Sunday, June 13, 2004

Tom Tomorrow, who I usually respect, has a few things to say about Ted Rall. Apparently, Rall made some comments about how Reagan, in his opinion, is currently frying in hell and he went into disturbing detail (no quote... it's just too gruesome). Here's what Tom had to say:

Here's the thing: Rall posts this on his blog, which at a guess has maybe 5,000 to 10,000 people reading it. Drudge links to it--suddenly it's been spread to millions. Hannity and Colmes have him on the show--a few hundred thousand more viewers are suddenly offended.

So if all these right wingers are so terribly offended by Rall's words, then don't Drudge and Hannity share responsibility for that? I mean, it was a clearly a dashed-off blog entry for a few thousand readers--and suddenly thanks to Hannity & Drudge, millions of people are offended.

Hey! What does that sound like? I'm hearing the familliar "why did those journalists have to show us what's really happening in Abu Ghraib? Why can't the New York Times run more HAPPY stories on Iraq?" arguments faintly calling from the distance.

Listen, as Tom acknowledged, Reagan was an old man with Alzheimer's. It was his time to pass on, and we need to let him have that with dignity and respect. During his life he was a liar and a cheat and a killer, but one of the things that we liberals do (at least, I hope we do) is that we give people dignity at least in their death.

This is not the time to be distorting Reagan's "legacy" and claiming he was the most popular president ever, and I applaud the blogosphere's efforts to curtail some of that wishful thinking. However, we just don't delight in the deaths of people who pose no threat, especially those who are wasting away in nursing homes, forgetting that they were President and racked up the worst deficit in history while simultaneously funding terrorists under-the-counter to overthrow a Democratically elected government in the Middle East.

And then there's our friend Kos. He made an "ill-considered" (Tom's words) remark after the contractors in Falluja were killed, saying that "he felt nothing" and "screw them." Kos's "apology" is insincere and indefensible. No matter how horrific your circumstances, no matter how horrible your childhood, no matter how patriotic your upbringing is, words are words, and if you celebrate or dismiss somebody's death, as Rall and Kos have done, you are going to be ridiculed. Period. It doesn't matter if your words are reprinted once or a hundred times or ten thousand times, they're still the same words and you still need to stand behind them. Doing the Jayson Blair retreat to "my awful childhood" as an excuse to speak with impunity is weak in character and repugnant.

Look, I can forgive what Kos said. I think we all can. We all do really stupid things and say really awful things sometimes. What we do, because we're grown-ups and we can do these things, is that we apologize. We say, "I'm sorry." That's IT. We do not say, for instance, "I'm sorry, but the REAL tragedy is..." or "I'm sorry, but it had to do with my childhood..." no matter how intelligent your prose our righteous your tone. Nobody deserves to die, not even cheats or thieves or liars, and when you desecrate somebody's funeral you have the good sense to take a step back and say, "I'm sorry, friend, I forgot I was a human being for a second."

We all live in the same world and breathe the same air and gaze at the same sky as our Republican friends, as the al-Qaeda terrorists, as the Contras and as the Iraqi civilians and as the Palestinian dissidents and as the wonderful girl next door. You know what we do in this kind of world? We suck it up. We swallow our pride. We have our fights and our discussions and our laughs and our tears and our jabs and our nerve-pinching arguments, but we are big enough to realize that at the end of the day, we are all human beings and we need to play nice and share. Sometimes, as with terrorists, we have to use violence to fight back; but we have to recognize that it's for the good of the world, it's for the safety of today and not for a lofty, distant goal of peace.

My next case study of liberals turning mean is with our friend, Rush Limbaugh. This guy continuously disenfranchised the poor and the needy as being lazy and stupid and--most notably--claimed that drug addicts should be given zero tolence and thrown in jail. Turns out he was popping OxyContins by the truckload; illegally smuggled OxyContins, I might add, with doctor shopping to boot. He couldn't live up to his own standard for the world; he's a sad, sick man.

Michael Moore had a hilarious routine on his book tour about how Rush Limbaugh continuously argued for drug addicts to be thrown in jail and for the key to be thrown away; and well, what'd'ya know, Rush is right up there with them and jail time doesn't sound so good to him any more. At the time, Rush was detoxing at a country club rehab center; Moore said (and this is from memory, but it's very close) "I want all the drug addicts off the streets and jails and into that rehab center to be treated; and I want Rush Limbaugh thrown in jail and the key thrown away!" to massive applause.

Now, again, Rush is a cheat and a liar and a slimeball. And yet, his intensely concentrated group of fanatics seem to enjoy his boyish glee and his carefree demeanor as he sorts out politics into the simple stuff (tax cuts = good, liberal media = bad). So when it turned out that he was a seriously addicted person, someone in terrible need of medical attention, he got a very sincere outpouring of good will from the "liberal media" he so constantly disparaged; but as the Moore and the lefty bloggers poured on the righteous fury, I felt like we lost a real opportunity to win, you know, converts.

We had an opportunity here. Rush was desperate. He had finally come to his senses after spending a good chunk of his life in DopeLand. He recognized that with all the silver cups and luxury cars that come along with living the high life, one can still feel life-threatening mental pain, the pain suffered by poor Americans every day who are living a paycheck away from homelessness. We could show him that there is a real belief system around reaching out and helping people like him, desperate people like him, and it is called liberalism. We'd love you to join. Would you like a pamphlet?

Come on. He's Rush Limbaugh. He's like the queen bee of conservatives. If we could get him to see the left, even for just a short while, we could have showed the world what we're really about: compassion in a time in which aggression is in vogue. Instead, we giggled and laughed and taunted and decided we were perfectly content in our Autobots-and-Decepticons world of liberals versus conservatives. Not a good idea, if we ever intend on winning a majority.

So there you have it, folks. Tune in next time and I'll say something about videogames.
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