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03 November 2004 @ 01:26 pm
What Can I Say?  
Oh, good grief.

This will be a rant, and as such is hidden behind this cut tag.

You'd think we just exploded an A-Bomb in every inhabited city in the world. You'd think that the Forces of Evil (tm), recognized by all but those who are too stupid to see or who are evil themselves, just took over the country, and tomorrow we'll be off to RULE THE WORLD BWAA HAA HAA stomping on children and women and little kitties the entire time.

Let me try to put some long-term perspective on this, using some phrases that I've been reading:

1) The US has become a slightly democratized theocracy.

Hello? Have you NOT been paying attention in the US since 1982? Have you NOT been paying attention to every other country in the world since the mid-70s? The latter quarter of the 20th century witnessed a growth in theocratic governments, parties, and activities all over the world. While many would not lump Fanatical Humanism in as a religion, I would venture to say it has some of the same rigidity and inviolable dogma and if added in makes the growth even more spectacular. This isn't something that just suddenly happened in the US - in fact, it was starting to calm down until a litmus test issue hit the fan and radicalized the religious right again.

What happens is that the non-theocratic file the theocratic (and you can read this as Religious Right, Muslim Extremists, whatever) away in a little box, figuring that their stupidity and ineffectiveness, and, golly, just sheer wrongness because they have the gall to disagree with us, will keep them from being able to stop some fairly radical act (as compared to the status quo). Not thinking through the repercussions - again, often because Those People Just Don't Matter Because They're Obviously Wrong - these changes get presented as a done deal. Sometimes this works because it isn't enough to rile up anyone but the most conservative. Sometimes, though, it strikes a nerve and they all react. Important note - from their point of view it is the Right Thing. It is based on their view of the world, which isn't going to be changed by name-calling it or by ignoring it or by belittling it. It is fundamentally human, it is the same exact nature that compels any individual to stand for what he or she believes - the only difference is the belief itself.

You don't change fundamental beliefs by argument. You don't change fundamental beliefs by "in-your-face" action. You change fundamental beliefs by understanding the trigger points, by getting closer and closer to an ideal (and may I point out that this ideal itself could be considered a Personal Belief) without stepping across that personal boundary whenever possible. You change fundamental beliefs through example and education. If you have the power, you can compel compliance but the compliance will disappear once the power disappears. Temporary fix, long term failure. Win the battle, lose the war.

2) Once again, not every vote was counted. Why, since Kerry said every vote would be counted, he must have LIED because he conceded on Ohio.


Nope, they didn't count the provisional votes. They could have, but find me one person with a real insight that says it would have made any difference - which, by the way, is exactly how the law creating the provisional ballots in the first place is worded.

Counting them would have been a waste of time and effort, because (yes, I fly in the face of conspiracy theorists everywhere when I say this) most of them probably were valid rejected voters. Even at that, to claim that 91% to 95% of the provisional ballots would go for one candidate over the other - in an election split nearly 50-50 - is ludicrous.

You have a candidate in Kerry who saw that the expense, the division within the country, and the continued uncertainty were not worth the negligible probable outcome, so he conceded.

Hmmm. Maybe he should have stuck by his original decision no matter what the potential outcome or likelihood of success would have been, and no matter what damage it would do to the country as a whole. Now, where have I heard that before?

3) This is the end of America. We have turned an irrevocable corner. 51% of Americans no longer believe in the American Dream (or have been duped into destroying it forever).

Let me remind everyone that the Patriot Act was passed by a massive bipartisan vote (98-1 in the Senate, 357-66 in the House). Let me remind everyone that, probably as a result of the last conventional war affecting US states being in 1860, with only Pearl Harbor and 9/11 as attacks since then, Americans just don't know how to deal with being physically attacked. The Little Old Lady In Dubuque thinks the rest of the world hates us anyway. The LOLID thinks giving up civil liberties for safety is OK because she really hasn't had her civil liberties threatened. When a city gets blown up, that's an immediate threat - the civil liberties thing is only a possibility, and a very unlikely one at that.

See, most people in the US feel just fine about their civil liberties and feel like any threat to civil liberties is specious. They don't feel that way about terrorism. Most people in the US feel compassion for the rest of the world, but not when they feel cornered. It isn't that it takes great bravery to stand in the face of attack and refuse to set aside a principle, it's that it takes an understanding that the principle is indeed threatened. "Can't happen here" syndrome again, but one that brings together the unlikely bedfellows of the ACLU and Bob Barr.

You don't feel you're in the majority because you and people like you were outvoted? Join the club. Look at the last 75 years. From the days when FDR could threaten to stack the Supreme Court with additional justices until he had a majority, to the days of the activist Warren court (who was appointed originally as a conservative, if I remember right), to the wiping out opf presidential powers after Watergate, to the restoration of some over the last decade ... no one side was ever always in the majority.

Given that, there are two ways to become the majority. Convince other people of the rightness of your cause, or wipe them out until there aren't as many of them as there are of you. Note that running away won't do it.

I genuinely believe that most people here want the best for everyone, not just themselves. I genuinely believe they disagree about the best way to do it. I genuinely believe that in as little as 8 years this will all completely change again - after all, until 1980 it looked like the Republican party might as well just fold up and go home as far as Congress was concerned. Now, folks are saying the same thing about the Democrats. Yeah, right.

4) Bottom line?

If we had seen a landslide victory for one side or the other, perhaps fervent supporters of the other side might have a legitimate gripe about the country moving away from their own ideals. At close to 50-50, it says we are still struggling with what those ideals are, in a world that isn't as friendly as we always thought it should be. Education, public discourse, and participation can continue to help settle what direction America goes in.

In 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, 110,000 Japanese-Americans were interned because Americans were frightened. After 9/11, huge efforts were made to keep the same thing from happening. While Arab-Americans suffered backlash, it was in no way comparable to the actions of 1942.

We are but human, but we do learn from our mistakes.

And that's all I have to say about that.
Current Mood: determineddetermined
Robautographedcat on November 3rd, 2004 08:17 pm (UTC)
kyttn on November 3rd, 2004 08:20 pm (UTC)
Again, I thank you for your most sensible and helpful writings. Now if only more people could be brought to see things this way.
Bill Roperbillroper on November 3rd, 2004 08:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Bill.
Becca Leatherschirosinger on November 3rd, 2004 09:12 pm (UTC)
Bravo. Your reasonable perspective is *much* appreciated. Thanks!
paltergopaltergo on November 3rd, 2004 09:19 pm (UTC)
re: What Can I Say?
Very well written. Thank you Bill!
mrlogic on November 3rd, 2004 09:21 pm (UTC)
Reponding just because a couple of your comments are clearly responses to things that I posted (and others have posted as well):

Regarding the theocracy: it looks as if you are pointing as the gay marriage activism as the key catalyst for the activization of the Religious Right. You're probably right here. However, that's not the issue. What is the issue is that for the first time that I've ever seen, religious belief has become a key part of the administration and its policies. The President won votes largely on the basis of his faith and his stated willingness to govern based almost entirely on that faith. It's only one slim constitutional line from being expressed blatantly and the line between church and state being wiped out completely. This is what makes it a theocracy, what is a sea change from the prior 230 years of our history, and what accounts for my own loss of faith in the future of America as what I believe it to be.

Yes, it was probably unwise for the activists to have triggered this reaction. Unfortunately, it has caused a situation that is going to be difficult to reverse. The reason I see the situation as essentially insoluble is because the polarization appears to be so extreme; it would be a huge compromise for either side to accept the other's point of view. We've been living with this for some time, yes, but it has come to a head. It can't just be brushed under the rug any more.

Neither side can be convinced by any sort of argument; that's been demonstrated clearly. I didn't feel this way under Reagan, or under the other Bush, or even during Bush's first term -- this apparent opinion by the majority that other points of view don't matter at all and are unworthy of the slightest consideration. It would seem much more practical for those dissatisfied to go somewhere where they'll be happier -- although there is nowhere for 100 million people to go. Secession would seem to be the best solution, but I don't realistically believe that will happen either.

I don't know. I'm very sad.
Bill Roperbillroper on November 3rd, 2004 09:34 pm (UTC)
As someone who considers himself a moderate (and who voted for Bush, although in Illinois it was entirely unlikely to make any difference), may I say this?

You need to look at what you're saying carefully. To quote:

"this apparent opinion by the majority that other points of view don't matter at all and are unworthy of the slightest consideration"

I'm not sure, based on what I've read of your writing, that you wouldn't be exactly the same if you were in the current majority. If people disagree with you, it seems to be a case of their being wrong, wrong, wrong.

Now maybe you're right and they are wrong, wrong, wrong. But shouting that they're wrong isn't going to persuade them. You need to explain rationally why they're wrong if you want to have a hope of peeling off the people who might be willing to agree with you, if you were willing to speak in a manner that'll encourage them to listen to you.

Does this make any sense?
mrlogic on November 3rd, 2004 09:54 pm (UTC)
I do believe that other points of view are worthy of consideration. I think that a lot of questions have complex answers that require a lot of discussion and examination.

What worries me about many of the Bush voters is that they seem to have made their decisions based on dogmatic stances and to have ignored, or been ignorant of, lots of factual information that might have informed their decision had it been considered. That's what I mean by their ignoring other points of view, and I'm fairly sure that I would not do that.

I also had conversations with Bush supporters in which I tried to extract reasonable reasons for their positions, but in many cases they could not supply such reasons, falling back on "because it's wrong", or "because it's right", or "because he said so". In such cases, I believe that supplying facts and arguments that support a view contrary to their positions does not just constitute shouting at them that they are "wrong, wrong, wrong."

However: I have also found that my conversations with conservatives have been uniformly non-productive, despite my making arguments that make perfect rational sense to me (and to other liberals who have read them). This has lead to my conclusion that liberals and conservatives actually process facts differently, and so what seems to me like a logical, rational argument may seem to you like simply shouting "wrong wrong wrong", and, most likely, vice versa, I don't propose that either ideology's reasoning power is somehow deficient, but just that the two reasoning systems don't interface well.
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on November 3rd, 2004 10:28 pm (UTC)
Interestingly enough, I can take you to meet an awful lot of dogmatic, unreasoning, blindly-following non-Bush voters. I'd expect you personally don't see too many of them because you're not inclined to get into adversarial discussions with them.

Me, I'll be devil's advocate for anything because I really don't care what someone's position is, I want them to have reached it for the right reasons. I'll argue the head side of a coin with the tail.

I think I'll have to do some research on the "Age of Faith" statement I made in the response to your main comment. If I find enough ojn it, I may do a large posting. Suffice it to say, the "We can't be wrong because we're so sincere" view of the 60's isn't what one would call "reasoned" and "non-dogmatic" either.
mrlogic on November 3rd, 2004 11:55 pm (UTC)
I'd expect you personally don't see too many of them because you're not inclined to get into adversarial discussions with them.
True enough, although I have seen some. They're often recognizable without scratching too deeply. I don't see them much among my friends, though.
Bill Roperbillroper on November 4th, 2004 12:31 am (UTC)
I find -- with most people that I discuss things with -- that there can be substantial agreement on the ends. It's the means that are the problem. But as you say, a lot of questions have complex answers. :)
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on November 3rd, 2004 10:22 pm (UTC)

I am trying to understand how certain things can be so obvious to me.

Maybe it's from 20 years in the buckle of the bible belt, where I see very much how the religious right operates, and that they are now and have been for many years a part of politics.

Maybe its being able to see the rise of the African-American political bloc, with its historic, understandable, and above all extremely tight moral links to the African-American church. Here in Georgia there is absolutely no question that the anti-gay marriage amendment was supported strongly by people who thought themselves Democrats.

Maybe it's from remembering that Jimmy Carter's actions in office came (and from his own mouth) directly from his professions of faith and often from consultation with religious leaders and peers. Maybe it wasn't so obvious with Jimmy because his decisions were based on a different (more gentle and, unfortunately, somewhat naive) type of fundamental Christianity.

Maybe it's from seeing the influence of the Religious Right in Reagan's judicial nominations and the congressional and Senate races starting in 1982.

I don't believe at all that this is the most religiously influenced administration in recent history (and don't even try to go back a hundred years, because I'd bet you that influence by one's faith was simply taken for granted then - so much so that even as recently as 1960 people expected the President to be influenced by his personal religious leader). I believe that the religious underpinning is exposed because so many people believe he has no other reason for his actions, which is an entirely different matter.

We are in a worldwide Age of Faith, I think, which has come upon the heels of the Age of Reason and its inability to solve all the problems of the world. The good thing about Faith is that it encourages one to look at higher things, at best looking at what is best for mankind beyond material goals. At its worst, it encourages one to exchange reason for emotion, knowledge for belief, and discourse for dogma.
mrlogic on November 3rd, 2004 11:56 pm (UTC)
I believe that the religious underpinning is exposed because so many people believe he has no other reason for his actions, which is an entirely different matter.
Yep, that's highly disturbing.
Smoooomsmoooom on November 3rd, 2004 09:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks Bill, some wonderfully coherent comments on Americian politics. I trying to understand American politics because they so strongly effect us up here in the frozen north. I wonder I'll ever understand politics. I have always thought that trying to legeslate moraliity was wrong (yes honestly I do) I don't say much at church when that topic comes up, just stay quiet and avoid the issues. The cowards way perhaps, but one set of people shouldn't force others to live the way they think others should live. Especially when no one is getting hurt. (I hope that made sense)
Ericacatalana on November 3rd, 2004 10:02 pm (UTC)
Very well-said - thank you for exhibiting some perspective on the whole matter! *big hug*
JoEllynjoecoustic on November 4th, 2004 01:03 am (UTC)
Nicely put.

While I am one who is sad about the outcome, I do believe on the whole that our system works. Even if at times it feels two steps forward, one step back (no matter what side you're one).

I also believe that while it's not what I wanted, enough obviously did so it needs to be played out... isn't that what this country is all about.

Thanks for stepping back and pointing out a bigger picture.
(Deleted comment)
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on November 4th, 2004 02:34 pm (UTC)
Well, as they say, democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others ...