This post started on one subject, and then segued into another and another. Fasten your seatbelts, we’re gonna go toe-stepping.
On the way to work one recent morning, I heard a little bit of the new Blake Shelton/Miranda Lambert song, “Draggin the River.” It begins with the idea that Blake has asked Miranda’s Dad for her hand in marriage, a quaint little idea that my daughter still thinks I’m joking about requiring of her future fiancé. Long story short, Miranda’s Dad, to put it mildly, disapproved, so they hatch a plot to fake their deaths while they run off to get married. Blake comments on their brilliant scheme by saying, “that’ll show that son-of-a-b!tch!”
Then I get to work, and the front page of that previous Sunday’s Oregonian had the gripping story of a Portland police officer who faced down a homicidal man with a knife and had to kill him. In quoting the officer, they printed: “'Oh, sh!t' is the only way to say it," [expletive NOT deleted in the paper]. Don’t misunderstand me; I am not in any way faulting the officer for his language in that situation. I’ve never been seriously threatened physically (not since high school anyway), nor faced (thank God) the decision to use deadly force against another human being (though I do have my Oregon CHL). Considering the magnitude of the situation, the officer’s language was mild.
I’m not a prude. I’ll slip a mild curse word in every now and then, myself (as my daughter delights in pointing out). But I can remember when you used to at least NOTICE curse words! I draw that line at two words myself: F-bombs and G**d***, both of which I find offensive, and I don't think I'm alone... yet. Part of my reaction to the Shelton/Lambert song (which I am not critiquing here, as I’ve heard literally nothing more of the song than I’ve shared) could be the fact that as a Dad of a priceless daughter that I would die/kill for without a second thought, I’m the SOB in that story. But that’s not all. I’ve commented in this space and others before about how casually people out here in the Pacific North Wet (sic) fling F-bombs around. I’m waiting to hear someone walking down the street refer to sexual activity as “effin effin that effer!” Words that once raised eyebrows and caused debate have devolved to the status of potholes in our audible road. We might hear them; but unless they’re aimed at us, we don’t pay them much attention.
Anyone else old enough to remember the first time SOB was used on television without being bleeped? It was during the eighth season of the stridently anti-war M*A*S*H* (I still love the show, even though I now disagree with some of their “morality plays"). In an episode entitled “Guerilla My Dreams,” Hawkeye leveled it at a South Korean interrogator. I was young, but I remember the uproar it caused. Commentary ranged from “it’s not that big of a deal” to “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” (apologies to R.E.M. and Leonard Bernstein). Even George Carlin’s “Seven Words,” which once got him arrested following a live performance, are becoming fair game. As much as I love the series “Band of Brothers” (another case of perfectly understandable coarse language), I was a little disappointed that “G**d***” was not bleeped, nor anything else except “f*ck,” as near as I could tell.
But it’s not just cursing, and here’s our first sharp curve. Our public discourse is becoming increasingly base, vulgar, and bitterly divisive. The (insert Left-Wing/Right Wing, depending on your views) extremists are hell-bent…OOPS!, I mean, uh, HECK-bent on demonizing the other side, all the while extolling the virtues of their own views as “compassionate,” “common sense,” and/or “morally superior” (or A-moral, if the argument revolves around the existence/non-existence of morals). For every Ann Coulter there’s a Huffington Post, for every “Obama is bankrupting our country with the help of a buncha socialists,” there’s a “why don’t you nutjob Tea Baggers quit crying about the election!” (Although, that last one’s not being bandied about the way it was a few months ago, hehehehe).
Civil discourse has largely fallen by the wayside, and has become neither civil, nor discourse. We have become a nation of monologists. We simply cannot agree to disagree anymore. It’s partly our own fault. To some extent, Conservatives' dread of deficit spending is inversely proportionate to our support for what’s being funded with it. We, as a society, usually ascribe purer motives to our “friends,” while ascribing nefarious intent to every word out of the mouths of our opponents.
Do you know who became one of President Abraham Lincoln’s most ardent supporters? Stephen A. Douglas; the political rival who had faced off against candidate Lincoln in some of the most well-known campaign debates in American history. What united these foes? The preservation of the American Union (the merits of which I, as a proud Southerner, will refrain from debating here). Want to see a picture of an advocate of reconciliation and peace in the wake of the Civil War? Google “Robert E. Lee.” We are devolving as a nation and society into factional interests, squabbling about issues ranging from the momentous to the ridiculous, while our Ship of State proceeds toward the Falls of Rauros. To further plagiarize the analogy, Lincoln and Lee stand like Isildur and Anarion warning us back from the danger ahead. Aragorn and Boromir argued, bitterly, the night before the battle at Amon Hen, Boromir even going so far as to circumvent the agreed plan, but when the swords began to fly, they were all on the same page. Sadly, we do not even seem to be linked together by this kind of patriotism anymore. Each side seems to think its “America” is being destroyed/held back/undermined/prevented from being what in their minds it CLEARLY must be: a global citizen no better (perhaps in fact, WORSE) than any other global citizen; or a distinct and exemplary world superpower and force for good on Earth. And yes, I do have an opinion, quite a strong one, about which of those alternate realities is superior to the other, as you'll see in a moment. But I also recognize that I’m better off working to SUPPORT my vision for our country than ranting and raving AGAINST someone else’s view of it.
We have taken the Ring. Or more accurately, it has taken us. I don’t recall whether the books contain the line or not, but there’s a telling quote in The Two Towers, where Frodo tells Faramir, “The Ring cannot save Gondor; it has only the power to destroy.” Bitterness, enmity, and rancor cannot save our republic (we are NOT a democracy). Will we destroy The Ring like Frodo, or try to “use” it like Isildur?
Which leads us to our next sharp curve, a hard Right. If you want a hard Left, write your own blog. This one is worth what you paid for it.
I am NOT a “citizen” of a planet: I am a citizen of a NATION. I am an AMERICAN! And I am an unabashed proponent of the idea of American Exceptionalism.
The United States is, and by Providence may it always be, the greatest, most generous, most freedom loving nation in the history of civilization. Oh we’re FAR from perfect, and have failed many times, sometimes miserably, to live up to our own lofty goals, but we are lightyears ahead of not only where we were, but ahead of every other nation, past or present. We may not be the philosophers of Ancient Greece, or have a world empire like Persia, Rome, Spain, or Great Britain, but we have been, and still have the potential to be, THE greatest nation on Earth. The nation with the worst immigration problem on the planet. People WANT to come here! People take GREAT RISKS to come here! And we have provided a perfectly reasonable PROCESS for them to LEGALLY do so! Some 1.13 million did so, LEGALLY, in 2009.
Immigration has been a difficult issue in the United States almost since its founding. The particular ethnic group has changed over the years, be it Irish, German, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Latino. But it is only in recent years that the concept of someone having a “right” to immigrate illegally has gained such remarkable, and inexplicable, support. Ironically, many of these same supporters absolutely DEMAND that Bush 43 be prosecuted for “war crimes,” “torture,” illegal detainment, illegal surveillance, etc., LOUDLY proclaiming the virtue of the motto “no one is above the law.”
It would seem that SOME people are above SOME laws, depending upon whether the supporter likes the “violator” and/or dislikes the law in question.
And for my celebrating Republican friends...