Sometimes I envy those who don’t immerse themselves in the present vitriolic political back & forth. There are times when I greatly enjoy it, and then there are those other times when my blood pressure spikes with every link clicked and post read. This last week was one of the latter periods. From GOP Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst to the shotgun blast of concentrated insanity on Sept. 12 in our nation’s capitol, the ugliness brought me to the point where I considered shopping for a portable defibrillator, just in case (way too expensive, by the way.)
Despite the unpleasant subject matter, there were some fantastic perspectives to be found last week. Two, in particular, spoke to me, drawing upon history in their respective analysis of our present political predicament. First, Maureen Dowd, a columnist I haven’t always enjoyed, wrote some insightful commentary regarding the actions of Joe Wilson, published in the Sept. 13 New York Times:
…Surrounded by middle-aged white guys — a sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men’s club — Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at a president who didn’t.
But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!
I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race.
I tended to agree with some Obama advisers that Democratic presidents typically have provoked a frothing response from paranoids — from Father Coughlin against F.D.R. to Joe McCarthy against Truman to the John Birchers against J.F.K. and the vast right-wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton.
But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it…
Dowd supports her apprehensive view of the present political climate with pertinent insight from from Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who asserted,”A lot of these outbursts have to do with delegitimizing him as a president,” and Professor Don Fowler from the University of South Carolina, who told Dowd, “A good many people in South Carolina really reject the notion that we’re part of the union.”
Definetly check out the whole post (HERE). Her assessment that the right-wing’s present day display of hatred as a reactionary impulse born of centuries old prejudices is apt. “Shades of John C. Calhoun,” as Dowd put it.
Her reference to Calhoun immediately reminded me of a Sept. 11 post by Mike Lux at OpenLeft.com:
…Calhoun was the South Carolina politician who fused a particularly extreme view of states’ rights with a patriarchal and violent conservatism. Calhoun argued that states could come and go into and out of the Union, whenever they wanted to; that they could secede from the Union at any time and for any reason; and that even if they stayed in the Union they could nullify any law they wanted, again at any time and for any reason. He was also violently opposed to the idea of democracy itself, say that they growing population of the North had no power whatsoever over slavery or any other thing the southern states chose to do, and in fact believed that the Bill or Rights only applied to what the federal government couldn’t do-that the states were free to eliminate freedom of speech and religion and other civil liberties. (In fact, most southern states had done exactly that by the time of the Civil War.)
…Calhoun’s states’ rights theories were used to justify Jim Crow in the South and oppose integration after the Civil War all the way into the 1960s. Today we are seeing Calhoun Conservatism spreading throughout the Republican party and the right wing movement. Joe Wilson’s thuggishness on Wednesday night and the conservative movement’s embrace of his action yesterday are just the latest examples…
Lux goes on to list other recent “highlights” akin to the “thuggishness” of Joe Wilson, including an excellent video segment from The Rachel Maddow Show, wherein Maddow analyzes the anti-government “9/12 movement.” Lux’s conclusion is a sharper reflection of what Dowd would write two days later. Lux concludes:
…Conservative Republicans, birthers, militiamen toting their assault weapons to town halls, Congressmen screaming insults at the top their lungs during a Presidential speech-they are united in wanting to refight the battles of the Civil War all over again, perhaps literally. These people are extremist to the core, and progressives have had to defeat their crazy political theories again and again in American history…
The above mentioned articles, both thoughtful in their analysis, offer a modicum of comfort in that there is historical proof that the misguided ramblings of “9/12″ protesters and bigoted congressmen have been defeated in the past; therefore, they can be put down again. Yet, my blood pressure refused to abide.
Having to watch Rep. Wilson go from imparting halfhearted remorse for heckling his president on Wednesday, to becoming a full member of the GOP Society of Faux Victimhood by Monday, nearly ceased my pump. Add to that the onslaught of images & video clips from the “9/12″ madness, and I’m surprised I survived the weekend.
Ordinarily, even the most egregious behavior of politicians & pundits doesn’t bother me that much. I decided to step back, unplug for a while, and practice my breathing exercises in a effort to calm down, and after I did, it occurred to me that something was missing: satire!
These right-wing displays are custom-made for satirical treatment. The inherent irony of anti-government protesters chanting “No Public Option,” and Wilson’s assertion that he’s become the hapless subject of a partisan “witch-hunt” as a result of his own actions, are low hanging fruit for skilled satirists. Thankfully, Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert, have returned from their vacations, and will be ready to pluck it.
As I write, their Sept. 14 treatments are being preserved by my DVR, from which I’ll use the recordings therapeutically to slow my rapid pulse. Fortunately, satire isn’t the exclusive province of the Comedy Central duo. If you are suffering the ill effects of the present national conversation, I encourage you to view this clip from Billionaires for Wealthcare, and bear witness to the healing power of satire.
(Opportunities to take action below the clip.)
If you want to tell Rep. Joe Wilson he should be ashamed of himself, you may do so, HERE.
Do you want to fight back against health-reform myths? Click HERE to sign the AARP‘s petition.
9/12 Protest Image from Flickr.com user: MeetTheCrazies (via CreativeCommons.org)