Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

My Photo
Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

James Wolcott Has it Right on Bush Co., Sheehan, Women, and this War

Here it is, and I don’t think he would mind the copyright infringement:

Flickers at Dusk

Posted by James Wolcott

"Dr. Spock's chief claim to recent attention has been in making a holy fool of himself over the Vietnamese war--something I would have expected a stand-up Christian like [Catholic convert Malcolm] Muggeridge to appreciate. Getting arrested, marching, signing things--these have their silly side after awhile. But, as Angus Wilson has said of a similar situation, what else is one to do?"
--Wilfrid Sheed, "Spock Mugged" (1973)

Interesting transition the other night. We were taxi-ing to Ouest, an Upper West Side restaurant that serves the most divine truffle omelette appetizer, and passed a vigil for Cindy Sheehan at Straus Park. "Park" is perhaps a misleadingly grand word for this slender island of flowers, shade trees, and park benches wedged between Broadway and West End Avenue. The centerpiece of this green respite is a fountain and statue commemorating the couple who went down with the Titanic, Isidor and Ida Straus. In every available walkspace of Straus Park stood vigilants holding candles, their numbers in such a concentrated space giving a chapel glow to the early evening.

At Ouest, we were seated at an upstairs table. At the next table was a quartet, one of whom I'm almost certain was Bernard Goldberg, author of The 100 People Giving Me a Royal Pain in the Tukas. I was 93% sure it was him, and was tempted with the idea of going over and introducing myself in a friendly, joshing way: Hey, it's me--#64!--doin' my darndest to bring America down. But the 7% of me that wasn't sure didn't want to risk being escorted from the restaurant for pestering a stranger trying to dine in peace. That can be so embarrassing.

But if whether or not it actually was Burnin' Bernie, righteous sorehead, either way I can't help wondering (someone should ask) if he'll be including Cindy Sheehan in a future edition of his hit parade of the 100 people screwing up America. I'd like to think that even he has more taste and decency than that, but I'm nearly always disappointed when I err on the side of generosity. Especially since Sheehan seems to have an ineffable gift for inciting wrath and irrational overreaction from pundits and rhetorical lynch mobbers without even trying...a fever Goldberg may not be strong enough to resist.

It's no surprise that the ideological militia of vile bodies on the right would swing into slime mode against Cindy Sheehan. They'll smear anyone (Max Cleland, Jamie Gorelick, makes no diff), though as Steve Gilliard and Arianna document, they've really raided the toxic dump sites for their accusations this time.

Gilliard: "The right is so desperate that they are doing extensive oppo, looking over her public financial records, getting copies of her divorce papers, searching Lexis-Nexis for any comment she made. This ain't cheap or quick."

I have been careful to quote perhaps the most sedate sentence in Steve's post.


"It's one thing for the O'Reillys and the Limbaughs to spew anti-Cindy venom. The problem arises when, under the pretense of offering both sides, MSM figures regurgitate the GOP attack machine's most contemptible hits ('she's a puppet,' 'she's anti-Israel,' 'her own family is against her') as if there are always two legitimate sides to every story. I wonder if the civil rights protests were happening today, who at the cable shows would feel compelled to give equal time to the John Birch Society?"

Actually, the rightwing has gotten more sophisticated than that. If this were the Sixties redux, they wouldn't put on a John Bircher opposite a civil rights leader, they'd find some Southern Negro to testify that they don't need some interloper like Martin Luther King marching into their communities and stirring up more trouble than it's worth. Or some Larry Elder or Larry Cain lift-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps pro-business cheerleader to argue that federal intervention isn't needed to uproot segregation, that the free market will remedy black society's ills if only these self-appointed troublemakers would butt out.

That's how the game is played now. Pit members of the same minority against each other for the benefit of privileged white bystanders hoarding their poker chips.

But I think there's something else festering in the mind of Sheehan's slimers: our old friends Rampant Sexism and Snobbish Classism. Men in authority, and those opinonmakers who polish that authority to a fine shine with their diligent tongues, resent being questioned by women. They consider it nagging, and nagging reminds them of their mother or wife, or a wife that reminds them of their mother.

"Bush's self-deprecating humor was evident throughout the lengthy interview. 'Why would you want to marry a weak woman?' he asks rhetorically, at one point. 'I was attracted to Laura because of her strength -- her beauty and her strength. And my mother? I didn't have any choice with her.'"

A very double-edged comment from Bush, lending credence to the suspicion that men who take public pride in declaring they're comfortable around strong women are blowing smoke. They may be conning themselves as much as they're trying to con us, but the truth is that the strong women they respect are those who play by men's rules. Who know just how far to "push it" before they back off.

Many men respect strong women in a professional capacity, and have no problem with being part of a power couple. But "power" is the operative word.

Men in positions of authority are less threatened by a Condi Rice or Hillary Clinton or Lynne Cheney or Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin than they are by--well, we'll get to that. Point is, women who play by power rules and fit into the power grid are granted starring roles in political theater. The others are extras and should stay on the sidelines where they belong.

It's women who aren't on the power grid and refuse to stay on the sidelines who get mocked and derided as nags, scolds, and "emotional predators" (to use the disgusting Edmund Morris's sneer phrase). Who, having made their point, should stifle themselves, as Archie Bunker so often told Edith.

Consider how many of the corporate whistleblowers were women trying to be heard above the clubbish din of male executives and who had the courage to go up against the . Or Coleen Rowley, the FBI whistleblower who sounded the alarm about Zacarias Moussaui, and for her audacity to write a follow-up memo about anti-terrorist strategy and tactics was called "a fool" by National Review Online's Ramesh Ponnuru.

In fact, pause here and read Ponnuru's entire post from March, 2003. Knowing what we know now about Iraq, WMDs, and the efficacy of the Bush doctrine of preemptive war, who's the fool?

Or consider the 9/11 widows, particularly the "Jersey Girls." At first the support and sympathy for their campaign for a 9/11 commission to investigate the unanswered questions and security failures of that day were near universal. But when they kept pushing and prodding, refusing to go away and take no for an answer, the attack poodles turned on them for being publicity gluttons "awash in their sense of victim entitlement." How dare they use their mourning to make demands? How dare they mobilize their grief and frustration into a truth campaign?

So, too, is Cindy Sheehan accused of exploiting her own victim mentality--found guilty of refusing to take the hint and get lost. Of being a public nuisance. It's bad manners for her to hang around longer than Edmund Morris and Bill O'Reilly deem appropriate. Bad manners for her to be so unslick and unschooled in soundbite banter. Bad manners for a mere lowly citizen to question the decisions of the country's leaders, and to insist on a personal accounting, a meeting that would require the president to respond as a responsible leader and not as a swaggering war president showing off his big belt buckle as he moseys up to the mike. Cindy Sheehan's sin is asking Bush to stop playacting, step out of his stilted role, and speak to her like an honest human being.

Today I learned that one of the young men on the staff of our co-op building died last week in Iraq. He and another soldier were killed when their Humvee struck a roadside bomb and the vehicle came under small arms fire. He was 29, a real nice guy. I can't pretend to have known him well. He was more of a familiar face. But seeing that familiar face on the front of the condolence card (a photograph of him smiling in his uniform at the camera) hit me hard, brought death to the doorstep. Each death diminishes us as a people. I'm going to plan my evenings better so that the next time there's a candlelight vigil to support Cindy Sheehan, I'm part of it instead of passing by. Such vigils may look quaint, literally candles in the wind, but what else is one to do?

Gilliard has more.

And, please, do read Steve Gilliard and let's all do more.


Post a Comment

<< Home