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January 4, 2004 On Bullies: Some Things People Are Saying

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First of all I came across this "letter to the editor" in Slate that was pretty good - and the whole thing is much longer.


Subject: "Aggressive Use of Force Against - What?"
From: BeverlyMann
Date: Sun Dec 28 1642h 

... Bush is concertedly provoking hatred of America and sympathy and support for al Qaeda, because there appears to be a close correlation between his aggressive and abrasive persona toward the rest of the world and his political popularity among white American men.

Or, more to the point, there appears to be a close correlation between Bush's aggressive and abrasive persona toward the rest of the world and his political popularity among white American men who themselves are not in the military or national guard and who don't have a child or other close relative who is.


Curious.  An "aggressive and abrasive persona" is a desirable asset in the political world.  Howard Dean should then do well.

Ah, but we are told "anger" will not win elections.  That's what Dean's opponents are saying.  One thinks of an angry man running for president in 1948 - "Give 'em Hell, Harry."  That would be Truman.  His "angry" persona led to Dewey trouncing him so badly, didn't it?  Not exactly.

But that was a long time ago.  Things must be different now.

Then I came across this:

Sam Smith, The Progressive Review, Monday, December 29, 2003

Here Smith, provides a long preamble regarding how "the Republican right has engaged in a politics of cultural bullying that is the direct descendent of the southern segregationists.  It is based on anathematizing a minority in order to solidify its own political base around false assumptions of purity and superiority..." - and so on.


Then he gets to a really interesting place.

Smith asks us to imagine, for example, a Democratic candidate who is asked in a debate, "What do you think about gay marriages" and replies with this:


"I'm a heterosexual and I'm married so I don't think about it much at all. What does bother me is when one group in this country tries to foist their personal values on another, and even tries to enforce it with a constitutional amendment.  That's about as un-American as you can get.  If you don't like gay marriages, then don't become a gay and don't get married.

"I'm not asking you to approve of gay marriages anymore than I would ask you to believe in the Virgin birth or the apocalypse.  But what if someone told you that it should be illegal to practice rites presaging the second coming of Christ?  Should we have a constitutional amendment to ban that, too?

"What I am asking you to do is to be good, decent and fair-minded Americans and practice the sort of reciprocal liberty in which citizens say to each other, I will respect your liberty because I expect you to respect mine.  We do not have to agree, we do not have to approve of each other, we do not even have to like either other, but we do have to share this land and our community fairly.  That is what being an American is about.

"In my campaign I am trying to gain support of as wide a cross-section of America as I can.  To do this, I may sometimes compromise, I sometimes equivocate, but I will not - as conservative politicians so often do - expel, isolate, and eliminate constituencies simply because they do not look or think like me.  I will not sneakily encourage others to hate and bully.  To do so is to take us back to shameful times, such as to that time less than 40 years ago when you could be arrested and jailed for being married to the wrong person - not then because of the person's sex but because of their skin color.

"As a public official I will not debate the issue of gay marriage because it is not the business of public officials.  It is the business of religions and of the individuals involved.  If the state can write a church's rules on marriage, it can determine how holy communion is performed and how its bishops are selected.  But it can't do that because the constitution says it can't.

"We live in a society in which, over the past few decades, the division over another cultural issue - abortion - has been the subject of a bitter, costly and ultimately pointless debate with few minds changed along the way.  What if we had understood at the start that our proper goal was not to force everyone to agree with us, but to make sure that each side could practice its beliefs without interference by the other.  That would have been the truly American solution to the problem.

"Being American means living in close proximity with people whose values, intrinsic nature or behavior may not just be different, but which you may not like at all.  Does that mean we just sit on our front porches and glare at our neighbors?  Or worse?  It doesn't have to be that way.

"It is not a conservative or liberal matter and it is not an issue of morality; it is an issue of whether we will treat other Americans with fairness and respect or as playground bullies and cultural tyrants."


This hypothetical candidate would be crucified for saying such things.
But it sure is a cool speculation.

And one more thing that will never happen.