Epistle to Huck

(Prof, your excellent comment covered a lot of ground for me; I do take exception to the characterization that I asserted that all opposition to Obama stems from racism as the joke was clearly much broader as to include eliminationism, xenophobia, and religious hysteria among other things. However, I don’t wish to cavil over trifles.) 

I do not understand what you want me to say; that conservatives are thoughtful and well-informed? That Republicans are responsible and forward-looking? That none of the vitriol aimed at the President has a racial component? That you assert I am framing the world in an ‘us vs them’ mentality and propagating stereotypes is downright surreal; perhaps there is some projection going on here. Don’t worry, if you are a conservative, it doesn’t mean I think you’re stupid, crazy or evil. Honest to God, there are people who are conservative that I love and respect immensely; one of my fondest patrons campaigned for Bush twice and we get along famously.  

Certainty of one’s own good intentions is the mortar that holds the cobblestones of the road to hell together; I am very un-Catholic in that I think it matters not a whit what a person intends, thinks, or feels. Actions in the world are the only thing that matters. I may feel deeply for another persons plight, but if I don’t do anything, it matters not. I may think that I am doing the best thing for another but it may be the exact opposite of what they need. I may intend to help but if I only hurt then what does it matter what I intended?

What matters is the world where we interact, not the universes imprisoned within the ceramic shells on our shoulders. It is a commonly held stereotype that liberal artist types like myself should be bleeding heart softies with imaginations that spill out of our heads and rose tint our worldviews. Yet I aspire to be pragmatically unsentimental. I must do this because otherwise I would retreat into the cathedrals of my mind farther than Walter Mitty ever adventured; every day my finest impulses never find their way to my hand or mouth and it is only through the most strenuous effort that the ones that make it are brought screaming into the light.

It is because I am so sensitive that I am so unsentimental; I consider every person I encounter as fully as I can to give them my attention and understanding. It is a habit cultivated by both Zen masters and actors. I feel compassion for everyone, including the conservatives who are shouting and carrying on like fools. Think of it; only a few short years ago President Bush was crowing about how he was going to spend his ‘political capital’ on ‘fixing Social Security’ and Karl Rove was planning for a permanent Republican majority. Pundits were writing obituaries for the American Left. Anyone at the time who predicted that a Democrat from Chicago would be President in 2009 would have been laughed at. Mentioning that he would be black and his middle name was ‘Hussein’ would have gotten you a job writing for the ‘Daily Show’. Most people don’t like change to begin with, and it’s clear that many are deeply unsettled by recent changes; their fear is palpable. That’s why it’s so easy for them to be whipped into a crazy frenzy by the demagogues. 

My compassion for them comes easy to me because these people are my family, friends, and co-workers. They are my mother’s hair stylist and my uncle in Wisconsin and friends I’ve had since I was in college. They are all people I know and love. And they are all capable of being stupid, racist, and mistaken. Just like liberals are capable of being stupid, racist, and mistaken. Just like how human beings across all time and culture are capable of being stupid, racist, and mistaken. There is an excellent argument to be made that the human condition is that of being stupid, racist, and mistaken. I certainly don’t exclude myself, either; I have been stupid, racist, and mistaken in my life and realize that no matter how I strive I will surely be all three again at some point and when I do something stupid, racist or mistaken I like to be corrected rather than to have my stupid racist mistakes repeated.

I just picked up the further conversation between you and the Prof. I find it interesting how you describe your feelings about Bush; when I expressed those sentiments only a handful of years ago I was called a traitor and repeatedly threatened with various forms of bodily harm. Now they are conventional wisdom. What a difference a little bit of time makes. Here’s a picture from outside of President Obama’s town hall today:

William Kostric, outside of Obama's town hall with a loaded gun.

William Kostric, outside of Obama's town hall with a loaded gun.

That should make any sane American sick. How many liberals showed up outside a place where Bush was appearing with a loaded gun and a sign that essentially was a death threat? What will it do for the persecution complex that the right wing has been nurturing lately to realize that this guy ended up being interviewed on Chris Matthews (the video is at the bottom of the page)? At least Matthews called him out on it. I’m all for lively debate and discussion, but we past that a long time ago. I wish I could say that I have a great deal of sympathy for GOP moderates who are horrified by what they have unleashed, but they’re the ones who unleashed it. I’m all for dialing down the rhetoric and cooling off our tempers, but I don’t have a nationally broadcast hour of television to rant to the nation about whatever is stuck in my craw that day, nor is my blog syndicated through major media outlets. 

On the other hand, I’m reminded Episode 408 of South Park, Chef Goes Nanners, where Jimbo tries to take a principled stand and finds himself surrounded by Klansmen. It actually is quite relevant to this conversation.

11 Responses to “Epistle to Huck”

  1. Winston,

    I don’t care how angry these folks are; showing up to an event the President is attending while carrying a loaded gun is a definite no-no. That being said, I’d bet the Secret Service knows everything there is to know about this guy by now. They’re good at that.

  2. Oh, and incidentally, don’t think for a minute that this guy’s head wasn’t dead-center in a sniper’s sights the whole time.

    While I’m concerned for the President’s safety at this moment, that isn’t my primary concern in all this, since he does have the Secret Service. It’s those town halls, where people can get up close and personal with elected representatives, that scare me (see Arlen “I’m A Democrat Now” Specter’s run-in). While it does seem to be waning a little, I have little doubt that something awful could still happen. And then we’ll see the Glenn Becks and Sean Hannitys try like hell to distance themselves from their own words.

    Incidentally, one of our own Senators here, Charles Grassley, joined the “death panel” parade after being praised by Obama for negotiating in good faith. (I will be canvassing hard for his Democratic opponent in the next election cycle.)


  3. Prof-
    Although the Secret Service is the closest thing we’ve got to ninjas, they’re still only human and by several accounts they’re getting stretched real thin: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/08/04/earlyshow/leisure/books/main5211273.shtml

    I worry about the future…

  4. Winston…

    I read the link–I think we really need some ninjas right now.

  5. Tell me about it. I’m worried about one of those ‘perfect storm’ confluences of stupidity

  6. Sadly the same loaded gun show-of-force tactic was employed by the black panther party in the 1960’s. Funny I don’t see Hollywood jumping to the aid of William Kostric any time soon.

  7. These sorts of rationalizations for bad behavior emit a fume of hypocricy that reeks of self-justification and dishonesty. It also demonstrates that for all of your talk of discarding stereotypes you cling tightly to your own little bigotries.

    Forty years ago the Black Panthers armed themselves within the limits of California law in response to a pattern of violence that had been perpetrated for generations to keep blacks in the underclass. Kostric was appealing to bring that pattern of violence back into play; to interpret him any other way is to be mistaken.

    There has been forty years of history between William Kostric and Huey P Newton during which time we learned people should not bring guns to political functions, especially ones where the President is going to be. The language of the sign Kostric was holding cannot be ignored either; the reference to Jefferson is ominous, to say the least.

    It’s likely you get flushed in the face whenever anyone mentions ‘reparations’. I imagine you would be filled with indignant outrage at the thought of being forced to compensate a contemporary person for a historical crime committed generations ago. Yet you do not hesitate to link the President to a band of black radicals who were finished before he was a teenager. Has it occured to you that ‘Hollywood’ is not a person or a formal organization of any kind? Whether or not you like George Clooney and pals, they had nothing to do with the Black Panthers so faulting them for not supporting William Kostric is not merely irrational but somewhat demented.

    It is never profitable to nurse grudges and keep catagorized tallies of insults traded between tribes across generations. Nor is it a good idea conflate contemporary and historical figures overmuch because that blade is notoriously double edged. Consider that if you are going to smear your contemporary opponents by associating them with the Black Panthers, it becomes that much easier to associate you with the opponents of the Black Panthers, which would have been groups like the Klan.

    If you want me to take you seriously, you’ll have to do better than that.

  8. I believe it is you who are getting flushed in the face, after a simple mention of the Black Panther Party you fling accusations of bigotry. Please read again my remark, I in no way linked the Black Panthers to our President. You then go on for another paragraph about how I, through words you’ve put in my mouth, could be associated to the Klan. How is this not rationalization of bad behavior? You are reading in to my comments and drawing self-gratifying conclusions based on similar arguments you’ve had with others. I was simply making a comparison between two political extremes, along with the sardonic note that William Kostric will not enjoy the same support.

    You said, “Look this guy’s toting a gun at a political rally, what a nut.” I came back with, “It’s nothing new.”

  9. You can’t have it both ways. Conservatives have been trying to link Obama with 60’s radicalism for eighteen months now. Don’t suggest equivalency and then back away when called on it. Be man enough to say what you mean and mean what you say.
    Have a lovely weekend.

  10. What am I backing away from? I explained my remarks with clarity. You are calling me on something that I’ve never said. If you would spend half as much time reading -my- comment, as you did responding to something you’ve heard on a cable news show you’d notice I never made the comparison.

    Once again, we were talking about the shock value of bringing loaded firearms to a political function, were we not? I made an easily drawn comparison in the form of two sentences, between two actions of political extremism, not their origin or purpose. Yet your response, rife with accusations of bigotry, was five paragraphs long. Seems a bit disproportionate doesn’t it?

    Note my first reply doesn’t contain the words “Obama, Democrat, Presidency, etc…” I ask you now, who is arguing with the voices in their head?

  11. Yes, Huck, ya got me. I am guilty of taking the bait. Your No-Prize is in the mail. Congratulations and good luck in all your future endeavors.

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