Monday, July 28, 2008

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

There may have been a time when the American "conservative" trend (as a political creed) had some meaning outside of religious fundamentalism, nationalist McCarthyism, crony capitalism, barely concealed race- and sexism, and intellectual know-nothingism.

I am not familiar with any time for which this is true. Conservatives claim it to be true, and I will not waste time arguing about it.

If this mythic conservative ethos was ever real, it is not now.

If you had somehow slept through the last eight years you would still wake to find stuff like this; the freakish melange of religious nutballery, political cynicism and underhanded public dealing whereby the prejudices of a group - albeit a group that has the GOP's head in a lock - are quietly planned to be made into the only choice for all of us.

And don't even get me started on the supposed GOP affection for "limited government" or "individual liberty"...

Understand this; I am fully supportive of every American's God-given right to vote for what I consider the pig-stupidest, least-beneficial-to-the-public-weal, just plain goddam boneheaded ignorant idea proposed by the most repugnant of candidates. My only criterion is that the aforesaid stupid idea needs to have at least SOME tiny, refugiant scrap of common sense appeal attached to it. For example, voting for every public building to have automatic doors in case the Rapture occurs and the janitor disappears and can't unlock the things is NOT a good reason to spend your tax dollars on automatic doors for the courthouse. If you think that automatic doors will help speed traffic through the courthouse PLUS have the benficial side effect of ensuring a quick exit in case of the sudden disappearance of all Real True Christians from the face of the Earth, well, fine.

It's stuff like the contraception-is-abortion story that makes me realize that the GOPers have just fallen off the ladder. These guys have no idea of the disconnect between what they believe and want to be true and what helps the things they want to be true actually happen.

Take contraception.

The oral contraceptive was first released around 1960. Note here that the birth rate, having hovered around 23-25 live births per 1,000 citizens per year since the first big drop in B/R in the Depression (hmmmm...people stop having babies when they can't feed them?) begins a steady slow decline. It's down to 21/1000 by 1964, 17.5/1000 by '68. By '95 we're only having 15 kids per 1,000 people and that number stayed about the same (14/1000) for the next decade.

This period roughly corresponds with the greatest expansion of wealth in the U.S. since the end of WW2. And I'm willing to bet that this combination of an expanding middle class and relative social stability had and has a LOT to do with the ability of families to plan their pregnancies. Far fewer young couples caught in a debt trap by unexpected baby bills. Far fewer older couples with sudden bundles of joy just when they were getting clear of the college payments and home improvements.

The numbers simply show that, when they are able, most people WANT to reduce the overall number of kids that they produce. The Fifties suburban fairy-tale of 2.5 kids and the cocker spaniel isn't just a fable; it's what a lot of parents wanted. Many of them had grown up in the six- and eight-kid depression families where the middle kids wore the older kids' clothes and the youngest wore them until they fell apart. Where another mouth to feed was a strain on the whole family, and meant another year of hot-bunking with brother Ed. The trend is pretty universal: once a people escapes poverty, one of the first things they want to do is have fewer kids.

And yet here's the GOP. Ready to go to the barricades (except sorta silently and sneakily, like a tweaker clouting your car) to tell these nasty sex-for-fun heretics that when you make the sign of the two-humped whale, you damn well need to risk making a sprog! Because...because Jesus loves little babies!

This isn't just bad policy. This isn't just bad decisionmaking. This is stupid, pointless national pistol-to-the-head political suicide. Because, think about it: the people who don't like birth control aren't going to use it anyway. They're gonna pop rugrats out of mommy's poozle like the bozos out of a clown car, because that's what they think God tells them to do. These people are going to vote Republican anyway because lesbians make Baby Jesus cry or something.

But people like me, people who want to have the choice to have a kid when we want to have a kid, are gonna get pissed. For the same reason we like indoor toilets rather than an outhouse. Because why run outside in the rain for a Class I download when you can squat in airconditioned comfort? As far as we know, God inspired the folks who inventied that clever little pill. So why NOT take advantage of our ability to still get some sweet, sweet loving from our spouse without resulting in littering the house with a football team's worth of offspring? Hell, we don't need no husky young'uns to harvest the tomatoes from the two plants in the backyard. Two kids is just fine for us, and we like the idea of not having to go back to the outhouse. Thanks, anyway.

And it doesn't stop here. The default GOP positions on stuff as diverse as budgets to war to economics to affirmative action are usually tilted so as to do as much as possible for the kind of people who already vote Republican. Admittedly these people are usually rich and powerful, but in a genuine "democracy" rich and powerful are supposed to take you only so far. But the actual results are idiotic, almost as if designed to widen the gulf between rich and poor, to place inordinate power into the hands of the wealthy, white and connected, to fracture the middle class that made post-WW2 America so reknowned for its stability and prosperity.


My conclusion is that the Republicans have one of two plans in mind:

One is to push their out-on-the-right-wingnut goals to their logical conclusion and fracture and impoverish most of the country, and then become a sort of Libertarian Party for the religious nutjob and the wealthy living in the gated community portion of the remnants of the nation, a permanent minority party full of ideologically correct but insane ideas.

The other is that they don't have ANY goal other than to cling to power in hope of further dismantling the New Deal, looting the public purse and hounding their enemies with counterproductive but emotionally and theologically satisfying goop like these contraception rules. And if the country goes to hell, oh, well, we thought the WMDs were there all along or something. Our bad. Oops.

So, Republicans: just fucking nuts, or cunning, despicable bastards?

I know what I think.

But we report. You decide.

Poem: "Fix" by Alicia Suskin Astriker, from No Heaven. © University of Pittsburgh Press.


The puzzled ones, the Americans, go through their lives
Buying what they are told to buy,
Pursuing their love affairs with the automobile,

Baseball and football, romance and beauty,
Enthusiastic as trained seals, going into debt, struggling—
True believers in liberty, and also security,

And of course sex—cheating on each other
For the most part only a little, mostly avoiding violence
Except at a vast blue distance, as between bombsight and earth,

Or on the violent screen, which they adore.
Those who are not Americans think Americans are happy
Because they are so filthy rich, but not so.

They are mostly puzzled and at a loss
As if someone pulled the floor out from under them,
They'd like to believe in God, or something, and they do try.

You can see it in their white faces at the supermarket and the gas station
—Not the immigrant faces, they know what they want,
Not the blacks, whose faces are hurt and proud—

The white faces, lipsticked, shaven, we do try
To keep smiling, for when we're smiling, the whole world
Smiles with us, but we feel we've lost

That loving feeling. Clouds ride by above us,
Rivers flow, toilets work, traffic lights work, barring floods, fires
And earthquakes, houses and streets appear stable

So what is it, this moon-shaped blankness?
What the hell is it? America is perplexed.
We would fix it if we knew what was broken.


You Know Where You Are With said...

Love Alicia Ostriker. The Nakedness of the Fathers is a brilliant book.

R. says he is a "true conservative"--meaning an environmentalist, back-to-the-land, money thrown at the plank in your own eye first, kind of type. He thinks the word "conservative" has been hijacked by the, republicans.

Lisa said...

"Nuts or cunning" -- maybe it's not an either-or. I vote for both, hence why the cunningly executed plans are so insane and ultimately, self-defeating.

"almost as if designed to widen the gulf between rich and poor" -- no almost to it. The bifurcation is here were it not for the infusion of immigrants, who are in flux.

Justice Stevens, who used to be conservative, is now considered liberal (the voice of reason on the S.C.) The Repub. party has shifted, as has the Democratic (to the middle).

As for contraceptive policies--just nuts. You'd think with diminishing resources and overpopulation, we would encourage responsible sex. Ah, but the Church-Republican confluence would lose its choke hold on the guilty adherents of the faith. (I have written on the topic before as I feel strongly about it.)