By: Ben Johnson
I don’t like to talk about politics. I have my reasons for this. In order of importance, they are: 1. it’s pointless, 2. it’s boring, 3. it only ever makes me upset.
Not that I don’t have political opinions. I get them all the time. I try to tune them out. They are generated by an inner unstable maniac with a frothing saliva-cornered mouth who suffers from a bad case of delusional martyrdom. My poor unappreciated brain clerk often has to tell him to shut up and stop scaring off the paying customers or else we’ll call the cops.
He, this screeching schizo from whom I get my information, is usually safely committed to professional oversight in an obscure holding pen in my prefrontal cortex, a zone he shares along with other “what if this mattered” daydreams such as Win-The-Lottery-Money-Plans and Alternative-Universe-Wherein-I-Am-A-Professional-Athlete. But occasionally he busts loose and manages to pull a lever or two in the motor center. And that’s when I open my stupid mouth and say something strange and alien to me about “what the government SHOULD do” as if A. I actually knew, and B. whatever weirdo idea I’m currently spewing is somehow of dire necessity.
Earlier this week the crazy son of a bitch hacked my Twitter account and started talking about cultural divisions between “liberal” and “conservative” low-income Americans who are responding in very different ways to the common problem of being totally and completely fucked up the ass. To my surprise when I regained consciousness and surveyed the damage, the person on the other end of this errant Twitter conversation, somebody I have never met in any capacity in my life, appeared to actually like what I was saying. I was astonished by this. And so here I am, goaded by flattery into yielding the floor to a known paranoiac.
He has this to say:
Who are these poor deluded fuckers running around claiming Ted Cruz as a folk hero? They must be stupid or something, right? Ted Cruz just shut down the government, interrupting (some) services to returning war veterans direly in need of them. He’s no hero. He’s not even an anti-hero. He’s a beady-eyed lizard man, a rider of the apocalypse, a neo-McCarthyite careerist Canadian-born scumsucker, a puppet of the shadowy corporations which control the scope and tenor of our public policy debate, and he is hell bent on our final, ultimate destruction. Why would anybody, especially any poor person in Texas who voted for him in direct conflict with their own interests regarding health care, like this guy?
Okay, let’s say that you want to be as charitable as possible regarding Cruz’s policy positions and say they hold validity as representing a constituency, and therefore allow that he may be acting upon a popular mandate, woefully misinformed though it may be. Suppose that his fight against Obamacare was all the more poignant because of its impossibility. Say that his lack of concern for alienating his Republican peers in the Senate actually resonates with people who find those peers to be reprehensible do-nothing milquetoasts. Postulate therefore that in a world laden with these hypotheticals, Cruz is in fact a crusader, sort of a mix between Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and Cool Hand Luke, except with a much firmer grasp of modern political fundraising.
In this case, yeah, maybe Ted Cruz is a sort of hero if you squint. Maybe if you are of a mindset which can ignore the context of the debt ceiling and 800,000 furloughed workers, since your life is shit right now and nobody cares about you and you’re fed up. Maybe if you woke up this morning furious at the existence of Obamacare for some marrow deep reason you are incapable of articulating. Maybe if you’ve spent your entire life enduring some combination of doing your best and nevertheless getting systematically boned, and now some experts are telling you the new thing and calling it Obamacare, and you feel like you’ve seen that movie. Maybe Ted Cruz is a hero because here’s a guy who, despite the transparency of his shtick, is at least going in there and actively fucking things up in a way that seems leadershippy. Maybe Ted Cruz seems like a favorable option because Obama’s only remaining message to you is “you’ll be fine,” and it’s a self-evident lie because you are not fine and you’ve never been fine. Maybe then, Ted Cruz is a kind of hero. It’s not insane or idiotic. Not necessarily.
Maybe also the people who would say that you’re wrong about Ted Cruz being a hero are the people who have told you that you’re wrong about everything for your entire life. They’re the kids who had their hands raised with every answer in school. They’re the ones in suits using Standard American English to “regret to inform you…” They are typing into keyboards at the bank that is foreclosing on your house because the Union work dried up because the development cycle crashed along with everything else in ’08, and apparently the world does not need electricians anymore and apparently that is both your fault and your problem. Too bad, stupid. These liberals say they’re sympathetic to your plight on an abstract, intellectualized political level, but when it comes to saving your house, their hands are tied.
And God help you if you say the wrong thing about a woman or a black person or anything, really. They will correct you. In public. At the drop of a hat. They don’t care how rude that is. Fuck those guys.
You know what the REAL PROBLEM is with American liberalism? It’s that American Liberals all act like everything would be fine if we could just finally address the REAL PROBLEM. It’s a search for truth in books and from “reputable sources” when the truth is just there all the time, slapping them in the face, and they’re calling it “wrong” because it doesn’t fit. It’s your acquaintance from three jobs ago with the constant Facebook reposts from Upworthy of whatever Elizabeth Warren just farted out, the guy who didn’t help you move because his back was really sore that week but nonetheless feels no qualms about telling you how wrong you are in front of your nephew and everybody.
These poor conservatives, as they keep reminding us, are real Americans. Most of the stuff they say sounds racist, like “we are real Americans and you are not,” but it could just as easily be construed as “we are here too, and we may be misinformed, and our policy priorities might clash with yours, but we are here and we are real Americans and somebody, anybody, needs to pay attention to us, so much so that we don’t even care if it’s Ted Cruz. We’re that sick of getting the shit end of the stick.” That spirit is to be encouraged, regardless of what weird, mangled, rotted form it’s actually coming out as. We’re all getting the shit end of the stick.
In the Gary Younge piece I linked to earlier, there’s a telling passage which quotes polling research on those who found some plausibility in “Truther” and “Acorn” conspiracy questions. According to Younge, “Where breakdowns of these falsehoods exist those with less education are more likely to believe them.”
And here’s where American Liberals start jabbering about the quality of American political discourse. You can’t have an actual conversation about policy in this country without encountering some crazed dimwit, and this is by design, and No Child Left Behind is creating a nation of idiots who are easily manipulated, and boo hoo hoo nobody will play with us, infinity.
Except: if you’re a liberal who believes that the less advantaged among us deserve to be shepherded by a caring system into the arena of public discussion, why would you have a problem with crazed dimwits? Crazed dimwits should be the ideal liberal base demographic. They’re both crazed and dimwits. Those are two distinct disadvantages which would require double the shepherding. That crazed dimwits are not immediately embraced, sight unseen, by the American liberal culture indicates that, paradoxically given the espousal of tolerance as a core value to that culture, maybe some crazed dimwits are the wrong kind of crazed dimwits.
American liberalism offers conditional love. If you are a crazed dimwit, that’s fine, but you can’t be one of those who spew the wrong talking points. If so, you’re wrong. We don’t do “wrong.” We’re liberals. We dig until we find the REAL PROBLEM, which we can totally find because we’re so smart, and we don’t have time to waste trying to deal with the wrong kind of crazed dimwit. It takes too much of our time to correct and brainwash these people until they’re restored to sanity before we can expect them to join the rest of us at the grown ups table. They’re not our crazed dimwits, the ones who send us email petitions demanding an immediate end to dolphin slaughter in the Philippines. Those guys are great. All we have to do is make a “so concerned” face and they’ll go away. We have no problem with our own chosen crazed dimwits. Just don’t be the wrong kind, is all we ask.
This hypocrisy resonates with the poor conservative. They see Obama saying “Yes We Can” and then they wake up the next day and find themselves in an “I Still Can’t” world. And when they try and speak up about it, they get the “shut up, stupid” treatment. So they hate Obama. Somebody says he’s a secret Muslim. Okay, fine, he’s a secret Muslim. Sounds fun. When you say it, liberals, the phony bastards, get upset. Even more fun. Why not? Might as well get our kicks.
Here’s where the “less education” aspect kicks in. If you believe, as I believe, that a person is basically smart, then you have to look askance at anything that tells you who is “less educated” than who. There are a lot of ways to be educated, and a lot of ways to learn, and everybody learns constantly whether they know it or not. The “less educated” have learned, somewhere along the line, that school is not for them. That is a defining, self-selecting characteristic of the group with the title “less educated.” And with that knowledge comes a deeper knowledge that they are “less” than another group of people. This is inherently upsetting.
But that’s not where the story ends on these people. They’re still people. They still have thoughts and dreams. They still respond to information, and form opinions. Their viewpoints are still valid. The rest of us are somehow allowed to cast them off onto a scrapheap because of “less educated,” which means less able to articulate their ideas in the correct pre-agreed format imposed by whoever has decided is best. Instead of trying to see what kernels of validity might exist in those viewpoints, we choose to marginalize this group by saying “secret Muslim” = WRONG = try again next time, idiot.
The “calling people wrong when they are wrong about something” kneejerk is a disservice to how we talk about politics in this country. Let’s say that instead of saying “Obama is a secret Muslim,” these “less educated” poor conservatives were somehow capable of limiting themselves to a more measured, balanced, and reasonably well articulated root idea. Let’s say their message was simply, “We don’t trust Obama, so much so that we are willing to believe some pretty crazy shit about him, which out of restraint we will choose not to share at this time.” Instead of asking “why don’t you trust Obama” and then hearing the response “because he’s a secret Muslim” and then going ha ha ha and forgetting that such an outlandishly gullible, clearly superfluous person exists, let’s investigate for ourselves, if we’re so smart, the idea of what about Obama is not to be trusted.
That’s when you think about the IRS thing and the NSA thing and to some extent Benghazi, and all of this other stuff that you’d probably be more upset about if it weren’t for the fact that whoever’s telling you about it always sounds like either a poorly educated inarticulate lunatic or a bald-faced shill for corporate/conservative interests. Just a cursory glance at some of the “Obama isn’t perfect” boogeymen lurking in even the most staunch liberal’s closet tell us that the root idea of untrustworthiness is structurally sound. Of course Obama is not to be trusted. He’s the President and a career politician. He’s from Chicago, of all places for a politician to be from while asking for anybody’s trust.
Amended viewpoint: the question isn’t whether or not you trust Obama, it’s whether he will fuck you over as bad as the other guy. And you can never really KNOW the answer to that because the world is more complicated than Obama versus Other Guy, but we liberals believe that Obama is closer to trustworthy than Ted Cruz or Mitt Romney or especially that toxic bullfrog Karl Rove. But this is officially a discussion worth having.
Now all of a sudden this is starting to sound like dialogue. Which is crazy. How did we get to dialogue from “Hooray for Ted Cruz” and “Obama is a secret Muslim?” We started with listening, that’s how. And that is how these people, these poor conservatives who feel disenfranchised and ignored and are, naturally, upset about it, will be led. If anybody listens to them and fights for them, they will follow that person. They will not care if it’s Ted Fucking Cruz And His Dog And Pony Show Sponsored By Humana, Inc. He’s said he’s their guy, he’s out there doing things, okay, score one for Ted Cruz.
In other words, liberals, if you wish that Ted Cruz wasn’t a thing, you’ve got to replace the Ted Cruzes with the Ted Youzes. And use your damned ears. God put them on your head for a reason.
Okay, so that’s the ranting and raving crazed idiot wildman who does my political opinions. I don’t know how much you agree with what he’s saying. Hopefully you think he’s entertaining. We all knew this was a risk we were running when we came in here. It’s like the sign says. “Open mic.” You gotta do something to keep your coffeeshop afloat, and if you have a better idea, I’d love to hear it.
In the meantime, please click here and scroll down for some of our more usual fare, such as “Lesbian discusses human testicles,” “some fucking sports thing,” and “bittersweet reflections on the human toll of being alive.”