What He Said– What I Heard

There are ‘dog whistles’, subtle signals that only the base can hear. Mitt Romney isn’t even bothering with that– just going straight to Birtherland. So no one ever asked him to show his birth certificate? Yeah, Mitt, I’ll bet that no one follows your wife around the store when she goes shopping, or asks you in your own country ‘where you’re from’? Why would that be?

Never in my life have I ever heard a president’s nationality questioned until we elected our first black president. If Mitt Romney thinks the meaning of his ‘joke’ is lost on Black Americans he will find out different in November.

Washington Post thinks Mitt was blowing a dog whistle too.

When the driver made my mother-in-law go to the back of the bus in Selma, Alabama, he didn’t ask for her papers, or where her father was born. It was all about color. Too often, it still is.

(thank you, Public Domain Clip Art)

Rand Paul Beat Up by Straw Man

Okay, I’m not piling on, but I have to say this because no one else is–

Rand Paul is putting un-American words in the President’s mouth, or claiming that some shadowy entity in the Obama administration is using this kind of language…

“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,'” Paul said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.”

Of course this sounds un-American. It sounds like something out of a bad WWII movie. From the guy with the dueling scar and the eye patch. “Ve haf vays of making you talk, ya ha ha.” I seen that film before.

Can you imagine ‘no drama Obama’ bragging that he’ll crush windpipes beneath his jackboots? Can you imagine him authorizing a spokesperson to say that? I didn’t think so.

But the press rushed right by that weird statement and zoomed in on Paul’s suggestion that the President shouldn’t whip poor little British Petroleum when it’s down. Accidents happen.

That’s okay, but I really think the ‘boot on the neck’ phrase is revealing. Also that it ‘sounds un-American’ –those words the President never said. I think that Paul built a straw man and it beat him up. I also think that the phrase was a dog-whistle. Paul’s best bet is to just come clean, say what he means and give up the code words and waffling. Voters can buy it or not, but if he believes in something he should stand by it.

WHAT THE MAN SAID: President Obama’s actual words are way less colorful than the Jackboot version…

“We know that our dependence on foreign oil endangers our security and our economy,” Mr. Obama said in a Rose Garden announcement. “And the disaster in the gulf only underscores that even as we pursue domestic production to reduce our reliance on imported oil, our long-term security depends on the development of alternative sources of fuel and new transportation technologies.”

Obama’s administration is talking about denying government contracts to corporations that trash our coast. Harsh, isn’t it?

And did it ‘sound un-American’ when we were hearing from the Bush administration that “British Petroleum is my friend and I’ll shred anyone who gets in the way like a day-old bucket of coleslaw!” The fact that these words were never actually said should not stop us from deploring how un-American George Bush would sound if he said them.

Actions speak louder than words. British Petroleum didn’t have to worry about being slowed down by regulators in the eight glorious Bush years.

BP needs to pay all the damages without delay, and we all need to look at conservation– proven, possible and practical, if we have the sense of urgency to really do it.

On Demand

I was visiting a nice elderly lady and she had a poster on her wall soliciting donations to stop ‘abortion on demand’. It’s the kind of phrase like ‘strident feminist’ that bursts into the conversation ready for a fight.

Let’s be realistic. You don’t get your teeth cleaned ‘on demand’. If you don’t believe me, try stomping into a dentist’s office demanding to get your teeth cleaned and see how far you get.

There’s other propaganda points. The use of the word ‘convenience’ as if the decision whether to have a baby is not a profound and permanent one, with consequences that affect generations. ‘Just give it up for adoption’ as if that decision is no more important than distributing a litter of kittens.

And ‘unplanned pregnancy’. That’s most pregnancies. It’s an unwanted pregnancy that is a crisis.

What got me on this track is a post where Frederick Clarkson makes some important points about loaded language in the abortion debate, especially as it has taken over the health reform debate.

The anti-abortion Congress members have succeeded in getting themselves labeled ‘pro-life’ by all the press, including NPR. There’s not even a moment’s thought. Their concern for life might not exist in any form except making abortion illegal, but they get to wrap themselves in the mantle of life-lovingness no matter how many Americans die needlessly for lack of access to medical care.

The supporters of the public option, Medicare expansion or single payer have gone from being part of the discussion to being the ‘liberals’ to ‘the left wing’. It’s amazing how far to the left you can move when the rest of the party shifts to the right.

Does anyone care that Americans line up around the block to get into a free clinic– and it’s not a disaster, just another day in a broken system? Is it politically correct to say we need to fix this, or is that being strident?

Passing the Ball

I’m fascinated by Sarah Palin for a lot of reasons. One is that she uses the coded language of the hard fundamentalist religious right. Another is that she has a speaking style that seems casual and unscripted, but is actually full of allusions and tones and a deliberate vagueness so she can imply things that won’t show up on a transcript. She gives herself lots of wiggle room.

So how about her statement that she’s, ‘passing the ball’? Whoever is she passing it to? Is there a star player waiting to catch a great big ball of Alaska and score the winning shot? Or is the ‘ball’ the Republican base that is still cheering for her?

I never thought she was dumb. She might be erratic but she leaves all the doors open for a quick escape to whatever next move she has planned.

Dog Whistle Symphony

Yet another politician sex scandal. It would be too tedious to be worth commenting on, but this ex-fundamentalist is hearing so many biblical dog whistles that her ears are ringing. Since when is God voting in state elections? Can God prove his citizenship? Can politicians prove the God endorsement when the Almighty seems to be withholding comment?

Chris Kelly, of Huffington Post does a great job of collecting the devout sayings of Gov. Mark Sanford, who is trying to stay in office because God put him there. If he sinned, it was no more than King David sinned. God forgives him. Voters, why can’t you? It may look bad now, but if you have Faith, God will make everything right.

God is My Doorman: Mark Sanford for Non-Christians

“If I walked in with a real spirit of humility then this last legislative term could well be our most productive one – and that outside this term, I would ultimately be a better person and of more service in whatever doors God opened next in life if I stuck around to learn lessons rather than running and hiding down at the farm.”

Again, what else can we do for you, Gov. Sanford? I’m glad the taxpayers have this chance to let you improve yourself…

I’m just back from vacation in Vermont, and reconnected with a friend who has been a nun for over forty years. Just as armchair patriots get way more romantic about the glory of war than those who actually fight it; people who make a real commitment to the spiritual life tend to be very down to earth. God is above those who try to claim that he’s their personal friend, and the real religious don’t try to use him as duct tape for a cheap fix on what needs to be replaced.

Dog Whistle

So up in Vermont I was searching for the well-modulated voice of NPR when I caught part of a right-wing radio show. One caller, who sounded old enough to qualify for Medicare, said that health care reform would lead to total government control–

“They’ll plant microchips in our hands, or our foreheads, and no one who doesn’t have one will be able to see a doctor.”

A ‘dog whistle’ is a signal to a constituency that is couched in language that the faithful will recognize, but unbelievers will miss.

The concerned caller was quoting from the Bible, the Book of Revelations. Ever since the ink dried on that document, people have been applying it to their current political miseries. The End Is Near. It’s always near.

I recommend that any of our readers who want to understand our cultural roots read the Bible. It’s said that the Devil can quote scripture, and current politics shows the Word is true. A wise witch said that the challenge of our time is to integrate the rational and the mystical. She didn’t mention the irrational and fanatical, but that is the spirit of fundamentalism, of all brands.