Archive - Aug 20, 2010

Dean Dean The Dancing Machine

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I really didn't want to write this column. I'm exhausted by the mosque thing. I'm dejected by the mosque thing. Thank fuck for Al Franken, being one of the few elected voices of sanity I've heard on this issue yet, but he didn't go far enough. Because he's right that conservative opposition to the community center is hella disgraceful, but so is Howard Dean's.

I alluded to it yesterday. At the time, all Dean did was go on a right-wing radio station and call for a "compromise" in which the mosque would be moved more than two blocks away from Ground Zero. I'm not sure how this is a compromise, since one side wants to build it two blocks from Ground Zero, and the other side wants to move it farther away than that. But that's the kind of thing that I can let slide with a quick aside. Which I did.

Then, after I'd done that, he went to the Huffington Post to double-down. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

""The battle lines have been drawn so firmly on every issue that when the right says 'X' the left has to take the opposite position. This seems like one issue where if you have a congregation that wants to make things work and want to bring America back together again then why don't you do that."

That's how it's gonna be, Howie? It's the left that's simply reflexively supporting Cordoba because the right opposed it? I believe that the only appropriate response to this is culinary. A bowl of spicy hot dicks, prepare it table-side and flambé. Mr. Dean, your order is up. And yes, there's other ridiculous offensive stuff in that paragraph, but we're saving that for dessert.

Fast-forward to now - the writing now, not the reading now. Yes, Howard Dean has been plenty stupid enough to get a column. Yes, he has pissed me off to no end. But do I really want to spend another day deconstructing the sad arguments of a mosque opponent? Do you want to spend another day reading it? Somehow, Dean must have sensed my reticence, because he reached out to Salon and wrote a piece that sealed the deal. Third time's the charm, asshole.

"Nor did I side with the Islamophobic rhetoric of Newt, Palin et al." - Dean, in his opening paragraph of "Why I back a mosque compromise".

Yes you did. I understand that you don't like thinking that you did. I even understand that you don't think you did. But Newt and Palin want the mosque moved farther away from Ground Zero because of some imagined offense to 9/11 victims. Which is exactly what your "compromise" consists of. That's called siding with. There are two sides, and you're on the side with Newt and Palin, so you're siding with them. But you know what? It doesn't even bug me all that much that you're siding with them. Lots of Democrats have sided with them, out of rank political cowardice. What really got you the place of honor in today's column, what really overcame my reticence to cover this subject one more goddamned time, was this.

"My argument is simple. This center may be intended as a bridge or a healing gesture but it will not be perceived that way unless a dialogue with a real attempt to understand each other happens. That means the builders have to be willing to go beyond what is their right and be willing to talk about feelings whether the feelings are "justified" or not. No doubt the Republic will survive if this center is built on its current site or not. But I think this is a missed opportunity to try to have an open discussion about why this is a big deal, because it is a big deal to a lot of Americans who are not just right-wing politicians pushing the hate button again. I think those people need to be heard respectfully, whether they are right or whether they are wrong."

Whether the feelings are justified is the whole point. Whether the feelings are right or whether they are wrong is the whole point. Where the feelings came from is the whole point. People are having these feelings BECAUSE the right-wing politicians are pushing the hate button again. If they hadn't, nobody would have even known about these plans except a few locals at zoning meetings in Manhattan.

The feelings aren't justified. The feelings aren't right. They shouldn't be heard respectfully, because you shouldn't respect things that are unjustified and wrong. And you're not just calling for those feelings to be heard - they're being heard, believe me. They're being broadcast and amplified and multiplied by the echo chamber until they're completely inescapable.

No, you're asking the victims of a ginned-up smear and hate campaign to capitulate to that campaign on the grounds that it worked. Everyone's really upset now, so in the interests of not making people upset anymore, the upset people should get what they want - otherwise, we'll be forced to assume that the builders aren't willing to go far enough with their bridge or healing gesture. That's completely fucking reprehensible, but it's also typical.

I think Dean has inadvertently given me clarity on what's been driving me batshit crazy about the Obama administration. It's what they'd call "pragmatism", and it goes a little something like this.

Newt Gingrich walks into the Oval Office. He drops his pants, and takes a huge, steaming shit on the carpet. He wipes his ass on the flag, pulls up his pants, and leaves. The reaction is instantaneous. Obama demands action. This shit must be cleaned up! We will do whatever it takes to remove this pile of feces from the carpet. So they bring in dustpans and steam cleaners and Febreze, and after about four hours, Newt's dump is all but a memory.

The next day, after a hearty breakfast of bran muffins, coffee, and raw bacon, Newt comes in, and does the exact same thing. And this time, one of Obama's advisors speaks up. "Sir, maybe we should lock the door, or tell Security to keep the former Speaker out of the building. Or get Gingrich back here to clean up his mess."

But it doesn't matter how the shit got on the floor. That's looking backward. The shit is there now, and the important thing is that it goes away as quickly and as painlessly as possible. And so that happens, and the third day, Gingrich shits right into someone's mouth, and all Rahm Emanuel is willing to do is suggest that Scope might be minty enough to help.

It's pragmatic, it's non-confrontational, and it's even-handed. But it doesn't do the one thing it needs to do - keep the shit off the rug in the first place. And until Howard Dean and the majority of the Democrats get this through their heads and start actually defending what's right and justified against what's unjustified and wrong, people are going to know exactly what that smell is, and what it means.