:The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it. -- Albert Einstein:
Not everyone takes a contemptuous ruler lying down, especially when that ruler is a party with a do-or-die, my-way-or-the-highway mentality. In order to defeat the Federalists, Thomas Jefferson fought fire with fire in the campaigns of 1800 and 1804, which rivaled anything we have managed of late for grit and grime. Jefferson won both times, whereas progressives lost both times in the parallel instances of 2000 and 2004. Separated by 200 years, they featured in common stubborn conservative ideologies backed by money and influence desirous to ensure at almost any cost the election of elitists bent on asserting their privileges in defiance of democratic values.
Far from asking that we take up Jefferson's actual antics, I am rather suggesting that we better understand Republicans from the origin and nature of their concept of honor, after which I believe it will be easier to follow Jefferson's example, less the tactics. In brief, we can stand up to Republicans, earn their respect and ultimately convert many of them. But not if we don't first address certain preconceptions, which occasion this three part examination of their actual motivations and thus of their political modus operandi.
Here, in Part I, we introduce the concept of honor as the world's peoples have historically and culturally understood it: a mythic doctrine preserving stability and defense through (largely) patriarchal control and collective-dominated accountability against any potential or actual power, be it person or clique, offering evidence of agendas contrary to collective interests. The differences between the historically successful honor-based groups and today's Republicans lay not in the fact of success, but in the consequences thereof, owing principally to the fact that Republicans have no worries of, and indeed possess antidotes for, any collective (in our case a sovereign) willing and able to hold them accountable.
'Thieves' doesn't spontaneously come to mind when looking for a word to describe a broad swath of society. While the article's title might suggest that it must be a difficult matter indeed to sleep well and live wisely being a thief, that would be a very mistaken impression. It is precisely because that and similar terms do not as a rule describe one not sleeping well or unable to live within one's skin that they can reasonably typify a certain type of person likely to be a danger to society. I want to explain what manner of person meets the requisite criteria and then demonstrate that Republicans of all stripes in fact qualify as that type.
The type will be found to include outwardly normal, seemingly pleasant and caring folk, as well as those demonstrating various tell-tale signs. What outwardly ties then together as a group is their political affiliation, for it identifies a Weltanschauung that is frankly disturbing, especially given that we often can't see the cause-effect linkage of bad persons / bad consequences that we naturally expect. We have to realize that everybody compartmentalizes, some more and/or differently than others. Think Bernie Madoff. By compartmentalizing (what he knew was bad) off and away from the good elements he could apply in life, he could sleep restfully, if not always soundly. Importantly, he could and did come off as the stellar and charming guy that led so many to trust him so completely. The ultimate lesson? Don't judge the book by its cover until you know that the cover does indeed prefigure the content, and why.
What we really want, pedagogically speaking, is the behavioral equivalent of literary criticism. What we tend not to see, even in those we often closely associate with, is dangerous naivete', ignorance, prejudice and an assortment of preconceptions that permit them to willingly and willfully permit others to suffer, be it emotional, physical, economical or what have you. As a general rule what we outwardly observe are the excuses tendered as justification, and then only if we know what to look. The lead cause of all this suffering is, frankly, all of us who neglect to shame those who shamelessly rely on such justifications. When you buy into crime you share culpability. You can't take what falls in your lap and excuse omissions with the excuse that you didn't pay for it. That, after all, is what Republicans do, an example we should not emulate.
Doing nothing enables others to get away with policies that impact terribly upon whole classes of people. It is not simply a matter of getting out the vote and educating the electorate, though they are of course essential. As a society we are simply not accustomed to using, and when using, to use wisely, the arts of shame and shaming. We often do it instinctively, and we do actually know that it works; but we never describe it as 'shaming', a word equated in our minds with depraved indifference to dignity. And that is our own fault, and our own mortal weakness against a large group who simply do not wish us well even as they personally respond as if they did.
Which, after all, is a huge component of the hypocrisy that Jesus identified in the callous, the wealthy, the elites. It was this breach between heart and mind, word and deed, that prevented such from navigating the eye of a needle. They might as well have been elephants. The point of religion for Republicans is twofold. First, service, to give the appearance of Christian 'works', and second, self-praise. This is less cynical than it appears. Republicans compartmentalize the sincere and insincere elements of service. They needn't, of course, since it is entirely possible to get a good rap without the hypocrisy; they just don't bother themselves with that aspect of stewardship, whence charges of tone-deafness arise. The single best immediate generalization we can apply is that Republicans are gruesomely tone-deaf. When we say they are contemptuous, this becomes part of the evidence: that they honestly don't care that we know that, and blankly deny it, belies any of their excuses.
Ronald Reagan dealt with matters touching on hypocrisy from time to time, but only in private, usually when confronted. But he was man enough to be subject to shame. Real men have shame. In 1978, when Props 5 (anti-smoking) and 6 (anti-gay) were on the California ballot, he allowed representatives of the gay movement to argue their case at the Statehouse. They convinced him that he needed to publicly speak out against Prop 6. He did just that (in an L.A. Herald-Examiner op-ed just before the vote) and is widely credited with its defeat. He was the first president to welcome a gay couple to the White House, and you can be sure that all of the actors he knew and respected who were gay would have berated him to the point of shame had he let the proposition pass. Ronald Reagan didn't care to be rejected by those he respected. It is an important part of shame, though not the only one. Republicans today are too cynical to give a rat's ass. The only shame they care about is what benefits themselves, not the higher principles of the religion they so identify with.
The lesson from Reagan's example: Republicans are susceptible to shame, and they do some good things, often well intentioned. But aggregate individual acts are compartmentalized from policies that rigidly prescribe the Party ideology. The generality about Republicans that most baffles us is that they can do well, and often mean well. But these are usually matters limited in scope and effect, doing a few people good, perhaps setting a good example, all the while the broad policies that really count are showering disfranchisement upon the majority of the American people, diverting the best goods to the top one percent, plus or minus. It is less cynical than realistic, therefore, to take the niceties as the lost-leader, and the consequences of their rule the bait and switch result.
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