Conservatives are strange and fascinating creatures. Their minds operate in a strange, Bizarro-like universe in which delusion and deception seem to be considered normal.
Consider, for example, the most recent Republican presidential debate. Let’s leave Ron Paul out of the picture for the time being. The rest of the candidates were standing there and periodically proclaiming how committed they are to such principles as “free enterprise,” “fiscal responsibility,” and “limited government.”
I watched this with fascinating bemusement. I kept asking myself whether these people really believed that. Is it really possible for them to be so out of touch with reality as to not recognize how bizarre their proclamations really were?
What was also strange was that many of the people in the Iowa audience didn’t seem to notice anything bizarre about those proclamations. It’s almost as if there were political zombies on stage dutifully repeating old, dated conservative mantras while an audience of conservative zombies were sitting there dutifully nodding their heads in agreement.
Reality check: Americans are living under the biggest, most powerful government in history. It is the biggest-spending government in history. Its currency is crashing because of its out-of-control spending. Its military power extends over the entire globe. It is an empire that polices the world, sometimes with brutal and deadly force. It kidnaps, tortures, sexually abuses, incarcerates, and murders people with impunity and without even the semblance of due process or trial by jury. It engages in coups, assassinations, invasions, and occupations of countries that have recalcitrant regimes. Its jails are overrun with people who have committed no act of violence against others. It ignores constitutional restraints on its powers. Its ever-increasing welfare-state programs keep the citizenry drugged, calm, and dependent on the state.
The reality is that all the Republican presidential candidates (except Ron Paul) are part and parcel of all this. During their entire political careers, they have supported the socialist, interventionist, and imperial direction the United States has taken. They still do.
Yet they stand there in front of an Iowa audience and look into the faces of the people and into the television camera and with straight faces repeat the old mantras that conservatives were mouthing in the 1950s: “I’m committed to free enterprise, private property, limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the Constitution.” And then they dutifully bash those “big-government, big-spending liberals.”
And the people in the audience, zombie-like, just sit there, nod their heads, and applaud.
It’s almost like watching a real-life variation of The Stepford Wives.
Now, it’s true that liberals are in favor of big government and big spending, but what’s different about them is that they don’t make any bones about it. That’s what they stand for and that’s why they support every socialist and regulatory program that comes down the pike. But at least their recognition of this gives them a grip on reality.
What’s fascinating about conservatives is that they claim to stand against those things and yet continue to support them and then act as if they don’t.
Then along comes someone like Ron Paul, who has the temerity to propose abolishing federal departments and agencies, substituting voluntary charity for coerced welfare-state programs, restoring sound money, ending regulatory and interventionist programs, and dismantling the U.S. military empire. In other words, he proposes restoring “free enterprise, private property, fiscal responsibility, and constitutionally limited government” to our nation.
Conservatives treat him as if he were from Mars! “What in the world is Ron doing?” they exclaim. “Is he crazy? Doesn’t he know that in Bizarro-land, conservatives are only supposed to mouth the old mantras, not actually carry them out?”
Let me give you another recent example of this strange, surreal world of conservatism, this one involving famous conservative Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly became upset with White House reporter Helen Thomas for an exchange she had with President Bush’s spokesperson Dana Perino over the occupation of Iraq.
During the exchange, Thomas took Perino to task for the U.S. military’s continual killing of the Iraqi people. This led O’Reilly to call Thomas a “pinhead.”
What was O’Reilly’s reason for hurling such a nasty insult against Thomas? In explaining his decision, he got all wrapped up in his own personal distinctions between Iraqi terrorists and insurgents, on the one hand, and civilians, on the other. Apparently, his point was that U.S. forces have been targeting only Iraqi terrorists and insurgents and that any killing of Iraqi civilians has been accidental.
But if you go back and closely examine the exchange between Thomas and Perino, it is clear that Thomas didn’t draw any such distinctions. She just referred to the killing of Iraqis in general.
O’Reilly and other conservatives simply block out of their minds a discomforting reality: No Iraqi ever participated in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Every single Iraqi, including the hundreds of thousands who are now dead or maimed at the hands of U.S. forces, was innocent of the 9/11 attacks.
Why is that important? Because while the U.S. government had the right to go after those who were responsible for the 9/11 attacks, it had no right, legal or moral, to wreak vengeance against people who were innocent of the 9/11 attacks, including all of the Iraqi people who are now dead or maimed at the hands of U.S. forces.
Equally important, the Iraqi people have every right in the world to rid their country of a foreign occupier, especially an occupier who is in their country by virtue of a fake and false rationale — nonexistent WMDs — that was used to justify the invasion on which the occupation is based.
The strange part of all this is that conservatives such as Bush, Perino, and O’Reilly behave as if U.S. officials are engaged in some act of morality by continuing to kill Iraqis as part of a brutal occupation that was based on that fake and false rationale for invading the country. And despite the fact that they know that the WMD rationale was fake and false, conservatives have deluded themselves into believing that the invaders are justified in killing Iraqis who are simply doing what they have a right to do — drive a foreign occupier out of their country.
At the risk of stating another obvious fact: If American troops do not wish to suffer any more attacks from Iraqi terrorists or insurgents who are trying to rid their country of foreign troops, there is a simple solution: Get out and go home. Haven’t U.S. troops, loyally and obediently following orders, wreaked enough death and destruction on a country whose people did not participate in the 9/11 attacks and which U.S. forces invaded on the basis of a fake and false rationale?
The casual indifference that conservatives have displayed toward the killing of Iraqis is just one more example of the Bizarro-land in which these people mentally operate. After all, how often do conservatives remind us of how religious they are and how much they value human life, especially the life of the unborn?
But where is all that religion and so-called concern for life when it comes to the lives of the Iraqi people? We don’t even know how many Iraqis U.S. forces have killed and maimed because conservatives don’t deem them sufficiently important to count!
Why don’t the conservative preachers who ask us to pray for the troops in Iraq every Sunday in church ever offer a single prayer for the victims of this aggression? Isn’t the life of an Iraqi as valuable as the life of an unborn child, at least in the eyes of God?
One of the strangest aspects of Bizarro-land is how conservatives conflate the federal government and America. In their minds, the government and the country are one and the same. Thus, when O’Reilly heard Thomas’s criticism of the federal government’s occupation of Iraq, that was all the proof he needed that Thomas hates America. Never mind that the federal government and the private sector are composed of two different groups of people, a fact recognized by the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the private sector from the federal government. That’s a reality that is best left ignored in the conservative mind.
As a loyal conservative, Perino herself lives in this strange, alternate universe. In her exchange with Thomas, she said that Americans elected President Bush as their commander in chief? What? And here I thought that Bush was commander in chief only for those in the military. Wow! Does this mean that everyone in Bizarro-land is supposed to behave like loyal little soldiers, marching in lockstep with their leader, not daring to question his decisions, and saluting, brown-nosing, and spit-shining their shoes? Weird!
I predict that a century from now, sociologists, anthropologists, and psychiatrists are going to have a field day studying conservatives. They might even discover that conservatives were proof-positive that Earth had, in fact, been visited by extra-terrestrial life.