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Not From 'Round Here
Thanks for Hanns-Peter's reminder that most Europeans don't understand what it means for the leader of the world's most powerful nation to talk to reporters decked out in cowboy duds [First Person, "We Europeans Don't Get Bush," Nov. 6]. I suppose we would be similarly puzzled if Schroeder appeared in our papers wearing lederhosen and toting a beer stein. We wouldn't know whether to take it seriously or not either.

If Hanns-Peter is still around, tell him to spend a weekend watching old reruns of The Rifleman or Bonanza. That should help him understand the meaning of Bush's hat.

The get-along guy
I found Jon Elliston's article "Earning his Stripes" in the Nov. 6 issue quite interesting. I think it paints well the ambitions of a man who is positioning himself to become president.

What troubles me about the politician and today's political process is that folks running for office focus so much on what they think will play well. Several people from North Carolina volunteering as part of Education for Peace in Iraq Center's emergency lobbying session on Sept. 30 met with an Edwards' staffer. She listened well and presumably reported back what I'm sure thousands of North Carolinians were saying: "Is this our fight?" "Is this the right thing to do?" "What will be the consquences?" A few days later Sen. Edwards delivered his speech deriding President Bush's unilateralism. Soon thereafter Sen. Edwards voted for a war resolution that assured the president's right to use the military unilaterally, without any other form of approval.

I would like our leaders, especially opposition leaders, to actually oppose the other party, most crucially when the ruling party is manipulating the public a few weeks before an election.

Plaid pants or a park?
Last year when I still taught at NCSU, before the state's budget cuts, I e-mailed the Board of Trustees to express my opposition to the planned Centennial Campus resort. George Worsley responded that that the luxury hotel and designer golf course (Arnold Palmer brand) followed NCSU's educational mission; the course would even be used to research new, more eco-friendly golf course maintenance technologies. OK ... and State's football fields are also meant to serve as rest stops for migrating geese. (The chalk lines help them land in formation.)

From standpoints of any environmental or social concern, replacing Centennial Campus's woods, trails, old pastures, lake and creek with a golf course is perverse. A staggering amount of resources are needed to maintain any desirable course: water, pesticides, herbicides, mowing, coloring, land area. The environment will be fouled by the poisonous chemicals and increased runoff. And let's face it, golf is a game mainly played by elites.

What percentage of NCSU students will golf there, and how often? What percentage of Raleigh citizens? What percentage of women golf? What's the average income of regular golfers? Does anyone miss the "public" in "public university"?

Raleigh will continue to sprawl, so how about a natural park for State students and all citizens, close to downtown and most student housing, on part of the largest piece of undeveloped land left inside the beltline? If we consider the doubts about this state-subsidized resort's fundraising potential reported by Bob Burtman ["Bleeding Red," Nov. 6], a "Centennial Park" seems not only right, but smart.

Answering to minorities
Elizabeth Dole's grotesque, fraudulent use of Floyd Rodgers in her acceptance speech (that "young, handsome African American"--what if he were "ugly and old"?) hardy warrants the quick praise and naïve enthusiasm of Barbara Solow's "We'll vote for that!" editorial [Front Porch, "Answering to Floyd," Nov. 13].

Dole has openly promised to carry on the legacy of white bigot Jesse Helms, and her acceptance speech is the last Floyd Rodgers or the African-American community can expect to hear from Sen. Dole. Her campaign contributors have made a good investment; Dole is bought and paid for, and despite her murky claims that her "No. 1" priority is education, jobs and the environment--she has so many No. 1s--what we will see is the Republican legacy of suppression of the African American vote, attack on women's health and reproductive rights; rapacious assaults on the environment, a skewing of the tax base to steeply regressive rates; outright war on unions and workers' rights; and pompous, bullying, unilateral foreign policy that uses as fodder our 19-year-old boys, to say nothing of the all-but-announced "open season" on gay rights.

Dole's smile hides hideous intent. So, don't count "me" in the "we," Ms. Solow.

Winning the battle
What is happening to America is certainly deplorable. I agree with Hal Crowther that we are experiencing a societal depletion of decency, mirrored in part by the major media ["Jesters from Hell," Nov. 13]. But while Mr. Crowther claims that the shock jocks are not the cause but instead the produce of a commercial culture in free fall, I must emphatically disagree. Just as perhaps shock jocks are a symptom of what ails America, they are also in large part the cause for the success of the Republican platform and the rise of the radical right. Symptom and cause are bound together as one.

The responsibility of the free fall, however, is not just that of low-brow conservatives but also the responsibility of seemingly moralistic liberals, who, perhaps like Mr. Crowther, or perhaps like me up until Wednesday, Nov. 6, complain and complain but offer no viable solution, choosing instead to distance ourselves from a culture that is large part our fault.

We liberals are also worthy of this blame. The country is in a crisis because the conservatives of America have won the battle of moral and political language, and the have won in part because we have let them win. (Despite the fact that I deplore war as rhetorical metaphor, in this case it is entirely appropriate.) The radical right has achieved its victories through waging a war of psychological operations, as if plucked straight from a US Army Propaganda field manual. And we have sat it out, abandoning the battlefield that is America by invoking an abstract higher ground that simply does not exist enough to generate valid concern for it.

I alone, the day following the last election, started to wage an e-mail campaign for liberal organizations to "take back" the language through funding and establishing our own "shock jock." We can't remain 1,000,000 miles above Joe Average American. We cannot slip into dismissive misanthropy as Mr. Crowther suggests. We must come to the people, and only then can we take them away from the mindlessness and heartlessness of people like Dr. Laura or Rush Limbaugh. We can only re-educate America one step at a time. And yes, it starts with every one of us. (The idea seems to be catching. Just yesterday I read an uncannily similar analysis to my own in a major Twin Cities newspaper, from a journalist only two degrees removed from me.)

Foremost, we must take back the political and moral language of America. In the last twenty years, thanks to the tireless efforts of radically right organizations, "liberal" has become a curse word with a real objective correlative: the Crowthers and Herrons of the world who publicly complain but offer no solutions, or, at least, no viable ones.

"Moderation," a word by which millions of Americans identify their political affinities, now stands for what is in reality a radically right wing, Neanderthal conservativism. By the simple but laborious process of redefining these two terms in our language along with other terminology central to political communication and expression (namely, by repeated crude confrontation, insults, and energetic engagement of the audience), the radical right has completely reshaped the very perception of the American political landscape in the hearts and minds of Americans.

Through redefining the fundamental political vocabulary of the average American, the radical right has reshaped American hearts and minds almost completely out of existence. (Example of the battle of language: "Limbaugh" is in my spell checker. "Crowther" is not.)

The golden rule will not prevent us from hitting bottom, which is where we are headed. This is at once both depressing and revelatory. We can win, but it means we must put a cause before our egos, before our clean moral slates. We must get our hands dirty. Through shock radio, conservatives have won almost every recent battle for the hearts and minds of Americans. Foremost they have done this by forcing upon us this war. And they have done this by relieving Americans of the burden of having hearts and minds through a relentless organized and concerted verbal assault. Through consolidating their interests with those of the owners of the major media.

The radical right has achieved this victory with mindless, heartless rhetoric that would inspire in Orwell perhaps another 10,000 pages of writing, were he still with us, of course. Heartless, mindless rhetoric that is literally battlefield-tested and battlefield-proven. We must stop this awful trend, and stop it NOW! And we can stop it now. We have not lost everything. America is still here. And there's a flip side to everything we have lost: There is so much to win back.

But we will succeed only if we accept and start where conservatives have taken us, and begin to understand that this is a war for the hearts and minds of Americans, and a war that we must fight. To not fight is to be destroyed. We must recognize that the radical right, upstart neo-Fascists with hearts wrapped in shiny black leather, have made this nation a battleground through regular verbal assault on the airwaves. We must start where conservatives have taken us, and not from some morally remote position, for it is our responsibility to show we love people not for who they could be, but for who they are. Let us not be so heartless ourselves that we revert to a dream of throwing it all away. (I think a social innovator tried that in Cambodia in the 70s, to the tune of 2 million dead.) Only then, perhaps, with some shock and ridicule of our own, may we plant the seeds of a trend that moves away from such cretinous barbarism.

Let us ridicule and shock, but unlike our enemies (they are our enemies), we should ridicule stupidity and greed, and shock people into understanding what it means to be considerate, what it means to meaningfully participate in America. We must come to the American people, and begin to fight. Or else? Things are bad, but things can get a helluva lot worse. And it's coming, dear Lord, it's coming. Our own Reichstag in D.C., as I write this, is in the midst of forming a Waffen SS for the Executive Shrub, er, Branch.

I think they call it "Homeland Security," yes? The very name makes me think they have a homemade apple pie in the oven waiting for us. Thanks, Mom! Our language is everywhere at the front lines of the battle for the hearts and minds of America.

We have not lost. No! We perhaps stopped fighting a long time ago, but can we continue to sit it out, to merely watch and complain? No! No! No! We, Mr. Crowther, that is you and me, liberals with a voice, we have not yet begun to fight. The first battle, perhaps rather anti-climactically, is for us liberals to get our very own shock jock. That's right: a voice to point out the real idiots, the real criminals. Perhaps this idea is contradictory. But unlike the ideological world, the real world, too, is contradictory.


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