This morning I made the mistake of tuning my radio to AM 570, the “family values” station. I had long ago forsaken 570, believing that the low end of the AM dial was adequate purgatory for Rush Limbaugh and his gang of false patriots. But today, I slipped. Somewhere between a Spanish language station and Radio Disney, my radio-scan feature lit on a commercial proclaiming the aforementioned “family values” programming I was about to be suckered into.
Faster than you can say, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” the host began a spew of “family values” homilies aimed at the people who gathered Monday evening during a “Stand for Peace” rally at the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building. The radio-host patriot had a bit of trouble remembering exactly where the Federal Building is—what kind of patriot is that, I thought?—but he had no trouble at all when it came to delivering his own message of meek repugnance. He labeled the people at the rally—what were they, war protesters or peace activists?—as “fruitcakes” and, hey, they were all pierced up, clearly unpatriotic and unworthy of the constitutional guarantees usurped by the “family values” set.
Not for a moment did he recognize that comprising the “fruitcakes” were mothers, fathers, sisters, war veterans, businessmen and women and just your average, concerned fellow citizens. Not for a moment did he recognize that among the really big “fruitcakes” that this crowd drew inspiration from were Secretary of State Colin Powell, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Henry Kissinger and former National Security Advisor Brent Skowcroft.
I wasn’t angered by his token, predictable, rant at all and fully doubted anyway if he ever shared a foxhole with a queer tattooed Marine. Rather, I used that precious “family values” moment as an opportunity to teach my 5-year-old a new word. “Mikey,” I said as we pulled into his daycare, “that guy on the radio is an asshole.”
Thus, I’m guilty as charged. The oldest trick in the book, or damned near the oldest. People like the “family values” radio host and myself have entered into the nether-fray of calling names. It works, you know—just ask any war veteran. They didn’t kill Vietnamese, Japanese or Germans. They killed “gooks,” “japs” and “krauts.” We become detached. We dehumanize our opponents. We win. We lose.
Among the letters in the Oct. 7, 2002 issue of Newsweek is this interesting quote: “Naturally, the common people don’t want war. … But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. … All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
If Hermann Goering were alive today—the author of the above—he’d be right at home on the “family values” station. And he’d still be an asshole.