Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Reading

The Color of Change — Dennis G. at Balloon Juice looks at the choice we’ll have in November.

In November voters will face a choice. It is not a Republican vs Democratic choice or even a liberal vs conservative choice.

Nope.

It is a bit more primal than that.

In November we face a choice between the Confederate Party and modernity.

All around the globe we face a battle with reactionary forces that seek to pull society back to some imagined fantasy time that they define as “better”. Most of the time these Dark Ages Disciples wrap their lunacy in some cultish religious rhetoric that Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, Zoroaster, Indra or whoever blesses and mandates their insanity. But religious ideology is not the only meme these wackos embrace. Nationalism and political myths also motivate. And often the Nationalist myths are woven tightly with the religious myth into one big twisted blob of hate and madness. This fantasy world view animates and drive al-Qaeda and here in America it animates the Confederate Party.

The Confederate Party grew out of the Confederacy and their defeat in the Civil War. It is easier to split an atom with a butter knife than it is to separate the Confederacy from racism. Reconstruction almost killed the Confederacy, but it found a host in the Democratic Party. For decades, it was the Democrats—especially those from the South—who kept the goals of the Confederacy alive. Over time the Confederacy lost their grip on the Democratic Party and when LBJ passed Civil Rights and Voting Rights Legislation, the spirit of the Confederacy went looking for a new political host. For a time this racist ideology found a home with the third party efforts of George Wallace, but it was Richard Nixon who thought he could invite this ideology of hate into the Republican Party and control it. He was wrong.

Now the Confederacy controls Nixon’s Party so completely that they would kick Dick out for being a squish. Reagan would get the boot as well.

Today the Confederacy Party wears different Party labels like finely embroidered sheets that glide in the moonlight. The Republican Party is a brand they control, but in the wake of George W. Bush it was a damaged brand. So the Confederate Party did some marketing and came up with yet another name and yet another mask: The Tea Party.

Racism and xenophobia are the core organizing tools, along with old chestnuts like ‘states rights’ and fear of ‘big government’. Appeals to selfishness are also key, but it is quiet racism and fear that holds the blob of hate together. Without racism and fear they have nothing.

That is why the a simple call from the NAACP to condemn racist behavior sent the movement into fits of hysterics. And it is why their almost universal response was to attack the NAACP for pointing out the movement’s tolerance for racism. And that is why the Confederate Party and their leaders responded with fresh examples of racism.

More below the fold.

Frank Rich — The Passion of the Mel.

The cultural wave that crested with “The Passion” was far bigger than Gibson. He was simply a symptom and beneficiary of a moment when the old religious right and its political and media shills were riding high. In 2010, the American ayatollahs’ ranks have been depleted by death (Falwell), retirement (James Dobson) and rent boys (too many to name). What remains of that old guard is stigmatized by its identification with poisonous crusades, from the potentially lethal antihomosexuality laws in Uganda to the rehabilitation campaign for the “born-again” serial killer David Berkowitz (“Son of Sam”) in America.

Conservative America’s new signature movement, the Tea Party, has its own extremes, but it shuns culture-war battles. It even remained mum when a federal judge in Massachusetts struck down the anti-same-sex marriage Defense of Marriage Act this month. As the conservative commentator Kyle Smith recently wrote in The New York Post, the “demise of Reagan-era groups like the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority is just as important” as the rise of the Tea Party. “The morality armies have failed to inspire their children to join the crusade,” he concluded, and not unhappily. The right, too, is subject to generational turnover.

As utter coincidence would have it, the revelation of the latest Gibson tapes was followed last week by the news that a federal appeals court, in a 3-0 ruling, had thrown out the indecency rules imposed by the F.C.C. after Janet Jackson’s 2004 “wardrobe malfunction.” The death throes of Mel Gibson’s career feel less like another Hollywood scandal than the last gasps of an American era.

Combat Art — Carol Kino on the artwork that comes from war.

ON a glorious summer morning a few weeks ago two United States Marines — one an active-duty reservist, one recently retired — paced around a light-filled warehouse on the Marine Corps base here, talking shop.

“Somebody who just knocks our socks off is Gerhard Richter,” said Michael D. Fay, a chief warrant officer before he left the corps last year. “We also love Basquiat.”

“When you talk about Basquiat, you run the risk of sounding like a paternalistic white guy,” pointed out his colleague Kristopher J. Battles, a sergeant who looks like he stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting. But he couldn’t help enthusing, “There’s something intense and neo-expressionistic about him.”

Mr. Fay averred, “We know when something’s visually authentic.”

Not your everyday exchange at Quantico perhaps. But one in keeping with the mission these men have dedicated themselves to for the last several years: the Marine Corps combat art program, for which both have worked as artists, recording the experiences of their fellow Marines.

“We’re not here to do poster art or recruiting posters,” Sergeant Battles, 42, said. “What we are sent to do is to go to the experience, see what is really there and document it — as artists.”

Doonesbury — Opacity.