A Guide to Conservative Wingnuts, i.e., You & Me

I watched this video on Oliveslav's blog.

I've been largely ignoring the major media event known as "the health care debate" because it frankly ignores the shit out of me. Nobody really cares about anything other than defining a position and placing that position in opposition to other positions, and then somehow phrasing the entire table-football game in terms of history. Kind a Boy's-Life-cum-Marxist analysis of media, but every time I flip on the media switch, there it is.

But in this video, there's much more. These people fascinate me. The liberal majority irritate me with their ideology, and the conservative majority annoy me with their antithesis. But these folk really make me stop and think.

Most people know them a bit. They've seen the John Birch Society billboards out west, and they've heard some callers on talk radio. I first met them when I was into globalization protests, and they showed up to counterprotest. If you grew up in the South, they just might be your relations. And here they are again, and what is really golden about this video is that they got them to engage in conversation.

They're not wingnuts, or dingbats, or whatever you want to call them. The crazies are not showing up to protests. The potentially criminally insane live in Montana, or in basement apartments, and you won't see them until they've been arrest for shooting gynecologists or holocaust museum guards. The TPers are not even really related to the conservative ideologues, either. These are not Larouche's people, or scientologists, or even Minutemen. The cult mind, with its beaten defensiveness and willingness to join anything that will give them a reason, is not really at play here. I want to separate these people from all of that nonsense. Look at each of them individually. Regular people who, for whatever reason, decided to show up in DC on a particular day with some crazy signs.

These people are americans. What they are doing here is totally american, and their crazy signs are totally american. Just like you and your political views are american, there's are as well. And if you have five minutes, I'd like you to meet them.

It's not about being a downhome, common sense, stand-up-and-say-what-I-think white person. When I say these people are americans, I'm trying to take any sort of authenticity argument. Yes, yes, "Don't Tread on Me" has a long, proud history, and yes, free speech is a wonderful thing. But I want to draw attention to is their ideas, not anything as nostalgically obtuse as their attitudes, where-with-all, or ugly red-white-and-blue T-shirts. But it is the things they say, not just how they say it. Let's take a critical look. Welcome to the Interdome is proud to bring you another in its series of, "this crazy shit is not so crazy but actually a lot like some normal stuff you probably like if you look at it in the right way" features.

When I first started the video, I wanted to compare them to leftist/anti-globalization protests. You can find some fucking characters at an anti-globalization protest. There's the angry teenager, the guy-just-there-cause-the-cute-girl-is, the overly-aged hippies, the street kids, the black bloc, the "volunteers", the overly ideological. Half the fun of going was to critique the other ideologists (we being of the anarcho-syndicalist persuasion, otherwise known as "the really smart and correct anarchists".) I'll never forget the two kids in the march ahead of us against the IMF in 2002 wearing red T-shirts that said "Mao more than ever". I wouldn't say they were the only two Maoists in the USA, but I would be willing to bet they were the only two in Washington DC that day.

But the Tea Partyers are different. At least the left side of things can memorize a few token facts. They can spit back some instances of water rights totalitarianism, cite human rights abuse at the hands of the School of the Americas, and so on and so forth. This is largely because while the left doesn't have a coherent message or plan, they have real grivances. And this is the tragedy of the left in America. They don't get taken seriously even though they are the only ones to care some really important issues.

The Tea Partyers, on the other hand, don't have any actual facts to complain about, but on coherence of their ideas amd feelings, they are 100% gold. Don't get me wrong, their plan isn't logical, or good, or even rationally described (though actually, when you think about it, "Taking back our country", "Don't tread on me", and "Jesus is Lord" actually make about as much rational sense as "Yes we can").

What the Tea Partyers bring to the table is some specific american grievances. These are grievances that are deployed for all the wrong causes. These are grievances that if carried to the natural extension of what the ideologues are pushing, would bring fascist disaster down upon this continent. These are self-centered, egotistical, emotion-driven grievances, but in this way they are perfectly american. If we want to understand the bizarre people who live in this country, we should pay attention.

I'm going to list and discuss a few key points threading through the Tea Partyers' talk. When they are isolated out of the health care debate, the two-party politics, the ideology, and the general crazy white-folk-ness, we can see there is actually more sense to them than we left-leaners might think. This is the point: they are not crazy, they have just chosen the wrong team. If we could drag these emotions around and connect them to the left's causes, we might actually have coherent politics in america.

1. "Don't Tread on Me"

This is no less than the spirit of america. This is the bill of rights, the declaration of independence, and rock and roll tied all into one. This slogan originated in Revolutionary War times, and has been appropriated by various entities fighting against central authority ever since. If you remember your People's History of the United States, the Rev. War was a battle led by bourgeois merchants who didn't want to pay taxes, and they used the seperatist nationalism of the various states to get the people behind their cause. America has always been a country of people who suffer to be ruled. Nobody likes the government in america, as well they shouldn't, because every time the government claims to help people, it is five years or less away from plunging them right back into dire straits. You can see it all over the stickered bumpers of america. This is not a country that trusts its government. While I would like elected officials to be trustworthy, I feel this sense of distrust is much more worthy of cultivation, because all it takes is a court decision to change who's leading the country. Frankly, I don't trust any of them. I trust myself, and there is no leader on the planet who can represent this trust for me. Of course, this trust can be bought from the people pretty easily if the leaders condescend to some of other points I am going to review. But this is why this sentiment of distrust should be number one. Under no circumstances should individual americans surrender their distrust to any leader, no matter what s/he promises. Because the minute you close your eyes is the minute they will try to steal from you.

2. "Against all Taxes"

From the former, this follows. If we distrust the government, we should automatically distrust them even more when they come asking for our money. This is a capitalist country, and the only thing we value as much as our freedom is our stuff. Of course, like the freedom, it can be pried from our grasp under certain conditions. Under pain of fear for example, which is much easier to affect than trust.
Hatred of taxes is not necessarily an unhealthy emotion, either. But here is the important point, which for some reason throughout the debate, democrats refuse to call the republicans out on: it costs money to do stuff. If you want a government of any kind, you're going to have to pay for it, and it isn't a pay-as-you-go plan.
The republicans are great at shifting the money around, telling YOU that you are paying more money than THEM, and the democrats chase them around, trying to argue back that everyone is paying a fair price, and those who pay more deserve to do so. Since the republicans have taken the tact that they are on the side of "everybody paying less", this sort of generalization appeals to many people, even if it is a lie. "Everybody pays fair" just can't compete, because of #1. We already know the leaders are lying scum bags, so if they want me to pay, it must be more than I should. A car dealer is better off trying to tell you that you are stealing the car at that price, rather than claiming a deal is fair. You already know they are ripping you off, so you think maybe the deal could be fair if they claim to be giving it to you at a loss.
Because the dems have already decided to compromise away the single-payer plan, they are now in the position of trying to argue that its a fair deal. They should be whining about how their going to feed their ten kids if they give away health care at this price. Hey, they chose a capitalist system, they have to play the salesperson game too.
Meanwhile, I wouldn't dissuade anyone from money protectionism. Capitalism separates people from their value enough as it is, and then it wants a cut of their wages. Let the people keep their wages, and collectivize the industry. Start with the bullshit finance industry. Where are my AIG shares? I'd certainly prefer that to a tax bill. Worth zero is better than owing.

3. "The, uh... Racism thing."

What exactly is the deal with this? Why is it so fucking hard to fix race relations in this country? Why do white people mistrust black people, dislike immigrants, and fear islam? Why do immigrants continue to break the law to work here? Why do black people distrust every other race? Why do islamic people burn our flags? Is it all just "BAT-SHIT CRAZY"? No, it's not. Well, killing people is bat-shit crazy, but that's merely just the natural extension of a simple problem. (Humans are pretty predictable when it comes to solving their problems. If a problem is another human, eventually some shithead is going to try and eliminate the problem, and if they need to be crazy to do so, someone will figure out how to get them there.) The rest of it, the racism we see in Time magazine special reports, is simple.
I really hate to break it all down to class war. I really wish there was another way. I really wish I could think of another, less contentious way to describe why poorer people of all different colors, races, and creeds decide to hate each other over the course of history, and why rich people of all different colors, races, and creeds seem to get rich off it. I wish I could describe as something other than capitalist thugs, the leaders who promote racism and bigotry through doing nothing, or simple line-drawing, or wide-open-mouthed hatred. But I can't.
Human beings have evolved to hate, and to be violent. There is nothing we can do about this. But the people who take the tillers of our psyches and steer them into broadsiding naval battles are simply pieces of shit who can profit by doing what they do, even if they say they are doing something else. You can say you are fighting a just cause, but you are leading humans out to kill and be killed by other humans. You can sell it as product, or reveal it as fear, but it still results in the same thing.
So when the birthers call Obama an islamist, or whatever they might call him behind closed doors, rather than simply contradicting them, maybe we should be telling them who they should really fear. Who is really invading the fabric of their lives? Who is threatening their children? Not terrorists. Not immigrants. It is the oldest trick in the capitalist book, to play the races and ethnicities off of each other. No surer way to break a strike.
So should we "stand up to hate"? No. We should stand up to misguided hate, and insane theories. We should look at who is really hurting us, and who can help us. People are actually pretty good at figuring this out, if you can unplug them from Fox News' Hate-o-vision for half an hour. The Birther movement probably benefits nothing quite so much as Rupert Murdoch's net worth.

4. "Jesus is Lord."

All right. There are two aspects to this one. Aspect the first: religion in general. Religion is not bad, in and of itself. Like hate, humans seem to be programmed to believe, whether they are believing in Jesus, Buddha, the holiness of the peyote cactus, Alien conspiracy, Jello Biafra, Insane Clown Posse, or whatever other clown might have bought a megaphone and some poster paint. Again, if their beliefs are pointing them towards fighting their real enemies, and not cowering in guilt of a spaghetti monster's reaction to their genitals, then may Robert Anton Wilson bless 'em.
Aspect the second: protestantism. Not evangelicalism, which is really just an extension of the former. This "personal savior" nonsense is a perfect example of the gutter of belief. There is no better way to convince someone to be a guilty, neurotic, wreck of a human, ready to carry a gun and blast away at human beings, than to tell them there is only one thing in the world worthy enough to free them of everything they have fucked up, and if you pay this money and do what I say, I'll let you touch it. What a scam.
The bad part is, like most scams, it works. You reveal this fact to some believer, and they'll just try to convert you. Protestantism, especially american protestantism, is so good at what it does that it has these supporters of democracy, these "don't tread on me" citizens of the free world, carrying around signs proclaiming the dominion of their invisible king.
So to bad mouth belief itself is obviously the wrong solution. Your atheist badge, your joking derision, and your in-your-face controversy only reinforces their feedback loop. If you really want to deconvert, you better bring them around to seeing who is really helping and hurting them. Again, if you kick the plug for five minutes, its not so hard. If you unplug for a few hours, you could even do it without resorting to protestant guilt and ecumenical morality too. Yes, Beyond Good and Evil isn't the easiest parable out there, but it isn't the hardest either.

5. "Being armed in public is my right, which I will freely exercise."

Sorry liberal folks. They're actually right on this one.
No, actually: yes. They are. I don't think armed church services are the way of the future, but the second amendment is a cornerstone of the bill of rights. It's part of this country, and it will be all the way to the end. There is really no point in fighting it. Instead, I would suggest going after the consequences of violence from other angles.
How about this--no more gun control, if the war on drugs ceases. Deal? Deal. Intoxication and firearms are two historical elements of american culture. Cold dead fingers, and all that. Of course, you can generate a lot more government funding by fighting these two objects than by actually going after the problems of addiction and violent crime. But then, who asked me anyway?

6. "USA! USA! USA!"

This sort of thing curdles my stomach. I can't stand flag waving, chanting, sloganizing of "god, people, country", national pride, pledges of allegiance, marching, saluting. None of it. I hated it when I was in elementary school, but I went along with it. After I watched Triumph of the Will, I was done. It was clear to me that the flag you were waving didn't matter. It was all about conformity.
Which is why it always confused me that the same people who would shout "don't tread on me" would wave an american flag. It is understandable though. People like conformity. They like uniformity, and the security of opinion it brings. Even hardcore punks have uniforms.
Some of this you have to throw up to human nature. You are not going to get people to stop nodding their heads--but you might be able to change what they are nodding their heads about. Not everyone is going to like basement punk shows, either. There is always going to be a mainstream, and there will always be rebellion to it, whatever it is. Culture is just too big for it to be anything otherwise.
The problem with this nationalist mainstream is that it is a giant security blanket for a whole nationful of issues. When anything is threatened, real or perceived, people go back to what they know. If everyone else around is chanting, it works even better. If there is a leader on stage telling you are correct and a better person for chanting it, it works best.
But people don't actually like the flag itself. They like their freedom, their guns, their beer, their god, and their money. If you draw these away from the flag, then they'll leave the flag behind.
The toughest part is the military culture. This is ingrained from the beginning, and respect for the flag is respect for work. I've always wondered why there are so few jobs that engender such dedication to the work. I suppose a flag makes it easy. The threat of death is another way of producing it.
If only most people felt such a tie to their jobs, or their activities, or their families, rather than a decorated scrap of cloth. Some punks feel that way about the punk scene, but not most of them.
The key though, is that if you really talk to any person who considers him/herself dedicated to something, you will realize they don't care at all about the flag, or the badge, or the uniform, though that may be all they talk about. What they care about is much more specific. It's just the only way they were ever taught to look at it was through this flag-washed lens.

7. "All the other stuff that's actually wrong."

Ignorance about history
Bourgeois mentality
Capitalist desires
Religious Intolerance
White Pride (explicit or implicit)

Clearly there is a lot here not to like. That guy in the video preaching about abortion makes me sick. I'd like to see a bicycle team of feminists on solid-steel tandem bikes run over his neck. And other things for other individuals, on a case by case basis.
I guess the reason I'm writing this is to not dispatch it all as crazy, but to see the reasons behind it. I don't doubt that there is nothing anyone could do to help that douchebag with a megaphone see the error of his ways. But, that doesn't mean he wasn't scared, intimidated, seduced, manipulated, bargained, and rewarded into thinking what he thinks by someone who could benefit from it. Crazy people don't just grow up in the middle of nowhere, and then run screaming towards the cities with weapons in hand. There is a system to it all, and this ranges from the tallest super-structure to the smallest psychosexual feedback loop sparking in the base of the skull. While we have to fight against these people, we should remember this. This is why I put "don't tread on me" first. This is the most basic ethical principle I've heard. Keep your laws and believes off my body, out of my head, out of my pants, out of my bank account, out of my vegetable garden, and off my lawn. Back the fuck off. Something we all can agree on, while we fight about the other stuff.

8. "Ignorance."

The most meaningful part of the video was during the discussion about czars. One woman said she had "always voted republican, but was beginning to rethink her support of either party." Well said. These people are not crazy, they are just plugged into the wrong feeds. (Okay, they could use some spelling practice.) I wanted to unplug every damn Obama supporter over the last two years as well. They keep telling me he's going to change things, spitting idealism like foam from a rabid dog's jaw. Yeah right. He looks more and more like a politician every day. He did before too, if you weren't hypnotized by a Shepard Fairey poster. But if you line up the facts for people, if you cut through the media bullshit reinforcing your six-second attention span by repeating the same shit every seven seconds, if you remove the labels (R) and (D), if you drop the holy ghost guilt trip, take down the american flag as big as an RV, and stop chanting for a damn minute, people can, surprisingly enough, put a lot of it together for themselves. Not all of it, but enough to stop acting all crazy. They can put the gun down for a minute, and say, "wait, I'm fighting for who?" Then maybe they can say, "you know, I would accomplish a lot more paying union dues than buying a wide screen TV and a membership to the country club. Maybe I'll even not give money to a candidate this year. Maybe I won't vote, until there is someone I can actually trust. Maybe I'll vote for myself." Maybe. This is my campaign slogan for myself: "Just, maybe..."

I know, it must often sound like I'm willing to lambast liberals and defend conservatives. This is mostly because I think liberals need the most critiquing, because unfortunately, the conservatives idiocy seems to speak for itself. But really, I hate both, at the same time as I can't help but love 'em. I hate all humans, but they're also the only species I've got. Despite the ways that the world keeps getting it wrong, and keeps fucking each other over for their own benefit, it all just seems to get simpler and simpler. The problem is obvious, but fixing it would require everyone to take a long hard look at themselves, and see they're not so different from everyone else. Not very likely, but still, there it is in front of us. As crazy as we all are, the funny thing is that we're all still humans. Big, naked, upright apes, with some pretty f'ed emotions, but with some cool tools.

Us anarcho-syndicalists are just much smarter humans.

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