11 April 2010

Prayers for Death and Selective Outrage

Looking for proof that liberals, progressives, Democrats and others to the left can be as bloody-minded as Republicans, conservative and other reactionaries, the media have latched onto something posted by a member of a New Jersey teachers' union. It was along the lines of a letter to God, noting that the deity had, in the past year, taken the writers' favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, his favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, his favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and even his favorite TV pitchman, Billy Mays. The writer then reminds the holy one that Chris Christie is his favorite governor.

I found it hard to care about this apparent prayer for a politician's death because the only thing original about it was the insertion of Gov. Christie's name. Do a Google search with the names Swayze, Jackson, etc., and the phrase "Obama is my favorite president" and you get 1,060 matches as of tonight. I saw such things months ago, long before anyone got worked up over what the divinity might do with Christie. You might be able to insert the name of the politician of your choice and get a hit, whether that now-accursed figure is Democratic or Republican.

The form letter to God is just an attempt to smear a clown smile on the ugly face of American public opinion circa 2010. More and more people seem ready to wish politicians of the "enemy" camp dead, and there's no point in trying to label this a phenomenon of the right or the left. Partisan ideology has whipped passions to a frenzy, so that people of the right fear the imminence of tyranny, while people of the left fear the imminence of murder, mob violence, armed insurrections, etc. Objectively, the fear of right-wing violence seems more plausible than the Obama administration imposing martial law or otherwise suppressing civil rights. But in our current environment the likelihood of left-wing violence in reprisal for or anticipation of rightist outbursts can only grow. For this, the right will have itself to blame. If it happens, it will be because the right has so uncompromisingly refused accommodation with the liberal/progressive agenda and so consistently characterized it as socialistic, communistic, fascistic (!) and tyrannical that they are likely someday to be confronted by exactly the sort of demon they've accused their current foes of being. If reactionaries fear the loss of their freedoms and hate the idea of a "nanny state," their opposite numbers fear being thrown to the wolves of the marketplace or being literally left to die from poverty, and hate the thought that citizenship means no fellow feeling, no collective loyalty, as far as Republicans, Tea Partiers, and others are concerned. Worst of all, no one with power has any interest in calming these terrors or weaning everyone off their ideological red meat. No one has yet successfully marketed an idea that might reconcile personal responsibility with social responsibility. Until someone does, the least we can expect are more stupid prayers, which are at least harmless. If no one does, we may as well all say our prayers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Say our prayers to whom? We've witnessed all this before, about 150 years ago. One side stubbornly refused to accept the outcome of a democratic election. The "tyrannical, socialist, (whatever) "liberal" in this case was Abraham Lincoln and instead of "Health Care Reform", he was attempting to halt the growth of slavery. It lead to a civil war in which the "conservative" element get it's butt handed to them at a very high cost to both sides. It looks like this time, instead of "Johnny Reb", we'll have to deal with "Militia Joe". The outcome should be quicker this time, and goddammit, there better be no mercy for them.