A long, long time ago back during the early years of the George W. Bush administration just before the invasion of Iraq, the lead vocalist, Natalie Maines, of a female country/rock group from Texas, Dixie Chicks, made a statement opposing the invasion. Ms Maines told an audience in London, England, “We don’t want this war, …
Jun 27 2018
Jun 20 2012
There was a recent kerfluffle at FDL that in the light of presidential election, Jane Hamsher, FDL’s founder, felt it necessary to restate and clarify the site policy regarding diaries and commenting. I agree with what Jane said:
In the contentious 2008 Democratic Presidential primary, there were many members of the FDL community who passionately supported one candidate over another. We chose as a blog not to endorse either candidate because we did not want to alienate either significant sector of our community.
Moreover, we firmly believe that elections are the time when candidates are the most responsive to the needs of the constituents whose votes they hope to woo. [..]
We believe that the Presidential election should be a time for healthy discussion among those who have different and often passionately held points of view. [..]
Individual writers on FDL may take different positions. It does not mean that as a blog we endorse any of them. Our goal is to make a fair home for all sides of this discussion, and not shut it down. [..]
The one thing we have no interest in being is a mind-reading site. “You just want Obama to win” or “you just want Romney to win” or “you just don’t care about X” furthers no conversation. Its only intent is to poison the discussion and launch a pie fight. [..]
Our only goal is to foster a vigorous and open debate on FDL in the ensuing months. The fact that we will not be playing the role of arbiter is not a reflection of any hidden agenda, but rather a continuation of what we have historically sought to be during times when our community is intensely divided: a town square where a fair discussion of the merits of all sides can take place.
Thank you, Jane, for all you do.
Feb 21 2011
A lot of people here are good at exposing maggots, and it’s scary to see what’s under the rocks. Necessary, but scary. If we don’t know what’s under the rocks, we have no chance of defeating it. And there are surely plenty of rocks to kick and maggots to expose.
But it’s not enough to expose maggots. We must also plant grass. Otherwise, our landscape will be just a lot of upturned rocks and dirt.
Most people aren’t devils or gods, they’re just ordinary shmoes trying to get along in the world, not thinking too much, just putting food on the table and themselves in a chair before a TV. They listen to what their leaders say because it’s easy, and they don’t question because that’s hard.
Winning the hearts and minds of the leaders of the opposition may be impossible- the Koch brothers are not going to become liberals, Glenn Beck is not going to become sane; but winning the hearts and minds of these people – the ordinary people – is possible. We just have to plant some grass.
I have some ideas. But not nearly enough. I need your help – this community’s help. Together we do have the brains, the talent, and the wherewithal to plant a lot of grass. The seeds are there.
I have sometimes played a game with myself:
Suppose you had a fortune. A Gates-like fortune. What would you do?
One thing I’d like to do is start rewarding acts that promote a civil society. What do I mean? What acts would promote such a society? It could be a lot of things. Here are some examples
NOT IN OUR TOWN is the inspiring documentary film about the residents of Billings, Montana who responded to an upsurge in hate violence by standing together for a hate-free community. In 1993, hate activities in Billings reached a crescendo. KKK fliers were distributed, the Jewish cemetery was desecrated, the home of a Native American family was painted with swastikas, and a brick was thrown through the window of a six-year-old boy who displayed a Menorah for Hanukkah.
Rather than resigning itself to the growing climate of hate, the community took a stand. The police chief urged citizens to respond before the violence escalated any further. Religious groups from every denomination sponsored marches and candlelight vigils. The local labor council passed a resolution against racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia. Members of the local Painters Union pitched in to paint over racist graffiti. The local newspaper printed full-page Menorahs that were subsequently displayed in nearly 10,000 homes and businesses. The community made an unmistakable declaration: “Not in Our Town.” Since then, no serious acts of hate violence have been reported in Billings.
You can buy the film here
There are other people like that police chief. People we don’t hear about. Let’s find them. Let’s reward them. Let’s give them publicity.
Or what happened to the people in a small town in Tennessee where one person decided they didn’t know enough about differences: I wrote about the great film that came out of this. I really hope you’ll click on that story, but, briefly, a school principal in a small, all-white, all Christian town in TN decided that she, and the teachers and student in her school, didn’t know enough about differences. They decided to collect a paper clip for every person who died in the concentration camps. What happened next…..well….read the diary and see the film.
Let’s distribute those films. Buy a copy or two. Send them off to someone somewhere.
Sometimes the acts are mind-blowingly heroic – like those of Irena Sendler (don’t know who she is? The answer is a click away). But sometimes they are the simple acts of random kindness that go on each day, that we see, here and there. Good acts. Acts that promote tolerance. Acts that promote a civil society.
These people are rare, but they aren’t unknown. Even if only 1 in 1,000 Americans are like that – well that’s 300,000 people. We can find them. We can publicize them.
It’s necessary, of course, to expose the maggots. I applaud the work that many kossacks do to expose them. But, while it is necessary to expose the maggots, it is our own act of bigotry to assume that everything that lives under the rock is and always will be a maggot. Some are just people who have never seen light.
Another is the simple acts of random kindness that go on each day, that we see, here and there. Good acts. Acts that promote tolerance. Acts that promote a civil society.
Thanks for reading
Feb 01 2011
Jan 19 2011
Nov 10 2010
This just came up on McClatchy. Because of the outcome of the November 2, 2010 election, with the new Republican House majority, there is now less pressure on President Obama to stick to his earlier pledge of beginning a troop withdrawal timeline of July 2011 in Afghanistan. This December was supposed to be the month for the big “review” of the ongoing military operations (and the Pentagon budget was supposed to be passed before the pre election campaign break and the lame duck session, and that didn’t happen, either) and now it will be a smaller review – ‘with no major changes in strategy.” Other than those American troop withdrawals will be delayed at least until 2014. Remember when a few weeks ago the military said the Afghan transitional stuff was going better than expected? Wrong narrative when you’re on the international arms sales circuit.
NATO’s spent 19.4 billion on “training” Afghans in the past 7 years. What is the current message for the NATO meeting on Nov 18 in Lisbon ? send more trainers. “No trainers, no transition.”
The only thing McClatchy didn’t mention was that the Taliban and assorted terrorists and homegrown guerrilla combatants traditionally take the winter off in Afghanistan.
And of course, they’re trying to blame Pakistan. You could see this coming a mile down the road. Why would Pakistan wish to interrupt the gravy train of having a foreign country “fighting” your pesky terrorists and selling intelligence to it ? The earlier 2011 date, claims a Pentagon advisor in the story, had Pakistan trying to negotiate a “political settlement instead of military action.”
“This administration now understands that it cannot shift Pakistani approaches to safeguarding its interests in Afghanistan with this date being perceived as a walk-away date,” the adviser said.
And of course, everyone was speaking anonymously. There is now no timeline, nor will Gen. David Petraeus being doing one of his publicity tours, er, testimonies before Congress in December, the way he was all last spring and summer before the latest Afghanistan/Pakistan offensive.
Whoops. Did I say Pakistan.
Mar 02 2010
Crossposted at Daily Kos
George W. Bush
Tax Cuts for the rich
“They will welcome us as liberators”
“The oil will pay for the war”
Torture isn’t a war crime cause my lawyer says so
“The fundamentals of the economy are strong”
Sarah Fucking Palin
Katie Couric – But are you ready to become the leader of the free world?
Sarah Palin – Totally. I will totally lead the world. Any world. I will lead Mars or whatever too if those guys need a world president. Or just a Mars president. I took on the ole’ boys club in Alaska and I can take it on in Mars.
Katie Couric – But I’m not asking about being president of Mars.
Sarah Palin – But I am answering about being president of Mars because a president person needs to be prepared for anything. I like to reform.
Conservatives don’t deserve respect. They deserve shame and to be loudly and openly mocked in public.
More ranting below the fold
Jan 06 2010
I’m going to do something very different today. I’m going to talk about a matter has been on my heart and on my mind for a good long while. Now seems like as good a time as any to address it. To put it bluntly, observing the constant back-biting, smears, below-the-belt attacks, and other supremely childish means of conducting supposedly civil discourse that I find in every avenue I observe has been really getting to me. This criticism is meant towards both no one in particular and everyone in particular. While a gaze towards the past will reveal that these sorts of juvenile tactics have been with us since the beginning of time, this doesn’t mean that they are justified or somehow not counter-productive in the end. We all revel in the thrill of victory, but sometimes our successes prove Pyrrhic and nearly bankrupt us, even though we may be the first to limp across the finish line.
For example, the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, writing of the need for coercion in the cause of justice, warned that: “Moral reason must learn how to make a coercion its ally without running the risk of a Pyrrhic victory in which the ally exploits and negates the triumph.
The above quote has application to many avenues, politics being only one of them. But I would prefer to broaden the context to as large an audience as possible, singling out no one, but extending the ability for personal reflection to any and all that might be capable of hearing it. To provide a personal example from my own life, I contribute to Feminist discussions and take an active part in the cerebral discourse raging inside them. Yet, interestingly enough what all of this soul-searching and cerebrating produces often is not my still-growing understanding of femininity, some supposedly foreign concept based on my being born and socialized as a man, but rather a calling to question my own conception of masculinity and how it relates back to how I perceive the construct within the framework of my whole identity.
The idea that perhaps the solution to sexism, misogyny, and gender inequality lies within a re-examination of male behavior and restrictive societal definitions of masculinity has been an informal thesis of mine that is beholden to a million related postulates. Moreover, that the true resolution can be reached by a collective effort between men and women working shoulder to shoulder is my ultimate goal and my fervent prayer. When men see that which is feminine within them and do not recoil from it and when women see that which is masculine within them and do not feel shame, then I know we will be finally close to true equality. In the meantime, I have never really had any heart for the fighting and I look forward to the day we lay our burdens down by the riverside.
The poem which follows below has been on the back burner of my mind for a while. It speaks to our bloodthirsty impulses and questions whether the expectations of winning we hold are really worthwhile and tenable. In a darkly humorous manner, the piece reveals what happens when our egos encourage us to rush blindly into one fight after another, recognizing only in hindsight that we are forever damaged and notably impaired by each and every one. Reconciling our primordial impulses with the wisdom of reason is a major challenge within every person and sometimes, as the poem notes, it is a realization only granted circumspectly. But when I see so many people who have made it their personal quest to pick rhetorical fights or who seem to think that their occupation or chosen purpose in life gives them a right to act like a Type A bully, then it compels me to speak out and to push back, but notably not with fists raised in opposition. This includes the thousands of legends in their own mind who possess the cockiness, the arrogance, and the attitude, but have nothing in the way of insight or intellect to back up their lofty claims or poker faces.
“The Winner” by Shel Silverstein
The hulk of a man with a beer in his hand looked like a drunk old fool,
And I knew that if I hit him right, I could knock him off that stool.
But everybody said, “Watch out — that’s Tiger Man McCool.
He’s had a whole lot of fights, and he always come out the winner.
Yeah, he’s a winner.”
But I’d had myself about five too many, and I walked up tall and proud,
I faced his back and I faced the fact that he’d never stooped or bowed.
I said, “Tiger Man, you’re a pussycat,” and a hush fell on the crowd,
I said, “Let’s you and me go outside and see who’s the winner”…
Well, he gripped the bar with one big hairy hand and he braced against the
He slowly looked up from his beer — my God, that man was tall.
He said, “Boy, I see you’re a scrapper, so just before you fall,
I’m gonna tell you just a little what a means to be a winner.”
He said, “You see these bright white smilin’ teeth, you know they ain’t my own.
Mine rolled away like Chiclets down a street in San Antone.
But I left that person cursin’, nursin’ seven broken bones.
And he only broke three of mine, and that make me a winner.”
He said, “Behind this grin, I got a steel pin that holds my jaw in place.
A trophy of my most successful motorcycle race.
And every mornin’ when I wake and touch this scar across my face,
It reminds me of all I got by bein’ a winner.
Now my broken back was the dyin’ act of handsome Harry Clay
That sticky Cincinnati night I stole his wife away.
But that woman, she gets uglier and meaner every day.
But I got her, boy, and that’s what makes me a winner.
You gotta speak loud when you challenge me, son, ’cause it’s hard for me
With this twisted neck and these migraine pains and this cauliflower ear.
‘N’ if it weren’t for this glass eye of mine, I’d shed a happy tear
To think of all you’ll get by bein’ a winner.
I got arthritic elbows, boy, I got dislocated knees,
From pickin’ fights with thunderstorms and chargin’ into trees.
And my nose been broke so often I might lose it if I sneeze.
And, son, you say you still wanna be a winner?
My spine is short three vertebrae and my hip is screwed together.
My ankles warn me every time there’ll be a change in weather.
Guess I kicked too many asses, and when the kicks all get together,
They sure can slow you down when you’re a winner.
My knuckles are so swollen I can hardly make a fist.
Who would have thought old Charlie had a blade taped to his wrist?
And my blind eye’s where he cut me, and my good eye’s where he missed.
Yeah, you lose a couple of things when you’re a winner.
My head is just a bunch of clumps and lumps and bumps and scars
From chargin’ broken bottles and buttin’ crowded bars.
And this hernia — well, it only proves a man can’t lift a car.
But you’re expected to do it all when you’re a winner.
Got a steel plate inside my skull, underneath this store-bought hair.
My pelvis is aluminum from takin’ ladies’ dares.
And if you had a magnet, son, you could lift me off my chair.
I’m a man of steel, but I’m rustin’ — what a winner.
I got a perforated ulcer, I got strictures and incisions.
My prostate’s barely holdin’ up from those all-night collisions.
And I’ll have to fight two of you because of my double vision.
You’re lookin’ sick, son — that ain’t right for a winner.
Winnin’ that last stock-car race cost me my favorite toes.
Winnin’ that factory foreman’s job, it browned and broke my nose.
And these hemorrhoids come from winnin’ all them goddamn rodeos.
Sometimes it’s a pain in the butt to be a winner.
In the war, I got the Purple Heart, that’s why my nerves are gone.
And I ruined my liver in drinkin’ contests, which I always won.
And I should be retired now, rockin’ on my lawn,
But you losers keep comin’ on — makin’ me a winner.
When I walk, you can hear my pelvis rattle, creak and crack
From my great Olympic Hump-Off with that nymphomaniac,
After which I spent the next six weeks in traction on my back,
While she walked off smilin’ — leavin’ me the winner.
Now, as I kick in your family jewels, you’ll notice my left leg drags,
And this jacket’s kinda padded up where my right shoulder sags,
And there’s a special part of me I keep in this paper bag,
And I’ll show it to you — if you want to see all of the winner.
So I never play the violin and I seldom dance or ski.
They say there never was a hero brave and strong as me.
But when you’re this year’s hero, son, you’re next year’s used-to-be.
And that’s the facts of life — when you’re a winner.
Now, you remind me a lot of my younger days with your knuckles clenchin’ white.
But, boy, I’m gonna sit right here and sip this beer all night.
And if there’s somethin’ you gotta prove by winnin’ some silly fight,
Well, OK, I quit, I lose, son, you’re the winner.”
So I stumbled from that barroom not so tall and not so proud,
And behind me I could hear the hoots of laughter from the crowd.
But my eyes still see and my nose still works and my teeth are
still in my mouth.
And y’know…I guess that makes me…a winner.
The poet Catherine Davis wrote a well-known work entitled “After A Time”, upon which I have based the title of this post. “The Winner” reveals to us that taken to excess even our triumphs can prove disastrous if we, for the love of blood, plunder, and material gain institutionalize them rather than use them only when all other avenues of resolution have been exhausted. It challenges the contemporary notion and conduct of unflinchingly tough machismo as advanced by a million cowboy Westerns and John Wayne potboilers. Davis’ poem below addresses the matter from the losing end, reducing self-serving spin and rationalization to mere wind while noting, quite beautifully, that while winning is ultimately transitory, so too is losing and with it the motivating power of defeat. I find it fascinating to observe that both of these poems dovetail neatly and how a uniquely masculine perspective nicely counter-balances a uniquely feminine one.
After a time, all losses are the same.
One more thing lost is one thing less to lose;
And we go stripped at last the way we came.
Though we shall probe, time and again, our shame,
Who lack the wit to keep or to refuse,
After a time, all losses are the same.
No wit, no luck can beat a losing game;
Good fortune is a reassuring ruse:
And we all go stripped the way we came.
Rage as we will for what we think to claim,
Nothing so much as this bare thought subdues:
After a time, all losses are the same.
The sense of treachery-the want, the blame-
Goes in the end, whether or not we choose, (Emphasis mine)
And we go stripped at last the way we came.
So we, who would go raging, will go tame
When what we have can no longer use:
After a time, all losses are the same;
And we go stripped at last the way we came.
Oct 12 2009
An article written in today’s Washington Post posits whether or not the foul-mouthed chorus of immature slights and sharp elbows that characterizes an internet world shows a new degree of rudeness or whether said dialogue merely reflects a new awareness of the democratic insult. I myself received an tremendous amount of hateful, childish comments when a few seconds of the iReport I posted online to CNN was chosen for broadcast and aired on the network itself. What I had been attempting to convey in my talk were the many complexities of the life of Ted Kennedy, but what I quickly noticed were that the personal attacks I received did not even come close to directly addressing what I said. No one was really listening to or even contemplating my words, rather they just wanted to vent. I think the most bizarre and gratuitous insult I received was the poster who told me to “comb [my] f__king hair”.
For all the debate and the analysis, true civility might very well be an ideal rather than a reality. The instant feedback and information deluge of our internet age gives us the realization that human discourse provides us equal, ample evidence of every conceivable shade of good and bad. Nowadays, we often believe we live in the worst of all possible worlds. A pessimistic approach does not provide much in the way of comforting, helpful answers, but neither does the kind of radical optimism rightly savaged by Voltaire in Candide. As the article addresses, looking into the past to find evidence of a time where the trains always ran on time, every imaginable need was cheap and readily available, and people treated each other with courtesy and respect is wistful nostalgia for times that never really were.
Mary Schmich’s opinion column entitled “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young” includes this bit of advice.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.
There have been as many pronouncements that society is on the brink of self-destruction as there have been prophetic sureties of the imminent Second Coming of Christ or the End of the World according to calendars of ancient indigenous peoples. The Post story addresses how the conservative pitchfork rabble falsely accused a DC area author and government worker of having some secret connection to the now infamous rap song, recorded in a New Jersey school over the summer by students, the lyrics of which dared to praise the President. The unfortunate subject of this massive knee-jerk, Charisse Carney-Nunes, voices how many of us feel when subjected to another pitched volley of irrationality hurled at us by an army of plate glass window-smashing malcontents.
Carney-Nunes spends a lot of her free time teaching children how to bridge divides, but she has no idea how to build a dialogue with those who attacked her.
“How can I talk to those people?” she said. “These are people who persist in believing that Barack Obama is a Muslim, that he isn’t a citizen of this country. You tell me: Where is the beginning of that conversation?”
Contentious times produce contentious disagreements. We still believe, as did those who shaped this nation, in a liberal line of logic that insists, provided enough education, people can become self-aware, rational beings. The flaws in this argument are particularly glaring now, when education alone, or as the Right likes to call it, indoctrination, seems to be insufficient in the face of emotional excess. From a distance, it is interesting to observe the internal conflict within many people now up in arms over something that shows itself whenever passions are overheated. As though at war with both hemispheres of their brain, they bounce back and forth from uncivilized raw emotion to some degree of civilized restraint. That they themselves seem incapable of recognizing this is problem enough.
“Completely false allegations incubate in the fringe and jump within days to the mainstream, distorting any debate or progress we can have as a society,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which released a report last month noting a rise in the “militia movement” over the past year. “What’s different is that a great deal of this is real fear and frustration at very real demographic and cultural changes.”
I believe that we are on the right side of history and that our cause is just and good. Yet, I resist strongly the temptation to gloat or to condescendingly dismiss those who fear that reform, any reform, means destruction and that change, when enacted, can never be undone. Being snide and condescending only makes matters worse. Every meaningful conservative has one foot in the past and values the sanctity of the status quo. But as we have seen, merely returning to old ways does not provide simple solutions. The past is too messy and composed of too many ironies to be anyone’s Golden Age, either for us or for them. We ought to take the lessons of the past as they are, without smoothing away its rough edges or glossing over the bits that don’t serve our purpose. The Past, in its pure form, has no bias to Left or Right. It can be frequently be instructive, so long as we know that it calls us out as much as it calls out our opposition.
Returning to the subject of common decency or the lack thereof, driving much of this conservative grassroots backlash is the reality that this nation will soon consist of an ethnic and racial plurality, and many on the Right fear that balancing authority among separate identity groups, each with its own cultural peculiarities and goals, will lead to disunion and strife. Pat Buchanan and others have advanced this argument before and I fully expect to see more instances of it as the Caucasian majority in this country begins to slowly, but surely recede. We portray these people as foolish or intent on selfishly benefiting from a sense of white privilege and entitlement at our own peril. Fighting fire with fire in this instance is the surest way to eventually cause an inferno. Anyone with an itchy trigger finger is merely looking for a reason to pull it. And as for us, any self-contained group does an excellent job of talking to itself, but finding a way to know how to converse with the broader universe is the key challenge. Much of our discourse could be rightly described as choir practice, which is good to some extent, but we would probably be better served by developing ways to speak to the vast majority of Americans who do not embrace the politics of the conservative nutroots.
Nov 30 2007
Wow, this is not good.
I’ve seen people who I think were friends arguing over little stuff. I’ve seen people running around leaving Wrong!s everywhere they go, without explaining their disagreement with the poster. I’ve seen too much uncivil behavior and people who do great work threatening to leave Docudharma. And a lot of the people thinking of leaving are the people we need most–the civil ones who are able to have a spirited discussion without tipping over the edge of grudge-match.
I think buhdy is wrong. Arguing: Yea! Fighting: Boo!
I know this is just semantics, but I think of fighting as arguing and causing bad feelings without actual content. Yes, we have to avoid the “echo-chamber” effect of everyone having the same opinions and just patting each other on the back all day; being uncivil is not the way to avoid this.
Nov 28 2007
I just received a Ron Paul flyer in the mail. In this particular piece of merde, Dr. Paul is arguing against illegal immigration. He believes he is the one candidate running who will stop it once and for all.
Part of his strategy is to amend the 14th amendment in the Constitution and end automatic birthright citizenship in the United States.
My initial and immediate reaction was…
Fuckity fuck fuck piece of shit racist bastard. What an asshole you are for pulling this shit, especially in the South where it is too damn easy as it is to appeal to the deep-seated racism here. Fuck off.
And then I thought of the fight going on here yesterday, and I see continuing somewhat today. And I thought it worth bringing to your attention.
Sep 17 2007
The topic has been rehashed to death already, but these diaries, written over the past 2 years, are still pretty much relevant:
Beyond the text below, I’d like to note one thing: there is nothing that will frustrate a bully more than unflailing civility in the face of continuous aggressivity. Civility actually is very satisfying in fights.