Rush, Sean, and Dr. Savage

As I noted in my open letter to Rush Limbaugh, which incidentally, got quite a positive response, I no longer regularly listen to the gentleman's radio show. But I do tune in occasionally to see what the foremost defender of our precious constitutionally-guaranteed rights is up to. Recently he was carrying on, as he often does, about the political opposition to the Bush administration's enlightened nation-building efforts in Iraq. This unenlightened opposition to George the 2nd's humanitarian efforts wouldn't have gotten away with such unpatriotic shenanigans in Lincoln's day, the nation's number one historian and supporter of the Constitution informed his listeners as he related how Honest Abe had treated those who gave him guff during the so-called Civil War.

When Ohio congressman Clement L. Vallandigham had the audacity to make a speech in which he accused Lincoln of unconstitutionally usurping power, Abe had the congressman arrested by federal troops and then deported to the South. Lincoln also shut down newspapers that opposed the war, arrested editors who took that position, and suspended habeas corpus, the very acts the congressman was criticizing. Wow! That's not the Sandburgian Honest Abe that we all learned about from the government educational establishment. In Illinois, where I'm from and went to school, Lincoln was godlike and never would have done such things. But he did do such things, as Thomas DiLorenzo and others have verified. Lincoln was a dictator, and we're not supposed to approve of dictators in this country. However, instead of undermining Lincoln's image, knowledge of these actions of his during the War Between the States enhances Abe's image in Rush's mind. Rush approvingly, even merrily, related these facts as an object lesson. And our wimpy liberals (remember, only liberals oppose the war) think that the Bush Bunch is roughing up too many folks in Iraq and here at home who oppose the neocon agenda. Honest Abe showed us how to handle opposition to presidential will during time of war, and wasn't he just about the greatest president we ever had? The Constitution is all well and good, but you can't let it get in the way in time of war. Presidents, or at least the great ones like Lincoln and Bush II (stifle that guffaw!), have to be trusted to do the right thing, even if they have to ignore the Constitution and act dictatorish now and again. This apparently is the position taken by Rush, the great constitutionalist.

I also monitor Rush, Jr., Sean Hannity, but not as much as I used to. Sean is a Great American. Just ask his adoring fans. They're all great Americans too. When black congresswoman Cynthia McKinney smacked a white Capitol Hill policeman who tried to keep her from entering her Capitol Hill turf because she wasn't wearing her ID and he didn't recognize her, Hannity went ballistic. Who was she to resist a cop who was just trying to do his job and keep her turf safe? No one has the right to resist a cop doing his/her job, according to Great American Sean, who often claims that he has libertarian leanings. When anyone involved in policing or security work requests that you do this or that, the proper thing to do is say "yes sir/ma'am!" and comply with that request.

Okay. I'm a law-abiding sort. In my 72 years I've had one ticket for parking in a no-parking zone from which the no-parking sign had been removed, one speeding ticket, and two speeding warnings. I've known a few cops. One of my former students was our local Evansville, Indiana police chief a few years back; another whom I run across occasionally is an Indiana state trooper. I've known other Indiana troopers, city cops, and deputy sheriffs, and the late husband of a family friend over in my native Illinois was an Illinois state trooper, as was one of the members of a gun club I once belonged to over there. The cops I've known reasonably well have all been decent conscientious guys; I don't envy their work, and I don't want to cause cops any unnecessary trouble. But unlike Great American Sean, I can think of times when questioning the authority of the police is called for.

As sociologist and former social justice organizer John R. Salter, Jr. noted in his contribution to my edited book, The Gun Culture and Its Enemies (1990), during the civil rights push of the 1960s, police stations in some southern communities publicized Ku Klux Klan meetings and recruited for that organization. And he also noted that the police of some south and southwestern Chicago districts were no better when he was organizing there in the 1970s. I can hear the Great American's response: "That was a long time ago, and we've come a long way since then." Yup! All the way to Waco and the incineration by federal police of some 80 men, women, and children, many black, who happened to have non-traditional religious beliefs and were rumored to be violating federal firearms law, a victimless and constitutionally-questionable crime. "But that was during the lawless Clinton years," Sean would say. Then how about the sterling performance by federal police at Ruby Ridge during the reign of George the 1st? Should Randy Weaver have been polite to them after they killed his son and wife? But these are only some of the most publicized examples of wrongdoing on the part of the police, none of whom were punished for their wrongdoing in the cases mentioned. I certainly don't mean to tar all police, but though it may come as a shock to the Great American, wrongdoing by police is hardly rare.

I sometimes even listen to Michael Savage, another super patriot and the world's foremost independent thinker. Just ask him. Or wait a few seconds and he'll tell you even if you don't ask him. Why here's a man so independent that he can even criticize Bush for being too wimpy with the insurgents in Iraq and with war opponents here at home. And he's so independent and courageous that he even refers to fellow talker Saint Rush, a man who actually possesses "talent on loan from Gawd," as Hush Bimbaugh. Can you imagine that? Now that takes real courage, but what would you expect from a man named Savage? What a courage surge he must have experienced when he changed his name from Weiner. And how clever he is! Hush Bimbaugh, of all names. Who would have ever thought of that without the assistance of a battery of third graders? But Michael has a way with words. In fact, I wonder sometimes if he doesn't have the knack of speaking in tongues, because he can babble on incoherently while conjuring up such profundities as "a citizen's first obligation is to the state," or something like that. Now that sounds sort of fascist to me, but he has a Ph.D. that his listeners have found out about even though he's too modest to mention it more than a hundred times per show, so he must know. Wait a minute! I've got a Ph.D., and I didn't know that. Well, maybe that's because mine isn't from the prestigious (he reminds his listeners) University of California at Berkeley in epidemiology and nutrition science. Or was it nutritional ethnomedicine or something like that that makes him an expert on everything? And then there's his ongoing trademark exclamation, "I can't take it anymore"! His listeners know that he actually can, because he's the world's foremost independent thinker and he's got a Ph.D. from Berkeley in whatever, and his most worshipful listeners call him Dr. Savage. Well anyway, Savage (I can visualize him swinging through the trees on a vine yodeling like Tarzan, but with a Brooklyn accent) wants to get even rougher on those ragheads resisting the neocon's humane efforts to liberate them and those liberal (always liberal) American critics of the war than Honest Abe was on his opponents, North and South. Nuke the cities of the former after dropping leaflets warning noncombatants to leave, and shoot the liberal critics for treason. Somehow I don't feel all better because this guy claims to be a strong independent-thinking defender of our freedoms, but there are oodles of Dr. Savage worshippers out there who believe that he is such. This, even though he sounds like New York Democrat senator Chucky Schumer, another questionable self-professed protector of our freedoms, but from the wascally liberal side of the fence. When Savage starts screaming, I think of all the Ritalin being wasted on unruly school boys.

One email responder to my open letter to Rush chided me for taking him seriously — Rush is simply entertaining us. I'm sure that lots of folks do listen not only to Rush but to Sean, Dr. Savage, and their numerous clownish colleagues for entertainment. I admit that I get a sort of scab-picking pleasure out of listening to Savage. But millions of our fellow Americans uncritically look to these authoritarians for enlightenment. That's scary!!!! Of course, it's also scary that millions of our fellow Americans still uncritically look to the mainstream media for enlightenment. Those of us who have closely and knowledgeably followed mainstream media coverage of such controversial issues as gun control know all too well that the talk-radio guys are right on when they carry on about the liberal bias of the mainstream media that can reach Orwellian extremes. It pays to examine critically everything fed to us by the liberal mainstreamers as well as by the right-wing-authoritarian radio talkers.

May 6, 2006