Thursday, April 10, 2008

So right it's wrong

Racism & sexism included for free!

I'm not exactly hiding in the liberal closet. I've been “out” since I bought myself an ACLU membership in high school. Richard Nixon had just been elected president and I was already looking forward to Watergate. Since Nixon was never a popular figure in my family (we had all been Kennedy Democrats at one point), my acting out of my leftish tendencies was tolerated. No doubt I would grow out of it.

Nope. No such luck. I even supported McGovern in 1972. I suspect my parents didn't vote that year, although they remained nominal Democrats for a few more years. They were just waiting for Reagan and Bush to sweep them off their feet. Mom and Dad have been supine dupes of the right-wing spin machine ever since. I, meanwhile, voted for Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, and Kerry. My vehicles sported bumper stickers for all of them. While my parents were admiring closeted Republican Michael Huffington as he campaigned against Dianne Feinstein, I was holding banners at Feinstein rallies. (Later I graduated to the harder stuff, participating in the campaign events of of Barbara Boxer.)

Therefore I think my family suspects I'm a liberal. So why do they send me egregiously offensive stuff? For a while, it seemed that no wingnut rant was stupid enough to prevent my family members from forwarding it to me as soon as it came to their attention. Presumably some of the forwarded messages were intended to educate me, while perhaps others were supposed to amuse me and feed the prejudices they assumed I shared.

My practice of responding to right-wing spam-mail with detailed refutations and reference links did eventually discourage my correspondents, but every so often my family members can't help themselves and they swing back into action. In recent days I've been surprised to receive two idiotic and offensive messages in rapid succession from the family. One is an inane defense of George Bush that carries my father's stamp of approval and the other is a racist and sexist compilation of campaign slogans from my sister-in-law.

My father's already suffered the crushing disappointment of having spawned a liberal. I hope my sister-in-law's children grow up to be liberals who marry minorities (by which I mean minorities other than the one we already belong to!). Perhaps then she'll rue ever chuckling over a sophomoric campaign button that refers to Sen. Obama as “Half Honkey, All Donkey.” Despite its tastelessness, racial insensitivity, and offensive message, my sister-in-law saw fit to send the image to me in an e-mail message.

What is wrong with that woman?

Making fun of Barack Obama is not enough, of course. If you're going to indulge in some petty racism, why not also toss in some good old American misogyny? The message forwarded by my sister-in-law also delighted in insulting Sen. Clinton, variously calling her a whore (that's sweet) and a bitch (how witty!). And it's just winsomely amusing to refer to her presidential campaign as “Tits & Ass 2008.” I pause to dab the tears of laughter from my eyes.
Hello, Brandeen. Send stuff like this to people who appreciate it. Not me.


Your liberal brother-in-law,

So far she hasn't forwarded anything further. Will she think twice before doing it again? I'd be happy if she bothered thinking even once.

Recycled wisdom from Dad

The address headers identified the usual suspects from my father's circle of Central Valley right-wingers, people who forward each other nuggets of nonsense as if they are chunks of the true cross. They especially enjoy shocking facts (We're winning in Iraq!) from the likes of Fox News (The weapons of mass destruction were smuggled into Syria!) and Rush Limbaugh (My friends, the liberals want us to lose!). Dad sent me a message titled “You aren't going to like losing...” He added his own preface:
This is so hard to take, But it is so true! I remember all that as if it were yesterday. SO TRUE!

Love DAD.
What is this great truth that my father is about to share with me? It seems that George W. Bush is today's version of FDR. Well, Dad has tried to equate Bush the Lesser with JFK in the past (“They both cut taxes!”), so it stands to reason he should be susceptible to other ridiculous comparisons:
President Bush did make a bad mistake in the war on terrorism. But the mistake was not his decision to go to war in Iraq.

Bush's mistake came in his belief that this country is the same one his father fought for in WWII. It is not.
That's right. It's not. This is the country that learned some sad lessons in Vietnam, the war in which George W. Bush refused to fight as he bravely shirked his responsibilities in the Texas Air National Guard.
The people stuck with the President because it was their patriotic duty. Americans put aside their differences in WWII and worked together to win that war.

Everyone from every strata of society, from young to old pitched in.
So true! Unless, of course, you were ordered to take a flight physical that might reveal your cocaine habit, in which case you could ignore the mandatory physical and just lose your flight status. Everyone pitched in, except pampered children of privilege.
You never heard prominent people on the radio belittling the President.

Interestingly enough in those days there were no fat cat actors and entertainers who ran off to visit and fawn over dictators of hostile countries and complain to them about our President. Instead, they made upbeat films and entertained our troops to help the troops' morale. And a bunch even enlisted.
That's certainly true. No one would even dream of saying bad things about the president back in those days. Except for Charles Lindbergh and the America First people, who said FDR was a warmonger. And Father Coughlin, of course. And Henry Ford. But nobody important or famous or significant. Not a one.
No, President Bush did not make a mistake in his handling of terrorism. He made the mistake of believing that we still had the courage and fortitude of our fathers. He believed that this was still the country that our fathers fought so dearly to preserve.
Bush made no mistakes in his war on terror except for (a) attacking the wrong country, (b) using too few troops, (c) demolishing the Iraqi government when nothing existed to replace it, (d) disbanding the Iraqi army and turning its members into highly trained insurgents, and (e) saying “Bring it on!” to the insurgents and terrorists, just like the inane frat-house bully-boy he is.

I replied to my father:
The president's big mistake was to attack a country that didn't attack us. And to take troops out of Afghanistan before the job was done. Now we have problems with our soldiers stretched thin in two places. That's what incompetent leadership will do for you.

My father has not seen fit to respond.

The stab in the back

My family is a known quantity: namely, a lost cause. I expect a little better, however, from my former comrades-in-arms at the state legislature. Therefore it was a grave disappointment to open an e-mail message forwarded by Jolting Joe, who was one of the senior staffers to the liberal state legislator for whom we both worked. Jolting Joe's message carried the subject line “This explains it” and offered as its content a Parker & Hart cartoon:

I was mightily displeased and promptly told Joe so:
Beg pardon, Joe, but what the hell is wrong with you? What makes you think I would appreciate an anti-Democratic cartoon by the late Johnny Hart? He was a narrow-minded right-wing creationist who thought nothing of mocking Jewish symbols for supposedly comic effect. I don't need lessons in politics from bigots like that.
Jolting Joe was taken aback and quickly replied:
Sorry, Zeno, I think the cartoon is funny regardless of party. Politics is a contact sport.
To me, the comic strip in question is about as creative and clever as children calling each other names on the playground, but who can account for taste? Furthermore, Joe was unaware of the cartoonist's controversial reputation. And, frankly, it's difficult to stay angry at a man who knows how to use appositional commas. I did not fire back.

Jolting Joe, however, nursed just a bit of a grudge over my treatment of him, as he noted the next time we were both at one of our regular lunch groups: “You cursed me, young man! You damned me for my taste in humor. You shouldn't be so sensitive!”

“Don't worry, Joe. I've forgiven you. Anyway, politics is a contact sport. You shouldn't be so sensitive.”


miller said...

That "B.C." comic looks awfully fishy. For one thing, it's obviously the Wizard of Id (coauthored by Johnny Hart, so it's still stupid). For another, the final punchline looks like it was inserted.

Zeno said...

You're quite right, Miller. It's a Wizard of Id cartoon and the mistake of identifying it as B.C. is entirely mine (and I've removed the label). The punchline's lettering is different from the rest of the cartoon, so I think you're also correct that it's been tampered with. It's the altered version that my friend was forwarding to people and I'm certain that he's not the person who changed it. Like so many things we see on the Internet, someone has "improved" it before passing it along.

It will be interesting if I can track down original version and see what gag Parker & Hart intended.

Anonymous said...

My “conservative” friend are fortunately much more rational. They candidly say they think Bush is the worst president we have ever had. They claim they will vote for any democrat now – except Hilary. [No apparent rational reason except they don’t like her.]

But they also past along e-mails created by people with not enough to do. When they are offensive – and sometimes they are – I tell them. Sometimes they are funny and we all need to laugh at ourselves.


Billy said...

The original punchline is:
"Then the best liar wins."

As you can see here.

Apparently whoever doctored this comic feels that his/her preferred pack of liars aren't getting a fair shake. And the obvious ineptness of the surgery may indicate why: as liars, they're just not very good.

Zeno said...

Thanks for finding that, Billy. I appreciate it.

Interrobang said...

"The best liar wins" is actually kind of funny. The "Democrat" thing, not so much. Then again, I don't actually think right-wingers "get" humour.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't that bumper sticker have some hyphens? Shouldn't it read as "In-your-face liberal"? Without proper hyphenation, my mind inserts a comma and reads "In your face, liberal!"

Zeno said...

Tell your mind to insert hyphens instead.

Anonymous said...

A bit late, as usual.

That staffer, Joe, all too common, I think. They go to the statehouse or DC, and politics becomes a sport. Both sides play. And lots of them play for both sides.

Isn't that what happened to one of HRC's bigwigs? When he was working with her, he was anti-Colombia, but he had another pro-Colombia client?

george.w said...

Oh, crimony, my mother sent me a photoshopped cartoon on how funny it is that people in India are so poor they have to work crappy tech support line jobs in the middle of the night listening to American racists berate them for having an accent.

I called her out on it and she has quietly dropped the subject.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is an observer rather than a participant to this process by virtue of where I live, both the emails you receive and the response you provide in this blog seem rather pointless.

I mean, they both have the same purpose when you think about it - to make one feel superior to the other.

Once intelligent Americans realize *both* parties are a waste of time perhaps we'll see some positive movement. Until then, great minds will be continually be wasted at the altar of corruption that is US politics.


Zeno said...

I'm sure you thought that was a helpful comment, Mat, but waiting for "intelligent Americans" to give up on both political parties is high-minded foolishness. If you want to get something done in this country, you need a modicum of political clout. Ninety-nine percent of that is tied up in the two major parties, so your best bet is to take one of them over and make it serve your purpose. Not since the nation's founding has a political party really started from scratch, but on several occasions a party has dramatically shifted course (as when the party favored by slave owners became the leader in civil rights, or when the party that claimed to favor small government became the party of the "unitary presidency"). That's what the netroots campaign is all about. It's time to grab the tiller and steer.