05 November 2009

March of the Misanthropes

The news media reports "thousands" of people participating in a Washington D.C. protest against the Democratic health-care reform legislation today. Eyeball accounts assert that the crowd skews old, white, and Christian. They were inspired to come to the capital by Rep. Michele Bachmann, a popular punching bag at MSNBC. I'd been wondering whether the liberal talkers were making too much of an insignificant politician because she's such an unselfconscious caricature of a paranoid reactionary. But I suppose we must take her seriously, since she's summoned a constituency that reaches well beyond the boundaries of her Minnesota district. They are the enemies of "socialism," which when they say it I understand to mean any effort to help people who wouldn't deserve to flourish in the protesters' own utopia, the wilderness. These are the people who don't trust government to do anything right, while believing that the profit motive is an infallible guide to all right answers. Let's skip the distracting debate over whether there's racism in their midst and go straight for the obvious: they are haters of their fellow citizens, regardless of race or creed. They are the ones who need to see other people suffer in order to validate their own life choices. They reserve unto themselves the right to decide whether people who are not criminals deserve to suffer or die because they aren't competitive enough. Some of them probably still think of themselves as part of a "moral majority," but I see no morality in these demonstrations. In a civilized society morality is concerned with the material well being of everyone. These marchers are neither moral nor civilized. They may be well-behaved in most situations, but displays like today's reveal their essential barbarism. Question the legislation if you must for whatever reason, but if you believe that citizens have no right to health care, say so. If you believe that the poor have less right to life than the rich, say so. If you would rather see people die than compromise your sacred right to what by one jot, say so. And don't hide behind the "laws of nature" or slogans like "life's not fair." Tell the truth and tell the world that this is how you want things to be, and take responsibility for the consequences of your will.
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Getting back to the question of hate, the new Reason arrived in my mailbox today. The lead article is editor Matt Welch's defense against an admittedly flimsy charge that he had crossed the line into racism by comparing something the President had said to something Snoop Dogg had rapped recently. Welch is eager to exculpate almost everyone who questions Obama's policies from the racism charge. He attended the September 12 march on Washington and claims that writers who called it racist ("a Klan rally" in someone's words) were missing the forest for the trees. He admits seeing a few Confederate flags and a few tasteless signs, but he claims that "well above 90" percent of the participants gave no reason for anyone to infer that they opposed Obama because he was black. I have no reason to dispute that. My own optimistic estimate is that, one prominent group excepted, most of the reactionary opposition to the President's agenda would be doing and saying the exact same stuff had it been President Clinton's or President Biden's agenda. The one prominent exception, however, is the one Welch doesn't mention in two pages worth of commentary: the birthers. This is a case of missing some pretty tall trees for the forest. Maybe they're the 10% left out of Welch's head-count of legitimate protest, but it still seems neglectful in any survey of anti-Obama opinion not to acknowledge a sizable group of people linked by a pathological inability to acknowledge the President's citizenship. Maybe doing so would get in the way of the libertarian imperative to dissociate small-government and states-rights principles from their racist heritage. The fact is that there exists a cohort of self-evident racists who are among the loudest opponents of Obama and perhaps not so small or marginalized a part of the whole opposition as Welch wants us to think. But as he notes, the President himself wants people to see things the same way Welch does. But Obama has his own reasons to sugar-coat the situation, not the least being a wise unwillingness to look like he's playing the race card. I suggest a compromise, which I hinted at already above. Let's not worry so much about whether the reactionaries are racist as long as we recognize that, on some level, they really just hate people in general.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A most excellent point.