Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nancy Pelosi: Idiot

House Speaker and professional sparrow impersonator Nancy Pelosi recently made a tearful plea to dial down the rhetoric in this country. I'm assuming she was talking about the semi-literate shouting, racist message board posting, and unintelligible grunting of those Republicans, conservatives, Libertarians, Baptists, tax burdens, automotive refueling specialists, chiropractors, and fake eyelash models who choose to voice their displeasure with the Obama administration and the work of the Democratic congress in the most witless and quasi-threatening ways possible.

"I think we all have to take responsibility for our actions and our words. We are a free country and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance," she said. Redundancy aside, this statement is simply deplorable coming from an elected official. There is no "balance" between freedom and safety. The two aren't mutually exclusive, despite what Pelosi (or Dick Cheney, for that matter) would have us believe.

She went on to talk about the rioting and killings she witnessed in 1970s San Francisco, when political and religious hatred culminated in the deaths of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. She described the time as a "climate in which violence took place". But she doesn't seem to understand that just because there is a climate where violence takes place, that doesn't mean the climate caused the violence.

I absolutely believe that a large part of the TEA party protests, health care reform hysteria, and Obama backlash in this country comes from a place of vile misinformation and even outright racism. I live in Louisiana, and I'm surrounded by some of the most disgusting "rhetoric" I've ever heard. I've received chain emails at my office address whose only punchlines are about how much Michelle Obama resembles a gorilla. On the day after the election, I was forwarded a Photoshop job of Air Force One decked out in flashy rims and gold trim. I was asked face-to-face by a colleague why any white person would vote for Obama.

But Obama didn't create racism, just as Harvey Milk didn't create homophobia. The problems are already there, and the crazies already exist. They have a louder megaphone right now because they have an identifiable target. But words, no matter how loud, how stupid, how crass, or how horrible are protected in this country.

Pelosi said that people are free to speak, though she was quick to add, "...I also think they have to take responsibility for any incitement they may cause." This is dangerous territory. To blame a criminal's violent actions on the speech of those with whom they agree ideologically isn't only anti-liberty, it's also condescending to the sanity and intelligence of the public at large. Of all the people who bought anti-Obama t-shirts depicting him as Curious George because they believe there's no difference between a black man and an ape, how many took the extra step to hunt Obama down and shoot him like an animal? And if that had ever happened, would the t-shirt printer be to blame? Or what about everyone who wore one of those shirts?

Nancy Pelosi doesn't believe in free speech, or she wouldn't toss it into the pile of liberties that have to be "balanced" with security. She would instead rather equate idiocy with criminality. And in the process, she won't have to defend her position with anything like reason or facts. By discouraging her loudest and most self-destructive opponents from speaking, she's handing them a victory in the court of ideas.

For the record, I voted for Obama. While I'm disappointed in his failure so far to live up to promises about repealing anti-gay policies, rolling back anti-liberty Bush-era laws, and aggressively prosecuting human rights violators at the highest levels of government, I do generally support the health care reform measures being proposed by the Democratic party. I've resigned myself to the fact that while Democrats tend to promise things I want and fail to follow through with them, Republicans promise things I often despise and have a habit of making good on those promises.

So while I'm not in the corner of the gun-toting, face-reddening racists and paranoid conspiracy theorists who seem to have gotten Pelosi's goat, I'm not in favor of implying that they're too stupid or insane to not resort to violence when they hear Obama's a secret Muslim terrorist or the Antichrist or a commie Marxist fascist. As Pelosi herself says, this is rhetoric. It's empty posturing. And allowing it to continue embarrassing itself in the public sphere is the only way to shut it down for good. Being afraid of it only gives it legitimacy.*

*As a nod to the possibility that this post may rise above the usual discourse on this blog, I can only offer the following words: Poo-poo pants.

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