Yet I am wrong.
I haven’t lacked for the scalpel’s precision in my observations of the world, but I tend to hang back and be more measured in what I say. Why? Not because I lack conviction in what is right and wrong, but because I lack omniscience. In the end, even the greatest minds enter the realm of foolishness and folly, littering human history with the travesties visited upon it by the finest and foremost of thinkers. Very few of them escape the tendency to equate their military strength with their righteousness, after all.
We can be Knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other men’s wisdom. ~Michel de Montaigne
Thus I understand that not only are there good people on the right, but there are people better than me on the right. Really nice people, generous people, good time at parties, nice neighbors, etc. etc. Smart ones, obviously rich ones, etc.
First of all, it’s beyond dispute that a philosophy of life cannot be justified merely by success. It’s nice when CEOs write memoirs about how they worked hard and rose to the top, but many reach the top by being vicious, ruthless, robotic, controlling, obsessive, rigid, unimaginative, dull, and so forth. And there is certainly no shortage of wealthy liberals who succeed in business practicing good principles and sound ethics. Terrible and stupid people can win, and good smart people can lose. Plus, skill at something that generates money doesn’t necessarily translate into good perspective.
This really is one of the core narratives that grips this country, one that conservatives love to perpetuate: Hey, those liberals sure are smart, but conservatives got that noble gut! It’s a theory that says it’s really not important to understand things like evolution, climate science, human sexuality, etc. What’s important is bashing and demonizing liberals to the point where you can say if they’re for it, you’re against it.”
“Hey, why are you dumping arsenic in the river?”
“Well, it pisses liberals off, so it must be good, right?”
The right has absorbed prosperity theology into their political platform. Prosperity theology means if you are rich, if you have succeeded in America, it is a sign of God’s blessing. If you haven’t succeeded, you are flawed, sinful, and lazy. You deserve no breaks. If you have succeeded, then you are validated as one of the good people, your indiscretions are understandable, and you are sympathetic to all. Thus the rich pay historically low taxes and balloon in size, while we’re very concerned about them lazy horrible teachers making $40K a year with benefits. One group has been waved through the gates, the other must sit outside and repentantly wait for crumbs.
But there is a lure to prosperity theology, and the GOP has become very good at convincing some of the people to keep themselves down, to just work harder and that all good things will come to them with due subservience. It appeals to those who have a good work ethic. It appeals to those who still want to believe that America will give you a fair shot. It appeals to those who have seen lazy co-workers bitch and moan all day instead of doing their best.
But it’s all illusion, and Governor Scott Walker has done a lot to dispel it for the 98% of us for whom the American Dream is ever receding. The gig is up. The message control is shaky. The truth is getting out. And the truth is this: Fuck you.
Fuck you, I need my bonus. Fuck you, I need my stocks to rise a few more points. Fuck you, I need my re-election coffers filled quickly. Fuck you, I’m sitting pretty and I can’t build a factory because there’s no demand, but I’ll blame it on Democrats anyway because they might raise my taxes. Fuck you, because it’s a game that I’m winning and you’re not, and I’m shooting for a high score. Fuck you, because if you’re not happy with what you got, then you’re an ungrateful pig because what you have is all you deserve.
At some point, the disrespect just can’t be ignored. After America just heard that we had to cut a deal on the Bush tax cuts to spare the rich, we’ve gotten an endless litany of how everybody else has to make do with less, less, less. Turns out, all that government spending runs into rather sensitive areas pretty quickly, no? And then suddenly, with working people agreeing to every number necessary to balance that budget, it’s not good enough. They had to go and place all their bets on total castration.
So despite all the best hopes and intentions among well-meaning Republicans that pushing for low taxes and deregulation will actually bring greater returns for ordinary people, the real “class warfare” has been exposed. It’s just over. If you aren’t in the top 2%, they’re not just not on your side, they’re actively coming after your ass. Their wealth has expanded so exponentially that they’re fully insulated, much like the nobles of yore, from the effects of a disintegrated society. Whatever gap yaws before you, they can cross, because they have enough money to cover the difference. I’m not always so sure the uber-wealthy are behind killing certain infrastructure projects like Christie’s New Jersey tunnel, but given the widespread permeation of their low-tax theology, it’s not much of a chore to do the commute in the back of a limo, is it?
I understand that there are limits to my knowledge, like any person should understand, but as John P. Ryan in The Outlaw Josey Wales said, don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.
Enough is enough. Look for better Democrats, sure, but it’s time to quit pretending any Republican is going to solve the problem. They are the problem. May a spontaneous eruption of conscience, or even raw self-defense, sweep away the foolishness of 2010 and get this country back on track.