do.
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