The Early Days of a Better Nation

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Like a Death; or, Altogether Elsewhere, Vast

The Conservative and the Communist sometimes find they have more in common than either might have expected; at least that they understand each other, and agree on what is important; likewise the Freethinker and the Fundamentalist. In politics as in religion, both poles are perplexed by the Liberal; from opposite sides of the case they scratch their heads, like Victorian biologists looking at a platypus and wondering if they aren't being made a monkey of.

That's how I feel sometimes. I love you guys, but I don't understand you. Add to this that I have a tin ear for US politics, and my qualifications for commenting on last week's election, and giving my liberal friends tips on how to warm their eggs and suckle their young are complete.

However, these and like hobblings haven't noticeably shut up anyone else, so here's my take.

It's been like a death in the family. Not of someone close, but of someone you didn't expect to miss so much until after they were gone. You wish you'd made more of an effort. You find yourself thinking of other things, and then feeling an unaccountable sadness seep into your day, and then remembering why. Or you keep coming back to it, looking again at the old photos, at the once insignificant postcards. I mean all that; that's been, to my surprise, exactly how I felt. The death is of an idea of America and the mementos are the blogs of my friends.

From outside, I don't think they've quite taken the measure of what's happened.

Before the election, one could at least blame Bush, or some small group around him. In 2000, leaving aside the shenanigans around the count, people had voted for 'a uniter, not a divider', for a 'humbler' foreign policy, for a 'compassionate conservatism'. The atrocity of 9/11 had knocked America sideways. The fury was not only understandable, but so widely shared that the flag of Red China flew at half mast. It was only as the War on Terror mutated into the Iraq War that the mood changed. But this and other features of the first Bush term could still be seen as an abberation.

Well, now the American people have legitimised the bastard. Of course many, perhaps most, of those who voted for the President didn't consciously and deliberately vote for all he stands for. This is because not all, but a substantial portion, were too fucking stupid to find out. These knuckle-dragging cousin-fuckers who are LIVING PROOF that Darwin was right and who were piped to the polls by shills for crony capitalists who are LIVING PROOF that Marx was right still think America was attacked by Iraq, and payback is a bitch. I have news for them. It is. My only problem with that, frankly, is that I love too many folks who don't deserve to be collateral damage.

So what can the reality-based community do? Blunt the other side's wedge issues and start hammering in some wedges of your own.

God: Give the Dispensationalist heresy a sound thrashing. That Armageddon and Rapture stuff isn't unmediated holy writ. It's recent and tendentious and gets most of its fuel these days from a science fiction novel, for crying out loud. Much the same goes for the Scientific Creationist heresy. The theory of evolution is compatible with conservative and evangelical Christianity, and has been held to be so ever since Augustine. The SciCre theory that the universe we live in has wildly different physical and biological laws from the one God created and found 'very good' is not. It's literally the oldest heresy in the book, the one Paul was talking about when he denounced 'oppositions of science falsely so called'. Hammer on this, and leave atheism to us atheists.

Guns: I won't change anyone's mind on this, but those on the left who support the Second Amendment should proclaim it from the housetops. The rest should just buy guns and keep quiet about it.

Gays: Depressing as the votes against gay marriage are, they should be seen in perspective. The people who voted for them are not necessarily raving homophobic bigots. They might just be objecting to being asked to sanctify sin. I don't agree with them, but I can understand where they're coming from. I don't have any solutions for this.

Wedges the other way:

Class. Give poorer people in the red states some good reasons to vote your way. Forget socialism. From the Babylonian captivity of the Walmart workplace and the Enron boardroom, normal law-abiding capitalism will start to look like the New Jerusalem.

Conservatism. Conservatism is not an ideology of world revolution. Neoconservatism is. Real conservatives know this. Make sure they know you know. Red-bait every ex-Trot neocon, and smear the rest.

Global warming. Forget Kyoto. Build more nukes. Reactors in blue states, nuclear waste dumps in the red. (Comparative advantage; it's all in Ricardo.)

Science. Flood Geology won't find oil. Giving human rights to stuff you can only see with a microscope means handing the future to the French. Come to think of it, this is a win, so scratch that one. (Comparative advantage again.)

Americanism. The Bush coalition is not going to fall apart at the first lost war or the first recession, so you're going to need to think like the Modern Prince. Just don't talk like Gramsci. He was an Italian and he was writing in prison. Every strand of opinion on the left, from the most moderate to the most radical, has had an American champion who spoke and wrote with passion and eloquence. Read Gramsci, but talk like Debs.

War on Islamist Terror. It would be a good idea. With Europe, Cuba, Vietnam, China, Russia and every KGB- or CIA-trained mukhabarat in the Middle East and Central Asia already on side, we could really win this one if America joined in, instead of coddling the folks who gave us Beslan and handing Iraq to Osama on a fucking plate.

I should just stop. This may all be decided by factors we can barely glimpse and can't predict, Rumsfeld's 'unknown unknowns'.
Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.
Auden, The Fall of Rome


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