Monday, August 07, 2006

Triumph of Literalism and Lunacy: Petty Complaints About the “Born Fighting” Metaphor

On and in my own personal conversations, I have been amazed to hear about the pettiness of some Democrats. These are the ones who get sidetracked on non-issues, but who don’t object (out loud, anyway) when a candidate enables Bush to lead an illicit war, use 9-11 as an excuse to declare a unitary presidency (who can trump the other branches of government), and destroy all the progressive achievements of the 20th Century. They’ll support any number of enablers, not because they agree with them, but because they’re “electable.” And the self-fulfilling prophesy continues ad infinitum. But they just can’t stand it when they see “Born Fighting” on a campaign sign. It’s the triumph of literalism and the trivial.

What is it with some women’s going so far as to register a complaint about Webb’s signs with the “Born fighting” metaphor? I’ve gotten them too! I’m not crazy about the slogan. However there are varying degrees of displeasure. I wouldn’t let it get in the way of either my understanding of where Jim Webb stands or how he’ll contribute to a better America. Nor would I take the absurd position to withhold support. I certainly wouldn’t get “wrapped around the axel” by it.

Some of the complainers see themselves as morally superior. They think people who spend their time trying to make a difference are “just so mean.” They erroneously think any one who dissents or uses strong language is “too aggressive,” even when strong language is more than called for. Those who courageously stand up when we most need them get a condescending finger pointing, while real evil is perpetuated in our names. However, others call politics the “art of the possible.” I believe it’s much more. It’s how we demonstrate patriotism; exercise our citizenship, as we are morally required to do; get things done; and assure that things either remain the same, or change. Surely, there needs to be some passion in that. Could these critics conjure up enough passion to write a letter to the editor about what's really wrong in our country? Or speak out? Do anything constructive to bring sanity back to Washisngton?

I am a feminist who’s not crazy about the slogan. But it, along with everything else, belongs in context, post-modernist deconstruction notwithstanding. I do agree that we should visit and revisit the words we chose, but do so without the sanctimony and shooting ourselves in the foot.

“Born Fighting” is the title of James Webb’s book. And though he has been a soldier, and, even a boxer in the past, he means “born fighting” as “fighting for the underdog, fighting for what’s right, fighting of a better America and a better way of leading it, and standing up when the going gets tough. One example is his support of mineworkers in Southwest Virginia some years back.

Language can indeed create its own reality though. We see evidence of it every day: Slogans like “you’re with us or against us;” profuse attacks on patriotism of patriotic dissent in the media, till they became endemic for a time; or assertions that it’s “World War III.” The latter is my idea of truly immoral, plunder-headed opinion leading that needs confronting. The neo-cons would bring the world down upon us for fun and profit. Where are these same opponents of the “Born fighting” metaphor? They’d quibble with a Webb sign, but not with the warmongering Newt Gingrich, Bill Bennett, or Bill O’Reilly? Another radical conservative pundit has repeatedly called for violence against liberals, including “assassination” of some Democratic leaders. Where is the outrage about that?

More benignly, our own Democratic Congressman refers to our “Fighting 9th” Congressional District.” That’s OK, evidently. But a generally more diplomacy-oriented candidate even than Boucher can’t use the metaphor? Watch for GOPhers to play upon such pumped-up concerns. They’ve already begun trying to portray Webb as pugnacious, specifically to turn off women. But, if anything, Webb is the candidate of peace, diplomacy, a strong defense, but war only as a last resort. Webb will resist neo-con aggression and hegemony. Allen never knew a war he didn’t sink his teeth into. George Felix Allen, Jr. had a lynch noose in the Virginia governor’s office. Recall Allen’s claim that “we’re going to shove their (liberals’) teeth down their whiny throats.” Also, read the book by Felix’s sister to see what zero competence in the peacemaking department looks like. Then recall how James Webb opposes our widening militarism; how he’s brought healing good will to South East Asia, where he once served in war; and how even his ex-wife endorses him!!!!!!

Right now we hear a lot about “proportionality.” We could use a little of that in our decisions about candidates. Democrats allowed themselves to be convinced to abandon Howard Dean because the media maliciously used an engineered video clip (which eliminated the background noise of 3,000 cheering so loud, Dean had to shout to be heard). They believed the vicious ads by Dean’s own fellow Democratic candidates, who equated him with Osama Bin Laden. Democrats dumped Al Gore in 2003 because the media says “he’s too wooden.” Then they refused to consider him a viable candidate when he actually won the presidency. Were any of these trivialists to hear him now, they’d be impressed more than ever. But they are not listening. They let the media sink John Kerry with undue circulation of false charges against him. They lost war hero, Max Cleland to the Senate because ignorant voters listened to the malignant Saxby Chambliss, who equated Max Cleland to Osama Bin Laden. Yes words, and images out of context, or falsely fused, can create unspeakable mischief. Lest anyone think I’m taking just my own gender to task for trivializing, there’s more.

One of the most absurd reasons for voting against a candidate emerged when a man confronted me at the Democratic booth at the Steppin’ Out Festival in Blacksburg. I was a just a low-level local volunteer, who had a Webb-for-Senate t-shirt on. So the guy erroneously thought I was from the Webb campaign. He blamed me for the fact that one of Webb’s large signs was “still up.” The last time I checked, there was still a campaign on, and thus sings up, but he claimed it was a “stretch” to still have them up. The sign was placed on private property with permission of the owner. The guy was in-your-face mad that it wasn’t removed after the primary. And for that, he was going to vote for -–can you believe it —- George Felix Allen, Jr., you know, the guy who is so environmentally friendly (that would be sarcasm).

BTW I did have something to do with the small Webb signs placed only at the Blacksburg polling poling places on primary day. And they were removed, as required, by 8 PM primary night. I know that because my husband and I personally took every one of them down. That’s more prompt than the requirement! Meanwhile, the man would vote against his own best interests because of a bogus sign “issue.”
Whatever their issue, women and men who celebrate the trivial are part of the reason why constructive change doesn’t happen. We can create a new reality by changing who’s in Washington. Support people with an agenda focused on economic fairness, sound foreign policy, and justice for all. Pick one who doesn't buy into deceit of the populace. That’s all it would take.

James Webb may be behind in the polls, but he’s on the move. Previously, others with his candidate strength have moved to front-runner. For a time, it looked like Tim Kaine wouldn’t win, but he did. Ned Lamont is now ahead of Joe Lieberman. James Webb will gain more momentum too. But this race shouldn’t even be close. There’s a candidate, Allen, who stands for everything most Virginians and most American oppose, and then there’s James Webb, who is an outstanding Democrat and candidate. Allen’s voted 97% with the Bush agenda. His popularity should be more in sync with Bush’s puny approval rating. And anyone who gets mired in the petty and ridiculous, well, they are part of the problem as surely as George W. Bush and George Felix Allen, Jr., are.