Thursday, December 4, 2014

As An Irishman, I Need Peter King To Shut His Stupid Mick Face

I'm descended from Buckleys and Brennans, people who immigrated to a Connecticut mill town and worked in the factory, the local newspaper, and a funeral home. One of them went into politics and became the mayor. I know all about the symbolism of your claddagh ring tattoo and which whiskey is the Protestant one. I discovered U2, I grew up with U2, and now I try to pretend U2 never happened. I call my mother often, and I feel guilt as easily as I sunburn. I'm an Irish American.

And that is why as a yegg, a harp, a donkeyfaced narrowback, I was particularly appalled to see that Peter King is still out there talking nonsense, and people are still somehow paying attention to him. It's obvious that the death of Eric Garner is troubling evidence that this country continues to treat black people as if their lives don't matter. And it's also obvious that many conservatives simply will never admit this. Peter King is one such conservative. He recently thanked the grand jury for acquitting the police officer who killed Mr. Garner and went on TV with Blitzer to blame the man's death on his obesity.

If Irish America is one large, cantankerous family, Peter King is the second cousin who gets drunk and flips his car over in an accident bad enough to make the local news. He breaks up Thanksgiving dinner with some extended rant that manages to mix racism with quotes from The Quiet Man. He's the reason we need to go across town for midnight mass. Peter King shames us. He shames us all.

He has a long history of being a tireless defender of every nasty and bigoted impulse of the American right - he demonizes Muslim Americans, he supports torture, targeted killing, NSA surveillance, and he's been described as "the Patriot Act's most fervent fan." If someone with power wants to abuse someone without power, Peter King is eager to provide money, authority, and a justifying soundbite.

But that is not even the bad part. Peter King is also a strong supporter of terrorism. He has long been a vocal proponent of the IRA. In fact, in 1985 when organizers of New York's St. Patrick's Day parade picked him as the grand marshal, the Irish government boycotted the thing in protest. He's on the House Committee on Homeland Security, and he used to be its chairman. One of this government's most influential politicians on counter-terrorism policy, someone who can never find a reason for security forces to behave with any restraint when confronting religious minorities or people of color, is perfectly fine with supporting a terrorist organization when it suits his own purposes.

And that's why Peter King is not just a particularly ugly example of people who share my sometimes magnificent and often cursed heritage... He's also an ugly example of what it means to be American. He's a reminder that we are very, very comfortable with lethal violence against others - here and overseas. For many years it was fashionable among some Irish Americans to support terrorism (until we discovered people could use terrorism against us). But among Americans in general, it's always been fashionable to terrorize people. We've done that since the beginning. We do that still. And we are constantly surprised when it comes back on us. Peter King's power and status is a testament to our hypocrisy and our moral idiocy.

In a better world a guy like that would be mouthing off his asinine opinions from a bar stool at Paddy Reilly's, and someone would eventually tell him to clamp it. In a better America no one would ever confuse him with a patriot. But now it's time for all of us to discover, again, where we live and who we really are. Until we learn.

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  1. Where does terrorism start and reistance end?
    When does the Irish Republican stop being a freedom fighter and start being a terrorist?
    When does the Palestinian or the Iraqi?
    Anyways, what is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?
    What is the difference between ISIS and the Sons of Liberty?

    1. I think it ALWAYS comes down to killing civilians. When you target them, and when you knowingly do something that results in their deaths. Which means plenty of people with uniforms engage in this kind of stuff.

    2. I think you can make the case that the bombing of Hiroshima was an act of terrorism. We targeted and killed civilians in order to break the political will of their government.

    3. That opens up to other problems though:
      One is the civil war problem.
      What if there are no civilians?
      What if every member of the opposing demographic is, very few exceptions excluded, either the member of a militia or home guard or engaged in the support structure for them?
      Is bombing a fortified village which the inhabitants would have defended less of a crime than bombing a village that was defenseless and unarmed?
      The other problem is the human shield problem:
      What if the other side takes my land by pouring more and more of their civilians into it.
      Those people themselves don't do anything to me or mine (except taking some of the more or less limited ressources) but if i am unable to disladge them i will lose the conflict by demographics.
      Think the American West (were the Native Americans wrong in attacking settlers who were just as much part of the programm for their extermination as the cavalry) or Palestine (Or Israeli Settlers legitimate targets or not?).

  2. Terrorism is not about who does it, or even the victims. A basic definition, in line with many in the academic world: Terrorism is the use of violence to create fear in a target population in order to pursue a political goal. The use of violence to create fear to extract money is extortion. Violence in the pursuit of territory is an invasion. And so on.

    The key to terrorism is violence>fear>political change.

    By that definition, our Shock and Awe bombing campaign in Iraq in 1991 was terrorism. Torture, although useless in obtaining reliable intelligence, is quite useful in frightening political opponents into silence and submission. Hence, torture is one form of terrorism. Likewise IRA bombings and shootings. Or UDF violence.

    Re: Hiroshima. Read "Burn After Reading" by Farrago. He was in Naval Intelligence during WW2 and fielded about half a dozen approaches from the Japanese government (through the Vatican, a Norwegian businessman, the Swiss...) that were attempts to negotiate a surrender. That was before Hiroshima. One theory is that it was a show of force to the Russians, hence terrorism, although not really pointed at the Japanese.

  3. It seems life is packed with parallels; ironies that seem to live in the air like flies, just abiding time until some pile of stink entices it to land.

    Be it IRA, or ISIS, their “brand” of terrorism thrives by attracting the extremes living in the peripheries of life and often ignored until they act.

    Likewise; political terrorism, the likes of which King loves to use, is born of the extremes living in the peripheries of the American electorate; an electorate which is ignoring the looming consequences of their apathy.

    As voter participation shrinks dramatically through apathy, what invariably remains is the extremes (of either side), stubbornly pushing their agendas into American politics; consequently in American life.

    Unlike an obnoxious child, terrorism, be it born of either sectarian or secular ideology, will not go away. Rather, it benefits immensely from parallel worlds of apathy.

  4. You kind of WISH the evil "fae" would come carry his ass away don't you?

  5. The officer in charge of the air war against Japan in WW2, GEN Curtis LeMay, said straight out that if the Allies had lost the war he would have expected to have been tried, convicted, and executed for war crimes.

    So it's only "terrorism" when THEY do it...


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