Saturday, February 20, 2021

Dancing with the Darkness

Frank Bruni Bruni doesn't want us to be them. We're supposed to be the decent people who seek to avoid the moral calumny, the furtherance of a self-debasement. When we speak ill of the dead, we break a rule of probity. But do tell me how we take history seriously if we don't tell the truth? Are these truths we should ignore? I too lament giving them too much oxygen but that is what the living breathe. And my point is actually about the living. So how shall we bury Limbaugh when what he helped create is now such an important feature of our current America?

Limbaugh defined the "conservative" message machine and its true purpose---to be as callow, cruel, relentless, boring, bigoted, and above all, utterly self-serving as is possible---and so to say the unsayable again and again, to normalize the hate, anger, and distrust of all who might have another point of view. Lie and repeat the lies until they are just another day on Fox News. Perhaps I should take the kids on vacation to Cancun and not indulge these truths? After all, like Cruz' apologists are saying, what could he have done anyway to make it better?
Oh, and let us not forget the special place for demeaning women, brown and Black people, and other "takers, not makers." Or was that the more dulcet toned Romney? Anyone seen the dog? Roof of the car? Perhaps I should be the snowflake? I am not comparing character, merely the message. Trump merely took that Republican Party to its logical Rush conclusion, not that Limbaugh had any kind of argument but for power, money, and hate. That is the point: there is no argument and never has been. It's about power at the expense of others because that is how power keeps power when it is the only point.
And so we must avoid hate speech and instead take note of the speech we hate? That is quite the dance we're invited to perform. That millions of Americans listened to this horror show day in and day out and then voted in record numbers for Trump should tell us all we really need to know about our fellow citizens' dance and their partners. Who could want to become like them? The irony of this comment isn't lost on me. It's just that truth often hurts. Everyone. But not all hurt is the same and neither is the dance.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Common Ground or Else

 Common Ground or Else and Here's Why

Let's start by quoting none other than Mitch McConnell who said, “Winners make policy, and losers go home.” If the take away from this is that Democrats need to act like Republicans to get anything done, well, that would not be irrational. The bonus schadenfreude adds flavor too. But then what?
Our the situation demands we consider more than the need to wield power to reverse, correct, and progress---the damage done in four years has compounded the damage caused principally by Republican rule since Reagan. The take-away---to do to Republicans what they do so effectively when they are in power---has been mitigated by Biden's proposals for bipartisanship. Can this work? We should have our doubts. Such bipartisanship requires two things: 1. good faith efforts to compromise and serious counterproposals, real negotiations. Republicans have shown us that they have neither interest; the recent Republican Senate "moderates" counter offers may not have been wholly in bad faith but they were in effect disingenuous. That is a path to nowhere but more partisan decision making and that may be necessary. They did not make an honest counterproposal. So, what should the Democrats do? They have no choice but to go forward and to play by McConnell Rules, which means they simply use their power to do what they want until the power shifts and they simply can't. What this will do _for_ the country is different from what it will do _to_ the country. The country will begin a process of redressing inequalities and oppression, it will start to mitigate the spread of disease and so bring back some semblance of normalcy (my prediction: that will take a year or more, not by this fall); they will reclaim American roles in foreign policy with allies and begin to heal our fractured, implausible moral claims of democratic leadership. But what it will do to the country will not depend on these successes. Does anyone believe that because the lot of voters in Mississippi or South Carolina or Missouri improves significantly, measurably under a Biden Administration that these voters will recognize that these are the result of policies _forced over the objections of Republcians by Democrats? I think not. The likes of Hawley and Q. Greene will raise huge money and be reelected by landslides despite the fact that they will have done worse than nothing for their constituents. So the question I have is why are people so incorrigible? Why are they so unwilling to compromise or give credit where it is due? Why is this partisanship so utterly irrational? Ahh, the last question holds the key that opens the door. None of these failures to recognize the facts are rooted in evidence or reason. For that to happen Republicans would have to use reliable sources of information. And then they would have to be able to think rationally through the evidence. Misinformation serves emotional needs that are both personal and tribal. We're in for more of that because we don't know how to stop it. What makes that bipartisanship wholly impossible is that the propaganda networks have only incentive to further their disinformation. If Fox sounds like CNN or, god forbid, MSNBC then what makes them different? And wouldn't their viewers notice? Even the slightest deviation from The Crazy has caused ratings to drop and viewers to head to the Even Worse Sources of Disinformation, like NewsMax and OANN. Profit will continue to drive information: _not_ truth, not decency, not responsibility to maintaining democratic norms, nothing but money will matter. Only libel suits can slow them down---and thank goodness Dominion and Smartmatic have figured out how to hurt them. That said, we live in an unprecedented time when "opinion" means you can believe anything regardless of the facts or simply conjure your own "facts." The anti-vaxxers on the Left contribute to the madness but they strike me as outliers. Let us not make false equivalencies. We know where the problems of disinformation are rooted and where the infection is rampant. Americans are lazy to do the right things because that requires real effort. Further, the things they "want" mean they won't do the right things if it costs them---economically, emotionally, you name it. Apparently a significant portion of the already-vaccinated are failing to return for their second shots despite the fact that there have been next to zero reported side effects. How many of those are also in situations where they have no support systems to get them their second shots? In other words, a significant portion of the population is proving itself unfit for democracy. One way or another, under whatever circumstances, people need to be vaccinated. 

And worse, a significant portion does not _want_ democracy: they want their agendas or their ease or simply whatever they regard as familiar or preferred. A lot of people are too afraid, too disenfranchised, too oppressed by systems that leave them hurting and desperate---by the racism, sexism, and our failure to live our ideals. To participate in a functional democracy requires respect for the facts: America is showing itself illiterate _and_ disrespectful of science. You know, science? Where we try to sort out the facts from beliefs or feelings or delusions and desires? When you can't discern facts, you can't know _when_ you need to compromise, that is, when _after a reasonable assessment of the facts_ you make reasonable choices that meet conflicting interests. You have to be able to tell facts from falsities, assess their importance with respect to conflicting interests, and then come up with a plan that serves what Washington called "public administration..." with the aim of achieving “consistent and wholesome plans.” Yeah, good luck with that under the current terms of disinformation and a poorly educated, personally irresponsible, neglected, oppressed, frightened, angry, indifferent, and suspicious populace that has no incentive to change. If 460,000 PLUS dead can't convince the Republican Governor of Iowa to sustain important COVID restrictions, what we can expect from those of us who see this as madness is our continuing belief that more failure is more likely than real success. This is _not_ cynical. Cynicism is when you work to undermine decency or truth because you have an interest in doing so. Don't mistake sober pessimism for the cynical. Q-Tip Greene isn't smart enough to be cynical. Hawley and Cruz are. But the rest of us who are reasonable and who would actually WANT a more bipartisan approach to create healing and less deep distrust and disdain for our opponents cannot help but be more resigned and even fatalist. Why? Because there is zero effort on the part of our opponents to act in good faith or to want any of that healing. The idiots, conspirators, and bad faith cynics all _need_ our mutual disdain and foster our disunity in order to profit. Theirs is a grift, pure and simple---they stand to profit from more anger, fear, and failure. After all, everything Republicans are doing now is about regaining power in 2022, which requires Biden to fail. If Biden fails, of course, how many more will die of COVID? That's just sad truth. Should we give them our disdain and direct our anger towards them? I think not because what good would that do? It doesn't unite us any further in the effort to do good. The only question then remaining is if our fighting amongst ourselves---thank you, Senators Manchin and Sinema---will ruin us. Or if we argue against our own interests. But we must meet in the middle. Somewhere. We must or everything that I have said here will come true and for the worse. We must find a way with each other. The demons aren't going away but we need to see each other as human beings---and make sense of our conflicting interests. Ask the Boss. In America it can take a Jeep commercial to get any of this message through the noise.