Saturday, January 15, 2005


Rummy Ontology

Big Don hears an unknown unknown
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

Ask any certified angry white male if our culture's apparent emphasis on 'self-esteem building' bothers them, and every one of the hardcore of them will light up like christmas trees. They HATE that. HATE HATE HATE it. They counter - rightly - that true self-esteem is built on achievement rather than simple jawboning (note that this critique is a MAJOR part of the whole populist Right rhetorical underpinning - El Rushbo, et. al.). But, what's this?! It seems they highly resent getting their tender self-esteem gored, and tend to be quite touchy about it. What delicate, sensitive souls they really are!

This last election was ALL about 'self-esteem'. Bush and Rove played this tune relentlessly. All resentment all the time. The Bush fans (because that's what they really are - 'fans') thereby showed they tacitly accepted the idea of 'building self-esteem out of thin air' - the danged, supposedly 'liberal program' they despise! This weakness, this contradiction, speaks volumes about how ephemeral W Bush's political support really is; notwithstanding his 'political capital/that's mah style' comment, George and Karl are on fairly shaky ground, and they know it. We should know it too.

Sen. Obama recently endured an hour+ of being interviewed by Charlie Rose. Squeezing in between Charlie's usual small eternities of gibbering solipsism, Obama was able to make some good points. The main one was that the GOP didn't win in '04 so much as the Democrats lost. He's right-on, there. People naturally yearn for revisiting their ethical roots right now, for myriad obvious reasons. I hate to say it, because I think 9/11 was, in a very real way, the beginning of the end for per se religion; but withall, the primary source of ethics in this country is the Judeo-Christian tradition. It just is. Religion simply matters to people, even if they aren't active churchgoers (like Bush). And you essay a culture with the ethics you HAVE, rather than the ethics you think you wish you had. The problems, of course, are with the religiosity itself, the literalness. Take it to its logical conclusion, though, and religion is ultimately about ethics, not religion. Religious customs come and go; ethics is forever. But religious customs don't come and go gently.

There is a reason why it's Southern, explicitly Christian, Democrats who win. It's not because they're condescending, or 'slick'. It's because they know we're in something of an ethical tempest at the moment, and are not too 'cool' to admit it and speak to it. There's absolutely nothing 'stupid' about people yearning for their ethical roots in a storm like this. Democrats must lead the country we have, not the country we wish we had.

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