May 2009


George Tiller, a doctor previously on trial in Kansas for helping distressed pregnant teenagers get an abortion, was just shot near a church in Wichita, KS by a “right to life” advocacy group. Recently acquitted for performing late-term abortion, opposing Kansas law, he found death in his hometown. The Kansas City Star just reported, “Tiller was shot just after 10 a.m. at Reformation Lutheran Church at 7601 E. 13th, where he was a member of the congregation. An anonymous police source confirmed Tiller was the victim.”

The 68 years old physician was the director of a clinic called Women’s Health Services in Wichita and had recently been at the core of the abortion debate regarding the now infamous “right to conscience” : Tiller was one of the only two physicians in the Wichita area to accept to practice abortion, and was thus in high demand from the rapidly growing number of patients requiring his servces. Quickly labeled as a baby killer by the local believers, organized mostly by pro-life activist group Operation Rescue, he was soon put on trial for his practices in a highly mediatized debate in which physician to patient confidentiality, appropriate medical care and morality were discussed in a heated political climate. Operation Rescue claimed that despite being declared innocent after his trial, Tiller would not be let off the hook.

This wasn’t the first time pro-lifers attempted to remove George Tiller from this world. In 1993, Shelley Shannon shot the doctor on both arms outside his clinic, and was sentenced to 11 years in prison for her crime. Although he was clearly unsafe and unprotected in his own town and parish, Tiller continued to provide care, aid, and relief as his oath warrants, until today when activists proclaiming to respect humanity and put life above everything else took the liberty to kill one of their peers, in the name of a principle they obviously do not respect.  Because Tiller stood forward in the path of ultra-conservatism in a Bible Belt state, and because he believed in the welfare of his patients, he earned the respect of many, nationwide, regardless of their profession. Jacob Appel, a professor at NYU, supported  Tiller as “a genuine hero who ranks alongside Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr. in the pantheon of defenders of human liberty.”

The Wichita court declared him not guilty of the 19 misdemeanor charges of which he was accused. Lonesome gunners decided otherwise. And as many defensors of liberty, as many political, social, and cultural figures who fought for what they believed in, he found death on his way, after attending a church service. As of today, “pro-life” activists will have to debate whether it is life they defend, or whether they are fighting tooth, nail and gunpowder for a discriminatory and arbitrary right of life and death over whomever they choose. The right to life has been shot dead in Kansas today, and the one they described as a baby killer is lying in his grave knowing that he saved lives quietly, discreetly, believing he was only doing what his job required and compelled him to do. Today, womankind lost another one of its anchors, another one of its supporters on its path to freedom and independence in a country that hardly ever remembers it was created to uphold equality and liberty for all.

One can only hope freedom knows how to rise from its ashes, and that Kansas will not be left at the hands of doctor-killers.

R.I.P. George Tiller (1941 - 2009)

R.I.P. George Tiller (1941 - 2009)

There’s nothing like the Foreign Policy Association dinner to call a liar out on his dirty laundry, especially if said liar is former Bush Administration hotshot Dick Cheney. The appropriately named Dick, whose BBQ friend Donald Rumsfeld we had already underlined as being a rogue warlord abiding by rules of his sole knowledge, is now adding another kink in his hall-of-fame steel: he’s now a liar-in-charge, and obviously so in a way Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) could no longer ignore. Outraged by Cheney’s allegation that the interrogation techniques he approved – mainly waterboarding – were not torture and that he was in no way connected to the Abu Ghraib scandal, Levin had no other choice but to say that Cheney “bore false witness“.

Sen. Carl Levin: putting truth back in America

Sen. Carl Levin: putting 'truth' back in 'America'

Levin made those claims “as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee”, as he stressed himself, imbued with the responsibility of his position and the necessity to emphasize Cheney’s gross violations of our collective intelligence. Emphasizing his belief that those interrogation techniques strengthened America’s security and could not be logically tied to several human rights abuses committed by the US Army worldwide, Dick Cheney hammered the nail in his own coffin, in which restlessly lies the decaying remains of his credibility, had he ever had any. The former Vice-President has been fighting a lost cause addressing the nation at the same time President Obama did on the question of national security, swimming against the Guantanamo close-down tide, standing firm in favor of those overly reprehensible decisions despite a climate in which every major decision-maker in US history are now on an ejectable seat should they be found accountable of a head nod regarding torture. If Nancy Pelosi managed to keep her head up during what may soon become one of the biggest political witchhunts ever since the Watergate, Dick Cheney is unlikely to remain unsoiled and forever stays on the International Criminal Court’s blacklist (see: Spanish judge wants to interrogate Cheney on the torture of a spanish Guantanamo detainee).

Not only is America facing itself and its former apathy regarding national security, but it is also facing a world it had long forgotten about, trying to make amends. Levin is just as concerned by America’s new image as Obama seemed to be several months ago, touring Europe and Asia in a bid to reconcile differences and walk on the white-hot ashes of formerly burnt bridges. Levin said: “I do so because if the abusive interrogation techniques that he champions, the face of which were the pictures of abuse at Abu Ghraib, if they are once more seen as representative of America, our security will be severely set back.” Obama said it during his campaign: foreign policy will now follow the path of diplomacy, abide by human rights law, and respect decision of the United Nations – even if it means playing rough with Israel and leaving less room to the CIA for foreplay. Alas, because not everything can change at once, the strong delays affecting Gitmo’s close down are also affecting Obama’s credibility rate in terms of commitment to the international justice talk.

Lest we forget the terrible legacy of one George W. Bush – Barack Obama’s extremely brief (first) stint in the White House might be sanctioned not by implementing change, but by simply cleaning the mess left behind by a former President a little too eager to create mayhem and chaos in a world where chaos and mischief were already two reigning kings assuring dynasties.  Rome wasn’t build in a day, and collective memory takes time to erase, just as much time as it will take for the Hurricane Katrina disaster statistics to fade away from the Congress’ bills. Recent images of human rights abuses and use of torture in several prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite honest attempts by the White House to stop them from circulating, have made the ACLU and every single true patriot scream in horror and crumble under the pain of their breaking consciences: is that how low we’ve stooped in the name of our ideal of freedom? Is this really what we are now exporting under the terrifying pretense of “bringing democracy”? Is that who we have now become as a population, that of tyrans and murderers? Many blamed the ACLU for going too far in subjecting a mass audience to such sensitive material – but an electroshock may be what it takes to finally realise that no matter the rhetoric put forward by Cheney, no matter his alleged arguments in favor of stress-and-duress, there are limits to the load one soldier, one army, one country can take, and that this limit is now so far behind us, it might take more than four years to find our compass again.

170,000: it is the number of children that, according to the Irish Department of Education, have been physically and sexually abused between 1936 and 1970 in the “industrial schools”, those god-forsaken places in which orphans or poor children were placed to receive primary education. In a terrifying and horrifying article in the Irish Times, appropriately named “law of anarchy, cruelty of care“, the schools supervised by none other than Catholic Nuns and Brothers are turning up a tale of torture, sexual abuse, and constant humiliation. If  modern young children were taught to fear the abandonment, loneliness and depravity experienced by Dickens character, these real-life stories will make 19th century London look like a holiday. 170,000 lives permanently destroyed and shocked, recently discovered by a society that had firmly believed its days of utter poverty and infant mortality was behind it.

Ireland is facing one of its most crucial trial today, as it reveals that an entire school system was based on treatments extremely similar to those experienced by Holocaust victims in their concentration camps. In the many reports currently piling up on the Taoiseach’s desk are several references to Dachau and Drancy. Dr. Norman Stewart, in a letter he wrote to the Irish Times and that was later reported in the aforementioned article, explained it felt like “observing lines of desultory prisoners as they trudged through the neighbourhood on their way to and from their workplaces”. The same torture techniques (systematic loss of identity, mental disorientation, constant humiliation and comparison to animals) were applied to children. In many cases, handed out to the Brothers by distant relatives or by the State, the Catholic Church was supposed to uphold its own value of charity and equality, giving children the same opportunities than more abundant ones benefited from; instead, their lives were turned into a nightmare. Survivors of the Brothers’ school system experience a complete isolation from the rest of society and no longer feel included, as one former “inmate” tells the Irish Times: “It’s like men at war who experience things cannot bring these things back to people in the street because people would not understand the situation that they were in. They dehumanised themselves. They dehumanised their enemy in order to be able to psychologically deal with killing them. The same is true when I came out of Daingean and I am looking at all of these people in the street and I am thinking they don’t know where I have been and they couldn’t understand me.”

The question remains as to what pushed the Irish Brothers and Sisters to behave in such an atrocious fashion, systematically, and nationally, in a country that no longer experienced war, conflict, trouble, or famine of any kind. If the social context of the Republic of Ireland post World War 2 left to be desired, a common drive towards improvement was to be felt, especially after Ireland joined the European Union in 1973. Although Ireland remained economically and socially more conservative than its western european counterparts, never had it upheld any suspicious standards  – yet the abuse was nothing new. This is how former first President of the Republic, Eamon de Valera, had been informed of the regular violence in the Artane institution as early as 1956, and that John McQuaid, the Archbishop of Dublin in 1962, had been called to regulate his congregation the suffering in the area had become too much to bear for the neighbours.

Even if Pope Benedict XVI was challenged to start a Vatican inquiry on the matter,  a “hear none speak none” policy might have already been implemented within the Catholic Church. Blogger Maho reports that the London Evening Standard proved that Pope Benedict XVI had plead for a cover-up of child abuse :

In 2001, while [the current Pope Benedict] was a cardinal, he issued a secret Vatican edict to Catholic bishops all over the world, instructing them to put the Church’s interests ahead of child safety. The document recommended that rather than reporting sexual abuse to the relevant legal authorities, bishops should encourage the victim, witnesses and perpetrator not to talk about it. And, to keep victims quiet, it threatened that if they repeat the allegations they would be excommunicated.

starting with an internal investigation within several institutions on the island, Ireland is now withdrawing within itself and wondering how such a nightmare could have been endured, on such a wide scale, without any prior alarms. The still overwhelming grasp of the Catholic Church on the country remains one answer, as priests, brothers, and other religious members, of various degrees of hierarchy, are still trusted to teach, to inspire, and to care – regardless of the deviance and the sadism with which they intend to fill that purpose. Newly arrived Brothers were encouraged to show cruelty instead of mercy, and discrimination instead of tolerance – as for a system can only survive if everyone in it takes part within it, as one spark can cause a disintegration. The issue of class is raised, in a country that has seen poverty for too long and is now suffering the blow of the recession even more so than its French of Spanish counterparts; had those children been wealthy, entitled to a fortune allowing them to attend regular schools, or had parents with influence and network, they would have remained safe from harm. Because no one cared for them, catered to them, or simply bothered to check on their well-being, they were left to the devices of those who were too powerful not to abuse of it.

There is no decision so far as to whether Artane and its sister institution in pain will be closed down and dismantled, and if the Order is going to proceed to a thorough spring cleaning.  A “liability deal” will be signed with the Church, allowing secular Courts to handle the prosecutions. A “Commission of Voices” has been set up so victims could tell their experience in a public forum – testimonials that have been republished by the Irish Times in an attempt to call out for the public opinion’s support on the matter. In 2002, a Commission on child abuse committed by the Church (already!) had capped the amount of damages to €127 million, but a new negotiation is in order due to the inflating amount of victims. If most congregations think that the amount is sufficient, Irish MPs believe that the contribution of the Church should be greater than the contribution of the State.Green Party leader John Gormley. He told the Irish Times, “I believe that there is a moral responsibility on the church authorities to live up now to their Christian values and to lead by example. I think the case is overwhelming in relation to this. I think at this stage we need to get around the legal niceties and there is a moral responsibility.”

“Sarkozy, I see you!”

Those are four words that will bring a 47 years old teacher from Marseille in front of a court tomorrow. On February 27, said teacher witnessed a police patrol proceeding to an identity check in the city, in a way that was a little too violent and excessive in his taste. Yelling the sarcastic one-liner twice, in front of the policemen, he was arrested for “unruly daytime outrage”, and held in custody despite strong popular reaction. The story, that has made the rounds on the blogosphere before being quickly picked on by major news outlets, is just another proof that the Kingdom of Sarkozy is taking another step further in the suppression of civil liberties.

According to french law, noisy outrage consists in either extremely loud noise after 10pm, or injures/lewd insults to a public representative/official during the day, at a noise level high enough to encourage collective protest. The teacher in question yelled it in the middle of extremely busy southern train station Gare Saint Charles – train stations at rush hour probably being the place where most people come to quietly reflect on spiritual thoughts after work, in-between two commutes. Mr. Eolas, attorney at law, commented on his blog: “Showing off a giant sign obnoxiously and obviously criticizing the President is an offence. Yelling a critical comment regarding the highly violent profile of said President’s police techniques is an outrage. What is the next step: a slightly disapproving thought could become an attempt to destabilize the authority of the state?”

The ridiculousness of the incident hasn’t escaped general consciousness. This was an isolated incident, certainly nothing compared to anarchist collective hysteria. This was a 47 years old teacher, certainly not a hooded 17 year old dealing drugs and yelling for attention. The sentence, albeit clearly critical of the violence with which Sarkozy intends on bringing social peace, was in no way insulting nor offensive. Those four words could have been pronounced by anyone in any situation, but in the current french political climate, the effect was that of a bomb. The problem seems to reside in the fact that the unfortunate and spontaneous public speaker dared invoking the name of the President in public, without any sort of respectful prefix – an offense that is apparently punishable by immediate arrest. Nicolas Sarkozy could then be He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named?

Napakatbra, another politically savvy blogger, was prompt to notice that indeed, commentators hardly ever used the President’s name outside of the regular news enunciation. “at the Stade de France, during the soccer French Cup finale, never the speaker has ever spoken the name of the president, and would rather paraphrase, using ‘highest authority of the Republic’…. Ironically enough, a report published by the Human Rights League commented yesterday on the ‘bitter statement to be made about the decaying relationships between the state police and its citizens’. My point exactly.” Another detail to add on the Napoleon Complex diagnosis? Sarkozy, whose popularity rates are dunking lower in the polls than any sinking iceberg, would be so afraid of popular vindict he would submit any potential critic to the wrath of his judicial system? Said judicial system, however, tries to hold on tightly to the little remains of independance King Sarkozy was generous enough to let them keep, and the verdict is expected to be low, if not significantly symbolic. The French Attorney General, Rachida Dati, has been under the judges and attorneys’ fire for over two years, after the reform of the judicial system made them the puppets of this overwhelming state power. Dati went on to comment that said judges were “vicious”. Outrage to the court, maybe?

Criticize his policies and you might be outcasted. Dare speak his name in public and you might be arrested. Vote against the majority and you will be isolated. If Sarkozy’s insecurities, reinforced by a difficult and staunch international climate, can only find repression as an outlet, the country will soon be surrounded by a proverbial Iron Curtain, certainly sparking even more outbursts of rebellion than we have seen ever since the election in May 2007. As the “small man with big ideas” celebrates his second year in office under the boos of an unpleased, underwhelmed and dissatisfied audience, the violence keeps on rising, unemployement rates are peaking, and social unrest is palpable, in a country that had always taken pride in its realistic and philosophical approach to politics, prone to call for freedom and social equality, for economic  welfare and institutional independance. Has France become the shadow of its former self? Never his predecessor and lifetime enemy Jacques Chirac had stirred so much trouble. Controversy is not the only way forward, and we shall wait until Sarkozy sees it too.

Controversial Pope Benedict XVI is in the middle of a highly expected journey in Israel, where a heavy political and religious agenda is awaiting the spiritual leader of Catholicism. Going where no Pope has ever gone before – The Wall of Lamentations – Benedict is making some efforts in the domain of reconciliation and peace-building, whilst managing to keep his Jewish audience underwhelmed.

Benedict might be on a spiritual journey to the heart of monotheist religions, but there is no dissociating the Middle East’s history from its complex politics. The Pope’s childhood in the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) has been well documented and publicized; his appearance in Jerusalem has been expected from both the Israeli government and Jewish leaders, hoping to extract from the guiding light of the Roman Catholic Church words of importance regarding the Holocaust. It is on a more recent political agenda that the Pope decided to speak out, addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a peace-building perspective and calling Christians living in the region to act as mediators towards peace between the two populations.

Israel President Shimon Peres and Pope Benedict XVI visiting holy sites

Israel President Shimon Peres and Pope Benedict XVI visiting holy sites

Despite picking symbolism as his own weapon of persuasion – reflecting in silence at the Yad Vashem memorial, or climbing Mount Temple – most Israeli visitors and curious observers have claimed to be disappointed by the Pope’s weak address. Most wished he had addressed the issue of anti-semitism and the memory of the Holocaust in a tougher and stronger way, as never a German Pope had taken onto the task to call upon the collective memory of the diaspora and remind humanity of what led to the creation of Israel in 1958. Refusing to publicly mention his past, personal and perhaps buried under the responsibilities of his new function, Benedict XVI never avoided nor eluded the sensitive questions raised by a pilgrimage in the Middle East, but on the Israeli side, he failed to be convincing on the subject of christian-jewish reconciliation.

Where Benedict did shine, however, is in Palestine, where thousands of fellow christians expected his visit but were often blocked by Israeli security barrages, or even finding it impossible to cross the wall separating the communities in East Jerusalem. Surprisingly so, in a memorable speech given right next to the Wall, in the Aida camp, Benedict XVI called for the recognition of a Palestinian State, so the residents could have “a place that is theirs”. It could have easily been taken as provocation to the newly appointed Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Liebermann, a fervent opponent to a Palestinian state, if the Pope’s rhethoric wasn’t so ecumenical and universal in its approach to peace.  Next to Mahmoud Abbas, historical leader of the Palestinian authority, the Pope said: “I have seen the Waml that is intruding in your territories, separating neighbours and dividing families. Although walls are easily built, we know they do not always remain. They can be taken down.” It took a German Pope to remind the global population of the horrid degradation and humiliation that was the Berlin Wall, and the need for popular support in taking walls down, in promoting peace-building and reconciliation in territories torn by conflict and political interests.

Following the spirit of the recent UN resolutions Liebermann tried to fight,  Benedict called for the self-determination of people, the end of fratricide in the Middle East, and more importantly, gave a heart-warming call for hope. Ensuring Palestinians of his support, and that of the rest of the world, he told young men “not to fall in the desperate trap of violence”, not to heed “the vicious call of terrorism”.  Fully understanding what many nation leaders failed to grasp – that ethnopolitical terrorism often springs out of repression – Benedict called for mediation, negotiation, dialogue, and diversity, in a region that has known nothing but adversity, war, fear, and hatred. Giving his full support to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, the Pope most feared would bring catholicism back into the fold of ultra-conservatism and bigotry has shown the courage that many European elected representatives never showed in the area. Free of the tight reigns of national interest, and flying high above political propaganda, the Church is trying to establish itself as a messenger of peace, of freedom, and of brotherhood. Where people expected awkwardness and a lack of political correctness, two disciplines Benedict XVI has mastered in his recent public address, notably in Africa, the Chief of Rome has comfortably evolved in the very place others fell to their knees. It does take extreme situations to bring out the exceptional emotion in people. Let’s hope he’s been heard.

When Tracy Jordan told Tina Fey, on NBC Comedy 30Rock, to “stop patronizing [him] with [her] celtic slang, we have a Black President now”, he probably hadn’t read about the plague attacking several universities all across the southern parts of the country in the recent weeks.  A movement called “Youth for Western Civilization”, strangely echoing white supremacist rhethoric, has been assailling and targeting political science majors, mostly in the University of North Carolina.

Once again, extremism and racism are challenging the utmost and absolute freedom of speech on which the country has been based on. Civil liberties are questioned when the message is definitely making most students uncomfortable. Jesse Jones, a freshman at Vanderbilt, recognizes every civil organization’s right to express their own views in a public fashion, while admitting to feeling threatened by the group itself.“But their fascist-like logo, their name echoing ‘Hitler Youth,’ and Tom Tancredo’s call of ‘this is your country — take it back’ all quite frankly scare me,” Jones wrote in an e-mail to FOXNews.com.

The YWC’s website is attacking the very ideals that make a college experience necessary to one’s educational and personal development in political and social areas. Their website is claiming “pride in Western heritage” and preaches attack on “leftists” on what they call “poisonous and bigoted campuses”.  Jesse Jones wasn’t too far off in comparing them to the Hitler Youth. “A great part of college is definitely meeting people of different backgrounds, but a multicultural ideology teaches that we should appreciate things just because they’re different from our culture with no regards to the quality of the culture and that all cultures are inherently equal. I absolutely disagree”, says Trevor Williams, President of the YWC’s Vanderbilt chapter.

Education is no longer the only weapon to fight ignorance and bigotry. Without the proper tools to interpret what is handed out in terms of ideology and experience, the venom of racism will continue to spread in the very places we thought were safe from such cheap thinking.  If college is all about the wonders of personal discoveries and the pursuit of individual happiness, the luxury of ready-to-be-absorbed knowledge and the access to a possibly fruitful future, then Williams and his cohorts are dead wrong in their approach. Targeting “socialists” in the name of a Western ideology that not even Samuel Huntington would have dared labeling as “superior” proves that they are probably failing Anthropology 101. It’s alright, this is what summer classes are for.

UNC’s graduate student Tyler Oakley told Fox News that he does believe “western” is a veiled term for “white”, and that freedom of speech does not necessarily encompass hate speech (the ACLU had written about the rise of hate speech in colleges ever since 1994). The YWC is not yet classified as a hate group, but is already under suspicion for its rhethoric borderlining on white supremacy. The group’s honorary chairman, former Colorado Congressman Tim Tancredo, has already been opposing a state bill on college funding for illegal immigrants. When some students protested his appearance by claiming “no one is illegal”,  tensions emerged and the arrest of a UNC student, Elizabeth Koch, ended up on the YWC’s YouTube account.  A righteous attitude, pseudo-legit claims at political endorsement and the use of “multiculturalism” as a threat to national evolution amidst a serious economic crisis? History does repeat itself.

Other groups, like the Providence chapter at the University of Rhode Island, are using the world’s oldest excuse, unfair discrimination, against the refusal to be officially recognized as a campus group. Tim Dionisopoulos, who probably even forgot where his last name came from, believes that his Provost is scared “because the group stands for what it believes in”. What we are all waiting for is a thorough and sincere definition of what this “standing up” implies – as we will not sit here waiting for lynch battles and other random assaults in dorm rooms to wake up against the YWC. College students attending institutions in which the YWC has a presence,  be it official or not, must become organized and fight for what America has been funded on. Multiculturalism is the precise ideology that created this nation, and if the YWC members have yet to read between the lines of their Heidegger books, some political science students are fortunately a little more ahead in their apprehension of the world. Poisonous bigotry might try to disguise itself under the pretense of advanced knowledge and critical thinking, but ignorance and narrow-mindedness bear the same stench, regardless of the clothes in which it is covering itself.

pukeworthy2


Who is to blame? Has Barack Obama’s ascension threatened the white privilege’s tradition? Is the crisis ruining some private assets across the globe? Has the Madoff story broken down the ideal of financial immunity? Or is our youth simply running amok for fear of a blacked-out, pointless and overcast future? It is too late now to make the uneducated responsible for racism and ignorance. Colleges are places of learning. The YWC is given opportunities to change their ideals with every single class they attend to, with every book at their disposal. The fight has been displaced and now taking center stage in the very places we thought would save us from this serious downfall into the darkest pits of human history. Shall Europe conjure up the ghosts of 1930 through Tom Tancredo’s motto at the top of the YWC’s logo (“This is our culture — fight for it. This is our flag — pick it up. This is our country — take it back”) and we will find ourselves in familiar, yet deeply uncomfortable shoes. Our generation has been taught of fascism and nazism through books, through movies, and, sometimes, through the distant and painful eye of our grandparents. This is a fight they thought we’d never have to take. This is a belief that our educated selves should be able to avoid.

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On a personal note: I have been alerted to this story by a student of the American University of Paris, a sister to the American University in Delaware, where the YWC has a chapter. AUP, like its other fraternal institutions across the globe, is firmly planted into an international background being taught in the American system. Its political science is department is thorough, outstanding, and relentless in its teaching. Because we have been raised and taught to believe in the transforming power of multiculturalism, we feel deeply for the rise and spread of the YWC and strongly support every student in Vanderbilt, Elon, UNC, Rhode Island, Bentley, Connecticut-Storrs to stand up against this attack on american values, on education, on knowledge, and most of all, on humanity. If there is one thing international relations students know, is that nations are not isolated islands relying on the single workforce of their land-born citizens.  We are hoping this article will be a wake-up call.

when I introduced my previous Limbaugh-centered piece to my friends, the list of their reactions sounded like a run-down of swine flu symptoms: projectile vomiting, violently throbbing headaches, contagious dizziness and overall repulsion. Just like swine flu, Rush Limbaugh is hardly soaring anyone, and injects his venom into 14 million people every week. It’s a pandemic. No one recorded a death toll yet, but one thing is for sure: it’s all around, we can’t ignore it, and the best way to fight it is to remain informed.

Once upon a time, Rush Limbaugh infuriated Democrats and scared socialists away. He bullied the moderates, relentlessly mocked the progressives, and whipped the left-wing opposition into shape. Those were the glorious Bush days, when irreverence prevailed and everything was fair game. Only in such environments can a man like Limbaugh rise and prosper: the educated don’t raise their voice for fear of being silenced by a Taser gun and the hopeful youth is kept busy through fear of a unemployement and the crippling debt. No one could stand up to Limbaugh, until the very ground under his feet collapsed. Change is the earthquake people like him try to avoid their whole lives, but alas for this sad and pathetic stereotype of the overprivileged white male, the dies irae caught up with the Bush Administration. Enlightenment tried to force him into a proverbial conservative closet. Lest we understimate Limbaugh’s post-electoral PTSD. After all, he was the one calling for a massive vote in favour of Hilary Clinton in the primaries, something that should have alerted his faithful listeners to the first sign of psychological disarray: what, a woman? Surely he jests.

Wake up, Rush. Reagans no longer president!

Wake up, Rush. Reagan's no longer president!

But jesting Rush would never dare, scared and deeply frightened he appears of the homo-loving commie sons of guns invading his beloved America under his nose, ignoring his pleas for realism. “I hope he fails”, he commented about Obama’s first 100 days, wishing to die as a hero among the crickling ashes of a country he’d rather see crash and burn than evolving into the 21st century. Limbaugh is closer to Stalin than Keynes in his approach, but let’s not tell him this just yet.

As with most public personae, this is not about Limbaugh himself, but who he represents. Often branded as the catalyst for the staunch division of the Republican Party and its consequent downfall, Limbaugh is catalyzing and antagonizing at the speed of light. Showing up and standing up for all the values and ideas even the toughest of conservatives never dared expressing in the era of political correctness (“I am celebrating earth day by leaving all my cars with the motor running and sending my jet plane to Los Angeles and back”), using hyperboles in lieu of realistic input (“everyone in the White House is perfectly trained, educated and programmed to destroy capitalism”) and confusing emotional extremism with straightforward political analysis (“Obama is taking away our freedoms, one by one. This is not hypocrisy. This is tyranny”).

It’d be easy to blame the liberal media for doing the same thing in the Bush era. None of us ever tried to sugarcoat our ideas and beliefs, and were just as righteous as the conservatives when it came to judging the former President on his decisions. The difference between Limbaugh and – well, anyone else who’s ever tried to publicly express a political opinion and who’s not a member of Focus on the Family – is that they are armed with one of those weapons hardly anyone dares using these days: a dictionary. Limbaugh capitalizes on fear, this rampant fear that has been keeping the hardcore Fukoyamaites inside their basement ever since January, this fear that we hadn’t seen ever since the McCarthy days. Socialism is not a dirty word, has never been and will never be. Socialism is not communism. But because Rush Limbaugh sees the Great Depression of ’09 coming his way and possibly taking away his golf course, he’s chanting, reading excerpts from books we thought were obsoletes, and re-animating the good old anti-liberal propaganda of the Cold War days. This is not a recession, this is regression.

If socialism means a policy axed on the regulation of trade, this is socialism. If socialism is a political ideology based on a welfare state, we are still several steps away from it. What’s keeping Rush Limbaugh up at night is not the alleged disappearing act of his civil liberties, it’s not a black President shaking hands with Medvedev, it’s not the idea of women up in the Supreme Court. What bothers Limbaugh, in general, is change. It’s the idea that something might have to be controlled. Limbaugh is a like a child suddenly waking up to discipline.  From the very beginning Limbaugh saw through that very young man from Chicago’s South Side and knew something was up with this kid – something that was way different from all the appropriate, clean-cut, and predictable White House staffers. We have to give Rush some credit for having perhaps perceived what only early Obama supporters felt: the rise of something peculiar, the beginning of the end of an old regime – a regime that had been until then extremely favorable to Rush and his peers.

Who’s to say Rush Limbaugh is going to lose everything he’s ever believed in under the Obama Administration? 100 days after the investiture, we’re still a long way away from the end of this presidential term. Commenting on Obama’s trip to Europe, Limbaugh said: “He went everywhere and apologized for the greatest country in history, the most compassionate, the biggest defensor of liberties.” What Limbaugh didn’t understand is that the new administration is trying to get one step closer to this vision – and this is why they apologized, for all those moments when the United States stopped being what they had hoped they’d become. Stop, Limbaugh. Instead of ranting, just listen.