Contemplating death and teh interwebs

Any death is an opportunity to take stock of our own lives, and Senator Kennedy's death is no exception. Over the course of the day I've been reading what people on all sides have had to say about the Senator, with special attention to right-leaning national blogs (I'll spare you the links, it's some ugly stuff). In the course of that immersion I've been struck by the extent to which our country is teetering on the brink of wholesale insanity.

Seeing extreme expressions of hatred of Kennedy and Obama is a frightening dose of reality that I've been in denial about. Because despite the tea-baggers and bus drivers storming town halls all over America, I've been pretending it's no big deal. I've been pretending it's just free speech at its best and worst, all rolled up into a bundle of irrational fear.

Well, it is a big deal, and it is a problem I'm sorry to say I used to be part of. In the early days, BlueNC was an attack dog, going after George Bush and North Carolina's Republican extremists with the same intensity that tea-baggers are going after Obama today. Bush could have dropped dead at any second during his presidency and I would have been nothing but happy. But somewhere along the way, mostly as a result of my own writing, I began to question my own hostility toward a man that I thought (still think) was ruining our country. I even created a movement to promote the idea of doing good, being nice, and having fun - with my own personal mission of living life in that sweet spot. It hasn't been easy.

But easy doesn't matter. I'm still on the trail, taking at least one small step every day toward the sweet spot, looking for ways to criticize without resorting to sarcasm and ridicule, to challenge adversaries with compassion and integrity. I may not change the world, but then again, you never know. And it's not like I'll get another shot at doing this right.

Comments

The BlueNC School of Political Communicaion

My BlueNC account turned two years old this summer. My experience here has been a huge part of the process of figuring out what works and what doesn't when promoting an idea... or a candidate. A few take-aways from the last two years:

1. Always be the least hysterical voice in the room. Hyperbole, either positive or negative, makes you intellectually suspect.

2. Research is respectable. The most admirable writers here are thorough researchers and hew closely to the values of traditional journalism.

3. Negative attacks will poison your comment thread. And that uncontrollable real estate below your post is a huge part of what readers take away from your diary. Never respond to a non-sensical comment. Reinforce the positive ones with additional facts.

4. There aren't enough emoticons in the world to clarify the intention behind a risky online joke. Humor is imprecise. Deploy it tactfully.

5. We already know whose side you're on. Don't be sneaky about it.

6. Use your real name. It's the next step in blogging. Go ahead and do it.

7. There Will Be Blowback. The surest principle in rhetorical physics. Happens every time.

I'm reading "Before the Storm" by Rick Perlstein, about the Goldwater movement. John Birch Society members and conservative extremists out-organized moderate conservatives inside the Republican party and hijacked the conversation, right up to the moment Goldwater proclaimed in his acceptance speech that:

Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

The reaction was not productive for the Goldwater campaign, obviously. Apparently, America does not hanker to extremism -- in word or deed -- then or now.

I think the extremist elements in the Republican party will find that they have burned out their language this summer, and the blowback will be a moderate/progressive reclamation of the conversation this fall. The strategy this season has been "give 'em enough rope", and I think we'll find that it's worked.

Pro-reform voices should be cool-headed and firm. We don't take guns to political rallies. We don't shout at our neighbors. We don't threaten to poison your drink or scare your elderly relatives or quit in the middle of our four year term for no reason. We are grown-ups and we're here to lead you through this difficult time.

Finally, we are the majority, and most sensible Americans agree with us. The alternative is to abandon the country to the will of the mob.

Great stuff, Frank

You are wise beyond your years.

Excellent synthesis of lessons learned

I would add a #8 to follow #1 and perhaps #7:

8. Always remember that comments, blogs, emails, and even tweets will outlive the passion that gave them life (AKA the Internet won't forget). If you've missed the mark on #1, your hyperbole will hang in the air (or in the Google cache) forever and will inevitably return along with #7.

[NOTE: Moved to the right comment]

Good advice

Thank you. Especially ...

6. Use your real name. It's the next step in blogging. Go ahead and do it.

From a recent editorial by Maureen Dowd:

Who are these people prepared to tell you what they think, but not who they are? What is the mentality that lets them get in our face while wearing a mask? Shredding somebody’s character before the entire world and not being held accountable seems like the perfect sting.

You may be the majority in Congress

But "most Americans" do NOT agree with you. Look at the polls or are you in denial?

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"I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose

With all due respect, Senator Goldwater...

Beneath the poll numbers are an impressionable middle that will turn back to reform as it's more effectively promoted in the fall.

The opposition to this reform bill simply can't maintain the tenor of hysteria they've achieved this summer without losing credibility. Do you sense that things have cooled off a bit in the last few weeks? That's because the Palin-esque "Death Panel bump" fervor behind the switch in the opinion polls is waning. Into that breach will rush the armies of reason, reminding people of everything they don't like about the current health care system.

Something I've been wanting to ask you, Barry: You hated your own extremists. Weren't you kind of relieved their candidate lost the 1964 election?

Heh

The alternative is to abandon the country to the will of the mob

You ain't from around here are ya, boy?

 

You are such a good presenter of the truth

God I loved reading what you have said here. It is so right on and it really speaks to the issue of how the right is trying its best to change the landscape when it comes to health care and just about anything else that is involved with "change".

Thanks for that, Frank.

I dream things that never were and say, "why not?".

Part of the eulogy Teddy gave at his brother, Robert's funeral. If you have a little over 7 minutes, the whole thing is still relevent. In fact, it could be Ted's eulogy.

Part of that eulogy was mixed into this song. I was 16 in '69 and remember hearing it on the radio on my way home from school one day. I still can't listen without getting choked up.

"without resorting to sarcasm and ridicule"

And yet, in the very same post, you use the sarcastic term "teabagger" twice and describe the feelings of joy you would have felt at the former President's death during office. I understand this type of rhetoric plays well with some of the readers of this blog, but if you're serious about changing the tone of the debate, why use such language?

Forgive me

I didn't realize "teabagger" was pejorative. When the individuals themselves use the term as shorthand to describe their anti-tax colleagues, it seems fair game. I have two friends who proudly call themselves teabaggers.

Regarding my comment about Bush, that is neither sarcasm nor ridicule. I was being honest about what I think of our ex-president.

You've been around here for five days. If you're really interested in understanding the dynamics, take some time to consider what's going on around you. One thing you will likely find about me is that the last thing I worry about is how my rhetoric plays with readers on this blog. I call things as I see them with every effort to be as transparent as I possibly can, while still preserving some shred of privacy.

My name is James Protzman, and you can find out almost anything you want to know about me if you look.

PS I enjoyed scanning your blog, and am assuming from the strong ideological slant of your posts that the name "The Logic Connection" is a satirical flourish.

:)

Don't be silly, James

You know very well that the term "teabagger" is intended to mock tea party protesters and citing anecdotal evidence in the form of your two friends is not persuasive. As to your thoughts on our former president, you're obviously entitled to your feelings, but I think it would be fair to say you would be indignant over similar feelings expressed by those on the right regarding Obama. I disagree with Obama on most policy matters, but he seems to be a good father and I wouldn't be happy if the man died unexpectedly. And I may have only been registered for five days, but I've been lurking for much, much longer. I just finally realized the benefits of actually participating on certain blogs.

A satirical flourish... I suppose you could call it that.

Thanks

We'll just have to disagree on teabaggers.

Of course I would be dismayed (not indignant) if others celebrated the death of President Obama, just as I am filled with concern at the hate being directed at Senator Kennedy by so-called patriots. That's why I wrote the post in the first place ... to point out honestly that my past hostility wasn't necessarily productive.

Welcome to BlueNC, where we can argue about nothing for endless amounts of time and still walk away friends.

I don't hate Teddy Kennedy

However, I do hate the fact that he wasn't the "Lion" as he is now described, when Mary Jo Kopechne was gasping for breath at Chappaquiddick. He was a coward who valued his political future more than her life. Had he not been a "Kennedy", he would have gone to jail and wouldn't have been elected dog catcher.

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"I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose

Apparently, being a reanimated corpse

is bad for the memory.

Here's what your granddaughter CC (I met her at the screening of your movie) had to say about you and Teddy:

"It was a balance of Republicans, Democrats, independents, and libertarians,” Goldwater explained. “With people of all different influences, viewers can see the fact that Barry Goldwater could walk on water between the two parties. He was able to go down the hall and ask Ted Kennedy to grab lunch with him."

Hmmm. Go to jail, go to lunch. Same difference, I guess.

Carpet Baggers are Back?

I have two friends who proudly call themselves teabaggers* James

About 150 years ago! Tea Baggers in the South were called Carpet Baggers! Sort like the present day Tea Baggers who run to a town hall meeting hollering fire and than ripping off the Speakers Stand to put it out!

Truth is painful

Sorry for the reality check, James.

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"I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose

Painful?

What's painful is witnessing a person who is presumably an informed adult masquerading as a dead right-wing extremist.

Maybe you should consider asking yourself this question from time to time. I do that every day, which means I would at least consider the merits of what you have to say, except that what you've had to say so far is nothing but noise.

Reminds me of a creepy Twilight Zone

episode where the corpse keeps calling the house from the grave.

A bit more

from Ms. Dowd ...

Pseudonyms have a noble history. Revolutionaries in France, founding fathers and Soviet dissidents used them. The great poet Fernando Pessoa used heteronyms to write in different styles and even to review the work composed under his other names.

As Hugo Black wrote in 1960, “It is plain that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes.”

But on the Internet, it’s often less about being constructive and more about being cowardly.

This is not unusual on blogs

James, I have seen this a number of times on the various blogs and other sites that I peruse on the Internet. It is idiocy and it is used to garner support from the most rabid supporters of one political philosophy vs an other view.

Just chill on this one. We know where it comes from and what it is meant to present. It gives we that disagree just one more reason to know we're on the right side of the fence.

When I'm out and about doing errands

I often listen to talk radio. Except for Clark Howard who genuinely seems nice, most are folks like Curtis Wright, Neal Boortz, Hannity and so on. I listen as long as I can just to get an idea of what their listeners are being told and how the callers are reacting. It's pretty amazing stuff. There usually seems to be a portion of truth in what they say, but then it all seems to dissolve into a what I can only call bigotry There seems to be no room for the views of others or the consideration of facts that conflict with what is presented as reality. It starts to make one's head reel. End of life counseling becomes death panels....a public option becomes government deciding what medical care cone can receive...with no mention, for example that private insurance companies often delay and/or deny treatment...no mention of the cost to the current system of lavish salaries and bonuses.... no evidence of concern for the care of those who can't afford private insurance or care itself.

It's hard to stay cool when you keep hearing the ugliness spewing.

Stan Bozarth

Both sides of the debate are correct, to an extent

The Democrats are right: the current health care system in this country needs a total overhaul.

The Republicans are right: the proposed bill is going to make things worse.

In my opinion, libertarians are the only ones willing to recognize the problems and propose innovative solutions. This country has been traveling on the path of government-managed healthcare since the 1970s, and the system has been getting worse and worse.

Why is health care linked to employment? Government regulation.

Why does health care "insurance" operate totally differently from all other forms of insurance (car,homeowner, etc)? Government regulation.

Why isn't there simply an affordable form of catastrophic health insurance that almost everyone would be able to afford? Government regulation.

Why have health care costs risen so drastically over the last 30 years relative to other industries and services? Government intervention.

Where did the current managed-care system originate? Congress.

Who runs Congress? Special interests.

Who authored the proposed health care reform bill? Special interests.

And now for the fifty-three million million-dollar question:

How much money would the U.S. Treasury need to have, in it's coffers today, to satisfy the federal government's current social insurance liability? $53 trillion conservatively. That's about 4 times the 2006 GDP. And it's growing by the day. This is insolvency far beyond anything we've seen in the banking sector.

Would you purchase insurance from an insolvent corporation? Washington's equivalent to Wall Street's CEOS have been even more reckless and irresponsible than AIG - and we want to put our health care in their hands?

Look what they've done to health care already! Please acknowledge the terrible and mostly unintended consequences of government interference in health care over the past 30-40 years - it's been extremely well documented. Even Michael Moore pointed out the role of Nixon and the Congress in setting up managed care in 'Sicko'. Stop trying to treat the symptoms and start diagnosing the disease.

Let's face the truth: the Federal Government's finances are in a downward spiral towards bankruptcy. Like all empires, it has tried to do too much. It's detached political class has been too arrogant and acted too recklessly both at home and abroad. The nation is insolvent, and the vultures who already see this have begun to pick at the corpse so that by the time this truth becomes apparent the masses will be left with nothing but bones. And then the cycle will be complete: Republic to Empire to Dictatorship.

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"The natural wage of labor is its product." -- Benjamin R. Tucker
A liberal is someone who thinks the system is broken and needs to be fixed, whereas a radical understands it’s working the way it’s supposed to.

Doc, the bill seems to change incrementally

I know you are definately someone that wants to "defend the right" in these discussions but in this debate over health care in the U.S., who knows really what the final bill will look like? Yes, I know there a 100-plus page "rough draft" of the bill, but much of it is either up to interpretation or is "changable" depending on what the populace says page-to-page.

I love the fact that there have been many democratic politicians that have held townhall type meeting on this issue (as volitile as many of those were) because it shows that they are taking this one to heart, taking this one seriously. It may be the most important piece of legislation in our time save civil rights initiatives.

Give this a chance, Doc. It will eventually become something that will both help our citizenry AND accomodate those that want to make sure the private sector insurance industry is maintained. In other words, tone it down, my friend.

I don't understand

How do you know that this is true:

It will eventually become something that will both help our citizenry AND accomodate those that want to make sure the private sector insurance industry is maintained.

Is there any reason I should have faith in Congress?

I sure hope they don't leave so-called private "insurance" unchanged, but you're probably right about that.

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"The natural wage of labor is its product." -- Benjamin R. Tucker
A liberal is someone who thinks the system is broken and needs to be fixed, whereas a radical understands it’s working the way it’s supposed to.