April 2008

I’m breaking down.

I have to disengage.

This is good on several levels. Not in the least because it is profoundly and depressingly true.

Brian Williams needs to get a grip. He’s a big anchor on NBC.

Here’s the funny version.

Here’s the serious one, fact-loaded and reference-rich.

One by one, the pundits lose my respect. Shorter B.W.: Trust us.

Yeah, sure. You’ve earned so much of it.

Looking with fresh eyes at my last post, I feel like I sound all smug and superior and angry.

I’m not smug and superior. I’m just tired of it all, too. I can’t believe the lack of perspective that is killing my country, and making good people on the right side of most issues of importance go all cannibal. I can’t stand the politics, which, as a junkie, is not exactly a healthy thing. The “news” is useless. The country is by and large really stupid. McCain could win.

Anyway, sorry for the rambling. Everyone has a right to their opinion, and to express it in any way they see fit.

Update: Still caught in the trap. “…in any way they see fit, that doesn’t do tangible harm to anyone else.” And I’ve a strong suspicion Jill will make a great lawyer.

TBogg alerted me to some inside-blogging wars that I should’ve known about myself, but I don’t read Feminste. I read Pandagon for my feminist perspective, and even though I find the opinions there often wildly overblown, I’ve learned a lot from the stridently feminist woman’s point of view. Trust me, there are a lot of legitimate gripes to be aired. And I think Amanda is a genuinely funny, brilliantly smart writer.

I suppose I read Hitchens from time to time for the same reason. I enjoy the beautifully written polemic, a lot, agree or not.

The problem is, in short, that Amanda, most articulate and excellent champion of feminism, wrote a book and it had cartoons in it that many feminists and even other people found offensive, particularly given Amanda’s cause. I didn’t buy the book yet, but probably will. In any case, I saw some of the cartoons, and, here’s where I become grateful, I didn’t see anything other than a satirist cartoon of overblown characters of all kinds. You know, what cartoonists sometimes do.

But no! I’m shallow, misogynist, insensitive, and worst of all male, and I didn’t even notice the FLAGRANT racism and probably sexism (at least the reverse kind) littered throughout the cartoons, and I completely forgot Jon Stewart’s apt description of the “left:”

The Democrats are Utopians. The seek to create an America so fair and non-judgmental that life becomes an unbearable series of apologies.”

And so it went. Amanda and her publisher apologized, and then so did Jill at Feminste, and that did nothing but exacerbate the situation to the point that Jill has declared she doesn’t have the “guts” to be a blogger, at least for now. She’s in law school. (Ed. Don’t hire her! And NOT because she’s a woman! 😉 ) Christ, the comments over there devolved into an argument about whether or not “King Kong” was some sort of racist, sexist movie. Boy, am I dense. The first time I saw it I thought it was about a generally decent giant monkey who was exploited, wildly misunderstood and eventually screwed by The Man. Upon further review, I suppose you could find some sexist and racist subtexts to the movie, but considering the times, I doubt that was the movie-maker’s intent. What if he was thinking about making another monster movie with a sympathetic and misunderstood monster? Is this not possible?

A long time ago, on my then state-of-the-art 16MB Gateway, I stumbled on to a political site and became part of the “community.” Emoticons were widely used. They were very helpful for the amateur writers like me for expressing tone, and were a fundamental essence to most all the posts out there.

Serious writers cannot use them. (I’m sure there’s an actual written rule someplace.) Perhaps this is a good thing; if you’re good enough to communicate your thoughts and feelings into words, cheap New Age techniques like the emoticon are of no use. OTOH, they sure did proactively cut off a lot of bad attitudes. “Fuck you :-)” sounds a lot more harmless with the emoticon than does “Fuck you” without. Even when written with the exact same intent.

We had the standard amount of disagreement, even with emoticons, of any place where communication on subjects of passion is done entirely via the written word. Mostly just over policy, though, and much less often because of misunderstanding.

And then I see 60 Minutes last night and watch another great intellectual, Antonin Scalia, claim that torture is not punishment. Yeah, whatever, dude. Not as smart as advertised, in my mind.

Doug Feith is an intellectual. William Kristol. Paul Wolfowitz, who uttered the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard anyone ever say once, and despite lots of Google searching, I can’t find the quote. It was a long time ago. Trust me, it was really, really stupid, and even a non-intellectual person like me could see it.

So I’m grateful that I’m smart, but not an intellectual, which has some amorphous definition in today’s culture that seems to include, “has power and/or a large microphone with which to espouse one’s opinions, even if they are blatantly stupid.”

I live by some pretty simple rules, mostly of the Golden kind. I try to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. I do my damned best to consider their world-views and education and, if possible, personal histories, which in my own experience could be the biggest factor of all.

I take for granted that in a “free” society, people are going to say, do, and think things I find reprehensible, or disagreeable. I try not to take cartoons too seriously, or read into the minds of artists about their intent, or movies about the filmmaker’s “motives.” I remember as a young Beatles fan all the deeper meanings being read into their songs, like “Come Together,” and years later hearing John Lennon, I think, say, nah, it was just gibberish that rhymed and sounded cool. I took him at his word. And laughed at the armchair psychology.

I assume without reservation that people heavily invested in a particular cause are going to go a little off the reservation (OOPS!) from time to time, emotionally.

I do not think they are bad people. In fact, I think most people are pretty decent, particularly from their own perspectives of both nature and nurture.

So, I say, Jill, good luck on your bar. Based on the little I’ve read of you, mostly via this topic, you’re a wonderful writer and kind human being. Amanda, I suppose I think this should be a lesson in humility for you, since it demonstrates that even you are blind to your own mirror from time to time. You are young and enormously talented and passionate and yes, even pretty. You’ll be fine. Your apology should be accepted, and that should be the end of it, even though I personally didn’t think you needed to apologize. Cartoons. Art. Ego. Excitement. The human condition is too complicated for so much goddamn vicious and personal generalization over every friggin’ detail the human condition entails. Ask Chris Clarke about my attitude about this. He’s the one who banned me from commenting at your place.

To those who took offense at the cartoons? You have a point, but you’re looking so damn hard for one it becomes hard to take seriously. They’re fucking cartoons.

To hard-core feminists everywhere, men and women ARE different. That doesn’t mean that in a society ruled by law you should ever, ever be disadvantaged by said law strictly on the basis of your gender. But guess what? I’m single, and it pisses me off that being married would provide me over a thousand tax breaks. But I try not to lose sleep over it. Change comes slow.

And nobody agrees with anybody about everything. Try to get over yourself, and more importantly, try not to cast your own identity politics on to the person who has issues with your point, because it may be just how you made it.

Also, use an emoticon once in a while. Especially you amateurs. 🙂

Update: I should say that most of all, I’m grateful my parents didn’t raise a judgmental son of a bitch asshole who thinks they know everything they need to know about a person who wrote some words (or drafted/green-lit a freaking cartoon) on some specific topic from which readers in their infinite genius and insightfulness conclude they can determine the cartoonist’s/writer’s worth as a human being, across the fucking topic board.

Yes, I still hold the commenters at Pandagon in contempt for doing exactly that to me one late evening. And still I would NEVER hold it against them in any global personal sense (as the poor moderator now knows, I hope), and I still think Pandagon is one terrific website, and Amanda one terrific thinker and writer, even though I would guess she thinks she’d hate me.

Blogging ain’t beanbag, to paraphrase.

Update 2: THAT’S why I don’t think Amanda need apologize. Should her feminist cred be questioned because of her book cartoons, in the context of the body of her work? Absurdity drives me nuts. I’m sure all those commenters will consider every human being’s feelings on the goddamn planet when THEIR first book is about to be published.

Self-absorbed, egomaniacal, thoughtless, incapable-of-empathy morons.

…for making the complicated simple, a gift I think is extremely rare and valuable.


But they can stay there until people stop shooting at them so that there will come a time when they can stay there without people shooting at them.”

This is precisely Senator McCain’s position on Iraq. No arguing allowed. It just is, and it is not worth debating.

It is also profoundly stupid.

What a surprise. He starts the show with more J. Wright, and how can Obama get out from under it?

The Rude Pundit has it right. Shorter: You know, a lot of women would have “completely distanced themselves” from their husbands after a lifetime of putting up with the spouse’s philandering. When we gonna start hearing that?

Not to mention the things you could say along the same lines about Laura Bush.

“She stayed with a complete idiot! And he was DRUNK for much of their marriage, at LEAST.”

If there were a campaign job for counterpunching, I would be really good at it, but too mean to live with myself, probably. I hate this irrelevant crap.

The book is fabulous.

The movie is shit, despite an all-star cast.

In the movie maker’s defense, it would have been a tough one to pull off. Two hours isn’t enough time to capture the depth of dysfunction in Burroughs’ memoir.

Repeating now, the book is really marvelous. I hope Augusten is doing well.

It would be really an incredible feat if he was.

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