Saturday, October 13, 2007

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

The English language easily accommodates foreign words, bungalow, for instance, from Hindi, calaboose from the Spanish calaboso, and kvetch from the Yiddish kvetch. English incorporates a word such as khaki, which in one part of the world is understood to mean a cotton twill cloth, while in the greater Boston area, it is understood to mean a device used to gain entrance to a Toyota. English also serves as an Ellis Island for phrases that may mean one thing on face value and something else entirely based on intended meaning. Hence swift-boating as a verb, its object the junior senator from Massachusetts.

I'm aware in letters to the editor of The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and in commentary on so-called news TV channels, the swift-boating of a recent Nobel Prize Laureate and former Vice-President of the United States has begun. As well, a twelve-year-old boy who was chosen to rebut President Bush's radio-version veto of the bi-partisan measure passed by both houses to provide health insurance for children has been the target of swift-boating.

Only in America, I thought. But of course that was no so; the practice is about as old as Homo erectus, well, maybe as old as Homo habilis; it's been around where ever there have been people.

I became aware of the practice and its implications about twenty years ago, when adherents of Barry Goldwater,the late U.S. Senator from Arizona, began mounting a campaign to build about the American government and social structure a metaphorical version of the fence they have begun to erect across the border between the United States and Mexico. So far, the North American Free Trade Act and problems of illegal immigration have not caused the campaigners of this movement any sense of unease about Canada, but the Canadians better watch out. Already, word has tricked into the heartland that "O Canada" is being sung at some major league baseball games.

The movement to which I refer is the Neo-Conservative Movement, shortened by some of its supporters to Neocon. Somewhat like a tropical storm, the movement gathered some strength during the reign of Ronald Reagan, whose apotheosis included the naming after him of a major airport and the bandying about of inscribing his likeness on some of the unused acreage of Mt. Rushmore. Never mind he swore there was no arms-for-hostages deal. Never mind that he and his ilk supported the very kind of operation in Nicaragua the present administration so vehemently opposes in Iran. Never mind.

Some years back when, at the instigation of neocon philosophers, this country invaded Iraq, an Orwellian tide of language washed upon the land and Bush saw it was good and Bush declared it liberation. That our President sounded like Adolph Hitler after the Nazi venture into the Sudatenland, his cri de coeur being Lebensraum, Room to live, was promptly cast aside as a gross impropriety and an offense against logic and patriotism. That there was similarity between the American incursions into Viet Nam and Iraq were similarly countered with a propaganda campaign that made the fabled Got Milk campaign seem like mere child's play.

Fear, patriotism, and family values became the holy trinity of the neocon faith, the sacraments being not the blood of any savior but rather of Iraqi civilians and tribal grunts along with American grunts and any number of private contractors. The wafer was the magnetized Support Our Troops insignia affixed to the rear of our Hummers, which, it turns out, were better protected than their military cousins, the Humvees.

While this was going on, our Constitution was effectively put through the shredder of the same kind of expediency we have realistically come to associate with the likes of Herr Hitler, Tovarich Stalin, Generalisimo Peron,and some of our pals of democracy in Central America such as Trujilio. To even think that today is considered heresy. The wingnut pundits on the far right such as Norman Podhoretz, Willia Kristol and that renegade psychoanalyst, Charles Krauthammer, are looking for ways to bomb Iran, to teach those guys a lesson, and to argue that democracy in America is best protected by keeping secret the necessary steps the government is taking to insure its lifetime tenure, the better to protect us from them.

Speaking of which, who are They?

Well, the score card changes. Beckwith comes to L.A.; Tommy Franks goes to Arsenal, Petraeus goes to the Red Sox, and the Dixie Chicks get booed by the neocons. Steven Colbert, one of the more brilliant satirists of our times, gets a kind of cold-shoulder patronizing treatment, and Congress buys time shares away from the chambers where they should be working but in which they are too busy learning how to roll over.

It is easy to get a picture of how Germany went for the National Socialist Party, simply by reviewing how we moved from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan to those nutcase leaders of the so-called religious right. These are the same individuals who are so convinced of the inherent evil of, heaven forfend, gay marriage that they themselves got into bed with the militant right. We have moved from those same wonderful people who gave us the Inquisition to those same wonderful people who gave us, gulp Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.

They are goose-stepping at this very moment over our Constitution and we are watching their latest batch of hopefuls as though we were watching Monday Night Football.

Howard Cosell, where were you when we needed you?

Lincoln, thou shouldst be living at this hour,
The world hath need of thee

ENK has observed that I do not merely observe politics, I rant it. That is likely so and it may be merely the case of my having been such an observer of the political scene that causes events to be heating perilously upward, it may be also that I am of the where's-the-outrage school of politics, but they've started in on Gore already, and they're accusing Hillary of fish-wife responses,
and they're after a twelve-year-old kid for standing up for S-CHIP, and so yeah, I guess I do rant politics.

1 comment:

R.L. Bourges said...

Since you started with words passing from one language to another, this for you: "neocon" works very well in French too, by the simple addition of an accent on the e. It thus becomes "néocon" - the "con" by some strange aberration being at once a woman's genitalia and the standard epithet to describe all things and beings that are stupid, reckless, dangerous and/or just plain dumb. Something like the the English "asshole". Different orifice, same meaning. "vive la différence", indeed.
But I digress, as usual. Néocons works particularly well in French to describe the new French Président, Nicolas Sarkozy along with his merry crew of train wreckers and baby snatchers. Tiny Nicky has self-designated himself as both the American AND the Russian leaders Best Buddy. Which is how we now have Bernard Kouchner, who used to be to be equipped with even more brains than his formidable ambition, now willing to play the Bad Cop to George W the 2nd's Good Cop. Kouchner uses the ugly words such as "War with Iran" so that GW2 can meet the press and play "I am not only the Decider but the Appeaser, too."
Rant on, Shelly - in this household, we've instituted the 10-minute statute of limitation on political rants, just so we can get on with our lives, but boy, do we let 'em rip while the timer's ticking (did I mention that the 10 minute maximum is per hour?