America: A Culture Of Bullies & Violence?

America loves a bully. Despite the word’s definition: A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. We, as Americans, celebrate the bully at every turn, while accusing those who use brains over brawn as being weak. Take our current president, for example. Here is a man who is consistently painted as being weak by his critics, both Republicans and Democrats alike. America’s love of the bully is what, for so long, made Russia such a formidable opponent. They were bullies and they were threatening our global bully position. Yes, we often claim to be the saviors of other “weaker” nations, but when given an opportunity to move a couple of notches up the evolutionary ladder, we almost always resort to our most basic, animalistic tendencies. That being said, we often do manage to grow eventually, but not before enacting irreversible brutality on both ourselves and those around us.

Barack Obama is fully capable of devouring his enemies and critics. But he does so with a knife and fork and a bib tucked neatly into his shirt. His recent live Q&A at a House Republican retreat in Baltimore proved that to be the case. Despite the ongoing insistence by the radical right that Obama is nothing without his teleprompter (that he’s all smoke and mirrors and his “illusion” of intelligence and knowledge has more to do with his well-rehearsed oratory skills), Obama cleaned the floor with these fools on live national television while suggesting “a tone of civility instead of slash and burn will be helpful.” And no teleprompter! His victory here was so complete that, according to MSNBC’s Luke Russert, one Republican official and other GOP aides confided that allowing the “cameras to roll like that” was a “mistake.” Even Fox News cut away from the live proceeding 20 minutes before it ended! And Ezra Klein of the Washington Post called it “the most compelling political television I’ve seen…maybe ever.” But in perfect pathological fashion, folks like Florida Republican Marco Rubio continue to insist that Obama is helpless without his teleprompter. It should be noted that Rubio made that claim again the other day while standing before a set of teleprompters and flipping through pages of notes on the podium before him.

So what exactly is this pathological rewriting of reality? I had a handful of very disturbing interactions with a Libertarian acquaintance of mine recently and felt I got a series of first-hand examples of this kind of mindset. The same mindset that allowed Fox News to cut away from Obama in Baltimore and replace him with talking heads who immediately started rewriting history even as it was happening! And what was most terrifying about my exchange with this Libertarian fellow who sees himself as “an extremely socially, ultra-liberal independent voter” was the complete and utter lack of self-awareness that accompanied it. This fellow would make accusations against Obama and other politicians, basically regurgitating “facts” which he’d heard or read elsewhere and, when confronted with proof to the contrary, would either A) delete his previous comments (when interacting online) or claim never to have said any such thing; or B) refuse to respond to any rebuttal by changing the subject entirely or simply calling his debate opponent crazy. All the while NEVER backing up any of his statements or admitting when he’d been proven wrong. Even when confronted with deleted comments he claimed never to have made (they were, unbeknownst to him, saved on our email accounts), he would then backpedal by saying “Well, that’s not what I meant to say.” But when asked what it was he had meant to say, he would again resort to name-calling, but never actually answer the question at hand. It seemed, time and again, truth and reality were of no interest to him. There was a complete and total pathology at work that would allow him to create new realities in any given moment to suit his desires. With this tact, logic and reason had no effect and were therefore of no importance. And while, in certain situations, an interaction like this might serve as a source of mild amusement or come across as innocently baffling, here, in the political arena, it was downright terrifying. And I took it to be a signifier of a mindset all too common by some of today’s most vocal political protesters.

Meanwhile, political henchmen and possible presidential candidates like Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin stir the pot by publicly proclaiming Obama weak for apologizing internationally for America’s past transgressions (mostly committed while Cheney was Vice President). As if admitting you were wrong or apologizing for mistakes was ineffectual and spineless as opposed to honorable, ethical and, that dirtiest of all words, conscientious. They also condemned the president for politely bowing before asian world-leaders (despite it being tradition and a sign of respect–much like a handshake). But to the bully, showing respect or admitting that there may be common ground is tantamount to surrendering. So while Obama continues to act like an intelligent, thoughtful, educated and civil world leader, many Americans simply can’t stomach the fact that he’s not more outwardly aggressive.

Recently, the National Review’s Daniel Pipes outlined his thoughts on how Obama (“a president whose election I opposed, whose goals I fear, and whose policies I work against”) can regain the respect of the nation and lift his sagging poll numbers in an article he called “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran,”:

“[Obama] needs a dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a light-weight, bumbling ideologue, preferably in an arena where the stakes are high, where he can take charge, and where he can trump expectations… Such an opportunity does exist: Obama can give orders for the U.S. military to destroy Iran’s nuclear-weapon capacity.”

Because, let’s face it, two wars is not enough. And they weren’t Obama’s. Obama needs his own trophy war if he wants to gain the respect of all those Americans who believe him to be a socialist wimp. And of course the simple-solutions everywoman, Sarah Palin, agreed wholeheartedly with Pipes:

“If [Obama] decided to toughen up and do all that he can to secure our nation and our allies, I think people would, perhaps, shift their thinking a little bit and decide, ‘Well, maybe he’s tougher than we think he’s—than he is today,’ and there wouldn’t be as much passion to make sure that he doesn’t serve another four years.”

And what’s saddest about all of this is that they may be correct. This would, quite likely, make a significant percentage of Americans more comfortable with Obama. Sure, it would plunge our already disastrous economy deeper into the toilet and hundreds of thousands of lives would most likely be lost in a war that would extend far beyond any comprehensible expectations (not to mention result in the further alienation of our Nato partners and other countries and citizens around the globe), but at least Obama would take his rightful place as another American bully and save face among his fellow citizens who think him a sissy boy. Or would it? We already know that, despite appalled denial, many Americans still struggle with racism and are not comfortable with a black (or even half-black) president. So what would happen if this president suddenly got tough, angry even, and became the bully we’re all so used to seeing in that highest of political offices? Well, he’d have a whole new set of problems to face that, well, a white guy might not, as Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times discussed back in April of 2008:

“For new school black politicians, it is an essential question: How do you recognize the righteous anger of those frustrated by racial inequality without looking like just another Angry Black Man?

Those of us who write often about black folks and politics knew there would come a moment when the first black man with a realistic shot at becoming president would have to face this challenge — reconciling black anger and frustration with white fear and resentment.”

Would Obama go from intellectually-threatening wuss to scary, angry black guy in the eyes of the fearful? I mean, in this country, as sad a commentary as it is, a white president and a black president are still not treated equally in the eyes of some of our citizens. Take that Wingnut email being forwarded that takes outrage at Obama putting his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office:

Does this photo of President Obama in the Oval Office convey anything to you about his attitude?

Would you speak with the Chief of Staff, your Chief Economics Adviser, and your Senior Adviser with your feet up on the Resolute Desk – a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880?

We should inundate the White House with emails demanding he keep his feet off of our furniture.

This arrogant, immature & self-centered man has no sense of honor, or of simple decency.

While this posture is disrespectful in any culture, it is absolutely never done in any executive setting.

Further, in over half of the cultures of the world, it is recognized not only as disrespectful, but as an extreme insult.

He thinks of himself as a king — and not as a servant of the people, humbly occupying our White House for his term in office.

Electing him was an enormous mistake — and will cost us in many ways, for generations.

Where were all the letters of appall and outrage when our last (white) president did the very same thing?

So one wonders if it is possible for a man like Barack Obama to be the bully America loves without being stamped “another Angry Black Man.” Would he gain some level of twisted respect from the very men and women who fear him (after all, in America, fear equals power and strength, right?), or do we only like our bullies to be white?

Personally, I’m thrilled not to have another bully president even though I find myself at times wanting Obama to be a little more forceful in his political dealings. While I admire and celebrate what I hope will turn out to be a more evolved approach to politics (it’s one of the reasons I voted for him), I believe he would actually be more effective if he were a bit more ruthless. Sadly, the current climate in Washington is set up to keep Obama from achieving any successes, regardless of whether or not they are in the best interest of most Americans. So he is essentially bullied by a divided House and Senate who will try and keep his hands tied for as long as he’s willing to allow them. At the same time, I believe Obama has a bigger picture in mind and is actually putting his money (and career) where his mouth is:

“I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president… There’s a tendency in Washington to think that our job description of elected officials is to get re-elected. That’s not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and to help people. And, you know, that’s not just the view of elected officials themselves. That’s also the filter through which the media reads things.”

So while I am frustrated and angered by the eternal roadblocks put in place by lesser men and women, I am also thrilled to see America with an intelligent, self-aware leader who recognizes the changes that need to be made if we are to grow out of our infancy. Sadly, our love affair with violence (both verbal and physical) and our passion for vengeance and our need to be “stronger” than any potential opponent regardless of ideology or purpose, gets in the way of our actually making strides in the betterment of our people, our nation, or our world. And perhaps the above-mentioned live Q&A in Baltimore is a significant step in Obama bridging the gap between substance and politics. NBC’s Chuck Todd commented on the live event:

“The president should hold Congressional ‘town halls’ more often. Public needs to see this if they’ll ever trust Washington again.”

The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein added:

“Obama assumed the role of responsible adult to the GOP children, or, at the very least, of a college professor teaching and lecturing a room full of students.”

Dee Dee Myers, Clinton’s former press secretary, backed up that statement with:

“On one level it looked brave but on another he was the substitute teacher there, lecturing the audience. A lot of us have been waiting for that moment, a little more fight, a little more politics.”

And then there’s that poor fella so outraged by the IRS he decided that violence was the only answer to his problems and so he created his own 9/11 by crashing a plane into an Austin IRS complex. It seems in our celebration of bullies, we simultaneously send out a non-stop message that violence is a justifiable means to an end. I tried to address this concept metaphorically in my film THE PLAGUE, but the studio behind it decided that the film should actually be the polar opposite of its intent and set about systematically removing the film’s message and attempt at cultural self-reflection. Instead, they tried to turn it into a film about killer-kids; essentially, they were far more attracted to the notion of a film that celebrated its violence rather than one that made an informed commentary on it. And this is, as many of us already know, not a new development in the industry. God-forbid anything should illicit individual thought or stir conversation or promote questions. The studios would rather keep people right where they are (our base impulses sell more tickets than our intellect or common sense). Like Sarah Palin, who actually sells herself as a presidential candidate by publicizing the fact that she’s not qualified to run this country:

“I’m never going to pretend like I know more than the next person. I’m not going to pretend to be an elitist. In fact, I’m going to fight the elitist, because for too often and for too long now, I think the elitists have tried to make people like me and people in the heartland of America feel like we just don’t get it, and big government’s just going to have to take care of us… I want to speak up for the American people and say: No, we really do have some good common-sense solutions. I can be a messenger for that.”

Good common-sense solutions. Like bombing Iran. And I don’t know about anyone else, but the thought of a president who doesn’t know more than I do about running this country scares the shit out of me. But somehow this comforts many. They can relate to Palin. And she can be a bully. Unreasonable, unrealistic, ignorant, under-educated and completely incapable of admitting –or even understanding– when she’s wrong… Sounds like someone else I know. Or a vocal group of people I read about daily.

Here’s a quote I thought hit the nail on the head:

“If you were to imagine a bunch of middle-class white people who conceive of themselves as the oppressed productive backbone of the country, and who embody a strange collection of unbridled ignorance and bizarre ahistorical conspiracy theory, you’d have a pretty good handle on the teabaggers.”

Yep. That pretty much sums up Palin and her many followers and fans. That gun-toting, angry mob you see on the news pretty much every day. And like so many people in this group, they struggle, fight and vote against their own best interests. Blogger Ben Grossblatt put it quite eloquently, I thought:

“The Tea Party is a quasi-Libertarian collection of people who think Obama is a socialist, and who delude themselves into believing they’re more than just ventriloquist dummies for the Republicans. They fancy themselves populists, but they support the same economic and legislative policies that have put regular people under the heel of big business.”

Big business, in the form of corporate entities, is the friend to the “tea-bagger”, despite any claims they may make to the contrary. And why is that? Because big business are bullies. And, no matter how much we may fear them, they give us some measure of comfort in the fear they illicit. We have a certain twisted “respect” for their power over us. And to make matters worse, we secretly hope to one day become a member of those wealthier-than-god, untouchable bullies. I think Reagan’s trickle-down economics proved that to be true. A failed economic plan that put the biggest tax breaks in the hands of the wealthiest Americans and opened the door for what turned out to be the complete corporate takeover of our nation (the world?) and still has the support of some of America’s least-wealthy and most-hard-hit-by-the-recession individuals. And despite the gross reality of this backward economic plan, there’s always a chance that one of us may find ourselves a member of that elite group (you sure you don’t like elitists, Ms. Palin?) and then we can finally reap the benefits of a misguided nation which fights to eliminate its middle-class (despite true Capitalism’s dependency on it) and broaden the division between rich and poor. Because the rich have historically always bullied the poor. And, as I said before, America loves and respects a bully. Even when we’re under their heel.

America: A Culture Of Bullies & Violence?

Happy New Year. Lieberman’s Approval Ratings Go Belly Up

Looks like the Senator’s home state of Connecticut has deemed Mr. Lieberman unpopular. It’s about time. According to the new poll by Public Policy Polling, “Barack Obama’s approval rating with Connecticut Republicans is higher than Lieberman’s with the state’s Democrats.”

This is good news, indeed. Despite a popularity plunge in Obama’s own ratings, the truly despicable Lieberman was given a thumbs down by over 80 percent of Connecticut Democrats with only 14 percent giving him a thumbs up. As for the state’s Republicans, 48 percent disapproved of Lieberman while only 39 percent approve. And Lieberman’s own independent party gave him a 62 percent disapproval rating with only 32 percent approving.

I knew it would be a good year.

This guy has been out of touch for a long time. He’s an embarrassment to all parties. He won’t be up for reelection until 2012, but one can hope he doesn’t even bother trying.

Here’s to an optimistic future.

Happy New Year. Lieberman’s Approval Ratings Go Belly Up

Cheney’s Need To Man-Up

Cheney has some serious problems with President Obama bowing respectfully to foreign leaders. And yet he expects Americans to lay down before him and be trampled over by his corporate cronies. This is a man who has taken advantage of more people to get what he wants than any other American figure in recent history. There is a thorough and complete brainwashing that goes on here. And it’s brainwashing through fear, which has always been America’s greatest enemy. And now he’s at it again trying to convince his incurious hordes that Obama needs to “Man-up” or “step-down.”

Commenting on Obama’s bow to the Japanese Emperor during the president’s trip to China, Cheney commented that:

“”There is no reason for an American president to bow to anyone. Our friends and allies don’t expect it and our adversaries perceive it as a sign of weakness…

“I think it’s fundamentally harmful and it shows in my mind that this is a guy, a president, who would bow, for example, who doesn’t fully understand or have the same perception of the U.S. role in the world that I think most Americans have.

“What I see in President Obama is somebody who bows before foreign leaders and spends his trips aboard primarily apologizing for U.S. behavior. I find that very upsetting.”

Really? Cause Lord knows the world openly embraced our macho posturing during the eight years of the Bush Administration. Why, we were seen as parent figures, protectors, the good guys, right? Thank God for an evolved America. Leading by example, and all that. You know, like the Bush Administration’s charming,  jingoistic vision of  “cowboy diplomacy.”

No, the truth is Cheney’s view of America has something to do with carrying a gun and shooting your friends in the face. Accident or not, it’s the perfect metaphor for Cheney’s approach to heroism, manliness, and American strength. And anyone who goes “hunting” with this man has what’s coming to them.

What was it Ghandi said?

“The science of war leads one to dictatorship, pure and simple. The science of non-violence alone can lead one to pure democracy…”

Here’s Cheney commenting on war:

“It will be necessary for us to be a nation of men, and not laws.”

Well, that’s never been more on display than in Cheney’s attitude toward war and interrogation. According to journalist/author Mark Danner (Stripping Bare the Body: Politics, Violence, War):

“According to the Bush administration, the Convention Against Torture allows waterboarding; allows confinement in small boxes; allows sleep deprivation for up to eight days; allows beatings; allows the use of insects and various other things to terrify detainees; allows the use of heat, light, severe cold, prolonged nudity.”

Danner also goes on to describe some other “ineterrogation methods” supported by Cheney:

“[They] threatened detainees with drills, that they were going to drill into their heads, threatened to shoot them in the head or threatened to rape their daughters or rape their wives.”

And now Cheney (and his daughter Liz) are systematically attempting to undermine our current president by suggesting he is “weak.” Danner continues:

“Republicans, in the person of the Cheneys, Kit Bond and others, have criticized the Obama administration nonetheless for starting a witch hunt of Bush administration officials, which clearly isn’t the case.

But as you saw in this lobbying group that Cheneys have now set up, the Republicans see rich political ground to be harvested in these issues. And this goes back really to three months after the attacks of 9/11, when Karl Rove stood up before the Republican National Committee and said, “Americans trust us to protect the country. You know, we can win on this terrorism issue.” And indeed, for two elections, they did win. And the Cheneys are now really trying to set up the Obama administration as an administration that’s weak, Democratic weakness, renouncing torture, renouncing the techniques that supposedly are needed to protect the country.

And I think there’s a very calculated strategy at work here, particularly in the event of another attack. That is, the Obama administration is being put in a position where if there is an attack on the country, it can be very vigorously blamed by the Republicans for leaving the country open to the attack by its supposed refusal to torture detainees.”

Liz Cheney commented on Obama’s bow versus her  father’s own stiff meeting with the Japanese Emperor back in 2007:

“You could also look at the comparison and think, Cheney 2012.”

Eek. Is Cheney really the reigning example of American “strength?”

If you ask me, I think Cheney’s values are now, and have always been, on display for anyone who wants to see them:

“We have to make America the best place in the world to do business.”

“The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world’s oil and lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.”

Even Cheney’s comments on Saddam Hussein sound more like another country talking about America’s past and the recent Bush/Cheney’s present:

“Saddam Hussein had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression… and had built, possessed, and used weapons of mass destruction.”

Even in talking about the “terrorist agenda,” Cheney continues to make oblivious comparisons to his own “agenda”:

“Given the nature of the enemy we face today, and the fact that their ultimate objective is to force us to change our policies and to retreat within our borders, the last thing we need is to convey the impression that terrorists can change our policies through violence and intimidation.”

How about that Gandhi fella again:

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?”

Choose your leaders wisely.

Cheney’s Need To Man-Up

The Continued Hypocrisy Of Joe Lieberman

During a 1994 press conference, Joe Lieberman emphatically stated:

“[People] are fed up — frustrated and fed up and angry about the way in which our government does not work, about the way in which we come down here and get into a lot of political games and seem to — partisan tugs of war and forget why we’re here, which is to serve the American people. And I think the filibuster has become not only in reality an obstacle to accomplishment here, but it also a symbol of a lot that ails Washington today.”

“But I do want to say that the Republicans were not the only perpetrators of filibuster gridlock, there were occasions when Democrats did it as well. And the long and the short of it is that the abuse of the filibuster was bipartisan and so its demise should be bipartisan as well.”

“The whole process of individual senators being able to hold up legislation, which in a sense is an extension of the filibuster because the hold has been understood in one way to be a threat to filibuster — it’s just unfair.”

“I’m very proud to be standing here with Tom as two Democrats saying that we’re going to begin this fight, because we’ve just been stung by the filibuster for a period of years, and even though the tables have now turned, it doesn’t make it right for us to use this instrument that we so vilified.”

Yes, the same “I’m gonna join the GOP filibuster against the public option” Joe Lieberman.

Yes, he truly is a shining example of the worst Washington has to offer. Nice to know he stands behind his “ideals.”
The Continued Hypocrisy Of Joe Lieberman

One Face Of The DC Tea Party: Your Fellow Americans

While this in no way represents all Republicans, it is currently the strongest voice and face of the conservative party. There are enough ignorant and frightened people in this country who are victims of outright manipulation by individuals, corporations and media outlets who not only prey on that fear and ignorance, but depend on it.

We the people have an uncanny desire to follow. Oftentimes we are lazy and fearful and easily led. And when we allow this to happen, we act like lemmings and run ourselves right off a cliff. We follow without question those who lead us. What these people believe to be empowerment, is actually manipulation through fear. We allow others to think for us, to tell us what we should and shouldn’t believe, what we should feel, all the while shrugging off responsibility and denying ourselves empowerment through education. And in so doing, we lose all commonsense.


One Face Of The DC Tea Party: Your Fellow Americans

Former Bush Strategist Warns: Republicans Playing With Fire

dowdpFormer Bush strategist Matthew Dowd On ABC’s “This Week” warned:

“I think the Republicans soon have to be careful of something. I know Republicans are all patting themselves on the back and saying, “We’ve got the Democrats on the run, Obama on the run.’ I don’t think it’s necessarily a good political place to be in by November if you’ve defeated any health care reform.”

Anyone listening?

Former Bush Strategist Warns: Republicans Playing With Fire