Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Kristallnacht in America

The passage of the Health Care Reform Bill has incited an angry reaction by rightist militants.  These incensed and deeply aggrieved ill led people are self deluded uber patriots.  They believe themselves to be striking a blow for individual liberty when in fact their actions consistently undermine the central tenants of our democratic republic.   They are convinced that the new heath care legislation is  America’s decent into a fascist hell led by Il Duce Obama;  and are prepared to water the Tree of Liberty with the blood of tyrants and in some cases their own.   They spit on and hurl racist and homophobic epitaphs at those they disagree with.  Under the cover of darkness these imbecilic cowards have embarked on midnight drive-bys of the local offices of congress members who supported the legislation.  They smash windows, fire bullets and leave threatening voice messages to let the politicians  know of their anger and  resentment.  It’s an American version of a Kristallnacht.

There are some interesting parallels with Kristallnacht that goes deeper then a convenient metaphor of broken glass.  Though I don’t draw any equivalency with the severity and consequence of Kristallnacht with the rightists night of egg throwing and window smashing;  I believe similar motivational ideals triggered the emotional response of the midnight ramblers and the Nazi zealots that authored the first chapters of Hitlers Final Solution.

Indeed both are inspired and encouraged by pernicious and dangerous sycophants who are skilled practitioners in the fine art of The Big Lie. The Nazi’s were goaded into action by Joseph Goebbels; while our American Brown Shirts have Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and mainstream media giant Fox News to instigate a 24/7 anti-Obama diatribe that whips the ditto heads into anger fueled action.  Right wing politicians like Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Tom Tancredo and a growing number of far right conservatives freely use the rhetoric of armed resistance to any government initiative.  They cull the support of angry Teabaggers and a growing Militia Movement that flies the Don’t Tread on Me flag.  The latter  are armed to the teeth and stand minuteman ready to exact swift retribution if you step on their toes.

Radical conservatives have waged a Rovian campaign to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama through red herrings like the Birther Movement.  The rightists deliberately work to confuse and frighten citizens to further their political careers and agendas.  Like Joseph Goebbels they are skilled practitioners in the use of The Big Lie.  The more outlandish the lie, and oft repeated the more believable it becomes.  Since assuming the office of President we have been harangued with negative messaging initiatives by radical conservatives.  Obama is a fascist.  Obama is a Muslim.  Obama is a socialist.  Obama is the Antichrist.  Obamacare will form death panels to conduct social triage.  FEMA is building concentration camps to inter  Teabaggers.  Obama will confiscate your guns and take away your right to bear arms.  Obama wants to address our nations school children indoctrinate them.  Don’t fill out the census because it will allow the government to better track your movements and whereabouts.  The  incessant repetition of these ideas and the complicit silence of conservative leaders to refute them has served to delegitimize the Obama presidency and undermine our nations ability to converse and form a consensus to address the deep problems of our country.

The political culture of America is a landscape of extremes.  The growing fissures are making it more difficult to form any consensus.  These fissures are exploited and exacerbated by competing media channels which define and shape political understanding and context.  A shared political vocabulary and nomenclature of understanding is increasingly undermined by words and symbology that are appropriated by political factions.  Meanings and concepts are codified to create a language and political context that is used to understand factional ideology to support a political cosmology that is understood and accepted by the faithful.  This makes dialog even more difficult if not impossible because the language of political discourse across the partisan divide translates poorly and in fact helps to solidify the meaning of otherness.   Martin Bubur’s  “I and Thou” is an instructive work on how the objectification of the other leads to  their dehumanization.  Once a person is dehumanized,  any action taken against them can be  justified.  Those on the other side of the isle are now the “other” who you cannot trust.  We wrote about McCain’s pejorative use of “That One” to describe Obama during one of their presidential election debates.  The “other” becomes  an actual suspect lying  at the root of the problem confronting the aggrieved.  The problem of incompatible dialects and protracted partisanship eventually leads to the dehumanization of the other.  It doesn’t take much of  a leap to believe that the elimination or suppression of the other will lead to a final solution to our country’s problem.

Kristallnacht was a watershed event in the history of German Nazism.  In response to an assassination of a German diplomat in Paris the Nazi’s initiated a wave of terror against German Jews.  On orders from Nazi zealot and the party’s Chief of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels,  a wave of hate fueled attacks were unleashed by gangs of SS , Hitler Youth and Gestapo thugs to attack and destroy the property of Jews.   The pogrom resulted in the deaths of 91 Jews and 25,000 to 30,000 were arrested and placed in concentration camps.  267 synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of homes and businesses were ransacked.  The broken glass that littered the streets from ransacked shops is how Kristallnacht (Chrystal Night) derives its ignominious name. Kristallnacht is understood to be the beginning of Hitler’s Final Solution, which lead to the Holocaust.  It is certainly one of modern civilizations most shameful and tragic events.

The howling yodelers of talk radio and the ministers of propaganda at Fox News intent on exercising their right of free speech by dehumanizing their opponents, inciting angry lemmings into vandalism,  racist diatribes and vigilante terror are stoking the flames of a bitterly divided nation that threatens to immolate our badly divided house.   More rightly this movement could be considered a Falange movement and is not without precedence in history.  Falangism advances a reactionary agenda.  Its  violent temperament is nationalist and often religious in character.  Falangism emerges in weak democracies  and are symptomatic  of a society in decline.  Falangists promise a return to the prosperity and values of the past  that are quickly dissolving in the embroiled clash of cultural, political and economic contradictions democracies find difficult to resolve.   Glenn Becks’s Brownshirts need to understand that their misguided faux patriotism leads to some very dangerous and ugly places.  Its easy to smash the glass encasing our fading constitution.  Its more difficult to come together to address what needs to be done.  I hope its not to late.  I hope Mr. Beck’s final solution is not an historical inevitability for America.

You Tube Music Video: Rolling Stones,  Sympathy for the Devil

Risk: political

March 26, 2010 Posted by | culture, democracy, government, Obama, Palin, social unrest | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Name Is Legion

stempedeOne of the more disturbing Gospel passages for me appears in the fifth chapter of Mark.  It is the story of Legion;  a man possessed of many demons.  Legion lived amongst tombstones and took to cutting himself.  The townsfolk were terrified of Legion and bound him with chains.  Legion would break his chains and he could be heard howling and cursing his fate as he roamed the night in lonely exile through his mountainous domain.

One day Legion saw Jesus approaching the village and went to him begging not to torment him.  Jesus saw that the man was possessed of demons and commanded them to leave the stricken Legion.  When the illness left Legion the demons asked Jesus if they could inhabit a heard of pigs foraging nearby.  Jesus consented and the pigs went mad and rushed off a cliff into the sea where all the pigs drowned.

Though the story may be the first accounting of a human sickness causing a swine flu infestation it always bothered me.  Jesus’ consent to infect a heard of innocent pigs whose sickness compelled them to leap to their deaths is disturbing.   Perhaps there is a cultural justification to the story for the prohibition of eating pork and the classification of pigs as haraam but upon rereading the story,  it was the desire of the illness to enter the swine.  The story is a wonderful examination of the non-discriminate nature of illnesses and disease.  Jesus provides the reader with an important lesson not to shut out the ill and to take considered action to engage the malady to effect the cure.

Who amongst us does not have demons or illness lurking within?  Indeed we are all Legion.    As a person in recovery, I identify with Legion’s state of possession and find great comfort in Jesus’ example of the necessity to heal. He rebuked the use of chains, showed tenderness and empathy to the infirm.  He effected the cure and commanded the ill to rejoin the the community as a whole and healthy human being.  John Donne’s Meditation 17 is very similar in the importance of community in dealing with illness and tribulation.

Jesus’ understanding of illness and his example as a healer stands in direct contradiction to some of the inane proscriptions for dealing with the swine pandemic that have been put forward.  Guided by fear and the desire to politicize the pandemic some politicians are using the swine flu as an opportunity to collect some political capital.  The Stepford Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachman; observed with great intelligence and insight that the the last swine flu outbreak occurred while another democratic administration held the White House.  Ms. Bachman apparently suspects that the pandemic may be politically inspired and connected to the platform of the Democratic Party in some way.

Twitter and other social networking sites are alive with tweets proclaiming this is evidence of another terrorist attack.  Ive seen a bunch of tweets stating this pandemic is clear evidence of Al-Qaeda activity in Mexico using our open borders to destroy America.

This type of thinking is very dangerous.  I remember when AIDS first surfaced as a disease.  Little was known about its origins and causes.  What was known was that many Gay men were becoming infected with the disease and if I recall correctly it was referred to as the Gay influenza or virus.  This categorization of AIDS stigmatized the disease and those who were infected.  This stigmatization contributed to the spread of the disease because homosexuals who were infected with AIDS would avoid treating the disease because of guilt and shame.  Non-gay men who were infected with the disease may have been slow to seek treatment because they believed themselves not to be infected because they did not engage in homosexual activities.  In either case the misinformation, stigma and shame attached to the disease by people for the purpose of political gain were responsible for the spread of the disease.

The howling yodelers of Talk Radio and Fox News are also crowing about the political dimensions of the flu.  Some want an immediate closure of our borders and question the political resolve of of the Obama Administration to live up to their pledge to protect the Homeland.  Glen Beck of FOX TV states that President Obama is a prisoner of his liberal PC convictions.  Beck cries through a river of alligator tears about  the failure to close the borders is synonymous with an act of sedition that seeks to destroy America.

While Mr. Beck professes a great love for his country he demonstrates a poor understanding of  what distinguishes America.  Just lurking underneath the surface of Mr. Beck’s demagoguery is blaming Mexicans for the pandemic just as Ms. Bachman blame of democrats for the spread of the disease.  Science  instructs that illness is an equal opportunity malady.  It does not discriminate on the basis of people place or color.

In Mark’s story about Legion, Jesus took action.  Jesus didn’t say use a more study chain nor did he say build a wall around us to protect us from this scourge.  No Jesus touched Legion.  In story after story Jesus touched lepers,  blind people, crippled and the dead to cure them.  Jesus was available during his ministry to all people and allowed others to touch him so that their faith would free them from their demons.  Jesus understood that a wall of ostracism is a poor defense from a pandemic.  Ironically its isolation that incubates the disease of body, mind and soul.  Jesus  stressed that the ill be part of the community to witness and teach others about restoration, rehabilitation, the importance of action and the need to serve.

Politicizing problems obfuscates solutions. The mother of fear is ignorance and the thinking exemplified by Ms. Bachman and Mr. Beck is enough to create 10 pandemics of fear, suspicion and resentment.  Little do they realize the real gold that can be mined through the challenge of tribulation. We’ll close with these words from John Donne’s Meditation 17.

Writes Donne:

Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

You Tube Video: Louis Armstrong, St. James Infirmary

Risk: isolation, politicization, ignorance

May 4, 2009 Posted by | Bible, community, culture, democrats, gay rights, jazz, LGBT, Obama, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment