Category Archives: Culture Wars

“Communist” Russia and the Health Care Debate

A socialist revolution is brewing in America, and it's coming from that communist country Sarah Palin can see from her shores.

A socialist revolution is brewing in America, and it's coming from that communist country Sarah Palin can see from her shores.

Clearly, much misinformation has been spread about the proposed health care reform.  Obama’s plan is in critical condition, crushed and twisted as it is by so much talk about death panels, nationalized health care horror stories, red revolutions and, by natural extension, Russia.

It is hilarious to me that many of the disgruntled right wing citizens at town hall meetings call on Russia to heighten the pitch of their feverish and delusional worries.

For starters, Bill O’Reilly says the health care debate is about socialism, not health care. This sets the stage for all kinds of interesting things to happen.

A Pennsylvania woman was invited on the Fox show “Happening Now,” after saying to Sen. Arlen Specter at a town hall meeting, “I don’t want this country turning into Russia.” Later, on the show, she appears to be reading from a teleprompter and narrates a little bit about herself, saying that she used to be indifferent to politics, but then she started reading about the “Constitution” and the “founders of this country.” And then she concluded that the country was ripping itself apart and health care was going to turn us into Russia.

Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and others also attempted to prove that Obama’s health care plan was leading us swiftly towards the path of communism. Their evidence came straight from the mouth of the beast, or I guess that’s what they hoped we’d think. PRAVDA On-line published an editorial saying that America was turning Marxist. Dobbs, Beck, Limbaugh and others asked hypothetically: who knows Communism better than the former mouthpiece of the Party? If the Russians recognize Marxism in Obama’s policies, it must be there! They’ve lived through it!

The part that sucks was, PRAVDA On-line is not the same thing as Pravda, the communist newspaper which existed 1912-1991. Furthermore, the editorial itself has a number of spelling errors and is surrounded by ads for “Russia’s Most Desirable Single Women,” and an article declaring “Pregnant Baby Girl Born in Saudi Arabia.” Read that headline again. Amazing.

In other words, it’s a classy and reliable news source and should be trusted for its American policy analysis.

It’s not that I am surprised by the slippery slope arguments saying expanded government role in health care = socialism. I expect as much.

But its the conflation between Russia and the Soviet Union that really gets my goat. When these people say Russia, they mean Soviet Union. Hell, if they meant, “I don’t want our health care system to be like the health care system of the Russian Federation,” I would agree with them. It’s not a very good system.

How long will it take for Cold War scare-mongering to die? Apparently, a long fucking time. I feel so bad for Russia. It has just about the worst reputation of any country in the paranoid sector of American cultural imagination.

Fortunately, one crazy out there at least knew the proper name for Communist Russia. “This is the Soviet Union, this is Maoist China,” he said to Senator Specter. Well, not exactly. But we’ll take it one step at a time.

–anna

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! Catholics Go Un-American

I spent the majority of my formative years in South Bend, IN. I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school all my life until college. My high school was located across the street from Notre Dame and it would be safe to say that *most* of my teachers attended that institution of higher learning. In other words, I am familiar with Notre Dame, and I am deeply disappointed with all the bullshit that has been going on there since Obama was asked to be the commencement speaker.

Behold, Catholicism gets hip to youtube and ushers Fr. Corapi, a man with a resonant and authoritative voice, to blather their nonsense.

He claims the Church has “dishonored itself” by inviting Obama to be Notre Dame’s commencement speaker. HELLO, HE IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Normally, as a liberal, I wouldn’t invoke the label of president to elicit a reverent stance towards anyone. Fight the power, right? But in the past 5 months, the label and institution of the presidency has been restored as a respectful one, as it is no longer inhabited by a village idiot who unbalanced the world with cruel and thoughtless policies. Never did American political life (among other things) tip so dangerously toward chaos than during the 8 years of GWB. But now at the helm of our still teetering realm, we have AN INTELLIGENT, COMPASSIONATE, THOUGHTFUL PRESIDENT.

But apparently Obama doesn’t just disrespect life, Fr. Copari says he is the first president to have an “obviously public and pernicious anti-life and anti-Catholic Christian bias.” What the hell is an anti-Catholic Christian bias? What does that mean? Copari and the Newman Center must have added the word “Christian” in there just to throw us all off balance.

That is clearly going too far. I can understand that Catholics might object to some of Obama’s positions, but wtf, Catholics, I always thought you (we!) had better sense than this! LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE.

But maybe I am getting carried away, and the people at ND protesting the O man are just the fringe. After all, Obama received 7 more percentage points from the Catholics than fellow-papist Kerry did in 04. Catholics like Obama. We voted for him.

President Bush gave the commencement speech in May of 2001. Those were simpler times; he may have stolen the election, but it was another two years until he invaded a country and signified his ‘respect’ for life everywhere.

We are still in the midst of a torture scandal, in which our nation’s leadership (on both the right and left) failed to be forthcoming about interrogation policy in our terrorist prisons. This isn’t really big news as we’ve known that torture was going on for a while. But I can’t help but be scandalized that the Catholic Church is wasting its breathe dishonoring and making a fool of themselves by protesting Obama’s commencement speech, when they should be re-examining what it means to respect life, and where the Church’s priorities should lay. Like Bush, the Catholic Church has started to rely on culture wars to define Catholic culture. But if we want to foster a world where compassion, tolerance, and Christ’s love reigns, then we can all agree that torture, unjust war (to use the Catholic term!), and poverty degrade life in noticeable, impactful ways. I am pro-choice (though I have a nuanced view of abortion’s morality), and it is preposterous to devote so much energy to one wedge issue when there is so much more meaningful evil going on out there.

Catholics have a strong reputation for being crusaders for social justice, and I know that some Catholics believe that all injustice stems from abortion (the argument goes: if we cannot protect the innocent, who can we protect?!??!)

WELL WE CAN PROTECT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY ALIVE. PLEASE DIVERT YOUR VITRIOL AWAY FROM OUR PRESIDENT AND TOWARD MORE LEGITIMATE CAUSES.

[end rant]

by anna

Right and Wrong

I was both intrigued and repulsed by this Salon.com interview with Alexandra Pelosi, filmmaker and also the daughter of Nancy Pelosi. Her recently HBO-aired documentary about the Republican diehards during the 2008 election, Right America: Feeling Wronged, looks like an attempt to mend the red/blue cultural rift by showing Left America the true ways of Right America. I haven’t seen it yet, but it seems from Pelosi’s interview here that she has interestingly not attempted to hide her own political identity. This is a documentary by a leftist about her political Other;  it is a glance over the abyss.

However, based on Pelosi’s interview, I don’t have much hope for a nuanced sociological study of right-wingers.

She hits the mark a couple of times, saying,

There was this guy in Fort Wayne, Ind., Fred Boise, who says, “The media paints us to be fanatics. They treat us like hicks and we just go to Wal-Mart and we’re rednecks. And they don’t come to get to know us, and they go on stereotypes.” I think all of that is true.

Interesting point.

But then she reveals her true colors, saying,

I live in Manhattan, so I think I’m on a blue island. I mean it’s not like people don’t vote for McCain in Manhattan, but a majority of my friends, I have to say respectfully, are just drinking the Kool-Aid. And they were in the cult from early on. They’d say, “You went to Pennsylvania. Ooh. Freaky.” Well, actually there are some really nice people there, and they’re serving their term of duty in Iraq.

In your face, stupid New York liberals! Oh wait, now I’ve just stereotyped lefty New Yorkers! Oh, woe is me.

That is what Alexandra Pelosi should have been thinking. Invoking the idea of red state conservatives as “nice people” who man the war effort in Iraq is a quaint, innocuous vision of the right wing through the eyes of a born-and-bred ‘liberal elite’ like Pelosi. I know it’s taboo to use the right wing terminology for us liberals, but for real, if Pelosi’s daughter isn’t liberal elite, who is?

But granted, talking about right wingers is a thorny thing. With King of Bipartisanship at the helm of our country, New America seems to believe that frequent negotiation with the political abyss between left and right is a good idea. Barack Obama lends credibility to both left and right by attempting to court all parties and acting like everyone has something to bring to the table. Indira and I have long thought this was bullshit. Bipartisanship, or a belief that both parties have something to say, may be decent legislative policy, as it allows you (policy-maker Obama) the framework for broad agreement on policy proposals. (Or, that was Obama’s plan, until he saw bipartisanship in action with the House Republicans on that stimulus bill…) But as somebody (John Stuart Mill? Indira, do you know?) said, democracy is “tyranny of the majority,” which he meant in a bad way, but I will subvert to mean a good thing. Guess what? The left was voiceless for the last 8 years. I just don’t care that Pelosi’s film “gives a voice to these voters, once labeled “the silent majority.” (This is according to the HBO website.) SILENT? Let me take a moment. SILENT?!?! Their spokesman has only been out of office for a few weeks!

What I am trying to say is, one must admit that many right wing beliefs are objectively wrong. Bipartisanship says there is right and left, but I say there is just right and wrong. Therefore it should not be required to have a fair and balanced view of that which is wrong. We need not give credibility, or sympathy, to views which are patently false and harmful.

On the other hand, everyone, regardless of their political leanings, should be treated as more than a quaint stereotype. I am not sure what Pelosi intended to show in her documentary: the similarities between right wingers and the people in her “blue island,” or the differences between them. I have a feeling the abyss was too large for her to cross alone.

Observe:

SALON: The one moment where you sounded even the tiniest bit irked was when you were talking to a guy in a truck and you say, “Obama wants to take from the 1 percent and give to a guy like you.”

Pelosi: Those are the kinds of conversations I found hard to stomach. That gentleman was screaming, “Wake up America!” and on the side of his truck it said, “Obama is a socialist idiot,” and I just didn’t understand how he could be so misinformed. He was an electrician. He made less than $150,000 a year. And he was toeing the party line of a party that was not helping him.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before. Economists are surprised that people don’t always act in our best interests and we often act in an irrational manner. What kind of world is this, where poor people vote to keep rich people in power? It’s a world where ideology reigns, where ideology becomes embedded in culture. This is true of politics of both the left and right. Though I despise the culture wars, there is truth to left-wingyness accompanying Volvo and machiotto, and right wingyness accompanying John Deere and Miller Lite. To make a documentary about politics and to not know this is kind of a scandal. Pelosi, by her own admittance, has spent her entire life nestled in her coastal world of highly educated, left-leaning people. But she does not rise above it. How very 19th century, how very earnest, how very enlightenment to find ‘misinformation’ so bewildering.

What I would like to see in a documentary about the right wing is not a portrait of the Other. Fair and balanced be damned– just treat the Other as though they are people. Trace the cultural patterns and figure out why they are there. Don’t feel sorry for them, don’t marvel at their difference, don’t put them in our harsh, judgmental gaze. If America is truly divided, then we must find our common ground, and putting one half or the other in a zoo isn’t going to help matters.

To sum up: On the one hand, we need not take the wrong views seriously. On the other hand, we do need to take people with the wrong views seriously. Condescension and bewilderment are not options. I’ll let you know one of these years when I get HBO, but in the mean time, I’m going to have to believe that Alexandra Pelosi doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

-Anna