Advice from the right to the right-er

Anybody can sit back and disgorge him-or-her-self of comments on the outrageous stuff in the news and on the Web; tut-tutting what Donald Trump says doesn’t really require you to burn many calories.  This year I’m renewing my effort to keep an eye out for things that are less obvious, but offer some insight that we could all find useful.

You don’t have to be conservative, or “a conservative,” or even “a Movement Conservative,” to get something out of Jennifer Rubin’s “Right Turn” blog in the Washington Post (there’s a link in the Blogroll over there) , and I’d like to offer this link to her recent list of suggested resolutions for Republicans for this year.  Here are my favorites, with comments.

“2. Do not imagine that the entire party is made up of the most vocal, extreme elements in talk radio. There is no sign — not in respected polling or election results — that the party is entirely, or even primarily, made up of nativists and “very conservative” voters. You might think so if you are elected from Texas or Alabama, but thinking that is a microcosm of the country leads to disastrous results.”

  • Many of us forget this one.  The most radical elements of the GOP make the most noise and have worked their tails off to become politically powerful within the organization; but as is true with many groups, the loudest members don’t necessarily speak for the majority.  But the non-radical center had better come to play, or one day there won’t be a place for them in the party of Lincoln and Reagan.

“3. The country has accepted gay marriage, so move on. There are not sufficient states for a constitutional amendment nor is any president going to be able to stack the court with justices willing to overturn the gay marriage ruling. (The court won’t even find Obamacare unconstitutional.) Preaching defiance of the court is crazy talk and simply tells voters that Republicans are out of touch.”

  • Time to let this one go: it isn’t about the sacrament of marriage in your church, it’s about equal protection and equal treatment under civil law, and you don’t want to be arguing against that.

“7. Give up the fixation on the mainstream media. Yes, there is coverage that is tilted, invariably in the liberal direction. Yes, conservatives are held to a different standard. It should be called out. But so what? It’s not an excuse for failure, and voters don’t want to hear a lot of whining about how the deck is stacked. Moreover, Republicans benefit from being tested in interviews and debates by those with whom they disagree.”

  • Journalists are supposed to question the statements and beliefs of candidates and officeholders; they do it to Democrats and Libertarians and independents, too, but we don’t hear them complaining like you.  If you don’t like the critical attention, get a new line of work.

First step on the new path…don’t know where it’s going to lead.

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Dear Jon Stewart,

Thank you…you and the little army of writers and television gypsies that came together for good, at a time when your country, and I, needed you.  When we were lost, trying to rescue truth from the clutches of the radical political conservatives, and the evangelical Christian extremists, and the political organizations they controlled, you went to the front of the column and screamed, “Seriously?”

Journalism was little help in those dark times.  The major outlets were swampedjon_stewart3 by calls that blamed the “liberal media” for always taking sides against good honest conservatives, so they fell back to reporting controversial stories as little more than “he said/she said” exchanges and refused to identify blatant falsity as such.  They were outmaneuvered by the opposition; they were (and are) cowards, willing victims to what David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times beautifully referred to as “the four horsemen of the journalistic apocalypse: superficiality, sensationalism, preoccupation with celebrity, and obsession with the bottom line.”  So it was left to comedy, satire, to ride to our rescue.

The objection to Puritans is not that they try to make us think as they do, but that they try to make us do as they think. – H. L. Mencken

Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so. – Robert A. Heinlein

It didn’t help that the barbarians at the gate, intent on replacing the tolerant democratic civil society we were aspiring to with a theocracy of their own religious beliefs, decided to unlevel the playing field and refuse to acknowledge any truths that didn’t support their worldview.  The “reality-based community” stood dumbfounded, scrambling for the proper reply to “No, the sky is not blue, and you can’t prove that it is.”  But you found a way.

You like to say that you were just a comedian; true enough, but on The Daily Show you were more than just jokes.  You aimed a most potent weapon—sunshine; the light of day; their own words; common sense—at people who were full of shit and assured us all that the smell was coming from somewhere else.  They deserved what they got from you, and we got to laugh.  And in the process—in pointing out that the emperor indeed did not have on any clothes, that what politicians said quite often was at odds with demonstrable truth, that the 24-hour news channels weren’t worth the paper they were printed on—you reassured a lot of us that there was still hope.  For that, thank you.

Fact is, you did a great job of it just this week and I grabbed the link.  So for old time’s sake, just once more, let me suggest—click the pic, ya maroons.

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It’s a shame to think that I think like this

But, I do: I was surprised—pleasantly surprised—to see the headline “Ted Cruz, Newt Gingrich Defend Mandela Against GOP Critics.”

My new senator hasn’t impressed me much, not during the campaign last year or since he’s been in office.  He’s been unapologetic up to now at toeing the ultraconserative Tea Party line, pandering to some of the least “American” elements in American society…the very people who are criticizing him now for his glowing praise for Nelson Mandela: “He endured decades of imprisonment and steadfastly continued his fight for equality.  And, when justice prevailed in his battle against apartheid, and Mandela was elected president of his nation, he nobly chose reconciliation instead of retribution — a legacy for which he will be remembered forever.”  Cruz is even making the trip to South Africa for the Mandela memorial as part of a congressional delegation.

When I saw the headline I thought, “Cruz disagreed with the right-wing fringe?  Did I read that right?”  Sure enough…and now it turns out that, not only do I share an opinion on an issue with Ted Cruz, but I have to add a new exercise to my workout: fighting the urge to jump to conclusions.

Hey, I was thinking the same thing…but I can’t draw a face full of hate like that

I am sooo tired of hearing political arguments that are based primarily, if not entirely, on what side of the issue God has taken.  Arguments made by people who, apparently, know where God stands on the issues of the day here in America.  Are extreme conservatives the only people who are plugged in to God’s position on the issues?  Or the only ones who find that argument a persuasive one?

Last month I wrote about the echo of today’s extreme conservative message in the language of  long-ago memorials to Confederate war dead.  Today, I note that Doonesbury sees some of the same thing, but makes the point better than I did (or could).

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I couldn’t be more pleased to be sharing a point of view with a comic strip, or more disheartened about the intellectual quality of modern American political rhetoric.

Thanks to Doonesbury, Slate, and GoComics.com

Furlough Journal: Finding the past in the present

The “partial government shutdown” means I’m at home this week with time to kill; yesterday I had planned to play golf but it rained…a lot.  (Today it rained again; hey, aren’t we in a drought?)  So, I finished off the last two issues of Golf magazine, which I had allowed to lapse, and then organized the more than two and a half years of back issues of Texas Monthly that I’ve been ignoring since…well, since March of 2011, our state’s 175th birthday.  Texas Independence Day, March 2, 1836; while the siege at the Alamo neared its end, 59 Texans gathered at Washington-on-the-Brazos and declared Texas a nation independent of Mexico.

The cover story in “The Terquasquicentennial Issue” is a tour of 175 historic events and places in Texas history.  From 113 million year old dinosaur fossils west of Glen Rose (#1) to the invention of the integrated circuit (#23) and the frozen margarita machine (#22), both in Dallas (dammit), to the sites of infamous murders (#4, #7, #15, #34, #46, #62)  and great literature (#29, #81) and the first Dr Pepper (#145) and important sports milestones (#10, #18,  #53), the list is a great read for Texans and, I think , at least amusing for non-Texans.  But #31 made me stop and think: the first Confederate monument in Texas, erected in 1896 and still there today on the grounds of the Grayson County Courthouse in Sherman, in north Texas.

I’ve lived in Texas for more than 45 years, and I’ve seen plenty of monuments to Confederate war dead, including some pretty impressive ones on the grounds of the state capital; I never gave much thought to any of them.  Even when I considered the probable impropriety of praise for the losers in a civil war, I reconciled it to myself with the thought that it was a memorial placed by good-hearted people to honor lost brothers.

But the wording on this memorial got me thinking (emphasis mine):

“Sacred to the memory of our Confederate dead, true patriots, they fought for home and country, for the holy principles of self government—the only true liberty. Their sublime self sacrifices and unsurpassed valor will teach future generations the lesson of high born patriotism, of devotion to duty, of exalted courage, of Southern chivalry.”  “Fighting for the preservation of family, homeland and rights is never a lost cause. So great the valor, so supreme the sacrifice, so red the rose . . .”

Maybe it’s just me, but all I can hear in my head as I read that is the echoes of today’s far right.  The invocation of traditions of faith and righteousness are the buzzwords of today’s extreme conservative political machine; the people who claim to love and cherish the U.S. Constitution and the laws of this country, and who are fighting the good fight to take their country back (from whomever), are using the same language as people who supported and honored the traitors who took up arms against the United States of America, who claimed the backing of the Almighty in a fight to defend the practice of human slavery.  Today, conservatives impugn their political enemies for an alleged lack of patriotism using the same language that was used to exalt traitors to this country.

Do many of the extremist Republicans who are responsible for today’s standoff in the current fight over “family, homeland and rights” look to those rebels as examples of “high born patriotism” and “devotion to duty”?  Do any?  It makes me wonder.