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Scared Yet? Why Not?

Sep
2
2004

It’s been a little too easy to make the “white guy” argument when it comes to 9/11 and the “war” on terror. Yes, it does seem as though white guys of a certain age and class were a bit more taken aback by the bombings than others: how could they – really? – do this to us? Don’t we run the world?
Well, no, we don’t. We can put ourselves in charge but that job comes with its own set of risks and responsibilities. I’ve written about this; a lot of people who aren’t used to the feeling — they run the world, remember? — got very scared on Sept. 11, 2001. Some of them are still frightened. And they are covering up their fear of being afraid – truly afraid with bluster, not reasoning, with emotional name calling, not discussion.


The change wrought on the America psyche by the events of 9/11 has been overdone in part because it has been subject to political manipulation. But the cultural shift — between those who are worried and wary and those who are afraid and hasty — hasn’t been given enough attention. I am tired of being threatened by people who don’t seem to understand that the world has changed and that we – and everyone else – is going to have live with those threats. I am tired of people trying to wish this country – socially, economically and its relations with the rest of the world – back into the mid-20th Century.
In a thousand little ways, that’s what Sen. Zell Miller, a Georgia Democrat, was trying to do last night when he gave the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention. A month ago, writing here as the guest Republican, Bill Whalen suggested that Republicans have Roger Clinton sing the National Anthem to get even for Ron Reagan’s talk in Boston. It would have made the same point – Democrats are fuck ups – with a whole lot less heat.
In a speech that was toned down, according to my favorite (they can write!) red meat eating, take no prisoners conservatives over at RedState.org, Miller opened by wishing us back to the days of “Father Knows Best.” Actually, with his talk about his family being his “most precious possession,” he was taking us back to “Father Knows All, Sees All.”
Sen. Miller, you don’t own your family. If you are lucky, they own you. The difference in emphasis is important. It’s the difference between being part of something and being in charge, the difference between wielding authority and being authoritarian. It’s too cheap a shot to say that Miller’s attitude isn’t all that removed from that of the very people he thinks threaten this country. But possession — ownership — of women for their ability to bear children is at the very heart of purdah; the separation of wives and daughters — from those who might damage their worth by having sex with them.
You see why I get a little cranky at Republicans’ convenient use of women’s rights as a anti-terrorism platform. I’m not convinced they mean it as anything other than a way to get votes. But I guess it explains what happened to Mary Cheney, the Vice President’s non-breeding daughter.
It got worse. Miller then went on to pretty much call John Kerry a traitor for voting against a whole string of military programs, including the B1 bomber, a plane whose political and military history has been, to be kind, somewhat controversial and Miller didn’t give any dates for Kerry’s being “opposed” to various military purchases which is kind of smarmy. As he well knows, sitting in the Senate, military authorizations are up or down, “yes” or “no” votes, they’re parceled out often over years: A billion here, a million there and sooner or later you get an airplane. And for much of the past 10 years, Republicans and Democrats have been slashing military budgets. So it’s not like Kerry was breaking from the pack.
I’d be willing to bet that there is only guy who never, ever, ever voted against the B1 – Rep. Bob Dornan – and he ain’t in Congress no more. B1 Bob wasn’t known for his tact or his moderation. Neither, obviously is Zell Miller. I’d like to say that Miller’s fear-mongering will set moderate and swing voters to Kerry’s camp. But I have my doubts. This administration has cleverly used fear to inspire fear itself. And that may be all that’s needed.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum has the run-down on reactions to Miller’s speech, including his smack-down with MSNBC motor-mouth Chris Matthews.

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