The downward trajectory of what passes for political discourse has become nearly impossible to keep up with. Thanks to anti-intellectuals like Rush Limbaugh who use name-calling as a substitute for logical argument, it appears that anything goes. Dont like the presidents nominally liberal policies? Call him a socialist. Question where he was born and by extension whether he is eligible for office. Create conspiracy as happened at the NRA convention, where gun lovers accused Obama of lying in wait until his second term when he can convene a massive police state to confiscate all weapons.
So, it really should be no surprise that a confirmed nut-case like Ted Nugent a man who is known as the Motor City Madman ignores the notion of rational discourse and goes right for the anti-intellectual stratosphere, as described by Sam Stein of HuffingtonPost.com: In a video spotted by Right Wing Watch, Nugent doesnt mince words when describing the sitting presidents administration, which he describes as vile, evil and America-hating. Nugent goes farther, raising the specter of assassination and Sharron Angles Second-Amendment remedies by comparing the administration and Democrats to coyotes.
It isnt the enemy that ruined America. Its good people who bent over and let the enemy in, he said on the tape. If the coyotes in your living room pissing on your couch, its not the coyotes fault. Its your fault for not shooting him.
Much of the outrage that has bubbled up in the wake of Nugents comments has focused on his belief that Obamas re-election would mean that Nugent would either be dead or in jail by this time next year. But it is the above quotation that I find more chilling. Duly elected officials and members of an opposing political party are the enemy, in Nugents unwieldy metaphor, and not opponents or political foes. They also are coyotes, or invasive and predatory scavengers that can only gain a toe hold when we allow it. If the coyotes in your living room pissing on your couch, its not the coyotes fault. Its your fault for not shooting him.
Shooting him those are Nugents words and the natural extension of the central metaphor from which he works. Shooting them like a coyote is not enough. Nugent adds: We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.
Nugents mouth should never have triggered the kind of political storm that it did. So why did it? The two main reasons, I think, are that wildman Nugent is such good copy and that we have a fourth estate that is fixated on even the smallest scandals. So Nugent ends up getting big play.
But this approach misses the big picture. Consider Sen. James Inhofes response to Nugents comments (again, quoted from Stein at HuffingtonPost.com): Anyone could put an interpretation on like that, the senator said in response to the concern from some that Nugents remarks may have been a threat to the president. I just didnt hear that because thats not what he said and it is confusing because its hard to say, why would he be dead and now were talking about Ted, not the president and I didnt quite understand it.
This is about more than Nugent and about more than Obama, however. It is about a pattern of loose language and violent metaphor on the right that includes the infamous Second-Amendment remedies, Sarah Palins use of rifle sites on her web page, and so on.
Dont get me wrong. I am not advocating for restrictions on speech or any kind of penalties for the speaker. But I think it is important to point out the larger language patterns at the center of the rightwing crusade (and to a somewhat lesser degree their left-wing and liberal counterparts), patterns that devalue both disagreement and compromise and elevate paranoia and certainty to almost religious status. Principle is important, perhaps the most important thing in politics. It informs the way we approach issues and what we are willing and unwilling to do. Principle in the current atmosphere has given way to dogma and the irrational discourse.
Hank Kalet is a poet and the regional editor for Patch in Central Jersey. Email firstname.lastname@example.org; blog kaletblog.com; facebook.com/hank/kalet.
From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2012
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