Buzz Words

NosferatuI remember a day more than twenty years ago, back when I was a teaching assistant in a course on European cinema at a huge state university deep in the land of white bread and mayonnaise. The professor was lecturing on FW Murnau’s Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens.

I’m just paraphrasing here, but this is basically what he said:

Don’t think of the vampire as a literal monster who can turn into a bat and who sucks blood from his victims. Instead, think of the foreigner, the other, the stranger, the alien, the carrier of unfamiliar diseases and strange customs… the Jew.

I watched him make this statement, and saw that he was making an effort to look out over the entire lecture hall, but that as hard as he tried, by the time he got to the end of it, his eyes were focused right… on… me. All I could do was smile right back at him, and that was enough to jar him into averting his gaze.

I was reminded of that incident while watching the Republican convention last night. The major speakers didn’t bother with even a sliver of subtlety. They polished up their old culture war buzz words and held them up like they were eternal truths.

Mitt Romney jumped all over the “eastern elites,” and proclaimed that the sun was getting ready to rise in the west. He left out the fact that he holds two post-graduate degrees from Harvard University, that he’s a leader of the eastern financial elite, that he has homes in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in addition to Utah (and maybe a few places I’m not aware of), that he claimed in 1982 to be a moderate who hadn’t supported Reagan-Bush, and that his own father was born in Mexico because his family had lived there in exile for a few generations due to the fact that a major tenet of their religious beliefs was deemed alien, immoral, and illegal in the US.

Mike Huckabee warned us of “European ideas,” leaving out the fact that this nation was founded by idealists who hoped to build a nation based on the ideas of a couple of European philosophers.

And Rudy Giuliani, life-long New Yorker, adulterer and three-time groom, multi-millionaire orator and security consultant to folks like Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, a supporter of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, further warned us that those bi-coastal elites — Hollywood and the East coast media — just don’t understand the real America.

And every time they mentioned the media, Europe, or Hollywood, I’d look in their faces and see that professor (who grew up in Los Angeles, by the way) who just couldn’t keep his eyes off the one Jew in the room when he talked about the Other.

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Maybe Huckabee Has a Point

Mike HuckabeeAh, that Mike Huckabee. I could make fun of his name, I suppose, asking if America “hearts” him, or suggesting that his name puts me in mind of Twiki, the cute little sidekick robot voiced by Mel Blanc on the horrible Buck Rogers TV series. Can’t you just hear him habitually mumbling “huckabee huckabee huckabee huckabee huckabee huckabee huckabee” instead of his usual “bidibidibidibidibidibidi”?

But I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to point out something he said when interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on Sunday:

BLITZER: Let’s talk a little bit about what the former secretary of state General Colin Powell said earlier today on “Meet the Press” when asked about the status of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, whether suspected terrorists should be housed there. Listen to what General Powell said.

FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: If it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo. Not tomorrow, but this afternoon. Every morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds. And so essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America’s justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open.

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, you agree with Secretary Powell?

HUCKABEE: I know it’s become a symbol of what’s wrong. I visited Guantanamo just about a year ago. My sense was, because I visited every single prison in the Arkansas prison system, and I can tell you most of our prisoners would love to be in a facility more like Guantanamo and less like the state prisons that people are in in the United States.

It’s more symbolic than it is a substantive issue, because people perceive of mistreatment when, in fact, there are extraordinary means being taken to make sure these detainees are being given, really, every consideration.

BLITZER: But the argument isn’t so much the physical condition as to the legal system that they face. These suspected terrorists, these detainees are being held, by and large, without charges, without any evidence. They’re just being kept there indefinitely. And that’s causing a smear on the U.S. reputation.

HUCKABEE: I understand that. But I’ll tell you, if we let somebody out and it turns out that they come and fly an airliner into one of our skyscrapers, we’re going to be asking, how come we didn’t stop them? We had them detained.

There’s not a perfect solution. The perfect solution is to get people to quit being terrorists. And that’s not something we can easily control. If we’re going to make a mistake right now, let’s make it on the side of protecting the American people. That’s the number one role and responsibility that an American president has right now.

It’s an interesting thought. Maybe we really should make some mistakes, erring on the side of protecting the American people. I don’t personally think Huckabee is an Islamofascistoanarchotheocratic terrorist, but frankly, I’ve never even met the guy, so I’m in no position to vouch for him. Assuming he really is on our side, I’m sure he’d understand if we mistook him for an evildoer and sent him away to Gitmo for an unspecified period of time. Besides, he sounds like he’d like it there more than an Arkansas state penitentiary, so we’d actually be cutting him a break. If he doesn’t go along with the plan, it may be an indication that he’s not on our side, which would mean that in our effort to err on the side of safety, we got lucky.

It’s a win-win.

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