Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Brutal Honesty Versus Murky Teabaggery

Last night, Senator Evan Bayh was interviewed on the Charlie Rose Show. Last week, the wife of Governor Mark Sanford was also interviewed on the Charlie Rose Show. What both of them said made me think of the debate I had with a "teabagger" last week regarding honesty in politicians. The teabagger had accused me of not valuing honesty because I don't agree that Senator Scott Brown's decision to vote for the Jobs Bill was indication that he lied. Besides, its selective outrage because President George W. Bush was never held to any standard of honesty at all by these so-called teabaggers. The reason is due to ideological blindness, not honesty. So long as one of their regressive politicians votes the party line on all things evangelical Christian conservative, it doesn't matter if the vote, policy, or politician lies because the ends justify the means. For teabaggers, the lie only comes when they've been snookered. When someone they support turns out not to be blindly ideological as they are.

Here's the truth about society. Brutal honesty is not rewarded. People who are honest are often seen as naive, dumb, or someone worth conning. There are actual benefits in an organization to "go along with the team", as people who raise questions are viewed with suspicion. We can see how this culture of dishonesty operates in any business, organization, or group of people. Enron is the perfect example. Before its collapse, it was praised as an innovative company that was one of the best to work for. The reality is that while Ken Lay was telling employees to put their money into the pension fund and company stock, he was busy selling his shares before the whole thing collapsed. Why does that lie not outrage the teabaggers? Or how about an Army General (Shinsheki), who told Congress in the lead up to the Iraq invasion that we would need at least 300,000 troops in Iraq. He faced early retirement and Paul Wolfowitz (who never served in the military) laughed off the recommended number as "way off the mark." Who turned out to be correct? The military man with cold realism or the neo-conservative ideologue without military experience?

You have to wonder if truth matters to people, and how they guage what is true or not. Progressives are often demonized as being unpatriotic...simply because questions are asked that should be asked. Yet when events turn out to prove the progressive correct, is there any vindication or apology? The media still gives way too much credit to those who have been proven to be wrong, time and time again.

In Mrs. Sanford's interview (she is selling her memoirs), she said a red flag was raised in her mind BEFORE she even married Mark Sanford. When discussing which wedding vows they wanted to give to each other during their wedding, Mark apparently did not want to promise fidelity. He wanted to leave it out because he couldn't guarantee that promise to her. After he was exposed in his affair with an Argentine lover, his wife was still willing to work through the marriage until he kept insisting that he still wanted to see this other woman. His response at being caught was, "But I've been good for so long!" I guess that's marginally better than "who are you going to or your lying eyes?!?" Mrs. Sanford's decision was to leave the marriage. Governor Sanford's political career is likely over whenever he leaves his current office.

The amazing thing is that he was considered to be the evangelical Christians' choice for Republican president in 2012. He won the governorship of South Carolina because of his "Southern, Christian values." In the mind of a teabagger, that's all that matters. If you love Jesus and promise to vote on cultural issues like making abortion and gay marriages illegal or allowing people to carry concealled weapons to have their unconditional support. You can cheat on your wife, launch an illegal war, cut the budget that ends up throwing more families on the street...all that's okay for teabaggers, but heaven forbid you get a conscience and vote against the wishes of the conservative evangelical movement. Then you'll be considered a liar and traitor, with a huge target on your back.

Senator Bayh spoke about his reasons for not wanting to run for reelection. Part of it stems from the demonization of our politics, where parties look at the short term gain at the expense of the long term vitality of our country. He also spoke a lot about the system of financing elections, which I've heard many departing members of Congress complain about. From the time they get elected, they have to schedule so many fundraisers for the next election. When I interned in D.C., I learned that when politicians retire from public office, the truth often finally comes out. By their nature, politicians are cautious about what they say because they don't want to offend a potential supporter. And they play the game as it is currently set up. After they don't have to play that game anymore, many speak their minds about it, which is kind of lame. But it also shows how difficult it is for individuals to change a system. Look at any organization. Its the same way. Individuals don't want to be seen as the uncooperative person who causes trouble. Our corporate culture thrives on being a team player, not on nonconformity. Playing by the rules. Muting one's honest opinions in favour of the group mind (which often reflects that of the leader or executive).

So, with a basic understanding of how groups operate, why do teabaggers such as that lady last week cry foul about the lack of honesty in our politicians? Don't fault the player, but the rules of the game. The truth is that our entire capitalist system thrives on dishonesty and deceit. Honesty is not a valued virtue. I know this from personal experience. My brutal honesty has rubbed plenty of people the wrong way, and more than a few people have told me that my honesty has cost me a better position at my current place of employment. I also overheard a manager tell another manager about a coworker with a reputation for brutal honesty. Until people demand honesty in their relationships with other their families, in their work places, in their churches, and other areas of life...why hold politicians to a standard one does not live up to? The teabagger movement is a case example of deception at its core. I have not heard one teabagger take responsibility in their vote or demanding honesty from their chosen president and his deceitful administration.

Let's be truthful about teabaggers. There is a historical precedence for their movement:

Or how about this "clever" display of one's covert racist attitudes?

Wake up teabagger! Here's a statistic you might need to drink to stone cold sobriety:

Honesty is not as easy as it looks. It begins with each individual. Speaking from personal experience, I know few people who I would consider truly honest. Its the reason why I'm very selective in who I consider my friends. I don't open the door to friendship to just anyone. I need to observe people and interact with them for a timebeing before I feel a natural trust develop. And in the few friendships I have was never a specific lie. I always have to know the reason for the lie because it gives you insight into one's character. For politicians, I don't abandon my support because they changed their mind or their vote or they voted for something that they said that they wouldn't vote for when they campaigned...because most bills passed by Congress contain numerous riders and pork projects. You can't fault a politician for playing the game as set up. Sure, you'd love to see a politician strong and charismatic enough to change the game in Washington, but to hold these people to a higher standard than you hold yourself? Its hypocritical.

Hearing Senator Bayh's reasons for leaving the Senate at the end of his second term, I understand and agree with him. It is sad that he cannot make the impact he feels like he was able to as governor. I still believe he would have made an excellent Vice President for Gore in 2000 or Obama now (I favoured him over Lieberman in 2000 and Biden in 2008). Who knows what he will do now? I have a feeling, though, that his intelligent and thoughtful complaints about how Congress works would fall on deaf ears in the teabagger movement...because they aren't so much interested in truth and honesty as much as they are interested in perpetuating the endless cultural wars and the domination of conservativism on our society. In this regard, they have more in common with the mullahs in Iran than with any of our Founding Fathers they claim to draw inspiration from. If I had to venture a guess, I'd even say that they have no idea what the whole Boston Tea Party was all about. It wasn't just about more taxes. They wanted a war...but balked when they finally saw the bill. Maybe if teabaggers listened to progressives who argued against war in 2002 and 2003, we wouldn't be in this crisis today. But what the hell do I know? To them, I'm just some unpatriotic commie traitor...who has probably seen more of this country than they could possibly dream about.

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