Gale Force: A Republican Tragedy

It seems entirely appropriate to me that the Republican National Convention should coincide with a hurricane.

Those crazy libertarians are a gale force until themselves, threatening to blow the center right out of our democratic republic.

Let’s all spin out to an each-man-for-himself anarchy, they cackle with glee!

Who needs Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment compensation, tax breaks for the middle class?

Just as long as the billions for the military keep pouring in unhindered, the right to bear arms remains unobstructed, women are kept pregnant and barefoot and gay marriage is outlawed, all will be well.

And let’s build a few more prisons while we’re at it, shall we?  Ryan might add dourly, echoing his more famous counterpart Scrooge.  Are there no workhouses?

While the hurricane rages outside the convention center, the GOP celebrants within will be feasting like vultures on the carrion remains of our once-noble country.

FDR will be rolling over in his grave as the New Deal goes up in smoke.

But the message of the wind and flooding outside is unmistakeable, and has been declaimed in tragic tones for many a century now:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, 

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day 

To the last syllable of recorded time, 

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools 

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player 

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage 

And then is heard no more: it is a tale 

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 

Signifying nothing.

How many heads will roll in the 21st century tragedy of our America?

Who will be left, Horatio-like, to tell the tale of woe?

Blow winds, blow!

I foresee that as in Shakespeare—or the Bible—it will take a storm of catastrophic magnitude to shake our rotten political timbers to their foundations, and pave the way for a new dawn.

Predicted path of Tropical Storm Isaac as of Aug. 25, 2012

The Foxification of Our Public Sphere

These days when I send one of my columns to Common Dreams, I do so with an inward cringe.  I know that CD has become infested with slavering rightwing drones, who lie in wait just waiting to do their best Bill O’Reilly imitation from the comment balcony.

In recent months, CD has tried to address the issue of attack-dog commenters, instituting a comment policy that is now posted at the bottom of every published article.

It doesn’t seem to have had much effect, and I am beginning to wonder:

a) Is it worth my time and effort to open myself up to this kind of harsh, superficial debate?  When I write, I write from the heart, and while I certainly welcome spirited discussion of my ideas, including intelligent disagreement, the vicious savaging of my ideas, usually taken out of the context of the column’s overall message, feels unproductive at best.

b) If I bow out of CD, am I allowing myself to be “silenced”?  Shouldn’t I stand up for freedom of speech and stand my ground, even if it means opening myself up to the snipers?  Public speakers have to have a thick skin, after all, right?

c) Are there other fora I might join where the level of commentary is more elevated, more thoughtful?  Am I being an elitist snob for even wishing for such a space?

d) If I can’t beat’em, should I join’em?  In other words, should I be jumping in and giving as good as I get?  Or would that be stooping to their level and just encouraging their attack-dog mentality all the more?

As I ready myself to teach my media studies class this fall, these certainly seem like important questions to be pondering.

For years now I have been celebrating and advocating “citizen journalism” in my classes, encouraging students to start their own blogs and get their voices into the public sphere.

But if even Common Dreams has been overrun by the Bill O’Reilly wannabes of the world, then our public sphere has become a skewed and dangerous place.

However, if people like me and my students opt out of it, that only leaves a greater vacuum for the rightwing ideologues to fill.

Anyone have any advice on how to grow a thicker skin?

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