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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Reagan to Sparta: 25 Years of Camouflage Conservatism

by Pierre Tristam

The Wall Street Journal carried a story recently about companies that specialize in a particular kind of personal training. They hire soldiers who've finished their tour of duty in Iraq, then unleash drill-sergeant routines -- intimidation, screams, punishment, humiliation -- against "recruits" in fitness programs. If a participant skips a session, the article noted, "active-duty or former Marines who run the sessions have been known to show up in full uniform at the boot-camper's workplace, demanding an explanation." Grown men and women, with free will, with brains, are paying good money for that sort of sadomasochism. Companies are putting employees through it. News media are in awe.

But there's nothing surprising here. "The martial enthusiasm of the people" that Edward Gibbon detected as a telling ingredient of Rome's decline is at it again in our own imperial splurge. The camouflaging of America has been the undercurrent since Ronald Reagan's invasion of Grenada in 1983. That was step one in the rehabilitation from Vietnam and the burial of 1960s idealism -- what even George Wallace once called "the sissy attitude of Lyndon Johnson and all the intellectual morons and theoreticians he has around him." So it is today. Athenian ideals are for sissies. America is the new Sparta: harsh, Darwinian, unforgiving. That it is increasingly unforgiven abroad doesn't register. The country is too busy indulging its autocratic self-esteem. The United States is so comfortable with extremes that it is often willing to dance with fundamentalism, speak the language of reactionaries and -- in the name of security, efficiency, law and order -- tip the hat to methods of fascism. This is the case in virtually every sphere, public and private.

Conservatives or Republicans dominate all three branches of the federal government, the Federal Reserve, every federal regulatory agency and every advisory board to such agencies as the National Institutes of Health and the National Endowment for the Arts. Republican governors rule over 28 states. The Republican Party controls both legislative chambers in 20 states, compared with 19 for Democrats. In some states, Florida among them, Democrats may as well not exist. And in some states, Kansas among them, medievalism is making a comeback as faith is confused with science.

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Reagan to Sparta: 25 Years of Camouflage Conservatism">click me


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