It’s a Mad, Mad World Eh, Liberals?
Questions of schadenfreude’s sinfulness aside, I have to thank Northeast Dilemma for pointing on New England Republican to an uplifting column by Katha Pollitt. I daresay that, with this paragraph, Pollitt opens wide the thickets that hide the secret path to a sunnier political perspective:
Sometimes I think America is becoming another place, unrecognizable. David Harvey, the great geographer, tells the story of a friend who returned to the United States last spring after seven years away and could not believe the transformation. “It was as if everyone had been sprinkled with idiot dust!” Some kind of mysterious national dumb-down would explain the ease with which the Republicans have managed to get so many people agitated about the nonexistent Social Security crisis — at 82 percent ranked way above poverty and homelessness (71 percent) and racial justice (47 percent) in a list of urgent issues in a recent poll — or about gay marriage, whose threat to heterosexual unions nobody so far has been able to articulate. Mass mental deterioration would explain, too, how so many Americans still believe the discredited premises of the Iraq War — Saddam Hussein had WMD, was Osama’s best friend, was behind 9/11. But even as a joke it doesn’t explain the way we have come to accept as normal, or at least plausible, things that would have shocked us to our core only a little while ago. Michelle Malkin, a far-right absurdity, writes a book defending the internment of the Japanese in World War II, and before you know it Daniel Pipes, Middle East scholar and frequent op-ed commentator, is citing Malkin to support his proposals for racial profiling of Muslims. And he’s got lots of company — in a recent poll almost half of respondents agreed that the civil liberties of Muslims should be curtailed. Pipes’s proposals in turn seem mild compared with the plans being floated by the Pentagon and the CIA for lifetime detention of terrorist suspects — without charges, without lawyers, in a network of secret prisons around the globe. Kafkaesque doesn’t begin to describe it — at least Joseph K. had an attorney and the prisoner of “In the Penal Colony” got a sentence.
The thought-lite handling of the first few issues that she names may frustrate with their expected irksomeness and pretension, but by the end of the ramble, a light-hearted conservative will surely smile in appreciation of how dramatically liberals’ world must seem to be falling apart. How crazy America must seem to those who’ve built an entire worldview on the denial of key organizing principles.
It’s alright to be wrong, of course, but it’s critically telling that Pollitt doesn’t pause even for a moment — between blaming first Americans’ stupidity and then their fear — to wonder whether she’s the one who’s missing something. Having not read her work more than incidentally, I won’t speculate as to her intelligence, but there’s a yellow powdery substance scattered between the lines of this particular column, and I think she gives it the proper name: “fear dust.”
For the sheer irony of it, I think somebody ought to submit the above paragraph from Pollitt to Andrew Sullivan for his Malkin Award.