Mr. McCain faced a hostile crowd at the New School's commencement ceremony on Friday, not long after giving essentially the same speech to a less overtly hostile crowd at Liberty University's commencement ceremony. I presume that Mr. McCain's defenders, however many of them remain, praise his message to both sides in America that neither has a monopoly on wisdom and that everyone needs to calm down. Sounds noble, doesn't it?
I wish it were. This message would be noble if it addressed the reality of our surroundings. But the problem with American discourse is not that both sides are shouting at each other. The problem with American discourse is that when left-wingers try to argue reasonably with right-wingers, right-wingers accuse us of weakness and treason and siding with the terrorists. It should not be surprising that we occasionally (and not often enough, in my view) respond angrily to that. So I find it rather patronizing to have Mr. McCain suggest that, far from having legitimate and quite possibly insoluble grievances against the right wing he's rushing to embrace these days, I'm merely one of those people who thinks he knows everything and never listens to the other side.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that it's not conservatives I won't listen to, but the knuckle-draggers who have stolen the conservative mantle. And I do not claim infinite knowledge. I merely claim that I do not need to have infinite knowledge to condemn a war fought this incompetently on such fictitious pretexts. I do not need to have infinite knowledge to point out that this right-wing "effort" to "save" Social Security is nothing more than a pension raid. I do not need to have infinite knowledge to recognize that this government cares less for keeping America safe -- whether from terrorist attacks or Category 5 hurricanes -- than it does for spying on its political enemies in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I do not need to have infinite knowledge to see that Republican economic policy perpetuates a shell-game economy that benefits large corporations and not American citizens. And, much as I'd love to think these are merely differences among "countrymen," I think I have every right to suspect the good intentions of the people who pushed this war down the throat of half of America, who never considered the multitude of better alternatives to shoring up Social Security, who ignored warnings on PDbs and fiddled while New Orleans drowned, who passed numerous tax cuts that only benefit CEOs and portfolio managers.
I'd agree with Mr. McCain if current American discourse actually dealt with how we're going to achieve the promotion of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans, and not with the emperor being stark naked and the emperor's defenders bullying anyone with the temerity to point it out. If one side commits innumerable acts of malice and incompetence and then "debates" mainly by accusing the other side of treason, the problem cannot be solved by both sides getting together over beer and hot dogs and volleyball and passing the talking stick around the campfire and musing that the greater part of wisdom is recognizing what you don't know.
As the Book of Ecclesiastes says, there is a time for war and a time for peace. Now is not the time to break bread with the folks who claim moral superiority when they wage war in order to steal American treasure for Bush's crony corporations. Now is not the time to break bread with the folks who want their perversion of God's voice to be the only voice in the public square. Right now, these people are all dead to me. Thankfully, they are not now, nor will they ever be, the majority of Americans, Americans who can think and feel. I'm happy to reach out to them.
But not to John McCain's new friends. They haven't earned it.
UPDATE. As I note in a later post, I regretted the quotation I used from the Book of Ecclesiastes. We're not "at war" with our fellow Americans. "There is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing" is obviously far more apt. Maybe sadder, too. Please make a note of it.