Sunday, February 26, 2012

Obama, the Right and Apologies for U.S. Actions
Or: The Crazy Gets Crazier

As soon as I'd heard that Obama had apologized for U.S. soldiers burning Koran's, I knew the right would flip out, yet again.

This is one of the craziest aspects of wingnuttery.

There's little worse than a person who refuses to admit error. And all reasonable people admire those who do admit error (when they have, in fact, erred). The liberal conception of America is a conception of a country that admits when it's wrong--and, furthermore, a conception of a country that need not be hesitant to admit error; we are, after all, right often enough, strong enough, accomplished enough, and respected enough that there is no need to fear justified apologies. A country that will not admit error, like a person who will not, is not worthy of respect. To fear warranted apologies, as the right does, is to show weakness and self-doubt.

Conservatives, of course, having completely lost touch with reality, seem to think that America should never apologize for its errors. And, furthermore, they half believe (and half pretend to believe) that liberals and Obama apologize excessively--apparently because we and he...what? Hate America so much that we think that all its actions are wrong? Are wimps? God knows. Apologizing even relatively infrequently, even for uncontroversial errors, becomes some kind of excessive apologizing. (Of course, half of it is a put-on, since they'll say anything, no matter how crazy, to score points against Obama.) So, the group that refuses to apologize no matter how egregious the error accuses the group that apologizes judiciously of apologizing excessively, like the coward accuses the brave but prudent person of foolhardiness. That's like a little snapshot of contemporary American politics right there; the right is so out of touch with reality that reasonable actions by liberals and centrists count as some kind of off-the-scale crazy by their lights.

It's all the weirder given how much the right seems to hate America. Oh, they wave the flag and shriek about their love of the country at every opportunity...yet they seem to hate every actual thing about it. So it's weird that they're so touchy about admitting error--according to them, the U.S. is a big pile of fail, having been run into a ditch by...I dunno...Satan or Keynes or FDR or somebody.

I suppose it's because their views and values have become so distorted that the bad seems good to them and the good seems bad. Burning Korans is clearly an unnecessarily provocative action. Whatever you think about the Koran--and, of course, like the Bible it's really just another book--it's important to the folks who we are trying to make our allies. We burned it, that p!sses them off, the right thing to do is explain that it was inadvertent and apologize. I mean, it was inadvertent (from the perspective of the government, even if individuals may have intended to do it), and we do wish it hadn't happened, and we are sorry about it. What's the problem here? Apologizing is exactly the right thing to do. But in the topsy-turvy minds of the American right, that's all wrong. I suppose we can add prudence and common human decency to the things the wingnuts now hate. The natural hypothesis, of course, is that those folks are not sorry that the Korans were burned. That's actually a big part of what's going on here, I expect...

The problem with contemporary wingnuts, as I've said before, is that they are incapable of objectivity. They are immersed in a tribal mindset. Everything is a power struggle, everything is a matter of gaining dominance or showing your throat, of victory or loss of face for your tribe. Any sign of humanity or objectivity or rationality is a sign of weakness. They accept the orthodoxy on their side of the fence unquestioningly, and attribute malicious motives to anyone with the temerity to question their dogma. These are dangerous people, helping to refine and purify an ever-crazier and ever-more-dangerous mindset, and an ever-more-twisted view of the world. They are poisoning our public reasonings and discussions, and they will send echos of crazy down through the ages, echos that may take decades or centuries to die out. The alternative, of course, is worse--that these echoes do not die out, but finally strike some fatal note that allows them to resonate with a sufficiently large segment of the population. Perhaps they will find a spokesperson charismatic enough to help them capture enough of the public imagination to actually succeed politically... That, of course, is the truly frightening possibility. They think they are playing with fire just to get elected, and that after the election they can step back from the edge, and that the anger and insanity that they have fostered will subside. But there is no guarantee of that.


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