Monday, March 16, 2009

The Angry Right

We are in unsettling times. The United States, the world, is on the brink of financial collapse occasioned in large part because of the deregulatory schemes employed by our government most of the last decade. Note well; I am not engaging in a post hoc ergo propter hoc analysis where I aim to seek blame for those who have placed us in this crisis. It is plain and simply nuts to do so at the moment. Another plain and simple fact is that it is crazy to do nothing about this crisis. Along comes Obama with a mandate from the citizens of the United States; this mandate comes from people in all walks of life. Retirees are seeing their lifelong earnings disappear by the bucketful and hard working middle class America are experiencing the disappearance of jobs by the same bucketful. Those of us who take the language of our constitution seriously welcome the opportunity to restore the moral values embodied in this document. At this same time Rush Limbaugh, the recovering drug addict who cleverly dodged criminal charges for falsifying presciptions, speaks to a national meeting of Republicans and flatly states that he hopes Obama fails in his quest to right the ship. His hopes are greeted by the attendees with an enthusiastic ovation.

I spent this last week with eleven guys I respect and admire, golfing friends from Michigan, who invited me to play an annual six golf day event in Orlando, Florida. The first two nights was spent establishing the fact that I was the only "liberal" in the group. One of the guys privately told me that his recently-deceased mother would have hated me because of my liberal views which, by the way, have never been discussed with him. What was palpable, however, was the hatred. I was so stunned by hearing this that I was unable to respond or inquire why this was so. I tried to keep the focus in the two sessions on answering questions from these guys about my views. I also tried to elicit the substance of their views as well as to understand the anger and their reasons for claiming to be conservatives. I came away from this experience with less understanding about the views that generate so much anger and hatred. What I did experience was the usual visceral anger directed at me, and at liberals in general that seems to be the common thread for the last two years on Fox, by Limbaugh and his ditto heads who espouse Rush's system of values. It should be noted that the week ended with a humorous gesture in that the group gave me a gift of an Obama commemorative plate.

I returned home to find an e-mail sent by dear friends from a guy purporting to be a law student which stated
"Dear American liberals, leftists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists and Obama supporters, et al: We have stuck together since the late 1950's, but the whole of this latest election process has made me realize that I want a divorce. I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has run its course. Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right so let's just end it on friendly terms. We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own way. Here is a model separation agreement: Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by landmass each taking a portion. That will be the difficult part, but I am sure our two sides can come to a friendly agreement. After that, it should be relatively easy! Our respective representatives can effortlessly divide other assets since both sides have such distinct and disparate tastes. We don't like redistributive taxes so you can keep them. You are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU. Since you hate guns and war, we'll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military. You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell (You are, however, responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them). We'll keep the capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street. You can have your beloved homeless, homeboys, hippies and illegal aliens. We'll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO's and rednecks. We'll keep the Bibles and give you NBC and Hollywood. You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we'll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us. You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies or our way of life are under assault, we'll help provide them security. We'll keep our Judeo-Christian values.. You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism and Shirley McClain. You can also have the U. N.. but we will no longer be paying the bill. We'll keep the SUVs, pickup trucks and oversized luxury cars. You can take every Subaru station wagon you can find. You can give everyone healthcare if you can find any practicing doctors. We'll continue to believe healthcare is a luxury and not a right. We'll keep The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the National Anthem. I'm sure you'll be happy to substitute Imagine, I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing, Kum Ba Ya or We Are the World. Since it often so offends you, we'll keep our history, our name and our flag. Would you agree to this? If so, please pass it along to other like minded liberal and conservative patriots and if you do not agree, just hit delete."

Is it just me or is this not crazy thinking? It is tempting for me to break down each of these suggestions point by point, but it would be a waste of time. Bottom line is that I am really trying to understand this anger that permeates and percolates through this thinking. Or the anger that was directed at me during my golfing week. At the personal level, these are good, kind and decent people that are saying and doing these things. One of the claimed principles of conservatism is smaller government which this liberal wholeheartedly agrees with. It is notable that during the last few years of Republican control of both the presidency and Congress, the federal government grew more and the country was in greater debt than any other time in history. Yet, the conservatives apparently have short memories and mindless angry objections to the federal government's attempt to correct the results. On this subject of anger, one of the areas which angers all of us is the notion that people and institutions are being rewarded during this stimulus effort whose irresponsible actions brought us to this point. Last night Ben Bernanke was interviewed on 60 Minutes and made the logical and correct assessment of the role of government in dealing with this crisis by comparing it to a home fire caused by the homeowner's carelessness. It is important to respond to the fire at that particular home and prevent damage to adjacent homes or the neighborhood than assign blame or do nothing. The issue of blame can be dealt with later. Limbaugh as the designated spokesman for the Republican party would apparently have us do nothing and would be standing by watching the house burn hoping that the fire would extend to adjacent properties. In my view Bernie Madoff is the poster boy for the demonstration of government doing nothing. The SEC ignored five different warnings about Madoff's actitivities from 2001 until 2005. It is telling that he was indicted only after Obama was elected. Now that makes me angry!

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