Conversation with Charlie (11/22/2021)

Conversation 14:

Charlie’s Monday’s podcast had him talking with Bill Kristol, fellow Bulwark founder and contributor (Nov. 22, 2021).

They talk about the tragedy that occurred in Waukesha, Wisconsin this past weekend when someone drove their SUV into a Christmas parade, killing 5 and leaving 48 injured based on recent reporting. Rather than jumping on the issue and speculation, Charlie notes that we should hold off, wait for more information, before discussing the matter. This is good hygiene for pundits in media. It may not be flashy or feed the instant gratification many in modern media consumers expect, but it is much healthier for all of us. It is a tragedy, but not enough is yet known to begin to more deeply probe it.

As for probing discussions, Charlie and Bill are speaking on November 22, 2021, which marks the 58th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, TX.

Charlie notes that for all the events in American history that permanently appear to stand out and become touchstones in American life, it is Dec. 7 (1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that got us into WWII), Nov. 22 (1963 JFK assassination), and September 11 (2001 terrorist attacks on World Trade Centers and Pentagon) that really seem to stick with us.

This tangent leads Charlie and Bill to discussions of that great game we all play, whether with history national or personal, of “what if?”

How would things have been different is Kennedy had lived? What might have been different?

Interestingly, seeing as how both Charlie and Bill lived through it, just how dangerous the 1960s in America felt compared to life today.

This is one of those things that history has kind of not quite painted over as much as obscured a bit as society has distanced itself. The effects are not omnipresent, but the trauma of much of the 1960s still influences America today. 

Not only did the 60s see the assassination of President Kennedy, but also Civil Rights leaders such as Malcolm X (1965) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968), Kennedy’s brother Bobby Kennedy while he was running for president in 1968 too. Not to mention race riots in Detroit, Newark, and Watts. There was a lot of violence, all while America itself was escalating and then becoming entrenched in a quagmire of a war in Vietnam.

Bill puts out the idea that “at least we made it through” but that living through those times it was not always as certain. The same situation to a degree is going on now. Things feel like they are getting bad, and we want to believe it will work out and we will get through it, but that’s not always a guarantee. People have to act to make it happen.

One salient point is the hypothesis Charlie and Bill discuss about the ways that our modern society does not appreciate how dangerous the 60s were, as well as given the sense of subsequent generations after may not appreciate how lucky America was to make it out. The feelings of our better times since the 1960s have made us complacent to dangers.

As Charlie points out that there were some things that broke in the 60s that never got fixed, and as I would phrase it now, there are some traumas still haunting America now, weighing us down and undermining our potential.

JFK’s assassination was a shattering point, a pivot point in history, what Hamlet in Shakespeare, though referring to death, called “the undiscovered country,” into which we have journeyed. There is no return though. Something was lost, some youthfulness or hopefulness that can never be gotten back.

Charlie reads a flyer, handed out by some hardline conservative elements who were on the fringe, printed on November 22, 1963, the day of Kennedy’s assassination. The language of the flyer is unhinged in its conspiratorial bombastic and wild accusations against Kennedy and the Democrats. The sad thing is that listening to it being read, and Charlie and Bill agree, it sounds a lot like something former President Donald Trump would Tweet today.

The fringe and crazy has come to the mainstream of our political discourse.

In that fringe language is the promise of violence.

America is nation obsessed with its guns and a gun culture, add to that a lack of political leadership and lessening of personal responsibility via excuses and loopholes, and the mixture is a waiting powder keg.

Where America is now, in the aftermath of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, elements in the far right are becoming emboldened and toying more and more with their idealization of violence and a fetishization of vigilantism that Rittenhouse is seen by them to model.

Charlie’s analysis is that the situation has reversed some since the 1960s. Now it is the far right that is actively toying with ideas of violence and fetishizing violence. They want to play dress up in camo and military fatigues, strap on their assault rifle and parade in public spaces. Why? Because they can. It is all performative. To Charlie, who mentions he has long been a supporter of the 2nd Amendment and gun rights and the NRA, this is absolutely ludicrous. It is absurd. No responsibility is needed, no licensing, no permits. Just a wild wild west waiting to go off.

To me personally, it is just people bored and wanting to LARP (Live Action Role Play) their fictional self from Call of Duty. What makes it dangerous is that some of these same people actively and casually talk about murdering/killing their opponents as well.

Where does the rhetoric of violence end before it becomes action?

Where are the leaders who should be taming this?

Absent. No one wants to stop it because no one wants to call it out as a problem.

Charlie specifically rants about wanting to know where the NRA is in all of this. The NRA, who used to be the guardians and purveyors of responsible gun ownership spend their time now fetishizing gun culture and gun rights as an absolute freedom. They praise Rittenhouse for his vigilantism. 

How is any of this responsible?

It’s not. It has devolved into another culture war issue. Everything serious is issue gets shoveled into the furnace of the culture wars now where it will never be discussed or tried be solved but simply live to divide us up. 

Charlie puts forth two ideas he thinks are completely nuts when it comes to the fetishization of gun violence and how it has override decent common-sense thinking.

1. The idea that it is acceptable for anyone, as long as they don’t have a criminal record, to be out and about with a gun with no concealed carry permit, license, or firearm training is just dumb and dangerous.

2. The idea that open carry of an assault rifle, particularly someone who is quite young, pretending to play dress up with weapon of war parading in public is normal in completely unhinged.

Bill points out that this is part of a larger radicalization in the nation that has been growing steadily over the last 30 years. In particular, this radicalization has been most potent and destructive inside the Republican party.

What has been really destructive is that it is not just guns that have become fetishized, but gun rights as well. The right to carry guns as a freedom that no one should impose on.

To this end, right wing media is glorifying Kyle Rittenhouse, trying to make him into a hero. This is not what should be the takeaway. This is a course that can lead to further violence, not less.

I gave my two cents on the matter last week, before the verdict came out and I stand by it.

The article I quoted at the beginning of my post comes from a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Opinion piece from Nov. 17, 2021, written by David Haynes. I found a lot of the weight given by this author comes from that older position of responsible gun ownership that many who are fetishizing guns and gun ownership rights appear to be neglecting if not abandoning.

Charlie and Bill move on to discuss the resignation of two long time FOX News contributors, Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes over Tucker Carlson’s three-part propaganda documentary whitewashing the events of the January 6thInsurrection broadcasting on FOX News streaming service FOX Nation called Patriot PurgeThe New York Timesreporting notes that this was just “simply part of the new right’s mopping up operation in the corners of conservative institutions that still house pockets of resistance to Donald J. Trump’s control of the Republican Party.” Not always a fan of the NYT in some respects, but this one hits it on head. I say that because, whether official or not, there were people posting memes on Twitter that appeared to have Carlson’s approval basically emasculating Goldberg for quitting and mocking him for what some see as a principled stand.

It is just a further tilt and submergence of FOX News into the quagmire of Trumpism, the guiding light of the Republican party.

Charlie asks the question:

What are and where are the red lines at FOX News?

The network has been casual and even supportive at undermining its news division and prioritizing its opinion section. Its helped spread and/or condoning anti-vaccination, anti-democratic, and a whole host of other issues to its audiences that are making America unsafe and weaker.

Charlie took the opportunity to “re-up” his previous letter to fellow Wisconsinite and former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan who is now serving on the FOX News board of directors. Where is the responsible leadership anymore? MIA.

FOX News appears to be ruled over by the likes of Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity (to a lesser extent). These primetime infotainment/opinion start exalt in the exit of men like Goldberg and Hayes. They revel in this new Trumpism right. If you didn’t already know who Ingraham and Carlson were underneath, this brazen behavior should tell you all you really need to know.

On the domestic front, Democrats continue to suck at messaging and really being on top of things most Americans care about. Stop trying to tell them what to think and listen more or you will let the Republicans, who are not right in the head, back into power.

The country is ready and able to handle some realism. Be realistic and straight up with people. Democratic politicians need to be talking about defeating COVID for finally, we are close, and addressing the real concerns people have about inflation. Don’t blow it off or ignore it. This can be done while at the same time emphasizing the positive fact that we are turning a corner and moving forward.

If anyone has ever heard, in a viral video, the soundbite of “don’t be suspicious”, play that in your head as you read the following: “Don’t be dismissive. Don’t be dismissive. Now, don’t be dismissive.”

There is more, but once again, you need to wake up Democrats and listen, stop with the arrogance before you end up leaving us at the mercy of ant-democratic nutjobs in the Republican party.

All for now.

J C Evans


The Bulwark Podcast: “Bill Kristol: Fetishizing Political Violence”


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