While most of us these days rightly recoil in distaste from that infamous George Wallace quote, the fact is that he had a point — just not the one he thought he did. Wallace was using that phrase as a normative statement; at the time his beliefs (or at least his electoral calculus) mandated continuing staunch support of both official and unofficial segregation during the Jim Crow era. The problem is while today we generally recognize that such comments are neither normative nor socially acceptable (at least here in the US), it is to greater or lesser degree still a positive statement. Wallace’s line does not describe how things should be, but instead how things often are.
In the wake of the assassination of a federal judge and attempted assassination of a US Congresswoman, it seems like I’ve heard/read the word “civility” being employed more times over this past week than the outrageously overworked phrase “the American people” and honestly, it’s making me want to puke. It’s discomfiting, watching all of these politicians (few of whom are ever sincere about anything) posture and angle to be seen on camera being “civil” and “measured” while giving “the other side” a “respectful” hearing.
Does anyone believe for an instant that Barney Frank and Michelle Bachmann are suddenly going to embrace and start singing Give Peace a Chance? Does anyone think that if a Democrat temporarily sits on the Republican side of “the aisle” and vice versa for a single speech, that all of our political divisiveness is going to melt away? Should we desegregate the Congress, busing Republicans to the Democratic side of the chamber and so forth?
This whole (mercifully temporary) pretense at elevating the discourse is patent nonsense and we all know it; who do they think they’re kidding? We all know good and damn well that the Alphas still get the first turn on the tree’s highest branches where the best fruit and tenderest leaves grow, while the rest get to pick among the discards and scraps that fall to the forest floor. Anyone who acts out of turn is promptly reminded why not do so.
The national motto of the United States is e pluribus unum, “out of many, one.” One of history’s most successful experiments in governance is the creation of the EU/Eurozone, an undoubtedly aggregationist project. One of the most successful experiments in regulating economic production is (love ’em or hate ’em) OPEC. Even conspiracy theorists get into the act with their laughable “One World Government” nonsense; you’ve probably at least seen the phrase before.
Yet for each aggregationist and “classically” segregationist example, we can just as readily point to the self-segregationist impulse: the former Soviet “Union.” Northern Ireland. The Basques. Yugoslavia. The Kurds. The Pakhtuns. Baluchistan. Tibet. Somaliland. Sudan. The plain and simple truth is that in many if not most cases, people really don’t like The Other’s company. Rodney King’s plaintively futile plea always falls upon deaf ears.
Yes, in order to lower the temperature (and avoid the ultimate fate of the above named) we all should drop the over-the-top gun/kill/attack/war language. Whatever you think of Bill Clinton, he’s right: just because those of us who are sane understand that it’s just hyperbolic rhetoric doesn’t mean that the crazies among us can or will get that, and we have no shortage of crazies in this country. Were over-the-top political chatter and electoral maps responsible for what happened in Tucson? No. Were they helpful or strictly necessary? Equally, no. Just let that sort of thing go and try to find a way to make your point that doesn’t involve some talk of physical violence. People used to analogize politics to sports, not to all-out warfare — try that for a change.
Let’s also ditch the idea that it’s OK (not merely legal, but in fact a good idea) to bring a loaded firearm to a government function or facility while making threatening noises about revolution and tyranny. Those of you who enjoy that revolutionary, anti-tyranny “Second Amendment remedies” bullshit, let’s not even go into the preposterously low bar you cosseted wimps set for “tyranny.” Suffice it to say that if, in a representative democracy, you’re freaking out over taxes or the health care act, you have no fucking idea what tyranny is. Further, do you really believe that you lot of overweight mid-life crisis civilians is somehow going to overthrow a hypothetically “tyrannical” US government? You know, the same government that most of you also insist upon equipping with ever-more-advanced military hardware, surveillance capacity and legal rationalizations — on a no-limit credit card? You’re going to overthrow that? HA! A little consistency would be nice, please. The Founding Fathers were deeply distrustful of standing armies and foreign adventurism. You people, not so much, so STFU.
Getting back to whatever point I’m trying to make here, it might well be enlightened and compassionate to love one’s enemies and turn the other cheek, but really, who does that? Nobody, that’s who. We don’t all like each other, we’re not going to all like each other, and that’s just the way it is. We don’t have to be jerks, but we all know that we have it in us, and sometimes it gets the better of us — especially when everyone else is being a jerk, too. There is absolutely no need to get hostile just because we may disagree, but let’s stop pretending that we’re all going to be respectful and polite to each other just because some Addams Family reject lost his shit and opened fire for some reason known only to him.