Friday, August 20, 2004
The Modern GOP: Traitors?!?!?!?!
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.
There are many concrete ways the current Bush Administration and this truly awful Congress have made the country weaker: the utter botch in Iraq and its implications for the entire Arab world; the incredible fumbling of the North Korea situation; the inaction (and worse) on other nuclear proliferation/'loose nukes' (you know, 'WMDs', 'mushroom clouds'); our continued mulish bone-head-ism vis a vis Central Asia; the fiscal incontinence; and many others you could think of without trying very hard. But I think there's a more fundamental way the entire modern, mindlessly partisan GOP - of which W. Bush is merely the acme - has weakened the country, a way more like termite infestation or dry-rot than overt calamity.
After we watched a TV re-cap of various recent domestic events, including the Clinton impeachment and the 2k Florida/US Supreme Court election disaster, a particularly laconic Japanese friend of mine on a visit to the 'States, turned, gave me a significant look and asked, using - for her - very strong language: 'What the hell is going on over here?!'. I could only shake my head and sigh, also significantly.
Obviously, it would be reductive, hysterical and libelous to say - a la Ann Coulter - that the never-ending shenanigans of the insurgent, radical, myopic, power-grubbing modern GOP caused the terror attacks of 9/11 and before (although hysteria does raise unavoidable psychological questions about the hysterians themselves. Gee Ann, do you really mean 'treason'?). But cheap hyperbole aside, I don't think there's any doubt that, time and again, the degradation by the modern GOP of the American political system to an anachronistic, paralyzed, creaky laughingstock in the eyes of the world has made us weaker in very real and consequential ways. Consider how these particulars might look to non-Americans: eight years of an 'acting' president; Iran/Contra; arming the proto-Taliban; the government shutdowns of the 90s; the overstuffed prison system; the relentless hounding of and eventual blowjob coup d'tat attempt on a sitting president; the banana-republic denouement of the 2000 election and the elevation of another, even more ridiculously unqualified man to the presidency; the constant accusations of traitorousness hurled at what is really only fairly mild political opposition....a partial list. How does all this look to the rest of the world, including of course radical Islamists and the people they're trying to sway? 'Pile-on' anyone?
I submit that this ongoing self-assault makes ALL of us, the entire country, look feckless, weak, incoherent, silly, vulnerable and just plain weird - in short, a country in decline. The entire country pays - and dearly - for cheap, transitory Republican domestic political victories. Terrorism is a tactic in a war between pluralism, cosmopolitanism, democratic rule, rationality and religious tolerance on the one hand, and authoritarianism, religious superstition, a glorification and fetishing of death, and soul-crushing intolerance on the other. This war is no less about rhetoric and 'psy-ops' than literal battle. 'United We Stand' has to mean something. There is a difference between domestic political contest - even 'hardball' - and Machiavellian userpation. When you attempt to destroy ALL common ground between you and your domestic political opponent, you of course are destroying the ground your own side is standing on, too, AKA, crapping in your own kitchen (perhaps it's an updated version of the old Vietnam War idea of destroying a village in order to 'save' it). Pretending that America's petty - and not so petty - political hypocrisies, foolishness and stupidity are invisible to the 'outside' world is not just dumb, but insane. We behave as if in front of a two-way mirror: we mostly see our own reflection, but most people on the other side of the glass can see in perfectly well. It's not a pretty sight: there we are, obliviously primping away, believing con men who assure us that our solipsism is really some sort of unique virtue.
The enemies of small 'l' liberalism understand, if we don't, that the 'helpless giant' metaphor has to do with more than strictly military strength and efficacy. The recent crop of ideologue-Republicans is selling the very idea of the country out for pennies on the political dollar.