Silence of the Lambs

A movie that shows up in many “classics” lists is “Silence of the Lambs” and for good reason. Skillful acting, tremendous cinematography, mind-gripping terror and nerve-numbing suspense, transcendent direction and a climax so compelling that it would be criminal to reveal the ending to a first time viewer. But I will always remember the protagonist in the movie recalling watching lambs being led to slaughter and her recollection is that they were silent.
I am not even tempted to mime the inimitable Glen Becks and Sarah Pailins and Dick Armeys (the Tom DeLays are too busy dancing with the stars) of the planet and contend that the cause of progressivism is in danger of being slaughtered by the know nothing/teaparty/luddite/nihilist and philosophically nude right wing of the right wing of this country. It is unfortunate that extreme lunacy now masquerades as serious political discourse in too many forums.
It is, however, important to note that this lunacy is not confined to some Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas or in the warrens and bungalows of the Posse Comitatus in Idaho and points unknown. All of the major news media carry calumny upon cavil upon insult to the intelligence of the American people and it is presented as news, as valid opinion and too many times, as fact.
During this past weekend, during another interminable episode of Battle of the Talking Heads or Desperate Ideologues Senator Lindsay Graham decried the “sleazy tactics” of the Obama Administration in planning to use the budget conciliation legislative device to gain passage of the healthcare bill. Given that this is not the first time that “sleazy” and “Congress” have been used in the same breath it is perhaps understandable that Senator Graham’s interlocutor did not inquire further into the use of the term “sleazy”.
If she had, she might have inquired whether it was “sleazy” for a Republican president to sign legislation passed through a budget reconciliation process 17 times out of the 23 times that the device has been used since 1980? That would include bills signed into law by the sainted Ronald Reagan and George Bush the Elder and George Bush the Minor. Included in this “sleazy” process was the Republican Party’s passage of the largest tax cut in American history – a cataclysmic deficit-birthing event that began the steady erosion of the budget surplus that was a legacy of the Clinton Administration and presaged the greatest financial collapse in the history of this planet.
We are privileged to live in a country where spirited debate is encouraged and supported and is a right. We also live in a country where madness and mendacity lurk at the edges of that debate. It is in this borderline area that Republican tactics are termed “sleazy” when used by Democrats. It is the netherworld where terms like “death panels” are hurled by Sarah Pailin and the Department of Justice becomes the Department of Jihad in the Dada universe of Liz Cheney.
And in this country there is, thankfully, the freedom to be stupid, the freedom to lie, the freedom to mislead and misrepresent. But there is also the freedom to explain, the freedom to defend the truth, the freedom to call out the liars and the thieves who steal the truth. And while the former freedoms are being exercised in full the latter freedoms are being left to atrophy while those who should explain and defend and call out grow lax and flaccid and complacent.
And so, like the lambs being led to slaughter, the voices of progressive change are silent too often. There are momentary outcries when a truly outrageous statement seeps onto the front pages. But where were the voices to explain, defend and call out while the death panel drumbeat syncopated unopposed through the American consciousness. What happened to the Howard Deans and Jesse Jacksons and John Kerrys and Chuck Schumers and Oprah Winfreys and all the other progressive leaders of this country who have been notably muted when it comes to this explaining/defending/calling out mission.
All of these individuals and so many more supported “Change You Can Believe In” and range doorbells, raised money, spoke at rallies and generated a wave of hope that carried President Obama into the White House. But it seems as if some his supporters confuse “change” with “magic” – as if the mere election of Barack Obama was the “change” that everyone “hoped” for. As if the forces of the right wing of the right wing would not react. As if the Troglodyte regressives and the Neanderthal repressors would not come out of their caves, dragging their knuckles on the ground as they seek to turn this country into something worse than it ever was – a land without hope, a land where truth has no dignity, a land where the shameful is uttered without shame.
Politics is full of hyperbole. It has been called a full contact sport for good reason. Mudslinging and cheap shots make the political arena a place that is not hospitable to the faint of heart. Nevertheless the corrosive slime that is spewing forth in the name of political discourse does no justice to the Republic or the citizens who deserve better. And indeed, regardless of political persuasion, we all deserve better.


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