The right wing addiction to fantasies and blank slates
Think Progress caught National Review running this cover art after admitting in print that there are no such thing as “death panels”, which is just further evidence that the right wing is willing to lie, cheat, and steal to defeat health care reform, and they’re not even remotely ashamed of the depths they’re willing to sink. The faux outrage over non-existent euthanasia is perhaps the purest form of projection I’ve ever seen. After all, the only people really interested in saving lives in this debate are supporters of health care reform, but obviously, wingnuts can’t face up to the fact that they’re choosing corporate profits and racism over human lives. So, to convince themselves that they’re good people—even though good people don’t fight against expanding affordable health care coverage—they’re whipping themselves into an outrage over euthanasia.
That there’s no real danger of a “culture of euthanasia” doesn’t make this faux outrage less appealing. On the contrary, the fact that the victims are non-existent seems to be the appeal. As I noted earlier, confronting the real troubles of real people has all these emotional consequences for the right wing base. Sympathizing, even empathizing, with actual human beings puts you on a slippery slope towards liberalism. But getting all worked up over stuff that is imaginary? Safer, apparently. It makes sense. I’ve often noted that for anti-choicers, the fetus is the perfect “victim”, because its personhood exists only in their imagination, so they can project whatever feelings and desires they want onto it. It doesn’t speak up or assert itself, and it doesn’t have inconvenient needs or feelings. It’s a blank slate, and thus they have complete control over the situation. In general, the right wing is drawn to that which doesn’t exist or can’t speak for itself: god, fetuses, and Terri Schiavo.
The people getting euthanized are a double whammy. First of all, they don’t really exist. Sure, there’s people who are taken off life support and allowed to die a natural death. There’s a tiny group of people who deliberately choose suicide over a long, miserable death. And there’s a lot of people that choose hospice care while dying instead of fighting against the inevitable in a way that makes their last days hard, when they want their last days to be contemplative. But people who are being actively killed against their will because their relatives find them inconvenient? Still considered murder by the government, and still not happening. It’s an imaginary event, so it can be whatever the right wants it to be, because it exists in their imagination. Total control.
That, and after imagining the pretend victims, they get to also believe these fake victims are dead, so now we’re talking about a group of people that really can’t speak for themselves. That you are fictional and then dead within that fiction makes you the most silent kind of thing imaginable. You’re better than god in terms of being a blank slate. The people who imagined you into being have all the control over the situation, and you can be used as a political football to their hearts’ delight. What are you going to do? Fight back? You didn’t exist, and you’re dead without having ever lived.
When this “death panels” crap started surfacing, I thought to myself, “Man, they didn’t learn from the Schiavo debacle, did they?” But now that I think about it, they kind of did. The error, from the right wing perspective, in the Schiavo situation was that Terri Schiavo was just a tad too real at the end of the day. That she was in a vegetative state doesn’t mean that there wasn’t some trace of her existence as a thinking, feeling person on this planet. The situation blew up in their faces, because her husband carried the memory of her as a real person, making it hard to use her as a blank slate. You could contrast the person in the vegetative state with the person Terri was before she had her heart attack. The pictures of her, her husband, her parents that had gone around the bend with grief—all this reality made it too hard for the right to control the narrative. Suddenly, it drifted from the land of faux outrage over fantasies into a place that was all too real and relatable for most of us. Predictably, the country turned on the right on that issue.
Sadly, the lesson learned was not that they should butt out of people’s private business and use the hard decisions we have to make as political footballs to shut down progressive legislation. No, it appears that what they’ve gleaned from this is to just make their stories bigger lies, and attach themselves to narratives that are completely unmoored from reality.