Sunday, October 14, 2007

Conservatives' Hatred

Note that that's Conservatives' with an apostrophe on the end, making it possessive, 'cause the question is about their bottomless and abiding hatred for certain people, a hatred that burns with a cold and permanent flame.

I appreciate the irony of such people, who spend a lot of time crowing about what fabulous "Christians" they are and insisting that they represent family values and moral superiority and blah-blah-blah, being stuck in permanent-hate mode, contrary to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they purport to think highly of, but that's neither here nor there.

The springboard for my musings is the would-be-comical-if-it-weren't-so-dangerous outpouring of bile and vitriol from right-wingnuts in the wake of Al Gore's winning the Nobel Prize. I commented the other day on the by-now-typical ramping up of the Conservative Smear Machine to not only hurl mud in the direction of the former vice-president but also, and mainly, to try to discredit the Nobel Prize itself. Imagine! You take an organization that for decades has been honored and revered for promoting peace (and science and literature and all that other crap) by itself recognizing people and institutions that are, you know, trying to help people...and you denigrate and ridicule and smear it when they honor the contribution of someone you don't like.

Rather, someone you hate.

What is this--junior high?

In the course of it, you (via your mouthpiece, Faux News) also take advantage of the opportunity to smear a former President of the United States and Nobel Prize recipient as "that crazy Jimmy Carter," which shows great depth of character and carefully reasoned political analysis.

(An aside: This summer, at one of my kids' events, I overheard another dad complaining to his teenager about Al Franken. He was feigning disgust over Franken's having written a book called Rush Limbaugh Is an Idiot, and pretending to be morally outraged that Franken (read: a liberal) would say something so hurtful about another human being (read: a conservative), and generally indicating that that proved liberals were evil and conservatives were high-road victims. I was tempted to turn around and point out two things: First, the title of the book is Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot (and Other Political Observations); and, second, that Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot. But I resisted the urge, remembering the advice of my father: "Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time, and it annoys the pig.")

Where was I? Oh, yes--morally superior "Christians'" hatred for, well, all kinds of people.

A year or so ago when Emilio Estevez's film Bobby was in release, my wife mentioned in conversation to a friend that she would like to see it. "Not me," the friend snapped. "Those Kennedys are a completely corrupt family." Yikes! Not "I never liked that Bobby Kennedy" or "I think Bobby Kennedy was a phony"; nope the whole family gets tarred as "corrupt."

And why? See, that's what I keep puzzling over--not that right-wingnut "Christians" carry these bucketloads of hatred and venom with them everywhere they go--but why they hate so much, and so deeply, and so widely, and so everlastingly.

They hate FDR. They hate JFK, of course, and RFK, and, apparently, the whole famn-damily, including, I presume, Kennedys who haven't even been born yet. They hate Clinton, both Clintons, all three Clintons (and I recall some truly repugnant things a certain Big Fat Idiot had to say about then-teenager Chelsea Clinton back in the day--a warm-up, apparently, for the right-wingnut "Christians'" current smear campaign against a twelve-year-old kid). Apparently they've begun to hate Jimmy Carter.

And they hate Al Gore like you wouldn't believe.

I've always suspected there was a certain element of jealousy at play, coupled with a subconscious, even subliminal suspicion that the object of vitriol might, just might, have a few things right and thus is to be reviled all the more. Jonathan Chait, writing in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, has a good handle on the Gore thing:

You might wonder why they care so much -- Gore, after all, is obviously not going to run for president, and even some conservatives now concede that global warming is real. The answer is that Gore's triumph is a measure of George W. Bush's disrepute.

Ah, yes--a certain element of jealousy, as I had always suspected. But Chait does an excellent job of measuring conservatives' hatred of Gore against the obvious failure of their darling, George W. Bush:

It's not an accident that the current celebrations of Gore come at a time when Bush's popularity has cratered. Once conservatives mocked Gore as the radical tribune of a tiny political fringe; now it is they who represent the fringe.

Their argument with Gore over global warming is a telling indicator of their weakened position. Suddenly, open debate looks better than absolute clarity. Steven F. Hayward, a global warming skeptic at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, sniffed: "The Nobel will be one more quiver in Gore's arsenal of intransigent moral authority by which he refuses to debate any aspect of the subject and declares the entire matter 'settled.' It's never a good sign when politicians declare a scientific matter settled; we all remember how well that worked out for the Vatican when they told Galileo 400 years ago that astronomy was settled."

So Gore can't declare that any scientific matter is settled? (What about the Earth revolves around the sun -- would that offend conservatives?) Funny what happens when it's your views that are out of the mainstream.

The defensiveness of Gore's critics comes because he is the ultimate rebuke to Bush. Gore, obviously, is the great historic counter-factual, the man who would have been president if Florida had a functioning ballot system. More than that, he is the anti-Bush. He is intellectual and introverted, while Bush is simplistic and backslapping.

Read the whole editorial here.

Of course, Chait's essay still leaves me with the question of why these morally superior "Christians" hate so many other people (see above in re). But I suspect the answers are probably much the same--they hate Clinton and Carter and everyone with the name Kennedy and FDR and probably Fala, too, because they have some vague inkling, some uncomfortable twinge in the brain-stem, that reminds them that maybe, just maybe someone from the "wrong" side of the spectrum has something of value to contribute, has something helpful to say, has an idea that might be--gulp!--right.

And that threatens them. In their small-minded, fear-driven world, everything is and must always be black or white, right or wrong, yes or no. There can be no ambiguities, no compromise: that makes things gray and gray is scary. And so if you disagree with them--even if you're only twelve years old--then you're the devil and must be destroyed at all costs.

This, I think, is part of the reason you don't detect this kind of hatemongering on the left end of the political spectrum. It's fair to say that we lefties have certain individuals whom we love to hate--the current tenant on Pennsylvania Avenue being one of them; Karl Rove, Ken Starr, Richard Nixon being a few others--but our list is pretty short, and pretty narrow (we might have hated Nixon, for instance, but we didn't extend that to Pat and Tricia and Julie, branding the whole clan as "corrupt"), and awfully watery (we may have hated Nixon at the time, but by his death it had degenerated into a strong dislike; certainly none of us will be ranting about him 40 years after his demise, and right-wingnuts continue to do about JFK).

So our brand of "hatred" is pretty thin compared to our morally superior family-values "Christian" friends on the right.

And--hmmm--we liberals tend not to go around trumpeting what swell "Christians" we are, either--even those of us who actually believe in God and try to follow Jesus' teachings and go to church and so on (and, yes, we do exist, as do conservative atheists). Interesting, no? Stay tuned for a future musing on my observations on that score, tentatively titled, "Dear Jesus, Save Us from Your Followers."

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