Saturday, September 17, 2011

Knitting at the Guillotine

We are now in the season of vetting candidates for the privilege of running for President of the United States. To that end, the Republicans are holding a series of "debates" (more like sequential staged monologues...but that's another post).

When the first debate was held, hosted by NBC, Brian Williams in his moderator role prefaced a question to Governor Rick Perry. He noted that the governor has presided over more executions than any other governor in a state--whereupon the audience burst into applause and hoots of approval.

While the question and audience response clearly didn't phase Perry, it absolutely took my breath away. The visceral, red meat, blood lust response was repeated in the next Republican debate when the question was posed about someone who does not have health insurance and is diagnosed with a life threatening condition. What should we do--asked moderator Wolf Blitzer--let him die? YEAH, the audience loudly responded.

While some may quarrel with the moderators--did they ask the right question; did they ask the question the right way, etc.--I can't help but wonder: what has happened to the United States? Why such vicious uncaring reactions?

We have become a nation of Madame Defarges, sitting with our knitting at the base of the guillotine, sopping up the blood while we blithely knit away. How did it become so?

There are two thoughtful, yet deeply troubling, pieces that I have read recently. One, recommended to me by our daughter, points out the disparity of Republicans' deep distrust of government--as evidenced by the constant drum beat of every single Republican presidential candidate--EXCEPT when it comes to the death penalty. If government fouls up everything it touches--the current Republican mantra--why can't Governor Perry think, for a second, that maybe, just maybe government also fouls up and sentences an innocent man (or woman) to death? Read the Slate article for yourself

The second article is one written by a long-time Republican staff person who retired after 30 years as a House and Senate staff person. In the article, titled "
Goodbye to All That," the author Mike Lofgren, meticulously catalogues the ways in which the current Republican leaders have intentionally changed the terms of the political debate. He opines that "it should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult."

Lofgren does not extol the virtues of Democrats--he tags them as hapless in the face of the current Republican approach. But his comparison gives one pause: in recounting the recent debt ceiling debate debacle, he notes that "everyone knows that in a hostage situation, the reckless and amoral actor has the negotiating upper hand over the cautious and responsible actor because the latter is actually concerned about the life of the hostage, while the former does not care."


I suppose the only cautionary conclusion I can draw from this musing on my part is that, while the guillotine began as an instrument of execution for one intended victim, by the time the revolution ended, those who cheered on the executions eventually became the victims.

Knit one, purl one, repeat...


Anvilcloud said...

That's a very interesting point about government control being acceptable when it comes to enforcing the death penalty - with such glee too. At least Bush, to his credit, said something to the effect that we wasn't particularly proud/boastful about carrying out the death penalty when he was asked a similar question. Who knew that we might pine for GWB?

KGMom said...

Thanks for the comment.
I was beginning to get lonely--no responses.
My readership has steadily declined--not too surprising as I have cut back on blogging.
Also, a hot political topic is somewhat dicey--I recognize my views might offend some.

Nance said...

Perfectly framed. I've read other blog posts that feature Lofgren's piece, but this one gave me chills. It's that guillotine image you've drawn so well.

There has never been a transition era that hasn't had its brutality and its amorality. Why should this one--as big and as revolutionary as any in history--be any different? Still, I'd rather not be watching. And I'm afraid to look away.

KGMom said...

Nance--thanks for the visit. As you can see, we are observing similar phenomena. Or maybe not phenomena, but just the unfolding of history. If it's a transition era--to what are we transitioning. Change does not bring improvement in every instance. And it's the next phase that I fear.

Climenheise said...

I had also read Lofgren's article. It is extremely disturbing. There are good qualities in the republican tradition that I wish they would build on -- a genuine respect for tradition; a positive valuation of the individual's ability to change and make a new start. But these (and other good qualities of a conservative political philosophy) have been swamped by worship at the altar of Ayn Rand. Ironically, such hyper-individualized views (let them die of the disease, whatever it is!) do not fit well with any real respect for our past as a nation. We have always been a nation of individuals, with lots of space for personal growth and advancement, but we had also always been a community of individuals, who were ready to look out for each other. No more, I fear.

KGMom said...

Daryl--I agree it is disturbing that the Republican party has for the most determined to take this turn.
With the announcement yesterday of Sen. Charles Percy's death, the one thing some of the obits noted was that he was a moderate progressive Republican, the kind not seen today.
As for the altar of Ayn Rand, it is hard to imagine a more un-Christian writer--how ironic for the party that believes they have cornered the values vote.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. The applause for the Texas execution rate made my stomach drop.

If I hear the Republicans talk about everyone needing to "put some skin in the game" while refusing to even talk about eliminating the tax cuts for the richest one more time I think I'll scream.

NCmountainwoman said...

I didn't comment when I first read the post because I get so angry my words might not be politically correct. It is such a sad time when so many of our "leaders" are perfectly willing to send us to hell in a handbasket so long as the President is deemed a failure.

They preach to get big government off our backs in one second, and insert themselves in the most private of decisions a woman can face in the next.

I haven't thought of myself as being naive for quite some time, but I must admit the audience reaction over the death penalty shocked me.

Murr Brewster said...

I'd like to point out that many times I am less likely to leave comments on blogs that are so well-written and insightful that I have nothing to add. So, I guess I'm adding this: keep it up.

KGMom said...

MM--oh, me too--the sickening feeling at that vicious audience reaction. I just read that strategists are now wondering if audience response is hurting the Republican image. YA THINK?

NCMW--I too am always struck by "get government off our backs" and then the dizzying turn-about of "get government in your bedroom."

Murr--(kicking the dirt with my toe & blushing) I am honored by your reading and commenting. In case anyone who reads me hasn't read MURR--get over to her site and read, laugh, weep, gasp for breath etc.