Last Saturday, I attended a discussion forum entitled "Obama and the Left," sponsored by a progressive publishing company.
Before you call the Mendota State Mental Hospital and get the commitment papers rolling, allow me to explain.
I attended this event with my good friends and intellectual fellow-travellers Greg, Rick and Jessica. Greg and Rick ran across the flyer, thought it was a "can't miss" sort of event and invited me along. As a grumpy libertarian, I thought it would be a frightfully good wheeze and besides, I hadn't been angried up in a while.
Before going, we steeled ourselves with shots and beers at the corner tavern near Greg and Rick's house. This being done, we descended upon downtown Madison to see what we could see.
The first thing that struck me, before the presentations even started, was the amount of people in attendance. I mean, think about it: they filled a 300+ seat theater to standing room only capacity on a Saturday night for a political discussion forum...only in Madison.
The other thing that struck me immediately was the smug, self-satisfied, humorless air of unbearable earnestness that permeated the attendees. Oh yeah, they laughed on cue at the appropriate forced jokes of the speakers, but it was more a cry of acclimation than a show of the common human emotion of joy. We were even told to be quiet by someone behind us. Honestly, what am I, a fucking five-year-old?
When the program began, it was obvious what we were in for that night. All of the preposterous remarks need not (and should not) be repeated here, but here are some highlights:
- One speaker taking lines from FDR's inaugural address in 1933 as a great new rallying cry for the progressive movement. Specifically, he stressed the portion where FDR recounted the "chasing of the moneychangers from the temple" story from St. Matthew's Gospel. The speaker was obviously monumentally ignorant of the anti-Semitic overtones of FDR's usage of this story...or he was an anti-Semite himself and wanted to clothe his damnable beliefs in the mantle of progressive politics.
- Another speaker reading loaded rhetoric about the United States and the Middle East that was shot through with half-truths, prevarications and outright lies. Her invective (if it could be called that) was made more odious by the fact that she read it out from a sheaf of paper without looking up. Lack of rhetorical force is hardly the term.
- Yet another speaker calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, seeming to forget that they are no longer in elective office...hell, the only thing that GWB is controlling now is a golf cart and a case of Lone Star Beer. This speaker also dragged Naomi Klein's awful book The Shock Doctrine into the discussion. This book, treated as scripture by the left, is filled with distortions, mischaracterizations and flat-out shoddy research into Milton Friedman's life and work. Click here and here for complete discreditings of Klein's shabby piece of lies and character assassination.
- A member of the audience talking about a "warm, safe socialism" where everyone would (apparently) get everything for free and government would care about everyone and everything equally. Where the free stuff is to come from, who is to pay for it and how it is to be distributed were problems that were not addressed, oddly enough. Perhaps the idea of economies of scale has no place in a socialist utopia.
- A veteran of the U.S. Army who, in giving a political speech wearing military insignia, was clearly breaking both Department of Defense and Army codes. Oddly, no one pointed this out to him. Hmmm...
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Greg, Rick, Jessica and myself had to retreat to the corner tavern and drink and eat pizza until things made sense again. Thanks again for everything, booze and food.
In general, the speakers and attendees dragged out the same old tired shibboleths of the left. Our new president, who at the time had been in the job for less than a week, was mentioned to call attention to his failures (in five days?) or to project their far-fetched and unworkable agenda onto the canvas of President Obama.
In a way, I feel sorry for all the people who are seeing Obama as a transformative figure and therefore projecting all of their desires and expectations onto the man. They seem to forget that he is, first and foremost, a politician. This means that nobody gets everything they want. Sorry, that's how it goes.
This event, furthermore, shows that the left's supposed tolerance and open-mindedness is a sham and a lie. They are tolerant of people who believe the same way they do. They cheer if you repeat the right slogans and curse the right (pun somewhat intended) targets. If you don't, then they cannot grasp the concept that someone might respectfully disagree with them, in whole or in part. Greg and Rick, for example, submitted questions (and good ones at that) that were ignored by the moderator. Where's your tolerance now?
They never compromise. They never listen to dissent. They won't admit to other views. They treat their opposition as stupid, backwards and ignorant...in a way, as lesser beings. They never feel the need to have their facts straight or to understand the basis of their arguments. They won't retreat even when they appear to have lost.
In a word, they are extremists. True-believers. Bigots.
My only comfort is in knowing that their brand of extremist nonsense is exactly that, and that I have faith that, given the choice of their ideas or those of others, the great American public would reject them soundly.
Do I reject their right to speak freely. Of course not. This does not mean, however, that I agree with their baseless claims, evangelical devotion to untruths, unrealistic expectations, shocking ingorance or outright intolerance.
I close with a quotation from South Park co-creator Matt Stone that pretty much sums up what I thought of the whole affair and its connotations:
"I hate conservatives, but I really fucking hate liberals."