Saturday, June 05, 2004

Blood libels and American politics

I'd like to see a survey of the relationship between various blood libels and genocide down through history. My hypothesis is that there are several roles in the development of genocide.

First, the idea-shapers promote the libel--that Jews eat children, that Christians drink blood, that blacks are apes or whites are soulless ghosts. It begins with the accusation of heinous crimes and progresses to a denial of human status.

Then others dissociate themselves from the subjects of the libel, so that they are not caught in its net: "First they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew . . . ."

Finally, the genocide takes place, with the cooperation or at least the nonintervention of those who have been persuaded that the victims deserve it. I suspect that the same process has taken place before every genocide in history. Not that the blood libel always precedes genocide, but that genocide is always preceded by the blood libel.

What brings this to mind is Michael Feingold's theatre review of King Cowboy Rufus Rules the Universe. Feingold reads it as an allegory about George W. Bush. For a good deconstructionist critic, literature is always about whatever the critic himself is thinking about at the time, but Foreman's program notes support his view: "I hope [that the play's fictional devices] allow many levels of theatrical irony and comic energy to coexist with my anguished point of view concerning the direction in which current American policy is leading us."

But as far as I can tell the libel is Feingold's, not Foreman's:
Republicans don't believe in the imagination, partly because so few of them have one, but mostly because it gets in the way of their chosen work, which is to destroy the human race and the planet. Human beings, who have imaginations, can see a recipe for disaster in the making; Republicans, whose goal in life is to profit from disaster and who don't give a hoot about human beings, either can't or won't. Which is why I personally think they should be exterminated before they cause any more harm. (emphasis added)

We've seen it all: the Bush=Hitler signs; the bumpersticker that reads "Lobotomies for all Republicans: It's the law"; the unwillingness, even on the part of such "reasonable" and nuanced parties as the Religious Left, to acknowledge that their opponents in the political arena may have the best interests of the poor at heart, even if different ways of pursuing those ends; and the accusation that Bush and his cabinet caused and profited from 9/11.

I know that there are people such as Michael Savage out there, profiting off the production of right-wing bile. But he is his own voice and not representative of anyone else. He is certainly not the media presence of the Village Voice or the organizations, such as who work with the Democratic Party. Nor are those voices as widespread on the right as on the left.

All the same, I wonder how seriously Feingold takes himself in this respect. If someone handed him a gun and promised not to prosecute him, would he join the firing squad? I ask this because I know people who make similar statements, and I wonder where their hearts are. It's only a joke, they would say, but would it be funny if it were turned the other direction?

And what would be the result if this blood libel triumphed?

(Link came from Politburo Diktat.)

UPDATE: Jessica's Well helpfully adds a yellow Republican star for us to wear on our clothes when the Feingoldian Brownshirts take charge.

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