When the Man comes around
The most obvious thing about the name-calling is that it confers power on the object of the insult. By using an insulting name for those one opposes, one hopes to bring them down to size, to show disrespect for the powerful in the hopes of debunking their power. It may have that effect on the powerful to some degree, but it actually amplifies the powerful among the powerless.
Rather than relying on name-calling, a slightly different approach may actually result in a more meaningful dialogue, and even a change in the country’s direction. A perfect example is the national divide about homosexuality. Last month one of the local high schools put on a production of “The Laramie Project,” a play about the issues raised by the murder of Matthew Shepherd in Wyoming. Kansas based preacher Fred Phelps showed up with a whopping 10 of his followers to protest the play. Phelps and his minions typically carry signs that say “God hates fags,” and “Death to queers,” and “All homos will burn in Hell forever!” Counter-protesters wore pink and carried signs calling for peace and tolerance, while others rode bicycles emblazoned with rainbow flags around Phelps’s group.
The counter-protest was a nice gesture, but it did nothing to challenge Phelps in a way that he would understand. I would rather see a group with signs that say “Maybe it’s Fred Phelps who is going to Hell,” “Eternal damnation awaits all who hate,” and “Your religion is false!” A few other good ones would be “Jesus did not say the things that Fred Phelps says,” “He who presumes to speak for God is asking for big trouble,” “No one knows where anyone is going when they die, but one can surmise, and I'm sure glad I'm not Fred Phelps.”
Signs such as these confront the problem head-on, and are more likely to make fanatical people take notice. Many people in this country live within the broad category of what is known as Christian fundamentalism. But this is not a description that means much to its adherents. All groups have their insider dialogue and lingo, and it is on that level that they can be reached. For self-described “leftists” to dismiss “fundamentalists” as “the other” is to do the same thing that “fundamentalists” do to “leftists.” Calling Fred Phelps a “homophobe” is not something that is going to sink in very deeply. But to suggest that it is he who is going to Hell, that’s a bit of cognitive dissonance that might cause a little unease. If Mr. Phelps is too far gone for cognitive dissonance, his devoted followers might have pause.
Extending this approach to dealing with the Bush crime family, the power is removed from the straw man arguments about “neo-conservatism,” “right-wing takeover of government,” “creeping fascism,” or “the religious right.” This regime is purely criminal, and to anoint it with any ideology is solely for the ego needs of the professionally powerless. Everything this regime does is either criminal in act or criminal in intent. It is easy, within this context, to see the election as fraudulent when the beneficiary of the election is a sociopathic criminal. When Bush says that God speaks through him, he should be challenged, not as a deluded religious fanatic, but as a pathological liar who is asking for a long sentence in a fiery place.
The people in this country who believe in “The end times,” “Armageddon,” “The Rapture,” and whatever other catastrophic and hysterical future awaits the planet should be challenged on their faith. It should be pointed out that the entire Bible was written by men, and none of them were God, Jesus, Jehovah, Yahweh, or anything exalted. The Book of Revelations, in particular, is no more authoritative than the nightly weather report, and in fact far less. Books written in the last couple of centuries predicting the end of the world are all crap, written by people with the usual human motivations: sex, power, and money – the deficiency needs in Maslow’s hierarchy. Add in a touch or two of mental illness, and voila, a publishing bonanza is born. A good book to read on this subject is Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds, by Charles MacKay in 1841. It is an enjoyable read, and shows that mass mania has been around for a long time.
“Leftists” will continue to talk about “these right wingers” ad absurdum, but the relatively free among us don’t need to feel enslaved by polarized thinking. The challenge we face is not of “us” versus “them,” but of all of us recognizing the need to reach for a higher level of being. We can start by calling a spade a spade, a criminal a criminal, and a religious faker a religious faker.
It’s also worthy of mention that those in the media, the corporations, the churches, and the political organizations who give aid and comfort to the Bush crime family are themselves criminals. They may not reap what they soweth in the current strut and fret, but, as Johnny Cash so aptly put it, the Man comes around. There is a time to every purpose under Heaven.