I would say that I’ve been watching the goings on in Congress with growing horror, but my horror-level with regard to politics these days is largely tapped out. I’d also like to say that Great Evil must be at work here, because no one could possibly be as stupid as to participate in — or as to allow — this horror show. Unfortunately, there seems no limit to human stupidity, and perhaps Hanlon’s Razor* applies: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
I’d already been pondering the spectrum that leads from discontent through activism and ultimately to terrorism. In the USA, we saw extreme activism with regard to civil rights. And we’ve certainly seen terrorism throughout the world, including on our own shores.
Lately, I think you can view the Republicans as having become home-grown terrorists!
The meat of any good conversation often depends heavily on how you define your terms (which makes understanding and agreeing on the use of language so important). I fully recognize that “terrorism” is a very strong label that will offend many. I want to be clear that I fully intend that offense and think it’s entirely apropos (if maybe a bit hyperbolic, but I’d say much less so than the frequent comparisons of President Obama to Adolf Hitler).
[Yeah, my excuse is, “They started it,” but (a) I’m a warrior — I do fight back, and (2) it’s never been clear to me why “you can’t fight fire with fire.” Real firefighters sometimes do exactly that! In some cases, they use explosives to blow fires up (and out), and it’s becoming clear we need something equally powerful. I’m not saying we should actually explode Congress (as satisfying as that might be), but we desperately need an explosion of social outrage and common sense in this country.]
Let me start with terminology. If you look up the word, terrorism, most definitions include the threat or use of physical violence, particularly against innocents — people who are not to blame for, or are not even connected with, the perceived issue. The purpose behind the terrorist acts is to force some political or social agenda. However many definitions include the idea of psychological warfare used to create a reign of fear. (The Wikipedia entry explores the difficulty of defining the word.)
A big component is violence or the threat of violence, so let’s consider that term. It can obviously mean physical harm, and I think most would agree it includes psychological harm. (Ask a woman who has been “roofied” and then raped without being otherwise physically harmed if she feels violence was done.) We do also sometimes use the word in a metaphoric sense. Many of us old Trek fans feel J.J.Abrams did violence to the spirit of Star Trek (but that’s another conversation).
We saw activism edge into violence that might almost be called terrorism in the Temperance movement (I’m sure many tavern owners of the day would think so). It was effective enough to add the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. What’s interesting is that the movement pushed the country’s views to an extreme position we later recanted via the Twenty-first Amendment. The movement did address a real and serious alcoholism problem of the time, and it’s possible the eventual outcome was an acceptable social compromise. On the other hand, according to the CDC, the effects of excessive alcohol consumption cost the USA 224 billion dollars in 2006, so maybe not.
The lesson may be that big and quick social change has a cost and often involves some form of violence or civil disobedience. The motivation behind such can be to raise awareness or draw attention, but terrorism uses violence to try to force the issue. A more important lesson might be that activism can sometimes be wrong!
I will leave it to the reader to decide whether the Republicans are doing violence to this country or to its spirit. For me the answer is an unqualified, “Yes!” (Even if you find “terrorist” too hyperbolic, surely you would agree with “blackmailer,” which isn’t a whole lot better.)
But here’s the conundrum: activists and terrorists believe they are right and that history will ultimately be on their side. (At least, they believe that in principle; I sometimes wonder if terrorists are just stupid, destructive assholes.) A key question is: How do you tell righteous activism (a social force for good change) from terrorism (a discontented minority group trying to force change their way)? Consider a form of terrorism that’s been present in this country since 1976: attacks on abortion clinics.
The first clinic arson happened in 1976, the first bombing in 1978. It is perhaps a sign of the violent times that anti-abortion-related murders didn’t occur until 1993 (the death count appears to be: four doctors, three clinic workers and one off-duty policeman security guard).
If a person decides that abortion is truly the murder of a human being, you can perhaps see why they take such extreme measures. We’ve gone to war to kill enemies we perceive are a danger to the state. Individuals who feel they live powerless in a world of corrupt values may feel they have righteousness on their side, just as we do when we go to war. They may feel that they are righting a wrong and that someday history will see them as heroes.
Note that Roe v. Wade was issued in 1973, so all the above anti-abortion acts were in violation of established law. Let me repeat that: Acting in violation of law ratified by the Supreme Court. Does that ring any bells? Can you think of anyone recently acting in violation of Congress-passed, Supreme Court ratified law?
Yeah, the fuckingRepublicans are. [Southerners sometimes feel “damnYankee” is one word. So do some baseball fans. I’ve decided that, until things change, fuckingRepublican is one word, one concept.]
Terrorism is rooted in (at least) two things: discontent growing to the level of injustice and the feeling of powerlessness to change the injustice. Obviously, if one has power, one uses it. Terrorism seeks to use whatever is available as leverage. For some that means guns and bombs, which are fairly easy to obtain or make once one decides the law no longer applies.
Consider the willful child or pet that doesn’t want to visit the doctor. There’s no telling them it’s the right and needful thing — logic and reason don’t apply. They will kick and scream (or bite and claw) trying to have their way.
Now consider the willful children in Congress. They are increasingly in the minority, and in a right world, would be completely overwhelmed by reasonable people. [An example: polls indicate
97% of the citizens of this country want gun registration . [link] Every gun owner I know is fine with it; many wish for it. Yet Congress repeatedly demonstrates that “will of the people” means nothing to them. Lining their pockets and keeping their jobs is the entire game, and it would seem “game” is the operative word for it.]
So what does any child, any terrorist, do in the face of such odds, such clear facts and such utterly clear logic? Anything they can to not hear and not see. Whether they are stupid, craven or corrupt (or some combination of all three), the result is the same. Like the spoiled child holding its breath, the fuckingRepublicans hold the whole country hostage seeking to get their way.
How do we tell the difference between righteous activism and evil terrorism? I submit the idea that, “Evil doesn’t question itself.” Though self-introspection, careful thought and honestly answering hard questions, we can examine our ideas. The good ones survive all questions and inspections. When your ideas are bad, you typically fear the questions.
Who in government these days seems to be dodging hard questions or refusing to submit their ideas to careful analysis in the full light or reason and facts? Anyone? Anyone?
Could any creature be so repugnant is a fuckingRepublican? You decide. And maybe let a few Congress Critters know how you feel. Better yet, can we please vote these fucking assholes out of office? (The good news seems to be that the country has not been fooled by the recent antics of the f’Republicans, and their credibility is at an all-time low. This shut-down terrorism seems to have fooled no one and to have entirely backfired. Hooray!!)
A long time ago, Joseph de Maistre wrote, “Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle merite.” (“Every nation has the government it deserves.”)
Gee,… ya think?
* For the record, Hanlon’s Razor is variously attributed to Robert A. Heinlein, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) and Goethe. Heinlein’s 1941 short story, Logic of Empire, has the line, “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.” There is speculation that Hanlon may have used Heinlein’s Razor, which has been defined as, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice.” An epigram often attributed to Bonaparte is, “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence,” but no source exists for the quote. Looking up Goethe’s (sourced!) quote is left as an exercise for the reader.