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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fools, Frauds, and Fanatics

The Blind Leading the Blind,
Pieter Breugel the Elder, 1568.
Click to enlarge.

This may or may not become a regular feature of the Blue Truck. As I said in my New Year's Eve post, there's just not much point in my complaining about the state of the world and the people in it. Nobody wants to hear yet another grumpy old man's rant, and the intertubes are already choked with suchlike.

Still, sometimes I run across items that in my younger days I might have expatiated on at length. Being older and wiser now, not to say wearier, I think I will just throw some out and let you fellas make of them what you will. Today's choices:

1. From Andrew Sullivan, talking about the fiscal cliff deal, but making an important and accurate observation about economics and the history of nations:
I do not see why the Pentagon is immune from real sacrifice, when we have no serious military rival in the world and are spending more in real terms than we did when Reagan out-spent the Soviets. . . .

History is replete with examples of great powers who undid themselves by spending on war and empire - in the end often with debt - while neglecting the core concerns of the domestic economy. Hegemonic America is following imperial Spain and imperial Britain into the same morass. But it is a choice, not a fate.

2. Also from Andrew Sullivan, on "the broken American polity":
Senator Ben Nelson said recently that many Republicans have yet to accept the presidential election of 2008, let alone the re-election of 2012. I see no real evidence to the contrary. Whether this is due to race, or culture, or fanaticism (they regarded Bill Clinton as illegitimate as well) I do not pretend to know. We know also, of course, that the corrupt gerrymandering of House districts allows those with power to rig the system so they can retain power - even when they have no broad public support. And we know that the whitest, rightest part of the Republican base controls the primaries and is determined to destroy any member of Congress who votes against the religion of permanent insolvency - which is what "no-revenue-increases-ever" means as we near a demographic wave of older folks. What a perverse cause: a party dedicated above all to the permanent, chronic insolvency of the American government. The cuts they need without any new revenues would simply end the welfare state in America and would never be tolerated by the middle classes in practice. And tax reform will only get us so far.

This, then, remains a country in a Cold Civil War - not far off the geographical contours of the first, but with the inheritors of the Confederacy concentrated in the South and now also with serious pockets of absolutists in the more rural parts of the country as a whole. Maybe it was precisely because Barack Obama campaigned against partisan polarization that the GOP has decided to ratchet it up. The right-wing media-industrial complex - from Limbaugh to Hannity to Drudge - earns money from conflict, not compromise. And these lucrative media institutions have taken over from what's left of the conservative intelligentsia (three decades ago a flourishing, growing and open group, now shrinking fast into calcified, partisan hacks).

3. Yeats prophetically wrote, "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." Here's an example of the former, who happens to be a Georgetown law professor and means exactly what he says in the title of his article, "Let's Give Up on the Constitution" - which was published in the New York Times, no less.

I won't even dignify this goofball's asininity by quoting him, but it just goes to show that it is entirely possible to be a very well-educated fool. Where would we be without the Constitution now, hmmm? If I had any say in the matter, he would be dismissed from his job immediately, and posted to one of those couple dozen African countries where nobody gives a damn about constitutions already, and see how he prospers.

4. Joe.My.God. quotes the Rev. Franklin Graham, Billy's son, who pontificated last week on the decline of the nation being largely due to "same-sex couples lining up at courthouses in several states to receive their marriage licenses," among other things: "a reflection of the moral corruption that has infected our entire nation. These are indeed dark days."

Of course you know the Pope and many other petrified religious leaders have said the same thing before, ad infinitum et ad nauseam. A new thing in the world: for centuries, the religionists decried gays for being promiscuous libertines, with dead-end lives that contribute no good to society. Now that we are finally able to marry and form long-lasting, publicly recognized unions, the religionists shout about how immoral that is. Which just goes to show that it is entirely possible to be a blind guide and hypocrite, though claiming to be a man of God.


Frank said...

I find a similarity in the article about the Constitution and the comments about the religionists attitudes toward gays. Both the Constitution and the Bible are used as "infallible" documents whose words are both subject to interpretation and at the same time have only one "correct" interpretation - depending on the person or group doing the interpreting. The Constitution and the Bible are said to be both "set in stone" and a "living document". The dichotomies continue to create much strife in both government and religion.

I think it is unwise to hold anything so sacred that it trumps reason, science, common sense, or the ability to act rationally and mindfully.

Russ Manley said...

Your point is well taken and I agree with the need for rational thought and compassionate action.

Davis said...

Well said, Russ.

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