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Friday, November 05, 2004

How do we fight?

One of the ideas we need to explore here: what do we do to fight the extreme right wing and their Christian fundamentalism for the future of this country?

Here's an e-mail exchange with a friend (I'll call him GM) which introduces some aspects of this issue. I thought it was worth posting b/c GM has actually tried to argue with some rabid Bush supporters, and his conclusions from that experience are worth knowing.

Here is what GM wrote me today:
--- GM wrote:

> I've decided this is no longer my country. I'm just living in it. It's a
> very peaceful realization, as I am now completely detached and only observing
> things with academic interest. Once the US is a full blown theocracy I will
> probably have to leave or else be burned at the stake as an unbeliever, but
> in the meantime it will be kind of fun to watch the cookie crumble.

I haven't been very optimistic over the past few years, but over the last couple days I'm finding myself unexpectedly hopeful. Here what I wrote back to him:

> From: me
> Sent: Friday, November 05, 2004 1:01 PM
> To: GM
> Subject: our country? (was RE: Post-election reading list?)
> GM, about your decision that this is no longer your country--I know where
> you're coming from, but I'm feeling a different response. I feel that we
> have
> to fight these people to reclaim our country--or rather fight them for the
> future of it. In a way this can be a positive thing, if it forces us to take
> action in order to effect democratic change. We may be unsuccessful, but we
> have to give it a go.

That in turn elicited this long response from him:

--- GM wrote:

> I wish I could fight, but I just don't see how you can fight against
> this. We are talking about people who have embraced Conservatism not as a
> political opinion or philosophy, but as a belief system. People who believe
> Bush is the messenger of God. People who have so entwined their Conservative
> heros and right-wing radio gods with their own persona that to even question
> the conventional wisdom of Conservative philosophy is, to them, a personal
> attack. There is no reasoning with these people, because their is no
> rational or empirical thought behind their stance. It is purely emotional,
> it is an "us against them" mentality filled with venomous, dehumanizing
> characterizations of the arch-enemy "liberal", the "Demoncrats", the "enemy
> within".
> I tried to talk politics with a girl that I work with the other day, and all
> I got was a verbatim repetition of the latest right-wing radio rant. She was
> incapable of answering any of my questions related to policy matters, and she
> was even more incapable of conceding even a single point to me, even when
> that point was made in a bipartisan manner. She told me how Kerry was going
> to drive up our taxes with all of his expensive programs. I asked her if she
> supported Bush's refusal to veto a single spending bill that crossed his desk
> in the last 4 years (the first US President to do so). In "response" she
> told me how Kerry was a flip-flopper and she didn't even know what he stood
> for. I asked her if she watched the debates where Kerry explained his
> position on Iraq, and if so what she thought of it. In "response" she told
> me how Hollywood stars should "not be allowed" to espouse their political
> views because they have undue influence. I asked her if they should also not
> be allowed to use their influence to espouse their support for charitable
> organizations. In "response" she told me how Kerry could not be trusted to
> keep her and her family safe from terrorists, and that Dan Rather should be
> thrown in jail for reporting false accusations against the President. When I
> mentioned an article I read in the New York Times about the origin of
> differing political philosophies, I got a sneer from her and she told me that
> I should try listening to Dennis Prager instead because he doesn't "lie" like
> the Times.
> These are the types of conversations that I have had over and over and over
> the last four years. There is no arguing against it. There is no fighting
> it. There is no educating them otherwise. It is a belief system, like
> religion (perhaps intertwined with religion) that is not empirically based,
> but rather faith based. Faith, by definition, is a belief in something
> without any empirical data to back it up, and sometimes even with empirical
> data that says the opposite may be true. Thus the mantra for their man Bush,
> that he is "a man of faith". I cannot fight against faith because all I have
> are facts and reason, and the enemy does not even recognize those as weapons.


I'll post my followup to GM as a Comment.

1 comment:

shooGu said...

My reply to GM's "I wish I could fight" e-mail below. I need to develop some of these initial thoughts further:

Date: Fri, 5 Nov 2004 13:17:42 -0800 (PST)
From: "Suman Ganguli"
Subject: RE: our country? (was RE: Post-election reading list?)
To: GM

GM, thanks again for taking the time to write all that out. again, i'd like to post it on the blog...i think you're one of the few among us who has actually come into contact with these kind of people on a
regular basis, and also put the effort into trying to reason with them. so those of us in blue american need to hear this, so we can have a converstation about what we do next.

i certainly haven't tried talking to those people, and i really don't intend to spend my time doing so. i was talking to my father-in-law about this wed night. he was arguing that the people had voted, and democrats shouldn't complain: kerry failed to make his case to the people. i tried to respond along the lines you did below: these people don't believe in facts or in reason. so how do you make a case? (and--what kind of incompetence does it take for people to vote their leaders out of office, if they didn't do it after the last 4 years?)

so the question is, how do we fight them if we can't convince them through reason? i'm not sure. i sense a few possible directions:

i think (or rather, hope) that there's a large # of people that voted for bush who _can_ still be convinced with facts. we write off the true believers of the kind that you describe are, and try to reach
that percentage that is just unaware of where the BCR
(bush-cheney-rove) and the right wing of the republican party is taking us. there's a lot of mis- and under-informed voters. we need to get them the facts--about the economy, about the social issues,
about the war, etc. that means working (or rather, creating) the media the same way the right wing has. air america, jon stewart, michael moore, eminem, etc. are starting this. and i think this is an area where blue america has a distinct advantage: we have close to monopoly on the creative capital in this country.

so you need to have the media infrastructure. the other two components are a political infrastructure and an intellectual foundation. the idea of creating a political infrastructure is not mine, and it's not just an idea. i got the idea from this extended
quote from TPM (

"I remember talking to Simon Rosenberg, the head of the New Dem Network, at the Democratic convention last summer. You'll remember, he and his group were profiled in the Times magazine around that
time. The article, in brief, was about plans to create a Democratic-leaning counter-establishment along the lines of what Republicans did two generations ago -- with an alternative media, activist groups, organized political giving, in short a political infrastructure.

He told me he thought it would take ten years to accomplish. And I told him my one worry was that it could all be strangled in its crib if Kerry didn't win.

Well, here we are. And this is the test for people who care about this kind of politics and these sorts of values -- making sure that what has been started is not allowed to falter. This isn't 1964 or 1972 or
1980. This wans't a blow-out or a repudiation. It was close to a tie -- unfortunately, on the other guy's side. Let's not put our heads in the sand but let's also not get knocked of our game. Democrats need to
think critically and seriously about why this didn't turn out 51% for Kerry or 55% for Kerry (and we'll get to those points in the future). But it would be a terrible mistake to stop thinking in terms of those ten years Simon described."

i see this happening on the internet: TPM, ACT, dailykos (and his companion site DailyKos esp in terms of organized giving, supporting candidates at the grassroots level, and keeping an
intensely close watch on what our elected officials are doing.