Today's Republicans vs. the United States, Part 3 (A Recent History Lesson):
One of the Rude Pundit's fondest moviegoing memories involves a trip to see the delightful Holocaust comedy Life Is Beautiful with the family of his dating partner back then. When the lights came up in the packed theater, where we could only get seats on the front row, he looked down at the family, parents, brother, sister-in-law, and they were all crying. They looked over at the dry face of the Rude Pundit, and the sister-in-law spoke for them all when she asked if he didn't just love it. A wiser man might have shut up at that moment, or just nodded, acting as if he was too choked up to talk. The Rude Pundit, though, said slowly, "Are you serious? That was utter...crap." And thus a rupture was created that led quickly to the end of the relationship (and, you know, fuck them for having shitty taste in movies).
In the post-9/11 fog that coated this nation like semen sprayed out of the phallic Twin Towers nearly a decade ago, one of the more disconcerting moments for the Rude Pundit came on the morning of September 21, 2001. The night before, President George W. Bush had addressed a joint session of Congress and the nation about the attacks, and the media and, indeed, nearly everyone the Rude Pundit talked to was rapturous about it. He was boggled. No, Bush didn't shit himself and sound like an idiot, but he wondered if people just liked the beat and didn't care about the lyrics.
Because something stuck in his craw. As a country, like the nation after Pearl Harbor, we were awaiting our marching orders. What could we do as an enraged citizenry with all the energy we had? Christ, it's America - what couldn't we do, if we had wanted? We were ready to work, to sacrifice, to fight, something. Instead, we got this (and bear with the long quote, but read now, after all this time, it's kind of stunning):
"Americans are asking: What is expected of us? I ask you to live your lives, and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat. I ask you to uphold the values of America, and remember why so many have come here. We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith. I ask you to continue to support the victims of this tragedy with your contributions...
"The thousands of FBI agents who are now at work in this investigation may need your cooperation, and I ask you to give it. I ask for your patience, with the delays and inconveniences that may accompany tighter security; and for your patience in what will be a long struggle. I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy. Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity. They did not touch its source. America is successful because of the hard work, and creativity, and enterprise of our people. These were the true strengths of our economy before September 11th, and they are our strengths today. And, finally, please continue praying for the victims of terror and their families, for those in uniform, and for our great country. Prayer has comforted us in sorrow, and will help strengthen us for the journey ahead."
Amazing, isn't it? Hug, stay calm, listen to the authorities, shop, and pray. And the vague notion of "uphold the values" of the country. In other words, your participation is not needed, only your acquiescence. In otherer words, stay out of our way and you won't get hurt. "He didn't unify us," the Rude Pundit said. "What if I don't pray and don't wanna shop? Then what the fuck do I do?"
So rather than put our shoulders to the wheel, we put our asses in the sofas. Meanwhile, in a story that has been told many times over the last ten years, Republicans, aided and abetted by cowed Democrats, worked systematically to dismantle everything that they could, from workers' rights to tax cuts to life to liberty to the pursuit of whatever increasingly meager happiness could be squeezed out of this America like a dry turd in an unsatisfactory shit. "With us or with the terrorists" wasn't just about the nations of the world. Republicans made that into a decision each of us was forced to make on a daily basis, as policy after policy was thrown at us. Separate and conquer. An old, old strategy.
You wanna break down the differences between conservatives and liberals now? When conservatives rally, like the teabaggers, the message is "Leave us alone." When liberals do so, like in 2008, the message is "Let's work together."
Republicans succeeded in wrecking the United States post-9/11 because, except for a brief moment in the last presidential election, they convinced Americans that unity was for losers, pansies, cheaters, and teat-suckers. And by saying that the efforts of the government were so distant from the people, they finally got we the people to accept that we were no longer what government was based on. We finally became its subjects.
Extra fun historical note: From FDR's speech "The Great Arsenal of Democracy," on December 29, 1940, during the build-up to war: "As the government is determined to protect the rights of the workers, so the nation has a right to expect that the men who man the machines will discharge their full responsibilities to the urgent needs of defense. The worker possesses the same human dignity and is entitled to the same security of position as the engineer or the manager or the owner." Fucking traitor.