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June 09, 2005

It's Frightening To Die Cheated

These thoughts by Driftglass on the mindset of America's right wing have been zipping around. It's well worth reading it all, but here's an excerpt:

It’s not true that the Conservatives I know don’t give a damn so much as they are terrified that they were wrong... Deeply, primally terrified.

[S]ince they will happily burn the world to the ground before they admit they might actually have been wrong about Bush, it falls to us to keep them backed into a corner as best we can, because once events out here in Realityland begin to pound through the perimeter denial defenses, what comes after ain’t gonna be pretty.

Not to scream blindly into the void for the impossible... but to keep patiently repeating: “Here’s what you said, and here’s what you did. You were wrong. Apologize,” in every venue available.

The bad news is, until they wake the fuck up, these people are slaves, and there is no one so ferocious as a brainwashed thrall defending his owner...

The good news is... the sheer weight of simple things like time and gravity and causality itself are our natural and incorruptable allies. They are merciless, and recognize no Geneva Convention niceties when meting out justice to arrant fools who try to fuck with them.

This reminds me of something I just read in The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin by Adam Hochschild.

Hochschild tells the story of Susanna Pechuro. Pechuro was part of a small group of Moscow teenagers who rebelled against Stalinism in the early 1950s. The oldest of the six was nineteen, the youngest sixteen. They're remarkably similar to the White Rose, the German teenagers who rebelled against Hitler.

As with the members of the White Rose, Pechuro's group didn't accomplish much before they were arrested—they met, talked, distributed a few leaflets. After they were caught, three were shot, and two died after being imprisoned in labor camps. Only Pechuro survived.

And here's the most interesting part: even after seeing his daughter arrested, Pechuro's father didn't seem to question the Soviet leadership—even within his own heart. It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union, at the end of his life, that he began to do so. And the fear her father told her about as he was dying seems exactly like the fear of America's true believers:

"It's frightening for me to die cheated. To think that I've spent my life being cheated. That I still believed—at a time when YOU understood everything. And I, a grownup, believed. My life has been spent in lies."

For her parents' generation, Pechuro explains in The Unquiet Ghost,

"The war explained provided explanations for everything. Things were bad because of the war, what could you do? They hadn't traveled anywhere. They had read very little. They were people who went through their daily routine, brought up their kids, cooked their meals, went to their offices and didn't give anything else a second thought. If a newspaper said something, that meant it was true.

"Now people say they didn't see, then. But I think they really saw everything. It was easier for them to persuade themselves that they weren't seeing—then they were relieved of any obligation to do anything."

But what about her? Why did she and her teenage friends act in a way that was from any rational perspective completely crazy?

Somebody has to be the first to say, "Stop, they are telling you lies." Somebody has to explain to people that the world in which they're living is the world of lies. We thought that we had to pursue this cause of explaining things to other people.

Feel free to draw as many or as few parallels with all this as you desire.

Via via.

Posted at June 9, 2005 01:40 PM | TrackBack

Just to share interesting experience in blogosphere... I wandered in "Blogs for Bush" (I know, masochistic tendencies...) and found post about Haiti. After checking out comments section I tried to make post about some facts considering situation in Haiti (which most other commentators seemed pretty unaware). But after trying to post, I got this message:

"Your comment was denied for questionable content. If you feel this was in error, please contact the site administrators."

And here's what I wrote:

"hmm...who has selective memory? just few facts:

Aristide was actually Haiti's first democratically president who won 67% of vote in 1990 election. He was ousted by brutal military junta in 1991. True, Clinton adminstration helped Aristide (who was legitimate, democratically elected presdient, not dictator) back to power by ressuring junta to step down and sending US troops to Haiti. I doubt this has anything to do with personal friendship, but rather it was caused by flood of refugees from junta-ruled Haiti.

Aristide re-election in 2000 was boycotted by opposition, but it is very likely that Aristide would have won anyway, boycott or no boycott (and that's why opposition chose to boycott). Opposition's official reason to boycott was senate election in same year where they claimed tallying of votes was unfair in 10 seats. But considering that even according to opposition Aristides' party won 16 of 27 senate seats fairly (and 10 unfairly, according to opposition) it seems that Aristides had still solid democratic majority.

And yes, Aristide ousted in February 2004 by armed rebellion (which US government probably more or less supported). Actually Aristides was flown out of Haiti by US military plane in operation he later called "kidnapping".

Unlike Aristides government, present government of Haiti is not popularly elected, but is in power because it has been supported first by US and French troops (February 2004 interevntion was US-French joint operation), and now by UN "peacekeepers"."

I don't know which part of this was "questionable", you can check the tread:

It sure is much easier to live in denial if you really deny to publish facts...

Posted by: RR at June 9, 2005 04:13 PM

Brilliant post; thanks Jon!

When I watched the movie "Die Weisse Rose" (a very good film, if in German) in 1990 it never occurred to me that I might be living in a country where I confront the same problems that young Germans confronted in the '30's and '40's. If I chose to wake up and see those problems.

Posted by: Aaron at June 9, 2005 06:19 PM

I'm fascinated by people like Pechuro who make that 'crazy' decision. I've spent a lot of time thinking about those south africans who actively rebelled under apartheid: risking (or sacrificing) your life and your children's lives is not really rational. But it is part of the beauty of human beings. I guess it is not surprising that most people, even if they see the wrong in the system, choose to keep their head down and get along.

Posted by: pulaski at June 9, 2005 08:15 PM

RR, last summer I spent many hours arguing with the regulars at Blogs for Bush. Too many hours. The people there were wilfully obtuse -- they'd twist my comments beyond recognition and put words in my mouth, in the most outrageous manner. No arguing in good faith on their part, and if I provided a link to the White House's official site to support my point, even this was deemed suspect. Finally I said "screw it" and gave up. My time was better spent elsewhere.

To post on Blogs for Bush you need to register with them, and they'll let you post. But I can't recommend this as a rewarding activity.

Posted by: three dots at June 10, 2005 02:05 PM

Truth is hard work, it is much easier to be spoon fed lies that feel good than to learn the painful lessons of honest investigation.

Posted by: Marshalll Rogers at June 10, 2005 04:21 PM

In today's political climate, truth is meaningless.

Posted by: Josh Berthume at June 11, 2005 08:37 PM

Along these same lines, ever hear of the Edelweiss Pirates ("Edelweißpiraten"), basically anti-Nazi German "hippies" or "beats" ? They have never been acknowledged by the post-war German establishment, and the movie made about them last year had a good deal of trouble getting distribution, and isn't going to be released until Nov. 10th, 2005.

Posted by: Marshall at June 12, 2005 12:15 PM

Thanks Jonathan. And thanks for the reference of "The Unquiet Ghost". As I read the excerpt you provided, I was immediately reminded of "They Thought They Were Free", by Milton Mayer. As a German Jew recalling the social changes in the runup to the holocaust, he makes the same observation; that those who were pro-Hitler "...hadn't traveled anywhere. They had read very little. They were people who went through their daily routine, brought up their kids, cooked their meals, went to their offices and didn't give anything else a second thought."

History has a way of beating us over the head with the truth. We need to pay attention to it, and as you say, keep bringing it to everyone else's attention.

Posted by: Dale at June 13, 2005 10:03 AM

I understand where you're coming from, Dale, but I don't agree. That's one of George Lakoff's cardinal rules-- liberals who believe that "the truth will set you free" are always, always, always in for a disappointment. Lakoff says, again and again, that it's all about the framing-- so you don't hit people over the head with the issues, you hit them over the head with the attitude.

This is just one of many reasons for Bush's success. He's so sold the American people on his image as a man of faith that it doesn't matter that he doesn't actually go to church.

I write often for a submission-based, somewhat-right religious newsletter (I'm one of those liberal Catholics) and I've been pitching myself as a "Works of Mercy Progressive"-- who places feeding the hungry, et cetera, et cetera, over "politics as usual." It's a terrible cliche, but I've actually seen some positive response from the other side.

Given that success in '08 will depend on how well the left can present itself as a bastion of religious faith, this is the kind of thing I'd like to see from whoever it should be.

Posted by: Sully at June 14, 2005 08:21 AM