Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Some people will never be happy

I read a couple of conservative blogs. Not because I like
conservatism, mind you, but because I’ve always had a
taste for kitsch. Despite that whole “running my country
into the ground” thing, right-wingers amuse and fascinate
me. It is interesting to see the events of the day through
their fun-house mirror and it is good fun to try and predict
which of the day’s top stories will enrage them the most.
Because–and one learns this quickly when studying the
right side of internet land–something always enrages them.
They have a low boiling point, these conservatives, and it
seems they’re never more content than when they have
a steady stream of things to attack.

For a liberal, it is a weird phenomenon to witness. One
would think these would be the halcyon days of their brand
of conservatism. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that
they have not only the presidency and most of congress, but
also the top rated news network, the most lavishly funded
thinktanks, the most ardent young disciples, not to mention
the long-instilled prejudices of large swaths of the nation on
their side. What’s more, they’re just a couple of doddering
justices away from sweeping the Supreme Court as well.
With things going so swimmingly for the right, you’d suppose
they’d relax and start to focus on that grand new era of pros-
perity and honor they occasionally promise the country.
Well, you’d suppose wrong there, pal. Apparently, that golden
future is a very fragile thing: it has no chance of surviving in
a world where some liberal somewhere continues to spread
her evil.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the foaming-at-the-mouth
rightist contingent doesn’t really have a glorious program
for a better America. Maybe that’s all blather and grand-
standing to distract the rest of us from the fact that they’ll
be perfectly satisfied forever if they just have some loose
confederation of villains to hate. It could be that, as prac-
ticed today, conservatism is a purely negative philosophy.
They’ve got some atavistic urge to do battle, but since they
don’t really want to do battle, they content themselves with
bellowing through their keyboards at the day’s appointed
bugbear. Howard Dean. Cindy Sheehan. John Kerry. Hilary
Clinton. The badguy in the silly Jerry Bruckheimer film that
is their worldview changes quickly, but the anger and the
message behind it remain the same. We are noble individ-
uals with a simple, honest, reasonable view of life, they say.
We are Good. We are Productive. We are Patriots. They are
liars. They are cowards. They are bad. They internalize this
dichotomy and, like good toy soldiers, array themselves in
opposition to everything that fails the test of their unquestion-
able ideology.

They love their ideology. And why shouldn’t they? Their
ideology is like an overindulgent mother to them. It de-
mands nothing of them while, at the same time, it tells them
that they’re special, that they’re precious, that all the worst
elements of the world are ganging up to deprive them of the
abundance and glory that is rightfully theirs. One can’t read
certain right-wingers without thinking of children locked in
a vicious struggle against adulthood. The corruption of inno-
cence is a common theme behind their rants. America’s purity
soiled by pathological internationalists, our nobility as a society
criticized by contemptible latte-drinkers, the pretensions of
self-styled “individualists” shot down by resentful muck-
rakers–all of these will send a certain breed of conservative
into full-scale losing-their-shit mode.

And the funny thing is that they seem to think liberals care if
they lose their shit. They think that they’ll win the war of
rhetoric if they just swing their wooden sabers around
violently enough. So they call every Democrat to the left
of Joe Lieberman a traitor, and they rave that everyone who
doesn’t hate taxes as much as they do is a socialist, and then
they pounce on every ill-thought-out statement some obscure
leftist somewhere makes so that they can shriek and strut
about how at last, at last this proves what they’ve been saying
all along. They imagine that they’re protesting, but they’re
really just making asses of themselves. People not under the
spell of their goofy worldview find them a trifle baffling, I’m
afraid. They read their latest tirade and accurately assume
that this is someone with an excess of aggression he has to
work off somehow. Better to rage into the void of the inter-
net than to drive like a maniac in rush hour or speak too
curtly to the kids working at McDonalds, they think. They
don’t think, however, that this is political discourse to be
taken seriously.

Because it is not. At least not in the way that its authors
intend. These blogs serve largely as an indicator of what
a very specific population of privileged malcontents is think-
ing. In this, they are useful only as comedy. They cannot
even function as a bellwether of the nation’s overall mood.
These people are exceptions: they’d be pissed off no matter
what the rest of the world was going through. Peace could
reign throughout the universe and free money could spit
from every ATM in the commonwealth and they’d still be
stamping their feet over some second grade teacher saying
something uncomplimentary about Ronald Reagan. They’re
stunted. The only modes they work in are annoyance, spite
and ridicule.

It is fear, however, that is the contemporary conservative’s
true master. It seems that fear is all they know. Fear that
our nation is in decline, fear that our way of life is under siege,
fear of death, fear of living, fear of their neighbors, fear of far-
away strangers, fear of the known, fear of the unknown, and
fear that–perhaps, just perhaps–they might not be as infall-
ible as they like to act. Their goal is no political program, no
resurgence of tarnished values, no victory in Iraq; no, the
goal is to infect the rest of us with their fear, to drag us all
into their nightmare so that there can no longer be any
question over who’s brave and who’s a coward since we’re
all huddled together, trembling ourselves to sleep under
the threadbare blanket of America.

And maybe that isn’t as funny as I think it is.