Monday, November 08, 2004

Let's talk just a little bit about hysteria

I want to take people like Maureen Dowd seriously.

Stop laughing. No, STOP. I mean it. I actually admire her writing, she really does grab you. I want to take her concerns about the country seriously, and I want to take seriously the concerns of people like her -- people who are so incredibly possessed of the notion that the victory -- perhaps I should use a less inflammatory term -- the *cough* Near Defeat of Bush means that we're all going to be eating the flesh of all those non-aborted babies in a few years as we grub about in the grime and filth just beyond Thunderdome.

That's going a bit far; color me guilty of hyperdystopiating. It's contagious.

Yes, the idea of an ultra-conservative court is a frightening one. But, as a good friend said to me the other day, "I'm all out of fear." I'm twenty-seven years old, and I understand that completely. How can our ears be so numb, and the ears of so many purportedly older and wiser, tenured and respected writers be so sensitive? Forget that; they're paid to be loud. What's wrong with all the normal people? (Did I sound like a Democrat, there? Oops! Gosh I'd hate for the two sides to have anything in common.)

I feel I'm in a special position, as regards apocalypse. I spent my "I know everything" years as a fundamentalist (and therefore evangelical) Southern Baptist. I would have said, before last week, that there is no greater height of knowing-everythingness from which to fall...

But this isn't last week, this is this week, and my benumbed ears got a good drenching of acid in the fallout after the *cough, hack* Near Defeat. (Note: must get that hairball problem looked at.)

I've heard Americans talk about how this country needs to be taken down a notch. I've heard them say things about praying for natural disasters, and how the mighty will fall. I have heard Americans call other Americans dupes of Evil and slaves to darkness.

I'm not talking about last week.

I'm talking about when I was in highschool, surrounded by a group of older and entrenched SoBaptists, casually chatting about the increase in earthquakes around the world and making comparisons to Revelation. Exchanging homespun philosophy on pornography and homosexuality, while shaking their heads lustily in memory of good ol' Sodom and Gomorrah.

Imagine my shock to hear not only the same sentiment and tone, but even the same language, frequently, out the mouths of self-proclaimed atheists.

I'm delighted. Now I don't have to consign Chicken Littleism to the ranks of the Religious Right. Which is good, because I do still cherish my religious roots, misguided as some of the policies inspired by its adherents might be. One needn't be religious, to be blinded by the glory of an imaginary apocalypse; evidently this is just human nature. What a relief!

But Demo-pundits: if I tell you that you sound like the Left Behind series, would that give you some idea of the level of silliness I'm referring to?

Both MoDo and Left Behind get quite a good readership, you know. We, as human beings, prefer vindication to perspective, and drama to reality.

So what is the reality?

I wouldn't presume to say. I promise you absolutely that we're going to find out at the exact rate of sixty seconds per minute, sixty minutes per hour, twenty-four hours per day, for some days to come, and then perhaps some more days after that. At this point in my life, all I know is how to spot what not to believe. This much I can promise: it becomes very easy to spot what won't happen after you hear it phrased exactly the same way in exactly the same tone, regardless of the mouth of issuance.

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Edit: Except for the profanity. Just switch the "amen"'s with "fuck"'s and it's the same shtick.

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Edit again: More here.

Vision and U.S. Politics

I had not yet heard the 2004 election compared to the 1996 one... but once I did hear it, I had a slap-to-forehead reaction.

I was never a Clinton fan (of him na' her neither, as my family would have said), and I loathed the scandals. But I also never quite got the demonization of him that took place well before everybody knew the name of Lewinsky. Let us not forget Jane's Law: The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.

There were many times during the nineties when I definitely wanted to "slowly back away" from foaming Republican friends and family as they talked about Clinton. I find it amusing about myself that with all the comparisons I've been making mentally, for the past week, I've neglected to associate that same feeling with the similar one I've been having toward frothing Democrats here and there.

It took Virginia Postrel to make the comparison for me, and I can't think of a better way to describe the problem than the title she chose for her blog entry: The Party that Hates America Always Loses.

[The 1996] election was a test of the notion that Republicans can scorn anyone who talks about freedom, treat issues as matters of bribery rather than principle or vision, alternate between patronizing and ostracizing immigrants and women, regularly denounce American culture, and generally act obnoxiously toward the country they supposedly represent -- and still win, because the Democrats are worse and Clinton is a sleaze.
The test failed then, as it has failed now. I won't say that America's tendency to want to support the visionaries rather than the reactionaries is good or bad (because I can think of perfectly sound arguments either way)... I will say that it's a characteristic that I personally like and admire, and one of the big reasons why I like living here. Visionaries can be amazingly stupid, but it's also amazing what one can accomplish when one refuses to acknowledge what one can't do...

It brings to mind a (slightly) old essay from Den Beste: American Robustness.
What the founders created was a system which was engaged in perpetual revolution. They designed a system that could survive and even encourage ongoing revolution without being destroyed....

The American Revolution didn't end in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris. It just changed that revolution from one against a foreign tyrant to an internal revolution which continues to this day. But it's a peaceful revolution, held in slow motion....

What was unique, and entirely unprecedented, was how it was able to adapt and change and improve. What was astounding was that it was designed to peacefully allow radical change which in almost any other known system to that time would only have been possible via violent revolution.
These are comforting words, to me. The First Amendment has never been perfectly enforced nor followed, but some group of silly visionaries somewhere were crazy enough to try it during a time when even today's limited success was completely unimaginable.

You want another dark glass reflection of the situation?

I have a couple of little notes that I keep posted on the wall of my cubicle at work. I ganked them off of this site. Hey, it's just an outline for a course. But what an outline! Take the fourth point, for example:
Filter #4: It is Wrong Unless it is Perfect
For the past week, what I seem to be hearing is that it is not merely Wrong, but quite literally the End of the World, if the current situation is not perfect. That kind of an attitude is death to a successful business meeting, and it's not much better in a political debate. (Then again, when one feels it is the end of the world as we know it, who cares about productivity?)

I'll go into the concepts of idealism (which encourages Filter #4) vs. cynicism, and why each is actually the opposite of what most people think it is, later.

ADD Notes

ADD notes concerning the last two posts:

The television is on, I have music playing, I am currently holding two conversations online, I am reading e-mail, and I am eating something.

I just concentrate better, this way...

The Populist Blogger

According to the fine folks over at Merriam-Webster, the second definition of the word "populist" is this:

2: a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people
My own favorite variant of the populist is this one: a believer in all three.

To believe, to have faith in something. And when you have faith in something, that doesn't just mean you believe it exists. It means you are investing some stock of yourself into the idea that the thing is good, that the thing will do you good.

I don't just give a polite nod to the idea that common people have rights. I believe that the fact that they have rights is a good thing, a thing I advocate, a thing I can depend upon, and a thing which will do good things for me in return. I could not do that unless I had faith in the wisdom and virtues parts of the equation as well.

Almost every single thing that I believe, politically, spiritually, and materially, follows from this faith, and assuming I continue to publish blog articles like a good little Ewin, you will hear me reference the idea again and again.

The idea, roughly engaged in the first published entry, that I am not going to fool around with comments or answer too many e-mails arises from the populist philosophy. Yes, it's something I've thought about, and even agonized over: whether or not I should publish writings online without hosting commentary* over them.

My populist answer is: frankly, I'm not required to, and I choose not to.

What makes it populist is: I nevertheless feel I have a perfect right to write what I want and advocate my opinions.

The common man has a common life. He holds a job, often cares for a family, and has many diverse responsibilities that do not fall under the heading of politics. In order to keep the world around him from interfering in his ability to do the things he must, and the things he wishes, he hires representatives. He hires representatives to care for the running of his various societies; those are called politicians. He hires representatives to think about and analyze whether or not the politicians are doing their jobs correctly; some of those are called journalists.

But here is the key: just because someone is a paid representative of the common man's eyes, brains, and mouth, does not mean that the common man is therefore obligated to keep all three of them shut in public.

Quite the contrary. Having faith in the common man, I believe he's capable of seeing things, from his humble post, that the hired eyes and ears miss. He certainly has a different perspective. And in my common opinion, every perspective is valuable.

You will hear me laud the words of conservative-to-moderate bloggers, for the most part, because I consider them my mentors. But I'm also one of the few conservative bloggers you'll ever see who makes a point of recognizing the right of a celebrity to use their status to make a political stand. I don't care if Actress X never finished college, and is presuming to question the opinions of the President. Acress X, regardless of her income, is one o' them thar common men I'm talking about. I have faith in her. I have faith in those who listen to her.

And I'm not about to give Barbra Streisand a license to run her mouth off, and not permit myself the same privilege.

I voted on November 2nd, 2004, and I voted for George W. Bush.

By comparison, my starting a blog is a paltry gesture.

* I chose the phrase "hosting commentary" very carefully. Assuming I ever get read, and say anything remotely controversial, there WILL be commentary. I just don't consider myself responsible for its feeding and stabling.

An Introduction

If you are working to establish a permanent niche for yourself in a job that you at which you have only recently begun to prove yourself...

If you are attempting to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days (Nanowrimo, anyone?)...

If you have recently moved into a new town and still have plenty of exploring to do, books to alphabetize, papers to file, etc....

If reading the news stresses you out and leaves you a numb shell of depression for days and days...

Why, then, you certainly wouldn't want to start a political blog.

Unless you are ADD Inattentive. In which case, you might want to start a political blog. ADD is characterized by a rather nutty tendency to fling oneself at new project after new project, thus ensuring that no project can ever truly be done well, much less completed.

Me? I am ADD Inattentive.

But there is some method to my madness. I am positive that if I put some of my political blatherings on this publisher, that I can a) give my Livejournal friends a break, and b) clear my own head and even perhaps get some paid work done now and then.

One warning: I have provided an e-mail address. I have not provided a comment section. I do not have time to babysit wounded egos or answer all your objections; if you don't like what I wrote, don't read it. The reason I have provided an e-mail address is so that you can have a target at which to fling invective should you really, really need the outlet. I don't promise to read them. It should go without saying that I therefore do not promise to respond.

You are all old enough to know how to operate Google, and therefore, if I launch into something provably mistaken, I trust you to eventually figure it out on your own. I used to be obsessive about accuracy; I am not anymore. I can not afford to be when I'm not getting paid to do it. (Considering how often paid writers screw up facts and figures, I'm not even close to feeling guilty about it.) Incidentally, my fact-checking policy fits in very nicely with the underlying philosophy of this blog, which I will outline in the next post.