Thursday, January 27, 2011

Diagnosis of a Breed Disorder

"Mr. President, you don't believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism."
                  --Tweet from Representative Paul Broun, Republican-Georgia during the State of the Union Address

"We saw an unprecendented explosion of government spending and debt at President Obama's direction; unlike anything we've seen in the history of our country.[We] have come to Washington with a commitment to follow the Constitution and cut the size of government."
                    --Michele Bachmann,

Writing just after World War II, during the ascendancy of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the John Birch Society, several professors from Columbia and Harvard , Richard Hofstadter, Seymour Martin Lipset and Daniel Bell tried to make sense of what they came to call the "Radical Right." At various times they referred to the rising, vociferous, some would say hysterical, voices the "Paranoid Right," or the "Unreasoning Right."

Certain characteristics of the syndrome were noted: 1/ A dread of conspiracy 2/ A certainty that America was being threatened by change  which would be harmful and 3/ Frustration with  the "Mainstream Media" which was said to be ignoring, ignorant of or even complicit in  the conspiracy 4/ A feeling on the part of the spokesmen they were personally threatened or had already been harmed, even though by every observable criteria, these people, whether they were rich or Redneck, were not being harmed at all. 5/ A sense of impending doom rooted in the conviction the forces conspiring to destroy America were largely unseen, unappreciated by the distracted masses of hard working, well-meaning Americans who were preoccupied with their own mundane but less critical problems and the fate of the world rested with the talented,  eternally vigilant individuals who vainly sounded a call to arms to a sleeping giant of a population.
     More recently, another characteristic symptom of people afflicted with this syndrome has emerged: A rapid, high pitched voice, sort of a screech, which might bring to mind a man who sees his airplane crashing to earth while his fellow passengers snooze, read, listen to music on headphones, oblivious to the approaching catastrophe.

Typical of this syndrome is hallucinations of socialism or communism or fascism seen crawling up walls, lurking behind seemingly benign looking Congressmen, Presidents or Speakers of the House.

Another feature: A religious reverence for that secular Bible, the Constitution, in whose words are seen absolute values, like the right of any individual American to keep and bear arms, unto an arsenal of attack rifles, land mines, grenades, what have you.

Especially threatening is the presence of Big Brother which may take the guise of black helicopters, jack booted villains or something really odious called the Federal Government or sometimes simply "The Federal Bureaucracy."

The way this sneaky socialistic Federal Guvment gets control of your bank account and brain is sometimes by radio waves, but often more subtly, with reckless spending which results in big deficits which enslaves not just you but your grandchildren. Somehow, less mention is made of your children, with whom you may have a more complicated relationship, but your grandchildren, now there are true innocents.

And there is a proclivity for playing with words and language and images to conjure up spooky things, or to morph one image into another:

So, we have the "Death Tax,"  which this Banshee Right labeled the estate Tax.  I mean, an estate tax is something a really rich person who has an estate and probably a chateau has to pay so his neer do well kids don't get all the wealth but it has to be repaid to the country which made the accumulation of all that wealth possible.

And we have the transformation of an image. "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." So we are reminded the real villain is not the instrument but the person wielding it, which is fair enough. Of course, if you want to put a fine point on it, as the NRA is doing, people  do not kill people, bullets do.

But the larger point is, it's the maniac with his finger on the trigger. To which I can only think, there are people who should not be allowed to play with guns or sharp objects. And there are certain objects which we likely ought to restrict, like fertilizer bombs or hand grenades or land mines,  or Browning Automatic rifles or fifty caliber machine guns or Uzis or formula one racing cars driven on I-95.

So, if a man plants land mines in his front lawn because he is sick and tired of the neighbor's kids from trampling his grass, well land mines don't kill kids, crazy old men do.

Now, I don't know what the NRA stance is on land mines, but I would submit land mines should not be sold in your local Walmart store because you never know what lunatic out there might see that landmine in the glass counter as he's wheeling his cart by and think, "Oh, that would be good for blowing up the neighbor's kids."  So you don't want to put such objects out there which will attract loonies like honey does flies.  A crazy person magnet, that land mine.

And if you accept there are maniac magnets trying to get sold, and we have an interest in not providing the maniac with the means to be a homicidal maniac, well then you have gun control.

And none of this has anything to do with the maintenance of a militia--you remember what militia men look like--those guys with the three cornered hats, the vest, the long musket and the nifty knee stockings and the square jaws and the Norman Rockwell faces.  That's a long way from Timothy McVeigh and that psychiatrist in Ft. Hood who shot dead unarmed soldiers who were doing what soldiers do lots of--waiting on lines.

Oh, and one last feature of this particular form of brain worm: Whenever a tax or a spending program or anything you find objectionable appears, it's always unprecedented and never been seen before in the history of this nation--which, of course is a tautology--but let's not quibble.
Has recent federal spending really been on a scale never seen before? I don't really know, and I'm sure Michele Bachmann does not know. This would involve complex mathematical formula e to compare 2010 dollars to 1864 dollars or 1944 dollars and knowing what the GNP for those years were and stuff like that.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that we were spending a lot more of the nation's wealth during any year of the American Civil War than we did during the recent bank bail outs.  I can say that with great confidence because, like Ms. Bachmann, I am totally unencumbered by hard facts.

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