Sometimes, it’s a real pain in the ass, knowing history – kind of like one of those lines of telepaths in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover novels, who could see all the possible futures, resulting from any deliberate or random action and usually went mad, from it – not daring to take any step at all, seeing all the millions of possible results.
Knowing history is a bit like that. You know what happened before – sometimes many times before – as a result of specific actions or inactions – and even though those baleful results didn’t happen every single damn time, the unfortunate and unlooked for results happened frequently enough to make you jumpy when you start seeing certain things happening one damn more time. And saying, between slightly gritted teeth “No, as a matter of fact, I am NOT paranoid – I just have good pattern recognition!” is of no particular comfort, or defense.

I’ll leave to more qualified and credentialed intellects than mine to take a resounding thwack at the current administration – they’re being beaten like a cheap piñata at a kid’s party where everyone present has slipped off the blindfold, taken up a baseball bat and had a fair old go at it; hey ACORN – how ya doing, still facilitating setting up whorehouses stocked with underage Third-world staff? Lizard-Lips Lady, still adoring Mao and Mother Theresa … geeze, how did someone with a disability that makes you look as if you are trying to pry peanut-butter off the roof of your mouth mid-speech get a job as communications director? Oh, never mind – wife of old Chicago crony – I can do the math. Like I didn’t see that kind of deal coming, from when the serious politicking began, all these long months and years ago. And adding Fox News to the enemies list? Bad move, sports-fans … never pick a fight with someone who buys printer ink by the barrel or pixels by the cart-load. Besides, you are increasing their viewer-stats by degrees, and raising uncomfortable memories of Richard M. Nixon, he of the White House enemies list – and many of those so-called enemies have been dining out forever on their established reputation. You’ve made their reps well into the next couple of decades as ‘fearless chaps and chapesses who dared speak truth to power’ – at least, if they have a sinecure in broadcasting like the dear old croaking saint Daniel Schorr of NPR, in which case they will have a cause to go on croaking about unto the next generation or two. Yeah, like never give a hack a cause to harp on about, endlessly. Eternity, that is thy name.

No – the thing that seriously worries me is what I first started to notice, when I occasionally went spelunking through the deeper lefty-depths of regular bloggers at Open Salon. What initially unsettled me was the casual and usually much applauded (to judge by the appended comments) demonization of the “other.” The “other” in this case being – depending on the issue under discussion – conservatives, Republicans, Sarah Palin fans, Tea Partiers, church-goers, Obama Administration critics, or critics of health-care reform. And these same leftish OS bloggers were not – for the most part – the sort of screeching howler-monkey Kossacks that I would have avoided anyway. I’ve been blogging at OS for more than a year, and many of these exact same bloggers were in a way of being fans of my own OS blog and my writing in general – so the free-floating contempt for conservatives and non-Obama fans of every variation was a little disheartening. I post at OS for the literary exposure, more than engaging in political fisticuffs, so I haven’t made many attempts at open discussion. It’s kind of like your grandmother’s house at Thanksgiving, encountering some of their reactionary old friends: yeah, you could start an argument with them – but it’s not the time or the place, and the whole exercise would be kinda pointless anyway. The minds are already made up, and your Grandmother would be hurt over having a good dinner ruined. Just bite your tongue and have another helping of chestnut stuffing. This sort of thing has been going on since the first ur-blogger put on his saber-toothed tiger PJs, crawled up to his stone keyboard and pecked out “Urg-rok is a moron!” I may not want to get drawn into the discussion—but I’m fairly used to it, after blogging since mid-2002. Used to it – and tired of it. I just observe and analyze, these days and in that venue.

The automatic denigration of the “other” starts to worry me, though, when it slides seamlessly past an equally automatic disregard of whatever argument or position the “other” holds – merely because it is the “other” holding it. The default position becomes “There’s no need to even bother considering “x” because everyone who holds position “x” is *insert group identity label here* – say, a “Tea Partier”, or a “conservative” or “a Christian” or – going even farther “a Fox TV fan” , “a global warming denier” or “someone who wants the poor and uninsured to just die already!” It’s not good and it’s not healthy to have this kind of contempt normalized, especially among people who otherwise pride themselves on being right-thinking, tolerant and broad-minded. And then, a little farther along the continuum of contempt, I get a little more worried, when one starts to hear sincerely-expressed wishes that the “other” just go away, just vanish – so that the well-meaning and sensitive and caring sorts won’t even have to bother with considering those nasty “others” any more. I fear that a dangerous threshold has been reached, when this kind of emotion seep out into the commentary of a semi-mainstream commentator like Garrison Keillor – who most famously of late commented: “one starts to wonder if the country wouldn’t be better off without them and if Republicans should be cut out of the healthcare system entirely and simply provided with aspirin and hand sanitizer. Thirty-two percent of the population identifies with the GOP, and if we cut off healthcare to them, we could probably pay off the deficit in short order.” Kind of a sweeping statement there; would Mr. Keillor also recommend that people he disagreed with be subjected to a sort of modern political Nuremburg Law? I suppose he intended to be witty – but it comes off as sour, and angry – and more than a little unsettling, given that he would be talking about a third of his fellow citizens and countrymen.

This very week, the White House has made a fairly concerted and so far unsuccessful effort to de-legitimize Fox News as a news source, arguing that it is just dishing up too much ideological content to be a real news organization. One might suspect that the real problem is that Fox isn’t genuflecting deep enough for the White House press office’s taste, and has the embarrassing tendency to cover issues that the White House would rather be left uncovered. De-legitimizing Fox as a news organization is all of a piece with the tendency noted above; essentially, “what you think and say doesn’t matter, because all good-thinking people have decided that you are beneath notice, that you are ignorant at best and malign at worst, and maybe it would be best for all if you just weren’t around.”

Yeah, knowing history can make reading the headlines a little discomforting; sometimes paranoids really do have people out to get them.

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