A Bloggy Puttanesca
(A staple in my house since my single years, a puttanesca is a cheap, low-class pasta dish that clears out little bits of other stuff from the fridge you are trying to get rid of.)
I have a lot of little things running through my head this morning. However, some do not really merit a whole post, and some are things I’m sure people are tired of talking about. So I’m going to take a page from fellow bloggers like Jason and Ryan and do a post with a few random thoughts thrown together. They mostly kinda sorta bleed together, but I’m not sure any of them are worth the time of figuring out how to make a more comprehensive unified post. Feel free to skip over any that don’t call to you.
Last (I Hope) Thoughts on Rush
Not surprisingly, I am getting a lot of pushback on my post about Rush’s apology. For the most part, the pushback comes in one of several arguments: Rush only did what he did because he was afraid of losing more advertisers, the Right isn’t going to change just because of this, Rush didn’t really mean it and wasn’t really sorry, and Rush is still a dick.
I am not so sure that everyone is right about the advertising-related objection. Rush has a long, long history of controversy and advertisers temporarily pulling out, and he better than anyone knows that they’ll be back and that as long as he’s front-page center the money will roll in. He’s never (to my knowledge) done anything close to what he did yesterday, and so I have to assume it is because of different circumstances.
As to the rest of the objections, I say: well, yeah. Of course he isn’t really sorry, and of course he’s still a dick, and of course cute woodland creatures are not going to appear in cartoon form singing and dancing amongst the Republican and Democrat operatives come Monday morning. Just about everyone in DC with an “R” attached to his name has spent the last two decades doing things the FOX/talk radio way – and the very newest ones were inspired to come to DC because of the FOX/talk radio way. So the GOP morphing into grownups isn’t going to happen over night, or really even in a single election cycle. I fully expect that Obama will win in November, and the R’s will pick up some house seats because of that two years later in the more conservative districts, and a large number of GOP leaders will assume once again that if they were just a bit more priggish they’d win it all next time. But first steps are always needed nonetheless, and I think this has to count as one.
Two days ago, anyone that was both paying attention and not a party hack was demanding an apology. And, I think to everyone’s surprise, we got one. And if you go back and read it, it’s not even a “I’m sorry if she was offended” apology. It was an apology that said, “What I said was wrong.” For a lot of us (and I include myself here), such things can be disappointing. It was a righteous indignation that was burning and it was fun to feel that, and when you find yourself in those kinds of battles a part of you wants them to go on forever. But they don’t.
We won. They lost. They admitted defeat. Be gracious. Move on to the important stuff.
Thoughts on Who Should Be Kicked Off the Island
Before I even start here, I want to say in no uncertain terms that what I am about to say is in no way being said as a statement of League policy, nor do I claim to represent Erik, Mark, Jason, or any of the writers or other folks here in this post. Nor am I attempting to tell anyone what they should think. This is just me thinking out loud.
With the exception of the weekly reviews, every post I have made over the past month has had some number of commenters ask/demand/argue that another commenter or writer should be kicked off the island; or if not that they should be banned, a quick note saying that allowing their presence diminishes the League. These comments come from all political directions. And often times, I confess, I have had similar thoughts about some folks that drop in.
But so long as people follow the admittedly expansive commenting policy, I have come to believe that kicking folks off for those reasons is a bad idea. Here are my personal reasons why, for your consideration:
The first and foremost is that once you start, you can’t stop and there’s no way it can lead to anything but an echo chamber. In a group of any size, there’s always someone off to the fringe of that group, and someone always wants that person gone. Even at Balloon Juice, which I think of as being a site that features quality writers, a particularly great community feel and a very common vision, they still have front pagers that quit and/or are tossed off the island (I really don’t know which) based on disagreements of things like word choice. In my mind there are a plethora of sites that cater to a more narrow set of political views, and not so many like us. So my preference will always to be to err toward letting fringe people have their say.
But there’s another more self-serving reason I am not inclined to kick people off for their views. As I’ve said here before, I’m blessed enough to live a fairly sheltered life in my meat form. I know liberals and conservatives alike here in PDX; I know atheists, Jews, Muslims and Christians of all stripes. They are all respectful, smart and full of inquiry. Because of this, I have a tendency to forget that the world is full of people who aren’t. It’s a good thing to know. And exposure to fringe-folk here at the League has shown me points of view that, frankly, I never thought actually existed. Seriously, until hanging out here I thought people who believed the South should have won the war were a silly liberal Hollywood fantasy. Who knew? Discovering these points of view, engaging them, and coming to see those that hold them as real people is a good thing.
This site works best when people of different beliefs and backgrounds engage each other with tough questions and comments and take the time to listen to responses from the other side, each side emphasizing respect. One of the downsides to having such a system like this is that there will always be people that take advantage of the setup and choose to be jerks. If there’s a way to have one without the other, I’m up for considering it; but given the choice between intellectual diversity+some jerks and intellectual uniformity+no jerks, I choose the former. (Also, I’m not always sure that people who are being jerks are always so aware that they are being jerks.)
That being said, while we’re on the subject I do kind of want to get this off my chest:
Guys, if you come across a woman here at the League and she says women should be treated with respect, and your response is to call her a “femi-nazi” or tell her to pull up her “big boy panties” then you need to be honest with yourselves. You’d totally puss out of saying that to a woman face-to-face, so be a fishing man and don’t do it when you can hide in on-line anonymity. Seriously, call me old fashioned but there’s little sadder than seeing guys do this.
I think I’m going to be writing about this concept of “intellectual empathy” more in the coming weeks. There probably is an actual word for it, so I’ll ask the hive to help me out with what it is. Until then I’ll just use my new made-up phrase.
What I mean is the ability to be able to put yourself in someone else’s place of vision and both intellectually and emotionally understand where they are coming from. In my experience, this is a very difficult skill that most people very mistakenly think they do well. “I totally understand where liberals are coming from,” I’ll here people say. “They want to force government to enslave people.” Or, “I could pass as a Republican. All I have to do is want rich people to own everything.”
The recent contraception controversy really hammered this lack of intellectual empathy home. I can’t count the number of people who said either “but it’s not a religious rights issue” or “but it’s not a women’s health issue.” It is quite obviously both. And in order to figure out a consensus on public policy we need to recognize this. I don’t care if you’re a man that doesn’t consider oral contraception a women’s healthcare issue. Women, healthcare professionals and health insurers all disagree with you. Deal with it. Similarly, people on the other side of the fence need to realize that there are actual sticky freedom of religion issues that come whenever government mandates conflict with doctrines of faith. This is an issue where someone (and maybe everyone) isn’t going to get exactly what they want. But if you want to be part of the national discussion, I would argue you have a responsibility to attempt to understand what it is that you are arguing against. Is it more difficult to not always focus on the points that are easier for you to argue? Of course it is – in fact it is definitionally so. But if we can’t do that, we’re just a whole lot of angry white noise.