Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

03/02/2009 (11:27 am)

Standup Comedy at CPAC

My first report from CPAC is simply to post Ann Coulter’s talk. Her political analysis is, as usual, crisp and insightful, but you really can’t take this talk as analysis. It’s stand-up comedy, pure and simple. My reaction as I was listening was, “Who writes her material?” Of course, she writes it herself; and you’ll hear her come within a hair’s breadth of flubbing her delivery several times, so she actually needs to work on her patter. But still, this is well-constructed comedy, and viewed as such — recognizing that good comedy is always at least 75% hard truth — it’s really enjoyable, if you’re a Republican (or a Democrat with a sense of humor, a beast as apocryphal as the unicorn.) So, enjoy.

Best line of the morning: “I think we all know where Clinton’s ‘place called “Hope”‘ is…”

The line that gets munged between clips 1 and 2 is “I don’t think I’d be hanging the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner just yet.”

02/17/2009 (12:19 pm)

An Open Letter to Ann Coulter

Dear Ms. Coulter,

I want to propose something for you to consider. No reply is necessary or expected; I’d just like you to consider it inside yourself for a while.

Before I get to that, though, I want you to know that I’m a fan of yours. I’ve read all your books except the latest [correction: I don't think I finished How to Talk to a Liberal], and I read your column regularly. I find your research impressive, your points salient, your arguments generally sound. Your writings are particularly useful because you say what a lot of us think but seldom dare to say, because we know the sort of reaction we’re going to stir up from the left if we say what we really think. I have not missed the irony that in a culture where few are man enough to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous liberals, God has seen fit to appoint a woman to do the job for us. And, I recognize that there’s nothing particularly unusual or reprehensible about a social or political commentator using sarcasm, irony, and exaggeration as tools to prove a point, although you do seem to use them rather more… um… liberally than most (sorry).

Whenever I see your opponents reacting to anything you’ve written (they react, they seldom respond) it usually has the feel of a screeching horde of monkeys flinging branches, mucus, and worse; they hurl epithets, curse and sneer, and occasionally attempt to find something, anything in your work that they can call an error, which then becomes, magically, sufficient basis to ignore any salient point you might have made. They seem incapable of reflecting on the fact that when they’ve had to work so very hard to find just one substantial error (and generated hundreds of snarling and screeching insults in the process,) that even if they’re correct, what they’ve proved at the end of the day is that they’re viciously sub-human and that you made a mistake once. Only, they don’t even get that far, because they’re almost invariably wrong on the facts. The only reason I’m even thinking about you is that I’ve just finished an episode in which a fellow, attempting to prove what a liar and a bully you are, observed that “you made a huge mistake in Godless,” but before he managed to explain what the mistake was, he degenerated into hurling hundreds of words of sneering insults at me, and I had to block him.

So, I’m far from a critic; I’m a fan. And yet, I want to offer this small caveat for you to consider:

You’ve made the point several times that in some cases, liberal commentators say things the only possible goal of which was to cause pain. They did this to Linda Tripp, Paula Jones, Katherine Harris, and Sarah Palin (they mostly do this to women, being bullies and sensing that women are vulnerable.) It’s an unfortunate human weakness into which we all fall too easily, I’m afraid; it’s tempting to slip in a comment about, say, Janet Reno’s appearance while disputing some act of hers, and it seems amusing at the time.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you use a cruel remark as a distinct objection to any person, the way Tripp’s or Harris’ critics did; you’re always in the middle of making some relevant argument supported by facts, and your sarcasm is usually on point. However, please consider that specifically the use of sarcasm, even in the context of making a sound argument, has the effect of causing pain to the target, and that that may just be the whole reason for using it. The very word, “sarcasm,” derives from Greek, meaning to “tear flesh, like a dog.” Sarcasm cuts; and because it’s unexpected and occasionally witty, often spurs a chuckle, which reinforces the feeling of power in causing pain. Even when used as a rhetorical tool, it can be addictive, and both the delight and frequency of using the tool may grow. And then, when we stand before the Final Judge, we will face the embarrassment of having the enjoyment of causing pain prominent among the character traits we’ve cultivated during our time on earth.

I completely understand the rage that can be felt by the righteous when they observe evil people performing evil acts and prospering in them. There’s nothing wrong with that feeling. In fact, if Numbers 25 is to be believed, the Almighty feels that sort of rage, Himself. And if my understanding of godly emotions is correct, there will surely come a day — perhaps not in this life, but a day nonetheless — when it will be appropriate for that rage to be expressed in action, and giving vent to those feelings will produce entirely godly results.

That day is not today, though. Today, you and I both are enlisted in an army the Commanding Officer of which has articulated that His goal is to save, not to condemn. This puts both of us in the uncomfortable position of having the task of exposing the truth about evil men with clarity, but doing it in such a way that both we and they may be redeemed. Consequently, while we may use all the literary and rhetorical tools available to us to drive our message home, there are some of those tools that are dangerous to use too often, dangerous because they can destroy and dangerous because we may come to enjoy them too much. And any tool used too frequently and with too much pleasure eventually loses its impact., anyhow. So be careful.

That’s all. I expect no answer. You might not ever even see this. If you do, though, ruminate on it for a while, just to see where the thought takes you. Thanks.