Monday, July 20, 2009

Buchanan Bigotry on Tivo: What I Missed While at Cub Scout Camp

I've just gotten home from Cub Scout camp. You know those personal trainers that women pay $500-700 to try to jumpstart their bodies back into shape? They got nothin' on the Cub Scouts, and it's a lot cheaper. We were at the campsite furthest from everything, which meant we had to make the trek to the dining hall and all activities a good 6-8 times a day. Uphill. In the heat. Through the dirt. Divebombed by flies. Oh, and with a good attitude for the sake of the scouts. I don't need no stinkin' boot camp. I got the Cub Scouts.

Despite it all, we had a great time. My boy is a cracker jack shot with a bb gun, hitting a playing card and a poker chip blowing in the wind at 15 feet. He survived the 6 a.m. freezing cold swim to become a member of The Polar Bear Club. He learned how to canoe, shoot a bow and arrow, and goofed around with other boys playing football at the furthest distant campsite. And his confidence grew by leaps and bounds with every task he mastered. I'm not sure how, but as the only mom on the trip, I managed to "man up" and keep from bursting out with tears of pride over all his accomplishments. On the way back from the Port-O-Potty one night (yes, but I was glad that it wasn't just a hole in the woods...), we looked up at the sky and saw the Milky Way, so full of stars it looked like clouds. "Mom," he whispered, "I'm really happy right now. I'm just happy." And if that's not enough to get the happy tears rolling, the next day he told me that it had been "a great opportunity, and a really great experience." Okay, I'm tearing up just thinking about it. It was worth the toenail I lost due to the blister from all the walking, worth all the sweat and muscle aches and being the only mom, worth the one shower I got that week. It was all worth it because my boy was happy.

And now we're here at home, back to Tweenie and The Hubby, whom I missed with all my heart. And, hooray for the ghetto Tivo unit and it's off-brand ability to tape the Rachel Maddow Show while I was gone. I was really looking forward to the Pat Buchanan segment, and the great debate that I knew would ensue. Before I did, I gave a quick glance to some of my favorite blogs to get a sneak peek. There were such extreme differences of view! I saw everything from attaboys for Rachel to disbelief that she'd let such a racist on her show. Needless to say, I was even more intrigued, considering the only news I'd seen in a week was that Walter Cronkite had died, and so had my Blackberry. If you know me at all, you know I had to be jonesing hard for a news fix. ("Hi Honey, yeah, missed you, too. Did Rachel tape???") I am nothing if not a politics junkie.

So, I watched it tonight. If you didn't catch it, take a look here:

The thing I've always loved about Rachel Maddow, even back in the Air America days, is the civility she brings to the debate. Whether the discussion is with someone of like mind, or some rapture-believing, tinfoil-hat-wearing, mysogynist crackpot who is off his rocker, she treats her guests with dignity and respect.

Now, I hate Pat Buchanan. He has been one of my arch-enemies, along with the Coultergeist, for many, many years. I find his diatribes to be vitriolic and downright poisonous. But I actually enjoyed the back and forth, the debate and the passion with which they argued. I really was excited to see someone expose him for the bigot and racist he really is. I loved that, even in the heat of it, Rachel still was respectful and didn't resort to the kind of yelling match/demeaning fight that I see on ohter channels. I thought it was a great segment, and that Rachel really exposed Pat for who he really is: a bigoted, bitter old white guy who is doing all he can to stir up racial tension in the U.S. And she did it without stooping to his level.

I was reminded of a quote from The American President (yes, I have the DVD...I am that big a wonky nerd/hopeless romantic) in which President Andrew Shepherd talks about democracy and freedom of speech:

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free."

And, y'know, that kind of sums it all up. Should we ban the Buchanans of the world from spewing their hatred on the airwaves? Or should we trust that we live in a society in which we still all have our basic right to free speech, no matter how dead-wrong we are? Should we never allow those with whom we disagree to air their views in public, or allow them to do so and hope that those who see and hear such ignorance are smart enough to see through the fear-mongering they engender? I think it was perfectly acceptable for Rachel to have Buchanana the show. He made an ass of himself and showed his true colors for all the world to see. I have more faith in democracy, in the true spirit of the American people, to see this rube for all he is, and to allow him to make an ass of himself anyway. Perhaps I am a Pollyanna, naive, and giving our free society too much credit. But I do believe America is advanced citizenship. We do have to allow the worst among us to have their right to speak in order to protect our own. And so, I stand behind Rachel's decision to have Buchanan on her show. And I totally support her right, nay, responsibility, to make him look like the total ass he is...though he did a damn fine job of that himself. And she remained the courteous, civil debater we love the whole while. Way to go, Girlfriend.

So, what did I miss while at Cub Scout Camp? What was your top story of the week? Or, what did you think of Rachel vs. Buchanan? Can't wait to hear from you all, and can't wait to sleep in my own bed instead of the WWI era broken cot where I spent the last week! ;)