Thursday, September 24, 2009

Conservative Gulags: A Response to the Crisis

I've been thinking about all the poor conservatives who think that Barack Obama is a Stalinist, that Obama's going to set up "re-education" camps, or that he's taking "away" American freedoms by talking about "doing the right-thing" on health care.

According to Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner:

History - and the words of progressives themselves - suggest not long. Consider New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's telling admiration for the communist thugs who run the Chinese government:

"One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonabley enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century."

That in a nutshell is the totalitarian temptation that plagues all who would use the power of the state to impose their vision of the good society on the rest of us.

It's the ever-present Stalin whispering in the progressive ear: "Ignore those reactionary, loud-mouthed, ignorant Tea Party protesters and decree Obamacare, Waxman-Markey, and all the rest of it. Do it now while you have the power!"

There are certain problems with Tapscott's argument--for instance, the idea that Thomas Friedman is a "progressive." Most of the big-name progressive bloggers like Glenn Greenwald and Digby have more respect for Rush Limbaugh than they have for Friedman. They might limit themselves to slapping Friedman around for a little light work before they move on to something important, but they essentially view Friedman as a punching bag. The way that Friedman constantly urged the American people to give the Bush administration six more months in Iraq became such a joke that progressives derisively refer to six-month time periods as "Friedman units." And then there was the "suck on this" episode in which Friedman tried to sound "Dick Cheney tough" but came off as super-pathetic instead of super-macho.

It's also hard to understand what Tapscott sees as Stalinist in "ignore those reactionary, loud-mouthed, ignorant Tea Party protesters and decree Obamacare, Waxman-Markey, and all the rest of it." Is Tapscott saying that "voting" on these bills in democratically-elected representative bodies is an exercise in "Stalinism?" I didn't know that Uncle Joe was that excited about representative bodies like the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Still, I feel the pain of people like Tapscott, Michael Ledeen, Mark Levin, and all the other conservatives who view Barack Obama as a "clear and present" danger to the freedoms of Americans. Political life has been so unfair to conservatives. George Bush was a boob, the Iraq War was a dud, all those blow-dried Republican politicians had scandals and now the "crisis" of conservatism has arrived. Obama is president and the Democrats have big majorities in the House and the Senate. They're proposing a lot of far-reaching legislation. What's a serious conservative to do to meet the seriousness of the moment? How can they symbolize the imminent danger they feel for the Republic? Of course, the tea-parties have been effective and Chuck Norris' idea for "Tea-Party" American flags is pure genius. But the crisis is upon us. So conservatives need to do something more.

And I think I've hit on it.

Conservatives should create their own "gulags" to symbolize the future they believe that Obama and the Democrats are moving us toward. There's plenty of places where this could be done. There's still a lot of wide open space in the interior of Alaska. Wealthy patrons on the right (you know who you are) could create a camp with primitive barracks, armed guards, barbed wire, forced labor factories, and the rest of the paraphernalia of a concentration camp. So what if it gets to 80 or 90 below with the wind chill in interior Alaska, conservatives are tough. They also could get tips from Lena Wertmuller's Seven Beauties on how to set up a proper camp.

Then prominent conservatives could move to the camp in a dramatic representation of what's going to happen to them under the Obama administration. Given that the camp would have no internet, no laptops, no Blackberry's, and no personal electonic devices in general, conservative writers wouldn't be able to write anything. But what "real conservative" wouldn't sacrifice their writing careers for the sake of manifesting the "real truth" about Obama administration tyranny? Likewise, what conservative wouldn't be willing to give up their high-paid, cushy lives in liberal bastions like New York or Washington for a more authentic stint as a political prisoner? Conservatives want something more authentic anyway. They're tired of living the sham life of democracy in Obama's America. Setting up an elaborate prison system for themselves would be the best way for prominent figures on the right to "keep it real."

Ok! There are some conservatives who would not be into the "roughing it" part of a concentration camp. Given the racial purity of Rush Limbaugh's white heritage, he has very sensitive skin. So Limbaugh wouldn't want to do this kind of thing. But I'm sure Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, and Michael Ledeen would be all for it. Maybe Chuck Norris could serve as commanding officer for their barracks.

It would be like Hogan's Heroes.

Of course, Alaska isn't the only place where conservatives could confine themselves to concentration camps. Idaho and Montana are excellent locations. Likewise, there's no reason why conservatives couldn't suffer political persecution out in the Mojave Desert. Maybe conservatives could increase their sense of authenticity by imprisoning themselves on one of the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River during the winter and then "summer" in a desert facility. The right could even set up a chain of prison camps where Tea Party activists could spend some hard time preparing for the hard times to come.

I think Henry David Thoreau (almost a Founding Father!) wrote someplace that jail was the only place for a free man. Conservatives can bring that fundamental truth to life by creating conservative political prisons and volunteering to serve some hard time behind the walls.

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