Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Country, Right or Far-Right

It occurred to me again today that, much as they like to pretend to be patriots, right-wingers really hate the US government. It was RWA1's latest antics on Facebook that reminded me of this: he linked an article at the Washington Examiner, which laments that
Boeing is not free to make its jets at the factory of its choosing, according to the National Labor Relations Board -- it must make them in Washington state, using union labor.
As it happens, I'd just read another article on the same story, by Andrew Leonard at Salon. The National Labor Relations Board had ruled against Boeing's move to South Carolina, a "right-to-work" state, to avoid the kind of strikes it had faced in its Washington plant. Leonard quotes a New York Times article on the case:

Boeing executives had publicly said they were making the move to avoid the kind of strikes the airplane maker had repeatedly faced in Washington; Lafe Solomon, the labor board's acting general counsel, said the company's motive constituted illegal retaliation against workers for exercising their right to strike ...

Mr. Solomon, who has worked for board members of both parties, said this case was straightforward: Boeing had retaliated against workers for exercising their federally protected right to strike. "They had a consistent message that they were doing this to punish their employees for having struck and having the power to strike in the future," he said. "I can't not issue a complaint in the face of such evidence."

It tells you something about today's corporate arrogance, nurtured through years of pro-business administrations, that Boeing executives thought they'd be safe making such open declarations about their reasons for the move. Against the Washington Examiner's writer, I'd say it was Boeing, not the NLRB, that "overreached." The case isn't settled, though, and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

But back to RWA1, whose comment on the story was: "Uncle Sugar giveth and Uncle Sugar taketh away." The implication being that, because Boeing executives and employees had not only donated to Obama's campaign, but the company has benefited from federal subsidies and loans, they are reaping what they sowed. As the Examiner writer put it, "And Boeing has pocketed even more taxpayer loot under Obama than it did under George W. Bush." (Maybe he thinks that the Bush administration would never "'use public office to make winners into losers and losers into winners' and 'bend, break and make the law to help their friends and punish their enemies." He's quoting an Examiner "colleague" on the special wickedness of the Obama administration there.) If they had not collaborated with the State and helped a Socialist into the Oval Office, Boeing could have violated federal labor law with impunity. I mean, it's so unfair! Corporations are supposed to be above the law! It's in the Constitution, along with "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"!

Let me remind my readers that I don't pretend to be a patriot; nor do I think there's anything wrong with hating America. RWA1 and others of his ilk do. Ronald Reagan, for example, notoriously declared that the most frightening words in the language are "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." Of course, when disaster strikes, the same right-wingers are first in line demanding to be frightened with government help. And you'd better not criticize a Republican President (unless, just unless you're a Republican yourself): the cult of personality around Reagan and George W. Bush belies the conservative claims to distrust government. (RWA1, like many other American rightists, believes that Julian Assange of Wikileaks should be executed -- perhaps summarily -- for treason, even though Assange is not an American citizen and owes this country no loyalty. I'd be surprised if I hadn't already noticed that many Americans think that "patriotism" means loyalty to the United States, no matter what country you happen to be from.)

The same conservatives are infuriated at any recognition of imperfection in the US government's conduct, unless it's conduct they dislike; I'm near the end of History on Trial now, and its account of right-wingers' insistence that school history classes avoid anything that reflects badly on the US and its past government officials was another inspiration for this post. The authors quote a letter printed in the November 8, 1994 issue of the Wall Street Journal, attacking the standards for American history classes:
The first [letter], by Balint Vazonyi, senior fellow at the Potomac Foundation, likened the standards to "an amnesia-inducing drug to be administered on a national scale without hypodermic needles." The standards writers, wrote Vasonyi, had taken a page out of the book "developed in the councils of the Bolshevik and Nazi parties and successfully deployed on the youth of the Third Reich and the Soviet Empire. The recipe called for schools that dispense not knowledge but a compendium of selected events, personalities and interpretations. More important, knowledge was eliminated of such events and personalities as were deemed to have no usefulness by the ideologues of the Nazi or Bolshevik party (which also gave us the concept of political correctness) ... [188-9].
The remarkable thing about this rant is that it perfectly describes the demands of the right-wing ideologues who were attacking the history standards: they wanted students to be taught a compendium of selected events, personalities and interpretations (Columbus, the Pilgrim Fathers, our glorious Revolution, the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the glorious march to the Pacific, etc.) while eliminating events and personalities as were deemed to have no usefulness by the ideologues of the Republican party (the Injuns, the slaves, Harriet Tubman, the Seneca Falls women's suffrage convention of 1848, working people that nobody has ever heard of). I'm being just a wee bit unfair there -- some well-known Democrats, like Arthur Schlesinger Jr., have made the same complaint, demanding that American history classes should leave white American children feeling good about themselves, presumably on the assumption that their self-esteem would trickle down to children of color. Or something.

As I say, I'm not a patriot, and I certainly don't object to criticism either of the United States, of its government, or of the officials in that government. I am bemused by the doublethink of my right-wing fellow citizens, their ability to demand abject adoration of America and its government from everyone else while making hatred of its government a basic postulate of their own political discourse. I believe that this doublethink, and the cognitive dissonance it entails, may explain some of their fury when anyone else fails to genuflect before America -- or when they simply suspect someone else of insufficient reverence before the idol of the American State. (Balint Vazonyi's letter, quoted above, is a textbook case.)

At the same time, I'm conscious of analogous tensions in my own stance toward my country, my government -- hell, toward my species. I'll try to write more about this before too long.