RALL: Progressive Bigotry
Someone in the van load of writers and editors said it on the way back from the Vermont ski junket. It was one of those "What's wrong with America" discussions, and the crisply-dressed twentysomething woman's offered her two cents: "Fifth-generation welfare recipients -- it's just not right."It's also not true. Thanks to a certain biological reality having to do with human fertility and gestation periods, currently it is only humanly possible to have third-generation welfare recipients since welfare as we knew it began in the '30s.The woman in question was well-educated, well-connected and well-spoken, not to mention liberal in all the ways that educated Americans usually are, but she had nonetheless bought into the conservative myth of a pernicious welfare culture that sucks up federal revenues and holds us back in the trade wars. From Reagan's welfare queen to Clinton's workfare, both the left and the right scapegoat the poor. The only difference is that liberals prefer a gentle shove to the Republicans' swift kick in the butt -- and both understand the implicit coding: Welfare equals inner-city blacks equals lazy scum.Immigrant-bashing too has gone mainstream. Once the exclusive territory of inbred Aryan Nation skinheads and sundry well-heeled nativists, many of the new opponents of immigration (coding: immigrant equals Hispanic equals dirty scum) identify themselves with traditionally left-of-center causes such as environmentalism, support of abortion rights and reducing the disparity of wealth. Much of the current Clinton campaign finance scandal revolves around a xenophobic subtext (coding: Asian businessman equals Yellow Peril equals evil scum). When people hear their corporate, political and media leaders spouting anti-immigrant lies year after year after year, it eventually starts to sink in.And this is what's really wrong with America: Right-wingers currently enjoy a monopoly on vicious rhetoric. All of the au courant hatreds -- cruelty that ranges from fag jokes to AIDS research cutbacks, from sexist remarks to gang rape, from atrocious urban schools for blacks to killing them by lethal injection in overly-funded prisons -- originated with right-wing conservatives. Disgusting as they may be, hateful catch phrases and buzzwords are the most effective soundbytes of all; they're political shorthand that dismiss complex issues and define complex groups with simplistic disdain.Epithets like "bitch," "faggot" and "welfare mom" are infinitely more widespread -- and therefore potent -- than all the beautifully-constructed Noam Chomsky essays in the world. Gutter talk spewed from drunks in passing cars is the ultimate national discourse -- and it's time for the well-intentioned to get down and dirty.Unfortunately, what remains of the left after the wholesale capitulation of the Democratic Party to corporate interests is far too infected with politically-correct rectitude to fight back efficiently. The only way to beat a bully is to fight back twice as hard and twice as dirty as he does. The trouble is, the Volvo and Sierra Club crowd have forgotten how to tie their shoes, much less take on the right-wing paradigm. That's why political progressives need to adopt progressive bigotry to countermand the constant onslaught of right-wing tripe spewing out of TV screens and newspaper headlines every day. Here are some helpful examples:Rich-Bashing: Bashing evil capitalists went out of style after World War II, but with most people living in a constant low-grade economic depression, it's high time to bring back the proud practice. And we're not just talking talk here, either: No limo or Lexis should be safe from having its windows smashed -- or at least getting keyed. Leftists should burn down their wealthy neighbors' homes whenever they're away on vacation. Mugging anyone making more than $100,000 a year should no longer be a crime, and Ivy League school tuition should be subject to a 50 percent luxury tax. Suggested epithets: Corporate welfare king, leech, resource hog, interest whore, cash junkie, money wanker.Native-Bashing: Obviously Americans who were born (and remain) here lack the vision and imagination to move overseas. They're clearly reprehensible, boring, stupid individuals who expect good jobs to be brought to them rather than extract themselves from their Lazee-Boys and go to Kuala Lumpur -- not to mention the products of a moribund strip-mall culture. Being born in the USA ought to be a license to be beaten, deprived of government services, made ineligible for all jobs other than asbestos disposal and subjected to countless ethnic slurs in animated Disney films. Anti-native bias should become especially vicious whenever the government becomes involved in saber-rattling with nations composed of a Caucasian majority, and anyone with white skin should automatically be assumed to be born in the United States. Suggested insults: Redneck, stoner, ghost, space-filler, cultural footnote, simpleton, inertia boy, Mayflower madam.Straight-Bashing: Gays and lesbians should start feeling free to pick on straight people, simply because they happen to be straight. Teenagers who display early signs of heterosexuality should be hounded by parents and shrinks, and the government should develop special strains of bacteria that kill breeders with exquisitely slow pain. Roving gangs of homosexual men should cruise the streets of our cities, looking for guys who "look" straight to pound and occasionally murder. Suggested appellations: Chick pirate, stick slut, mix-and-matchers, constipoids, poke hounds.There will, of course, be those wimps who decline to lower themselves to such violent, primitive tactics of political expression. But if the rampaging forces of corporatism, racism, homophobia and sexism are ever to be effectively countered, leftists will have to employ the harshest possible methods. Then, once the oppressors truly feel what it's like to be a victim, they'll finally be ready to negotiate away their privileged positions in exchange for merely being treated with decency. Only in an America where Bill Gates is afraid to leave his suburban showcase home, straights are afraid to hold hands in public and being born overseas becomes a status symbol, will there ever be any hope for equality and justice for all.