Politics postsMonday November 23, 2015
My Second Meme
The rest of the quote: “Most large fortunes are made by men of mediocre ability, who tumbled into a lucky opportunity and couldn't help but get rich.”
My interview with the director of “Rosenwald,” Aviva Kempner, can be found here.
Amy Davidson on the latest appeal to the worst devils of our nature from the Donald here.
Paul Krugman has a column, “The Face Awakens,” on the fear-mongering/panicky GOP response in the wake of the Paris attacks, and how it's been this way throughout the Obama years. Anything Obama suggests (health care), or anything that goes wrong in the world (Ebola), is met with all the courage of a Barney Fife.
What explains the modern right's propensity for panic? Part of it, no doubt, is the familiar point that many bullies are also cowards. But I think it's also linked to the apocalyptic mind-set that has developed among Republicans during the Obama years.
Except it's not just the Obama years. This is been SOP for the GOP for decades. Here's Nora Sayre in New Times magazine reporting on the mood at the 1976 Republican convention:
Never has our social fabric seemed so fragile; today, imperiled by demonic forces that may shatter it from outside or from within, the mere “survival of the nation” is at stake—along with its safety...
Ford himself seemed to have forgotten that he had actually been in office, while Goldwater talked as though Carter had been elected eight years ago...
On the final night, Reagan caught the mood of his party to perfection when he mused on the letter that he'd been asked to compose for a time capsule that will be unsealed in Los Angeles a hundred years hence. He wondered if “the erosion of freedom that has taken place under Democrat rule” would have prevailed by the Tricentennial, and if “horrible missiles of destruction” would have eliminated “the civilized world we live in.” His readers of the next century “might not even get to to read the letter at all” if the Republicans should fail to preserve the liberties that their enemies yearn to demolish. Ecstasy greeted his bleak message, and his followers cheered on having their fears confirmed.
I got the news bit by bit via social media last Friday. #Paris? Trending? Oh, a terrorist attack. I imagined the usual. But the scope of it kept rising. The numbers kept rising: 15, 30, 130. It wasn’t the usual.
ISIS or ISIL or IS is fighting for territory in a specific place. Then they switched battlefields. They went to a place where they were the only combatants and fought civilians not soldiers. They decided to slaughter civilians.
No words. Well, some. Similar to what John Oliver said on his show.
The aftershocks, sadly, and predictably, have been the usual: Islamophobia, chest thumping, anti-immigration talk, pro-gun talk, attacks on Pres. Obama, attacks on Pres. Bush. There was no grace period. There was little grace.
A few voices besides John Oliver helped this past week. I liked this thought from author Mark Harris because it’s similar to my attitude:
If you're saying “This is war” or “We have to get tough” or “We have to kill them all,” please pause for a moment and think about who you mean by “we.” Do you mean you? Or do you mean the 18- to 24-year-olds who “we” are going to send to do this?
And my friend Jim Walsh wrote a nice piece called “The Force Awakens,” about heading toward the light in a time of darkness:
And as the military jingoism and xenophobia ramps up here and abroad, I take solace and guidance from “Rent” author Jonathan Larson, who wrote, “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.” That’s for sure, and I know from experience that that helpless feeling deep in our guts can be mitigated by setting our intentions every day to make something beautiful and create our own weather and reality.
Here's to better weather.
The House She Lives In
From William Finnegan's excellent profile of Univision's Jorge Ramos, “The Man Who Wouldn't Sit Down”:
In May, Ann Coulter appeared on Ramos's Fusion show. They taped the interview in front of a live audience, and Coulter's eagerness to give offense was breathtaking. At one point, she said, “I have a little tip. If you don't want to be killed by ISIS, don't go to Syria. If you don't want to be killed by a Mexican, there's nothing I can tell you.” Ramos likes to say that silence is death on TV, but at that moment he said nothing. The audience, too, seemed shocked into silence. After a long, awkward pause, Coulter went on, “Very easy to avoid being killed by ISIS. Don't fly to Syria.” Ramos finally asked, “Are you really saying . . . ? We're talking about forty million immigrants in this country.” Coulter, arguing for an end to immigration, talked about how certain “cultures” from which large numbers of people immigrate to the U.S. “are obviously deficient,” making cryptic reference to “uncles raping their nieces.” It was, in its way, good TV.
Do people still debate Coulter? Why? The only honest reaction is to shrug and say that there have always been people like her: Americans warning Americans about the latest group of people wanting to be Americans, who are “obviously deficient”: Irish, Italian, Jews. Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese. Muslims. Yet in many ways, there's no one more American, more positively American, than the immigrant, who knows what it's like where they're from, and who risked everything to get here.
From Kristof's column, “A New Way to Tackle Guns.”
Kristof's new way doesn't really feel new but it does feel reasonable: universal background checks, tighter regulation of gun dealers, a 10-year prohibition on possessing guns for anyone convicted of domestic violence, assault or similar offenses. The problem is he's trying to talk to unreasonable people.