Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Faith in a bloody fraud

This is from Adam Kirsch's review of a new biography of William Wordworth by Juliet Barker in the December 5 issue of the New Yorker:

Wordsworth’s turn away from politics was responsible for the extraordinary flourishing of his poetry after 1797. What animates his best work is his struggle to transcend the radicalism of his youth, to rescue its benevolent impulses while escaping its shallowness and intolerance. In a sense, Wordsworth’s intellectual trajectory is similar to that of the American Trotskyists of the nineteen-thirties, who became the liberal anti-Communists of the nineteen-fifties. Like them, Wordsworth found his revolutionary hopes betrayed by history—the Terror of Robespierre and the rise of Bonaparte. His eloquent hatred of Napoleon, like a later generation’s hatred of Stalin, came from his realization that he had wagered his highest hopes on a bloody fraud. Returning to France in 1802, after ten years of terror and war, he saw only the corpse of a revolution:

When faith was pledged to new-born Liberty:

A homeless sound of joy was in the sky:

From hour to hour the antiquated Earth

Beat like the heart of Man: songs, garlands, mirth,

Banners, and happy faces, far and nigh!

And now, sole register that these things were,

Two solitary greetings have I heard,

"Good morrow, Citizen!" a hollow word,

As if a dead man spake it!

My Republican-Texan-Bush Voting brother-in-law has been dropping hints he's not much happy with his guy in the White House. Lately he's been telling my father that he's looking forward to Hillary being elected so he won't have to play defense all the time anymore.

My brother-in-law is an extremely bright, articulate, and tenacious guy, and no shrinking violet either, as umpires working Texas Ranger home games can tell you. Watch the Rangers play in Arlington sometime next season and keep your ears open---although you really won't have to listen that hard---you'll hear him. That's his voice carrying out across the stadium, "GET YOUR EYES CHECKED, BLUE!"

In short, my brother-in-law is not the kind who backs down easily from an argument. So I have to figure that if he's tired of defending Bush, it's got to be because he's decided there's nothing there to defend.

He's probably not going to switch to being a Democrat, and I don't think he'll wind up voting for Hillary just to give himself the fun of hating her afterwards. But who knows?

Depends on whether he makes the leap from realizing that Bush and his gang of thieves and thugs have betrayed everything that traditional Republicans and conservatives used to hold dear to realizing that most Republicans in Washington haven't held those things dear for well over a generation now.

When too clever for their own good Right Wing intellectual types, pundits, and their echoes, the blog orcs, trying to make the case that the Republican Party is the party of ideas, accuse Democrats of belonging to what is now the conservative party they aren't aware of the truth of which they speak or of the irony.

But I suspect that at the moment many smart, honest, decent-minded, and humbled, conservatives and Republicans are making that leap...or they are turning the fall they are taking after the Bush Leaguers gave them the push into a Olympic-quality dive.

After reading that passage from Kirsch's essay this afternoon, I wondered hopefully if any important Republican politicians or conservative thinkers and writers might be making the leap soon.

Of course, it isn't necessary that they do. What's necessary is that they realize and realize it quickly that when it comes to the Bush Leaguers it's not just a case of there being nothing there to defend, or even nothing there that was ever worth defending---the time has come when common decency requires all honest men and women to rise up appalled and demand that the bloody fraud be overthrown.

And, serendipitously, after I read Kirsch's review and then came online to blog about it---yes, I was reading the analog version. How quaint.---I made a stop at Berube's page first and found that he's just heard from a conservative-libertarian blogger who has risen up appalled.

The blogger, Mark Earnerst, pointed Berube to a post of his (Earnest's) in which he's written:

I almost feel I don’t know these people anymore. It seems now they feel government cannot have nearly enough power. Secret courts, secret warrants, secret prisons, suspect torture, massive data gathering on all aspects of US citizens including medical records, library records, and financial records are all wonderful things. . . .

I truly and honestly do not understand. People who once proudly quoted Franklin’s “Those who give up essential liberty for a little safety deserve neither” now cheerlead the executive branch on in removing any judicial oversight, congressional oversight, and in fact ANY oversight (as most of these laws are secret) from the land. Far from the transparent government the founders imagined, we are now entering a system where laws are kept secret, prosecutions are kept secret, and national security is a password to removing any and all liberty that stands in the way of anything government wishes to do.

Berube is appreciative of Earnest's declaration of righteous outrage, but he goes on to make clear that the Bush Leaguers and their cheerleaders haven't merely wandered off the good conservative path. They were never on it:

People who support a clandestine program of warrantless domestic spying are not “conservatives” or “libertarians.” Neither are people who support the creation of a worldwide archipelago of secret torture sites. Neither are people who support the usurpation of the functions of government by the executive branch; who espouse the theory that the executive branch is the final arbiter of the legality of the actions of the executive branch; and who call for the investigation or prosecution of a free press that dares to report on the executive branch’s secret programs of domestic spying and outsourced torture.

Those people, my friends, are called the radical right.

I don't know how many more will have a Wordsworthian change of heart. Enough, though, I hope to see the corpse of the revolution and hear the words victory, Iraq, 9/11, and terra "as if a dead man spake it."

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