Monday, March 31, 2014

Four Years Ago

Russell King's "An Open Letter to Conservatives" hit the internet.

It was a call-to-arms.  A plea for sanity. The internet equivalent of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints' Church in Wittenberg which went crazy-viral and was linked, referenced and recommended hundreds (thousands?) of times.

People debated it.

Liberal bloggers cheered it, Conservative bloggers booed it, and the comment sections of every major site that carried it filled-to-bursting with the indignant quacking of wingnut trolls yawping about whatever it was they had been programmed to yawp about that week.

Even basic cable teevee discovered it

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And then time passed, and the displacing power of "The Next Thing" moved Mr. Kings' words further and further from the spotlight.

The internet winds came and nibbled his Theses into confetti.

The internet rains came and oxidized the nails which had affixed his Theses to the doors of Conservatism.

Slowly, Mr. Kings' lovely piece of writing went from profound to "404 Not Found".

Yes, Mr. King expanded his original essay into a book (and good on him for doing it), but in the end rust and entropy won because, in the end, nothing had changed.

And four years later is as good a time as any to think carefully about why such a Herculean effort changed nothing.  Why things have, in fact, gotten so very much worse.

So while I do not have it in my power to curb the Conservative beast that has our country by the throat, I can do my small part to make sure Mr. King's words are saved from the internet's digital dung beetles and silver fish for a little while longer:

An open letter to conservatives

Dear Conservative Americans,
The years have not been kind to you. I grew up in a profoundly Republican home, so I can remember when you wore a very different face than the one we see now.  You've lost me and you've lost most of America.  Because I believe having responsible choices is important to democracy, I'd like to give you some advice and an invitation.
First, the invitation:  Come back to us.
Now the advice.  You're going to have to come up with a platform that isn't built on a foundation of cowardice: fear of people with colors, religions, cultures and sex lives that differ from your own; fear of reform in banking, health care, energy; fantasy fears of America being transformed into an Islamic nation, into social/commun/fasc-ism, into a disarmed populace put in internment camps; and more.  But you have work to do even before you take on that task.
Your party -- the GOP -- and the conservative end of the American political spectrum have become irresponsible and irrational.  Worse, it's tolerating, promoting and celebrating prejudice and hatred.  Let me provide some examples -- by no means an exhaustive list -- of where the Right as gotten itself stuck in a swamp of hypocrisy, hyperbole, historical inaccuracy and hatred.
If you're going to regain your stature as a party of rational, responsible people, you'll have to start by draining this swamp:
You can't flip out -- and threaten impeachment - when Dems use a parliamentary procedure (deem and pass) that you used repeatedly (more than 35 times in just one session and more than 100 times in all!), that's centuries old and which the courts have supported. Especially when your leaders admit it all.
You can't vote and scream against the stimulus package and then take credit for the good it's done in your own district (happily handing out enormous checks representing money that you voted against, is especially ugly) --  114 of you (at last count) did just that -- and it's even worse when you secretly beg for more.
You can't flip out when the black president puts his feet on the presidential desk when you were silent about white presidents doing the same.  Bush.  Ford.
You can't flip out when the black president bows to foreign dignitaries, as appropriate for their culture, when you were silent when the white presidents did the same. Bush.  Nixon. Ike. You didn't even make a peep when Bush held hands and kissed (on the mouth) leaders of countries that are not on "kissing terms" with the US.
You can't attack the Dem president for not personally* publicly condemning a terrorist event for 72 hours when you said nothing about the Rep president waiting 6 days in an eerily similar incident (and, even then, he didn't issue any condemnation).  *Obama administration did the day of the event.
You can't throw a hissy fitsound alarms and cry that Obama freed Gitmo prisoners who later helped plan the Christmas Day undie bombing, when -- in fact -- only one former Gitmo detainee, released by Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, helped to plan the failed attack.
You can't support the individual mandate for health insurance, then call it unconstitutional when Dems propose it and campaign against your own ideas.
You can't condemn criticizing the president when US troops are in harms way, then attack the president when US troops are in harms way , the only difference being the president's party affiliation (and, by the way, armed conflict does NOT remove our right and our duty as Americans to speak up).
If you push anti-gay legislation and make anti-gay speeches, you should probably take a pass on having gay sex, regardless of whether it's 2004 or 2010.  This is true, too, if you're taking GOP money and giving anti-gay rants on CNN.  Taking right-wing money and GOP favors to write anti-gay stories for news sites while working as a gay prostitute, doubles down on both the hypocrisy and the prostitution.  This is especially true if you claim your anti-gay stand is God's stand, too.
When you chair the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, you can't send sexy emails to 16-year-old boys (illegal anyway, but you made it hypocritical as well).
You can't criticize Dems for not doing something you didn't do while you held power over the past 16 years, especially when the Dems have done more in one year than you did in 16.
You can't decry "name calling" when you've been the most consistent and outrageous at it. And the most vile.
You can't praise the Congressional Budget Office when it's analysis produces numbers that fit your political agenda, then claim it's unreliable when it comes up with numbers that don't.
You can't vote for X under a Republican president, then vote against X under a Democratic president.  Either you support X or you don't. And it makes it worse when you change your position merely for the sake obstructionism.
You can't call a reconciliation out of bounds when you used it repeatedly.
You can't demand everyone listen to the generals when they say what fits your agenda, and then ignore them when they don't.
You can't whine that it's unfair when people accuse you of exploiting racism for political gain, when your party's former leader admits you've been doing it for decades.
You can't complain about a lack of bipartisanship when you've routinely obstructed for the sake of political gain -- threatening to filibuster at least 100 pieces of legislation in one session, far more than any other since the procedural tactic was invented -- and admitted it.  Some admissions are unintentional, others are made proudly. This is especially true when the bill is the result of decades of compromise between the two parties and is filled with your own ideas.
You can't preach and try to legislate "Family Values" when you: take nude hot tub dips with teenagers (and pay them hush money); cheat on your wife with a secret lover and lie about it to the world; cheat with a staffer's wife (and pay them off with a new job); pay hookers for sex while wearing a diaper and cheating on your wife; or just enjoying an old fashioned non-kinky cheating on your wife; try to have gay sex in a public toilet; authorize the rape of children in Iraqi prisons to coerce their parents into providing information; seek, look at or have sex with children; replace a guy who cheats on his wife with a guy who cheats on his pregnant wife with his wife's mother;
You really need to disassociate with those among you who:
If you're going to use words like socialismcommunism and fascism, you must have at least a basic understanding of what those words mean (hint: they're NOT synonymous!)
You can't cut a leading Founding Father out the history books because you've decided you don't like his ideas.
You cant repeatedly assert that the president refuses to say the word "terrorism" or say we're at war with terror when we have an awful lot of videotape showing him repeatedly assailing terrorism and using those exact words.
If you're going to invoke the names of historical figures, it does not serve you well to whitewash them. Especially this one.
You can't just pretend historical events didn't happen in an effort to make a political opponent look dishonest or to make your side look better. Especially these events. (And, no, repeating it doesn't make it better.)
You can't say things that are simply and demonstrably false: health care reform will not push people out of their private insurance and into a government-run program ; health care reform (which contains a good many of your ideas and very few from the Left) is a long way from "socialist utopia"; health care reform is not "reparations"; nor does health care reform create "death panels".
You have to condemn those among you who:
Oh, and I'm not alone:  One of your most respected and decorated leaders agrees with me.
So, dear conservatives, get to work.  Drain the swamp of the conspiracy nuts, the bald-faced liars undeterred by demonstrable facts, the overt hypocrisy and the hatred.  Then offer us a calm, responsible, grownup agenda based on your values and your vision for America.  We may or may not agree with your values and vision, but we'll certainly welcome you back to the American mainstream withopen arms.  We need you.
(Anticipating your initial response:  No there is nothing that even comes close to this level of wingnuttery on the American Left.)
Written by Russell King
Update: removed the mouth kissing reference and tried to clean up spelling


Kathleen said...

Thank you for reprinting this. I had not seen it before. It would provide an excellent foundation for a Manifesto indicting the Mainslime Media for enabling this behavior and fanning the flames of hate with the "both sides" litany.

Anonymous said...

The most depressing part: Less than eight months later, these nihilist regressive dolts won the midterms by a gigantic margin after basically doing the opposite of everything King proposed. And will probably pick up seats again this year, at least in the Senate.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing this back.
Don't forget "Joe Republican"

You would think the sheer weight of the cognitive dissonance would have broken their backs by now....
but the spines of the pig folk are apparently infinitely malleable...

Anonymous said...

This post makes no-script cry ;P

Monster from the Id said...

"Just so we're clear; sedition is a BAD thing."

That rather depends on which side one is on, does it not?

I'm sure King George III thought the sedition by the Founders was a bad thing.

Cliff said...

I see Mr. King said 'can't' a whole lot, and 'have to,' and even a 'really need to.'

If there's one thing the 21st Century has taught us so far, it's that the GOP ain't gotta do shit.

The only consequence that comes from having a float in the Koch Bros. Travelling Shitshow Fail Parade is that you have to duck all of the bags of cash that get thrown your way.