While I plead guilty to being a political junkie, it’s never a bad thing when something outside the realm of our current political slugfest takes me away from reading about our national pageant for at least a bit. Especially if it provides an opportunity to appreciate those who occupy a higher plane of humanity than the rest of us, and be reminded why we must constantly be vigilant in protecting democracy.
Last week such an event took place at the Newseum in Washington DC, when former political prisoner (or someone “dependent upon government”, in Romney parlance), Nobel Peace Prize winner and Congressional-Gold-Medal recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi landed in the United States for the first time in 20 years. The Myanma dissident-turned-parliament member sat down for an Amnesty-International-sponsored conversation about her country’s gradual move towards freedom, and the necessity for businesses taking advantage of loosened sanctions to “behave responsibly”.
I think watching some of the coverage gave me a feeling of inspiration that those who had the privilege of watching Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr live must have enjoyed. I remember working in downtown Manhattan in the summer of 1990 and seeing Nelson Mandela’s visit after he had just been released from 27 years in prison in South Africa. That is probably just about the only thing I can think of to which I can compare this.
But how quickly one can be snapped back to the reality from that brief moment in time by our aforementioned political slugfest. No sooner had Mr 47 per cent – Willard Mitt Romney – uttered his infamous phrase about all the “victims” and “irresponsible” moochers not voting for him – all of us seemingly one vast collection of dope fiends sitting on a sidewalk begging for a cheesy poof and a token – than did the most cretinous, thuggish members of his “base” once again remind us how the United States could take the opposite path Myanmar now finds itself on, if the authoritarians and zealots were to have their way.
Back from a multi-year penalty box was the Dickie Greenleaf of the Evangelical set, Ralph Reed, gracing the front page of the New York Times. Reed, you may remember, thought a very Christian thing to do was to rip off Native American tribes with his buddy Jack Abramoff, while also turning a blind eye to forced abortions and prostitution in the Marianas Islands when it padded his pockets. If I remember the Bible correctly, Jesus had some things to say about people who do things like that.
Yet, the irrepressible Reed’s now onto his next hustle, the Faith & Freedom Coalition. To paraphrase Janis Joplin, Reed’s kind of freedom would leave us with “nothing left to lose”. But you’ve gotta love a comeback story!
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Romney’s good pal Senator Scott Brown showed off his bellicosity and amazing sonar-based ability to determine ethnic origin during a debate with Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren. Not wanting to fall behind the boss, Brown’s Brooks-Brothers-riot of a staff engaged in racist chants, likely aimed at those who don’t wear their baseball caps backward while getting beer enemas at the local kegger.
Republican Senate candidates Linda McMahon of Connecticut and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin also showed off their extremism, as videos emerged (what is it with Republicans this cycle and the difficulty understanding what the “record” button does?) of the former calling for a “sunset” for Social Security and the latter talking up his qualifications to wack Medicare and Medicaid.
This is where an Australian might say “oh, crikey”.
Finally, we once again had the pleasure of hearing from the scariest of all Romney surrogates: The war-crazed, charlatan-preachers. You know the ones, ready to yell “hallelujah” as they launch the bombs, a la Greg Stillson from The Dead Zone.
Novelist KC Boyd – whose Being Christian is a must read to understand the mindset of some of these tortured, mischievous souls – reminded us of how the likes of John Hagee of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas are using the tragedy in Libya to bring about “their ultimate goal… the end of the world as ‘foretold’ in the Bible’s Book of Revelation”.
Although, at least Hagee had the class to do this “while hawking Vote the Bible t-shirts and pins”. Because, honestly, what’s a good end-of-the-world-inducing brunch if it doesn’t provide a little pocket change for the evening?
We have six more weeks of this election season, and in the Right’s current state of desperation, we can expect much more of this. Which is why we needed that special moment with Daw Suu to remind us of what we all hope to become.
Cliff Schecter is an author, pundit and public relations strategist whose firm Libertas, LLC handles media relations for political, corporate and non-profit clients.