Columns / Discourse / October 3, 2018

The Diagnosis: There is no dignity in American politics whatsoever

It is not beyond any common sense. It is not beyond any reasonable person. It is not obscure, but obvious. And yet, it seems more and more common these days for people in this country to bemoan the state of their elected government. We resign ourselves constantly to lofty dreams and ideas, to a faraway land of yesterday where we could disagree, where our politicians could disagree, where they could come together and duke it out in legislative buildings, but goshdarnit we could all get along. We had manners. We were polite. We respected those we disagreed with, and we always shook hands after the matter to remind ourselves that although we disagreed, we were on the same team.

That time never existed. Those behaviors never existed. And if there was any semblance of dignity and mutual respect in our politics, it was a smoke and mirrors front to disguise the truth that no one in our government ever really ‘agreed to disagree’; they merely found a common ground for their common interest and resigned until the next opportunity to bulwark and fight against each other and against us as a people.

Barack Obama, after an aggressive and hyper-tensioned election against John McCain, and after combatting him for years on the Senate floor, swallowed his differences with McCain and reiterated this truth at his funeral: do not be mistaken, he assured the American public, we disagreed often, but we were always in it together. Only the latter half of that statement is true, and not for any morally benevolent purpose.

I usually avoid addressing in whole the arguments and ideas of people who are at the core poisonous and dishonest. I find it is corrosive to decent thought and actual truthful opinion, to waste time dissecting a dying and rotting sentiment, rank and gangrenous to the core. I changed my mind on that while watching television the other day.

Like many people I know, I’ve been swallowed up in anxiety and sickness by the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Kavanaugh, in the crosshairs of every politician, journalist, and plain citizen of this country, has brought forth a bubbling and odorous feeling lying on the outskirts of American society. A son of Yale, put through high society into high esteem, put onto the killing floor with acts and behaviors of the most morally corrupt and disgusting. Kavanaugh, an abuser of women, evil grifter and political opportunist, has forced the American public to confront a side of their politics they wished to previously ignore.

Ted Cruz, the ashamed and revolting senator from Texas, spoke gravely of the state of American politics in an address to the Senate. The charges he levelled were abstract, though rooted in situational conditions. Being so dastardly pragmatic as to dance around insulting the brave Dr. Christine Ford, he painted a larger picture of a bankrupt America; one in which we were divided, paralyzed by our bipartisan senses and unwilling to respect and be dignified in how we proceed against those who we perceive as our enemy. In fact, Cruz didn’t seem to indicate that there was any enemy or any wrongdoing. There was only the innocent and the undignified. It seemed totally lost on the senator and his supporters that in reality there was an undignified and evil enemy: Kavanaugh himself and the reptile pack which stands for him to win.

More than anything, I was shocked and disappointed by how his statements apparently resonated with so many people I knew. Kavanaugh may or may not be bad, I heard people say, but Cruz is right; we are so divided because we refuse to have dignity and respect for one another and for the political process.

I do not understand in the slightest how one can observe our country’s history and still hold such nostalgic fantasies dear to heart. Founded by slave owners, supported by the economic powerhouse of slavery and human suffering (which brought our supposedly free country almost into extinction), expanded through genocide and displacement, supported again by systems of labor exploitation, championed by unjust wars and imperialism, degraded through purposeful social division and dog-whistling to hatred of the worst kind. Denying its citizens, for the purpose of profit, basic respectable rights and living conditions. Developing and sustaining a political system based on the special interest of those who have no interest in us. Where is the dignity in that?

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. I think Mark Twain said that. What’s your excuse?

 

Matt Milewski

Tags:  kavanaugh politics the diagnosis

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