Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Reader’s Response to "The Assassination Cartoon"


A Reader's Response to "The Assassination Cartoon"

The NY Post overstepped any excusable boundary of journalistic propriety with this editorial cartoon. It is overtly offensive to such a degree that I would have probably accepted an apology from their corporate board alongside an excuse that it was unaware that the paper's editorial management were reprobate racists, and that the publishing of this cartoon had been the cause of their termination of employment at the paper. Instead the NY Post's asinine unapologetic rationalisation for the cartoon would be comical under different circumstances. "Oh hey, we're not racists, we're derelict journalists without an 'effing clue about reality in America"

Still, I disagree with an underlying assumption in your post, and would ask you to contemplate why I believe it is not only false; it is also counter-productive in working towards a society that does not make assumptions about humans, based solely upon easily discerned external differences; a goal I believe both of us share.

This is not an artifact of true conservatism. "Radical Conservative" is an oxymoron. You made a distinction between neocons and radical conservatives. It would be better to further divide the political right into a more truthful classification. I grew up in Las Vegas in a very politically conservative family. When I was young, Vegas bore the shameful nickname: "Mississippi of The West", and was a very segregated city. In 1964, both of my parents became registrars of voters, and went to the other side of the tracks into the Black neighborhoods to register voters there, stating loudly that the disenfranchised Black population in The Nation was not only Un-American, it was an obscenity to anyone who believed they belonged in The Party of Lincoln. My parents had also supported Vegas headline stars, led by Sinatra, when they threatened to boycott the showrooms unless the Hotel/Casinos welcomed all visitors without regard for the color of their skin, and backed the local musicians who pressed for inclusion of Blacks in the Musicians' Union and in showroom orchestras. Back then, at least in Las Vegas, the integration debate wasn't divided on party lines.

It is also worth remembering that it was the Warren Supreme Court that unanimously decided Brown v Board of Education, and Chief Justice Earl Warren was Eisenhower's appointee. It was President Eisenhower that sent the National Guard into the South to enforce Brown. The truth is that no Real Conservative, nor Old School Republican is racist. This is not the same as saying that some of the policies that were borne from a Conservative political world view does not aid in perpetuating racism though, and there are many places where Conservatism deserves to be harshly criticised.

When Nixon played the Southern strategy in 1968, the GOP decided to turn away from principles seeking electoral wins instead, and welcomed into their midst the racists, and right-wing extremists. The Neocons turned away from their conception by former Trotskyists hard right, when President Carter had the temerity to stand up and say that Palestinians, whose homes were adjacent to centuries' old cemeteries in which their ancestors had been buried, had a natural right to live free upon that land. The Republican Party's embrace of the New Right, The Religious Right and the Neocons runs against the grain of true conservative thought, which posits at its very foundation axioms that a proper government is the smallest one necessary to insure the Nation's Defense and domestic tranquility; that a state has no business interfering into the private matters of its citizenry, as long as their public actions do not violate the liberties of other humans.

Over the past four decades, what is defined as being conservative has been drastically changed, and has now become nothing more than a synonym for all things that are mapped to the right-side of a linear political model. This has aided in the polarisation of America, and turned politics into an either/or distortion of reality. Scalia and Thomas are not conservative jurists, they are right-wing activist judges who actively seek to radically change precedence settled a long time ago. Conservatives do not believe in radical change; they believe in a steady-state status quo. Radical change, be it to the right or the left is antithetical to true conservative theory.

American Conservatism is presently facing a dilemma, and many conservatives are doing some deep soul-searching about where contemporary conservatism has gone wrong. Many are very unhappy about the manner their political ideology has been jacked by the radicals who hide their true being under conservatism's mantle. They want to separate themselves from it. The best course of action is to give Real Conservatives some breathing room; to help them differentiate themselves from the racists, the theocrats, the warmongers, the pro-torturers, the thieves of human rights. If they are forced into a corner, grouped together with all of the right-side, then forced to choose between that or the left, they will have no other option than to remain on the right.

There are people with whom we disagree with politically, and there are also people who are enemies of freedom and justice for all. It's a propitious time to separate the wheat from the chaff here. Choose your targets wisely.

My Reponse:

I fully agree with every point you made, to the comma. Your criticism is right on the money and very well stated (in fact, so much so that I'm going to take this comment and send it to everyone in the "Progressive Network" who regularly receive my column. I also intend to post it on "Your Black World", along with this response).

It was remiss of me not to make it clear that I didn't intend to paint ALL conservatives with the same broad brush. You are also correct that the phrase "radical conservative" can be construed as be oxymoronical when applied in a political context. I should have used the phrase "reactionary conservatives." That would have been much more specific in pointing out those in which I was referring.

But I was using the term "radical" with respect to the American Heritage Dictionary definition,
"Departing markedly from the usual or customary." While that should have covered the point that you are making in your response, the fact that I was sufficiently unclear to motivate your need to respond, clearly demonstrates a failure on my part. As Ms. Emmel, my old English teacher, used to constantly tell me, the point of writing is to communicate. If you fail to do that effectively, the entire exercise is meaningless.

Therefore, I want to thank you for bringing this issue to my attention, and relating the shortcoming on my behalf with such civility and eloquence. You've taught me something that I'll never forget--to never assume that the reader understands what's going on in my mind. If it is my intent to communicate effectively, I have a responsibility to avoid intellectual shorthand.

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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