The great science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov, speaking through his character Salvor Hardin, famously wrote that “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”. I’d like to amend that slightly, and add “fear” to that statement. Fear is what the incompetent — or amoral — use to incite us to tolerate, even enjoy, violence and other amorality. Practiced, all too often, in morality’s name.
Which is, of course, why it’s the GOP’s stock in trade. And also why it doesn’t do anyone any good. Here’s one example:
When the Twin Towers were attacked in 1993, then-president Bill Clinton responded by treating it, properly, as a crime scene. Instead of rushing off to bomb whatever he felt like bombing, he had law enforcement officials track, capture, and try the perpetrators, all within a matter of months, and with the approval and full assistance of the international community.
But when the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon burned on 9/11, George W. Bush, the guy occupying the White House at the time, pushed aside judiciousness and care in favor of simultaneous fear-mongering and the alleged “cure” for fear: namely, ill-thought-out, chest-thumping displays of bellicosity. Right from the start, the impetus was to “go massive” in attempting to link the attacks to Saddam Hussein (so we’d have an excuse to attack him) — even though the CIA and Sandy Berger had been warning Bush and his transition team about a totally different guy, Osama bin Laden, from the moment Sandra Day O’Connor put Bush in the White House. The result? Six years later, over a million people are dead and four million displaced as a result of Bush’s violence fetish, one nation is destroyed, another (Afghanistan) is teetering on the brink, and our own nation isn’t doing all that well. Oh, and Osama bin Laden is still free.
Want some other examples? Follow me past the jump.
We all know about the Republican Party’s betrayal of the heritage of the Great Emancipator. Their adoption of “the Southern Strategy” showed the willingness of the big-money powers to play to people’s worst fears and bigotries for pure political gain. It’s no accident that, as the Republicans got acclimated to their repudiation of Lincoln and of civil rights, their media friends started a push to cast the religion of the Southern Baptist and Pentecostal and other like-minded churches — many of which (such as Jerry Falwell’s and Bob Jones’ and Pat Robertson’s) stayed segregated for a very long time — as America’s official “default religion”.
But black people aren’t the only ones that the Republicans want us to fear. They also want us to fear all Muslims, especially those with dark skin tones. And of course they want us to fear all Hispanics — even as they try to woo Hispanics. Weird.
Speaking of which, check out what prominent Minnesota Republican Dick Day thinks will work to recapture freshman Democrat Tim Walz’ seat in Minnesota’s First Congressional District:
The man hoping to become the next congressman for the first congressional district is laying out his legislative agenda. State Senator Dick Day made a stop in Mankato today to talk about his major platform illegal immigration.His motto is Strong Borders, Strong Future and Senator Day hopes to write a bill to overhaul the entire immigration system.
Senator Dick Day of Owatonna says, ”I can assure you every place that I’ve went in the first district eight out of ten people when I sit down and say what’s your biggest concern they say illegal immigration. This goes to the surface and they start talking about it and are very unhappy about it.”
Which is interesting, because as the local blog Bluestem Prairie points out, “illegal immigration” (aka “keep out the Mexicans”) was also the signature theme of Gil Gutknecht, the incumbent Republican who Walz defeated at the polls last year. Like Day, Gutknecht also kept claiming that all the people he talked to in the First wanted to talk about was “illegal immigration”.
If banging on the Fear-The-Brown-Ones gong couldn’t save the incumbent Gutknecht last year, why does the would-be challenger Dick Day think it’ll work this time?
The answer: It’s not necessarily that he thinks it’ll work. It’s that it’s the only thing he’s got. The last refuge.