So here’s Michelle Bachman, Representative from Minnesota (R- duh), demonstrating the absolute WORST of right wing hate rhetoric, never overtly saying “left equals anti-American” (she’s smart enough on that count) but implying it over and over again – never, of course even bringing up the possibility of a “right-wing anti-American”.

Matthews repeatedly asked her straight up if she thought that liberals were anti-American, if the 30% of Americans who are more or less liberal are anti-American, if she thought that other fellow Congresspeople were anti-American, and in response to those direct questions she usually was clever enough not to directly put her foot in it.

But this is the quote I wish Matthews had jumped on her for:

” I think the people that Barack Obama has been associating with are anti-American by and large; the people who are radical leftists”

There it is. She makes the connection. She doesn’t say “they’re anti-American, they’re terrorists” or “they’re anti-American, they hate this country and what it holds dear” she mentions specifically their leftist political orientation.

Ok, now, that said I must express that I think there are sooo many things wrong with these “anti-American” conversations (and this isn’t the only one, this is not a new line of discussion.) Some people ask “how come the right has a monopoly on this line of discussion?” and they insist that more Lefty types get up and wave their flags and reclaim Patriotism from the righty wingnuts. I don’t think that’s a valid approach. Left or right, the “anti-American” thing is an invalid conversation – all it would mean would be buying into the right wing’s terms of debate-which don’t even have a coherent meaning as they present them.

I would guess that this woman’s definition of anti-Americanism is being critical of those in power, critical of the American government (which is a perfect demonstration of the conflation in too much US political discourse of “government” with “people” or “culture as a whole” – not something you find in a lot of other countries, btw.).

Now, I’m sure this woman would disagree and say that anti-American means someone who hates the country and wants it destroyed, but in practical terms that’s not what people like her act on. She’s attacking a US Senator for being anti-American? You can argue he’s got strange associations (and even that is a long shot) but you cannot argue that he has ever expressed hatred for his country or the desire for it’s annihilation. In fact, you’d have to go a looooong way to find someone who does express those views. I’m incredibly critical of my country, and am considering not going back to it, and even I don’t hate it, I don’t think it shouldn’t exist. i just think it needs to get it’s act together, and if it doesn’t well, maybe I can do better elsewhere. But in her view, I am absolutely sure I would be anti-American.

So, in practical terms (despite what someone like Bachman would say on TV), anti-American doesn’t mean “in opposition to America as a country” it means dissent, which is, not surprisingly, a more left leaning phenomenon. As a general trend (you can see Conservatives Without Conscience for a good commentary on this) this is a more conservative, and therefore more Republican trait. More conservative people tend to have a more authoritarian streak, tend to respect authority less often than question it. So if you accept their terms for anti-Americanism, you have to accept that it will be a more left-leaning phenomenon, because more lefties, always, are going to be out there criticising the government than rightsters. Therefore, if you accept their terms of the debate, you’ve already shot yourself in the foot as a lefty. (Although, it’s getting so bad, some Republicans are getting pissed at their own party and administration, and receiving death threats for it)

We just need to throw this whole debate under a train. Because really, really now, under a reasonable definition of anti-American (ie attacking the nation’s core values not those in control of it’s government) what could be a more clear demonstration than the trampling of the Constitution and and it’s core values (like freedom of speech, and separation of church and state, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment) that we have seen under the Bush administration? But no, instead, anti-Americanism is being defined (as pertains to Obama here) as “knowing someone who was pissed off at the government and did something violent about it….40 years ago.” It’s surreal. Anti-American ends up having no meaning. It just belongs to the right wing nutjobs now and they will make it mean whatever will serve their ends. It just needs to go.

Look at it another way maybe: if something or someone is “American” it is of or pertaining to the nation known as the United States of America. Of or pertaining to. That’s all. A terrorist born within the borders still pertains to that country, and is still American (Timothey McVeigh for example). A political activist born within the country is still American. A violent movement that occurs within the country – be it bomb-throwing anarchists or those creepy militias that live out in the woods or the klu-klux-klan – it is an American phenomenon – because it happened in America. A species of bird that only exists within that geographical region would be “American”. That’s all the word denotes – association with a geographical region. If you clarify that definition, the idea that something can be “un-American” or “anti-American” becomes absurd. This is not an adjective that can have an opposite like that – it’s like claiming that something can be “un-blue”. It can be blue or not blue but it can’t be un-blue – that has no meaning! When you claim that you can pick and choose what is and is not American – and not use the common sense definition above, which allows for very little argument – the term loses all meaning.

And no one else in the world does this but us. No one speaks of people being “un-Spanish” or “un-English” – it would be absurd – it would have no meaning. Those nations – like the US – carry with them people of all political and cultural colors – they’re all Spanish or English. The conversation about political affiliations is carried out in other terms.

And on another note – please, PLEASE – when will i see one of these supposed “left wing” media pundits call these freaks out on their understanding of what is liberal and what is left in the larger political spectrum? I cannot stand the attacks on Obama for being a radical leftist! People! He’s not even a leftist by any normal understood criteria. You want left? I live in a country with a Socialist President! Gasp! Socialist!?!? That is left. Obama is center-left at best. Anyone who hasn’t called for a national health care system period (as a basic, basic criteria) is not a liberal in my (and most of the world’s) book. The media is giving these nut jobs a pass on this point. No one argues them on it – they let them make these claims about his “radical” politics and with minimum effort and reference to the total political spectrum, they wouldn’t hold water for a second.