Monday, October 11, 2010

Scare factor

It's been many decades since I read Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi, but I remember his description of the man up in the bow of the riverboat measuring the depth with a lead line. When the line wasn't long enough to reach down to the river bed, he'd call out "nooooo bottom!"

I could hear that call yesterday when I read about the latest from Sharron Angle and David Vitter's campaign ads including a picture of a trio of Mexican men used to imply that if their opponents were elected, these scary, swarthy, hostile and decidedly non-Aryan aliens would be sneaking about your back yard leering at the womenfolk, giving marijuana to your toddlers, forcing you to pay them social security benefits our of your contributions, and spreading leprosy. The oldest of ploys, really, and I'm trying like hell not to invoke that jerk Godwin and his damned laws, but of course everyone uses it from biblical prophets to today's iteration of the 19th century Know-Nothing party.

That the picture of three Mexican farmers taken in the far south of Mexico -- that's Mexico, not New Mexico -- and back during the Bush administration may have been illegally used and do not actually portray aliens, illegal or otherwise, means nothing to these candidates or their supporters since anything they do in the name of the cause, even if they have no idea what that is, is justified. That is, of course, the very policy they attribute to Islamic terrorists, but never mind, only liberals would make an issue of it, you know. Liberals (and that means anyone who opposes them) are "soft on illegals," love illegals, and want more illegals and want to pay them Social Security benefits (says the ad), and that makes Lou Dobbs a liberal along with that arch-liberal George W. Bush, who even speaks a few words of Mexican or whatever scary and incomprehensible-to-regular-folk language it is they speak down there. Of course, that claim is as misleading as the photograph filched from the Getty Archives, but my experience proves that teabag zealots would rather pass along any lie than bother to check the facts.

There's no bottom to this muddy river. There never has been for any extended time in our history. The dream of a country run by white Protestant, preferably Anglo-Saxon males with guns (God and Guts) and their subservient families is still strong and apparently well armed. It's rapidly becoming a smaller minority and that of course only makes it an angrier bunch of dreamers with an ever greater number of unscrupulous opportunists and yes, idiots and the logically impaired. Few of them are smart enough to understand that their increasingly irresponsible extremism, the incompetent, morally unscrupulous tribe of candidates they support, harms the ability of rational conservatives -- and yes, liberals and even libertarians -- to control the immigration rate, deal with the undocumented in a decent, American way and most of all to end the support they have from American industry as well as individual hypocrites like Dobbs and Whitman.

At first glance, it may appear that with the rise of the neo-Know Nothings, liberal principles are under renewed assault once again -- and they are, but the real danger, in my opinion, is the death of principled conservatism and a dedication to efficient, honest government rather than one that looks good in theory but fails every test.

I have a certain amount of faith that the public will recognize the danger of the Christine O'Donnells and the Sharron Angles, the Pallidinos, DeMints, and Vitters, but I have far less faith that we'll ever be able to survive the ability of global corporations to steer us in any way they want, particularly since they are so good at keeping us fighting ourselves that we don't notice.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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