Sunday, September 27, 2009

If It's a Troll, It Must Be a Republican

There's an infestation of trolls on Bill Maher's comment page - vicious, rampant Rightwing beings, insulting, narrow-minded, ugly, white individuals - you know the type: The sort you see on the news at Town Maulings. One is particularly bad. He appears to be a career militarist. His MySpace page reveals that, whilst he attended a college, he didn't take a degree. He's in the Navy, and he describes himself as 'a proud parent.' He reminds me of a particular cousin of mine, who was raised in a Southern household, but one with Progressive, liberal leanings - what his mother would call 'a Democratic kitchen.' This cousin chose to attend Virginia Military Institute and came out brainwashed in Reagan rhetoric, which descended, over the years, into Rush rhetoric.

My cousin regularly argues political dogma with me by e-mail, and consistently insults me with ad hominem remarks, but he always ends his e-mails by reminding me how much affection he holds for me - affection, but not esteem. However, this stranger troll, on Bill's page, has targeted me, but in his assault on me, he always manages to link whatever insult he's levelling against my opinion or my intelligence to Bill as well. Thus, he's called us 'windbags', and his latest rant insinuated that we were 'unAmerican elitists.'

Well, I always suspected Bill Maher and I were spiritual twins separated at birth, but this takes the assumption to a new level. I remember a time from the 2008 Presidential campaign - already, memories of that are quick upon us - when the Queen of the Trolls, herself, Sarah Palin, was fresh on the scene, casting aspersions on anyone who found himself or herself in possession of a first class university degree, anyone able to warble a word of more than two syllables, anyone who trusted science as fact rather than mythology and folk philosophy bound into a book and marketed as 'faith', as 'elitist'. In that respect, and for certain tranches of people, 'elitist' became as filthy and fearful a word as 'paedophile' or 'pervert.'

Yet scarcely a week after Palin's fateful utterance, I recall Bill, in his opening monologue, exhorting people to take the 'elitist' epithet, turn it into something positive, and wave that banner with pride. After all, and I'm sure Mrs Palin and most of her followers failed to realise this, the United States was conceived in liberty by a gaggle of classically educated men who were spawns of the Age of Enlightenment, all of whom, both by the dictates of their time and our contemporary era, would be classed as 'elitists.'

Not many Rightwing trolls know that, although a fair few of them seem fond of quoting Thomas Jefferson's blood of martyrs watering the tree of liberty line.

Well, if the wingnuts are right, and there is a God who'll have a Judgement Day, I want to be standing at the right hand of my spiritual twin, when we're assigned a passage on the boat crossing the river Styx into hell, condemned there by a trollish God for being elitist, unAmerican windbags. At least, I'll be in good company.

What amazes me, however, is how trolls seem to have pervaded America in every echelon of political life. If Sarah Palin is the Troll Queen, then I suppose Karl Rove must be her king. After all, it was Rove who decided that the ex-Republican strategist, Matthew Dowd, had the right idea, when Dowd opined that the Republicans should ignore courting independent voters and galvanise the base.

And there's the rub: The Republican base is primarily rural, agrarian, uneducated or undereducated, and religious. In God they trust, and everybody else pays cash. They are what the Europeans would call, in another age and time, peasants. Peones. The great unwashed. So the Republicans promised a theocratic government to these people and invested power-brokerage ability in the hands of the Ernest T Basses and Gomer Pyles of this world; and unlike Ernest T, these people don't throw rocks, they multitask and shoot guns, whilst reading their Bibles.

Sarah and Karl throw out zingers to their zealots and send them forth to troll the land that's become Blue America, sowing seeds of fear and distrust and hoping they'll take root. For healthcare reform, read 'death panels'. Re-engaging multi-laterally with our allies in the world means 'showing weakness.' Having an intelligent, articulate, thinking man at the helm of our government, suddenly means his legitimacy as an American citizen is questioned, he's accused of 'palling around with terrorists,' and he's shouted down as a liar to his face in the very Congress of the United States of America. Joe Wilson, people, is a troll.

And all collective souls that rebelled against the United States in the era of the Civil War, who spun their desire to continue the institution of slavery under the guise of 'states' rights' can roll to the right in their graves at the thought that the fruit of the loins of their descendents are ugly, mealy-mouthed and whining little gremlin-like beings we're accustomed to meeting under bridges in the realms of fairy tales. Well, it looks as though when fairy tales are brought into reality, they become horror stories.

What's a horror story without a wicked witch and scary clown? Who else but Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck?

Bachmann comes to prominence by reducing the usually loquacious Chris Matthews to stupified silence by proclaiming various Congressional members of the blue persuasion as being unAmerican (that word again) and calling for investigations into 'unAmerican activities.' Joe McCarthy lives again and hails, once more, from Minnesota. Strange that a state that can spawn Al Franken and Hubert Humphrey can also give rise to political detritus such as this woman, who accuses the President of establishing secret FEMA concentration camps and who exhorts people to actually slit their wrists in order to become blood brothers in a protest against the American census. I can only assume that she doesn't realise that to slit one's wrists can prove to be fatal, and with such a shrinking base, these people need all the followers they can muster; or maybe she does hope to promote martyrs for their 'cause', as long as she's not one of the fallen.

Beck the clown is more Chucky the evil doll. He's another exhorter, whose irresponsible use of free speech has already resulted in someone going on a killing rampage because Beck opined that Obama's next objective would be to send policemen after people's guns. He enforces his followers' sense of disenfranchisement by turning the screw that the President is actually racist, with a deep-seeded hatred of white people, whilst at the same time, acknowledging that Obama actually is better for the country than John McCain would have been. Better for Beck, probably, because it's given him more fodder to foist on his rank fire of invective. And when all else fails, Glenn, give us a few tears for your country, and this will eventually result in some poor sod, being frogmarched to a place in a forest where Dan'l Boone killed a bear and hung from a similar tree, with the word 'FED' etched onto the flesh of his chest. For what? For doing his job.

Beck and Bachmann, people, are trolls.

I'm not even mentioning Rush Limbaugh, because in the theocratic world created in the minds of these bastions of the Right, Limbaugh would occupy God's throne.

The lunatics really have taken over the asylum, so much so, that it's almost comical to watch Eric Cantor, a Republican and a Southern Jew, a cultured and educated man, assume a facial expression akin to acute constipation, as he stands idly by and lets these bloviators ... well, bloviate. Lindsey Graham, a leftover from the age of Ashley Wilkesian effete Southern gallantry, keeps his dainty mouth firmly shut in a mien of disapproval, all the while looking as though he wants the earth to open and swallow him with an enormous gulp.

There's an old Greek proverb, oft-quoted, which says that a fish stinks from its head; and from the highest echelons of the Right comes the clarion call to trolldom. It assumes the guise of the First Amendment and asserts its right to freedom of speech. I'm all for civilised debate. I welcome a conservative point of view; but there's a difference between debate and discussion and vengefully personal attacks aimed at shouting an opponent down, thus, denying the opponent 'freedom of speech'; and that is unconstitutional.

I understand these people are afraid of a changing world around them. I understand that they feel disenfranchised. A lot of Democrats felt that way as well, especially during the last 8 years. A lot of people are wondering now why the Left didn't make more of an aggressive show in the face of Bushco rampant on the American scene. Many progressives deem that lack of protest a sign of weakness, but these people must remember that civil liberties were curtailed by Rovian antics, and the Constitution, itself, was deemed a mere scrap of paper. Truth is, the trolls ruled the roost until 2008, and they were de-throned. They've now assumed a hard-core and primitive protest stance. We on the Left recognise them to be nothing more than domestic terrorists, but it's worth noting that today's terrorist most always becomes tomorrow's freedom fighter.

To paraphrase Bill Maher: Not all Republicans are trolls, but if you're a troll, you're probably a Republican.

Monday, September 21, 2009

View from a Broad - Part I: The Ignorantly Stupid

Right, here I sit, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, gearing myself up for another visit Stateside to see the friends and relatives. It's not long now until the end of October, when I'll arrive. Whilst I'd hoped to visit closer Thanksgiving because I miss that particular holiday, coming earlier has its plus points - I won't be bothered by the particularly nasty brand of British Trick-or-Treaters on Hallowe'en (the sort who sullenly hold their hands out, opened palm up, and demand the 'treat' of cold, hard cash), I'll get to vote in my state's gubernatorial election (and hopefully keep Virginia firmly in the blue fold), and I'll get to see my hero, Bill Maher, at his New York City gig, with good company in the City for a nice weekend. All that more than makes up for missing Thanksgiving, and it also saves certain relatives tut-tutting over the fact that I'm a vegan.

However, unless my mood changes pretty damned quickly, I'll be coming home angry. In fact ... I'LL BE COMING HOME MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!!!

I know that's the rallying cry of the birthers, the teabaggers, and various other ignorati, who people the far right extreme of the Dark Side, and it's they who bear most of the brunt of my anger; but they share it with their spiritual nemeses, I'm afraid. Politics really do make strange bedfellows.

I'm equally as angry with the far Left of the equation.

In fact, I've come to view the culture war that's happening now in the United States as a fierce battle for our nation's soul waged between the stupidly ignorant and the ignorantly stupid.

There's a difference.

Ignorance is lack of knowledge. Stupidity is simply lack of common sense. It's very possible to be ignorant of facts, data, literature and the world in general, but also be wise in having a general modicum of common sense. I've known several elderly Italians, who speak only their regional dialect, who can't even read or write their own vernacular, yet who have a rich folk wisdom which gets them through their daily lives.

It is also possible to have a first class graduate degree education and yet be profoundly obtuse when it comes to understanding or relating to other people, everyday events and life in general in the real world. I live in an England which is controlled by the Labour Party. I know.

Thus, it is with the extremes, Right and Left, in the United States at the moment. Chalk and cheese. Oil and vinegar.

It's a safe assumption to make (and I hate assuming) that most of the folks you saw on the Mall a couple of weekends ago, are ignorant. In fact, you'd probably be hard put to find a high school diploma amongst them. Many of the really elderly who made the trip - the Korean War veterans and their wives - probably barely made it through elementary school. A lot of these folks are from the Deep South, the Red States of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and, yes, South Carolina. Suffice it to say that the Deep South, New Orleans and Atlanta apart, is neither refined nor particularly hospitable to people they perceive to be different. Short code: It's rough. I almost married a boy from Alabama. His people held me in high suspicion solely by virtue of the fact that I was a Virginian.

A lot of these people, too, came from the sparsely populated Midwestern states, where people are few and far between; and I would imagine that the older folk from that region, too, didn't value education that highly.

So they're uneducated and most of them are religious; and a lot of the older people remember when our enemies had names like 'nazi' or 'fascist' or 'communist' ... or even 'socialist.' And it's also sad to surmise that a lot of these older people remember a time when there was a different 'social order' in the United States, but they're savvy enough to know that it's not particularly au fait to voice that they preferred this type of social order.

To paraphrase a US President, a torch has been passed to a new generation, and they're feeling left in the lurch. Many of them probably remember feeling the same way 49 years ago when the electorate put a Catholic in the Oval Office, but at least, in their uneducated minds, that President was the same colour as they ... and look what happened to him.

They're feeling lost and abandoned in a country they thought they knew, while the change around them had been too great for them to comprehend. Suffice it to say, also, that these people are rooted to their geographic location. They might take the odd vacation, but it's never that far from home and certainly not out of the country. A majority of Americans still do not possess a passport, yet suddenly, in their own country, there's a need to speak another language.

This lot are easy pickings for a media-savvy opportunist, especially one who believes his own rhetoric. When I first saw Network as a college student in the mid-Seventies, I took it for the satire it was. I never imagined I would ever see Howard Beale played out in real life in front of my eyes as the hysterical, quasi-illiterate, carpet-chewing Glenn Beck ... and I'm barely old enough to remember Oral Roberts's 'put-one-hand-on-the-radio-and-the-other-in-your-pocket' rants.

Beck and his creatures, as well as Limbaugh, have honed in on these poor people and given them a healthy disguise for their inherent racism. 'That which we would call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,' says Shakespeare, so that by which we would disguise racism would stink like a sewer, unless we call it 'socialism,' 'fascism,' 'communism.' Never mind the fact that they're listening to a pundit who's preaching the gospel of Goebbels (yes, a Nazi, a fascist!) by repeating lies, rumour and innuendo again and again with mantra-like precision until, even if they couldn't believe the things he's said, they simply must be true, because he's said them enough times for the lies, the rumour and the innuendo to spread. And never mind the fact that what they want to see done - like certain science books burned, like people denied the right to speak at certain events, like God and the Christian religion becoming a part of governmental way of life - is both fascistic and unconstitutional (and that's more than a bit ironic, considering that they're clinging to Constitutional principles, about which they know nothing.)

And they know nothing because many of them, young and old, can barely read. They only know what's told them about the Constitution, and I have a very sneaking suspicion that elementary and high schools south of the Mason Dixon Line and in remote parts of the West, big up the Founding Fathers as quasi-saints with God smiling over their shoulders. This is a secular document, written by classically educated men who were products of an 18th Century enlightenment education and who were, to a man, non-believers. If these people found this truth to be self-evident, they'd rip the Constitution up quicker than George W Bush and Karl Rove did together. They genuinely believe that the President of the United States is the Anti-Christ. They believe in the FEMA concentration camps, they believe that he's foreign, that he's not a legitimate President, they fear for him to associate with their children, and there are even a few beknighted souls who'll slit their risks on a wink from Michele Bachmann in order to make the ubiquitous blood pact for their dying country.

Jimmy Carter raised the question, regarding these people, of inherent racism. He spoke the truth as a Southern man who lives in the South. I am barely old enough to remember Jim Crow, but I know that even now there are people in my own state who find it difficult to accept that a man of colour is our Commander-in-Chief; and it pains me to say that some of those people are in my own family.

Why are they like this, the old as well as the young? After all, this is the 21st Century and people and races mix freely. The key word has to be 'inherent.' People, unfortunately, inherit attitudes from generation to generation. The British are prime examples of this. They carry their grudges through centuries. Most of the British, most of the English, dislike and mistrust the French. That dislike, believe it or not, dates from the Hundred Years' War of the Middle Ages - almost 600 years ago, passed from generation to generation. It proved itself again, with Napoleon, and again, when General DeGaulle said, non, to British entry into what became the European Union almost forty years ago. Most recently, it reared its head again, when Nicolas Sarkozy accidentally on purpose forgot to issue an invitation to Her Majesty the Queen for the 65th anniversary celebrations of the D-Day Landings.

Moving up the scale, there are some British who simply just cannot get over the American Revolution. To them, we're still recalcitrant colonials who are secretly just waiting to be asked to return to the Commonwealth in order to be guided onto better and more moralistic leanings. It took them more than 200 years, but they've only just recently admitted that the rebellious colonials were, in fact, British. (That's all we were asking at the time, but there you go ... that's the Brits - too little, too late).

And then, there are the Germans. There are still people alive who remember the London Blitz and Dunkerque. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Normandy veterans cheerfully hate the Germans. What was fought in two wars in Flanders' fields, is now played out each time the England soccer team faces the Germans or on the beaches of Mallorca when the drunken English lager louts awake to find the Germans have their towels down on the sun lounges by the pool.

And so it is with the South. Parts of it, it has to be said, just haven't got over the Civil War. That was obvious with Joe Wilson, who's a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and who lobbied for the Confederate flag to fly over the capitol building in Columbia, South Carolina. Now, pardon me - and speaking as a Southerner and a descendent of traitors (because that's what the Confederates were) - but shouldn't the Sons of Confederate Veterans be, like, you know, a traitorous organisation?

My Confederate heritage is something, unfortunately, I can't shed. I'm stuck with the fact that my great-great grandfather backed the losing horse; but he was canny enough (and probably foresightful enough) to sign the Ironclad Oath as quickly as he could after the event. After all, he had mouths to feed. I don't, however, embrace it. We lost. End of. Move on. I'm actually proud of the achievements of my state - we were the first to elect an African-American governor and we supported the current President in the last election.

I know the South is slow and loathe to change; and this dichotomy makes me think of another dichotomy presented in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. It shows the divisions within the South and the Deep South. In the book, Ashley Wilkes is the classic Southern gentleman - educated, refined, well-travelled, an intellectual. He's described as being able to drink, ride and shoot as well as any of the County boys, but his heart isn't in those pursuits. His feyness, his love of the arts, his intellect, is accounted, by his contemporaries, for the fact that his mother was a Virginian; and Virginians were supposed to value those sorts of things (for which I should be proud, I suppose). Yet at the end of the War, Ashley is weak and prone to failure. In fact, he's propped up by his his wife and his would-be lover until the end, when he's left to stand alone by the death of one and the desertion of another.

The other side of the coin is represented by Scarlett, and her character - rough-hewn with a thin veneer of elegance on the exterior and a backbone of steel, who forces her way from the abject poverty of defeat and back to hollow riches, sucking up to Yankees and all sorts along the way. This is the sort of Southerner who moved to the forefront and moved ahead, forging the way for Jim Crow and 'separate but equal'.

Yet, as I've said elsewhere, some of the most progressive social legislation has come out of the South and was formed by Southern politicians. For every Strom Thurmond, we have an Al Gore, a Bill Clinton, a Lyndon Johnson, an Ann Richards, a Molly Ivins. Like Rhett Butler, another classically educated fictitious Southerner, they're pragmatic enough to have moved on from the Antebellum and embraced and worked for positive change in the South.

I look at these people, the retrograde Southerners, and I wonder when all this foolishness is going to stop. Maybe it lay dormant for many years, but the Bush neocons are the ones who manipulated the Republican base to the forefront, with the promise of a theocracy: The base in ascendancy, consigned to the comfort of their faux religion, in bed with their guns and allowing themselves to be guided by the very sort of secular men they abhor, who profess, but don't practice a religion and who couldn't give a rat's ass about them or their condition.

Knowledge is power, but to these people, knowledge is to be feared.

And next time, I'll explain my ire with their polar opposites - the far Left, or the stupidly ignorant.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Clowns to the Left of Him, Jokers to the Right

So here we are at the end of a long, hot summer (at least in Britain - how's that for an oxymoron), after an August of scorching and offtimes ridiculously ignorant debates about a topic which has suddenly become urgently de rigeur in the United States: healthcare reform.

It really has been the silly season back home - embarrassingly so for me. Living in Europe, I've just come off 8 years of trying to convince people this side of the Pond that not all Americans were as certifiable as the neocons in possession of the bully pulpit, allegedly duly elected representatives, indicating the will of the people. Just about the time when I can put my head above the figurative parapet and attempt to wave a US flag, I'm confronted with the absurd Town Maulings.

Universal healthcare in Europe is a given. It's been around a long time. In fact, it's so much taken for granted by citizens of the countries where it's established, that many citizens complain vigourously about the quality of the healthcare they receive; and even though they wouldn't be without the universal healthcare that they have, the naysayers trying to discredit Obama as a socialist/communist/fascist/illegal alien/the Devil incarnate listen to their bleatings across the Atlantic and embellish upon them, using this spin as fodder to fuel the fires of fear amongst the lowest common denominator of voters in the States.

After all, better the devil you know than the devil you don't, even if you didn't realise that the devil that gave you Medicare just might be the government.

That's the ignorance of the Right - ugly, hideously white, quasi-illiterate,faith-based, excluding and intolerant and all in the name of Christianity.

That's the base ignorance which comes as a result of poor education, which resides in provincial and rural communities, usually found in the Deep South or in the sparsely-populated Western states, the stuff of people raised on a diet of Civil War stories and survivalists. The stuff of Timothy McVeigh, the paranoia that stoked Columbine, the sort of misappropriated loyalty that equates the Pro-Life campaign with the Pro-Death approval of the death penalty.

But the Right isn't the exclusive domain of ignorance, for ignorance resides on the Left-hand side of the American street as well; and in many ways, it's just as ludicrous, just as loud-mouthed, just as close-minded and just as intolerance. This brand of ignorance is uglier, because most of its proponents are educated, presume to be intelligent, and, quite frankly, should know better.

Of course, it's all about healthcare reform. What isn't, nowadays? For the shills of the Far Left, the self-proclaimed Progressives (who are anything but), Obama has done nothing right since taking office on January 20th. First there was the Wall Street bail-out, then the compromise with the Republicans on the Stimulus Package. There was the bi-partisan approach altogether, and now healthcare. Sprinkled amongst all that, Obama's neglected to legalise marijuana, repeal Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell and rescind the Defence of Marriage Act.

But healthcare's taken as much a centre stage for these people as it has for opponents of reform; and they just might, unwittingly, unite to kill it off entirely.

According to these people, Obama should have let the banks tank and at the same time, magically pull jobs from a magician's top hat. Do they not realise that, had Wall Street not been given a lifeline, there would be no jobs full stop, never mind magical ones pulled from magical hats. The United States economy would simply stop ... along with most of the major economies of the developed world. Of course, everyone deplores the greed engendered by Wall Street and the ethos of bonus that thrives there, but without the banking industry, where would the basic economy be?

These are people who, wrongly, believe that the greener grass of Europe is a haven of socialism.


European countries are beehives of capitalism. In fact, capitalism first came of age in England. The emergence of the English middle class signaled the end of the Middle Ages and heralded the dawning of a new sort of Renaissance. The noblesse oblige of France gave way to the noblesse de robe and, by extension, the solid bourgeoisie, or ... middle class. The only vestiges left of socialism are the healthcare systems - eclectic throughout Europe in design - and the public transport systems in each country, which vary from the sublime of France and Germany, to the ridiculously expensive in the UK.

The battle-cry of the some on the Progressive Left, regarding healthcare, is 'single-payer.' Single-payer or nothing. Forget the Third Way (ineffectual at the best of times, in my opinion), single-payer is the only way.

But it's not. And, I ask ... do they understand it? Do they understand that 'free at source' doesn't really mean ... 'free'? When they cry out that 'the government pays, that's what "single-payer" means,' do they understand where the government gets the money to pay for this medical care?

They get it from taxes, which will have to be raised across the board. Not the rich, not corporations. Everyone. Proportionately, yes - after all, to each according to his ability - but raised still.

I've lived under a single-payer system for 28 years. Simply put, on a good day, it works; on a bad day, it sucks. It's the luck of the draw, or rather, the luck of where you live. Live in an area where your local health authority has managed its budget well, and you'll never know a waiting list or anything less than a pristine hospital. Live where the bureaucrats who administer the authority's budget are feckless, and you'll have services cut, waiting lists months long and MRSA-infected hospitals with six-bed, mixed wards.

They'll grudgingly accept a 'public option', a vaguely-expressed version of they hybrid public-private combination popular throughout Southern Europe. This actually makes these sorts seem a bit more sensible. It at least tells me they're aware of the fact that Medicare only covers 80% of medical expenses and extending Medicare for all, would need a private top-up option added. (Of course, this is in opposition to the shills shouting 'Medicare for all' as a single-payer option, without stopping to think that 'Medicare for all' would mean 'all' would have to cough up the balance.

Then there's an idiot, shouting on another site, about getting rid of insurance companies entirely. Entirely. Presumably, this person doesn't drive a car or live in a house, which might burn or be damaged by a storm or hurricane. Presumably, he doesn't travel or own anything of value that might be lost or stolen, much less value his life in the event he has a family for whom provision might have to be made in the unlikely event of his death. Because all of the above would entail insurance, which would mean he would, in the words of the Wicked Witch of the North, kinda sorta, you know, need insurance companies.

Single-payer's the answer. Public option, maybe. Employer-based and co-operatives is a sell-out to Big Pharma and Big Business.

And this is when my head really begins to explode with anger, because in the midst of all this pandemonium, chaos, confusion and outright lies that have dominated the better part of the summer, this lot, the Left, the so-called Progressives, are ready to throw Obama under the political bus, walk away, denounce him as a traitor. Just like that. After 8 months.

I'm sorry, but even if Jesus Christ were the Son of God, even he wouldn't be able to undo in 8 months what it took the asswipes who raped our Constitution and instituted a rule of thuggery 8 years to achieve.

Already, on some sites there is talk of hoping there might be a primary challenge to Obama's leadership in 2012. Who could it be? Some say Hillary, who's repeatedly said she won't run at 65. Some are even hopeful of Ralph Nader, as if the United States would profit from having an 80 year-old at the helm - not to sound ageist, but one would live in hope that his Vice President would be considerably younger.

And these selfsame people sneered at Sarah Palin for being a quitter.

Obama never had the Right. From the getgo, they would always be against him. He's losing the Centre, because the Centre are confused as to what sort of healthcare plan he has in mind; and, quite honestly, that's Obama's fault for not having something, if not concise, at least a concrete, if rudimentary, plan about how to approach this reform. Yet I can understand his reticence to do so, considering the resounding bitchslap the Democratic Congress gave the Clintons in 1993, when they presented a healthcare plan fait accompli.

Obama, the Constitutional lawyer, is making government work the way government should work: Congress was called upon to legislate, to formulate an cost-effective universal healthcare package, even though, as I said on Bill Maher's forum, Congress is, at best, dysfunctional at the moment. It's polarized between the Right wingnut theocrats and a Democratic caucus that's at once high on the fact that they've gained the bully pulpit and suspicious of each of its own diverse factions within itself.

Forgive my Lincoln moment, but a House divided against itself cannot stand (the Democrats), and you can't please all the people all the time (healthcare and the President). Sometimes I think Lincoln was the last sane Republican; and look what happened to Lincoln.

I'm reading James Carville's latest book at the moment, 40 More Years, and one thing strikes me: Throughout the book, Carville refers to the Republicans as just that - 'the Republicans' or 'the Republican Party.' On the other hand, when he speaks of the Democrats, he refers to them as 'the Democratic caucus' or 'the Democratic coalition,' and those epithets ring true. Coalitions are weak at the best of times, and the Democrats are as culturally diverse as America, itself. All you needed to do was scan the sea of faces at each of the national conventions last year. Which one most closely resembled the America you know? And which one looked like the America of the 19th Century?


Earlier this summer, my socio-political muse, Bill Maher, was interviewed by Howard Kurz on CNN. During the interview, Kurz briefly mentioned the tea party phenomenon and the fact that some statements emanating from that movement were veering into the realms of a fascist fantasy. However, this was Freedom of Speech. He asked Bill about the First Amendment, and Bill made a remark that, for lack of a better word than a British one, gobsmacked Howard Kurz. Bill remarked that in travelling about, he noticed a worrying trend amongst younger people, specifically those on college campuses. More than the Right wingnutters, or at least just as much, college students on the Left were calling for a denial of Freedom of Speech. In short, they wanted to squelch dissent. I don't know what baffled and astounded Bill more - the fact that these people wanted to rescind this basic right, or the fact that they clearly were unfamiliar with the Constitution, which is probably why Bill was led to surmise that America was a stupid country.

And that surmisal pains me ... not because I disagree with Bill, because I did, at first; but now I agree. Because I see ignorance on the Left as well as the Right. There's a difference, however. The Right revere Sarah Palin and cult of willful ignorance, which denotes intellectual elitism as something pejorative and not to be trusted. These people revel in what they don't know and wear it proudly as a badge of honour, clinging to their guns and their religion in defence of this.

The Left, well, the Left are like those pseudo-intellectual wannabe high school philosophers - the sort who swanned about the halls of high schools in the early 70s, clutching a copy of Lord of the Rings, whose bookmark never seemed to progress past the first third of the interminably boring story. It looked cool. So now it looks cool to pretend you understand and are familiar with the Constitution, while all the time you know as much about it as the wingnutters from the Right: jack shit.

And it's ok for you to call down the Right as stupid, blind, narrow-minded et al, whilst crying for the Republicans to be silenced on the one hand, and Obama to be sacrificed on the other. Their ignorance is more tragic, for they are blind to it, lost in a forest out of which they can't find their way, because there are simply too many trees.

Their ignorance is an ignorance of arrogance, where their way is the right way and they know better than anyone, irregardless of experience.

As my late mother would say, they won't be told.

People I've met on various internet sites and blogspheres, people from this type of Left, tell me I've been away from the US too long. I'm constantly being told that I don't know my own country, that I don't live here anymore, and, therefore, even though I possess a passport, pay taxes and vote regularly, I've no right to comment upon or even worry about any socio-economic or political situation in the United States. Well, I'll tell you what I DO know.

I know that never before in my sordid life on either side of the Atlantic, have I ever been spurred with a sense of optimism and hope as I was last year during the campaign of Barack Obama. I'd never seen a Presidential candidate that inspired me so much. I was beginning to wonder if any ever would.

My parents came of age during the Great Depression. My father cast his first vote for Roosevelt's second term in 1936; my mother's first vote came four years later when she voted for his third term. Both their families were suffering along with everyone else when Roosevelt told them they had nothing to fear but fear, itself. My dad went to war, and my mother learned to drive and worked his job, for twice the salary he earned. During the war, she and her sisters shut up their various houses and returned to live with my grandparents, so they could pool their ration cards.

Later, they were Kennedy Democrats, and, as a small child, I could sense their excitement when Kennedy won to ask us not what our country could do for us, rather that we should ask what we could do for our country. They grew up and matured under a notion of service and sacrifice, if the time required it. They may have grumbled a bit, but they simply got on with it, and they endured.

In his first show of the 2009 season, Bill touched upon this subject, wondering if the people of today had an inkling of an idea about service to the country, about responding when the President asked for their help in achieving some of the monumental tasks heaped upon him to achieve. Bill was pretty pessimistic about that, reckoning that our society today was lazy; they wanted instant gratification, and they wanted the President to 'do' everything for them to alleviate their suffering without doing anything in return. This was not, reckoned Bill, the same generation as the so-called Greatest Generation.

He's been proven right. This is what we're seeing now. People from both sides of the political coin, turning their back on a gifted, sensitive, caring and intelligent President. Inexperienced, you say? Who has the necessary experience for this Poisoned Chalice? In the past 30 years, we've had a peanut farmer, an actor, a patrician, a philanderer and a dolt. For the first time in my life, it seems as if we have a man in the Oval Office who genuinely cares about the people who've chosen him, as much as he cares about the people who haven't.

He's a human being, a man; he's fallible like we all are. He'll make mistakes and falter, but he's criticized even when he admits error; and he'll falter even more if those of us who voted for him just turn our backs and walk away, along with the birthers, the teabaggers, the Creationists and the old Confederacy. Good company, eh?

Just because they're the jokers on the Right, doesn't mean you should take pride in being the clowns on the Left. Maybe it's time the Democrats stopped falling in love and started falling in line a bit - hey, we could have a party, like, you know ... the Democratic Party.