Friday, July 07, 2006

A Few of Their Favorite Things

The one thing that always puzzles me is the apparent belief of conservatives that they can best prove their love of America by showing how much they hate their fellow Americans.

The hate-Americans-first crowd tends to take their fellow citizens and reduce them to evil caricatures, a propaganda of the worst sort. And why not? Symbolism is the very heart of the conservative movement. As much as they talk about "values," upon closer inspection it seems that they're much more concerned with visuals.

When it comes to patriotism, for instance, conservatives tend to focus all their attention on the flag. They don't seem to be concerned with what the flag stands for. They just want to be sure that the flag stands. Period. Even though there were a total of four flag burnings in the United States last year -- or 0.00000001 flags burnt per person -- they're convinced that we need to amend the U.S. Constitution to stop this epidemic. For a group that spends so much time fetishizing the flag, they don't seem to care at all that the flag's honor is being sullied by this administration's embrace of torture, lies, and pre-emptive war. No, none of that matters. All that matters is that the flag remain physically pure.

Or how about our soldiers? They, too, have been reduced to mere symbolism, ranging from the president's carefully manicured photo ops to his supporters' "Support the Troops" stickers. As far as the actual troops go, conservatives don't really care. Sure, they talk a good game about respecting the sacrifices of our soldiers, but their policy actions and their political attacks show those words to be lies. The soldier is just a prop for the backdrop. He shouldn't be seen or heard.

The same thing goes for religion. Being a good Christian, in the eyes of most conservatives, doesn't mean heeding Jesus's touchy-feely words about peace, love, forgiveness, and brotherhood. No, Christianity again is nothing more than symbols. The conservative campaign to get the Ten Commandments erected everywhere is less about the message contained in them -- a fact made clear by Stephen Colbert's interview with a clueless congressional sponsor of the measure -- and more about the need to plant another symbol that conservatives can fetishize. Their outrage over court rulings against crosses and Nativity scenes on public property comes from the same source. I was taught that "they'll know we are Christians by our love," but apparently conservative Christians have given up on the love stuff and are merely looking to brand more territory with the trademarked symbols.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. For them, the symbol itself is always what's important, but never the values that are being symbolized. They wrap themselves up with an obsession with things and ignore the much more important matters that give such symbols their power in the first place.

Personally, I think they should take a closer look at their Ten Commandments statues. I seem to recall a warning in there about graven images.


Thrillhous said...

I was taught that "they'll know we are Christians by our love,"

I knew you were from France.

Otto Man said...

Dammit. It was the man crush on Zidane that gave it away, wasn't it?

Thrillhous said...

And let's not forget all the recent righteous indignation over the NY Times publishing a pic of Rummy's new mansion. Sure, they got pre-approval from the Master of Mesopitamian Disaster to take the photo, and sure, the Secret Service emphatically stated the pic and story had no effect on security.

But it's a picture! Of Rummy's house! He lives there! Look, there's a security camera! Al Qaeda never would have figured out that Rummy lives in a house with a driveway and security camera. Did I tell you it's a picture of his house? What's next, tell the terrorists where the president lives?

I think the GOP should consider a new slogan:

We Never See the Forest, Only the Trees

Thrillhous said...

Well, Zidane is pretty dreamy, so I can't fault you there. Man would I love to see him in a flight suit!

Mike said...

Nice one, OM.

Another symbol that the 21st century Conservatives love is . . . the dollar.

Monatarism used to be a Keynesian-Liberal thing, while the Conservatives were known for their *fiscal* conservatism.

Now, of course, they love the symbol of fiat currency far more than any value that money may have.

The combo of massive debt monetized by a floated dollar shos this.

Otto Man said...

Good point, Mike. And at the rate the conservatrons are destroying the economy, the dollar bill is soon going to be just a symbol itself.

Otto Man said...

It just occurred to me that a post with the words "conservative," "fetish," and "burning" are going to lead to some disturbing Google hits.

Smitty said...

Hey, great post. Very much in-line with the argument I've been having with an interestingly-named "Red, White and Brew" on my own blog. His arguments against my positions have very little to do with refuting my points and everything to do with spitting vitriol and hatred about how I am destroying America and how much I must hate it here. Again, no actual facts, just accustations based on nothing more than a snippy sound bite from Viagra's new International Spokesman or that mouth-breather who tried to take on Uncle Carl (Levin).

Nixon's plan for "the politics of positive polarization," as you put it OM, are working better than they thought. The peoplke who are tearing us apart as a country are the people who scream the loudest that everyone else is.

Isn't that what Hamlet meant by "Thou doth protest too much?"

Damn...there I go with quoting some foreign British Dead Guy....damn librul.

Otto Man said...

Thanks for the kind words, Smitty. And let me return the compliment. Your post and reply to RW&B was outstanding.

S.W. Anderson said...

"I think the GOP should consider a new slogan:

We Never See the Forest, Only the Trees"

Left to their own devices, most Republicans can't sell off the forests fast enough. Soon enough, with only themselves to thank, they wouldn't even be able to see the trees.

So, it would have to be, "We never see the forests, only contracts and stumpscapes."

S.W. Anderson said...

O.M., you nailed it well.

The thing that gets me the most is how they hypocritically and invariably act in complete contravention of so many commandments, with "Thou shalt not bear false witness" leading the list.

Second, in Bush's case, there's his wanton disregard for mushy-headed notions about lifting up the least among us. Bush deliberately and consistently does all in his power to embellish the wealth of the richest among us while disdaining the least and their needs.

But hey, he talks the born-again talk with a down-home drawl and goes to church on Sunday, so he's a righteous enough guy for millions of empty heads across the red states.

By way of interesting contrast, Lyndon Johnson was the kind of Baptist who enjoyed sipping his whiskey "neat" and swapping dirty jokes. Yet, look at what he did: He began his career teaching some of the poorest kids in Depression-era Texas, sometimes buying shoes or pencils for them. He pulled every string he could to get his Navy commission in WWII and would've gone off to war if FDR would've allowed it.

As president, LBJ got the Civil Right and Voting Rights acts passed, and came up with the War on Poverty, all to help lift up the least.

Then there was Paul Wellstone, who was a jew.

With the neocons, always, what matters is not what they say but what they do.

Mike said...

Let's not line up to suck off LBJ's corpse just yet, shall we.

There's a few pimples on the ass of his political resume, no?

Like that Vietnam thing, for instance. The "conflict" he allowed to continue so as not to be "the first American President to lose a war."

Very noble reason that whiskey-sipping baptist chose to send 56,000 American boys to their deaths.

S.W. Anderson said...

Mike, I firmly maintain no amount of good LBJ did can wash away the stain left on his record by the Vietnam War. Likewise, though, that war doesn't negate the good he did.

I cut LBJ some slack because of the time he was a product of. He had seen how right wingers attacked Roosevelt as a socialist and communist. He saw the hell Truman caught for "losing" China to the communists, and because, supposedly, the State Dept. was thoroughly infiltrated by communists.

Back in the day, right-wing hard liners ran around charging Democrats with being "soft on communism" or labeling them "pinkos," just the way they run around shouting "cut and run" now.

LBJ was determined to prove them wrong. Truly, tragically, he tried too hard.

Mike said...


You allude to salient facts. True in the sense that such ideas/ideals floated around in those days.

But I ain't buyin. The historical record and the (relatively) recently released transcripts show a man who *knew* the war was unwinnable, yet pushed on . . . and on and on and on, because of his ego-driven fear of going down in history as a "loser."

LBJ was many things, many of which I greatly admire. But he was also an egomaniac. And that ego led to his greatest failure. Right or wrong, that failure's the most notable bullet point on the resume.

Statemanship's a bitch.

Otto Man said...

LBJ was many things, many of which I greatly admire. But he was also an egomaniac.

True on both counts. LBJ constantly lived in the shadow of his idol, FDR, and wanted to complete his legacy and establish his own by outdoing him.

Domestically, this had great results -- the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Hart-Celler Immigration Reform, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, Higher Ed, etc. He had a lot of accomplishments, most notably the War on Poverty, which despite the conservative mythology, actually cut poverty rates significantly, especially for minorities and Southerners, the two groups it targeted most.

But in foreign policy, the ego led to a stubborn refusal to extract himself from Vietnam. It certainly wasn't a problem of his own making -- Truman, Eisenhower and JFK all bore increasing levels of guilt for the commitment, and the "Wise Men" advising him urged him to stay the course -- but he was the CinC and should've had the guts to pull out.

LBJ tried to solve the country's domestic problems and lead it to victory abroad, just like FDR, but he forgot that FDR took those tasks on one at a time.

S.W. Anderson said...

Very well, Mike and otto man. I can't fault your facts and I respect your feelings about LBJ.

The discussion's a good one. I will only add that my purpose in mentioning LBJ was only to contrast his leadership and values with George W. Bush's in domestic matters.

Otto Man said...

I will only add that my purpose in mentioning LBJ was only to contrast his leadership and values with George W. Bush's in domestic matters.

On that, I think we're all in agreement.

And in any case, I love a good historical debate.