In several earlier posts (see the links below), I have chronicled the ridiculous pronouncements of Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert and “rock legend” and NRA spokesman Ted Nugent. At the risk of giving these two bozos much more attention that they deserve, I think that it is important to chronicle the asinine things that they keep saying, primarily because no one in the GOP seems to think that there is any reason to acknowledge that what they are saying is asinine and damaging to the party’s image.
This past week, Gohmert turned his attention to sex education. In a radio interview, he asserted that he doesn’t see the point of sex education because “mankind has existed for a pretty long time without anyone ever having to give a sex-ed lesson to anybody. . . . We were able to make generations of babies without anyone telling us how to do it.” But it should come to no surprise to anyone that Gohmert’s primary concerns about sex education are not that it is, in essence, superfluous. No, he actually believes that it is damaging: “You don’t have to force this sexuality stuff into their life at such a point. It was never intended to be that way. They’ll find out soon enough.” So, he actually believes that sex education promotes sexual promiscuity, and he doesn’t seem to realize that this issue was debated and resolved three or four decades ago after a whole series of studies showed that young people who have received sex education are much less likely to become teenaged parents, to contract sexually transmitted diseases, and to objectify their sexual partners and to become mindlessly promiscuous. And Gohmert himself illustrates why one cannot assume that parents will be enlightened enough to provide adequate sex education to their children.
More broadly, of course, Gohmert’s comments are a rejection of the entire concept of progress, of advancements in human enlightenment and quality of life. If one applies Gohmert’s argument to the basic aspects of our daily lives, we can presumably also do without central heating and air conditioning, indoor plumbing, mechanically powered vehicles and transportation infrastructure, and everything electronic, from our household appliances to our personal communication gadgets. For up until this past century, most Americans did without all of those things, and, indeed, many people around the world still do without them. But even a brief passage through the sprawling slums that surround many large cities in Latin America, Africa, and Asia would demonstrate very concretely and very pointedly the terrible costs of attempting to live in the 21st century but at something close to the primitive level at which people lived before mass industrialization and urbanization.
This past week, Ted Nugent felt compelled to make the following assertions about the death of Trayvon Martin, which have been reported by ThinkProgress: “Nugent again referred to Martin as a ‘gangsta wannabe,’ doubling down on comments he made in an Op-Ed he penned immediately following the acquittal of Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. On Saturday, he went further, baselessly arguing that Martin was driven by ‘bloodthirst,’ constantly looking to ‘get into fights with people,’ and ultimately ‘got justice.’” Adam Peck, the author of the piece, adds that “Nugent referred to a group of protesters in New Haven, Connecticut, who began circulating a petition calling on the venue for one of the rocker’s upcoming shows to cancel the gig,” as “’subhuman numb nuts.’” Back at you, Ted, you subhuman numb nuts.
I have indicated in a previous post to this blog that I believe that the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was a travesty. But, even if one believes that George Zimmerman had the right to shoot an unarmed teenager through the heart because that teenager “stood his ground” and challenged Zimmerman for stalking him, that defense of Zimmerman has to be framed as a somehow excusable action at the end of a tragic series of circumstances that he largely and pointlessly precipitated. I have seen no evidence that Trayvon Martin was much different than most sixteen- or seventeen-year-old boys. If macho posturing among teenaged boys were an offense punishable by a bullet through the heart, few teenaged boys would make it to adulthood. I would have been dead before I was fourteen or fifteen. As it was, it now seems more than a small miracle that I survived what amounted to a series of tests of my unaccountable belief in my own indestructability. Moreover, if Trayvon Martin had actually been anything close to the young thug that Nugent and Zimmerman so want to believe–and want us to believe–that he was, he would have been carrying a knife or a gun, along with the iced tea and skittles, and Zimmerman would be dead—and Trayvon Martin would probably now be in prison serving a sentence for murder.
To accept Ted Nugent’s characterization of Trayvon Martin, one has to be living in that alternate universe of the Far Right in which everything is turned on its head. It’s like one of those bizarro worlds in the comic books that I read when I was a boy—worlds in which everything looked basically the same but the sky was green and the grass was blue and human skin was shades of purple. In the case of the alternate universe in which those on the Far Right choose to live, what actually happened is whatever best serves their political ideology. It doesn’t matter if it makes any objective sense whatsoever. All that matters is that it confirms their sense of how things ought to be.
So it doesn’t matter if anyone has actually ever been apprehended for in-person voter fraud; much stricter voter ID laws are needed because there are simply too many people who are not voting for Far Right candidates. Likewise, it doesn’t matter that the Affordable Care Act incorporates all of the key features of the longstanding GOP alternative to universal health care and that it was a mainstay in the party platform for almost fifteen years before President Obama was elected and proposed it as a bi-partisan compromise on healthcare reform; “Obamacare” must be repealed because it was proposed by a president whose election should not have been possible and whose election therefore signals the sort of fundamental shifts in the American electorate and political system that the Far Right regards as anathema. And it doesn’t matter if tax reductions for large corporations and the very wealthy never actually produce “good” jobs for “average” Americans; the tax reductions must be supported because the Far Right keeps insisting that they are the only means for creating those “good” jobs and because all of the alternatives are therefore “socialism.”
It is a very dark irony that many of the people who will most likely be disenfranchised by the new voter ID laws, victimized by a lack of healthcare, and confronting the increasing impossibility of their own or their children’s upward mobility are working-class Whites who have become convinced that voting against their own self-interest is somehow central to their self-interest. The increasingly virulent animus over the escalating poverty rates and resulting social problems in rural and small-town America has been transferred onto a president who has actually been fighting an endless and largely futile battle in Washington to try to alleviate some of the strain on Americans who are struggling economically. It is very ironic but not at all surprising that simple-minded demagoguery practiced by the likes of Louie Gohmert and Ted Nugent should resonate with a certain percentage of working class Whites simply because it is much easier and more satisfying to have something and someone “different” to hate for one’s own seemingly insurmountable circumstances than it is to deal with those circumstances in any more meaningful way.
I am certain that this post will provoke a chorus of charges that I am an elitist academic who thinks that anyone who holds political views different than my own is necessarily a dumb ass. But, if the argument in this post seems a condescending way of characterizing the “average” person with Far Right views, I can only ask what defines stupidity more than listening to stupid people and thinking that what they are saying is intelligent. It’s time for a lot of people to smarten up, for their own sakes—not for Obama’s sake or for my sake. They don’t have to believe what anyone is telling them, including me. But they should actually start thinking more clearly about their own circumstances and what has any real chance of actually improving those circumstances. Let’s start seeing some more widespread evidence of that core of “common sense” that is supposed to be a defining feature of the American character. But let’s stop mistaking anything and everything that has a populist appeal for such “common sense.”
Earlier posts on Louie Gohmert and Ted Nugent:
“And Here I Thought That Louie Gohmert Was the Most Ridiculous Congressman from Texas” : https://academeblog.org/2013/06/20/and-here-i-thought-that-louie-gohmert-was-the-most-ridiculous-congressman-from-texas/
“Postscript to My Recent Post on Louie Gohmert”: https://academeblog.org/2013/06/24/postscript-to-my-recent-post-on-rep-louie-gohmert/
“Ted Nugent’s Presidential Aspirations”: https://academeblog.org/2013/07/06/ted-nugents-presidential-aspirations/