Saturday, July 4, 2015

Judgment for Thee, But Not for Me

I've noticed that some of the same people who reacted to the Charleston shootings by waving the Confederate battle flag and whining that their "heritage" was being slandered, are now waving around the Stars and Stripes.  Whatever else you can say about it, there's a contradiction there.  The Confederacy sought to tear apart the Union; for those who now try to defend the CSA to claim that they support the Union is absurd hypocrisy, to put it gently.  If I were a jingo of their stripe, I could rant that they are spitting on the fine young men who gave their lives to preserve the Union against the Confederate rebellion and treason -- not too strong a word in this case, since the Confederacy was a declared enemy of the United States, so defending and supporting it is giving aid and comfort to an enemy -- a defeated one, true, but one that has never ceased to continue the rebellion ever since it was defeated.

Even pretending to take such a stance makes me giggle uncomfortably, so I don't take it very far.  I have been hammering at one person in particular who's been simultaneously posting memes that flaunt the battle rag and memes that posture moistly about Our Flag.  Unfortunately I didn't make notes on everyone I know who posted pro-Confederate material so I could hammer on all of them; this person has just had the bad sense and bad faith to go on doing it.  You can't serve two masters, I've told her, wondering if she'd get the biblical allusion.  Since she's a Christian who also posts religious memes, I doubt she does.

To celebrate the Fourth of July, the programmers on our local community radio station have been choosing songs that reflect the occasion.  One of the best, to my mind, was the one who played Jello Biafra's version of "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" this morning.  This afternoon, a guest DJ announced that he'd googled "cool patriotic songs" for the upcoming set.  One of these was "The Bumper of My SUV" by the country singer Chely Wright.  In one sense I'd never heard it before; in another sense, I'd heard it thousands of times before.
I've got a bright red sticker on the back of my car
Says United States Marines
And yesterday a lady in a mini-van held up a middle finger at me
Does she think she knows what I stand for
Or the things that I believe
Just by looking at a sticker for the U.S. Marines
On the bumper of my SUV

... But I guess I wanna know where she's been
Before she judges and gestures to me
'Cause she don't like my sticker for the U.S. Marines
On the bumper of my SUV

So I hope that lady in her mini-van
Turns on her radio and hears this from me
As she picks up her kids from their private school
And drives home safely on our city streets
Or to the building where her church group meets
Yeah, that's why I've got a sticker for the U.S. Marines
On the bumper of my SUV
The first question I had as the words whimpered past me was whether this incident had actually happened; Wright says it did, in mid-2003 right after Bush's criminal invasion of Iraq, and that the woman "screamed 'Your war is wrong. You're a baby killer.'" You can never go wrong vilifying and defaming opponents of The War, as the inventors of the "hippies spat on Vietnam veterans" myth knew.  But suppose some woman did flip a bird at Chely Wright and call her a baby killer because of her bumper sticker.  One of the recurring memes that annoy me most are those which accuse others of being judgmental, like this one:

No doubt the people who judge these whiners also have reasons why they do the things they do, and why they are who they are.  It might be that whoever made this meme, and those who share it, couldn't handle half of what their judges have dealt with.  I'd have to hear both sides, and then cross-examine them, as I'd love to do with Chely Wright and Our Lady of the Finger.

Chely Wright, if she were willing to walk a mile in another's shoes and see the world through her eyes, might find that the woman in the mini-van had what she considered very good reasons to be angry at people with US Marine bumperstickers on their SUVs.  Maybe the woman had lost relatives or friends in other US wars of aggression.  Maybe she had spent time in countries that had been devastated by US violence, trying to help our victims there.  Or maybe not: maybe she just had sufficient empathy to be upset by the suffering Wright's military relatives had inflicted on innocent people far away.  I would not give the finger to Wright, or anyone else with such bumper stickers on their vehicle, but I don't know what drove the woman to express her anger that way.  Neither does Chely Wright; I doubt she knows that the woman sends her children to a private school, or what kind of church group she belongs to.

I know more about Wright, since she proceeds to tell more about herself and reveals her own bad faith.  She's been to Iraq, she says, and to Hiroshima and the DMZ.
Yes, I do have questions
I get to ask them because I'm free
That's why I've got a sticker for the U.S. Marines
On the bumper of my SUV
If Chely Wright is "free," it's not because of any war the US has fought since 1945.  All of them were wars of aggression, against countries and people who had not actually attacked the US.  And in fact she (along with all the rest of us) is less free because of George W. Bush's wars, which were used to increase already intolerable government surveillance of all citizens, to make sure we don't hold or express unacceptable political stances.  That's standard operating procedure for wars: the government uses the national peril as an excuse to curtail civil liberties, and the current war, which is intended to last forever, is no exception. 

Wright sings, "But that doesn't mean that I want war / I'm not Republican or Democrat."  What does party affiliation have to do with it?  Both parties want war, though like Wright they deny it.  The question to put to partisans and to self-proclaimed non-partisans like Chely Wright is: What wars have you ever opposed, and did you oppose them on principle or because a President of the wrong party was in office?  Opposing war, or specific wars, on principle, is totally uncool; so is objecting because of the suffering Our Boys and Girls will bring to innocent civilians in the country we attack.  If all Wright can do is talk about her allegiance to the people she knows, then give me Natalie Maines, even if she's "vulgarly anti-war." 

I don't know nearly enough to judge the woman who yelled at Chely Wright, though on the face of it I think she acted without knowing enough about Wright.  But Wright has told the world more about herself (and I'm not talking about her 2010 coming out as lesbian): she's vulgarly pro-war, and I feel no discomfort about judging her for that.  "A gay American hero"?  Hell, no.