Monday, November 02, 2009

The Enemy

Intellectually ambitious right-wingers like to appeal to the ideas of the German Carl Schmitt, who famously asserted that one cannot have a politics without an enemy. I don’t go along with that, but I also don’t agree with a certain tribe of sweetness and light commentators that objects to acknowledging the existence of real enemies even when the antagonists in question have already defined you as their enemy. When the Conservatives shriek their “Juden heraus!” message to liberals and even moderates, I don’t feel obligated to make excuses for their eliminationist rhetoric. They are dangerous enemies not only of me, but of my country. I have no desire to emigrate to Madagascar.

It’s not that I propose an inverse of AM radio hatred, mind you. People here in San Francisco may not want to live in Mississippi or Texas, but we’ve never proposed to eject these benighted states from the Union even if their adherence to democracy and even their loyalty to the United States was and remains highly dubious. Despite the non-stop provocation that comes from the red states and which is only unremarkable because we don’t remark about it, we refuse to be like the Limbaughs and Becks, who dream out loud of driving the vermin out of their sanctuaries on the coasts or like their more consistent followers such as Jim David Adkisson who have already acted on their exortation to “Go Kill Liberals.” Nevertheless, as far as I’m concerned, if my enemies want enemies, they’ve got ‘em.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Believe It or Not

An old Believe It or Not comic I read as a child breathlessly announced that common table salt was actually made out of two violent poisons, chlorine and sodium. I don’t remember if this attempt to make chemistry lurid explained what happens if you throw sodium in water—that information may have been restricted to an R-rated version I wasn’t allowed to read. The bit did make an impression on me, though; and it has since become part of my own private transcendental apparatus, one of the synthetic a priori propositions in the Swiss army knife of my mind. I find it especially useful in thinking about politics.

I know too much history to romanticize revolutions or long for radical change, but the endlessly harped upon themes of bipartisanship and civility have no appeal for me either and not just because they are bleated out with such transparency insincerity by apologists for the status quo whose idea of social peace is the permanent triumph of one side. I prefer to recognize that there really are conflicting interests in the world, beginning with, but certainly not limited to the haves and the have nots. A rational political chemistry seeks to compound something more savory than endlessly strife or endless oppression from these ingredients, but it doesn’t pretend that conflict is just a misunderstanding. Indeed, thinking there is no conflict is the misunderstanding.