Archive for May, 2010
Not so long ago, I was upset with the State of Things and it was Andrew Malcolm the LA Times Blogger, my podcasting co-host and former NYT editor, who disabused me of the notion. Recalling the race riots of the late 60s and the angst around the Vietnam war, he convinced me that we ain’t nowhere near bad, yet. I’m inclined to believe him.
Politics, these days, is what politics in our Democracy has been a long time: pointed, shrill, symbolic and silly. One only needs to read Mark Twain, to know that average Americans have long held their leadership in tolerant contempt. We all just think what we are experiencing is the worst ever. Why wouldn’t we? History, especially in this self-centered, immediate-gratification age begins with us, well, “me”, right?
So this morning, my longtime online friend Brendan Loy decried the political environment. I suggest that you go read his whole post. He pretty fairly encapsulates the bulk of our intense Twitter back and forth argument. He says,”America is at something closer to an event horizon than a cross-roads“. Rather apocalyptic for a professed non-religious person.
A couple things occur to me as I’ve contemplated his anxiety and anger. I’m going to put my thoughts in a numbered format in no particular order of importance–it will just be easier when people disagree with me.
1. America faces an identity crisis: Are we going to be Europe-lite and recede into irrelevance ala Britain. Are we going to value, as I say, a social safety net over freedom? The two are inversely proportional. America, as it stands, wants both. They want a less bossy government. They also want the government to take care of them permanently. Americans are much like teenagers: all the fun, none of the responsibility! But the bill is about to be paid. The population statistics cannot support this current double-bind. The economics of it are failing. So the overriding tension in America is an identity-crisis. It is a crisis within each citizen. It is not resolved.
2. America faces a cultural crisis. The young people and the left side of our country seem to dislike America. This is supported in polling. They don’t like the culture. They don’t like the word “capitalism”. They like the word “progressive” and “socialism”. They view America as essentially bad. Of course, they’ve been told that America is bad, so it’s no wonder they see that perspective. Unlike during World War II, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, both resulting in the freeing of heretofore abused people, Hollywood has portrayed soldiers as merchants of death and destruction and evil instead of liberators of people. So the older WWII generation love America and see it as a force for good in the world. The young and left do not. In fact, they believe in a quasi-we-are-the-world, utopianism that elevates third world despots to the level of America. American exceptionalism? Oh, hell no! That would mean someone is better than another. But America is better. Objectively better. A culture cannot survive if it hates itself. And so there is tension. Remember, we now have a generation of kids who have received awards for participation. Every no-talent-ass-clown believes he’s as good as anyone else. Competition, capitalism, merit and excellence have been exchanged for participation, redistribution, self-esteem and trying. America didn’t win culturally by being communal but by freeing individual creativity. There is cultural tension against this very notion–against the notion of greatness itself.
3. America faces an institutional crisis. The church was undermined with the pedophile priest scandals. Science has been undermined with global warming, I mean cooling, I mean climate change. Academia has become a propaganda churning machine. The government writes more laws and our leaders seem more lawless. The press is not trusted as an unbiased forum for fact. The courts seem capricious. No one trusts any institutions anywhere.
4. America faces an economic crisis. In this, we are not alone. The world suffers with us. There is a lot less money going in than going out. We cannot print money forever. We simply can not do it. Eight million people (8 million!) people have lost jobs and they are not going to start working tomorrow. Not only that, but many Boomers face retirement and reality is dawning: money is running out. Not only that, but doctors willing to deal with Medicare/Medicaid, etc are running out. The jig is up all the way around. This is anxiety provoking.
5. America faces a moral crisis. I hesitate to write on this because it’s a can o’ worms. What I mean: Americans used to have a collective ethic that they shared–hard work, church, marriage, kids, home, etc. Life from one home to another at least appeared to be relatively the same. People married young. Had kids young. This had the result of forcing kids to grow up. Being a perpetual adolescent didn’t work so well when you had another mouth to feed. It also created social cohesion of sorts. Things have changed. People stay single longer, get married later. People may have kids or not. Now, there are positives and negatives to this, I don’t intend to oversimplify–only to note that social expectations, well, there aren’t any social expectations or no uniform expectations, anyway, which is my point. This causes anxiety, too. What is right and wrong? What is the best way to do something? This used to not be a question, right? My parents generation didn’t seemed to be plagued with this self-doubt. Fill-in-the-blank was just “the way it was”. Now, there is no “way.”
6. America faces an educational crisis. American education lacks an overarching historical context and cohesion. I believe this lack of understanding of history also contributes to our unease. What caused the Great Depression? How about the World Wars? How did Rome fall? What caused the French revolution? How could a civilized people support the rise of Hitler? We have a vague sense that things are bad, but how bad? And do we have any context to put our current crises into? Not really. Not only that, but Americans have been institutionalized from cradle to grave; systemized from day care to end of life care. Yes, it matters. Have you seen how children are forced to march through halls with their hands behind their backs? Of course, it’s for expedience sake, but with education so systematized, the deficits in learning are universal. Not only that, following the system is valued over critical thinking. Also, objective truth, established facts, are dismissed as “that’s your opinion”. In addition, fierce debate and being forced to defend a position seems to not be the way of education these days. The act of debating is itself stressful because children aren’t forced to defend their opinions. They are honored by sharing them. It makes for an intense interest in politesse but a lack of cogent thinking and overt hostility to having a thought challenged or corrected.
7. Technology amplifies every good and ill. Where the loud-mouthed jerk used to only annoy his family and neighbors at reunions and picnics, now he blogs and annoys everyone. Good news, fair news is also amplified. But the ignorant, arrogant, clueless, mouthy, amoral, mediocrity now has a platform. It can be annoying. Still, on the whole, the best rise to the top, and the arena of ideas is debated across the country–like Brendan and I did this morning. I don’t even know where he lives now. Tennessee? Colorado?
Anyway, this all reminds me of a scripture. Sorry agnostics reading this, but this scripture seems so apt. 2 Timothy 3:
1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.
There is no question that in these times we have more information, more knowledge, but less understanding and nearly no wisdom, it seems.
Discourse can be disrespectful and unfair. A general lack of kindness can be extended to our ideological adversaries. There seems to be no sense that “we’re all in this together.” Demonization passes for communication. Humor is really ridicule and meanness. Charity seems extended to no man.
Well, there is a crisis in America, more than one actually, and if it feels like war, it’s because it is. We are struggling for our very souls as a nation of free people. Who are we? What do we stand for? Who do we want to be? What do want for ourselves and for our children?
The first phase of a fight is ideological. And we’re in this phase. Ultimately, this is an individual struggle. People are having to reassess their notions of themselves. Do they believe they can take care of themselves? At what point does a person need, want, deserve a bailout?
I mean, these are painful questions. Shaming questions. America suffers generally because we’ve been indulgent individually. And our institutions have reflected the individual failure. We tolerated sin in our churches. We tolerated dishonesty in our halls of science. We tolerated propaganda in our schools of higher learning. We tolerated living beyond our means economically. We tolerated immaturity and selfishness in our relationships. We tolerated things because, like the Corinthians of Paul’s time, we thought it made us more righteous. We fell in love with our tolerance and we indulged our self-indulgence.
Each American stopped viewing himself as a responsible patriot and more like a co-dependent citizen. Everyone was drunk together.
Now, Americans are furious with bailouts here and there, a stagnant economy and the general State of Things. They are cutting back their lives. They’re making hard choices…well, most are. And still, it doesn’t look to be getting better. Meanwhile, the government, in contrast, spends like a meth-addled lottery winner. And, blaming the people while they’re at it.
So in this environment, people fight. Will a solution come, Brendan? I don’t know. Will America have to fully implode to reset the button? I doubt it will come to that. More likely, there will be internal struggle and strife as tough decisions are made out of necessity.
There are a few reporters out there who view conservatives with the mystified wonderment (in contrast to bald-faced hostility by most reporters)–such strange, exotic creatures, conservatives–and their reporting reminds me of anthropology reports given in National Geographic.
“The natives have strange rituals: they show up at Tea Party events with hand drawn posters and seem to really believe the government is too big but on the whole seem naive and rather dull-witted. They are friendly enough, for racist, bigoted, homophibic, Nazi criminals.”
That is Dave Weigel: A nice guy when he’s not patting you on your silly little naive head. Erick Erickson describes him here:
In fact, if you go through Dave’s archives you’ll find a slew of stories from the most recent one as I write to others that no one on the right really cares about, but people on the left who see the right collectively as fringe will eat up. And that’s the whole point of why he’s there.
There’s nothing unique about this situation. If the job is to cover the right from “inside the conservative movement,” that’s not actually happening. It’s like they put Weigel in a gorilla costume to infiltrate some gorillas in the mist and he stumbled into the wrong camp and is now reporting on activity completely unrelated to what actually matters. Never mind that the Washington Post’s online coverage of conservatives reflects a view that gorillas are more civilized than conservatives. And never mind that Weigel’s reporting is clouded with the groupthink you get among up-and-coming self-styled thinker/journalists who live together in D.C., are out to have an impact, but have never lived outside the clique. Insular groupthink journalism isn’t just useless because it doesn’t talk about what’s really going on, but because it only exists to coo at the pet ideas of the epistemic closure elites, usually preceded by a Media Matters press release to help direct their path.
Sure, Dave Weigel is a nice guy. But don’t treat his reporting from “inside the conservative movement” as serious when he clearly is not on the inside. He’s there because of what he wrote for publications funded by Tim Gill and George Soros, he’s there to track the fringe, to make the fringe look like the middle, and to dig in on agenda-based topics which kowtow to the narrow views of DC elites. His smarter readers know that’s the case, and are just there to enjoy the ride — the only one who seems to think otherwise is the adolescent naif Ezra Klein, late of the Center for American Progress, who doesn’t have any journalistic incentive to be objective toward the right or even passably fair.
Like Erick, I like Dave Weigel–in the same way I liked the trained Siberian Tigers at the Sigfried and Roy show: they look interesting and exotic, but are extraordinarily dangerous–as poor Roy learned the hard way. A journalist is a wild animal with an appetite for conservative meat and should be interacted with that way–always.
I do not expect Dave to be unbiased or fair. I do not expect him to defend a conservative point-of-view, ever, and therefore, I’m not disappointed or offended when he snaps off some pithy, demeaning, diminishing remark about conservatives or conservatism generally.
When he says something sufficiently irritating, I might respond, but mostly, I suppress the urge as it’s useless. Joking at a conservative’s expense and yucking it up is easy peasy. Everyone does it. So trendy.
So no, I don’t take Dave Weigel seriously. I think he’s a gifted writer and has interesting insight. He has an sophisticated mind and I enjoy talking to him. But he’s as ideologically left as the rest, he’s just willing to lower himself to hang with the natives from time to time. And he’s welcome to do so. Conservative people treat him with more kindness because he is willing to at least publicly view conservatives as a species of human. When it comes down to it though, his reporting sounds like reports from the out-back bush.
It would be fascinating to see what conservative, inside the conservative mind, reporting would look like. Too exotic for the Washington Post, that notion. Better stick with blogs.
What I try to do is understand why the people I cover are doing what they’re doing — where an idea comes from, where a grudge comes from, where a “meme” (like Greece playing the role of “dark future that socialism will bring us” that France used to play).
Sometimes I sympathize with what’s going on. Sometimes I’m critical. I try to be open about that. But the people who talk to me know I’ll accurately report what they’re doing, and my report can either be used by some liberal to attack “those wacky conservatives” or used by some conservative to get a newsy take on something in the movement.
In his own way, I think Dave is agreeing with my assessment of his role. The thing is, Ezra Klein writes from within the neosocialist movement on the left. He writes as one of them. So even when he disagrees, his affection for the ideology shines through pure and clear.
The WaPo has no such conservative kind-eyes. Dave looks at the conservative movement with interest and to clarify and/or critique but not to defend or explain. And that’s the difference.
I’m trying to imagine all these stories about a Republican, but it would never happen, one. And two, the press would have a Republican President’s head on a platter by now.
Instead, we are getting bits and pieces of the news but no cumulative “What the F*ck” pieces from the MSM yet. Why? Because they don’t want to see and it doesn’t suit their political purposes.
Here are some of the stories I’ve noted:
Press Bias: Sarah Palin and the stalker next door.
More socialism: Health care law killing hiring.
Borders: Mexican lawmakers go to Arizona.
Forced unionization: Volunteer firefighters being forced into unions in financial regulation bill that has four Republican helpers.
And, I haven’t even written yet, of North Korea, the oil spill, and the New York times revealing that our strategy in the Middle East.
I lay everything at the Democrats, President Obama’s and the press’ feet. The press is complicit with this destruction. They seek it. They want it. They have idealized socialism and they want to see it come to fruition–no matter the cost.
We are seeing multiculturalism writ large. So North Korea, ostensibly, is as good as, say, Britain. Cuba is better than France. Venezuela is superior to Germany. And Iran, our buddies there, is way awesomer than Poland.
This President has proven a foreign and domestic disaster and he’s only 17 months into his tenure.
The gulf is destroyed. Where are the pictures of sick manatees you ask. Well, we haven’t seen them. Terrorists are ramping up rhetoric and action. The President decided to make public our secret ballistic missile tests. Meanwhile, he’s also unveiling, after 17 months, some kind of foreign policy plan. Questions about that? Nope, we’re talking about Rand Paul’s political fumbling and whether or not he’s a racist–underlying subtext: Republicans are racist. Subtext of subtext: All white people are racist. Still.
And that, my friends, is what passes for political commentary these days.
The media aren’t just lapdogs, they are slobbering morons walking the plank for the Democrat and Obama agenda.
Just when I think it can’t get worse or more superficial or more insane, it does. And I expect that as the Democrats see power leaching away will turn into psychotic demonizers and the press will happily carry the narrative, no matter how inane, because they love the Democrat ideology and love selling it.
The media are idea merchants and they have a story to sell. It’s not the story that anyone wants to buy, but they’re selling it anyway. And the fact is, they are VERY GOOD at their jobs. People don’t even notice the lopsided, biased coverage. They are too busy surviving.
But even with all this help, Democrats are in a precarious place and they know it.
Just to lay out the positions, so that when you see a news story you’ll have heard it before:
White people bad.
Everyone who disagrees with President: racist.
Red state at all: racist.
Vote for anyone but a Democrat: racist.
Republicans stupid unless they’re way moderate in which case they’re stupid b/c they don’t just become Democrats.
Oil spill mishandling: not Obama’s fault.
Terrorism: not Obama’s fault.
Economy: not Obama’s fault.
Tennessee tonedeafness: not Obama’s fault.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: good.
Wall Street: bad.
Main Street: bad if they disagree with Obama, good for political purposes.
Russia, Iran, China, Venezuela, Cuba: Good.
Britain, India, France, Poland, ally: Bad.
Jews: Satan’s foot soldiers.
Basically everything good in the world comes from Democrats and especially his royal highness President Barack Obama. Everything bad in the world comes from anyone who disagrees with him.
Got it? Okay, the media can be subtle sometimes, so just wanted to spell it out for you.
Does the deception of being cheated on, being given a disease, being lied to, being used, matter less when a man goes out of his marriage to hook up with another man? No. And yet, it is politically incorrect to call out the bad, selfish behavior because gay men live in fear of being judged, blah, blah, blah.
Life is tough. For gay and straight people, life is tough. To literally screw over the person one claims to love and excuse it by saying “I’m gay”, well. This falls squarely into the Tiger Woods “I have an addiction” category.
The fact is, many people, gay and straight, want to live the life of a single slut and have the respectability and comfort of family life. Do they have reasons, often compulsive, culturally-driven, family-of-origin-driven, reasons for their behavior? Absolutely. Does that let them off the hook for their obnoxious and harmful actions? No.
Here is one woman’s account of being married to a gay guy. Now, she participates in her own delusion, almost from the beginning–that’s her responsibility. Still, the man she was married to lied to her over and over:
That thin fantasy crumbled on my oldest son’s third birthday, well before my chlamydia diagnosis. That day, I caught Chris hiding cash in a desk drawer. “What are you doing? What is the money for?” I demanded. He became defensive and announced, “I haven’t gone to bed with anybody, but I’ve been going to gay bars.” He said he was trying to sort out confusion about his sexuality. As the puzzling pieces of our marriage flashed through my mind — the lack of physical affection, his preferred position for sexual intercourse, his disinterest in spending couple time with me — I started sobbing and asked, “Are we getting a divorce? Are we going to counseling? Is this something you’re going to pursue?” He repeated, as before, that he was committed to our family. I desperately wanted to believe him.
He agreed to go to counseling, but we had to pay in cash and keep it quiet because of the U.S. military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. If anyone found out that Chris was gay, he could be fired. As usual, I didn’t dwell on my emotions; I focused more on my family’s well-being than on what the future held.
This problem is often that people marry young..and the guy is still coming to terms with himself. He wants a family. He wants the image. He also wants men.
A person can make a choice one way or the other. Some have. Some men choose a family over fulfilling their sexual desires. And you know what? Life is full of all sorts of trade-offs. It is not as if a person must follow every inclination. It’s not like sexual drive cannot be overridden with character. It can be. People do it all the time.
He could also have chosen to find a gay partner. Yes, it would have presented difficulties with friends and family, but it would have been honest. It would also have spared another person the pain of deceit and disease. He would have endured the consequences of his actions–not an innocent bystander.
Gay men are not some rare species of human magically irresponsible for their actions. A gay man harms his chosen mate, deeply, when he leads a woman to believe that she is the problem.
Anyway, the cultural realities are not lost on me. Still, my sympathy lies with the woman deceived into the relationship. She needs to be given the respect she deserves. And in this politically correct universe, heaven forbid a gay man be called out on his callous actions.
To the young gay men out there contemplating their life choices: The truth will set you free. A dishonest life is a enslaved one.