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In terms of seriousness, I realize that this question ranks right up there with “Why is There Air?” (which was a pretty funny comedy album from back in the 60s). There have been hundreds of books and articles which have examined the “roots of progressive rage.” At times I believe that we have seen so much progressive fury that we have almost become inured to it. Like most people, I usually adhere to the philosophy of “fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and progressives gotta rant.” However, during the holiday season, I ran across two instances that caused me to re-examine my own thinking about our current social and political environment.
The first instance was brought about by the arrival of my Sports Illustrated which featured its “Sportsperson of the Year”, Megan Rapinoe. Since I don’t follow either men’s or women’s soccer, I took SI’s word at face value that she is a star in her field. However, I thought the cover photo of her was a bit odd; she was immaculately dressed but held in her hands a heavy sledgehammer. I suppose this was meant to hold some sort of symbolism but the somewhat hostile half-smirk on her face did cause me to wonder if, just out of camera range, there was a box of kittens or maybe even a harp seal. One could also imagine that hanging over Ms. Rapinoe’s bed, there was an autographed photo of Aileen Wuornos. I read later that Ms. Rapinoe, at the awards ceremony, showed her appreciation for this prestigious award by lambasting her hosts for not awarding other women in the past.
The second instance was generated as I was channel surfing and fell upon WOSU, the local PBS station. There appeared to be a panel discussion of distinguished academics (the host referred to them as distinguished and I would never contradict her). The conversation had been relatively mundane when one of the participants, a gentleman by the name of Eric Alterman, blurted out something to the effect of “…and by the way, the members of the Greatest Generation were not fighting for this country; they were fighting only for people like them”. (Which I took to be white people.) A brief titter came from those in attendance and Alterman sat back in his chair with a Rapinoesque smirk on his face evidently pleased with his witticism.
These two unrelated events, by two boorish people, are insignificant by themselves. However, they are representative of the kaleidoscope of idiocy that has only worsened during the last three years.
It’s hard to imagine but progressivism in the United States hasn’t always been associated with the lunatic fringe. While it’s true that politicians such as Robert La Follette and William Jennings Bryan and muckrakers such as Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair weren’t exactly loved by bankers and industrialists, they were eloquent and thoughtful advocates for lower and middle-class Americans.
So how did the terms “progressive” and “raging wingnut” become synonymous? Like a lot of other folks, I think the 60s never really left us; they just morphed into something even more hideous. Ask a progressive today what he (or she) thinks of the 1968 Democratic Convention or the 1969 “Days of Rage” instigated by the Weathermen and you’re apt to get a starry-eyed recitation of how magical the 60s were.
I have my own memories of this period; being up to my derriere in mud in Vietnam, having my bus stoned by hoodlums as I left Oakland Army Terminal and gazing at the smoldering ruins of the ROTC Building at Kent State in 1970. There was nothing magical about this period; it was just plain rotten (except for the music, of course).
Spring ahead to the early 2000s and this “progressive rage” began to reappear as a response to “the warmonger Bush”. As I watched the street protests against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (I had been recalled to active military duty in 2002) there was an unmistakable feeling of deja vu as I watched the usual suspects such as Jane Fonda mouthing the same platitudes as they had back in the 60s.
However, what really stood out for me was an evening in which Swift Boat Veteran John O’Neill appeared on CNN with John Kerry apologist Lawrence O’Donnell. I’m not sure if the event was recorded for posterity on YouTube but I would urge everyone to take a look at it because I believe that it was a prime example of how the Left had been taken over by the lunatic fringe. The confrontation was almost comical; the soft-spoken combat veteran (O’Neill) being screamed at by the draft dodger lunatic (O’Donnell). Like many people, I thought that O’Donnell would be given a “time-out” by CNN for this childish display of temper. However, I learned later that O’Donnell had been widely praised for his “passion” in his “debate” with O’Neill. Many Americans, like me, wondered if a first-grader began screaming at a classmate over who was entitled to the last cookie; would he be praised for his “passion”? No matter; although I did not realize it, this encounter was soon to become the template for all progressives thereafter. Facts not on your side? No problem, simply start screaming! Can’t comprehend the issue? Just label your opponent a “sexist”, a “homophobe”, a “racist” or a “fascist” and walk away, declaring the argument won. And this is where we stand today.
It’s not difficult to see how we arrived here. But why? Why did progressives go from helping to hating? Why have they turned their hatred into some sort of macabre religion? And, most importantly, is this hatred and rage growing at a rate that this country cannot survive?
Progressives tell us that their rage comes from Donald Trump’s election but that’s totally laughable. No, the rage existed far before President Trump.
No doubt there has been a confluence of many factors. Certainly, the culture of narcissism (admirably written about by Christopher Lasch and also by Roger Simon) has played a part. In addition, the idea of instant gratification (“I want what I want and I want it now”) certainly figures in. And, an educational system that values feelings over scholarship has to be considered. Finally, the rise of social media has played a part, although I would argue that it has been the vehicle rather than the cause of all this rage.
However, I don’t believe that we could have been brought to our current situation without two things:
a. THE WORST LEADERSHIP THAT THIS COUNTRY HAS EVER EXPERIENCED.
When the oh-so-erudite Barrack Obama told his followers to “get in their faces” when it came to expressing ideas, he may as well have been giving some of those people loaded guns. He knew better and he did it anyway. Each time he had to choose between being the President of all the people or being the devoted disciple of Saul Alinsky, he always chose the latter. He cannot duck his share of responsibility for our current social and political environment.
As for the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body”, well, how big a laugh has that become? Any dignity that the U.S. Senate had remaining was forever lost during the Kavanaugh hearings. The subsequent “warning” sent to the Supreme Court by Senator(s) Whitehouse, Blumenthal, Hirono, Durbin, and Gillibrand simply proved that pandering to the lunatic fringe had taken the place of serious legislation.
Still, I reserve my award for the worst politician in the history of this country to one Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her “Deplorables” moment ensured that this nation would be forever divided. Her subsequent comments that “civility can start again” only when Democrats take power was some of the most despicable verbiage ever from a person who has made a career out of being despicable. Those comments simply poured gasoline onto the fire that had been blazing since her defeat.
b. MEDIA & “ENTERTAINMENT” THAT RESEMBLES THAT OF THE 1950s SOVIET UNION.
The state of American media seems to worsen on a daily basis. The only question is how low can they go? One of the best things that I have learned in life is when you’re in a hole, stop digging. Left-wing media and entertainment seem to be utterly incapable of this. Case in point: Writing in Salon, Amanda Marcotte asserted that “…conservatives have increasingly embraced the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ to mean basically ‘f*** you’ to anyone that they’ve deemed less than legitimate Americans.” Just to show that this was no fluke, she later added that Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel were “the platonic ideal of fascist propaganda.” Another media website advised that “white women’s obsession with ‘being nice’ was one of the most dangerous tools of white supremacy.”
As I was watching Mr. Alterman the thought suddenly hit me; this “distinguished academic” was really no different from Ms. Marcotte or “entertainers” such as Samantha Bee, Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler, or for that matter, most progressive politicians and academics. When a person has no discernible talent, the only way they can become (or remain) relevant is to be outrageous. The funny thing about being outrageous; to stay relevant, the person must become more and more outrageous. Where does it end?
I don’t pretend to have a solution. Someone once said, “Don’t argue with a fool. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.” If this is true, it doesn’t give us much hope for the future. Perhaps it isn’t important as to why progressives are so angry. Maybe it’s more important to figure out how we can survive that anger.
I recently made a comment to Henry Racette’s excellent post (“Everything Trump Touches Dies”) that perhaps some sort of “Thermidorian Reaction” will be needed to stop our American Jacobins. That “Reaction” can’t come fast enough for this country.Published in