"We have to move forward with conforming with what was happening in the past."
-- Rick Santorum at last night's Republican debate on Fox News
Chances are you've seen it by now, and if you haven't I promise you probably will several times throughout the day, but this statement was made while Santorum was answering a question submitted on YouTube by a U.S. soldier currently fighting in Iraq. The soldier wanted to know if any of the Republican candidates would work to circumvent the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell if elected president -- that's because the soldier happens to be gay.
The response of several members of the live audience at the debate to this question -- to a United States soldier who volunteered to put his life on the line in defense of this country?
They booed him. Loudly.
For those keeping score, so far at these GOP debates we've seen crowds of supposedly hyper-moral and unfalteringly patriotic conservatives applaud 234 executions, cheer for the death of the uninsured, and now verbally attack a U.S. soldier because he's gay and doesn't feel like pretending he isn't just to calm the nerves of those whose fragile sensibilities require them to go on believing that gay men and women don't exist.
And that's really what it's all about, the meaning behind the above quote: The conservative movement has always been terrified of change and progress -- like cavemen batting at raindrops, anything new that intrudes upon their limited view of the world and shatters the bubble they exist in either by choice or circumstance they lash out at angrily. I mentioned on the podcast this week that you should never be fooled when a GOP candidate or elected official tells you that he or she believes that America's best days are ahead of her. This is 100% bullshit. Now more than ever before, Republicanism means not simply an embrace of the past but a fetishistic lionization of it, and a cold-sweat-inducing fear of the future. These people cannot come to grips with the fact that the world and the country are changing: that a black man can become president, a gay man or woman can serve in the military with distinction, or that instant mass communication has helped to democratize the world and rendered the notion of imperial patriotism -- to say nothing of the global respect and admiration of America as a shining city on the hill -- somewhat obsolete and most certainly tired.
So many of them long to return to the comforts of a nostalgically idealized past -- when things weren't so damn confusing. Like Brooks getting out of prison after fifty years in The Shawshank Redemption, they're overwhelmed by how insane the world has become and they just want to go back inside their prison where it's nice and safe. Who gives a shit if there are bars on the windows -- turns out they keep the ugly world out as much as they keep you in.
So, yeah -- they booed a U.S. soldier. Because he's gay.
Think of that, read the above quite yet again, and it becomes crystal clear that all that stuff about looking toward the future is a bunch of crap. In the mind of the average conservative, America will never again have another day as good as yesterday.