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The Expansionist
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
 
Not Right vs. Left, but Them Against Us. I finally figured it out. So-called "conservatives" have rabidly rallied around John McCain's Radical Feminist choice for Vice President not because Radical Feminism is suddenly a conservative value but because She is One of Us, and We will circle the wagons to protect any of Us from Them.
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The Radical Rightwing, you see, is not about ideas at all but Tribe. Once a so-called "conservative" has established his or her bona fides, s/he is embraced by the Tribe, and the Tribe will fite to the death to defend them. It doesn't matter how far one strays from the supposed "principles" of the Tribe. You can teach Sunday school from Mao Zedong's Little Red Book, or hire a male prostitute and use meth with him. As long as you make the appropriate noises, carry a gun or at least become a "lifelong member of the NRA", you are in like Flynn, and nothing you can do will turn the Tribe against you, unless you forthritely and unrepentantly attack the Tribe. What matters is not what you DO, but what you SAY.
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Ronald Reagan, Heap Big Chief of Tribe, could say:

In this present crisis, Government is not the solution to our problem; Government is the problem.
But he could then increase the size of that very Government, and triple the national debt, and no one in the Tribe would call him on it. Because it's not Reagan who expanded the size and intrusiveness of Government, not Heap Big Chief! No, it was all Those outsiders forcing deficits upon him against his will by refusing to cut spending to stay within the limited means he tried to impose by cutting taxes! It's not that Reagan asked for all those expenditures and signed all those budgets. No, he was just powerless to stop a 'runaway Congress'. And he had to defeat Communism, didn't he? — the Red Tribe. Well, didn't he? So he had to engage in an arms race to subject the Red Tribe to stresses it couldn't sustain, so the Red Tribe would fall to pieces. And it worked, didn't it? The Red Tribe is gone, isn't it? Never mind the bigger branch of the Red Tribe that makes nice capitalist noises and is our trading partner, the very core of the world's biggest corporation, Wal-mart. They're not the Red Tribe anymore. They're Us now.
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So they can shoot demonstrators in Tibet and deport foreigners who were so rude as to demonstrate during the Olympics. The Olympics is Amurikan, goldurn it! How dare Them demonstrators embarrass our good buddies in Beijing?
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Any betrayal in deeds is ignored if the words are right ("Read my lips: no new taxes!"), and if a few symbolic actions jibe with the supposed raison d'etre — not that We would ever use a hifalutin French term like "raison d'etre"; no, We'll say "principles" — that We, and all decent people, live by.
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But those principles are lies, rationalizations for tribalism. When Hillary Clinton wore pantsuits and ran for commander-in-chief, she was a castrating bulldyke who wanted to dominate men. When Sarah Palin runs for next-in-line-to-become commander-in-chief, she's "my kind of woman"! She even sometimes wears a dress!
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We of the Liberal Left have it all wrong in assigning good-faith belief to the Right. They don't have any principles. They have only Tribe. Everything is Them Against Us. The Government wants to take Our money to help Them, and that's what makes Government bad. When Government takes Their money to help Us, that's fine. Thus there's no outcry against the massive transfer of wealth from Blue States to Red States.
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The Radical Right is 1/6th principle and 5/6ths tribalism. Any deviation from the very few principles that "conservatives" do sort-of believe in will be excused, even fiercely defended, if the deviant says s/he's a True Believer, no matter how things may appear, or begs forgiveness for temporarily straying from the path of righteousness.
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Such "conservatives" can become Radicals overnite, then defend their new Radicalism with calm certitude, as tho they always believed that. In the American Revolution, conservatives were Loyal to the King and to the Mother Country (note the kinship/tribal term). Within a few short years, however, the old Loyalists were out — literally: some 62,000 to 100,000 physically left the Thirteen States — and the new regime was in. In those confused times, some Loyalists continued to identify their Tribe as the British Empire, but for others, Tribal identity shifted to "American".
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There is a close connection between "conservatives" and a particular "way of life": that is, Tribal Rites. Be it NASCAR and country music, or attendance at Protestant churches and religious music, the Radical Right is a community of customs and actions rather than ideas. (The peculiar exception is neocon Jews who insinuate themselves into a community of which they are actually not remotely part, to promote their Zionist values by convincing feeble-minded Rightwingers that Christianity is actually Judaism because "Jesus was a Jew", which makes all Christians Jews, and thus, by extension, members of "God's Chosen People" (the ultimate tribe you'd want to belong to); "the Bible" includes the Old Testament, which are Jewish writings that Christians are obliged to believe, no matter how violently at variance they may be with Christianity; "Israelites", with whom Christians are to identify, equals "Israelis"; and the Christian Holy Land must be defended, even tho Christians don't hold it and aren't allowed to spread the "Good News of Our Lord, Jesus Christ" to the locals within it. And this new coziness with Jews, long a despised minority in the homeland of the Radical Right, is, we are to believe, thoroly natural. We were always pro-Jew!
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The innermost core of the "conservative" Tribe is, some observers have seen, an actual tribe: the Scotch-Irish. A colleague of mine in northern England has pointed out that many of the bellicose and tribalistic behaviors we see at work in the Radical Right of the United States originated in the aggressive Protestantism of Scots who moved first to Catholic Ireland as Protestant settlers/conquerors in the service of British imperialism, then on to the New World, again in service of British imperialism. They concentrated in parts of what is now the core homeland of the Radical Right, the South and especially Appalachia, where they became a major or even the dominant component of the population.
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Their behavior to this day has little to do with ideas, but only with Tribe. A book, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America by James H. Webb, discusses their influence. I haven't read it, but the premise seems largely credible. A review in Publisher's Weekly says:

Webb's thesis is that the Scots-Irish, with their rugged individualism, warrior culture built on extended familial groups (the "kind of people who would die in place rather than retreat") and an instinctive mistrust of authority, created an American culture that mirrors these traits.
His premise that rugged individualists of military bent first went with the flow of empire, then turned against the WASP ruling class, would explain the sudden switch from British to American allegiance — and then the equally abrupt switch from American to Confederate allegiance — and then the gradual switch to American jingoism. Consider the inherent contradiction between individualism and militarism. Armies aren't individualist. Each soldier doesn't make his own decisions, but takes orders from a commander. So what is this 'rugged individualism' nonsense? And now these 'rugged individualists' want to take orders from a female commander-in-chief??
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The culture that the Scotch-Irish gave rise to is not American culture at large. It is the Tribalist culture of the Radical Right, which now pretends to concern values and ideas, but is actually all about, and only about, Tribe.
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Now, we are to believe, Radical Feminism is a conservative value. It wasn't a couple of days ago, but it is now. Because the Heap Big Chiefs of the Tribe today embrace a female subchief, and all loyal members of the Tribe must consequently, and enthusiastically, embrace the idea that if the Big Chief should die, we must gladly accept a female Supreme Chief, a female commander-in-Chief, a female Chief-in-Chief. "Conservative principles", you see, are very flexible, and change every time the Heap Big Chiefs say they have changed. You can't have an 'army of the faithful' without commanders.
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So what are the core, unchangeable principles of the Radical Right today? Hard to say. The homeland of the Tribe, the Deep South, is presently under assault and threat by hurricanes. Not the wrath of God, of course, just a natural occurrence. It would be the wrath of God if a series of hurricanes struck the homeland of Them, the Liberal tribe, in, say, New York City or Los Angeles. (And don't forget that there was a prominent, reddish-brown tornado in Colorado the day the Democratic Convention opened!) But when it hits the Gulf Coast, it's just an unfortunate confluence of natural forces. It's sort-of alrite for Government to act to evacuate people at taxpayer expense, tho most people should evacuate themselves of course. And the Republican Party will encourage people to give assistance as a voluntary act, as long as it is clearly understood that they are under no legal nor moral compulsion to give up their money for others, but that whatever they give is an act of charity — to be understood as charity by both giver and taker — for which they will get credits in Heaven. It is worth remembering that the major Scottish religious affiliation is Presbyterianism, a fundamental belief of which is predestination: that before any person's birth, God chooses who is to go to Heaven and who to Hell, and the Elect evidence their selection by doing good deeds, such as giving to charity. Naturally, as far as the Radical Right is concerned, everyone in Our Tribe is among the Elect.
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Gun ownership, or defense of the Second-Amendment-right-to-bear-arms (to heck with the introductory language in the Second Amendment; it has absolutely nothing to do with anything and is just there to puff up the document), is one indispensable element of membership in the Radical Right Tribe. If you actually go out and kill animals with guns, so much the better. It doesn't matter if you need the meat or just enjoy the "sport" of watching animals die. Hunting is a core value — really? value? — of the Radical Right.
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A foreign extension of this right-to-bear-arms madness is militarism and militarist jingoism. The Radical Right wants us to be armed to the teeth and ready to "kick ass" whenever anyone attacks us, even rhetorically. Not over any principle, just to defend the Tribe. Militarily. The Radical Right will sit passively by, while millions of jobs are shipped overseas, then hundreds of billions of dollars follow, to buy the products made by the people who took those jobs, subverting the Nation's economy and fueling a military buildup by, for instance, Communist China, which is using our dollars to prepare for war against us. That's fine. No problem there. But we've got to have the best, most modern, most awesome technology of war, and we can then pretend that all is well with the world, no matter how far the dollar drops, no matter how many jobs we lose, no matter how many Americans can't find work. Because taking care of our own poor is not a value of the Radical Right Tribe — except, of course, when it comes time to vote on a foreign-aid bill. Then, all of a sudden, "Charity begins at home, you know!", and we shouldn't be sending money overseas until all Americans are taken care of. Once the foreign-aid bill is whittled down to nothing — except for Israel, of course — then the Radical Right goes back to not giving two shakes of a rat's ass about the poor — even tho their Tribe is poorer, on average, than other Americans.
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Until yesterday, one might think that sexual abstinence before and outside marriage is vital to the Radical Right. Only They are whores, who screw around without a care and give rise to babies without any concern. What about Sarah Palin's unmarried 17-year-old dauter, who is five months pregnant? Well, you see, We make mistakes. And it is part of our Faith to forgive. So Sarah Palin's dauter gets herself knocked up at 17 and all of a sudden it's okay to f(asterisk) around without marriage, even to get pregnant — as long as the girl and the (unintentional) father 'do the right thing' and get married. But those Liberals! Their screwing around outside marriage is evil.
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See the pattern? Identical behaviors produce opposite reactions. We are only human. They are evil.
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It's not about ideology. It's about Tribe. You might talk someone out of a mistaken idea. You won't talk them out of Tribalism. Once someone has invested himself in the Tribe, he will forgive any "failing" by any member of the Tribe, as long as s/he admits having "strayed" and makes appropriate noises proclaiming allegiance to the Tribe. And once the Tribe has accepted someone, s/he can stray wildly from the Tribe's supposed ideology and the Tribe will not only permit the deviation but might actually embrace the Radical departure from everything that went before as a "new direction" of "conservative" ideology. Not a betrayal; a natural development from prior principles. No, Sarah Palin is not a dyky, petty-vindictive bitch who victimized her former brother-in-law. She's a "strong woman", who "has more balls than most men". Our kind of conservative!
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The "conservatism" of the Radical Right is, in short, no such thing. Liberals have principles. "Conservatives" have only Tribe.
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P.S. A friend here in Newark mentioned to me in email what I have said here several times about embittered white people in or near cities ravaged by black violence and crime: "I would NEVER choose a black man to be commander-in-chief. I voted once for a black man — Ken Gibson [former Mayor of Newark, our local commander-in-chief] — and would NEVER do it again." Gibson (of whom Wikipedia says, "He was the first African American elected mayor of any major Northeastern U.S. city.") was accused but never convicted of corruption (tho he did plead guilty to tax fraud), and the city continued its downward spiral, despite his trying to work with business.

Gibson himself said, "Wherever American cities are going, Newark will get there first."
Newark has been to hell and back. But despite the return of reasonably good days, huge numbers of current and former white Newarkers will NEVER forgive "the blacks" for what they did to this fabulous city, and will NEVER vote black till the day they die. They are not alone. Myriad former Detroiters, Clevelanders, Philadelphians, etc., will also NEVER vote for a black President. In that many genuine conservatives will never vote for a woman President, or even a Vice President they think might ascend to the Presidency if an old man dies or becomes incapacitated, this may be a very interesting election. Alas, many people think, "No good can come of it."
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq is 4,151 — for Israel.)


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