Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Pit Bull

I am meditating on violence this morning, the violence endemic to the United States--especially after enduring the acceptance speech of Sarah Palin, the VP choice of John McCain at last night’s Republican Convention. What a white devil she is turning out to be; a mocking devil cloaking herself in her wonderful, Christian, family-based American values. All of which might have worked save for a few lapses, the main one being the quote whereby she characterizes herself as a “hockey mom,” and how she defines that update of the once-influential “soccer mom.” Here’s how she did it:

“What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?” She asked, pausing with her white-devil, mocking grin, and then giving the punchline: “Lipstick.” And she smiled again. Ho ho.

Naturally, that hall full of desperate Republicans eager to cheer every line, went wild over this one. We’ve got a winner, they were cheering, we’ve got a tough one. No foreigners or journalists or liberals are going to push our Sarah around!

But let’s look carefully at this self-characterization, one of the most alarming things I’ve ever heard from a political figure. This aspirant for the Vice Presidency, this person who could be one stroke by an aging McCain away from the Presidency, compares herself to a PIT BULL. That is, this allegedly Brady Bunch mom compares herself to the most aggressive, vicious, killing machine ever bred by dog fanciers. No, not dog fanciers, fanciers of illegal dog-fights. You know, those lovely little matches where two dogs are dumped into a ring and urged to tear each other apart to satisfy the blood lust of adoring dog-fight fans. And pit bulls have been bred specifically for this, for their “gameness,” which is to say, for their insane aggressiveness and refusal to quit even when mortally wounded and bleeding to death. All of which Americans nominally condemn, for it wasn’t all that long ago that football star Michael Vick was arrested and jailed for raising just these fighting dogs on his estate. Pilloried for his association with such cruelty. Forced to forfeit a brilliant career.

Of course, Michael Vick is a black man. Sarah Palin, by contrast, is a lily-white, “pro-life” super-woman. So from her, the comparison to a pit bull is funny. Haha. But is it? Consider. This Republican convention has already made clear that, with its adoption of the McCain demand for “victory in Iraq” (nevermind that an occupation, by its very nature, cannot end in “victory”), and its criticism of Democrats for “not once mentioning the word “victory,” these people have portrayed themselves as the quintessential, jingoistic American killers D.H. Lawrence long ago wrote about (see his "Studies in Classic American Literature"). They have made clear that they embody that long tradition in America, which has made not baseball but killing the national pastime. Thus, when, at their convention, they have chanted after every red meat line, “USA! USA!” like some hysterical crowd of American supporters at the Olympics, they are not just being embarrassing, jingoistic yahoos. They are harking back to the entire history of this country, conceived in liberty, perhaps, but steeped in violence and killing even earlier—first, against its original inhabitants, hunted down and exterminated and penned into reservations; second against its imported slaves, where the mere act of keeping and trading in slaves requires the constant threat of violence and death, as does keeping the “freed” slaves powerless, exploited, and trapped in ghettos until this very day; and third and throughout, against the environment itself, the land itself, which from the first has been denuded of its forests, plundered for its riches, plowed, leveled, and flattened in every corner of this continent, and now, in Alaska. And the position of Palin to drill for oil in one of the last wildlife preserves in Anwr is just the latest manifestation of this environmental violence, of which we were constantly reminded by that other bloodlust chant of the Republicans last night, “Drill, baby, Drill.”

So just think about what we have here: a woman—casting herself as this compassionate nurturing mother, so compassionate for life that she opted to bear her Down’s Syndrome fifth child—whose chief metaphor to characterize herself is the pit bull. So that she seems not only to be saying that she’s vicious and relentless and willing to fight to the death; she’s also saying she LIKES blood, enjoys blood sport, thrives on the vicious tearing to pieces of her adversaries—and by extension everyone in the world who might think to oppose the US of A. Because she has compared herself to an animal that loves to kill. And her hunting background—hunting from the safety of an airplane where no life form has a chance—perhaps confirms this.

Is this what we want in the White House? Yet another vice president who’s an avowed killer, (our current one having shot his best friend in the face), another Cheney to turn the White House into the center and source of unbridled horror, including the torturing and killing of anyone who MIGHT be an adversary? Nevermind the law? Nevermind sparing the innocent? Nevermind sissy negotiations?

It seems. Because Palin mocked Obama last night as someone who would “want to read terrorists their rights;” omitting, of course, the important point, that it is detainees whose innocence or guilt has never been even considered, much less proven, who deserve the rights of habeas corpus. Because that’s what the Republican chant about “victory,” McCain’s victory, really means: Full spectrum dominance over the entire world, law and/or innocence be damned. Anyone who resists such U.S. dominance, any nation that refuses to bow down to United States demands for its resources or its fealty, that nation will be threatened and attacked and nothing will do but victory. And victory means precisely that: giving up, bowing down, agreeing that the United States, the victor, and its victorious corporations (especially those run by the likes of Cheney and company) is dominant over that nation and calls the shots.

All of which comes to this: if you like pit bulls—and Sarah Palin seems to—if you’re proud of the American history that honors enslavement and violence and extermination and exploitation, then the McCain-Palin team are your guys.

And that brings to mind what the Republicans might do this season: instead of the elephant as their symbol, perhaps they ought to be honest and change it to a snarling, slavering, blood-spattered pit bull, rampant. That would be ‘straight talk’ indeed.

Lawrence DiStasi

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