[promoted by BooMan]
I spent my first nine years in southern Georgia. And if there’s any label that can universally be applied to the South of my youth, it’s “polite.”
Oh, I know, some of you think the South of the 1950s was the home of lynchings, chain gangs and forcing people of certain pigmentation, like my grandparents, to step off the sidewalk when a real human needed to pass. The home of old times being misremembered but not forgotten, of nigger this and nigger that, of fire-hoses and share-croppin’. True enough, but underneath it all was politeness. Practically the first words out of my mouth were “ma’am” and “suh.” I can still feel the sting from the backhand to the mouth I caught on the two occasions when I forgot to employ those honorifics. Today, half a century later, whether to clerks, cops, CEOS, neighbors, whoever, I call them what I was taught. Proving, I guess, that violent child abuse can modify behavior.
Today, too, I confess that I am disconcerted by the incivility of modern political discourse. The incendiary name-calling, the profanity, the obscenity, the hyperbole just makes that Southern piece of me scream: how very, very rude.
So tone it down, people.
Let me make another confession. I’ve been a bit of a name-caller myself. For example, two-and-a-half years ago, I started calling President Bush Dubyanocchio. The NeoCons’ wooden-headed puppet boy. And right up `til now I haven’t been able to quit. But in the name of respectful courtesy, it’s got to stop. After all, how would I like it if they called one of my favorite stand-up guys Wuss Whinegeld? Wouldn’t that piss me off? And wouldn’t I think they were being juvenile and petty and overly partisan? And wouldn’t I think they don’t want to have a give-and-take discussion else they wouldn’t throw insults around like that? Wouldn’t I think they were ill-bred?
Clearly, my discourtesy deserves a scolding. Dubyanocchio, indeed.
From now on, I am not going to call the President of the USA, the Commander-in-Chief, the Spy-in-Chief, the Torturer-in-Chief a liar and a puppet. How impolite. You’d think I was just itching for a smack in the mouth. Today onward, it’s gonna be Mister Bush for me.
I make this sacrifice on the altar of civil discourse.
This does not mean that I believe Mister Bush is truthful. Or that he is a decisive fellow who operates without any strings choreographing his every public move. He is not truthful. To use the passive-aggressive tense invented by Richard Nixon: Lies were told. By this President. To the American people. For the furtherance of a war. Mister Bush and his crew concocted, invented, fabricated, exaggerated, and then when caught out, they stifled the truth, the worst kind of lying. Tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians are dead because of their lies. Tens of thousands are maimed. Families wrecked. Careers destroyed. Women widowed. Children orphaned.
Sometimes, I believe, we have no choice. Sometimes, we must go to war because not to do so will mean enslavement and slaughter. It’s called self-defense. And it didn’t take September 11 to persuade me that self-defense is a good thing for anyone who isn’t willing to die at an enemy’s whim.
But it is in the nature of war to produce death and suffering. Despite the claims of the recruiting poster or the patriotic parade, war is not about heroism, although that is not absent. Good cause or bad, dictatorship or democracy, war is about killing and destroying. While much is made nowadays of the effort to keep “collateral damage” low, even the most careful war kills more civilians than soldiers. Whatever the goals, however just the motives, war is hell, war is horror. To undertake one for a lie is the deepest possible betrayal of those who are asked to fight it and of those who cheer those who fight it.
Not only have I come to understand that it’s impolite to call Mister Bush Dubyanocchio. I also realize how terribly outside the boundaries of respectful discussion it would be to ask the supporters of Mister Bush what they think it should be called when a President betrays the public trust by lying about the need for a war which he says he is doing everything possible to avoid, but, in fact, has already decided to start.
Some people, definitely not supporters of Mister Bush, have answered that question with the word “traitor.” For example, I’m one. Which is really impolite. Another smack in the mouth for me.
And not only impolite.
The lawyers say, no, no, no, what Mister Bush has done doesn’t fit the very specific meaning of treason in the Constitution. Or, at the very least, it would be stretching the meaning. The political strategists say, maybe it’s true that Mister Bush is a traitor, but for crying out loud, don’t say it or you’ll sour the voters who will punish the Democrats, reducing our chances to regain Congress in `06. Many people who want to see the Administration continue its encouraging downward swirl nevertheless truly believe in civil discourse and also that there are Republicans worth saving. They think “traitor” cheapens the discussion and makes those who utter it look like liberal Rush Limbaughs.
The lawyers are right. The political strategists may be right. As for being as bad as Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh, well, those two think dissent is treason, whereas I think dissent is healthy, while lying to goad people into backing a predetermined decision to go to war makes one a traitor, even if it only fits the common connotation of the word – a deceitful betrayer of the nation. I think there’s a pretty clear distinction there, but if you think this transforms me into a lefty Limbaugh, I stand chastised, repentant and convinced. I have been impolite far too long.
So I’ve surrendered Dubyanocchio. From now and forevermore, it’s Mister Bush. From this day forward, too, no more “traitor” from me. And should I somehow magically encounter the President at one of those public meetings whose rules are designed to keep people like me out, I’ll be sure to recall that deferential little kid I once was, and ask:
“Mister Bush, when are you going to stop being a goddamned lying warmonger … suh?”