Life in These Untied States
So, to sum up:
1. People who make far less than 250K per year, whose tax rates will be cut, spent yesterday out in public demanding that Obama stop increasing their taxes. They proudly marched and defiantly yelled and etc., etc., insisting with waved signs and shaken fists on their opposition to something that is not the case. They have made it their business to prevent something from happening that was never going to happen in the first place–and they mean it!
2. These same people, whose economic and physical well-being are a matter of supreme indifference to the richest families in America, have been persuaded to insist on policies that will only benefit the richest families in America. There is a term for these people, and it isn’t “right-wing” or “conservative” or “patriotic” or even “Republicans.” The term is “sucker.” These people are suckers. They have been tricked and manipulated into working against their own interests and for the interests of people who could literally not care less about them. Their patron saint isn’t Barry Goldwater or Thomas Paine or Ronald Reagan or Jesus H. Christ. It’s P.T. Barnum.
3. People who would be forced into bankruptcy by an attack of appendicitis, who have no idea what “socialism” is or how it differs from “communism” or “fascism,” were to be seen yesterday out in force, self-righteously pissed off and calling Obama a socialist, a communist, and a fascist, often interchangeably. And what are their ideas about how to deal with the worst economic crisis in eighty years? “Let them go bankrupt!” Ignorance and indignation: it doesn’t get any more American than that. Each of them–proud, free, unafraid to speak stupidity to power–is like a homeowner whose house is on fire and yet who refuses to let the fire fighters turn a hose on the flames because “it’ll get my stuff all wet.” And when the fire chief ventures the suggestion that the fire is a) going to destroy their stuff anyway, and then b) spread to other homes, he gets shut down with such wised-up, common-man arguments as, “I pay your salary!”
4. Glenn Beck–a prancing, sobbing, gibbering buffoon who will say literally anything to keep his audience’s attention–has become the new spokesperson for the right. Yes, just when you thought Sean Hannity was, not only as bad as it got, but as bad as it could get, here comes the next level in televised right-wing demagoguery. Glenn Beck–whom Dickens himself would delete from a novel as being “too obvious”–is a star. As a consequence of this…
5. Rush Limbaugh has become the “de facto leader” of the right. Think about it–if you dare! Glenn Beck has accomplished the impossible. This is science fact, not science fiction: He’s somehow managed to make the country’s most famous sex-tourist drug-addict saloon-loudmouth hate-mongering hypocrite seem dignified and thoughtful. Glenn Beck has succeeded in bestowing gravitas on Rush Limbaugh. Still, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. When the spotlight is grabbed by the dancing monkey, the rhinoceros in the background starts to look downright serious and thoughtful.
6. Fox News, a factory of propaganda and lies on the best of days, has decided “the hell with it” and become an outright partisan fomenter of “revolution.” While formerly (as a study showed during the Bush years), watching Fox News actually made one stupider, now watching it (as a follow-up will surely prove) makes one insane. During Bush, Fox News merely promulgated falsehoods. Now, during Obama, its function is to corrode its viewers’ very understanding of reality itself. But what else can it do, since…
7. The devolution of the Republican Party (for which Fox News serves as Pravda) proceeds apace. The GOP, fifty years ago the Cotillion Party, is now the Toga Party Party. Newt Gingrich–hippie-dippy marital history, ethics charges and all–is newly converted to Catholicism and plotting his return. (Who said there are no third–or is it fourth?–acts in American lives?) The governor of Texas threatens to secede. (Memo to Gov. Perry: Here’s your Stetson; what’s your hurry? Just leave us Austin as your going-away present to us.) A senator openly talks about advising his wife to hurry down to the ATM and withdraw all their money, suggesting what in the good old days we used to call “a run on the bank.” Libertarians (which is a fancy poli-sci term for “adolescents with firm political opinions about an imaginary society”) threaten to “go Galt” but then somehow can’t follow through. Whither the courage of the Randroids? And no one in the party of Wm. F. Buckley and Norman Podhoretz seems to know that the term “tea-bag” refers to dangling a man’s genitals into someone’s mouth.
This is not “the loyal opposition.” This is Animal House. Every week brings a new hit single from the demonstrably unhinged Michelle Bachmann. And talk about legislation–what do these frat rats do? They release–get this–a budget with no numbers. What a goof!
8. The right-wing blogs, from the most crayon-on-paper-bags illiterate to the airy summit of the National Review, from obscure typists like Pastor Grant Swank (Google it; you’ll be amazed) to the preening elite like Jonah Goldberg and Michele Malkin, have heard that funky jungle beat and formed a great writhing conga line of lunacy: having turned their brains inside-out defending the indefensible Bush (never mind Cheney) for eight years, now they say anything that comes to their fevered minds just to keep the gig and not actually have to work for a living. “Where is Obama’s birth certificate?” “The Navy shot those pirates but Obama had nothing to do with it.” “This tea-bag revolution–” (well-documented as having been conceived, directed, funded, and scripted by right-wing foundations) “–is a marvel of spontaneous grass-roots populist grass-rootsy spontaneity!”
What does it all mean? I’m asking, reader. Is this widespread madness fun? Is it business and politics as usual? Should we derive from it nothing more than good old fashioned schadenfreude, and just pass the popcorn while watching the people who created and supported the catastrophes of the past eight years as they now wallow in their impotence and irrelevance? Or is all this manipulated, phony “grass-roots” outrage fated to lead to some serious danger to innocent people? For every thousand citizens who gather in public to scream idiotic slogans and proudly flaunt their ignorance, how many more are laboring away in basements and garages, building bombs or assembling arsenals? How many does it take to lead to disaster?
The anger and fear of these people are real and, probably in most cases, justified, however much they misidentify their causes. That’s what the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Becks depend on exploiting in order to make themselves rich and famous. But this entire cycle (rage; exploitation; more rage) seems to me worse than usual, as does its manipulation by the wealthy and their servants. Is it? Or is all this just more publicized than it used to be? Doesn’t publicizing it make it grow, and therefore make it worse? Or is it a relatively minor, if lurid, sideshow?
Should I be worried, indifferent, or vastly amused? What does it all mean?