Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hate and it's children

This morning's post by The Anchoress is one of those treasures worth keeping, found on the shore of the ocean we call the blogworld. I'll get to that in a moment, but first I want to address a question someone asked me a few days ago.

I told one of my children who does graphic design work that for Christmas I wanted some cards, like business cards, that I could give to people I meet identifying my blog. A blog card, if you will, instead of a business card. She came up with a layout of ten to be printed on photo paper that I chop up into cards. I gave one to someone who asked what made me start blogging and I realized I didn't have an answer. Not a good one, anyway.

In the beginning there was a fantasy about becoming well-known as a sage or thinker, someone whose insights and opinions would be sought by those seeking clever or wise commentary about matters large and small. I admired the wit of James Lileks, sharp insights of Michelle Malkin, over-the-top excesses of Rachel Lucas, timely scoops from Matt Drudge, and catholic attention to the whole universe by Glenn Reynolds. I knew that Steven Den Beste and Bill Whittle were writing long pieces that were atypical of blogs generally, but even they had respectable followings. I could tell by the comment threads how people were perceived. This was before the TTLB ecosystem emerged as a gold standard for traffic and links. All I knew was that the ocean was out there and the water looked fine, so in I jumped.

I realized as time passed that the sites that had excited me most shared a common political undercurrent I had not noticed at first. I saw myself as a veteran of the Civil Rights movement, a child of the Sixties whose anti-war predilections led me to change my draft status to conscientious objector, later to be drafted as such to serve two years as an Army medic. Yet here I was, twenty or thirty years later, having gone into the world of business, serving as a manager and boss, attracted to the Conservative wing of political writing like an ant to sugar. Like Freddy said to Eliza, "It's the new small do it so awfully well!" I didn't particularly appreciate the content, but the form was truly wonderful.

Oh, there were places from what can be called "the Left" that also were pumping out stuff. But they were the lunatic fringe, you know...conspiracy theorists, astrologers, practitioners of exotic (typically Asian) alien philosophies, Marxists (who never tire of endless fountains of words, words, words) and other cranks who were hard to peg. Pejorative use of the word "moonbat" came about quite naturally because those of us from the nether edge of the political spectrum do tend to be poorly coordinated, less focused on practical details and more taken with crazy dreams. (Two of my favorite lines are Will Rogers' I'm not a member of any organized political party...I'm a Democrat and Ambrose Bierce's definition of a "Conservative" as One enamoured with prevailing evils as opposed to a Liberal who wished to replace them with new ones.)

Pajamas Media represents the Right perfectly, creases pressed and colors coordinated, small points of discussion notwithstanding. That venerable assembly preceded Netroots by a few years, but that latter-day rag-tag outfit with all its profanity and outrage, emerged as the Left's reply to Pajamas. I have watched helplessly as the aftermath of 9/11 and a knee-jerk reaction have polarized national politics to the point that I no longer identify easily with either pole. When I started blogging I felt comfortable with a messy but principled Left, such as it was, but I have been embarrassed by extremes from that side. Excoriating the name of General Petraeus and failing to recognize positive efforts by the president to bring about meaningful immigration reform come to mind (not to mention uncoupling health insurance from employment, an idea which has great practical appeal to me but which no one is speaking about openly...though it is an idea specifically from the White House).

Anyway, getting to what The Anchoress said, she opens by describing an important difference between what I call partisan hate and personal hate. Partisan hate is rather generic, enabling the hater to close ranks with others of like persuasion in a feeling of power or solidarity. Personal hate, on the other hand, tends to be individual, more inner-directed and as a result more corrosive to one's character and temperament than an outburst at a rally or surge of excitement seeing one's letter to the editor in print. Personal hate is like tinnitus, always ringing or buzzing in your head, never going away. Sometimes, even in your sleep, grinding teeth and nightmares nurture the poison, leaving a kind of mental pus staining the rest of life, dampening happiness and excitement into dull tolerance.

That is the end of Part One of my thinking this morning.

In order to fully appreciate the pain and suffering that grows from what I have termed Personal Hate, go there now and read this woman's incredible confession, self-examination, and journey toward absolution. She is articulate to the point of tears. Her description of personal hate and how her family members, the angels that God has given her to let her know He loves her, lead her out of her darkness into the light that only comes from faith.

What upset me more than anything is that for the first time in my life, I was actively hating someone. I’ve never hated anyone - not even people who have done me physical and spiritual harm. But I was hating this fellow. And hating him even more for “making me” hate him.

Which, of course, he could not do. No one can “make” you hate; I simply allowed hate in; I welcomed it in, gave it an honored chair and fed it. And fed it. And it was incredibly destructive and oppressive - to me, mostly - but it did nothing good for anyone who had to be around me if the subject had my head. My whole family, and a few friends, have had to endure watching me give myself over to this resentment, allowing it to have its way with me, and to own me, body and soul.

I'll wait here while you read the rest. She tells her story better than any excerpt can capture.


For Part Two I want to redirect the reader's attention to what I have called Partisan Hate. Partisan hate is imporantly different from personal hate. Partisan hate derives from groups more than individuals, although individuals plant the seeds and nurture its growth. What impulse attracts others to this or that category of hate is not clear. The reasons are probably as diverse as the numbers attracted. My instinct is that partisan hate may be an outgrowth of personal hate, but I don't want that laid on me. MY partisan hate is not as bad as YOURS, of course, so we know there are exceptions to such a rule.

I don't want to run down that road too far because it will have us all running in circles. What I want to point to is a partisan argument now developing over the use of the word "fascism." Individuals are involved in the discussion, so I want to be clear here: my aim is not to "disrespect" (I think that's the right modern usage of that neologism) any person, but to point to an idea or trend with which I find problems.

With September 11, 2001 now six years past, we divide contemporary history into Pre- and Post-9/11 eras. Thanks to what seems to have been a carefully-orchestrated narrative America's response to that event has had two misleading concepts at the core. The first is that there is no significant difference between Muslim extremists and Muslims as a population. The second is that the attack on the World Trade Center was an act of war, not just an act of terrorism.

Recently a voice of reason in Britain finally pointed to the naked king, stating the obvious:

The Director of Public Prosecutions said: 'We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language."

London is not a battlefield, he said.

"The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers," Macdonald said. "They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way."

His remarks signal a change in emphasis across Whitehall, where the "war on terror" language has officially been ditched.

This important moment has gone unnoticed both there and here but a few people have taken note and perhaps one day in the future, when more reflective than reflexive observers are doing an analysis of the post-9/11 era that moment will find "new" meaning.

Regarding the other misleading idea, that there is little or no difference between Muslim extremists and Muslims as a population, it was plain to me from the start that there was a serious disconnect between the Muslim faith and terrorism. Having worked with a few people who were Muslim, both devout and nominal, I had and continue to have a clear impression of them standing in sharp relief to the images being fashioned and fed to Americans for popular consumption.

Helplessly I watched as preparations for the invasion of Iraq got underway. I had mixed feelings about what was being advanced as a "preemptive" invasion, and along with everyone else I gave credibility to the "threat"scenario. Once the war was underway, matters got out of control and there was little that anyone could do to bring about coitus interruptus in an international violent rape.

In the aftermath we see that General Petraeus and his insights should have been involved from the start, but you know what they say about hindsight...

Underscoring my instincts, I heard General Sir Michael Rose say in an interview last night that "by invading Iraq, of course we were going to make it almost impossible for the West to be able to mobilize the very people we need to help us fight Al Qaeda and that are the Muslim people of the world."

Which leads me to a neologism that has bothered me ever since I first heard it: Islamofascist. I'm not sure where the term originated, but I don't think it came from any confessing Muslim. Since no one wants to be associated with fascism (even those who are by definition fascists, I believe) it becomes a perfect label to attach to any group or individual one wants to discredit. Since the end of World War II the word fascism has the same stench to the children of the Allies that terms like Commie and fellow-traveler had in the Fifties or Nigger-lover had in the deep South about the same time. In fact, the term fascist is worse. I know people not ashamed to have been associated with the idealistic Communists of the past. And I, myself am satisfied -- no, honored, to be called Nigger-lover.

But that word fascist is another matter. I haven't met anyone who wants to own that designation, just as I have yet to meet anyone (or hear of anyone) pleased to be called Islamofascist.

All of which gets me to the point of this post.

The book Liberal Fascism and it's cute logo, a happy face with a Hitler-type mustache, is emerging, thanks to its provenance, from the mire of pulp slime trolling to the status of acceptable commentary. If a less well-known writer had produced this book it would not have attracted as much attention. It certainly would not have been viewed with as much respectability. But we are living in a time when the Ron Pauls of the world can go tromping across the national carpet with muddy boots and get away with it because what they say scratches a national itch that just keeps getting worse.

I saw the logo before I saw reference to the book. I dismissed it as so much sillyness. Then I saw it was a book, but I didn't pay much attention. We who openly call ourselves Liberal are accustomed these days to all kinds of personal invective. Then I noticed David Niewert's remarks followed by Jonah Goldberg on C-SPAN talking about his book. That got my attention. I see now that a heated argument is underway among pundits, historians and other experts regarding the pros and cons of Goldberg's book.

It's not hard to discern which side of this discussion is which.

I'm not enough of a scholar to say comment about the derivation of the word fascism. Moreover, I'm not interested in doing the homework when people like David Niewert are on duty. (Someone in the comment thread even linked to a critical review by Michael Ledeen.)

But I am smart enough to know it is an execrable insult to anyone to be called a fascist. There is an old saying in the South that even a dog knows when he's been kicked. There's a difference between being kicked and being tripped over. And I, as a self-identified Liberal, feel kicked and it really pisses me off. I'm not to the point of personal hate as referenced above, but it is fair to say that in the same way that The Anchoress draws the line between partisan hate and personal hate, I have to say I am full in the glow of partisan hate, resentment and insult.

This rant is as far as I will allow myself to go. But the issue has been stuck in my craw ever since I became aware and I had to get it out so I can move on with my blogging.

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