Sunday, April 16, 2006

Anger Is Our Hammer of Justice

As a teenager in the 1980s, I listened to conservative talk radio host Bob Grant on WABC. That was the most hateful person I’ve ever heard. I remember one broadcast when a black gentleman called in and asked, “Mr. Grant why don’t you just admit that you’re prejudiced and hate blacks?” Grant snapped, “I am not prejudiced! Now get the hell off my phone you spade!”

Naïve idealist that I was, I called into to the Bob Grant show a few times. I actually believed I could engage this grown up in a civil conversation based upon facts and logic.

When he first came to WABC in 1984, Grant’s hours were between 9:00PM and midnight. So on Friday nights I would call in and try to persuade him that the Reagan Administration’s Nicaraguan policy was immoral. I even addressed him as “Mr. Grant” because I felt obliged to be respectful towards an adult.

Grant’s usual response went something like this:

“And here’s Rob from Tappan, New York who has nothing better to do on a Friday night then to call me!”

Sometimes he would accuse me of symbolizing all that was wrong with America’s youth. In Grant’s warped conservative mindset I was a bad seed at 15 simply because I didn’t march to Ronald Reagan’s drum. Still, I kept calling because I instinctively believed that civility and reason should prevail over anger.

I’m not naïve anymore. Now an adult I’ve learned that some people can’t be reasoned with and there is a place for anger. Indeed, sometimes it’s darker emotions that inspire action. Anger for example compelled me to phone banking and canvassing activities during the 2004 campaign.

We fell short but I firmly believe that a progressive reformation was launched from grass roots activism in 2004. I’m proud to have been a part of it. Decades from now 2004 will be considered a watershed just as 1964 was for conservatives. The culmination of this reformation will mean an expansion of economic and social justice. Yet the origins of this noble quest for a better world stem largely from anger.

In the past 48 hours, high profile community blogs such as Daily Kos, My DD, and Booman Tribune buzzed over the Washington Post's profile of Maryscott O’Connor, the proprietor of My Left Wing. Maryscott, affectionately known, as MSOC by the liberal blogosphere has become a lightning rod and symbol of the “angry left.”

As a new member of MSOC’s community at My Left Wing I am heavily biased in her favor. We’re both inclined to vote Democrat but our greater allegiance is towards progressive principles. And even as she grows in notoriety MSOC remains plugged into her community and is very nurturing towards smaller individual progressive blogs like mine. The cause is bigger than her or anyone and she knows it.

Hence, David Finkel’s profile of MSOC in the Washington Post left me with ambivalent feelings. I feared this bastion of the mainstream press would do a hatchet job on her. It turns out the Washington Post was considerably fairer than I predicted. MSOC’s conviction and integrity came through. The profile is evidence of MSOC’s growing influence and like many on the Left I’m gratified.

Yet the profile also left me feeling dissatisfied. Mr. Finkel was obviously limited by the amount of words he could use. Consequently, his focus was concentrated more on “anger” rather than exploring the context behind the anger of the Left in America. MSOC managed to cut through with this incisive comment that speaks for many of us:

"I was not like this before. I was riddled with empathy for everyone suffering in the world. Classic bleeding-heart liberal."
Reading those words I couldn’t help but reflect upon my own “empathy” towards the hateful conservative Bob Grant as I attempted to process the emotions of a deranged man decades older than me. Instead of assertively confronting his hate I became Grant’s whipping boy. There is a lesson to be learned from that experience as the Left went through a period of battered wife syndrome.

I don’t believe we on the Left should conceal our anger. We’re not going to accomplish anything by singing, “everyone is beautiful in their own way.” An old friend has often lectured me during my private rants that “Republicans are people too.” Well that’s nice so how about they start behaving like people with a stake in this planet’s collective health?

We on the Left are angry with conservatives who apply power with reckless abandon against the most vulnerable in society. Meanwhile we’re sitting on the sidelines and can do nothing but scream until we have power ourselves. Of course we’re angry.

What I resent is the branding of our anger as petty and mindless. It happens that the Left is bursting with ideas. Indeed, we have too many ideas for our own good. It’s damn hard to synthesize what we believe and want on a bumper sticker or package in a soundbite.

Meanwhile, America’s political Right has successfully established a networked communications infrastructure that promotes vapid hate. Hate against gays, Volvo drivers, latte drinkers, urban dwellers, tree huggers, atheists, agnostics, pacifists, assertive women, thoughtful men, intellectuals, immigrants, ethnic minorities, the elderly who need prescription drugs to survive, unions, judges, whistleblowers, civil libertarians, Muslims, secular Jews, and even Terry Schiavo’s husband!

If that isn’t enough, conservatives brand the Left as pessimists while they’re convinced we’re living in “end times” and at the precipice of an apocalypse! Why do anything about healthcare when the world is going to end? Yet if we challenge the political Right on these points the mainstream media simply portrays our side as angry embittered pessimists.

I absolutely want progressives to continue formulating creative solutions about health care, creating jobs, and facilitating world peace. Anger for us has a purpose. Ours is a political movement that seeks power to proactively address challenges ranging from global warming to wage stagnation.

At the same time, the days of our being treaded upon are over. Anger is our hammer of justice. As the rock group Twisted Sister once put it:

Oh We're Not Gonna Take It
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
oh We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore

we've Got The Right To Choose And
there Ain't No Way We'll Lose It
this Is Our Life, This Is Our Song
we'll Fight The Powers That Be Just
don't Pick Our Destiny 'cause
you Don't Know Us, You Don't Belong

oh We're Not Gonna Take It
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
oh We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore

oh You're So Condescending
your Gall Is Never Ending
we Don't Want Nothin', Not A Thing From You
your Life Is Trite And Jaded
boring And Confiscated
if That's Your Best, Your Best Won't Do

we're Right/yeah
we're Free/yeah
we'll Fight/yeah
you'll See/yeah

oh We're Not Gonna Take It
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
oh We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore

oh We're Not Gonna Take It
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
oh We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore
no Way!

we're Right/yeah
we're Free/yeah
we'll Fight/yeah
you'll See/yeah

we're Not Gonna Take It
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
we're Not Gonna Take It Anymore

we're Not Gonna Take It, No!
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
we're Not Gonna Take It Anymore

just You Try And Make Us
we're Not Gonna Take It
come On
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
you're All Worthless And Weak
we're Not Gonna Take It Anymore
now Drop And Give Me Twenty
we're Not Gonna Take It
oh Crinch Pin
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
oh You And Your Uniform
we're Not Gonna Take It Anymore


vtpoet said...

I hear you.

The trouble is, those who are not Republicans need to learn how to win the war of rhetoric. It's not enough to simply say: We're mad as hell and proud *of* it!

Until this lesson is learned, the Conservatives are going to continue squashing whiny little liberals into embarrassed silence. The Right Wing, so far, is in almost absolute control of the rhetorical war.

If it's losing some of its luster, it's only because their rhetoric is losing their war on reality (Iraq, Katrina, Tom Delay, Valerie Plame [sic?]).

However, losing the rhetorical war on *reality* is not the same as the war on the left. The left is still rhetorically moronoic and infantile & simply can't depend on reality. Conservatives learned this a long time ago.

That said, I'm glad to hear about MSOC, although I have never *heard* her myself. If she begins to really irritate the hard right (and we'll know it when the Right Wing "think tanks" begin attacking her), I wonder if her straightfoward talk will be any defense against their rhetoric.

Honest, plain spoken, and possibly angry words might not cut it.

"What's the matter with Kansas?" The book says it all. Until the left accept the realities of rhetorical discourse in modern political life, their anger is always going to be successfilly branded as whining, petty and mindless (rhetorically speaking.).

Simeon Bankoff said...


Slightly off-topic but related(although I congratulate you on giving a shout-out to Twisted Sister), what do you know about Norman Minetta? It suddenly struck me that this guy - a Clinton appointee - is one of the 2 remaining members of Bush's original cabinet and probably one of (if not the) longest-standing Secretary of Transportation in American history, but he's totally under the radar. The man was interned as a child in an American detention camp, has an airport named after him in San Jose (where he was Mayor), is the highest ranking Japanese-Amercian official ever and never appears in the news. Despite the justifible concerns about air-travel security that we are all being forced to live through. Despite Amtrak being pensioned off like an old horse to the glue factory. This is very weird to me, that no one seems to know or have looked at this man's record or history. Can you suggest any resources for an overview of this invisible man?


ross_horowitz said...

What the fuck?

I get quoted in the same post as Quiet Riot?

I may have said that "Republicans are people too." I may have even said that "Nazis are people too," but I don't think I've ever said that "Neo-cons are people too."

We have to live with Republicans. Neo-cons, I'd rather beat with large blunt objects, if I had my choice.

So, I obviously agree that there's a lot to be angry about, but taking it out on the Republicans won't necessarily help. We need to show some of the people who consider themselves Republicans, that the party has not been supportive of their needs. Maybe they won't continue to consider themselves Republicans if we get it right. I'm not sure how much anger will help.

But vtpoet has it right. What the Republicans have at this point is the message control. That's what the Democrats need to get, and the blogosphere is part of that. Until the Democrats can get their message across, in sound byte form as well as others, nothing, not anger and not much else will help.

Although the Bush administration's incompetence might get the best of it in the end.

As such, if you were Norm Minetta, would you want to draw attention to yourself? Especially after 9/11?

pansophia said...

The MSOC affair is yet another examply about how journalists have set out to *make* history to get an edge in their circulation wars, and in the process they attack the very people they should be championing.

As I mentioned on my own forum, there's a difference between (overdue) anger and violent hate speech. The press should be acknowledging the former and saving the pillory for the latter.

I want MSOC to know I'm in her corner.

jay lassiter said...

i agreed,'s the rethorical war that we're conceeding.

Anonymous said...

The problem with anger of course is that it distorts your ability to think rationally. It's not reasonable to view the Right as a monolithic block of evil (especially of you then think that distinctions like the axis of evil are silly). There are many different "Rights." Wall Street types, for example, don't hate "urban dwellers." Civil Libertarians are a whole lot more conservative than they are liberal.

Personally, I think that the right is successful now because it has a good mix. What I mean by this, is it has its angry peons, the religious right, nativists, etc. but it also has the well-educated types that know alot more about economics than I do, and can make perfectly sophisticated arguments (who of course are completely using the first bunch). The left needs to try to create this mix.

I went to one of the more conservative of prestigious northeastern schools. During my senior year there was a big uproar in the conservative paper about there not being conservative professors. They didn't really care, but in defending the point you tend to kill your argument for affirmative action. Dumbasses or not, they were relatively articulate. The responses in the student papers, however, were generally absurd. At least half of them mentioned something about the racism involved in only teaching dead white men (obviously a big conservative college talking point) which had absolutely nothing to do with the issue. The people who were supposed to enter the argument, instead, got real emotional. (If ever you say that things are thematically linked in a political setting, you should probably stop talking)

Additionally having the impassioned gay, minority, Volvo driving, latte sipping segment of the party becoming louder and sel-righteous will turn off a lot of other factions of the party. We have to realize that alot of our key membership doesn't think that christian fundamentalism is crazy. We can't do things like protest the war, we have to do things like protest for a series of deadlines for the pullout of troops, and additional spending in the meantime, if we want to protest at all. Protesting bugs a lot of people, they become skeptical of people that have enough time on their hands to do it. We have to, in my opinion, be a little less angry, and a whole lot smarter . Perhaps the uneasy link between business social conservatives could be better attacked by trying to understand the conservatives. Part of that is also accepting that Democrats have failed becuase of things besides someone else's hate-preaching.

Getting mad is fine, but it'll just lead to more anger in the future.

Anonymous said...

That's hillarious. I used to listen to Bob Grant when I was a teenager in the late '70s when he was on WOR. But that was mostly because WOR also had Bob and Ray, Mystery Theater, and most of all, Gene Shepard running at the time. Bob Grant, and a radio evangelist they used to broadcast named "Garner Ted Armstrong", who was constantly prophesying the apocaplypse with regard to contempory events in the Middle East, were my first introductions to the trully twisted pricks of the universe.

But like you, out of youthfull naivetee I tried to listen to them with an open and logical mind.

Flash forward to the present:

I'm quite out of all sympathy. I'm out of "perspective" for these kinds of scum. No more benefit of the doubt. I really dont care why they are the way they are.

These republicans, these little people, these creatures, these hate mongering racists and fascists- today especially, with so much information available, with the history of the 20th century at everyone's finger tips- these ugly minds have no excuse left to hide behind.

They are the dirt of humanity, which is like saying they are the dirt of the dirt.

Our country and the world, are in dire peril. It is long past time to suspend judgement on stupidity and evil.

Anonymous said...

Join the campaign for progressive legislation

Please do not buy products from these Republican contributors.

The Republican Party appears weak and vulnerable at the cash registers of the companies that give money to the Republican Party.

Stop buying products from these Republican contributors and tell others as well to stop. Thank you.

Dell Computers, Walmart, Wendy's, Outback Steak House, Dominos Pizza, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Eckerd, CVS and Walgreens, Curves for women health clubs, General Electric and Exxon/Mobil.

Send this set of demands to the speaker of the house, the senate majority leader and to each CEO of the corporations listed below.

Tell others to send this too.

A progressive agenda for America.

I demand that the Republican Party hold a press conference and accede to these demands. Until such a press conference happens and the legislation and/or actions gets passed I will boycott products from Republican contributors Dell Computers, Walmart, Wendy's, Outback Steak House, Dominos Pizza, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Eckerd, CVS and Walgreens, Curves for women health clubs, General Electric and Exxon/Mobil.

I demand that congress pass legislation ending the war in Iraq and withdraw the troops and arrange with the United Nations to replace US troops with UN troops to defend Iraq until The Iraqi army can defend Iraq.

I demand that the Republican party end their aggressive and hateful action to end a woman's right to choose abortion or not.

I demand that the Republican party end their aggressive and hateful action to harrass immigrants to this country.

I demand that the Congress of the United states and the president of the United States enact a law to increase the minimum wage to TEN dollars an hour and also to extend unemployment benefits to a year or more for all people whose unemployment benefits expired after 6 months even though they still seek work.

I demand that the Congress of the United States to not privatize social security benefits in any form including taking a percentage of the social security tax and placing it in private accounts. People can already create their own pensions with money after taxes in the private sector.

I demand that the congress make all of a person's earned income taxable for social security FICA tax purposes and remove the 88,000 dollar taxable income limit. This will make social security solvent for many years to come.

I demand the congress increase the payroll tax in order to make social security solvent as well.

I demand congress and the president enact a prescription drug benefit under Medicare Part B which covers 80 percent of medication cost, with no extra premium, no extra deductibles, no means test and no coverage gaps, and no penalties for signing up in a succeeding year.

I demand congress repeal the faulty Medicare law HR 1 / S 1 passed by congress in Nov 2003.

I demand congress enact single payer universal health insurance for every citizen as minimum coverage.

I demand that congress and the president enact universal vote by mail throughout the 50 states of the United States of America with paper ballots easy to fill out and difficult to change or invalidate by Republican Party officials. This will prevent Republicans from vote suppression by skin color and political party which happened electronically and in person in the 2000 and 2004 elections.

I demand that congress and the president enact that civil servants on every state payroll keep track of voter registrations and vote counting of mail in votes in each precinct and not companies such as Choicepoint. We need to take the Republican Party out of the business of keeping track of voter registration and counting votes.

I demand that congress and the president ban the secretary of state in each of the 50 states from engaging in politics especially acting as a campaign official for a presidential campaign.

I demand congress enact legislation protecting private pensions from corporations deliberately declaring bankruptcy or ending pensions outright.