It struck me again this morning. Every once in a while I get broadsided by a bizarre sense of unreality when I think about how obsessive we — all of us, any of us — can become over really small, really insignificant things.
Take, for instance, the three-plus thousand US soldiers who’ve been killed in Iraq, many of them after Mission Accomplished, most of them after major combat operations ceased. Those aren’t insignificant, not by any rational measure, yet they seem to be unimportant to a fairly large minority of their fellow countrymen.
Contrarily we have a 41-year-old NASA astronaut who wore diapers in a cross-country drive, apparently intent on kidnapping and possibly killing a woman whom she perceived as a romantic rival. In the process, this person might well have destroyed her own marriage. This kind of behavior is near enough to Michael Richards’s outburst to make me think she needs meds as much as he did. But, diagnosably unbalanced or not, this behavior is clearly an example of obsession on something … well, not necessarily insignificant, but certainly unrealistic.
North Korea and Iran continue to be loci of trouble, and yet it seems that Washington can’t or won’t deal with either of them in a sensible way, despite requests being made as far back as 2003 from Iran that would have opened up dialogue with the US (something Rice claims to have never seen, I suppose like she never saw a threat in the title Bin Laden Determined to Attack in the United States). We’re losing Afghanistan and we’ve already lost Iraq, and Osama is still able to both run and hide.
Earth’s human-induced climate change is no longer a serious issue of debate, yet there’s dithering from the White House and we continue to see selfish, uncaring morons gadding about in oversized vehicles that practically boast of getting fuel economy in the single-digit range.
We don’t have enough Arabic translators in military positions right now — yet some 50 or more who used to be in the military were discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. This means they were gay or lesbian. (H/T Pam.)
Ted Haggard has so twisted himself that he’s in denial again — and at least some people are believing it. His claims, after three weeks of “therapy”, that he’s totally straight are every bit as believable as they were several years ago, when he was snorting meth and boning with a male prostitute.
And that’s when it struck me. With all the hell breaking loose on this planet today, why the fuck do we care who’s screwing whom?
Seriously. There are starving people in this nation and in most others, there are serious climate shifts afoot, there’s unrest and strife in every community from the local to the global. All these problems can be changed by shifting focus a little, by becoming more slightly other-centered, by agreeing to give a little to charity, to vote for ethical peacemakers, to choose low-carbon alternatives for home, office and transportation.
And, rather than do these things, jingoists and demagogues alike instead obsess on cock and pussy. The willful stupidity of these stump-thumpers is exceeded only by the blindness of those who flock after them.
There are some right-wing groups that are beginning to grasp the problem here. There’s a growing wave in the fanatical crowd that promotes individual responsibility, sound environmentalism and even — in some cases — acceptance of nonheterosexuals. While I find this trend promising, I don’t know how effective it’s going to be.
At their lowest ebb, Bush’s numbers remain around 30% approval. This is a fairly sound diagnostic for the percentage of ultra-rightists who support global belligerence, personal irresponsibility and fearmongering. These are the people who send their kids to murder-promoting Jesus camps; these are the people who bomb abortion clinics; these are the people who worked themselves into hysteria over Terri Schiavo.
The cliché holds that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem; but you have to be able to recognize that before you can actually do anything about it. There are a lot of people of whom we could say that if they vanished tomorrow, no one would really notice. Things would still get done, life would go on, and there wouldn’t be that much strain put on anyone.
The thirty-percenters are not of that group; they’re of the group which, if they disappeared, would leave the world better off than if they stuck around.
The tragic part is that they could so easily be productive. Consider the intense — insane — energy that went into the protests about Schiavo. Imagine how effective these people would have been at protesting involvement in Iraq, back in 2002, or perhaps demonstrating now outside of Humvee dealerships all across the US.
But they won’t do that, because their views hold that Earth is doomed and Jesus will be arriving in the next few years, so there’s no point in conserving anything; and because their peculiar bigotry allows them to possess a divinely-inspired salvation coupled with a right to judge negatively anyone with whom they disagree in the slightest. Detente or diplomacy are, to such people, literally unthinkable.
This is why we have the problems we do. This is why our nation is in decline. And this is why things won’t improve until we’re able to get past the ingrained xenophobia of extreme right-wing fanaticism.
There is no distinguishable difference between Muslim or Christian extremists — unfortunately those least able to recognize that fact are themseves the very sources of the problems that threaten all the rest of us.
It’s not queers we need to be concerned with. It’s the finger-pointing radicals that are the real threat to marriage, the military and the American Way of Life ™.