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

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.

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5 Comments »

February 17, 2009 @ 2:12 pm #

Phil, I have a question. Are there truly evil people or are they just mistaken / deceived? In previous writings you’ve talked about two world views, one that says that men are inherently flawed, and the other that says that men are inherently good or at least neutral. These two philosophies you argued, lead to very different would views on almost everything. I have always thought that there were some people who could not possibly, not understand, what they were advocating. In fact I had come to the conclusion that these people succeeded in their evil, in part, because of our unwillingness to believe they could truly be that evil. You sort of talked me out of that view, but now you are clearly talking in terms of evil people, in several of your latest posting. So how do you vote, evil or mistaken?

Dale…

February 17, 2009 @ 2:52 pm #

Dale,

I kinda go back and forth on this topic, and I’m not really sure which is correct. I think some people really are wicked, some are simple, some are foolish, and some are misinformed; but ultimately we’re each responsible for what we do with ourselves. I wasn’t talking about anybody in particular when I wrote that line in today’s essay, I was just talking generally about how I feel (and how I imagine others feel) when they see people doing horrible things while claiming they’re doing good.

When commenting on liberal blog sites, I regularly encounter people who are so deep in their self-demolition that they’re genuinely incapable of communicating anything but vitriol. I don’t know how much of that is deliberately self-induced, how much is the result of demonic deception, and how much is personal trauma or some other accident of life that’s not really their fault. It could be all of the above; there’s really no way to tell. I admit to occasionally feeling the urge to rip their heads from their shoulders; but then I remember the stuff I wrote today, and I pray for them instead. I’ve had plenty of practice in my personal life, as well, from events I’m not going to recount here. Suffice to say that my experience with forgiving my enemies is real and personal.

I read just the other day (not for the first time) that one of the symptoms of post-abortive stress is an unusually long, deep denial period during which the woman suffering the disorder frequently defends abortion vigorously in an effort to convince herself that she’s done the right thing. Is she personally responsible? a victim? a dupe? It would depend on the circumstances of her abortion, I suppose, but someone like that will eventually experience a crisis, come to grips with her decision, mourn her actions and the loss of her child — and probably stop defending abortion so vigorously. In the meantime, it does us good to remember that whatever comes out of peoples’ mouths (or off their keyboards) frequently has more to do with the unpleasant circumstances of their own lives than it has anything to do with us personally.

Hope this helps.

Phil

PS: I should add that if you want to read a truly informative and incisive bit of literature dealing with the question of how responsible we are for our own damnation, CS Lewis’ book The Great Divorce is about as good as they come. It’s not just a great read and profound, it’s also short, and will take you only about 2 to 3 hours to read cover to cover. And Shelly reminds me that his novel Till We Have Faces addresses the same topic, but it’s not so short, nor does it cover so many instances.

February 18, 2009 @ 8:57 am #

My feel is that few are truly evil. I distinguish between a Hitler – a truly evil person – and many leftist politicians. IMO, most of them are basically good people who have heard and soaked in the siren song of the left, seen what it could buy them in personal glory, power and money, and closed their eyes to the end result of where leftism goes if pursued to its natural end.

Might they be the political equivalent (without the shame) of the shamed corporate executives at Enron, or a Bernie Madoff whose Ponzi scheme has not yet collapsed because millions are still buying into it?

On Coulter, Phil, I hear you and these are good points. I tend to agree that we need to seek the high ground, if for no other reason than “We are better than that.”

But, but…after eight years of the incessant drumbeat of vitriol, demagoguery, hypocrisy, and lies from the left; then to have these very qualities projected by the left upon anyone who does not share their ideas… I’m a bit more edgy these days.

I’ve come to believe there is a need for the warriors who can penetrate the fog with reasoned discourse. The Tom Sowells, the Jonah Goldbergs, the bloggers like you. And I think there is also a need for a sharper end of the spear, for an Ann Coulter.

Because when you let a bully belittle you long enough without fighting back – hard -you lose by default. Many of us have been cowed by political correctness from speaking our true minds. Over the years, I daresay the left has imposed a certain amount of censorship by …I don’t know of any other word than – fear? Fear of being ridiculed, fear of being labeled a bigot or warmonger, or fascist, whatever.

The sarcasm of a Coulter is a powerful weapon against this, as evidenced by the whimpering and feces throwing of her enemies when she writes a column.

I wish this type of battering ram politics was not needed. But I’ve come to believe that it is. The other side will shove it down our throats any way they can. If this sounds blunt, well, let’s look at the stealfromus bill which will impact our country for decades, perhaps; jammed through in a week, less than two months after the elections. And on top of that, the Republicans who stood up against it (and the rest of us who disagree) get to be scorned by our President for not rushing to sign on. If that doesn’t wake us up to the facts, nothing will.

February 18, 2009 @ 1:03 pm #

I would say that there is always a Right and Wrong way to do things. You may not be able to tell what the right course of action is and you may not know that you have done something wrong until years after the fact. The law of unintended consequences can mean that something that can seem like the clear Right, may in fact be the wrong choice further down the line. (Great Society anyone?)

This is why studying history is so important, because it allows us to not only see what people have done in other, possibly similar situations but we can also see how it worked out for them further down the line.

Are there truly evil people? Yes, absolutly. However, it is very hard to judge them by their own motives, but rather by their methods. Hardly anyone (save the most severely mentally disturbed) see themselves as evil. Even the worst monsters of History usually saw themselves as trying to achieve a positive end. Now they may have been doing that at the cost of others, but almost all of them saw their actions as benefiting the Greater Good.

I am borrowing twice removed but I believe Terry Pratchet mentioned in one of his books that the root of evil is “Treating people like things”- that that is where it all begins. I think a better definition would be to say that it comes from the depersonalization of people. You dehumanize your enemies and there is nothing that is out of bounds in your treatment of them.

February 18, 2009 @ 3:12 pm #

On the question of whether liberals are just misinformed, mentally lazy, or truly evil, Evan Sayet has gone a long way toward answering that question. His video was posted earlier right here on Plumb Bob Blog. An excerpt:

[The left] is diametricly opposed to that which is good, right and successful. And when I discovered that this is not an accident. This is part of the philosophy that now dominates the whole of Western Europe and the modern democratic party today – I, like some others I call it modern liberalism. The modern liberal will invariable side with evil over good, wrong over right and the policies which lead to failure over those who lead to success.

It’s not just foreign policy or domestic policy, it’s *every* policy.

So the question becomes why? How do they think they’re making a better world? Well the first thing that comes into your mind in trying to understand as I’ve so desperately tried to understand is that if they side always with evil, they must be evil. But we have a problem with this, don’t we? We all know too many people who fit this category who are’nt evil; Many of my lifelong friends – the people I grew up with – relatives, close relatives…and they’re not evil. And if they’re not evil, the next place your mind goes is they must be incredibly stupid.

They don’t mean to always side with evil and wrong, they just don’t know what they’re doing. But we have a problem with this as well. You can’t say Bill Mars – my old boss – is a stupid man you can’t say Ward Churchill is a stupid man. You can’t say all these academics are stupid people.

Frankly if was just stupidity, they would be right more often. Like the expression ‘a broken clock is right twice a day’. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and again.

So if they’re not evil and they’re not stupid, what’s their plan? How do they think they’re making a better world by siding with Saddam Hussein by keeping his rape and torture rooms open? – seeking the destruction of the democracy of Jews – I don’t know if you’ve seen the list going around the Internet about all the Nobel prize-winning scientists from this tiny state of Israel? How to they think they’re making a better world by promoting to children behaviors that are inappropriate and cause diseases and unwanted pregancies and ruin peoples’ lives? How do they think they’re making a better world?

What I discovered is, the modern liberal looks back on – give me a number here – 50,000 years, 100,000 years of human civilization and knows only one thing for sure: That none of the ideas that mankind has come up with – none of the religions, none of the philosophies, none of the ideologies, none of the forms of government – none have succeeded in creating a world devoid of war, poverty, crime and injustice.

So they’re convinced that since all these ideas of man have proved to be wrong, the real cause of war, poverty, crime and injustice must be found – can only be found – in the attempt to be right. See, if nobody ever thought they were right, what would we disagree about? If we didn’t disagree, surely we wouldn’t fight. If we didn’t fight, of course you wouldn’t go to war. Without war there’d be no poverty. Without poverty there would be no crime, without crime there’d be no injustice. It’s a utopian vision.

And all that’s required to usher in this utopia is the rejection of all facts, reason, evidence, logic, truth, morality, and decency – all the tools that you and I use in our attempt to be better people – to make the world more right by trying to be right – by siding with right, by recognizing right and moving towards it.

…What you have is people who think that the best way to eliminate rational thought – the best way to eliminate the attempt to be right is to work always to prove that right isn’t right and to prove that wrong isn’t wrong – to bring about a philosophy – and you see this in John Lennon’s song, Imagine. Imagine there’s no countries – Not imagine there’s great countries – Not imagine ‘defeat the Nazis’ – Imagine no religions. Imagine a time when anything and everything that mankind values is devalued to the point where there’s nothing left to kill or die for.

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