Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean
politics won’t take an interest in you.
(Pericles; 430 B.C.E.)
I didn’t watch the Republican “debate” Tuesday night. I waited for the Wednesday morning abridged version (that’s the one made of snippets, a handful of edited transcripts, etc.) It works out to roughly five minutes worth of non-substance summary, and seems far less a waste of time than the two hours it would have taken to watch the whole thing. Also in the brevity vein, I offer here a thirty second summation of the entire of the debate’s “substance.” Watch it, then with your imagination, simply plug in any other face(s) and/or any other subject(s), and voila, there you have it — two hours worth of debate “substance” sprawled into thirty seconds.
In any case, after spending all five, maybe six minutes running through the rest of my summarizing process, one thing that surreptitiously began to tweak my attention was the recollection of something that I had run across (and saved) back in 2003, a snippet from a post-9/11 essay titled “And Our Flag Was Still There.” I pulled it up, and after a quick read, was stunned at how uncannily it describes today’s Republican philosophy, the one rendered and practiced both by the GOP’s contingent(s) in the halls of Congress and by its current slate of Presidential hopefuls. So with Tuesday’s debate (summarized) in mind, here stands the more-than-able GOP philosophical summary, derived from said essay via these brief excerpts:
“. . . When fear rules the day, many minds are weak enough to crack the world into nothing but ‘me’ and ‘evil-doers,’ and as long as we’re proudly killing unlike minds over there, they feel emboldened to do the same over here. For minds like that, the great attraction to patriotism is, as Aldous Huxley wrote, that ‘it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what’s more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous.’
“Such cowards have surely never arrived at a majority in this country, though their power has taken the helm in such dark moments as the McCarthy persecutions and the Japanese American internments. At such times, patriotism falls to whoever claims it loudest, and the rest of us are left struggling to find a definition in a clamor of reaction. In the days and months following September 11, some bully-patriots claiming to own my flag promoted a brand of nationalism that threatened freedom of speech and religion with death, as witnessed by the Sikhs and Muslims in my own community, and U.S. Representative Barbara Lee in hers. (Several of her colleagues confessed they wanted to vote the same way she did, but were frightened by the obvious threat from vigilante patriots.) Such men were infuriated by thoughtful hesitation, constructive criticism of our leaders, and pleas for peace. They ridiculed and despised people of foreign birth (one of our congressmen actually used the hideous term “rag heads”) who’ve spent years becoming part of our culture and contributing their labor and talents to our economy. In one stunning statement uttered by a fundamentalist religious leader, this brand of patriotism specifically blamed homosexuals, feminists, and the American Civil Liberties Union for the horrors of September 11. In other words, these hoodlum-Americans were asking me to believe that their flag stood for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, and shoving the Constitution through a paper shredder? Well, our flag does not, and I’m determined that it never will. Outsiders can destroy airplanes and buildings, but only we the people have the power to demolish our own ideals.”
Those excerpts are verbatim quotes from Barbara Kingsolver’s “And Our Flag Was Still There”, an essay in her book Small Wonder, published in 2002 by Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.
It’s remarkably simple to bring Ms Kingsolver’s ‘old’ essay in and apply it to current times. When one of this country’s two major political parties descends to the point where its entire governing philosophy is based solely on fear, on hate, and on greed, most any cogent review of this day’s Republican party suggests that they may well have read Aldous Huxley, as quoted by Kingsolver, and adopted his premise, that “we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what’s more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous.”
it is, indeed, time for action. As Kingsolver points out, only we the people have the power to demolish our own ideals. It seems (to the non-coercive mind) that If the ‘bully and cheat’ party should prevail in 2016 and gain full control of all branches of the government, then we the people will, indeed, have used the collective power of our vote to demolish our own ideals.
Kingsolver also notes that “We’re a much nobler country than our narrowest minds and loudest mouths suggest. I believe it is my patriotic duty to recapture my flag from the men who wave it in the name of jingoism . . .” to which I can suggest only a single word change: I believe it is OUR patriotic duty to . . . somehow see to it that this version of the Republican Party is retired once and for all and for good — and as quickly as possible. ‘Jingoism’ included.
The punishment for those who are too intelligent to engage in politics is
that they shall be governed by idiots.