Let us take stock of this moment. Our current normal:
I could fill this post with links to appalling breaches in the public trust and demonstrate the world is actually a lot worse off than we even know, but that would be beside the point. Yes, I have one. Don’t act so surprised, sheesh!
The most outlandish ideas enter our public discourse first as a joke, then as a crazy suggestion, then our talking heads repeat magic words and then Constitutional scholars talk about torture in casual tones and we ourselves become monsters. Gingrich likes to claim credit for changing the language of our public discourse but his tactics wouldn’t have been possible if advertising hadn’t taught us to take a cue when a turn of phrase meets our verbal, tribal needs. In other words, if we weren’t looking for words that told us we had found fellow travelers, a good portion of American pop culture falls apart. Don’t believe me?
Why, I can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl…
Of course you’re laughing. Welcome to my tribe. So back to the discourse: you’re watching TV and some maniac with a strange glint in his eye says something so bizarre you hope someone’s going to adjust that guy’s meds. Let’s fabricate an impossibly stupid example: “Nurses promote weakness by healing sick people. If we weren’t burdened with a parasitic nursing industry, Americans would heal themselves and trim the deficit.”
Work with me, here. That is some hot, steaming horseshit. You can almost hear George Will let that one loose.
Anyway, some plainly crazy person says this. Then another crazy person says it in print. Then a bunch of less-than-sane commentators on TV, radio and in magazines say hauntingly similar phrases like those fake Florence Nightingales and healthcare hoochie mamas and next thing you know, 30% of the population cringes at the sight of crepe soled shoes and pickets vaccination clinics. All of this goes on way too long – nursing schools get the Molotov cocktail treatment in Kansas and hospitals close in rural districts – and one day, for no reason anyone will ever discern, the fire goes out and twenty years on, women’s history courses include a small, puzzling mention that spawns a few Ph.D. theses. The hospitals never reopen.
This is what happens over and over because we allow it, because crazy people shout and we politely refute their points and they keep shouting, because taking a step back and murmuring, “Well, the smell of rubbing alcohol makes me nervous, too” is all the agreement a crazy person needs to control the conversation. Got it? Get this: crazy people have been working to cut Social Security and the rhetoric has reached the stage where a Democratic President agrees. There is no need to cut Social Security. Doing so will not fix the deficit. The point is to fuck the poor and middle class.
If you flinch now, if you take a step back, it will happen. It is time to ditch wonky, splintered arguments and take passion straight to the crazy. Your opening line:
Your ideology failed.
Oh yes. You are GOING THERE.
YOUR IDEOLOGY FAILED. COMPLETELY. CATASTROPHICALLY. It destroyed the industrial manufacturing base and the crashed the world economy. Trashing the Geneva Accords has wrecked our international reputation. Your racism and sexism are evident to even the most casual onlooker. There is nothing you can say that can twist these failures into grand successes. They are failures.
You’re not done yet.
You can say anything, but we know you’re lying. New Orleans drowned and we saw you let people die. We saw you. We know most of the prisoners at Guantanamo are innocent. We know that you are poisoning the only planet we have because you love money more than your children. We know you hate women, working people, the poor, children, and you see us as serfs and servants. We see you. And we are not going to back down anymore. We have earned the right to grow old with dignity and we will not give it up for your personal enrichment. YOUR IDEOLOGY FAILED AND THERE IS NO FURTHER NEED OF YOUR ADVICE. YOU ARE WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING. STOP TALKING.
Let no point go. Let no lie pass. Let no banker off the sharpened hook. Let no insult go unanswered and no fatuous ass go unmocked. Go. Don’t let ennui become your normal state. Go forth and be a ferocious, mouthy defender of your and your children’s future. Go.
And here, take with you some way-dated, eighties musical inspiration: Rise up!