Monday, January 25, 2010


These are scary times. Haiti, for all its undeserved (unless you're Pat Robertson) misery, might be a harbinger. I'm thinking of the looting, the roving gangs wielding machetes. In dire times, the veneer of civilization reveals its tenuous thinness.

In fact, given the scope of the disaster there, it seems -- admittedly from a distance -- that lawlessness has been less than one might expect. With the dead evidently in the hundreds of thousands, millions homeless, infrastructure wiped away, government effectively gone, the falling of one upon another might have been much worse.

Which brings me to my point: I wonder how far we are from widespread violence here, in the USA.

Things are tougher here than most people have seen; yet compared to Haiti, which seems, with help, to be retaining some civility, we have it damn good. And still we're turning against our fellow citizens with increasing ferocity. Incited by the constant venom and propaganda spewing from Fox "News" and right wing talk radio, and by the demagoguery of their elected, political nihilism is steering us onto the reefs. Mostly, so far, in the form of hateful rhetoric, the political scene is -- so it seems to me -- heading toward civil breakdown. Already there are towns calling for the forming of militias and the curtailing of government. Arming themselves for who knows what, based on fomented fears feloniously fabricated and faciley fed, having swallowed it whole and happily, large swaths of the country are preparing for chaos. Thereby making it almost inevitable. (Amusingly, it's the left wing that have the more cogent arguments against President Obama's agenda. The right see a far-left ideologue when he's nothing of the sort.)

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, in some ways the tea partiers and their ilk among the RWS™ are worse than those Haitian gangs: at least in that sorry place people have reason to be desperate. Starving, with the dead piled in the streets, resorting to violence seems unsurprising. Here, though, the destruction is mostly imaginary (communism... socialism... fascism... death panels... re√ęducation camps... destroying the very foundations of this country... reparations... hatred of white people... soft on terrorism...) To the extent that it's not, it's the leftovers from the very type of governance to which they long to return. Because it's based, for the most part, on blind hatred and fear rather than any sort of facts, I find it very ominous. When most needed, when times are only a billionth as tough as they are elsewhere, civil discourse is all but absent. Rather than suspending partisanship and blind ideology, half of the country has, instead, chosen obstructionism and demagoguery. It speaks ill of us, and of our ability to withstand tough times. Because they're strictly and unprecedentedly in the business of pushing a political agenda with no concern for actual journalism, it speaks particularly ill of Fox "News" and those who cling to it. (Ain't much actual journalism anywhere on TV; but for the others the sin is one of laziness and stupidity, rather than overt dissembling and distortion. Better, maybe by a little, but only marginally less destructive to democracy.)

I wonder if, in some barely imaginable future, such vilifiers as those on Fox and RWS™ radio, will ever come to realize the harm they've done. (The single counterpart on the left, whom I stopped watching months ago, actually did. That's among many differences between left and right.) Parenthetically (for I am nothing if not parenthetical) I'd add that unlike those in the Fox flock, liberals -- to a much greater extent than teabaggers anyway -- don't need to have their beliefs constantly and loudly reinforced by the fact-averse. Thus, the failure of Air America. (And it was almost NEVER fact-averse.)

Having revealed their intolerance of discomfort and unwillingness to search for real solutions; having chosen the spewing of unfocused and misdirected rage; having literally taken to the streets shouting slogans based on fear and hatred and, perhaps worst of all, demonization of all who disagree, huge numbers in this country are agitating toward anarchy, all the while claiming some sort of political high ground. Haiti is destroyed. In recent times, the closest the US came to it was a couple of years ago. People are trying (ineffectively, maybe, but trying) to fix it. But who remembers that? We are spoiled, selfish, and soft. Compared to Haitians, we're an embarrassment. At best.

I think it's not at all a stretch to believe that we're only about one more peeled layer away from roving gangs and far, far worse. The difference, of course, is that in this country they'll be much better armed and they'll feel way more aggrieved than those destroyed people in Haiti, despite all they have, and despite all the Haitians have lost. The greatness of commonality that got us through The Depression and WWII is receding faster than polar ice. Looking at the current heroes of the right, at the tactics of their national politicians, there's nothing to see but negativity. They can't go any lower without resorting to violence. It's next.

You heard it here third.



  1. Do you read Other Things Amanzi? If not, you should; South Africa is close to where you describe.

  2. Read it, linked to it on Surgeonsblog, have spoken to Neil on internet radio.


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