Jesus.

Spitting on people? Hurling racial and sexual abuse at elected representatives as they go to fulfill the responsibilities of the offices they were elected to serve in?

Goddamnit.

This is going to shape up as a hugely interesting Sunday, and there’s no two ways about that. And while Glenn Beck, who gives foaming at the mouth a bad name, declares that voting on a Sunday is an affront to God (what? WHAT?) the wheels of legislature are indeed turning and we’ll just have to wait and see what’s going to come out at the other end of the mill.

I wish (it’s a common refrain of mine, I know) that I was in the States right now. Now more so than ever, because I’ve been watching the political scene over there with vague and growing interest. This would appear to be a tipping point raising its head – no one’s really sure where healthcare’s going to jump, but it’s a fountainhead of issues, none more clearly illustrated at present than the deep and bitter divide consuming the political life-force of the nation.

Or, at least, that’s what we get told over here.

Where to from here?

I just hope it doesn’t include spitting.

TAGS: , , , ,

SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

83 responses to “Dear America”

  1. Greg Olear says:

    There is a term for how they are behaving, and it is this: sour grapes.

    Scoreboard, motherfuckers!

    • Sour grapes is right. And the entire Tea Party “revolution” is plain horseshit too. Ever since Obama was elected, this “mass movement” (of angry white people) and “patriots” has been blown out of proportion and not covered properly. What we are witnessing in this country is not the majority but a minority of voters pissed that Barack Obama was elected in the first place, many former George W. Bush voters–the asshole and his asshole in crime, Dick Cheney–who helped bankrupt this country by starting two wars, one, Iraq, which was the least fundamentally looney and only secular country in the Middle East to begin with.

      Fucking politics. Where’s my blood pressure medication?!

      • Simon Smithson says:

        I have a feeling that I’m going to be referencing this movie a lot in my comments here – has anyone seen Last Supper? Ron Perlman’s character makes the excellent point that it’s often the fringe groups who are the most vocal, and thus seem to loom the largest.

        Then amplify that through the lens of the media, which has become a well-oiled political machine, and, hey presto and abracadabra…

  2. Judy Prince says:

    It’s the way, for years, that Republicans have been whipping up “the masses” with plenty of scary, negative “hot button” topics. Not that Democrats are a saintly lot, but many of them are simply a bit more inclined to get us Americans with the rest of the world’s 21st century. Until Obama, I’d despaired at Democrat Congressfolk; they seemed waffling and rudderless for decades.

  3. Simon Smithson says:

    @Greg: ‘Scoreboard, motherfuckers!’ is a saying I will be well and truly using at every opportunity from here on in.

    @Judy: This is the message I’m hearing a bit, actually: Republicans/Conservatives: crazy hate-mongers who, nonetheless, get stuff done. Democrats/Liberals: all-around nice guys scared of their own shadow.

    This is, of course, all pre-Obama.

    I’m not saying that’s how it is, that’s just how it seems to be painted.

    • Judy Prince says:

      Only alteration I’d make in the message you’re hearing, Simon: “get some *Bad Stuff* done” re the Republicans/Conservatives. Otherwise, you’re spot on.

    • Becky says:

      Simon.

      Am I a crazy hate monger? Who do I hate? My colored husband? My gay cousin? My Jewish relatives? Or maybe my working-class parents? I know a lot of conservative people, including Republicans, and none of them are hate mongers. None of them rich either, while we’re on it.

      And don’t believe what they say about liberals either, for that matter.

      They are ruthless.

      I know you’re not saying it’s right, I just want to make it clear what that kind of nonsense looks like on the ground.

      You hear what you hear so much because you hang around in social circles predominated by liberal voices. So do I. But I assure you, every politician is playing the same game. And frankly, people who want you to believe it’s a matter of good and bad or as simple as good and bad either know better and are manipulating you or wouldn’t be able to think their way out of a wet paper bag.

      If I were forced to say what one thing many years of political spectating, political work, and political arguing has taught me more than any other, it’s that oversimplification and reductionism are the embarrassing hallmarks of the perverted discourse that has become of American politics.

      Which is sort of reductionist in itself, but you get what I mean.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Becky:

        Exactly. Right there.

        The bleating of ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ seems to be getting all the louder, all the time. And what all too often seems to be ignored is that people are just that – people. Complicated and with different outlooks, beliefs, and hopes, fears, and wants for what their life is and will be, and the lives of their children, families, friends…

        “oversimplification and reductionism are the embarrassing hallmarks of the perverted discourse that has become of American politics.”

        This is the picture we get. And it’s a very sad one, because it’s anti-progressional, and progress can be a wonderful thing.

        It’s certainly not unique to America, either – the tendency for black/white splitting is a depressing human universal.

        In terms of the hate-monger comment, that stems from the fact that unfortunately, the face of the GOP and, by extension in the media, the conservative movement, is an amalgamut of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, eight years of W., and religious fundamentalism. The average man or woman doesn’t get a look in any more.

        • Becky says:

          Well, and it touches upon what I’ve said elsewhere about Glenn Beck.

          He’s certainly out there, doing his thing, but his recent spike in fame is in large part due to attention drawn to him by people who HATE him. Who say, “Ugh, why doesn’t he just shut up? Why is he still on TV? Alack and Alas! Why is he getting so much attention???”

          Some might feel that they’re trying to “expose” some seedy conservative underbelly, some truth about the whole of a political bent, but the fact of the matter is, making the other guys look bad makes your guys look good.

          He doesn’t fade away and he’s everywhere in large part because, either intentionally or unintentionally, people who DON’T share his politics hold him up. Not because Conservatives are really that into him. But people are getting into him if for no other reason than that he makes liberals positively stroke out, and it is amusing to them.

          I have to admit, I occasionally find it amusing.

          I don’t know any conservative for whom he is on the “must watch TV” docket. I’m sure there are some, but I don’t know who. I have actually had conversations with conservative friends about who must watch Glenn Beck because we don’t and we don’t know anyone who does. Like I think it might be 80% HuffPo contributors. And John Stewart.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I don’t know – apparently he can draw in audiences of 1% of the country – that can’t all be Tina Fey, right?

          … right?

          And it’s true. The human mind tends towards polarisation: ‘Well, if that’s the bad guy, then his opposite must be the good guy!’

          No dice, unfortunately.

          Have you seen The Last Supper? I haven’t watched it for a little while, so it may not be as great as I remember, but it’s definitely a good film.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNPSHydODoI

        • Becky says:

          I don’t know to what extent it’s people who don’t like him soaking up ammunition, or it’s people who are just wondering “who the hell is Glenn Beck” or it’s conservatives who earnestly believe every word he says, or conservatives who find him funny for giving liberals apoplexy, or people who walked out of the room and left the TV on. The point is, no one does. That is, “1% of the population” doesn’t tell you which way they all vote or even if they do vote conservative, it doesn’t tell you to what degree they believe what he has to say.

          Who is and has always been popular with conservatives–Republicans especially–is Rush Limbaugh. He is a more legitimate target, but Beck has been favored recently, perhaps because he is an easier target. But here again, I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh, even though I’m conservative, so I’m not sure what even that can tell you about all the conservatives in America. I mean, it strikes me as common sense. One of the most important things to understand about American politics is the extremely heavy involvement of the media in the game. Virtually every newspaper or news outlet has some tilt one way or the other, some role in crafting perception and so on, however slight. (I mean, I suspect this is true to varying degrees around the world, but here it is noticeable). Americans are slowly learning to be aware of and savvy about this, but I don’t know how it appears in other places.

          I have not seen the Last Supper. But now it’s time to go to work!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I really recommend Last Supper. And, apparently, Ron Perlman’s character in it is based on Limbaugh.

          At this point, I’m not sure that media and politics are really separable. The last Australian Federal elections saw the eventual winners, Labor, adopt American-style election campaigning and adoption of new media.

          Then again, I don’t think there’s been a time when media barons haven’t attempted to exert their influence in whatever way, shape, or form. Sorry about Fox… we didn’t know how to stop Murdoch.

  4. Anon says:

    I’m sorry, guys, but I’ll make my own “3rd party alteration”: Politicians: lying scum who only “care about people” deeply enough to find out what buttons to push to get their financial and political support. Each election, I get to wonder which half of the Constitution will be used for toilet paper for the next four years. The right tries to dictate the terms of my life because “God tells them to” or some such nonsense, the left does the same but somehow it’s okay because it’s “for my own good”. Neither side gets that I don’t want to be dictated to. The right gives major corporations tax breaks that generally cost me money as a consumer, the left trots out “the children” and “the poor” to take my money via taxes. If I oppose the right, the terrorists win. If I oppose the left, I’m a racist/homophobe/reactionary/”big meanie”.

    This health bill that everyone is so worked up about has almost nothing to do with health. If health care is cheaper, health insurance – the supposed point – is borderline moot. But no one’s examining how much of the increased medical costs – before you factor in for-profit insurance companies – comes from government intervention already. So, over the course of a few decades, they create a problem (that costs me money and restricts my freedom of choice), then they create a solution (that costs me money and restricts my freedom of choice). This solution generates new government groups to administer it (which means several thousand more government employees, requiring tax dollars to pay them) and increases the IRS by another sixteen thousand employees in charge of enforcing the law (making sure you have the “right level” of insurance) and treating non-compliance as tax evasion. And, unlike drivers’ insurance (you can choose to not have a car) or mortgage insurance (you can choose to rent), you cannot opt out of this plan. Well, you can but then you are penalized – fined under the tax code – so that you end up paying for it anyway.

    Republicans: Corrupt and greedy bastards who grow the government by exploiting patriotism. Democrats: Corrupt and greedy bastards who grow the government by exploiting the victim/martyr card. Simon, they’re all assholes.

    Now, to those who think more government is a good idea because of the “stuff” you get, this is not a bad thing. It’s a matter of choosing which side personally profits you more and makes you feel good about yourself. To someone such as myself who would prefer less dependence on others at the price of more personal hardship, it is anathema. To me, choosing sides in American politics is like being a Roman Christian and getting to choose which lion will get to eat me.

    • Becky says:

      I wore myself out arguing elsewhere this morning, but I would just like to add that no one has been able to tell me, either, what this bill will do to actually make care less expensive.

      I mean, word is, premiums will not go down, they will stay basically the same and will likely go up for many who already have care as a result of the minimum coverage imposed.

      They will not increase as quickly, but this says nothing about the cost of services they pay for.

      And no one. I mean NO ONE is talking about that. So there is this potential net effect of the government being able to say that they reduced a corporation’s (insurer’s) income, which people will cheer for on principle for reasons they don’t quite understand, but other corporations…with whom the administration appears to be on quite friendly terms, will continue to rake in cash hand over fist and do so with a whole new crop of prospective customers provided by their chums in the US government, via mandate. Slay a red herring and split the winnings with Goliath.

      This doesn’t raise anyone’s eyebrows? Not even a twitch? I’m quitting my job and becoming a grifter. From the looks of things, it would be a cinch.

      • Anon says:

        Hey, I hear the IRS is hiring…. (;

        • Becky says:

          Government work. It’ll be the only thing going before long!

          Nobody. Says. A. Thing.

          Because they don’t know either.

          Nobody knows why it’s so expensive or if the problem has actually been solved.

          But hey! Check out the scoreboard!

          *head desk*

        • Matt says:

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t measures to expose the costs of getting treatment through insurance part of the bill originally, which were then trimmed out at Republican request back when it looked like they might actually try to be involved in the process?

        • Anon says:

          I would correct you if I’d seen any stories either way but I have not. It would surprise me to learn that there was any sincere investigative effort offered but wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn the Republicans balked at it. But, again, why have “a bill” – law in the making – when we don’t even have a root cause established? Investigate the problem, identify the cause(s), see if reduced government involvement is beneficial then, failing that, see if new laws on the books would help. That’s just the way my mind is wired.

        • Becky says:

          Investigation into getting treatment THROUGH insurance, Matt, seems like that’s designed to target insurers, not providers, medical device makers, pharmaceutical companies, etc. If Republicans sided with insurers and Dems sided with those other front-end grifters, then it’s no wonder Republicans didn’t like it and Dems thought it was a swell idea.

          I have not seen a single justification for a $100 aspirin.

          That’s what I’m saying.

        • Matt says:

          Becky – That’s kinda what I meant; I’m playing catch-up here after being away from the Internet for most of the weekend, so I’m rushing things a little and stumbling up a bit here and there. Yeah, I was talking about measures to expose and deal with the (ridiculous) marked-up costs of healthcare through an insurance company. I have no idea what it would look like through a single-payer or a “socialist” system, since I’ve never lived in one.

          And I may have been talking out of my ass in that regard, too. I remember hearing something along those lines, but if you put a gun to my head? Nah, wouldn’t swear to it.

          My opinion (and strictly that) from working in a couple of hospitals over the years is that there are numerous reasons why, some of them interrelated, some of them not. The coverage costs of doctors’ malpractice insurance is one, I know; jacked-up prices by both Big Pharma and the insurance companies is another. A company heavily invests in a private hospital and then mandates the hospital use their manufactured drugs/technology/insurance services–and how much a hospital charges patients for it. Several of the doctors I knew hated when the two would overlap: a patient needs Treatment X, but only Treatment Y (a not-quite adequate substitute) is covered by his insurance. Treatment Y requires the application of Drug Z, which is only provided by one drug company and not available in generic–the cost of which, of course, is sky high.

          Though I’m not the biggest fan of his, I must admit Micheal Moore’s Sicko is the best examination I’ve seen yet on the business practices of the medical industry. Luckily it’s also the film of his where he spends the least amount of time pulling gimmicks in front of the camera.

        • Matt says:

          Anon – Investigate the problem, identify the cause(s), see if reduced government involvement is beneficial then, failing that, see if new laws on the books would help.

          There you go, applying logic to American politics again. That never ends well.

        • Anon says:

          I know, I know – I am a fool. Hey! Perhaps I should run for office! (;

        • Matt says:

          Sometimes I consider running for office, just so I could tell people “fuck off, it’s none of your business” (in my best, politispeak, of course) when they ask about my religious affiliation.

        • Anon says:

          I’d likely get in hotter water by offering, “Let me put it this way: if I believed in God, he’d probably tell me to kill you before you do more harm….”

        • Erika Rae says:

          If I ran for office, I would have one platform and one platform alone: Down with daylight savings time.

          Any takers out there?

          As for the medical system, I may just be one of the few people out there who has been pleasantly surprised by my insurance company. They have covered more than expected. No really. For example, when my infant son was charged $250 dollars for a week’s supply of antibiotics, they stepped up to the plate and covered half. Capital people, those.

          $125 for a week’s supply of antibiotics for an infant.

          But it wasn’t my intention to make a comment just so that I could bitch. Actually, that’s not really true.

          My campaign tagline to be played on the radio at 4pm into every workplace across America: “If you vote for me, you’d be home by now.”

        • Anon says:

          On the DST issue alone, you would have my vote. Where do I register?

        • Anon says:

          And, just because I haven’t asked an odd question in awhile, what ab/dosage did they prescribe for him (hopefully the little guy is feeling better)? I’ve been having an interesting discussion with someone since last Friday about this very thing – branding, dosing, availability and cost. Feel free to tell me to sod off but, if you don’t object to the question….

        • Erika Rae says:

          I don’t mind one bit. It was Augmentin. 1.5 ccs 2xs a day for 7 days. The ridiculous part was that they gave him a bottle large enough to last conservatively for about 2 months, despite the fact that the whole mixture supposedly expired within 10 days. 250 mg/5mL in that bottle. This was an Emergency Room scrip – the kind they just shove in your hand and bill you for later.

          Rifuckulous.

          Oh – and he’s fine. He’s more than fine, actually, the sweet little man. (This is the one Rich Ferguson and Megan DiLullo refer to as “Ashtray Babyhead.”) It was when we all had what we believed to be H1N1. Ashtray reacted to the swine flu by getting a severely swollen testicle at 3 months. He got, um, the elephant flu. Or whatever. Actually, nobody actually knew what was wrong with him. The antibiotics were a “just in case” sort of measure.

        • Anon says:

          Oh, Lord! Poor baby! And not just because of the nickname. (:

          Thank you for sharing the details.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          @Erika Rae: ‘rifuckulous’: you are wonderful.

          Also: I’d vote for you on the Daylight Saving front.

          I don’t know if this is a regular case or not – I was in SF and a girl I knew there got sick. I said ‘Hey, come on, make a doctor’s appointment.’ She duly did so, and I said ‘So, when do you go in?’

          ‘Two weeks,’ she said.

          Australian system, it would be two hours. No joke. And I don’t mean to make sweeping claims about a system I’m not personally accountable to, or even know that much about, in depth, but the message I keep getting (I need to stop saying that) is that the system is a shambles. I like Anon on this: investigate the cause, see what’s to be done.

          Like diagnosing and treating a sickness, you might say.

          🙂

          Then again, I guess we’re past that point now.

        • Becky says:

          Uh.

          What did she go to the doctor FOR exactly? Brain surgery? I had an ear infection last week and just walked right into the quick clinic, no appt. necessary. Free visit, $10 for antibiotics, in and out in a half hour. Granted, I have good insurance, but I don’t know what the hell is going on in SF. Even people without insurance at all can walk into a quick clinic without an appointment and get an initial appraisal of their situation for $10-$15 dollars.

          Most common illnesses can be diagnosed by RNs or RAs in quick clinics that are as complicated as walking into a local pharmacy.

          Things that are more complicated but urgent though not life-threatening, you might have to wait ’til tomorrow, but more often than not, I am able to get same-day appointments. naturally, anything serious enough that it can’t wait a day probably shouldn’t wait even an hour, and that’s a good time to go to urgent care (an off-hours clinic) or the ER.

          The longest I’ve ever waited for any kind of treatment was when I had my knee surgery and had to wait 3 weeks between diagnostic visit and surgery. It was a bummer to be on crutches so long, but I chose to wait to have it done by a really good surgeon that my family knew and trusted rather than have it done in a week by God-knows-who.

        • Becky says:

          I guess what I’m saying is that the system is fine, it’s the cost that’s problematic. Healthcare resources are not in short supply, nor are they poorly run, at least not in my experience in 3 states. The quality of care is quite good, and Americans have a great deal of agency and choice when it comes to their treatment, who they see, etc.

          This last time I got sick, I had so many options, I called the nurse line (another resource) at my clinic to get an opinion on WHICH resource would make the most sense to use, does it sound like I need to make an appt., etc. She said go to the quick clinic.

          And this is what Anon and I have been carrying on about. Cost is lessened by having insurance because someone else pays a portion of OUTRAGEOUS cost of care, so insurance is seen as necessary.

          So the only reason everyone needs insurance is that care is expensive. But then insurance is expensive. So rather than investigate what makes the care the insurance pays for so expensive, the insurance is (maybe, potentially not actually) being made less expensive while whatever they’re paying for that costs so damn much is not under any apparent scrutiny.

          I mean there’s more to it; for example, the notion that with more people insured, providers won’t end up eating the cost of the uninsured and prices may lower, but this, in my mind, is a dismissive theoretical vaguery and doesn’t explain the cost of clinics that are not affiliated with hospitals, or the cost of dental care, which doesn’t deal much in emergencies for the uninsured, and that kind of thing.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I stand corrected – I took that one example and ran with it, set as it was against the backdrop of constantly being told how terrible American healthcare is. And I apologise.

          Brad’s barbershop post was a good one, I thought – about how understanding of the mechanics of all of this seem to be, in general, very vague. And I completely support the idea of investigating any situation before attempting to apply a solution – ranging from a broken-down-car to a health-care overhaul and everything between. Measure twice, cut once, you know?

        • Becky says:

          Like I said. I get intense. Excuse me while I go find the part about starting a mafia.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I thought I commented on this blog the other day but maybe I got confused with Greg’s FB post. I ran out of stuff to say over there but I sure hope there’s a clause in there for free coverage for accidental light saber amputations.

          In any case, what the heck do you guys have against DST? I say make it last the whole year! In the summer I can get off work and go play an entire round of golf before the sun goes down. Can someone clue me in on the source of the DST bigotry?

        • Anon says:

          Richard, all I’m saying is pick one ferchrissakes. I’m tired of all these damned clock adjustments. It’s just silly.

      • admin says:

        Ezra Klein is doing a Q&A on his blog over at the Washington Post regarding the actual effects of the legislation relative to premium costs, etc. for “average Americans.”

        Klein, I should warn you, is a proponent of the legislation, but he’s also one of the few people, on either side of the debate, who actually seems to have read the bill and has a decent idea of its projected implications. You may not agree with his politics, but he’s nothing if not mild-mannered and informed. This is not a shrill partisan. He’s a nerd.

        Here’s a link.

        Could help shed some light.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Thanks for the link and info, admin. BTW, Vile Boris likes you, and he doesn’t like many people or cats, so you should feel really good. I think it’s something about his fur and your hair all so weirdly sticking out from your heads, plus those similarly bugged-out eyeballs. I think the light saber has vanished VB’s teeth, but no matter; I don’t hear him complaining.

        • Anon says:

          I like nerds. They tend to like data. Thanks, admin.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Yes. I too thank you, admin. Data is good. Nerds are good too.

      • If you have cancer or HIV/AIDS, health care would undoubtedly be less expensive because the pre-existing conditions exclusions clause would not apply and you could actually be covered, specifically as an individual, small business owner/employee just as someone with group coverage; say, a school employee. And considering that a large %age of bankruptcy cases and foreclosures in this country are as a result of not being able to pay for hospital bills, treatment, Tier 3 and/or Tier 4 prescribed medications, special injectable drugs, etc., missed work (particularly hourly wage employees), that would also be an example of how this healthcare bill would make care less expensive, and not a further detriment to the economy and family household.

        • Anon says:

          For whatever benefit is recognized, it will come at increased costs. Small businesses will be forced to spend more in payroll taxes (which will be passed to consumers). By forcing insurance companies to insure someone who is already sick, you’re actually telling them “just pay for this person – period”. They will then jack up premiums on the rest of us to recover the cost of this or they will go bankrupt, forcing this sick person to rely on government insurance, also paid for by the rest of us. To administer the government plan, we will be adding and staffing yet another branch of government. To enforce the tax requirements, we will be hiring IRS agents to audit citizens’ personal insurance levels and treat people who aren’t “in compliance” as tax cheats. This will eventually be detrimental to the economy and many family households but, since I am a scam artist with a talent for staying solvent, I am less (though not un) concerned with the financial aspect than I am with the excuse this has provided to expand government size, expense and control over citizen’s choices and obligations.

        • Becky says:

          Teach me, sage. Teach me all you know. I enjoy solvency! You know mobsters. You are anonymous. You are in witness protection. Share you secrets. I want to be a scam artist too!

        • Anon says:

          Ha. “Hey, Giuseppi Verdi! Teach me to write a symphony.” It’s been 20% natural talent, 30% when, where and how I grew up and 50% pure, Grade-A dumb luck. Sorry, kiddo.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          M… maybe we could start a TNB crew and you could be the capo?

        • Becky says:

          Cosa Nostra, bitches.

        • Anon says:

          Ha. As I already posted previously, I don’t give orders. I’ll be your consiglieri, though, if you’d like. I’m good at giving advice and delivering messages.

          And no, I’m not in the Program. But you’re funny. Not, like, a clown for me funny, just…. Ah, never mind.

        • Becky says:

          HOW AM I FUNNY? AH?

          I already speak Italian, you know. I have the right attitude. I could totally do this. But I don’t want to run the show, either.

          As much as I hate taking orders from him, I should point out that Listi is Sicilian. And he enjoys leadership roles.

          Consigliere sounds like a good gig.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Like a clown?

          I figured Brad would be the capofamiglia. So that makes Anon the consiglieri… now we need a sotto capo.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Listi is Sicilian?! So he’s not Italian after all.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      This may nest strangely: it’s a response to Anon’s original quote:

      Thanks for taking the time to write such a well-thought-out response. I’m very much enjoying that this is fostering some intelligent point-making (then again, what else would you expect over at TNB…)

      Where does this dramatic polarisation in US politics come from? Am I being misled by a media beat-up and it’s not actually such a big deal?

      I think we can all agree on the asshole factor.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Oh, look! It’s all the way down here!

      • Anon says:

        “Where does this dramatic polarisation in US politics come from?” Oh, hell if I know, Simon. I’m more disciple of political cynics than a student of political science – which means I probably have more facts at my disposal (;.

        As correctly ferreted by Becky, I’m forty. I vaguely remember scribbling Reagan a get-well letter when he was shot but, aside from that, didn’t pay any attention to politics growing up. Besides, I grew up in a major metro area in which the two parties made the same corrupt choices to get the same kickbacks from the same criminal unions so… what was the dif?

        It seems to me, though, that there was a lot of posturing in the late-80s and Bill Clinton rode in with support from young, idealistic, “sophisticatedly jaded” voters. There was a lot of snark but, since I was a snarky 20-something, I dug it. Then the Republicans had to go a little further in the other direction and the pendulum has been swinging in an increasingly wider arc since then, fueled by poor-sensitive-me political correctness and holier-than-thou self-righteousness.

        Then again, maybe it was the reactionary move against Carter’s dismal lead. Or maybe the social entitlements introduced in the 60s. Or the wounds torn open and never properly treated during the civil rights movements. Or maybe McCarthyism which had us spying on our neighbors. Or maybe FDR’s “New Deal”, which set the precedent for “altruism at gunpoint”. Or maybe it was Teddy Roosevelt’s using Federal troops to side with the unions. Or Lincoln ignoring the states’ right to perpetuate the horror of treating human beings like chattel. Or maybe Washington himself putting down the Whiskey Rebellion so Hamilton could collect the first Federal tax on alcohol, previously fermented widely by private citizens.

        All I know is it needs to stop. Now. “But the last guy did it, too!” doesn’t cut it as a fucking argument. Maybe we need to let Americans get even crazier, have a good, old-fashioned bloodletting, be suitably shamed and chastened by our barbarism and promise never to do it again… for a few decades.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I think that was one of the most positive things about Obama – he seemed to be drawing a line against smear campaigning and outright demonisation of his opponents.

          Which, of course, meant moral high ground galore…

        • Becky says:

          Yeah…but there’s image crafting at work, too. Like, he doesn’t engage in much of it, but he’s got staff and high-ranking officials hawkish enough to make Anon’s “family” proud. That is, he has people to do it for him.

        • Anon says:

          Rahm Emanuel is my Dark Side doppelganger. And it was easy for Obama to maintain a high ground during the election – he pretty much ran unopposed. Since then, though, there’s been plenty of “shut up, you lost” snark hurled at the right.

          Funny story: A friend of mine, um, not-infrequently attends briefings with “those guys” and was in one when I sent him an email asking if he could suggest the Secret Service help the budget by moving all agents to a four-day work week because my bitch-slapping hand was getting itchy. Didn’t expect him to, you know, read his fucking personal email during a briefing. He replied that he’d asked the senior agents sitting at the table – they were amused and wanted to know if they should stop by the house to talk about the details. Asshole.

        • Becky says:

          WTF I was kidding when i said you were in witness protection! You have buddies in cahoots with the secret service?

          *tinfoil hat*

        • Anon says:

          Yeah, Jack’s in cahoots with a lot of guys. I remember, just the other day, we were having lunch when the waiter said, “Excuse me, Mister Bauer, but there’s a call.” Then the fountain blew up and some helicopters fell from the sky. Unfortunately, I had to go back to work but I’m sure it worked out okay. It always does. : P

      • Becky says:

        I do want to comment on this, though:

        “Am I being misled by a media beat-up and it’s not actually such a big deal?”

        Well, potentially. At least to a degree.

        I mean, there is a dramatic polarization among certain factions, usually factions that are on the extreme side of their political ideology or are trying to appeal to those people or stand to gain something by giving the appearance of dramatic polarization. “A country divided against itself cannot stand” or whatever. Or at least can’t stop fighting amongst itself long enough to recognize and mobilize for their mutual benefit. Divide and conquer.

        90% of my friends are Democrats or some form of liberal. It’s a function of my creative bent and other factors.

        We don’t shun each other or get in fist fights in the middle of our 4th of July BBQ.

        The reality is that the vast, VAST majority of the American population is essentially politically moderate, which is incredibly uninteresting to the powers that be in our SUPER media-driven culture.

        The idea is basically what it is in any instance of TV or radio or other media–you will see the headline “Legislators spit on by teabaggers!!!!”

        You will NOT see the headline–“Republican and Democrat friends enjoy Bratwurst, Pilsner, Civilized Political Discussion at Public Beach.”

        This is why I’m constantly harping about a third party. The major parties are always telling each other and themselves that they need to move closer to the middle and so on, but as long as those fringe groups are important to vote tallies, they will stick with them, secure in the knowledge that moderates will choose one or the other of them because they have no choice. If a party arose that fit its politics into the moderate niche, the hands of the other two parties would be forced.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Honestly – Last Supper. You’ll like it.

          (Jesus. I hope it’s as good as I remember it being. It’s been a while. If you hate it, it’s Courtney B. Vance’s fault, not mine).

          As the film points out, it’s often the smallest groups with the loudest voices, and the least actual power.

          Thank you for the comment, Becky.

  5. Judy Prince says:

    Anon, you can just give that “extra” cash to me insteada the “assholes”. I’ll see to it that you’re totally broke and freed of all choices, and you’ll have great fun following the dollars as they flow!

    • Anon says:

      Precisely the problem, dear. There is no “extra”. It is all mine. But I suppose you’ll be getting it eventually – after the assholes get their cut, of course. It amazes me that more people don’t see them for what they are but, then again, I grew up around a lot of mobster types. Maybe I have the unfair advantage of recognition from the exposure.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Alas, Anon, in youth-hood I got that “unfair advantage of recognition” from my father’s assessments. On his 60th birthday I happily asked him what he had learned. He said: “Never trust anybody”. I didn’t “get it” then, get it more now. However, I also know now that some folks, including some politicians, are neither crooks nor “foolers-of-others”.

        • Anon says:

          I have always shunned positions of managment and leadership, even when pressured to take them. My response is consistently the same: “If you really want to find someone to distrust, look for the person whose professional or personal goal is to tell others what to do.” Show me a candidate who did not engage in politics previously and who wishes to serve one term as a duty before returning to a real job. I might believe half of what they say.

        • Judy Prince says:

          We could always insist on yearly rotating folk in and out of office.

        • Anon says:

          I think comedian Lewis Black had a schtick about that. It involved monkeys. I could get behind it….

  6. Mary says:

    What an epic, historic moment.

    Welcome, America, to the 21st century.

    Spitting and all…

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Ah, the spitting.

      Why the spitting?

      I mean, passion, yes. Demonstrate, yes. But… come on. That’s just an asshole maneuver.

      • Becky says:

        Okay, well, I can at least interject that spitting, while not common in American politics (frankly, I think it strikes us all as a bit French and therefore sort of unlike us), is not new to impassioned demonstrators at all.

        I seem to recall stories of returning soldiers being spit on by anti-war protesters in the Vietnam area, for example. And never mind when some teabagger was jumped by a liberal at a demonstration/counter demonstration incident mere months ago. That story being rather blown off. I never bothered getting wound up about it because, frankly, for one side to try to claim the moral high ground on their particular style of crazed, pitchfork-toting mob scene strikes me as sort of desperate and totally fucking absurd.

        Bad behavior is something that happens, apparently, when people get angry enough.

        • Anon says:

          Nice, Becky. I’ll start referring to “spit” as “Freedom Expectoration” now. Frankly (no pun), I’ll take spitting over waving posters of aborted fetuses or “God hates fags” signs any day. Don’t know if you’ve seen that traveling sideshow of freaks or not but there’s a “religious” group that attends the funerals of supposedly-gay soldiers killed in combat. They hold up lovely signs like the one above, assuring the surviving families that their departed loved ones are burning in hell for eternity because of who they had sex with. I joined with some locals last year, I think it was, to screen them from view of the mourners and “strongly express our disagreement”. No spitting but they didn’t stick around long, either.

        • Becky says:

          Oh yes. I know the ones. It is in remarkably poor taste, I agree.

          Actually, I believe their premise is not that the soldiers themselves are necessarily gay, but that the death of American soldiers is God’s punishment to America for its allegedly gay-friendly politics and potentially (though on this point, I’m unsure) that fighting for such a country constitutes support for those politics.

          At any rate, they’re pretty nonsensical.

          Nevertheless, I have to admit that as disgusting as it is, I don’t feel comfortable–as a function of my often militantly purist stance on free speech–that the government or anyone else should be allowed to pick and choose who is allowed to protest or what they should be allowed to express.

          I mean, like any privilege, free speech comes with pitfalls, but everything is a trade off.

        • Anon says:

          I agree in freedom of speech (and damn-near anything else). You have the right to speak your mind. However, I also believe that there is such a thing as “fighting words” and you should not be surprised – nor should it be a crime – for someone so incensed by your position that they punch you in the mouth. Freedoms come with responsibilities. When you are hurtful, you shouldn’t be surprised to get hurt back.

        • Anon says:

          Oh, and these guys in particular were targeting “gay soldiers”, not the policy. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are multiple such groups, each staking out its own niche.

        • Becky says:

          Could also be it’s just another leap in the 6-degrees of separation that their logic seems to follow. Like, America has gay-friendly politics, therefore fighting for America is a support of those politics, and the only reason someone would support those politics is that they’re gay, therefore all soldiers are gay.

          I mean, it’s not like logic is their specialty.

        • Anon says:

          Sadly excellent point. And now… several hours of meetings….

        • Matt says:

          Ah, Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Ministry. They were here in town not too long ago. What a bunch of assholes.

          There’s a good documentary on them called Fall From Grace (available on Netflix Streaming) made a few years ago. It’s short, but damn spooky. So much hatred.

          They’ve gotten in trouble not for freedom of speech (which I agree, is their right) but for seeking out and harrassing the targets of their protests, interefering with their daily lives, etc. They’ve not just picketed the funerals of fallen soldiers, they’ve actively crashed them. And I’m sorry, when you start using your rights to inflict harm on others, expect to slapped down by somebody.

        • Anon says:

          If the irony isn’t too thick, a-friggin-men, brother.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          They’re the same group responsible for starting the website ‘www.godhatessweden.com’, which… Jesus, I know it’s actual really horrible, that it’s coming from a place of hatred and ignorance and dangerous bigotry, but as a cartoonish image, I can’t get over the hilarity of a deity who narrows his eyes and thinks Fuck I hate you, Sweden.

          And Becky, as far as I know, you’re correct on your breakdown of their protests. Their argument seems to be:

          1. Gay = bad.
          2. America = supportive of gays.
          3. God is punishing America for being bad.

          A satire show over here sent a correspondent over – about two minutes in:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7iXbWsO4ik

          In terms of the spitting – no, no one group or movement has a monopoly on good or bad behaviour, and hocking a lugie on someone is hardly new. Is it naive of me to believe in peaceful protest as possible and effective?

          Obviously, though, emotions were running high. And people are not robots. We get upset.

      • Mary says:

        Oh, completely, but that was really a play on the last line of your blog.

        I really wanted to say that change waits for no-one.

        Most of the time it just bowls right over you, whether you want that change or not.

        Still, interesting times ahead.

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