A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Welcome, Dr. Sanity

If you look on the Right Voices section of my blogroll, you will see a new name: Dr. Sanity. This is the blogging handle of Pat Santy of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a professional psychiatrist and former specialist in Aerospace Medicine for NASA.

She has written a book, Choosing the Right Stuff: The Psychological Selection of Astronauts and Cosmonauts, which it is my pleasure to plug, and I have been enjoying myself hugely making a pest of myself over on her comment pages. Below is a fair sample of what she has to say in her recent post, THE INTELLECTUAL AND MORAL BANKRUPTCY OF TODAY'S LEFT:

Today's Left and its antiwar clone army are reduced to reliance on mere Marxist rhetoric and tired, worn-out slogans that are trotted out in every circumstance and situation. They dare not face the real and pressing injustices of the world. No one can reason with them or even agree to disagree. They and they alone know the truth, and if you argue with them you are immediately labeled as a 'racist', or a 'sexist'; or identified as 'hurting poor people', 'hating blacks', or 'against women'. Every argument is defined in these terms. If they are the champions of 'X', then anyone who disagrees with them must hate/discriminate against 'X.'

To which I remarked:

Dr. Sanity, if I may say so, your major failing as a controversialist is that you do not cite, you do not quote, and you do not name personally the adversaries you are talking about. One of your commenters above has called this post great writing and well reasoned. Perhaps it is, but it really ought to be reasoning about something concrete and something your adversaries--with specific personal names and writings which can be read--actually have to say.

It isn't.

There is but one piece of evidence offered in this whole "rather long post"--a story about a black Republican politician being called an Uncle Tom and pelted with oreo cookies.

This is, of course, deplorable, but it is hardly enough to sustain the elaborate architecture of your argument. I know this is a common failing of so many in the Right blogosphere, but it is no less intellectually suspect.

A controversialist who does not quote is usually one who does not take time to read, or at least to read things which challenge their prejudices rather than coddle them. Taking time to do this is one of the reasons I, as a Liberal controversialist, am here.

I don't know whether this is so in your case, but if you did cite and quote, I would be reasonably certain that you had read, and read with real care, something besides opinion saying more or less the same things as you are.

Bluntly, you are living in a nightmare world of controversy with no real human beings in it, only abstract bogeymen and scarecrows: Islam, The Left, The Mainstream Media, Modern Feminists, ect. ect. Now I am a Liberal, I have a name, and I can say three things which you can quote and pick apart if you are up to it:

The religion of Islam as a whole is not going to go away no matter what we personally think of it. What we do in the world has to adapt to this fact.

George W. Bush is losing the war against terrorists, both in terms of Homeland Security and of foreign policy, and he has created the conditions which will lead to a nuclear Iran which can sponsor terror indefinitely and without serious penalty.

There is a persistent pattern of political corruption and disrespect for law centered in the major leaders and behind the scenes fixers of the Republican Party. It is so in my state, Ohio, and it is so on the national scene--indictment following indictment, investigation following investigation. The names thrown up so far are Noe, Taft, Rove, Frist, DeLay, and Libby. The pattern in all cases is the same: cupidity, arrogance, and disrespect for law.

I make no claim to be a person of "goodwill and honesty", "capable of genuine insight", or one who "has not completely abandoned all rational thought," of the sort you yearn for on "The Left". But I can quote. And I can name names.

Can you?

I can think, Mr. Marshall. Sometimes I even have an original thought of my own (e.g., no reference) This is not an academic publication--it is a blog. You can read previous posts on the same subject which have other citations. But I have no particular need to prove to you my academic qualifications. You will have to await my next book to obtain all the citations. And if you are interested, you are certainly free to check out my many formal academic publications--including my book--to make sure I am capable of quoting and naming names and doing things in the "scholarly" way.

To which I replied:

Well, Dr. Sanity, I am not talking about academic scholarship, I am talking about a real refutation of the views you disagree with. Let's quote you a little bit to demonstrate:

'the faux concerns about the "erosion of democracy and free speech". This is plainly hilarious--particularly when it is their own ideological constructs of "multiculturalism" and "political correctness "that actively limits speech and makes a mockery of intellectual freedom.'

Now I don't believe for a minute that your speech has been limited or your intellectual freedom abridged one jot by either 'multiculturalism' or 'political correctness'. Were this so I would not be reading your diatribe about them on this blog. They certainly have been no more abridged than my speech or intellect has been limited by the comment of byebye above:

'You hate capitalism. Also, you have alliances with terrorists.'

Now maybe you despise "multiculturalism" and "political correctness" and maybe you dislike the people who espouse them. I rather think you do. These are difficult and painful emotions to manage, granted, but themere fact that some group of people you dislike have views you despise--abridges no one's freedom.

Of course, since where you live [I know Ann Arbor quite well] is full of those same people and permeated with those same views that get your goat, I can see that you might have encountered some social difficulties, but no more so than I, say, have encountered on this blog.

But merely being made to feel uncomfortable by your adversaries is by no means an abridgement of your freedom of speech or your freedom of thought. We Americans are generally far too prone to confuse comfort with freedom. They really aren't the same.

Granted it is easier to for me to be perfectly comfortable with byebye, since I don't dislike him, don't know him, and don't take his evaluation of me very seriously. After all, my private opinion of capitalism and my "alliances" with terrorists are obviously things that byebye cannot know the first thing about.

Now nothing that I have just written, quoting your views and opposing them, required any real academic scholarship on my part. A level head and a willingness to take the words of one's political adversaries seriously are all that are needed. But these are very difficult to sustain when you let views you disagree with get your goat.

This whole matter is continuing to develop quite nicely. Dr. Sanity has inaugurated a new set of posts--PROFILES IN INTELLECTUAL AND MORAL BANKRUPTCY--where she does, in fact, cite quotes and name names. They promise to be truly entertaining reading. So go on over and check them out. And tell Dr. Sanity that Joe Claus sent you.


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