Posts Tagged Sarah Palin

Palin is to Reagan as Liberace is to Rachmaninoff

Nauseating, ain’t it? Whether you liked Reagan or not (and I did) comparing him to Palin is like comparing Rachmaninoff or Vladimir Horowitz to Liberace.  No, on second thought that’s not fair. Liberace, although just as tacky, cheesy and exploitative as Palin,  could still play the piano very well.  Anyway, someone who was pretty close to the Gipper summed up the differences pretty well:

” Sarah Palin is a soap opera, basically. She’s doing mostly what she does to make money and keep her name in the news. She is not a serious candidate for president and never has been.”

“Sarah Palin has nothing in common with my father, a two-term governor of the largest state in the union, a man who had been in public life for decades, someone who had written, thought and spoke for decades about foreign-policy issues, domestic policy issues, and on and on and on.”

(I’ll bet he’s not the only Reagan that might be annoyed with Sarah.)



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The 2012 Monster Ticket

Yikes! I hope Van Helsing  is a Democrat. Gotta admit – it could be fun.

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Alack, those intolerants!

Over on Facebook I’ve been engaged in another round of a continuing argument that a friend and I have been having over the years. He charges that my criticisms of those I call intolerant are hypocritical, because, in essence, this is just another form of intolerance.  To be intolerant of intolerance, he says,  is a type of circular reasoning.

He’s not the first one to say this about me, or anyone of a number of people outspoken against intolerance.  On the face of it,  this argument sounds logical but to me it seems  so obviously incorrect.  This accusation must be the one based on circular reasoning.  To be intolerant of intolerance just seems to make sense, like having nothing to fear but fear itself.  But I have never really been able to come up with a solid rebuttal.

Until now. It really boils down to a simple matter of semantics.  We are not talking about the same thing here.  According to no less an authority than Merriam Webster, “tolerance” has multiple, subtle yet significant, meanings.

Definition of INTOLERANT

1 :
unable or unwilling to endure
a : unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters
b : unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights : bigoted

This clears things up.  I am doing my best to be the first definition as it encounters both elements of the second.

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If Jared Loughner is not evil, then who is?

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.  In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.”  Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.  –President Barak Obama

And if you read back my statement of defense, it wasn’t self defense. It was defending those who are innocent, talk show hosts, talk show host listeners, those who have nothing to do with a crazed, evil gunman who killed innocent people. –Sarah Palin

For once, Obama and Palin agree on something. But they are both wrong. As awful as this shooting is, as tragic the deaths, and in spite of what some are saying, it cannot be denied that Jared Loughner is a mentally disturbed, obviously delusional, and probably psychotic young man.  Perhaps this could be said of anyone guilty of such an act. So is there such a “thing” as evil? Well, apparently some very powerful  people think so.  In addition to Obama, both George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were outspoken in their shared belief that evil exists, particularly in the guise of heinous tyrannies.  Were they correct, or were they falling back on centuries old superstition?

In 2009, Roger Simon, of Politico,  talked about how, though once a skeptic,  he now believes he has literally met evil,  in the person of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. In another article two days ago, he wonders whatever happened to a general belief in evil and why so many are willing to accept an ‘insanity defense’ for Jarred Loughner’s actions:

Which leaves me with just one question: Whatever happened to evil?

Why have we rushed to the judgment of insanity? Legally, very few defendants are found guilty of insanity.

We know that anybody who guns down innocent people or sticks dead bodies under his house or eats them, for pity’s sake, has got to be crazy.

And we believe that because we do not want to believe, as our ancestors believed, in evil. Evil is even more frightening than madness. Madness can be treated. All we need is early intervention and clinics and more resources devoted to the problem.

We hope. We live in an age in which virtually all our problems have been medicalized. Not that long ago, compulsive drinking, compulsive gambling and even compulsive eating were looked upon as human weaknesses. Now, we treat them as medical problems.

Evil has been medicalized (sic) into insanity. But only up to a certain point. There seems to be a correlation between the number of people you kill and whether you are called insane or evil.

Loughner allegedly kills six and is insane.

Hitler kills more than 6 million, and he is evil. The same is true for Stalin and Mao. We don’t say they needed the intervention of community health clinics, we say they were the ultimate examples of evil on earth because they murdered tens of millions of people.

Is the difference just numbers, however? You kill a certain number of people, and you are nuts — but you cross the line and kill more, and you are evil? Is that how it really works?

Or, in our modern times, are we embarrassed by the term “evil”? To some, it seems too primitive or too religious, or both.

And we would much rather believe that all sick people can be cured by medical intervention.

Because that is a lot less scary than believing that evil walks among us.

Simon raises some interesting questions. But I think the ultimate conclusion he comes to is incorrect.  Perhaps there is is such a thing as evil. But there is a significant difference between the Tuscon killings and those committed by the regimes of  Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and Saddam Hussein.  Infamously atrocious acts but,  at the risk of offending some,  I would like to add to this list the American enslavement of black Africans, the genocides of  Sullivan’s March, Wounded Knee, Rwanda and Dar-fur, the horrors of Andersonville, the Rape of Nan King, and the indiscriminate bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Maybe even the corporate dumping of toxic waste like what the Hooker chemical company did at Love Canal.  If the definition of evil requires that violent or harmful actions be premeditated and that the actors be perfectly sane, placing their own well being above the suffering of innocent people, then all of the above certainly qualify.

The difference between Jared Loughner and Adolf Hitler is not just about the numbers, although the real difference certainly would certainly seem to result in many more deaths than otherwise might take place.  The real difference here is that in one case we are talking about the tragic work of one lone madman as opposed to  institutionalized murder, which requires the wholesale complicity of a nation, a political party, a corporate entity –  a community.  The difference between the compulsive behavior of the delusional versus the calculated and coordinated machinations of those who certainly should, and do, know better. When we blame ‘evil’ for violence and murder we tend to deflect the focus away from the real causes, in which we might possibly even play a part. Which is a lot more scary than believing evil walks among us.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. – Edmund Burke

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Citing blood libel isn’t the issue with Palin, it’s her contradictions

The real problem with Sarah Palin’s video is not her use of the phrase “blood libel”. True, it may have been insensitive to many Jews, but it is quite possible that she never considered that angle.  Some suggest that she is  in unaware of the phrase’s anti-Semitic overtones  and  she is only repeating what has been said before  by other politicians, on both the Left and the Right, in other circumstances.  Maybe. But being a self-professed Evangelical, Palin is likely very aware of the Biblical roots of the phrase.

In the 27th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, the angry crowd calls for the crucifixion of Jesus:

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

As Christianity became more Roman and less Jewish, this phrase was used to justify the persecution of those Jews who would not convert to the Jesus faith.  Christians throughout history, and many to this day, believe that the Jews have been cursed by God for the killing of Jesus (conveniently forgetting that Jesus was Jewish and his executioners were Roman).  Palin obviously sees this as an unjust charge, just as unjust as  the liberal charge that Tea Party rhetoric is responsible for the murders in Tuscon.  So in that respect the phrase is appropriate and correct, if perhaps politically unwise, especially when you remember that Representative Giffords’ is Jewish.  (Probably not many in the mainstream media are conversant with scriptures and were not immediately aware of the phrase’s origins.)

The big problem I found (aside from the bad timing of this video’s release and its narcissistic thrust) is that its main premise is contradictory. Palin defends Tea Party rhetoric, saying that people are responsible for their own actions. Words are just words and those that use them cannot be blamed for the violent behavior of others. But then she accuses her liberal critics of exactly that, by inciting “hatred and violence” with their criticisms of the Right:

“…within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own, they begin and end with the criminals who commit them.

There are those who claim that political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow got more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those calm days when political figures literally settled their difference with duelling pistols?”

Just because American demagogues  have historically resorted to hyperbole and attacks upon the character of their opponents,  to the point that they ended up in fisticuffs, riots and duels, does not mean that we should continue the tradition into the 21st century. Palin, Beck and the Tea Partiers need to remember something important:  that was then and this is now. Historical wrongs, no matter how many of them, do not justify present ones.

But anyway, what’s the verdict here, Sarah? Do words have the power to incite violence and hatred? And if so, then what kinds of words would do that best?

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George Washington’s advice to the Tea Party: Tone down the rhetoric

A little over 214 years ago, President George Washington announced to the American people that he would not seek a third term, one he was sure to win.  He did so by publishing a letter in independent newspapers under the title of “The Address of General Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the United States”.  The primary intent of this letter was to give the young nation advice on how to conduct its affairs now that it would no longer be under the firm, guiding hand of Washington.  In it, he put forth some very clear notions on how political adversaries  should conduct themselves. It is ironic that,  for a people who claim a sacred succession of principles from our Founding Fathers, his advice is not being heeded.  What follows are those passages that address this issue (emphasis mine).

“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

President George Washington,September 19, 1796,

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You say you want a revolution? You can count me out.

No, you can’t blame the recent tragedy in Tuscon on Sarah Palin.  Or Glenn Beck.   Politicians who use heated rhetoric during their campaigns are not responsible for the actions of one sadly deranged young man.  Roger Ailes over at Fox News did not pull the trigger nor did he put the gun in Jared Loughner’s hand.

It is absolutely  true, that since our country’s beginnings, and not long after the Revolution was over, politicians have been smearing each other.  George Washington refused to have anything to do with his former friend, Thomas Jefferson, after Jefferson engaged in a campaign questioning the President’s intentions and his mental faculties.

What is different about today’s political speech is that there has never been such an abundance of language that invokes violent revolution, at least not since the Civil War.  In fact,  a lot of the talk coming out of the Tea Party not only expresses the ideals and actions of the early American rebels, it is often openly sympathetic with the Southern secessionists of the 1860s.

I think the comparisons are valid.  Long before civil war broke out, all the way back before the Constitutional convention in 1787 ( yet after the Revolution was over)  the language of rebellion was not uncommon in the halls of Congress.  Well before the shelling of Fort Sumter crazed ideologues, of which John Brown was the most notorious, took violent action against the government.  Brown was not a secessionist, though, he was an abolitionist.  The cause of abolition was undoubtedly noble, yet it did not sanction  Brown to take violent action against the U.S. government.

The Tea Party and friends are certainly entitled to criticize their opponents in the government as passionately as they would like.  They should even be encouraged to do so.  A lively and spirited public debate is essential to democracy.  And, of course,  all Americans need to understand that polemical language should not be taken too literally,  But, when such a large, concerted body of people hailing from the mainstream of America consistently use the language of revolution, consistently (and incorrectly) compare themselves to the colonial revolutionaries who founded our country, and consistently label their adversaries in the sitting government as traitors and murderous despots, then it only stands to reason that some of their less inhibited followers may decide to take matters into their own hands.

No matter how much we may be dissatisfied with the direction our country is headed, we are not under the thumb of a distant monarch.  WE have elected our government, our elected representatives are taxing us. No dictator is denying us our freedoms.  No one in the United States government is remotely analogous to Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin.  Our President is not an illegal alien Muslim infiltrator who’s plan is to create an American version of the Hitler Youth,  in order to confiscate our guns and seize control of our government.  There are no concentration camps being secretly built by FEMA, there is no secret Bilderbeger conspiracy for one world government  that extends back to Woodrow Wilson.  And so on and so on.

Remember the Boston Massacre of 1770?  Well, British soldiers were not to blame for that event (only 5 Americans were killed, by the way, out of a mob of at least 300).  It was the large, angry mob made up of normally peaceful citizens,  who advanced upon the few frightened soldiers that essentially pulled the triggers on their British muskets.  Today we blame the British for this “massacre” when the true culprits, no matter how noble their cause, were those myopic “patriots”, most not even on the scene,  who riled up the people with their incendiary rhetoric.   Patriots who would later  cry  “Give me liberty or give me death”.  Strong language for their time. Totally inappropriate for ours.

This kind of revolutionary  language today is sadly paranoid and needs to be self-regulated by the Right, before another sad, paranoid American decides that he or she is a 21st century  Minuteman.

You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know you can count me out

-the Beatles

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