Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land."
Mao Tse Dung, February 1957
Always the poet, Mao’s “let a hundred flowers blossom” became a metaphorical prelude to the gruesomely ironic “Great Leap Forward,” a leap toward a “flourishing socialist culture” that plunged the country into famine and brutalized and killed tens of millions of Chinese. Mao, of course, had no interest or use for any “school of thought” other than his own. But the Great Oarsman sought to appear to be open to dialogue, to be calling for an honest exchange of differing opinions. He was proposing, so to speak, a “national conversation.” All were supposed to believe that Mao wanted the intellectuals to contribute their thoughts about how to shore up the floundering one-party state when what he really wanted was to flush out potential opposition and destroy it. Believing Mao soon proved to be fatal for his critics and a disaster for China.
We are now often urged as a citizenry toward engaging in conversation about controversial topics, but I believe that one should distrust the calls to engage in “national conversations about x” that now routinely emanate from the ruling class.
The invitations come from those in power and influence who like Mao are disingenuous. “Conversation” is a code word from the lexicon of the Left. Its meaning departs drastically from the conventional one -- respectful debate, the exchange of ideas over complex and controversial topics. Instead the call for “conversation” in this context is a cynical politically motivated euphemism, an invidious construction designed to show that the inviter is reasonable, open and tolerant while many of the invitees are going to need to overcome their obtuse and reactionary opinions. These calls for “conversations” are really demands that those intractable reactionaries and racists in the hinterlands should succumb to the ruling orthodoxy produced by the apparatchiks who look down on them. These calls are often culminations of frustration with those who obstinately continue to resist the propaganda. They are also traps used to discredit and destroy political opposition.
December of 2012, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois on Fox News: “We need to sit down and have a quiet, calm reflection on the Second Amendment ... and are there guns that really shouldn't be sold all across America…. We need a national conversation.”
Here is the familiar use by one our ruling elite of the phony “we” – what “we” need, what “we" must do, what “we” should think, ad nauseum. But there is no real we. There is only “them” (the ruling class who know what is best) and “us” (the ruled-over) some of whom are not as compliant and docile as they would like and need to know their place. One cannot help but note the condescending tone of the Senator’s remarks – the children should take a deep breath, settle down and listen to what the adults are saying.
April of 2013, President Obama speaking of guns: “When Newtown happened, I met with these families and I spoke to the community, and I said, something must be different right now. We’re going to have to change. That’s what the whole country said.”
"I" followed by "I" and yet another "I" leading up, again, to the phony "we". Just who is the “we” that is going to have “to change”? Not the President. What change is he going to make? Not Dick Durbin, not any of the gun-loathing Left who would confiscate every firearm in the U.S. down to the last BB gun if they had to power to do so – except for those that belong to the government-paid agents who protect them and their families. What was it that “the whole country [supposedly] said”? Nothing, of course. Whole countries do not say anything. People all over the country say very different, frequently contradictory things about this topic, but Obama has no interest. In any of his remarks or in the content of most of his innumerable speeches one can find no connection with empirical reality, rational argument, civil discourse or the seeking of reasonable compromise. His aim is always as he said in his 2010 Univision speech, to “punish our enemies and reward our friends.” Obama views politics as war. He has no interest in conversation with the opposition, only its vilification and destruction.
With the acquittal of George Zimmerman race is now a topic of national conversation, so to speak. The Left, however, seems permanently frozen in the 1960s and their conversations seem always to take the form of diatribe and unfold in the imagery of Jim Crow, white supremacy, Bull Connor and the brutal murder of Emmett Till. They persist in distorting present through a prism of the past.
From the President himself: “I don’t believe it is possible to transcend race in this country. Race is a factor in this society. The legacy of Jim Crow and slavery has not gone away. It is not an accident that African-Americans experience high crime rates, are poor, and have less wealth. It is a direct result of our racial history.”
The supposedly eloquent Barack Obama, as he often does, sounds like B-student fresh from Sociology 101. "It is not an accident" is a standard Stalinist trope, and a prelude to an "unmasking" of the exploiters, who rig the system, profit from it and pretend that it is fair and legitimate. This is the language one would expect from a man who made his way as a community organizer. Even more remarkable is how this comment so directly contradicts the transcendent rhetoric of the "Hope & Change," and, one might ask what happened to.... "There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America." That was then, and now is, well, the permanent state of our bigoted "racial history."
One cannot have a genuine conversation with people deeply committed to rhetoric and perspectives so rooted in anachronism and marinated in resentment. All of this with a black President elected twice with overwhelming support by a white citizenry. To resist is to call their rhetoric what it really is – moral blackmail. The conversation inevitably descends into insult and abuse. It has been going on for years. It is ugly. There is no reason to believe that it will change soon.