Nausea is my main reaction to accounts of how the “Republicans” have been preparing to discredit and smear ANY nominee that Obama suggests for the US Supreme Court and then their subsequent attempts to do just that to Sotomayor. (I use quotes because I think the conspirators are a splinter group.) They don’t seem to have any particular goal in mind, really, certainly not the prestige of the “Grand Old Party” which now lies in Balkanized ruin across the airwaves. Rather they are like viral playground bullies, enjoying the high enterprise of stripping people naked and piling them up in pyramids.
Now that Tim and I have a manuscript and are getting into the real nitty-gritty of editing, I’ve happened over into a whole stream of these guys -- except that they’re often women, just like the old “flamers” of NA lit listservs. Almost all are young and poorly educated, evidently knowing no other way to make a place for themselves. Lance Foster also notes their identification as “haters” on his blog. http://hengruh.livejournal.com/54595.html . I used to call them “Oswalds,” the idea being that if you can’t be the president, any schmoo can be an assassin.
They have learned to use Google loops of hostile posts that circle back around and around by referring to each other, creating a spiral of accusations that grow more exaggerated as they ascend. They often invoke danger to children, which seems to be the emotional stage of the “haters.”
I’m taken aback to see that again Wikipedia is part of the pattern, so that if you look for Deb Frisch, a target of the haters, you’ll only find Jeff Goldstein, her accuser. It appears that the Rush Limbaugh types now have an interweaving three-strand stream of disinformation going: talk radio, Google loops, and Wikipedia. All three of these sources depend upon poorly educated people who don’t read much and only operate the computer enough to look up their enemies or get onto YouTube or Facebook. They can barely Google and never go past the first two or three panels when they do.
So it’s my fault, or the fault of myself and other teachers, not to have done a better job of educating these people and the people who raised them. We didn’t teach critical thinking, or reading skills, or even the historical basis of this country, which is not my own strong suit either except for the year I had Carlie Gilstrap, who made the Hungarian Revolution come alive. You remember, maybe, that that was the revolution that we promised to help, but didn’t.
My Netflix movie at the moment is “John Adams,” a HBO series about the American revolution that is turning out to be QUITE different from what I expected, partly because of the accessibility of the ideas and partly because of the truly beguiling acting. (I love Thomas Jefferson most, so far, but the version of George Washington -- who is rarely portrayed -- is startling. John Adams’ meeting with King George III as the first United States of America ambassador to England is amazing. Both men are striving hard to take the highest possible ground: George III to be gracious about his now separated people and John Adams trying to overcome his defiant patriotism enough to be civil.) But this series is best watched by intelligent people.
What I hadn’t really thought about is how even then there were two contending forces in our political life that might be seen as embodied by two nations. France was a red-capped mob at the time, decapitating every previous figure of privilege and authority, the way the Chinese did not so long ago. England was embattled, braced to defend its historical identity and upperclass governors. In the US Franklin and Jefferson were beguiled by France, partly because of long stays as ambassadors living in Paris. But Madison likes the English, particularly if he can become landed gentry in a re-creation of the old order. He’s not above dirty tricks backstage. This is NOT different from today’s right-wingers trying to dominate the country because they see themselves as legitimately privileged, up against the New Order which the world at large seems to approve.
John Adams, his “rotundity” as he is called, steers between them. It is George Washington who completely overturns the card table when he resigns instead of becoming “King for Life” as Third World dictators so often do. It is Abigail Adams -- embodied by Laura Linney -- who makes us love Adams’ rotundity while seeing his faults clearly and throwing her weight against them. Her pale oval face walks through colonial rustic gardens, Parisian satin ball gowns, English paneling, Dutch checkerboard tile, in one indelible image after another. This series ought to play in an endless loop somewhere until every citizen has seen it.
But no, we keep having lessons in violence and polarization. My automated blog ads featured a little vid of Tom Cruise in his flop movie called “Valkyrie,” in which he evidently plays a Nazi. It took me a minute to figure out how the computer decided to put it there. It was the word “Blackfeet.” Cruise and Scientology have been trying to drive a wedge into the Blackfeet world, erecting a big tent at Indian Days, and flattering the locals, who can’t tell Hollywood from reality. Nor can actors and cultists tell real Blackfeet from arrivistes and opportunists.
But can I? Are we doing warring movies here? This “John Adams” series comes from a book by David McCulloch, much praised and read by many, but not me. I wonder if it’s even in the Valier library. I’ll go see. One of the differences between my life and the life of many of my “peers” or former classmates, is that here I interact with people who would never be described as aristocracy. They are the people for which democracy was formed but it is often their children who are hypnotized by fake magic, explosions, expensive belongings, and shiny cars that get low mileage. It is those children for whom public education is provided and their parents who constitute the local school boards.
“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance” is a useful statement only if you know what freedom looks like and have some use for it besides hating and attacking. These days even the Pope is trying to learn how not to hate. He needs more practice, but so do we all. Maybe we could start a school for Popes, Limbaughs and Cheneys. Then confine them to campus while the rest of us go forward with Obama and Sotomayor in the nation’s capitol.