Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The National Climate of Anger, a Guest Post

Today I received the email posted below, with permission of its writer, Bill Britton. A former bayman and Marine Corps Airborne Radio Operator, Bill and I met when he took my graduate poetry workshop at Queens College in the ’90s. Since then, he has retired and moved to Florida, where he continues to edit for Johns Hopkins University Press and writes satire (see www.infauxtainment.com) and commentary on politics and the decline of America. Bill writes as follows:
I put this on Facebook and got an angry response, to which I then responded.
My initial post:
Sarah Palin’s PAC had a number of candidates under crosshair images before the fall election. It is this type of irresponsible and inflammatory politicizing that can push some nut-cases over the edge. Sure, it’s freedom of speech, but that rings hollow when 7 people are gunned down.
My subsequent post:
Your response is off base.  My post implied a link, yes, but between inflammatory statements in general and the climate of anger that is running rampant in this country.  Palin’s PAC website serves as a potent example.  You say that all parts of the political spectrum make inflammatory statements, but that is only partly true.  The political Right has elevated it to an art form, which can be heard on most talk radio and on Fox News daily.  When travelling, I scan radio stations out of curiosity.  The one exception is NPR, which can be left-leaning but there is no spewing of vitriol as is found on the Right.  I don’t believe that anyone on the Left can hold a candle to the statements issued by a Palin, Bachmann, or Engle, which then spill over into their followers’ rally signs.  To equate Olbermann with Limbaugh, for example, is ridiculous.  Olbermann can be both caustic and sarcastic, but Limbaugh is malicious to the core.
The implication that I am in favor of censorship is silly.  Any “policing of words” (your words) should be undertaken by the politicos and their talking heads themselves by exercising self-restraint.  There is nothing weak about a public discourse grounded in civility.  But to use guns as a metaphor for political action can provide negative reinforcement to a troubled mind.  This is a total distortion of the Second Amendment.
As you know, I spent 4 years in the Marines.  The assumption on the part of people I don’t know is that I am a Right-winger.  Two examples: When I moved here, a neighbor who saw the Marine decal on my car began sending me links to what you would agree were blatant, hateful lies about Democrats.  Another time, while at the gun range, a fellow shooter looked at my Marine cap and said, “I bet you’d rather be shooting at a silhouette of Obama.”  You can imagine my responses, which I must admit were sharp, but given the circumstances, were justified.
I think about anger in America a lot and try to examine its roots, and at the end of the day, it all comes down to personal economics—the alienation of the 17% who are unemployed or have given up looking.  They provide the tinder for angry public discourse.  The gap between the common good and the corporate conscience grows wider each day.  In other words, corporate profits trump “what is good for America.”  Many major U.S. corporations now have workforces dominated by foreigners.  Whose interests do they serve?  Wall Street churns money for the benefit of the few and the despair of many.  A corporate oligarchy now rules America and has no interest in bettering the plight of the disappearing line worker or the likes of [business' name struck].
Your libertarianism might be the answer--I don’t know, but its standard-bearers seem closely aligned with the philosophy of the corporate oligarchy.  And I suspect that the new Tea Party members in Congress will be gobbled up by the system and have only a marginal impact on the juggernaut of special interests that, in actuality, run this country and, incidentally, are running it into the ground.
Government and business should be addressing a number of major issues in this country, e.g.: (1) Infrastructure, e.g., roads and bridges, railroads, the electrical grid; (2) Structural unemployment, i.e., retraining of the workforce to replace jobs that are never coming back; (3) Return to basics in education (including much-diminished humanities curricula, but let’s get rid of jewelry-making); (4) Admit that democracy isn’t for everyone and let foreign belligerents fight their own battles (and in tandem, reduce military expenditures substantially). I see only token progress on any of them.  Good luck, America.

As a footnote, Bill writes that his Facebook respondent has dropped him as a Friend.
Check out Bill’s blog at http://www.taintedpen.blogspot.com.

1 comment:

  1. As you know, I spent 4 years in the Marines. The assumption on the part of people I don’t know is that I am a Right-winger.

    Morning George,

    We have a two hour delay so I can do some midweek writing.

    You know George, most of the adult males I grew up with served but I don't remember them waving flags, exhibiting their patriotism on street corners, or proclaiming themselves or anybody else heroes. I could list their names, their medals, and attach them to places where they left parts of their bodies (and maybe, even their souls) like Salerno, Pusan, and Pleiku but they wouldn't want me to do that. I can say this and I am sure that they wouldn't mind be calling them patriots for what they told me back in 1973. I was drafted and to the man they said, "Don't go."

    Today's pop culture assumes that all who serve must be right-wingers. I know that is not true.

    George, thank you for serving and I have the feeling, all those guys who told me not to go would say to you, "Thanks for serving so Ted didn't have to go."

    Warm regards,