Sling First, Ask Later, Part 2

Watching Bill O’Reilly repeatedly insult Congressman Barney Franks sank my battleship; my heart broke. O’Reilly’s name-calling said as much about us as it did about O’Reilly or Franks.  Aside from Sarah Palin’s moral conundrum of claiming that she loves America so much yet has no stake in a civil exchange of ideas, the rest of us aren’t packing up after November 4 to hunt down that last caribou before the snow really flies.  Nope, the proverbial s%*t has already hit the rest of us and we’d better figure out how to look past Ann Coulter’s blond locks, Bill O’Reilly’s shining pate and Sarah Palin’s un-sheeted lynch mobs.  One way is to call them on their level of civility as it slithers into the light.  And it’s not just big-mouthed media and political types.  What’s deeply disturbing is how a cliche, the systemization of using public office for political gain, has become fresh news again!

John Conyers (D-MI) and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is on the case. Again.  Topping his consistent and steady, though blocked, inquiry into the firing of nine US Attorneys by Alberto Gonzales on charges of incompetence he is now taking on the Department of Justice’s investigation into ACORN.  Not-so-shockingly, the Justice Department leaked the fact of the investigation, one can only presume in order to build awareness of shady dealings at the most important on the street advocate for poor people in the US, for political gain.  It is mid-October.  Senator McCain isn’t exactly thriving in the polls so, predictably, the October surprises are starting to roll in.  It doesn’t matter that there is no substantiated evidence of coordinated and intentional voter fraud all one has to do is say it, amplify it over a number of news cycles and one of the most admirable advocates for the poor is cut off at the knees.  Just like 2000 and 2004, the GOP is terrified that millions of non-whites, in particular poor non-whites, might vote. Surprise, surprise.  What is unfortunate are the consequences. Public servants, such as Barack Obama, will think twice before they get involved with community-based organizations like ACORN again.

Here are some recent examples of sling first, ask later: Florida (2000), where even future Bush UN Ambassador John Bolton was one of the angry mob taking on the election commission. Tom Delay’s redistricting in Texas in 2003 where Democratic legislators had to flee the state to block the injustice. And then in Ohio (2004) where the Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, who happened to be the state GOP committee chair, put the federal government into service for the Republican National Committee.  Blackbox voting, anyone? Laudably today, the Supreme Court blocked yet another GOP claim of voter fraud as “not sufficiently likely to prevail on the question.” The GOP charge, against ACORN and the current Ohio Secretary of State, has dominated at least two weeks of news cycles which, until the Supreme Court ruling this morning, demonstrated my point. Make the charge, justify later.  Never thinking of the consequences for how Americans will value their political system, we use the institutions of society to shape how we think of each other. That’s hardly news. But, the game is changing and the old rules are wearing thin.  The ranks of the poor are swelling with the downturn in the economy and the inequality gap in America has yawned to an abyss.  Many, many people are hanging on for dear life. This is the stuff by which revolutions are made. The anger and hate being expressed at Palin rallies towards Barack Obama won’t stay directed at him long.

We expect our public representatives to represent our highest selves, not the lowest. Cronkite knew that, Chisolm knew that. On top of losing everything, if we also can’t find our self-respect and dignity because they are hidden in clouds of name-calling, vilification and false accusation – we should also expect dramatic social upheaval. Upheaval that will release the pent up frustrations of a democracy and people fed up with manipulation.

As the integrity of public discourse decreases, the value of our political system falls.  I’m convinced it is because of money in politics.  Think about it.  Every single issue in national politics is rooted in the financial resources it takes to win an election.  I’ll write a post about it some day but, for now, just think about it.  The more time our representatives are forced to chase dollars, the more our quality of government and opposition contracts.   This is a non-partisan issue, mostly.  The American people are permitting their representatives to present bullying, gerry-mandering, slander and fraud as run-of-the-mill, everyday electoral strategies.  Because each of these exploit our base values, the ground beneath us becomes very slippery.  And, leaves that whole cast of characters I mentioned in Part 1 pitting authentic morality against a distorted one.  That state of affairs isn’t sustainable and we all feel it.  It is why we have butterflies in our stomachs and nervously watch to see if Gov. Palin’s assertions stick or if Americans coalesce around Senator Obama’s politics of hope.  The distortion, motivated by a lack of faith and funded by campaigns, does more than exploit our valuesIt will prevent us from solving the very serious challenges facing us.

~ by Thom on October 17, 2008.

2 Responses to “Sling First, Ask Later, Part 2”

  1. […] dandelionsalad wrote quite interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt […]

  2. Thanks for reading!

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