Chickenhawks, Cowards, Traitors

First:  a must see.  Seriously, put this one on your bucket list:

This is what’s left of ancient Mycenae, as you follow the ancient way, travelling east until you come to the Lion Gate.

Play with the name of the family whose home this was:  the Atreidae, (not to mention House Atreides…).  Think Agamemnon, passing beneath those two stone beasts, home from ten years of war, with hours left to live.  Remember the blood Cassandra saw before it was spilt, and it’s impossible (at least it was for me) not to think of the horror and terror of war as it touches every sphere of human fellowship….

I stopped at the top of the citadel for as long as my 12 year old traveling companion would let me, looking down on the Plain of Argos west to the mountains, south to the sea.  The myths of battle flow from here, the call to glory, and as well, always — if your mind is set to the right resonance — the bitter truths that the original singer-writer slipped past his hero-drunk audiences.*

All which is to say a couple of things.  First, and less, I’ve been on the road with my family, trying to remember what this thing called Vay-Kay-Shun might be, taking off without showing Mistermix’s courtesy in saying see-you-in-a-bit.

Second, and more, I came to Mycenae right around the time the ‘tubes were all snarled up in reactions to the Supreme Court decision upholding the Obama administration’s health care reform law.  I was utterly unsurprised by the flood of wingnut tears, of course, and I’ve grown accustomed to the radical destructiveness of what now passes for acceptable rhetoric on the right.  But perhaps because of time spent in a country so thoroughly and brutally conscious of the costs of violence unto their children’s’ children’s’ generations, this and this tripped my disgust reflex in a way that I haven’t been able to shake.  Y’all saw these, I’m sure — ABL blogged them here, and even from my distance from reliable internet, I’m guessing this was a pretty well discussed issue.   But anyway, money quotes:

When a gang of criminals subvert legitimate government offices and seize all power to themselves without the real consent of the governed their every act and edict is of itself illegal and is outside the bounds of the Rule of Law. In such cases submission is treason. Treason against the Constitution and the valid legitimate government of the nation to which we have pledged our allegiance for years. To resist by all means that are right in the eyes of God is not rebellion or insurrection, it is patriotic resistance to invasion.  (Mississippi Tea Party Chairman Roy Nicholson, emphasis in the original.)

And:

If government can mandate that I pay for something I don’t want, then what is beyond its power? If the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday paves the way for unprecedented intrusion into personal decisions, then has the Republic all but ceased to exist? If so, then is armed rebellion today justified? (Michigan former GOP spokesman Matthew Davis.)

So much prologue to the obvious point:  Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Davis are gutless fools.  There’s a certain vicious pleasure in the hope that they — and only they — might actually get to experience the reality of armed insurrection against the established authority of the government of the United States of America.  Plenty of folks — and not just our Confederate friends — have tried that one on, and it hasn’t worked out well for them from the Whiskey Rebellion** forward.

But I can’t take any joy at imagining the comeuppance that delusional keyboard commandos would face if ever they — or more likely, the fools they “inspired” — actually took violent action.  Not with Mycenae so present before me.  Wars are not Homeric poems, which is something Homer himself clearly understood, if Odysseus’s conversations with the heroes who preceded him into Hades offer any hint.  They wreck people, and not simply those who are obviously war’s casualties. I’m not going to belabor that thought in this forum, because so many here know this as well or better than I.

So: idiots will be with us always, and two otherwise utterly inconsequential folks like Messrs. Nicholson and Davis — barely public figures at all — aren’t worth the spit it would take to express my true opinion.

No: what matters is that this kind of talk can’t take place without the tacit permission of actual leaders — informal ones, like Limbaugh, and the actual political actors on the right, figures like Boehner, McConnell, Cohen, Ryan, McCain, whoever.  First among them, of course, is the man who would be president, Mitt Romney.

Leaders shape the frame of argument.  They delineate the forms of dissent and opposition.  They define, both by what they say and by what they fail to rule out, whether we have a small “r” republican approach to government, or rule by the manipulators of the manipulated mob.  When they stay silent they are the cowards of the headline, passive bystanders as their followers betray the basic principles of (small “d”) democratic politics.

Greece is a good place from which to think about this.  You don’t have to go back to Agamemnon or to Plato; living memory — the civil war, the colonels, very recent memory indeed offer regular reminders of the fragility of government by consent of the governed.  Words matter here, and have for millennia.

So it is in this place, with that history in mind, that I am reminded once again that the habit of dismissing crap like that spewed by Nicholson and Davis as wingnuts being wingnuts is not acceptable.  The speakers themselves may not count for much, but for a nominally civil society to allow such speech to pass without massive retaliation, actual leadership from those who would lead from that side…well, that’s how individuals get hurt, and democracies die.  It’s happened before, not many miles from where I sit as I write this.

That’s enough.  I’ve committed once more the sin of belaboring the obvious. Catch y’all stateside soon enough.

*I know that this is an anachronistic reading.  Sue me.

**It’s interesting (at least to me) to discover in the course of writing this post that there exists a libertarian alternate history that imagines a leader in the Whiskey Rebellion persuading the federal militia not to attack them, instead turning around to march on the capital, capture and execute George Washington for treason (sic!) and then swap out the Constitution for what would become a The North American Confederacy (sic!!).  Who knew it was Washington, and not Lincoln, from whom all our troubles flow…

 






50 replies
  1. 1

    Sounds like your talking about Ted Nugent:
    Draft Dodger, Check.
    Chicken Hawk, Check.
    Coward?, Natch.
    Serial child rapist?, Check.
    Wishes the South won the Civil war? Yes..

  2. 2
    Xenos says:

    Great pictures! I was at Mycenea over Easter. The site is impressive but the view is astonishing – snow capped mountains to the west (facing directly out of the gate) and Argos and the road to Lakonia to the South.

    Homer is truly wonderful. Writing within the traditions of both the Bronze and Archaic ages, giving telling portraits of power in its most corrupt and most dignified, on both sides of the war.

    Next trip there will have to be a Byron pilgrimage.

  3. 3
    Joey Maloney says:

    Well said, sir. These clowns create so many immediate practical problems for the nation that the normalization of extreme rhetoric – as slippery and abstract a concept as that seems – just slides by, each fresh offense against decency building on the ones before, until finally some deranged and/or deluded lunatic responds.

    Or: it’s all fun and games until the Congressperson takes a head shot.

  4. 4
    MariedeGournay says:

    Lovely, I’m so jealous. I myself have already one place on the bucket list: France. Paris for obvious reasons, and Picardy to see my namesake’s family home. Just one question. What does it feel like to be in a place that old? I can’t imagine and I’m a New Englander.

  5. 5
    pablo says:

    I’ll bet those two numbnuts have either health insurance or Medicare, so the Govment ain’t forcing them to buy anything. Nothing changes! (except their premium may go DOWN!)

  6. 6
    c u n d gulag says:

    Great post and pictures!

    I love ancient Greek history and mythology.

    It looks like America is changing from one ancient Greek state to another.

    Where once we aspired to be democratic Athens, we are now morphing into Sparta – where the priority of almost all societal and government money and effort, was focused on the military.

    So, welcome home, to the soon-to-be ‘Banana Republic of Sparta’ – AMERICAN STYLE!

  7. 7
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    @MariedeGournay: It feels pretty amazing if you know where you are and why it’s an important place. If not, it’s just a hilltop with a pretty view.

    One of my favourites: stonehenge (duh). I’ve done some work there (TMT = prehistorian) and so I’ve gotten to hang out within the circle of stones. There’s a really neat optical illusion where, from a distance the stones seem enormous. Once you enter the outer ring (the area that English Heritage lets tourists walk) they seem really small and unimpressive. The closer you walk to them from that footpath the smaller and less impressive they seem just until the moment when you step into the horse-shoe of the giant trilithons and then they seem fricking enormous. It’s deeply cool.

  8. 8
    John S. says:

    @c u n d gulag:

    The United States of Sparta’s top citizenry would be wise to remember what happens when the Helots (who significantly outnumber them) revolt.

  9. 9
    John S. says:

    @TheMightyTrowel:

    I loved Stonehenge as well, although I got more of a thrill from the stones in the circles at Avebury. Being able to walk up to a 30 foot monolith and put your hand on it really connects you to the history of the place since the more famous henge is roped off to most of us.

    Chichen Itza was also especially thrilling. Standing atop the Pyramid of the Moon and looking out over the ancient city and Yucatan made it very easy to conjure up images of the ancient Mayans in all their splendor.

  10. 10
    John S. says:

    @John S.:

    Bah, I meant El Castillo, not the Pyramid of the Moon. Although Teotihuacán is also a fascinating ancient ruin.

    Next up on the list is Macchu Pichu.

  11. 11
    Brandon says:

    Why are you going to Greece now? I am waiting until next year. Think of all those Drachma’s my Dollars will buy! It’s going to be a fantastic five star holiday. I am fully expecting Grexit to make Greece as wonderful a vacatation destination as Italy was in the late 80’s. Or so I’m hoping.

  12. 12

    ‘Leaders shape the frame of argument. They delineate the forms of dissent and opposition. They define, both by what they say and by what they fail to rule out, whether we have a small “r” republican approach to government, or rule by the manipulators of the manipulated mob.’

    I think we are looking at the opposite here. The mob framed this argument and set its tone. The leaders have only been able to contribute details that amount to catchphrases. The GOP base is angry, and the more faithfully GOP the more angry. Their primary voters, the ones with the true power over the elite, are incoherent, frothing, rabid animal angry. The leadership are telling them what they want to hear, because in 2009 and the 2010 primaries it became clear that not telling them what they wanted to hear got you kicked out of the party.

    Of course, that leads inevitably to the GOP leadership going as batshit insane as the crowd, but it’s the crowd that dragged them there.

  13. 13
    RAM says:

    If government can mandate that I pay for something I don’t want, then what is beyond its power? If the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday paves the way for unprecedented intrusion into personal decisions, then has the Republic all but ceased to exist? If so, then is armed rebellion today justified? (Michigan former GOP spokesman Matthew Davis.)

    To which I suggest: Seat belts? I remember when they became mandatory, accompanied by a lot of the same bullshit we’re hearing about health insurance. And I remember the days before they became mandatory, when people being ejected through windscreens was a regular occurrence. The republic didn’t fall, at least because of seatbelts.

  14. 14
    Linda Featheringill says:

    These guys are saying it’s better to kill and be killed than to have health insurance? Wow.

    You don’t have to use this insurance if you don’t want to. You can stay at home and die in your own way if you want to.

  15. 15
    Anya says:

    If the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday paves the way for unprecedented intrusion into personal decisions, then has the Republic all but ceased to exist?

    Someone should check how Mr. Davis feels about forced trans-vaginal ultrasound that many of his governors are championing.

  16. 16
    aimai says:

    Great post, Tom, reminding us all that there is still much beauty and wonder in the world as well as what we fight for and against. I woke up so angry about the Medicaid expansion denial and about Louisiana and Missisippi that I can hardly see straight. Yes. That’s the way I wake up. And I blame these assholes. The hard question is being put directly to them: would you rather pay for Mitt Romney’s kid’s 400 dollar hairdresser and teeth straighteners or would you like to help that nice woman down the street prevent death by colon cancer? And they are answering, slavishly “Oh, I want to know that Mitt’s kids will never know a moment’s suffering! Please, take my kidney and definitely take my neighbor’s health care!”

    In fact, someone should start a lineup of Mitt’s Billionaire donors labled “Mitt’s Kids!” Along the line of Jerry Lewis’s late unlamented sob fest.

    aimai

  17. 17
    sparrow says:

    @Brandon: I’m a little touchy because my SO is Greek, but let’s not wish for a Euro exit so lightly. There are a lot of people here who will suffer with that, and it won’t be the ones who stuffed twice the Greek debt in Euros in foreign banks.

    That said, I just spent a few days in the island of Hydra, which used to be a hotspot for the well-heeled. No cars, only strong shirtless men pushing carts as well as quite a few (seriously used) donkeys. It was never destroyed during the wars, and lightly touched by the Ottomans. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place. And they are desperate for tourists… It boggles my mind that people still go to cheesy all-inclusive resorts and cruises. Instead you can spend 40 euro/night for an elegant room in an old stone Pension, and food is cheap – huge breakfast I couldn’t finish was 8 Euro, wine at a cliff-side bar the other night was 4 Euro/glass. Water is clear and that perfect Mediterranean blue. Just amazing.

    (PSA for my adopted country over now…)

  18. 18
    Linda Featheringill says:

    @aimai:

    The fight against Medicaid expansion:

    I’m not an optimist generally, but I do think this conflict will work out well for our side. Maybe not perfectly well, but pretty good anyway.

    The Administration will try to find a way to extend health care to the impoverished and will frequently succeed. We have the Administration lawyers and Obama’s luck on our side. They have grumpiness and a refusal to look after the interests of the people who voted for them on their side.

    How soon? That I don’t know.

  19. 19
    Linda Featheringill says:

    This was recommended by someone in an earlier thread and is really an interesting read. It’s about how CNN and Fox got the SCOTUS decision wrong. Very dramatic.

    http://www.scotusblog.com/2012.....sessments/

  20. 20
    vtr says:

    Is it too obvious to point out that if the federal government were to require all families to purchase at least one firearm, the nature of the argument would be different?

  21. 21
    gnomedad says:

    “Constitutional” to these clowns means “getting our way”. Full stop.

  22. 22
    Linda Featheringill says:

    Decisions, decisions . . .

    A few days ago, I sent emails to the losing Republican candidates and to three [I think] pro-life organizations suggesting they look into the Romney-Stericycle connection.

    I’ve received a couple of form letter type responses [Thank you for ….] until this morning when I have two responses from Focus on the Family in my inbox. Do I want to open these or not. One has reserved the subject name of my original email and the other says “Criticism of the Chief”. Hmm.

    I’m tempted to just delete them both and go on with my day.

  23. 23
    mai naem says:

    @Brandon: I find this attitude absolutely abhorrent. This is just hoping to essentially make money off somebody’s misery.

  24. 24
    El Cid says:

    __

    If government can mandate that I pay for something I don’t want, then what is beyond its power?

    If some level of an abstract category is permitted, then why not any level?

    If a policeman has the authority to place me in handcuffs if I attempt to enter an office illegally, what’s to stop the government from sending assassination squads into our homes to kill anyone who checks out the wrong library books?

    If the government can bar certain ingredients from food production, what’s to stop them from imposing a dictatorial federal cookbook where only approved recipes are permitted?

    If the federal government can declare standards of fuel economy for overall fleet averages for car companies, what’s to stop them from telling me when I have to talk a walk for exercise, for how long, and where?

  25. 25
    MariedeGournay says:

    @TheMightyTrowel: I got to get out of this country one of these days.

  26. 26
    Dice says:

    @gnomedad: “Bipartisan” means caving in to republican demands. “Compromise:” See bipartisan …

  27. 27
    dr. luba says:

    @MariedeGournay: Back in the late 80s I was in Konya (central Turkey) and visited Catal Hoyuk.

    At the time it was, as promised by the tourist office (who tried to dissuade me from going) just an old archeological site that hadn’t been worked on since the 1950s. Or, as they put it, there was nothing there.

    But is had been one of the earliest human urban settlements (dating back some 9500 years before our time), a historically important site. Once there, I felt a certain awe, a sense of the depth of human history. It was probably the nearest thing I ever had to a religious experience.

    Until, of course, I got to see Lucy in the basement of the National Museum in Addis Ababa.

  28. 28
    dr. luba says:

    @Linda Featheringill: Oh, come on, open them and share. I am interested in knowing if FoF is going to stick to it’s far right guns, or if they are willing to pimp themselves out for the greater good.

  29. 29
    dr. luba says:

    @Anya: Ultrasounds. Those are done on women. And all true originalists know that women aren’t people and don’t count. Only land-owning white men count.

    Read your constitution.

  30. 30
    El Cid says:

    @dr. luba:

    Until, of course, I got to see Lucy in the basement of the National Museum in Addis Ababa.

    The skeleton, or was this a particularly memorable hook-up?

  31. 31
    Ruckus says:

    @RAM:
    Of course the government already forces me to pay for things I don’t want. Unnecessary wars. Half of congress. And in both cases people die from them instead of getting/staying healthier.

  32. 32
    Linda Featheringill says:

    All right, all right. Emails.

    Number 1 is actually a quite good get-outa-my-face letter:

    Thank you, Linda, for writing to Focus on the Family. Our staff is encouraged by your interest in our ministry and your trust in us. It was kind of you to send us this inquiry concerning Mitt Romney and Stericycle. We appreciate your bringing it to our attention. The information and various materials we receive from our listeners are often very helpful and useful. We are forwarding your suggestion to our public policy department.
    __
    Again, thanks for getting in touch with us. May the Lord bless and encourage you in the days ahead.

    And then, #2.
    About Chief Justice Roberts and Obamacare, ending with:

    Many are disappointed—even shocked—by the Supreme Court’s decision. But the ruling should inspire us to be more involved in electing people who reflect our views, not deflate us to the point of giving up. It’s up to us to take responsibility for the electoral process—to register to vote, and then educate ourselves about the issues that matter to us.
    __
    Our nation is at a crossroads. Either we will solve problems through free enterprise and the private sector, or through expanded government programs. We should never rely on the courts to do the work that is delegated to us as citizens. Even courts with conservative judicial philosophies cannot take the place of good, old-fashioned citizenship!

    I’m going to be receiving their propaganda now, aren’t I? Phooey.

  33. 33
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The REAL problem with ACA is that the President who signed it has a D behind his name, and is near.

    If a Republican put it through, the question of passing constitutional muster would be utterly moot.

    27% delenda est.

  34. 34

    […] Levenson at Balloon Juice, writing from the Lion Gate at Mycenae, offers some Homeric reflections on the over-the-top rhetoric and its practical consequences. And that was before RNC Chair Reince Priebus’s latest outburst: “We have to put an end […]

  35. 35

    Wow. That wikipedia link you posted is all kinds of awesome.

    Hero of the rebellion, glorious utopian society, everyone is better off if we only implement their ideas.

    Reminds me a lot of communist propaganda and fantasies.

  36. 36
    Jewish Steel says:

    Great post, Tom. We are sending the wife though grad school precisely so we can do this kind of thing…uh, travel that is. Not try to scuttle good law with incendiary rhetoric.

  37. 37
    Roy G. says:

    Of course it is a carefully guarded secret that the most Red States receive Blue States’ federal tax money, so, like most things, they haven’t thought this through to its logical conclusion.

    Mississippi is a model state for wingnuts – a small landed gentry living large feudal style while the state itself is at the bottom of all markers of civilization – education, health care, income, etc. Basically, it’s a regressive state, and I say that with sorrow for the 99% there.

  38. 38
    brashieel says:

    I read one of L. Neal Smith’s books (library discard, so basically free) and… wow. Terrible understanding of US history plus a truly clunky prose style and propaganda level moralizing.

    Basically like the worst Sword of Truth novels, though with (thankfully) less rape.

  39. 39

    […] Perspective: Leaders shape the frame of argument.  They delineate the forms of dissent and opposition.  They define, both by what they say and by what they fail to rule out, whether we have a small “r” republican approach to government, or rule by the manipulators of the manipulated mob.  When they stay silent they are the cowards of the headline, passive bystanders as their followers betray the basic principles of (small “d”) democratic politics. […]

  40. 40
    MacsenMifune says:

    What a coincidence I just started reading Dune for the first time, picked it up at a yard sale.
    I’m only 50 pages in, and I’ve come to really hate the David Lynch movie.

  41. 41
    Origuy says:

    I haven’t made it to Stonehenge, but last summer I went to Castlerigg in Cumbria, which is about the same age. The stones are smaller, but you can walk right up to them. I also went to Kilmartin Glen and Dunadd in Scotland. Kilmarten Glen is a small area with many ancient monuments and Dunadd was an Iron Age hillfort nearby. It gives you some sense of scale when you realize that the Neolithic cairns were as old to the Iron Age people as the Iron Age stuff is to us today.

  42. 42
    Mike G says:

    If government can mandate that I pay for something I don’t want, then what is beyond its power?

    Myself I am tired of paying for Medicare for wingnuts who selfishly want to deny healthcare to others, and subsidising the plantation economy of backward feudal states like Mississippi, not to mention pointess Repuke wars launched by idiot man-children trying to best their daddy.

    Besides, I thought St. Ronald declared that Murka had become a communist hellhole back in th 60s with the passage of Medicare. That’s the trouble with screaming ‘apocalypse’ — you can only declare total destruction so many times before even the dimmest bulbs catch on.

  43. 43
    daverave says:

    @John S.:

    In addition to Machu Picchu, I suggest going to Ollantaytambo, which is an equally impressive and somewhat more authentic site on the way there in the Sacred Valley.

  44. 44
    thalarctos says:

    If government can mandate that I pay for something I don’t want, then what is beyond its power?

    Well, lessee. The government already claims the right to remove me from my home, dress me in a green suit, stick a gun in my hand, ship me halfway around the world and order me to kill people. (That we haven’t had a military draft in nearly forty years does not mean the government does not claim that right!)

    And I should be apoplectic about a health insurance mandate?

  45. 45
    John Weiss says:

    Good post. Thanks Tom.

  46. 46
    Ash Can says:

    @vtr: Is it too obvious to point out that guns and health insurance are two completely fucking different things?

  47. 47
    Steve in DC says:

    @vtr:

    The federal government at one point did require people to own a firearm and a certain amount of ammunition. All hell didn’t break lose. At time owning a firearm was the responsible thing to do. Given that hunting your own meat, defending your own land, fighting in the local militia, driving away predators were all things you had to do to survive.

    You may see these things are not the exact same, but the same principle does apply. The government is compelling you to own a good or service because it has been deemed critical for you to have it for your own well being and to reduce the impact of your lack of said item on your neighbors.

    You can debate if “government making life decisions” is a good idea or not, but if you claim it’s a good idea you also have to be OK with say a president Santorum being able to make that call as well. But you can’t really claim government telling people to buy guns is all that different than government telling people to buy health insurance.

  48. 48
    JR in WV says:

    Guns are just tools, power tools. They needn’t have anything to do with modern politics.

    As the reicht-wing nutjobs attempt to make guns an issue, we should just say, “that’s not an issue any more, the Supreme Court has spoken and we will adhere too their ruling.
    “Just as the Republicans should adhere to their ruling on the ACA.

    “So we can move on to solve the problems of modern America…”

    That ought to make their heads explode!

  49. 49
    TenguPhule says:

    Is it wrong to call for the deaths of scum when they so obviously invite it on themselves with their own words?

  50. 50
    DrBobby says:

    @Roy G.: Good to know that I’m one of the 1%’rs somewhere.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Perspective: Leaders shape the frame of argument.  They delineate the forms of dissent and opposition.  They define, both by what they say and by what they fail to rule out, whether we have a small “r” republican approach to government, or rule by the manipulators of the manipulated mob.  When they stay silent they are the cowards of the headline, passive bystanders as their followers betray the basic principles of (small “d”) democratic politics. […]

  2. […] Levenson at Balloon Juice, writing from the Lion Gate at Mycenae, offers some Homeric reflections on the over-the-top rhetoric and its practical consequences. And that was before RNC Chair Reince Priebus’s latest outburst: “We have to put an end […]

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