Tuesday, December 29, 2020

May the Force Bewitch You


I understand why they have sororities and pencil skirts, but what's with the vulgar teeshirt and need to parody a radical street-demonstration slogan? Not the actual Force, but randomly conservative young women via a website that didn't feel comfortable to my computer.

Bemused by this piece from Politico:

On the first day of Congress’ freshman orientation, four incoming GOP members realized they shared a special connection: All had first- or second-hand experience living in communist or socialist countries.

The crew quipped that their family histories with brutal dictatorships and their aversion to Big Government basically made them the opposite of the liberal “Squad” that has surged to political stardom in the House.

Taking a page from their social media savvy rivals, they took to Twitter to share the name of their own counterrevolution. And the Republican “Force” was born.

They're putting together their alternative "populist" agenda of giving away free stuff to voters and recruiting candidates from minority groups to add variety to their sea of white maleness, and they're cultivating their alternative social medium, known as "Parler" (not pronounced in French but as in "Won't you come into my Parler, said the spider to the fly") as a safe space where conservative voices are never brutally silenced the way they believe they are on Twitter (though Parler's claim to freedom from censorship is a bit exaggerated at best), and now they hope to have an alternative Squad, which will perhaps enable them to say they're a Jedi brotherhood, since the Force is with them. It's as if they were trying to construct a Democratic Party with a different flavor by reverse engineering it, like Pepsi trying to create a drink with the appeal of Coke but their own trademark.

I was really annoyed by the expression "second-hand experience". What the hell is that? If it's second-hand, it isn't experience, and anybody who's ever read or watched courtroom mysteries can tell you it's hearsay.

In the case of the incipient Force, it's a bit less than that. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) is the daughter of a Cuban woman who came to the US at 15 with most of her extended family, right after the Castro government expropriated her father's gas station chain in 1960. 

Her mom Vera saw Communism up close. When Castro came to power, he nationalized formerly private businesses, leaving owners high and dry. “My grandfather had a gas station. They took it away,” she said.

In 2009, Malliotakis and her mother traveled to Cuba. “It was my first visit there and my mother’s first time back. It was heartbreaking to see how the Cubans live,” she said. “The country pays its people $10 a month. People don’t even have access to aspirin. She has a cousin who serves in the Cuban military. They treat him like slave.”

The mother may have seen it up close, in other words, but only for a few months at most. The same goes for Carlos Giménez (R-FL) emigrated from Cuba at the age of 6 with his family, ranchers from Oriente province, in 1960, and the parents of  María Elvira Salazar, born to Cuban exiles in Miami in 1961. Only Victoria Spartz (R-IN), born in 1978 in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine and 13 when it became independent and abandoned socialism with all the other members of the Soviet bloc except for Cuba, could have been aware that she was living under socialism, and socialism seems to have been pretty good to her, according to her grandmother Lyubov Sorokolit, interviewed by BBC Ukrainian service (and Google Translate):

She was born on October 6, 1978. Before school she lived with her grandmother Lyuba and grandfather Mykhailo. Parents actively built a career, earned money, visited the baby.

"Vika was a smart girl from an early age. There was no problem with her at all. And how she loved to read. Tolya (Vicky's father - Ed.) has been working with her since she was three years old...

Enough to enable her to live through the chaotic first seven years of post-Soviet Ukraine in some comfort, earning an accountancy degree in Kiyiv and meeting a husband-to-be, Jason Spartz, an Indiana farmer, on a train to Moscow. But in this way it's the disappearance of socialism, not the socialism, that appears to have brought her to America.

Then beyond the original four members of the Force are Korean-American Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel (both R-CA), immigrants from (not-socialist) South Korea who may have some knowledge of relatives living in (communist) North Korea, but no actual contact with them. 

It occurred to me that if you leave out Spartz I've spent more time living under socialism than all of them put together, and unlike Spartz as an adult, with my own personal responsibilities and political issues to deal with, in my decade in the Republic of Singapore, which certainly has far more nationalized industry and services and centralized economic planning than Venezuela or Bolivia, let alone France or almost any major modern socialist country in the world other than China, things AOC and her fellow Squadists would never dream of proposing. And yet if you want to be a capitalist there there's practically no limit on the obscene amount of wealth you can get out of the country. Rep.-Elect Malliotakis's grandfather could own all the gas stations he wanted if he lived there, and visit relatives anywhere, any time. Though Donald Trump would have to obey the tax laws too.

That said, why is it that so much of the rightwing noise is devoted to creating rightwing simulacra of leftwing things, or things (like Twitter or sketch comedy) that they wrongly perceive as leftwing? Why do police have to have unions and conservative white boys have to compose raps? Why can't they just stick with naturally rightwing things, like megachurch services or fox hunting or wars? Is that just an illustration of what "reactionary" means, that they can't get an idea except in reaction to, as a palimpsest on or parody of, somebody else's?

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