It has been suggested to me on more than one occasion that my ideas might get a better reception if I would say them a little more … nicely.
I get it. I am a Southerner, after all, and I was not born in a barn. I was raised and remain a Christian ( albeit, as shall become obvious in a moment, a deeply flawed one).
But I am, shall we say, disinclined to respond with niceness to those whose governmental policies carry a nontrivial body count, particularly when those bodies are defenseless.
I am, shall we say, disinclined to respond with niceness to bullies. Bullies deserve nothing more or less than a kick in the teeth.
I am, shall we say, disinclined to respond with niceness to sociopaths. Sane societies lock their sociopaths up where they can never harm anyone else again. Our society, by conscious choice, is not sane, and whatever else that is, it certainly isn’t nice.
And I am, we definitely shall say, disinclined to respond with niceness toward people who meet all three criteria.
There are a couple of reasons for my disinclination.
One is that, being from the South, I know firsthand how the premium we place on getting along and being civil is still, even today, used way too often to paper over legitimate grievances. The Duke University historian William Chafe literally wrote the book on that topic with respectd to my adopted hometown, “Civilities and Civil Rights.”
My 80-year-old mother grew up in Charleston. Girls of her generation were brought up to “be sweet.” Being sweet meant not only being civil, courteous, and polite, but also, “Don’t rock the boat.” That was the case even if that boat needed torpedoing.
Long story short, my mother decided a good while back that being sweet was overrated, and my sibs and I are all better off for that decision.
Another reason for my disinclination is that in my experience in covering and living with the consequences of politics, I have found that pleas for civility are too often the last refuge of a scoundrel who, as they used to say in pro wrestling, desperately needs to be hit with the chair.
Which brings me to Pat Buchanan’s latest screed for one of the right wing’s more virulent fever swamps, World Net Daily, known among the sane as Wing Nut Daily for demonstrable reasons. For a former speechwriter, Pat has not the first goddamned idea what a topic sentence is, so he’s kind of hard to excerpt. So I’ll paraphrase, and feel free to click the link, read behind me, and tell me if I got this badly wrong:
He is predicting, and calling for, civil disobedience against the Supreme Court’s striking down of bans on same-sex marriage. And he is saying that such a movement would be morally equivalent to, among others:
- Harriett Tubman’s work as part of the Underground Railroad.
- Northern abolitionists’ support of John Brown.
- The original 13 colonies’ rebellion against the English crown — to which, he goes out of his way to claim, the Confederate rebellion was morally identical.
- The civil rights movement, particularly Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Yeah. He went there.
But are people who celebrate the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village as the Mount Sinai moment of their movement really standing on solid ground to demand that we all respect the Obergefell decision as holy writ?
And if cities, states or Congress enact laws that make it a crime not to rent to homosexuals, or to refuse services at celebrations of their unions, would not dissenting Christians stand on the same moral ground as Dr. King if they disobeyed those laws?
Already, some businesses have refused to comply with the Obamacare mandate to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees. Priests and pastors are going to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Churches and chapels will refuse to host them. Christian colleges and universities will deny married-couple facilities to homosexuals.
Laws will be passed to outlaw such practices as discrimination, and those laws, which the Christians believe violate eternal law and natural law, will, as Dr. King instructed, be disobeyed.
And the removal of tax exemptions will then be on the table.
If a family disagreed as broadly as we Americans do on issues so fundamental as right and wrong, good and evil, the family would fall apart, the couple would divorce, and the children would go their separate ways.
Something like that is happening in the country.
A secession of the heart has already taken place in America, and a secession, not of states, but of people from one another, caused by divisions on social, moral, cultural and political views and values, is taking place.
America is disuniting, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote 25 years ago.
And for those who, when young, rejected the views, values and laws of Eisenhower’s America, what makes them think that dissenting Americans in this post-Christian and anti-Christian era will accept their laws, beliefs, values?
Why should they?
I’ll give Buchanan the benefit of this doubt: As the late Molly Ivins said of his speech at the 1992 GOP National Convention, this piece probably sounded better in the original German. Leaving aside for a moment his claim that some things will happen that are by no means certain — ministers and chapels being “forced” to perform same-sex marriages being the big kahuna among a bunch that contains few small ones — what kind of moral illiterate equates the denial of rights with the expansion of rights? The phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei” comes to mind.
Scot Eric Kaufman poses that question and related ones in this essay at Salon, which I linked to earlier today on Facebook. My doing so brought a rebuke from a friend of mine, who wrote that Kaufman “sounds like one bigot bashing another.” Apparently he took that position because Kaufman dared to allude to the fact that we do not have conclusive proof that the man many of us (myself included) worship as the Son of God actually lived on Earth.
The implication of his remark, upon which I challenged him and to which he has not responded as I write, is that because Kaufman said something that hurt his feelings with respect to his Christian faith, nothing that Kaufman said about Buchanan is valid. Because Kaufman wasn’t nice enough.
That notion merits three words of basic Anglo-Saxon: Bull. Fcking. Shit.
Part of the reason that evil runs as unchecked in this country as it does is that too many people, including my friend, are too nice to call out evil for what it is. Too many are far too nice to do anything but accept any vice whatever as long as it is clothed in Christianity. And too many are willing to be so nice that they will accept the dangerous notion that false equivalence, particularly false moral equivalence, is still equivalence.
Pat Buchanan worked eagerly for, and to this day defends, Richard Nixon, the most soul-sickened individual to inhabit the White House in the 20th century. Buchanan’s entire career is a testament to bigotry, anti-Semitism — a word that, unlike many people all along the political spectrum, I do NOT use lightly — and opposition unto death to all of the highest and best aspirations this country ever has had for itself. As I observed earlier today, Buchanan seems hell-bent on becoming the first person to ruin his party’s presidential nominee’s chances singlehandedly in two different millennia. If there is anyone in America outside of a few neo-Nazi groups who deserves to wear the brown shirt, it’s Buchanan. And Buchanan has been richly rewarded for this evil. He writes columns. He publishes books. He appears on TV. He commands princely speaking fees.
For all I know, Kaufman is just as evil. But the odds are against it. Moreover, he has nowhere near Buchanan’s reach and platform, even if Buchanan’s reach isn’t (thank God) what it once was.
But some smart people who ought to know better, including my friend, apparently think that what Kaufman did is exactly as bad as what Buchanan did, because Kaufman dared to raise the same question that millions of honest, educated Christians already struggle with every day. Their position seems to be that not only was what Kaufman wrote “bigoted,” it also was just as bigoted, and just as morally flawed, as what Buchanan wrote and what Buchanan has been pretty much every day of his long and benighted adult life.
If you think this way, you are intellectually silly and morally obtuse. It is literally laughable to think that raising a question about the physical existence of Jesus Christ equates in any moral way with Buchanan’s likening of legalizing gay marriage to slavery and Jim Crow. And if you think this way, you don’t deserve “nice.” You deserve mocking. You deserve ridicule. And here in this little corner of the Interwebz and whatever other digital real estate I control, you’ll get it.
Because I’m a nice guy, but even nice guys can only tolerate so much bullshit before they turn mean.