Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Is Arrogance a Progressive Value?

In November 2010, I moved from Chicago to Bellingham, WA, where I moved into the house of a fellow Christian who was also a Facebook friend, and who had chosen (admirably) to respond compassionately to the fact that I'd just been evicted from my room at the Lawson House YMCA in Chicago.

Unfortunately, until I actually moved in with my friend, I was unaware of certain things about my friend. They were things which, if known by me, might have given me second and even third thoughts about moving in, if it had not been for the fact that I really had no choice, in my desperate circumstances.

This is not to say that I was ungrateful for the help. But living here was (and to some extent has been) a challenge, nevertheless.

One of the first thing I learned at the time was that my friend was a passionate "progressive" (whereas I, as a Republican, was by implication a "regressive", even though I was sufficiently savvy with regard to modern technology that I was able to be able to get my friend out of some jams by helping him with his computer).

I had come to Bellingham because my friend ostensibly thought that my goals were worthy of attention, with regard to a project I called the Christian Arts Initiative. One might have thought, therefore, that he was a particularly artistic person. But I suppose that some folks define the arts differently than others, because my friend didn't really seem to show a very pronounced interest in the arts. So far as I could observe, he almost never read novels or watched movies or even listened to much music (other than the classic rock tunes he sometimes listened to on the radio in his car).

Instead, my friend's entertainment appeared to consist primarily of two things:
  1. Spending long hours in conversation threads on Facebook (which, of course, was how I met him in the first place).
  2. Watching MSNBC on his satellite TV, often for hours on end. (To some, this is apparently entertaining. Then again, some folks like watching a nice car wreck, I've been told.)
I knew very little about MSNBC, but I would soon learn that it was a media haven for liberals (excuse me, "progressives").

The more I watched the network, the more I came to realize how much MSNBC resembled Rolling Stone magazine (a magazine which has long delighted in putting the spotlight on the most appalling role models one could possibly choose, such as Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears and Iggy Pop and countless others over the years). Like Rolling Stone, MSNBC is, as some might say, a "wholly owned subsidiary" of the Democratic party (in terms of its content, not necessarily in terms of who actually owns the network).

For instance, there was Keith Olbermann, whose most distinguishing characteristic seemed to be that he would end each show by throwing papers at his viewers in what appeared to be his attempt to demonstrate that his mentality had never progressed much beyond the mentality which he'd had when he was in kindergarten. (He now appears to have another show elsewhere, after having been fired by MSNBC, possibly after throwing one too many televised tantrums.)

A similarly childish attitude was observed in Rachel Maddow (whose apparently never met a lesbian she didn't like) and Ed Schultz (whose catch-all word "crazytalk" appeared to describe any talk with which he didn't completely agree, which made me wonder if he'd ever said a humble word in his life).

There were other, somewhat more moderate hosts, but they all started to blur together for me after a while. I came to expect a pretty steady diet of incredibly biased commentary in the guise of "news". They would sometimes feature guests, some of whom were even conservatives, but it soon became apparent that the conservative guests had been cherry picked and invited to the MSNBC shows precisely because they made for such easy targets.

Ed Schultz's show was called "The Ed Show". One night, Ed's guest was the pseudo-commedian known as Bill Maher. On that episode, Maher referred to a conservative female politician as a "mouth breather", a phrase which in some circles has apparently come to mean "as stupid as dirt".

Now, I have to admit, I've been known to breathe through my mouth occasionally myself. For instance, I've had colds in which the primary feature of those episodes of illness was that my nasal passages would become congested, and I would find that I could only get enough oxygen, while lying in bed, was to breathe through my mouth. I sometimes breathed through my mouth for somewhat similar reasons, back in the days when I ran track in junior high, and when I was running as hard as I could run, around the track. And of course, when I took a course in SCUBA diving back in college, I found that it was pretty necessary to breathe through my mouth while swimming twenty or thirty feet underwater. Pretty much every SCUBA regulator I've ever seen or used is designed to go into one's mouth, not into one's nose.(Ditto for snorkels.)

God, in his wisdom, gave people two different orifices through which to breathe: A nose, and a mouth. Undoubtedly, breathing only through one's nose, and reserving one's mouth for speaking and eating, is ideal. But there are times when breathing through one's nose just isn't very practical or feasible. It's a lot better to breathe through one's mouth than to stop breathing altogether, or so it seems to me.

It therefore seems to me that a person who uses the phrase "mouth breather" as a synonym for "stupid" is, by definition, stupid. The fact that MSNBC thinks that Maher is qualified to talk about politics says a lot about that network's definition of the word "competent". And it definitely says a lot about Mr. Schultz.

Back when Gabby Gifford was shot, Ed Schultz had the audacity to imply that political conservatives were to blame for the shooting, and then to call for more "civility". As if continuously slandering all political conservatives in various ways was a good example of civility. (Practice what you preach, Ed.)

Thanks to the examples of various people on the staff at MSNBC, I've come to realize that being a progressive means not being constrained by the rules of what most people regard as logic or genuine civility. Being a progressive, apparently, means using slanderous innuendo, when the stockpile of weapons in one's intellectual arsenal is particularly low.

The political condescension isn't limited just to MSNBC, either.

Eric Alterman, for example, had an article (The Nation, June 20, 2011, page 10) entitled "The Problem of Republican Idiots". In that article, he wrote that "it is hardly an exaggeration to insist that (an) astonishing combination of willful ignorance and stubborn stupidity can be found virtually everywhere Republican politics are discussed."

Eric, in case you're reading this, let me just say this: I am a Republican, because the Republican party has, in my judgment, taken the right side on one of the most important issues of our time, which pertains to the question of whether or not we will affirm the important principle that all human beings are of equal value, by opposing the legalized murder of millions of unborn children. Undermining the idea that all human beings are of equal value by supporting the so-called "right" of women to kill their own unborn progeny is, in my opinion, the quintessential act of hypocrisy, for Democrats who claim to believe in equal rights.

My IQ has been tested at 140, so I hardly think that by any objective criterion, I could accurately be described as "stupid".

In any event, there's a difference between intelligence (which we cannot for the most part control) and wisdom (which we can all attain, if we will humble ourselves and ask God for it).

All of us, whether we are geniuses or idiots or somewhere in-between, will be held accountable on the day of judgment for how we have lived our lives. According to the Bible, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Laugh at me and mock me, if you will, for my "stupid" and childlike faith in divine justice. Call me a "loser" if you like. But it's a bit premature to declare winners and losers, it seems to me, when the game is not yet over.

Here's a clue for the clueless, regardless of where you may stand on the political spectrum: YOU will not be the one making that judgment call (about who is and is not a loser) when each person's life is at its end. So try showing a little bit of humility in the meantime.

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