Thursday, January 20, 2011
Broadcaster/Entertainer/Drug Addict Rush Limbaugh trotted out his intellect in a comment on the press conference held by President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao by doing a few minutes of the classic, derogatory, singsong gibberish -- a way of mocking the visiting president's native language; i.e. Chinese. Limbaugh made the point that it just sounds so funny that it couldn't possibly be a real language, just some strange combination of sounds that defy translation, despite the fact that those strange sounds manage to achieve the goal of communication for over a billion people. Of all the cynical critiques one might make of the visit: the Chinese are just visiting their money, or they're here to steal more American jobs, Limbaugh chose to descend to the level of a fifth-grade bully, mocking the new exchange student on the playground during recess.
So, how does a reasonable, sane person respond to this? At some point, there are just no words left. The easy, kneejerk "moron" "clod" "porcine, pseudo patriotic hateful drug addicted hypocrite," just bounce off him like bullets off Superman. He wears the insults like a badge of honor. Even Al Franken's classic, simple "big, fat idiot" don't seen to cut it anymore. You can't damage someone so damaged. This porcine dolt from whom politicians cower. This expert on culture and world politics who dropped out of Southeast Missouri State University after two semesters. A large portion of this country is heeding the opinions of someone who couldn't even handle the intellectual rigors of Southeast Missouri State University. Someone who believes in traditional American values ... and is on his fourth marriage. Someone who believes that drugs are a scourge on America ... who's himself a drug addict.
Of course the Chinese language sounds like funny noises to his Southeast Missouri State University-dropout ears. And of course a state visit by the president of one of the most powerful countries in the world would be reduced by his Southeast Missouri State University-dropout mind to a funny little man standing behind a podium making funny noises. It couldn't possibly have any deeper significance in terms of forging economic agreements, political agreements, making progress on human rights, devising a strategy for handling North Korea... Even a more cynical mind could chalk it up to the sage Godfather advice to "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."
But Limbaugh is not the tragedy. Yes, his speech is ugly. And occasionally veers into hate speech. But it's free speech. If people didn't listen, he wouldn't have signed a deal for $400 million. Obviously, people listen. And that's the tragedy. It's our two Americas. Not two economic Americas. Two intellectual Americas. And in that latter, xenophobic America there will always be voices who will know that there's gold in playing to the appropriately named base -- stoking ignorant fears and inciting hatred and suspicion all under the banner of a waving flag. Because there is one group of Americans who are able to comprehend and appreciate the subtleties of global politics in the 21st century, and another who dropped out of Southeast Missouri State University and can only understand the world by dividing it into good and evil, where good is everyone who looks and thinks like us, and evil is everyone else. But perhaps one day that latter group will begin to crawl out of the primordial mental muck in which its mired and begin to see the world in color. That will be the day when America really begins to live up to the American dream. And that will be the day when Rush will be living up to his full Southeast Missouri State University-dropout potential by making his living as a Christmas ham.