UJ and I have bemoaned the lack of civility in modern American political discourse. There seems to be a lot of name-calling and not much real discussion — but the real focus of this posting is the nature of the name-calling. I’ve noticed that political liberals tend to call their conservative adversaries “wingnuts,” whereas the conservatives refer to liberals as “moonbats.”
What are the reasons for these choices of epithets? There doesn’t seem to be any obvious reason for the names and their respective political affiliations. After all, a wingnut is an actual hardware item — specifically, a type of nut with two protruding metal “wings” that make it easier to tighten the nut by hand. There are worse things to be called, I suppose, than the name of a useful fastener that no doubt is found in, and regularly used by, households across America.
A “moonbat,” on the other hand, is not a real creature. The name, however, has a certain evocative quality. It is not hard to envision a moonbat as being different from an earthly bat while sharing some of the same characteristics — perhaps similar in appearance to a manta ray, skimming languidly through the lunar skies, white and shimmering, its wings slowly beating against the minimal pull of the Moon’s gravity. There are worse things, too, than being called a dreamy fictional creation.
So maybe things aren’t as bad as we think in the area of political discourse. Sure, people of different political persuasions are calling each other names, but the names aren’t that mean-spirited or hurtful. In fact, they really are kind of silly.