I’m a big fan of Dave Neiwert’s Orcinus, and, when he says people should read something, I’ll be more than happy to trot over and check it out. Dave’s right on the money with his pointer to “Defining Dissent Down,” by Rob Salkowitz.
It made me wonder: have we ever been a civil society? I’ve just started David McCullough’s John Adams, and the parts that talk about the first meetings of the Continental Congress and Adams’s riding the court circuit make it sound like America has always been a bunch of people who think that the people in the next town over are a bunch of freaks. Adams thought that New Yorkers “talk very loud, very fast, and altogether. If they ask you a question, before you can utter three words of your answer, they will break out upon you again-and talk away.” Sounds more like a meeting of LA Industry People, but what the hell. See? Even there, I think there’s a group of people who are freaky because they’re different than I am.
I suppose the difference is that the people I know of the same lefty-center-I’m-glad-we-have-fire-departments-and-have-no-problem-paying-taxes-for-them bunch aren’t out for the utter destruction of those whose ideas are in opposition to ours. I’ve come around on globalization and free trade (though I’m still holding out for fair trade), and I think that if you’re into hunting and target shooting, that’s cool with me (I’ll still draw the line at things like armor-piercing bullets and military-issued rifles, though. Yes, I know the bad guys have ’em, too, but I’m more worried about people with a loose view of reality getting a hold of things that can put holes into people from a distance. Guns don’t kill people; destroying access to good mental health care kills people. I’ll be more than happy to shell out more taxes for that as long as I can take back the amount that I’m paying to make up for guys like Cisco and Microsoft skipping out on their taxes. Oh, and I’d also like my money back from Enron, please; my Grandma Millie needs it to bake cookies for orphans). I won’t do anything to take away your right to pray if you don’t take away my access to boobies.
The problem is that I don’t think I’ll get a lot of the same charity from the talking heads of the right. If you’re not with us, you’re against us, and all that. How can I have a civil discourse when I’ve got that hanging over my head? I know that if I let my passions get the better of my reason, I’ve already lost any discussions and should confine myself to my room with a copy of Cicero’s orations and learn how to debate like a pro. But, still, what if I maintain an even strain and remain civil when I’m talking with someone who thinks I’m traitorous just ’cause I think that George W. Bush has done a piss-poor job as President? Are I that much more of a sucker and a push-over for asking for civility when someone’s coming to bash my head in with a baseball bat? I think about this post at Orcinus, and I wonder if maybe my grandfather’s paranoia (he was ready for the Commies to come storming up Wilshire Boulevard, and he and his friends in the Lithuanian Home Guard were ready to go down fighting. There’s something oddly comforting about the pictures of Papa and his friends in their uniforms, parading with the Stars and Stripes and with the Lithuanian Tri-color) was misplaced, that the biggest threat to America was itself. If we don’t maintain and vigorous (yet civil) discourse about the direction in which America is heading, if we sit around and get complacent, then people are gonna start to get rowdy and want to knock heads. Pay now or pay later.
I am, by the way, pulling all of this out of my ass in an attempt to put off writing for real. Enough of this crap. Anne’s out bacheloretting tonight, and I intend on finishing my stuff so I can settle in for a long night of take-out Chinese food and Kurosawa. Fiction ho!