It struck me again this morn­ing. Every once in a while I get broad­sided by a bizarre sense of unre­al­ity when I think about how obses­sive we — all of us, any of us — can become over really small, really insignif­i­cant things.

Take, for instance, the three-​​plus thou­sand US sol­diers who’ve been killed in Iraq, many of them after Mission Accomplished, most of them after major com­bat oper­a­tions ceased. Those aren’t insignif­i­cant, not by any ratio­nal mea­sure, yet they seem to be unim­por­tant to a fairly large minor­ity of their fel­low countrymen.

Contrarily we have a 41-​​year-​​old NASA astro­naut who wore dia­pers in a cross-​​country drive, appar­ently intent on kid­nap­ping and pos­si­bly killing a woman whom she per­ceived as a roman­tic rival. In the process, this per­son might well have destroyed her own mar­riage. This kind of behav­ior is near enough to Michael Richards’s out­burst to make me think she needs meds as much as he did. But, diag­nos­ably unbal­anced or not, this behav­ior is clearly an exam­ple of obses­sion on some­thing … well, not nec­es­sar­ily insignif­i­cant, but cer­tainly unrealistic.

North Korea and Iran con­tinue to be loci of trou­ble, and yet it seems that Washington can’t or won’t deal with either of them in a sen­si­ble way, despite requests being made as far back as 2003 from Iran that would have opened up dia­logue with the US (some­thing Rice claims to have never seen, I sup­pose like she never saw a threat in the title Bin Laden Determined to Attack in the United States). We’re los­ing Afghanistan and we’ve already lost Iraq, and Osama is still able to both run and hide.

Earth’s human-​​induced cli­mate change is no longer a seri­ous issue of debate, yet there’s dither­ing from the White House and we con­tinue to see self­ish, uncar­ing morons gadding about in over­sized vehi­cles that prac­ti­cally boast of get­ting fuel econ­omy in the single-​​digit range.

We don’t have enough Arabic trans­la­tors in mil­i­tary posi­tions right now — yet some 50 or more who used to be in the mil­i­tary were dis­charged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. This means they were gay or les­bian. (H/​T Pam.)

Ted Haggard has so twisted him­self that he’s in denial again — and at least some peo­ple are believ­ing it. His claims, after three weeks of “ther­apy”, that he’s totally straight are every bit as believ­able as they were sev­eral years ago, when he was snort­ing meth and bon­ing with a male prostitute.

And that’s when it struck me. With all the hell break­ing loose on this planet today, why the fuck do we care who’s screw­ing whom?

Seriously. There are starv­ing peo­ple in this nation and in most oth­ers, there are seri­ous cli­mate shifts afoot, there’s unrest and strife in every com­mu­nity from the local to the global. All these prob­lems can be changed by shift­ing focus a lit­tle, by becom­ing more slightly other-​​centered, by agree­ing to give a lit­tle to char­ity, to vote for eth­i­cal peace­mak­ers, to choose low-​​carbon alter­na­tives for home, office and transportation.

And, rather than do these things, jin­go­ists and dem­a­gogues alike instead obsess on cock and pussy. The will­ful stu­pid­ity of these stump-​​thumpers is exceeded only by the blind­ness of those who flock after them.

There are some right-​​wing groups that are begin­ning to grasp the prob­lem here. There’s a grow­ing wave in the fanat­i­cal crowd that pro­motes indi­vid­ual respon­si­bil­ity, sound envi­ron­men­tal­ism and even — in some cases — accep­tance of non­hetero­sex­u­als. While I find this trend promis­ing, I don’t know how effec­tive it’s going to be.

At their low­est ebb, Bush’s num­bers remain around 30% approval. This is a fairly sound diag­nos­tic for the per­cent­age of ultra-​​rightists who sup­port global bel­liger­ence, per­sonal irre­spon­si­bil­ity and fear­mon­ger­ing. These are the peo­ple who send their kids to murder-​​promoting Jesus camps; these are the peo­ple who bomb abor­tion clin­ics; these are the peo­ple who worked them­selves into hys­te­ria over Terri Schiavo.

The cliché holds that if you’re not part of the solu­tion, you’re part of the prob­lem; but you have to be able to rec­og­nize that before you can actu­ally do any­thing about it. There are a lot of peo­ple of whom we could say that if they van­ished tomor­row, no one would really notice. Things would still get done, life would go on, and there wouldn’t be that much strain put on anyone.

The thirty-​​percenters are not of that group; they’re of the group which, if they dis­ap­peared, would leave the world bet­ter off than if they stuck around.

The tragic part is that they could so eas­ily be pro­duc­tive. Consider the intense — insane — energy that went into the protests about Schiavo. Imagine how effec­tive these peo­ple would have been at protest­ing involve­ment in Iraq, back in 2002, or per­haps demon­strat­ing now out­side of Humvee deal­er­ships all across the US.

But they won’t do that, because their views hold that Earth is doomed and Jesus will be arriv­ing in the next few years, so there’s no point in con­serv­ing any­thing; and because their pecu­liar big­otry allows them to pos­sess a divinely-​​inspired sal­va­tion cou­pled with a right to judge neg­a­tively any­one with whom they dis­agree in the slight­est. Détente or diplo­macy are, to such peo­ple, lit­er­ally unthinkable.

This is why we have the prob­lems we do. This is why our nation is in decline. And this is why things won’t improve until we’re able to get past the ingrained xeno­pho­bia of extreme right-​​wing fanaticism.

There is no dis­tin­guish­able dif­fer­ence between Muslim or Christian extrem­ists — unfor­tu­nately those least able to rec­og­nize that fact are them­seves the very sources of the prob­lems that threaten all the rest of us.

It’s not queers we need to be con­cerned with. It’s the finger-​​pointing rad­i­cals that are the real threat to mar­riage, the mil­i­tary and the American Way of Life™.

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