Very moving op ed by Roger Cohen in the New York Times this morning; click here to read it if you haven’t seen it yet.
The part that resonates with me the most is the Adam Michnik quote:
I know all the lies. I saw people being killed. But I also know that revanchism is never ending. And my obsession has been that we should have a revolution that does not resemble the French or Russian, but rather the American, in the sense that it be for something, not against something. A revolution for a constitution, not a paradise. An anti-utopian revolution. Because utopias lead to the guillotine and the gulag.
I’ve been thinking a lot about conspiracism vis a vis democracy lately. By conspiracism I mean the idea that most of the world’s troubles are the handiwork of an identifiable class of evil-doers. Opportunistic rabble rousers like Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann espouse a conspiratorial view of history, as do Islamic terrorists, anomic Truthers, hardcore Marxist militants, and homegrown Christianist crazies like the Hutaree. In their telling, life is an on-going battle between a stout cadre of righteous rebels and the spit-and-polished legions of the wicked, between Antichrist and Christ, Capital and Labor, the effete, over-educated baby-killing elitists who voted for Obama and the salt of the earth who turn out for Sarah Palin rallies, who make up for what they lack in education with their sterling characters and hard-won common sense. Unlike real generals, conspiracists disdain the merely tactical. Though they are fighting a war of attrition against seemingly impossible odds, they know it will ultimately end their way, in a purgative orgy of divinely ordained destruction.
Conspiracists of whatever stripe imagine they are characters in a book that's already been written. Small “d” democrats–by whom I mean people who believe in self-governance according to the rule of law–suppose that they are co-authors of a work in progress. They reserve the right to change direction, to compromise, or even to give up on something that’s clearly failed. It's not that they're lacking in high-minded ideals, it's just that they understand that life is mostly a work of improvisation.
Thomas Frank has written brilliantly about the paradox of blue collar Republicanism, a politics driven by class resentment which ironically plays directly into the hands of the class oppressors. Two female rock stars share a lascivious kiss on television, Frank writes, and virtuous voters are so outraged that they rush out and vote the rock stars a big tax reduction. They’ve lost their job security, so they elect the handmaidens of the very people who outsourced their jobs and broke their unions. It’s like something that the mythical authors of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion might have dreamed up. “The principal object of our directorate,” its narrator declared, “consists in this: to debilitate the public mind…..to lead it away from serious reflections calculated to arouse resistance; to distract the forces of the mind towards a sham fight of empty eloquence.”
Enter Glenn Beck, talking.