Saturday, October 3, 2009
Weimar Moments (4): Enemies of Humanity
No matter how you slice it, I'm no Jewish mama, but I confess to being worried sick about my boy, our President. To state what I am feeling in the most idiomatic way, I'm absolutely scared shitless he's gonna get killed. Reading Thomas Friedman's column this week in the New York Times did not exactly allay my rampant anxiety, which just happens to be high right now anyway.
In his column, Friedman likened the ugly mood in this country to the one he encountered in Israel in 1995, when he paid a visit to then Prime Minister, Yitzak Rabin. Right-wing extremists were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin and question his authority, as he moved toward finalizing a peace agreement via the Oslo Accords. The wingers accused him of treason, created pictures of him as a Nazi, and shouted death threats at rallies. Same old, same old, you might think, or wink. Except that shortly after that, Rabin was assassinated.
"The parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach," Friedman says. He only chose to write about such an untouchable and unthinkable subject because it disturbs him hugely that, at a time when "we" have such huge problems in this country--the deficit, the recession, health care, unwinnable wars, unemployment, climate change--there is no collective "we" at work anymore trying to solve them. Instead, there are vicious attacks on the President and efforts to delegitimize him coming even from inside the White House by members of Congress--the latest being yet another Republican, Trent Franks from Arizona, who called Obama "an enemy of humanity." The words hang in the air like a funeral wreath. (Later on Franks claimed that he really meant to say "an enemy of unborn humanity.") We now have, according to Friedman, "a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians." It means we can no longer discuss serious issues or make decisions on the basis of our national interest.
For those of us who watch these matters with unaccustomed attention, what is happening can no longer be dismissed as just rude and disrespectful infringements of decency. What we are witnessing, I believe, is nothing less than the unraveling of our government's ability to actually govern. Next will be a full-frontal breakdown of the daylit world we thought we knew. Andrew Sullivan is very concerned about this as well:
"At the same time, you see the right urging a coup, while all but beating a drum for the assassination of the president, an event that would tip this country into a near civil war. In this climate, establishment conservatism for the most part is fanning the flames and pouring on the gasoline.
I always thought it would get worse before it gets better. But I never thought it would get this poisonous this soon," he wrote recently."
Hardly a day goes by that I don't ask myself "What is wrong with us anyway?" It's our one and only last chance (if indeed it isn't too late already) to pull things out of the fire, with a president who finally "gets it," and what are we doing? Trying our damndest to destroy him. And I have to wonder why--why is this happening? How can it be that a fistful of ignoramuses like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are able to hold us all hostage with their apish antics, to the point where nothing will grow anymore in our stone civilization? How can they have such a stranglehold on people's minds? I ask myself these questions daily, and then I look for clues under the bed, like Sherlock Holmes. David Brooks claims the Republicans are beholden to this wing of the party because the GOP leadership is "bamboozled." One clue I found as to why arrived yesterday, while I was reading a book called "Straw Dogs" by John Gray, a professor of European thought at the London School of Economics:
"New technologies do more than transmit information. Not only does everyone receive information faster than before, the mood it creates is far more swiftly contagious. The Internet confirms what has long been known--the world is ruled by the power of suggestion." Contagion and hysteria and suggestibility are all magnified by these new communications technologies. "In evolutionary prehistory," Gray states, "consciousness emerged as a side effect of language. Today it is a by-product of the media."
Wow! it's not the economy, stupid. It's hypnosis. These guys are HYPNOTISTS. Sometimes I receive information like this as flaming darts.
I expect we are about as likely to shut down this aspect of our poisoned media as we are likely to stop driving cars. Sometimes I ponder Eckhardt Tolle, and how he sat for two years on park benches (with no job, no home, no socially defined identity), and what he experienced, he claimed, was a state of INTENSE JOY. In the upside down world of today, personally I don't know what to think anymore--everything seems just ever-so-slightly beyond my comprehension. So, by what right do I put forth ideas as a contribution to society's discussion of its life? Rest assured, it's none at all. But I expect I will continue forever to roll my stone to the top of a hill and watch it then roll down the other side, because it seems that this is our fate.