November 12, 2007

Moral Degenerates in Vegas

I went to the BlogWorldExpo last week, having been invited at nearly the last minute to sit on a couple panels with a grab bag of wingnuttia's most famous and some very cool liberal bloggers. Jeralyn at TalkLeft, my co-panelist on a session about elevating political discourse on the blogs, has the guest list.

I think the right blog reaction to me was probably summed up best by Michael Medved's incredulous, "you're a vegetarian, too!?," response when he saw me with an appetizer plate of zucchini and hummus at the opening night party. I may have blown his mind when I said that, no, it's just that I'd already had some roast beef and was aiming for a balanced meal. But oh, that "too" was priceless.

Taylor Marsh has already written about the wingnut belief that George Soros pays our rent, and Brad Friedman talks about the imaginary world they think they're living in. They were both co-panelists on a session about whether the right or left sides of the political blogosphere were winning, and delusion was out in force.

With that point adequately addressed, the thing that stood out to me the most was what ethical cripples several of the conservative bloggers seemed to be. As though they had a developmental disorder that had frozen them at the age when a naked human body could reduce them to gibbering and pointing, and had yet to come to terms with the inevitability and finality of death.

A blogger called K T Cat took notes from the elevating the level of discourse panel, where Medved dropped the shocking revelation on the assembled that lefty blogs use the seven words you can't say on TV 18 times more frequently than righty blogs. And my response was basically, so what?

And so I said, let's talk about what's obscene. Warrantless wiretapping is obscene. Going to war on lies is obscene. Murder and mayhem is obscene. I said, roughly, that it's ridiculous to talk about this when the most obscene words are words for sex, which most all adults will have if they're lucky, and body parts, which I'm just not bothered by.

The thing is, while I don't need to swear to make my every point, I'm a Bulworth Democrat through and through. And so when the proprietor of Spewker came up to me after the panel to tell me that the Frost children's scholarships weren't really scholarships but help from their grandparents, and the family had made a choice to pay for their school instead of their medical care, I wondered, does this woman know how much it costs to pay for the kinds of injuries these kids had?

So I said, well, we're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars, someone in that family would have had to sell their house and then they'd have been homeless and impoverished in the future. Then she said that well, that was a choice they made about whether to sell their house or take a loan against the equity, and that as a bankruptcy attorney, she knew about that kind of thing. God help her clients. I said that situations like that were why I advocated universal health care, so people wouldn't have to make those choices. She said that was why she didn't want her tax dollars going to that sort of thing and fought against it. I told her that I thought that was immoral, and she looked a little confused by that.

I'm guessing she also never spent even a minute thinking about the cost of not getting rehabilitation and a good education for children with brain injuries. It means a child who may never attain to independent adulthood and will require the time and care of their parents for the rest of their lives. How much does that cost, do you think? Those are the 'choices' that Republicans want to force people into, and it's only a car accident away for anyone who doesn't have a spare few hundred grand.

Though if it hasn't happened to you, they'd like you to think that you shouldn't care. Medved closed out the panel with a long, windy response to a question from the audience about whether there was too much outrage on the blogs. He said basically that because we were all so comfortable and had so much, that it was silly for us to be outraged (he said "on both sides," which is the magic phrase that makes everything true) and that it was just ingratitude. Medved wants to see more gratitude?

How about being grateful to the people who provide the food he eats at the lowest per capita costs in the world? K T Cat in the post linked above said:

... When immigration came up, Natasha told the audience that if they had eaten food in the United States, they had hired an illegal alien. That's the same kind of illogical reasoning as the whole chickenhawk argument. Statistically speaking, if you're over, say, 40, then you are virtually guaranteed to have executed a financial transaction with a child molester. I guess that makes Natasha a pedophile supporter. She should be ashamed of herself. If not, she can rest assured that I was ashamed for her. ...

But I'm not ashamed, and I'll tell you, K T, and everybody, why. First, there's no moral equivalence between pedophilia and migrating where there's more work to provide a better life for your family. That's both offensive and ludicrous. Second, I wish this discussion wasn't hinged on a phrase that claims explicitly that there are illegal people. Third, buying food that came from the labor of undocumented workers isn't incidental to our food economy, it's foundational.

While I know immigrants do other jobs, anyone who's being honest will admit that their presence in agriculture is so pervasive as to be institutionalized, and therefore unavoidable. And it isn't a secret.

Everybody knows that our food is cheap because it's tended and picked largely by immigrants from Mexico and Central America who work brutally long hours for substandard wages, often for employers who have no regard for their health or safety. They get doused in vile chemicals, are kept in a state of constant fear, and have no bargaining power whatsoever to ask for better working conditions. And everybody knows it. Everybody. Knows.

This isn't as arcane as the FISA court battle. This isn't about the classification of secret agents. This isn't about constitutional law. This is about a very basic system of commerce that each of us participates in both daily and knowingly.

Yet what does a 'grateful' person like Medved have to say about the people who literally feed him? In the recent immigration debate, he said they were being privileged for bad behavior. He thought it was a good idea for them to have to wait a total of 13 years, the last 5 of those years in their home country, to even be considered worthy to get citizenship.

Why be surprised, though? Medved's attitude has so permeated our nerveless press that they think it's hypocrisy when wealthy Democratic candidates champion the issues of those who are less well off. The right has badgered public discourse for years such that any attitude not premised on 'screw you, I've got mine,' is considered dishonest.

And that's pretty obscene. It makes them, as I've said before, the party of Cain. Cringingly asking the Lord if they're supposed to be their brothers' keepers, they beseech the government to harshly punish all those less fortunate than themselves, and to be let off of helping out presumed deadbeats who expect help outside of church. They're defectors from civilized society who are completely unbothered by the suffering of others, and think that somehow it doesn't affect them, doesn't lessen the world they have to live in.

Degenerates, all.

Posted by natasha at November 12, 2007 09:06 AM | Obscenity | Technorati links |

Excellent post. Thanks for giving a peek into the expo.

Posted by: Bpaul at November 12, 2007 10:23 AM

Yeh Thanks but I confused the left uses more bad word than the right. It's amazing what they can come up with.

Posted by: jo6pac at November 12, 2007 01:45 PM

I think we need more truth-in-labeling for our food.

It's simple. On every bag of veggies, every apple, every orange, where it applies, we change the orchard/farm/location stickers to say "An immigrant harvested this for you."

I figure we'll starve off at least a few of the conservatives out of cootie fright, force them to buy lots more expensive stuff from outside our country or outside the usual season in which it's grown (and thus they'll have less money to spend on Republicans in elections), be able to show them as hypocrites for having such food in their home, or force them to start their own gardens.

Either way, society benefits.

Oh, but wait - I might be wrong for my neck of the woods. Washington has halfway decent rules for immigrant pickers, and the growers know they'd be SOL without them.

But then getting video of Republican growers chewing out immigrant bashers is almost as good.


Posted by: palamedes at November 12, 2007 05:24 PM