Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Joe Wilson Ends the World

Michael Lind on
Like today's right, the '60s and '70s left was emotional, expressivist and anti-intellectual. (One of its bibles was Abbie Hoffman's "Steal This Book!") Like today's right, the '70s left favored theatrical protest over discussion and debate. The prophets of the Age of Aquarius and the "population explosion" were every bit as apocalyptic as Glenn Beck. And just as today's right-wing radicals play at Boston Tea Parties, so Abbie Hoffman dressed up as Uncle Sam. The teabaggers are the Yippies of the right.
Joe Wilson's guttural outburst in Congress deeply unsettled me. Sure, initially I, too, was disgusted at the absence of respect for the institution played out before the watchful eyes of the entire world (and, not at all surprised when the likes of Osama bin Laden and Vladimir Putin immediately joined the rousing chorus of disrespect). The "racist" angle really didn't offer much relief either -- even as endorsed by the prophet, and sometimes musician, Dave Matthews himself.

The right's rush to rationalize this buffoonery helped me out a bit. The basic defense turns on a flawed syllogism that concludes: "We've put up with all forms of civil disobedience from the left all of these years, so the right can give as good as it gets." There's the rub.

At the core of our democracy is the quasi-static equilibrium balancing conservative and progressive forces. It's a Kabuki piece where each player, acting out his prescribed role, insures that we will adapt to radical changes in a tolerable and predictable fashion. The conservative forces are meant to be the proponents of order, of the status quo, of our national traditions. Progressives urge us forward, ask us to question where we are, where we intend to go and shake our very social foundations in the process. Everybody has a role.

That conservative forces, with their tea parties and Congressional outbursts, have become this era's Yippies is dangerous and contrary to conservative tenets. It is a nuclear instability that will destroy our social construct as surely as any WMD. What is right for left-wing Yippies is wrong for social conservatives -- conservatives, sit down and speak rationally with the voice of our traditions.