BDS Is More Like An Addiction - To Cure Yourself, You Have To Want To

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[Hellishly busy at work and elsewhere lately; this'll have to be brief and even less polished than usual.]

John Perry Barlow, always worth reading even if you don't agree with him (perhaps especially if you don't agree with him), seems to be kinda sorta recovering from an acute case of Bush Derangement Syndrome:

Perhaps it's just the bargaining phase of grief, but I can see that one of the things I must do to feel less a stranger in my own land is to have more conversations like the one I had with Dale [a conservative friend of Barlow's]. Indeed, as I've said repeatedly before, we must do our collective best to shatter the fetters of intolerance and live more in the necessary amnesty of interdependence. We need to quit scaring each other. Both sides are convinced that the other is trying to impose his culture on us, whether by law or by Internet. Fear of the Other, whether Bush or bin Laden, whether terror without or terror within, has been murdering reason and civility in America. We need to look one another in the eyes and see the human being behind the enemy. If we're not going to start shooting each other over the next 4 years, we will need to do that a lot.

At the very least, I need to take the other side seriously. Dismissing them as a bunch of homophobic, racist, Bible-waving, know-nothing troglodytes, however true that may be of a few, only authorizes them to return the favor. I don't want somebody calling me a dope-smoking, fag-loving, one-worlder weirdo, however true that might be. We are all masks that God wears, whatever God that is. We might try to treat one another with according reverence. At least we might try to listen as though the other side might have a point.I truly think we all owe one another an apology.

Sounds good, and I think he actually means it. Dean Esmay is, um, a bit more skeptical:

Well Mr. Barlow, you said you wanted to try to understand. You spent a lot of time in your missive confessing to your anger and your hatred. Well now I'm telling you: Yup, a whole lot of us saw that. We saw it real well, and heard it loud and clear. We aren't stupid you know. You guys treated not just the President but all of us who agreed with his decisions with absolute contempt, and when we tried to call you out on it you just got nastier.

Meanwhile we were, many of us, talking to the boys and girls doing their work over there in Iraq. While some had their doubts, most were proud of the war effort and cared about the Iraqi people and made friends with them. (You do know that Bush got more than 70% of the vote from the National Guadsmen who are supposedly trapped in Bush's "back door draft," don't you? And that most of the soldiers interviewed in Michael Moore's movie hate his guts for the way he twisted their words and quoted them out of context? Did you know about the families of the fallen that he abused and betrayed just to tell his twisted story?)

Hellfire, a year and a half ago I played a role in helping to found an organization to ship toys and medical supplies for soldiers to distribute to kids over in Iraq. (You can donate to it right here by the way). Do you know how many lefties we were able to get to help us with that? Almost none. You guys were too busy shrieking about the evil BushCo-McRove Machine to actually do something to help those soldiers and those Iraqis you guys claim to care so much about.

That, to a lot of us, is the greatest irony you know. All the war supporters I know--all of them--read and listen to the anti-Bush and anti-war invective. We're most bemused when we hear your plaintive wails that we are closed-minded and fearful and zombified and that if only you'd try harder and be more passionate maybe we'd finally understand you. Meantime we're listening and we're watching and we're reading and we're thinking, "Yeah we understand you perfectly. We just think you're wrong. Why aren't you listening to what we're saying?"

A commenter on Dean's response:

I am a proud San Francisco liberal, but I have tried to understand the viewpoints of Bush supporters. I really don't think you understand your own viewpoint unless you can listen to and at least attempt to sympathize with those you disagree with. I started reading this blog and contributing to it because there are a lot of things I could understand about the points of view of the posters here.

And I realized that I was getting warped view of Bush supporters by just reading Free Republic and Little Green Footballs.

. . .

I don't like Bush much and I like the War in Iraq even less, but I respect the fact that these are just my opinions and that we live in a democracy and that the people have spoken.

So I will just bite my tounge and do my best to support him in his efforts.

And I know that I am not really the kind of person your comments are directed at.

But don't put us all in the same box.
It seemed self-evident to me that that Dean wasn't putting everybody who voted Kerry 'in the same box;' anyone reading his post would know who his target audience was and think 'OK, he doesn't mean me.'

Unfortunately, his target audience by and large also appears to be thinking 'OK, he doesn't mean me.' Like this chowerhead (who calls herself 'Living In 2 Worlds,' which I think refers to both Bizarro and Planet Liberal) in a comment on Barlow's post:

I showed up with my 4-month-old baby to watch my 10-year-old nephew get baptized in a Christian Coalition Church-- something my nephew had been asking about for months. It was important to him. While I was there I figured out why Bush won this election, and sadly it is something I have known for a long time. Only my husband had heard me rant about this, but now I'll share it here and see if you think I am just nuts.

Bush won this election because we Democrats did not speak to the lowliest people, we only spoke amongst ourselves. We have become more enlightened, more highly educated, more economically successful, and detached. We would rather donate money to the campaign and hire people to go door-to-door, than speak with our own passion to others of opposing views about our ideas.

. . .

So I looked around this room and I saw losers. I saw people who had little money, who probably would not make it in a rigorous work environment, who had limited educations. And I thought to myself, I don’t think we can say that the Democratic Party is embracing all the outsiders. These people were outsiders, but they got roped into this environment because no one else would talk to them. Ever hang out in a nursing home for a while? All the elderly people want is someone to talk to. I think it is the same with this group. Then in the process, they get brainwashed with these extreme views, but they could change to other views as easily.
The other interesting thing about that comment thread is that the vast majority of early commenters were similarly elitist. You can definitely tell where the Instalanche hits, as the majority of late comments understand Barlow's message better (even if, as Esmay, they don't fully buy into it).

4 Comments

The unfounded arrogance of someone like Living In 2 Worlds never ceases to crack me up. I have a tough time taking anyone seriously who regards anyone else with differing opinions as simply ignorant.

I recommend that people read what Living In 2 Worlds in it's entirety. There is much more to her post, and I think you may be taking some points out of context.

And please for the record, can people please define "elitist" for me in the context that you are using it? It seems to be one of those words that people use to demean other people, and it is quite a popular meme at the moment.

Fair questions.

I did read the whole thing, Joe, and I stand by my ellipsis, so to speak. Here's the part I edited out, so you can judge for yourself:

Our language is alienating. Ok, you can take plenty of jabs at that, but let me finish.

First I must set the stage for a second. You need to know a little about me to understand my perspective. I was born in Spain, though my parents were born and lived in Cuba. I married a man born in the US, whose parents are German. I am Catholic and he is Atheist. We live in Florida. Each hour of each day for me floats between the European perspective, the Cuban perspective, the Democrat, liberal, Republican, conservative…Our friends are gay and heterosexual, all types of Christians, Jews, Muslim African Americans, Indians, Taoists...My husband and I were both die-hard supporters of Kerry in this election-- giving lots of money, making phone calls, parading bumper stickers, and trying to talk Bush-supporters in our midst to vote for Kerry. I am proud that I did convince my mother to vote for Kerry.

I live in two worlds.

In mine and my husband's world I got a masters at Columbia University, we read the New York Times, he gave me up-to-the-second posts on Kerry’s progress according to blogs all over the place, his father is a professor of urban planning and art history, and his family is full of staunch democrats. They love the Northeast and are among the few progressives in Colorado. In the world of my parents and siblings, there was Elian and the Cuban struggle which the outside world thought was nuts, and there is Fox News, and crazy talk shows in Spanish, and the fear of communism taking over the world as it did in Cuba. Florida was the epicenter of the election debacle last time, and my guts would shrink inside me hoping that would not happen again. Any mention of it would elicit my knee-jerk response of “it didn’t come down to Florida last time. The fact is it should never have been that close to begin with. Every other state that failed to support Gore led us to the point where it came down to a few votes in Florida.” That was just my way to make myself feel better.

Somehow I am privileged to be welcome in all these different worlds because I don’t pass judgment. I just sit silently and try to be present. Mostly it is because I love these people, and they so happen to inhabit these very different universes and so I accompany them on the journey. But I think there is a lot to being present, and Barlow touched on that today. Maya Angelou, in an interview, said that through the years so many people came up to her who said they supported the Civil Rights movement and she would ask them if they'd ever had a black person over for dinner. I think many intellectuals like the concept of civil rights but then they want the black person who moves in next door to be the nice, affluent, highly-educated fair-skinned, 30+ black man who is something like a Barack Obama (don’t get me wrong, I really like him). They don't want the kid with a big afro, and charcoal black skin, wearing his pants down around his butt, listening to rap music, with the big tires, and the lights under his car.

But people who don't agree with you make you uncomfortable. That’s the whole point. You can’t say that you are a tolerant person and then expect that people who have the opposite viewpoint will not bother you. They believe very different things, and usually those things are morally reprehensible to you. My husband wants to move to a place, like Massachusetts, where people share our viewpoints-- a homogenous land. And I ask, well, what’s the point of that? We would make ourselves feel better but we wouldn’t change a thing. The doctor is most needed where there are sick. Christ came for the least among us. You are needed where change is needed most.

This debate isn't about the gays being left out of the fold, despite the 11 states that voted to ban gay marriage and all the hype about moral values. I think that was a Republican ploy to limit the issue so much that people boiled it down to something too small to be relevant and so they could say there was this massive affirmation nation-wide of traditional family values. I think most people would agree with some sort of plan to accommodate what gay couples seek, whether you call it marriage or not. Hell, I know heterosexual people who stay together for life and don't believe in marriage as some state-sanctioned condition. One of my closest friends now, who happens to be lesbian, just wants to be able to adopt a child because she was not able to have children of her own, and she doesn't want her relationship to have to end because the woman she is living with is embarrassed about their situation. Since they both happen to be very religious, that means they don’t want fellow Christians to go around calling them sodomites and damning them to everlasting hell.

Sitting at that baptism I looked around and came to a conclusion. Sometimes you have to ask, “Who is really on the outside?” Years ago I did an internship at the Museum of Modern Art in NY and I showed up in my nice-girl, homely Florida clothes. The kind of thing you would wear to Church or a business meeting. What did I know? I knew I was moved by art, thought New York would be a good place to go, applied to Columbia (got rejected twice and then accepted), and knew I loved the creation of art and living artists who thought about these things. But I didn’t wear black, modern clothes. And my aesthetic sense had not been polished to recognize all the traits of modernism. My boss at MoMA told me she would take me shopping at Barneys. I couldn’t afford that. I felt like a black bean in a bowl of white rice. I know modern art as a movement is now fixed in a particular time period (though some argue that it hasn’t even ended) and therefore has a particular sensibility about it, but I thought it was also about going against the academy and having to do with the avant-garde. I was surrounded by hundreds of people wearing the same thing. How could they claim to be different? They were the establishment.

Then there was the moment in my graduate program when the head of a foundation was talking to us about evaluating proposals for need and she said foundations “don’t like losers.” At first this really jarred me. I thought, “That can’t be. Your business is to review applications for people who need help.” But the foundation wants the dollars they pour into projects to actually make a difference, not just get pissed away. I hated that, but it also explained to me why people say to the homeless something as stupid as “they should just get a job.” If it were that simple, they would.

OK, that was a bunch, but I don't think my pull quote misrepresented Li2W at all. If anything, I was perhaps too kind to her by NOT including the line

"Somehow I am privileged to be welcome in all these different worlds because I don’t pass judgment"

which stands out in stark relief against this later statement:

So I looked around this room and I saw losers. I saw people who had little money, who probably would not make it in a rigorous work environment, who had limited educations. And I thought to myself, I don’t think we can say that the Democratic Party is embracing all the outsiders. These people were outsiders, but they got roped into this environment because no one else would talk to them. Ever hang out in a nursing home for a while? All the elderly people want is someone to talk to. I think it is the same with this group. Then in the process, they get brainwashed with these extreme views, but they could change to other views as easily.


And my operating definition of 'elitism' is something like 'because I'm well educated, wealthy, and successful, and it doesn't look to me like you are, I'm superior to you.'

Chris, people have different triggers. It appears that she angered you with her language, but she didn't me. That's fine.

Imo, she just told her story. She is well educated, wealthy, and successful, but I am not sure that she finds herself superior to the people she's discussing. I think she is actual a bit humble to admit that the Democrats did not reach out more. However, we are both speculating on intention of another, and since neither of us know her, we do not need to pass judgment on her. What does that serve?

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This page contains a single entry by Chris published on November 10, 2004 11:54 AM.

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