Obama, the perception of him and his ‘potency’ across the world is one of such weakness. Lookit, people are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil, they look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates. We are not exercising that peace through strength that only can be brought to you courtesy of that red, white, and blue that only the strength of the United States military can do.
- Sarah Palin, speech to CPAC 2014
Nobody should be surprised that Putin is making these moves because there is substantially less respect for the United States than there was four years ago. And no one should be surprised that Vladimir Putin is restructuring the old Russian empire. We shouldn’t be surprised at that. This guy was a former KGB operative.
- Rick Perry, speech to CPAC 2014
Obama promised that if he became president, the world love us and respect us, and he would charm the snakes back into the basket. Well, the snakes are not back in the basket. They're roaming all over the landscape, because nobody trusts that what he says means anything […] Every time the president basically tries to use an iron fist, it becomes a limp wrist […] Once again, what we've seen in American foreign policy is that we're going to have a little conversation. We're going to talk. Here's the problem. We treat our friends like our enemies and our enemies like we want them to be our friends, and we end up with no friends at all…
- Mike Huckabee, interview with Arkansas Matters
Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.
- Albert Camus
I can’t get no respect. No respect at all…
- Rodney Dangerfield
That’s the concern.
Prestige. Standing. Reputation. Respect.
That’s what I wrote about in the last post here on Stonekettle Station, respect. And predictably I got some email about it, the gist of which can best be summed up as:
Nobody fears us any more and it’s all Obama’s fault. Woe, oh woe!
And that seems to have been the theme at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC for short. Just like Comic-Con where the most enthusiastic elements of nerddom get together to swap stories and bodily fluids, CPAC is where the most fanatical members of conservatism get together to share tales of their woeful oppression at the hands of Adolf Hussein Obama – they also swap bodily fluids, mostly spittle and bile.
No respect. The United States just doesn’t get any respect.
Nobody fears the United States, howled Sarah Palin, because shirtless manly Vladimir Putin wrestles bears! Bears!
Nobody defers to the US anymore, wailed Rick Perry, shirtless manly Putin was KGB! KGB!
Snakes! Snakes, everywhere! screamed, Mike Huckabee, it was supposed to be love and respect but it’s mother-fornicatin’ snakes!
Snakes and Bears and the KGB, Oh My!
The highlight of CPAC though had to be this bit of simpleminded jingoistic sound-bite wisdom:
“Mr. President, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke!”
That was the Sourdough Shill herself, all walleyed and big-haired, blurting out what passes for deep thought and foreign policy expertise among the conservative lunatic fringe these days.
Boy, hell, that sure escalated quickly. Nukes.
When at CPAC, go big or go home, I guess.
With every sound-bite, with every Tweet and Facebook post, these people become ever more insane.
Nukes. Nukes, no less. Nukes. You’ve got to be kidding me.
Two days ago we were talking about economic sanctions, suddenly conservatives are threatening nuclear war?
Nukes, that’ll stop Russia, nukes.
Sure. Let’s nuke ‘em.
And nobody, nobody, stood up to challenge that insanity, instead the crowd cheered…
Folks, the fundamental difference between Comic-Con and CPAC is that the geeks dressed up like superheroes with the fake space blasters on their hips are often above average in their intelligence and they know they’re living in a fantasy world, at CPAC the dimwitted nuts are armed and in deadly earnest and they’re aiming to get their sweaty little hands on America’s nuclear arsenal.
You want the rest of the world scared shitless of America? That, right there, will certainly do it.
Hell, I’m an American and the thought of these saber-rattling fanatics in control of the US military keeps me awake at night.
Trust me, you hand an automatic weapon and a sack of loaded high-capacity magazines to some raging violence prone imbecile with reality issues who claims to talk directly to God and plop them down in the middle of a crowd, and you can bet every gold ducat you bought from Glenn Beck that people will be scared alright – scared enough to band together and start shooting first in preemptive self-defense maybe.
The only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke?
Yeah, let’s go right ahead and threaten Russia with nuclear war over some peninsula in the Black Sea that 99.999% of Americans couldn’t find on a map even if you gave them three tries and all the Google they could stomach.
Fifty years ago you could maybe, maybe, squint your eyes and say, well, if we’ve got to atom bomb the Russkies and vaporize billions in the madness of mutually assured destruction, well, you know, we’ll at least be doing it to contain communism, we at least can claim we’re doing it for freedom and democracy and Yankee Doodle Dandy. But nowadays? The USSR is long defunct and Russia is a democracy more or less and whether or not Crimea ends up part of Ukraine or part of Russia or decides to throw in with Timbuktu makes not one damned jot of difference to the freedom, liberty, and democracy of the U.S. of A – unless we were to take Palin up on her brilliant foreign policy expertise and, you know, start a nuclear war over it.
Now don’t get me wrong, certainly we, the West, we maybe have a moral obligation to protest Russia’s actions in the Crimea, maybe more than protest – or maybe not.
Ask yourself something, are we protesting Russia’s actions because it’s the right thing to do … or because they are Russians?
If the majority of the Crimean population wants to join Russia, and I’m not saying they do but if they did, so long as the dissenting folks are protected and allowed to exit if they so desire, who are we to say different? How moral is it for us to force an ethnic population to be part of one nation or another? We did that in Iraq with the British Mandate in the 1920s, the Soviet Union did it to various populations across the breadth of their empire, the colonial powers forced disparate ethnic and religious populations together across Africa, and of course there’s always Israel, and look how those tone deaf efforts turned out. Endless war, constant conflict, ethnic cleansing, genocide, unrest, boiling hatred and seething resentment.
Perhaps, perhaps, the moral course of action here is to allow Crimea self determination and then respect their decision – whatever it may be.
However it shakes out, there’s a huge difference between reasonable actions justified by international law and consensus, and threatening Russia with nuclear weapons even as a hyperbolic sound bite – and anybody who aspires to political office should damned well know the difference.
And yet, Palin thinks that threatening nuclear war is just and righteous and moral and, more, an actual viable option in foreign policy. And the conservatives at CPAC all enthusiastically nodded their pointy heads in fanatical agreement and cheered.
To date, no conservative has denounced Palin’s insanity.
If the rest of the world doesn’t fear us, then it hasn’t been paying attention.
If the rest of the world isn’t utterly terrified that America has a political system that just might allow a spiteful unhinged dimwitted fanatic whose most complex thought could fit into a Tweet with room left over within range of The Button, if the world isn’t afraid of that, well, then it damned well should be.
Jesus Haploid Christ, what the hell is wrong with these people?
The only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke?
Who’s writing Palin’s speeches? Ted Nugent?
Honestly, this is what conservatives think will win America respect? The threat of nuclear annihilation?
You’d better like us. You’d better do what we say. You’d better bow down and kowtow and show some respect to America. Or we’ll nuke ya! We’ll incinerate your nation, we’ll vaporize your cities, we’ll kill your fucking kids, you betcha – not just the first born, all of ‘em – and then we’ll scorch your country right on down to the bedrock. Better show us some Goddamned respect or else!
President Obama should threaten not just Russia but the entire world (because you really can’t just threaten one nation when you’re talking about nuclear weapons now can you?). Really?
You know what nations, what people, talk like that? North Korea. The Iranian Ayatollahs. Nazi Germany. Pol Pot. Idi Amin. Saddam Hussein. Josef Stalin. Hideki Tojo.
And just how much respect do you have for them.
Conservatives bemoan the (alleged) fact that nobody respects America anymore. Do you wonder why? Do you really?
No one respects the violently insane
Certainly we Americans, as a nation, we’ve always been impetuous. We’re a nation of cowboys, of misfits and outcasts and the fiercely independent. What was it Bill Murray said in Stripes? Our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. And we revel in it. It’s in our history and in our DNA and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Coupled to reason and intelligence those traits lead to greatness, have led us to greatness.
But while we respect the bold and the forthright, nobody respects a foolhardy jackass who smashes through life leaving a trail of bloody wreckage without care or regard for others.
And while civilization might tolerate and even sometimes revere the brash depending on the circumstances, nobody respects those who can’t keep their impulse to rage and violence under firm and consistent control.
We might pity the irrational, we might work to make them whole or to restrain their violent hostility, but we do not respect them.
So, why should anybody respect a nation that proposes to act in a similar manner?
No one respects a bully
Certainly strength might be applauded and respected – depending on how it’s used.
We admire those who stand up and fight when necessary, who use their strength to defend the weak and the helpless, who come to the aid of others when called and give the last full measure. We respect and admire that kind of strength and rightly so.
But only a simpering toady pretends admiration for a bully.
Nobody respects those who go around picking fights, those who fight when they don’t have to, those who glorify strength solely because they think it makes them superior to those who are weaker, and those who use their strength to demand respect.
Those who use their strength for ill-considered and unrestrained violence, those who lead with their fists instead of their brains, and especially those who use their strength for the sake of intimidation, to make others fear them, and to force their will upon the world, those people – those nations – are not leaders, they are bullies and terrorists in the purest definition of the term.
There is a fundamental difference between fear and respect.
Others will stand with you out of respect and admiration, but no one willingly follows another out of fear.
The same is true of nations.
No one respects an ignoramus
Lack of knowledge or awareness can be overcome.
Honest ignorance can be forgiven and often corrected.
But nobody respects those who loudly glorify vacuous stupidity as some kind of virtue.
We respect those with clarity of thought, who have the quiet strength of their well reasoned convictions, and most especially those who have the courage to admit when they are wrong or ignorant and then do something about it and move forward with new knowledge.
But nobody wants to be around a fanatical extremist who is proud of their ignorant stupidity and can’t shut up about their pet bugaboo.
There is an enormous difference between healthy skepticism and dogmatic denial, between conviction and fanaticism, between critical thinking and conspiracy theories.
When we speak of America’s achievements, of this nation’s place in history, from the Constitution itself to the day Americans last set foot upon the moon (now more than 30 years ago and, really think about that), it is science and philosophy and enlightenment we’re talking about.
History remembers a civilization for its universities, for its knowledge and wisdom, for its libraries, for its philosophers, for its scientists and engineers and visionaries. Those are the very nations and the very people who our founders turned to for inspiration when they designed the United States. The legacies of those civilizations continue to endure long, long after they have gone.
But history also remembers the ignorant, the brutal, the stupid, the fanatical, the bigoted, the extremist, and the misguided – but nobody turns to them for inspiration.
No one respects the callous
The world is a tough place for a lot of people and it’s easy to grow hard of heart … and yet it is empathy we respect.
We hold the selfless and the generous in high regard, those who give more than they take, those are the people and the nations who compel our admiration.
No one respects the indifferent, the uncaring, the greedy, the rabble rousers bent only to their own self aggrandizement, those who steer into danger over and over with no regard for the trail of wreckage they leave behind, those who put profit over people, and the gluttonous who waste more than they can use while others go hungry and cold and sick.
We respect those who are generous to a fault, kind of spirit, tolerant of heart, open of mind. Those are the very concepts that define nearly all service organizations from the Boy Scouts to the Masons, and nearly all religions – most especially the dominant religion of America … and yet those are the very traits most often discarded and studiously ignored in favor of unsympathetic self interest and selfish insouciance.
We respect and admire those who help others not those who help only themselves.
No one respects the hysterical fool
We respect courage.
Or rather we respect true courage, that determination to continue steadily forward even when we are terrified.
No one respects the blustering bravado of the posturing braggart and the wannabe hero.
The present usually feels safer than the future for good reason and it’s always easier to cling resolutely to the past, to hide your head in the comforting sand of conspiracy theories and those who tell you only what you want to hear. But it often takes raw courage and steadfast determination to embrace the uncertain ever changing future. It is perfectly normal to fret about what alien shore we will ultimately be cast upon by the tide of history, but there is a tremendous difference between the normal apprehension all humans feel for the future and fearful pessimistic hysteria.
We admire those who are afraid and yet manage to face their dread, wrestle down their alarm with quiet determination, and step forward into the fire anyway.
Certainly only a fool goes ass backward into the unknown without preparation, but the bigger fool is the one who turns his back on the future altogether. No matter how terrifying, it is always better to face your fate head on than to let it take you unawares from behind.
We might not know what the future will bring with any degree of certainty, but we can prepare our nation and the world for any eventuality.
But that takes courage. Real courage. True courage. Not the blustering bravado of the coward.
It takes the courage to educate our children, especially when that knowledge allows them to see the world through eyes radically different from our own.
It takes courage and determination not to remain deliberately ignorant, to cast off the chains of dogma and the admonishments of those who profit from our fear of the unknown.
It takes courage to willingly alter our viewpoints and our worldview and to embrace the ever changing and uncertain future.
It takes courage to discard the past or to at least regard it dispassionately and to not be crushed beneath its overbearing weight.
It takes courage to be selfless, to be sympathetic, to meet others halfway or more if necessary for the greater good.
It takes courage to remain kind of spirit, tolerant of heart, open of mind.
It takes courage to be an optimist, to face the future with anticipation and enthusiasm and hope.
It takes courage, real courage, to use our strength with reason and restraint and not just because we can, not just because it’s easy.
More than anything, it takes courage, true reasoned steadfast courage, to be the people that others truly respect and admire.
It takes courage, true courage, to be the nation we ourselves can honestly respect and admire.
It takes courage to be the nation history will remember with timeless admiration.
But it takes nothing to be the nation others fear.
Cut it out! Cut it out! Cut. It. Out! The hell's the matter with you? Stooopid! We're all very different people. We're not Watusi. We're not Spartans. We're Americans, with a capital ‘A.’ You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world! We are the wretched refuse. We're the underdog. We're mutts! […] But there's no animal that's more faithful, that's more loyal, more loveable than the mutt.
- John Winger, Stripes, 1981