Friday, November 26, 2004

We was robbed. Fuggeddaboudit. Part II

In Part I, I looked at some of the issues that have arisen in the aftermath of the November 2nd Election Fiasco, or our post 11/2 world.
I ended with:

But why? Why this rush to forget yet again? I’ll save my diatribe as to why the mainstream media follow the herd for another post, another day. Right now I’m interested in the question of why so many people are so eager to put this behind them. Democracy is broken, why don’t they care? And why are so many Bush supporters using the line: You lost. We won. Get over it. ? Why are they so confident that that should the last word in any debate about the election?

I now turn my attention to these questions. I’ll use as a jumping off point some insights from the ever- insightful Gore Vidal in his book Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia. In an interview with Marc Cooper, Vidal summarizes:

You know, we were once the country of unlimited opportunity. A lot of people didn’t share in it. But they shared in the idea. The American idea. No matter what your salary was, you were going to do four times better than your father. But we ceased to be socially mobile a long time ago.
Another reason we have no past is the fault of the educational system. And then if you have media, to put it politely, that is totally corrupt, easily bought, and if you have a president who tells lies or a whole society who tells lies about itself, then you have a basic unreality. People don’t know where to turn to. You talk to them about the electoral college, and they say, ‘What’s that?’ Oh, you didn’t learn about it in school? No. No, you didn’t? And when you ask the teacher about it, half the time he says, "Oh, it’s too complicated. Forget about it."
There is no great curiosity. There’s a certain edginess about why things go wrong. And they have to blame people. So there’s gay marriage over here. Black people over there. Or whether it is French people who eat garlic. There’s nothing but demonizing going on. We demonize entire groups of people. We demonize the entire Muslim world because it suits certain kinds of people to hate them.

Vidal also points to a general acceleration of history. The Twentieth Century seems like the distant past. We have more a sense of urgency, of nowness. But it’s this first insight, that the future doesn’t look so bright anymore, that intrigues me the most. It suggests that people chose to forget because it’s too painful to remember. If they look at the chain of recent events and see the massive economic and political forces allied against them, it may be too crushing for the ego to feel that disempowered. But it must be completely unthinkable to come to realize that you may have aided and abetted your own demise. Thomas Frank’s much talked about What’s the Matter with Kansas asks the question why people vote against their own economic interests. I would ask whether it is even possible to admit to oneself that you have done that. Just like those who supported the invasion of Iraq who continue to believe that there were, in fact, WMDs there all along; we shouldn’t be surprised if a rural conservative Republican finds reasons to refuse to connect the dots between tax cuts for the wealthy, corporate welfare, the assault on unions – all courtesy of the Republican party - and their eroding economic security.

But what does any of this have to do with the recent election?

Consider the following. Many of you may have seen the satiric map of North America dividing us up between the United State of Canada and Jesusland. Here’s what one conservative blogger had to say only two days after the election:

They’re still wondering why they lost…
Maybe the fact that they view the parts of the country that aren’t liberal bastions like this is an explanation of why they still don’t get why people voted for President Bush.
It’s the typical liberal condescension.
You vote for Bush? You’re stupid.
You believe in God? You’re a religious nut.
You believe America is the greatest nation on earth? You’re a jingo.
You believe gay marriage is wrong? You’re a bigot.
You don’t believe in affirmative action? You’re a racist.
You don’t believe in abortion on demand? You’re oppressive.
You don’t believe in handing out welfare? You’re insensitive.
You believe our security rests with the people we elect, not the people who France elects? You’re a cowboy.
You call terrorists terrorists instead of freedom fighters or militants? You’re not politically correct.
There will be much gnashing of teeth, and I’ve read some pretty dumb things from some otherwise bright people. No sense in responding to the nasty invectives and thoughtless blather of these folks with any more than the following:
We won. (Emphasis in the original.)
All your MichaelMooreSusanSarandonMovingtoCanadaJesusland bullshit doesn’t mean a thing next to that.

The fault lines are drawn pretty sharply here. You, my liberal reader, are a condescending elitist. You look down your nose at those who disagree. But it doesn’t matter anyway. Next to winning, all of the rest doesn’t mean a thing.

At the risk of being a condescending elitist, I read in this person’s rant something deeper than angst over economic security or the acceleration of history. The division set up here and the anger that accompanies it are in service of something larger.

First, please note, that he assigns the responsibility for the division to Others, the condescending Liberals. He’s simply expressing his opinions, and we’re unfairly tagging him as a stupid, insensitive bigot. I suppose that it’s unfair to point out that none of his opinions are defended. It is a blog entry. But I get the sense that he feels that the very act of requesting a defense of these ideas is an assault in itself.

Liberal elitists ask too many questions.

It isn’t unfair, I don’t think, to point out that some of these Liberal arguments he’s shielding himself from exist only in the minds of conservatives. Conceding sovereignty to France (or the UN) is not just a Republican straw issue. Some conservatives really believe that this is what Liberals are angling at. The creation of these ridiculous positions that liberals are imagined to have makes those liberals, well, ridiculous. Therefore, there is no need to pay any attention to their opinions, especially the overly critical ones.

The “We Won” defense preempts all of these issues, real or imaginary. Asking questions about the fairness of the election, no matter how much you might stress that it isn’t the outcome you care about, challenges the efficacy of the “We Won” defense. In fact, the very insistence by liberals that investigating voter fraud shouldn’t hinge on whether it changes the election, says that winning doesn’t matter. Or least it doesn’t matter as much as those liberal values our sample blogger fought so hard to shield himself from.

If winning isn’t the issue that trumps all, well, we’ve seen the long list of issues that that leaves conservatives vulnerable on. This is not to say that there aren’t layers upon layers of defenses left for these specific issues. But how much easier it is to close off debate and your mind. Exploring the contradictions of championing democracy abroad when it didn’t go so well here might well lead to exploring the contradictions that lay beneath each of the line items above. And that might lead to a fundamental rethinking of one’s worldview and one’s own culpability and one’s own sense of self.

If I’m correct and this isn’t about logic or facts or even values, but the preservation of the ego, then we shouldn’t be surprised at either the quickness with which conservatives wish to forget the recent election and move on or the ferocity with which they defend their selective amnesia.

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At 4:40 PM, Blogger Vinny said...

Do me a favor. Next time you want to psychoanalyze me, could you do it on the basis of more than one of my entries? You look like an idiot when you take that post and make those assumptions without examing a complete body of work.


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