Whichever side of the political spectrum you align yourself with, you doubtlessly get forwarded commentaries from friends and family on the other side of the spectrum. Most of the time, these amount to little more than diatribes worthy of a quick “delete”. Occasionally, some come in with a glimmer of thought and the suggestion of a possibility for finding common ground. What follows is one such commentary, with my responses paragraph-for-paragraph in italics.
I'm 63. Except for one semester in college when jobs were scarce and a six-month period when I was between jobs, but job-hunting every day, I've worked, hard, since I was 18. Despite some health challenges, I still put in 50-hour weeks, and haven't called in sick in seven or eight years. I make a good salary, but I didn't inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, there's no retirement in sight, and I'm tired. Very tired.
I'm tired of being told that I have to "spread the wealth" to people who don't have my work ethic. I'm tired of being told the government will take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy to earn it.
No one is advocating that wealth be spread to people who don’t have his work ethic. When the term is used, it refers to lessening the gap between the ultra affluent and those who for complex reasons largely not of their own choosing are ultra poor. Societies in which that disparity grows too large ultimately falter – the French monarchy prior to the revolution being a case in point.
I'm tired of being told that I have to pay more taxes to "keep people in their homes." Sure, if they lost their jobs or got sick, I'm willing to help. But if they bought McMansions at three times the price of our paid-off, $250,000 condo, on one-third of my salary, then let the left-wing Congress-critters who passed Fannie and Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act that created the
bubble help them with their own money.
A mixture of good and bad points here. Have his taxes really gone up? Mine haven’t. We’re just adding to our national debt, because politicians don’t have the courage to raise taxes to pay for what we are spending. The implicit criticism of those who bought homes beyond their means is fair. “left-wing congress-critters” is a pejorative term – the type of generalization that betrays a conversation-ending bias. Freddie and Fannie Mae were not blameless in the collapse of the housing market, but they had far less to do with it than all the mortgage-bundling, excessive leveraging, exotic derivatizing, and reckless investing (including in the failure of their own instruments) perpetrated by the banks that both republican and democratic administrations allowed to grow too large, and a wall street culture of greed that administrations of both parties allowed to go unregulated. Why isn’t he tired of those?
I'm tired of being told how bad America is by left-wing millionaires like Michael Moore, George Soros and Hollywood Entertainers who live in luxury because of the opportunities America offers. In thirty years, if they get their way, the United States will have the economy of Zimbabwe, the freedom of the press of China, the crime and violence of Mexico, the tolerance for Christian people of Iran, and the freedom of speech of Venezuela.
I’m no great fan of Michael Moore, but I’ve never heard him say that America is bad, just that some of the ways we do things – like our dysfunctional deliver of health care and a profit-at-all-costs mentality – are wrong. The remainder of the paragraph is a diatribe without foundation. The greatest threat to freedom of speech and the press in this country in recent years has been the Patriot Act, which was rammed through Congress by the Bush administration with the complicity of both parties. Our greatest threats won’t come from Zimbabwe, China, Mexico, or Venezuela, but from caving in to our own fears and the voluntary relinquishment of the civil liberties on which our nation was founded.
I'm tired of being told that Islam is a "Religion of Peace," when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family "honor"; of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren't "believers"; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for "adultery"; of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur'an and Shari'a law tells them to.
Islam, like Christianity, is a multifaceted religion. The examples referred to are of course deplorable. He reads about them daily because Muslim extremests capture the headlines, while the vast majority of Muslims who do believe their religion is one of peace, and who live their convictions, don’t make headlines for doing so. Those atrocities don’t take place in the large Muslim communities of Detroit and Chicago, for example. It should also be noted that Muslims don’t have the corner on atrocities in the name of religion. It hasn’t been that long ago that Serbian Christians made a concerted effort to wipe out Muslims in Bosnia, and only a few centuries since Christian women were hanged for being witches by other Christians in North America. One assumes that he was (or would have been) tired of reading about those as well.
I'm tired of being told that "race doesn't matter" in the post-racial world of Obama, when it's all that matters in affirmative action jobs, lower college admission and graduation standards for minorities (harming them the most), government contract set-asides, tolerance for the ghetto culture of violence and fatherless children that hurts minorities more than anyone, and in the appointment of U.S. Senators from Illinois.
If the writer’s point is that race still matters, I can’t disagree. Affirmative action, in its original version, was never intended to make race a sole criterion. To the extent that it does become the only thing that matters, I agree that it shouldn’t. I think that the majority of Americans of all races wish that race didn’t matter. It is a difficult subject to talk about, much less do something about. All of us need to keep trying to find a way to have that dialog, and that includes getting past certain barriers of “political correctness.”
The writer's paragraph above is a good example of a lot that is wrong with our contemporary political dialog. It moves seamlessly (without the benefit of even a period) from a valid point about affirmative action to the completely unsubstantiated allegation that there is a “tolerance for the ghetto culture of violence and fatherless children.” I don’t know of a single person, minority or not, in or out of the ghetto, who condones a culture of violence. To the extent that our government policies deal ineffectively with violence and irresponsible parenthood, we need to change them, but change them on the basis of facts instead of unsubstantiated attitudes.
I think it's very cool that we have a black president and that a
black child is doing her homework at the desk where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. I just wish the black president was Condi Rice, or someone who believes more in freedom and the individual and less arrogantly of an all-knowing government.
I don’t see President Obama’s “arrogance” in advocating for universal health care coverage or taking measures that in all likelihood prevented a total economic collapse in this country, and possibly worldwide. The extent to which government should be the instrument of public policy and social change is a legitimate subject for debate. Assuming that a particular policy indicates “arrogance” ipso facto is just another one of those conversation stoppers that gets in the way of rational discourse. As for Condi Rice, she is an accomplished woman, but the bottom line is that 9/11 happened on her watch, after she had received warnings, admittedly veiled and probably “inactionable,” but a bunch of dots that she failed to connect nonetheless. That doesn’t mean I hold her personally responsible, or that I consider her “arrogant,” but I would suggest that if the term applies to Obama, it could apply to her with as much justification.
I'm tired of a news media that thinks Bush's fundraising and inaugural expenses were obscene, but that think Obama's, at triple the cost, were wonderful; that thinks Bush exercising daily was a waste of presidential time, but Obama exercising is a great example for the public to control weight and stress; that picked over every line of Bush's military records, but never demanded that Kerry release his; that slammed Palin, with two years as governor, for being too inexperienced for VP, but touted Obama with three years as senator as potentially the best president ever. Wonder why people are dropping their subscriptions or switching to Fox News? Get a clue. I didn't vote for Bush in 2000, but the media and Kerry drove me to his camp in 2004.
For the record, I believe the following: Every presidential inauguration in my memory has been excessive, but they’re paid for mostly from private funds, so as far as the taxpayer is concerned, it’s a mute point. I think that everyone, including both Republicans and Democrats, should engage in physical exercise, and that it isn’t a waste of time. Military records don’t impress me one way or another, unless there is hypocrisy involved. President Bush, to my knowledge, was not hypocritical about his, and he was unfairly treated by the media. Landing on an aircraft carrier in a navy jet and proclaiming “Mission Accomplished” was grandstanding, however. John Kerry is a genuine military hero, which can and has been amply documented. Sarah Palin is demonstrably unqualified to be President, but I thought Obama did not yet have enough experience in 2008 either, so I voted for his opponent in the primary in my state. People are switching to Fox news because they hear from that network what they want to hear. I listen to MSNBC because it favors my bias. I try to remember, however, that it is biased; and I listen to Fox and CNN to get a different biased view (from Fox) and a more neutral view (from CNN).
I'm tired of being told that out of "tolerance for other cultures" we must let Saudi Arabia use our oil money to fund mosques and madrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in America, while no American group is allowed to fund a church, synagogue or religious school in Saudi Arabia to teach love and tolerance.
I agree with the spirit of this comment, noting only that once we pay them money to feed our voracious appetite for oil, it is no longer our money, but theirs to do with as they please. I do wish that we didn’t have to buy their oil.
I'm tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight global warming, which no one is allowed to debate. My wife and I live in a two-bedroom apartment and carpool together five miles to our jobs. We also own a three-bedroom condo where our daughter and granddaughter live. Our carbon footprint is about 5% of Al Gore's, and if you're greener than Gore, you're green enough.
Who told him he couldn’t debate the fact of global warming? He can debate it all he wants to, as far as I’m concerned. As a scientist, I can say with conviction that the data clearly indicate a long term trend toward a planet that is warming at a rate being accelerated by human activity. There are ways to mitigate global warming without lowering living standards, and in some ways by actually raising them. Let’s have that discussion.
I'm tired of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must help support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do. Did a giant germ rush out of a dark alley, grab them, and stuff white powder up their noses while they tried to fight it off? I don't think Gay people choose to be Gay, but I damn sure think druggies chose to take drugs. And I'm tired of harassment from cool people treating me like a freak when I tell them I never tried marijuana.
Drug dependence causes practically irreversible changes in the brain. To that extent, drug addiction is a neurological condition. No, there is no giant germ that forces a person to become addicted. There are social circumstances (not restricted to the ghetto) that promote it, and genetic predispositions that make some people more susceptible than others. But no one forces anyone to overeat, and there are genetic predispositions which lead some people to become overweight more than others, with considerable cost to society, but we don’t put them in prison for it unless they steal to eat. It is in the best interest of all of us not to demonize health issues that have a complicated mix of physiological and social causes. That doesn’t mean that we tolerate the destructive consequences of those conditions – drug-induced crimes, whether from cocaine or alcohol, should not be tolerated. In the long run, however, society will be better served at lower cost if we find a way to treat the conditions by addressing the social causes, dealing scientifically with the physical causes, and striving to rehabilitate rather than punish abusers of any substance. Finally, I don’t think anyone should be harassed for never having tried marijuana, anymore than those who have, should be.
I'm tired of illegal aliens being called "undocumented workers," especially the ones who aren't working, but are living on welfare or crime. What's next? Calling drug dealers, "Undocumented Pharmacists"? And, no, I'm not against Hispanics. Most of them are Catholic, and it's been a few hundred years since Catholics wanted to kill me for my religion. I'm willing to fast track for citizenship any Hispanic person, who can speak English, doesn't have a criminal record and who is self-supporting without family on welfare,or who serves honorably for three years in our military.... Those are the citizens we need.
Aside from the implicit assumption that an unspecified fraction of undocumented aliens (my attempt at a semantic compromise)are living on welfare or crime – which studies show constitute a much smaller fraction of undocumented aliens than of American citizens – this paragraph has some sensible suggestions for a path to citizenship with which I can readily agree.
I'm tired of latte liberals and journalists, who would never wear the uniform of the Republic themselves, or let their entitlement-handicapped kids near a recruiting station, trashing our military. They and their kids can sit at home, never having to make split-second decisions under life and death circumstances, and bad mouth better people than themselves. Do bad things happen in war? You bet. Do our troops sometimes misbehave? Sure. Does this compare with the atrocities that were the policy of our enemies for the last fifty years and still are? Not even close.
Any paragraph that begins with a pejorative term like “latte liberals” signals the reader that the writer is more interested in labeling than in thinking. Which is too bad, because the point of what followed the demeaning opening phrase merits consideration.
The term “latte liberal” is both ignorant and insulting. It’s ignorant because it makes the implicit assumption that liberals share a particular lifestyle that justifies turning a noun into an adjective to brand them. On its face, it is ignorant because it’s patently untrue; not every liberal likes lattes anymore than every conservative likes beer. I’ll bet dimes to donuts, in fact, that quite a few lattes are sold wherever the tea partyers congregate, just as many of my liberal friends like beer and stock car racing. The term is insulting because it is judgmental, linking a dietary preference to a political persuasion that the writer clearly abhors. He has a right to dislike lattes and disapprove of liberals, but making an unsubstantiated link between two things that have no cause-effect relationship shows only an intent to demean rather than enlighten.
On the substantive question of trashing the military, I have no idea who he thinks is doing that. Yes, there were those in the Vietnam era who condemned the soldiers along with the conflict. I did not agree with that then, and don’t now. The writer notes correctly that when people go to war, bad things happen. Those of us who criticized the military for allowing Abu Ghraib to happen are no less patriotic than the writer, and no less respectful of the vast majority of our military men and women who serve with honor, integrity, and courage. The fact of the matter is that Abu Ghraib has done more to recruit for and revitalize the terrorist cause around the world than anything, and it deserves to be condemned for the disaster it has been to our national image and our example of what a just society should be. The larger picture is that when a nation makes the decision to go to war, it has to know that a lot of innocent people, as well as combatants, are going to be killed, and atrocities are going to occur on both sides. Those of us who condemned the invasion of Iraq before it happened did so with the certain knowledge that bad things would happen, which they did. Was the cause worth it? The world may be better off without Saddham Hussein, but were all the lives and debt incurred by our nation and inflicted on theirs worth the price of buying them the right to engage in a civil war? We can disagree over that, but to condemn the war does not constitute trashing the military.
So here's the deal. I'll let myself be subjected to all the humiliation and abuse that was heaped on terrorists at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo, and the critics can let themselves be subject to captivity by the Muslims, who tortured and beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, or the Muslims who tortured and murdered Marine Lt.Col. William Higgins in Lebanon, or the Muslims who ran the blood-spattered Al Qaeda torture rooms our troops found in Iraq, or the Muslims who cut off the heads of schoolgirls in Indonesia, because the girls were Christian. Then we'll compare notes. British and American soldiers are the only troops in history that civilians came to for help and handouts, instead of hiding from in fear.
Fair point. If we could have avoided the abuses of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, our cause would have been venerated even more by the rest of the world.
I'm tired of people telling me that their party has a corner on virtue and the other party has a corner on corruption. Read the papers; bums are bipartisan. And I'm tired of people telling me we need bipartisanship. I live in Illinois, where the "Illinois Combine" of Democrats has worked to loot the public for years. Not to mention the tax cheats in Obama's cabinet.
Is someone really telling him that their party has a corner on virtue? I’ve never claimed that mine does. As for bipartisanship, the logic of the point the writer is trying to make is obscure. If it is that one-party politics provides a fertile field for corruption, I agree. Which would seem to be an argument for two or more healthy political parties. Which would require government to be bipartisan, in order to get anything done.
I'm tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians of both parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught. I'm tired of people with a sense of entitlement, rich or poor.
Speaking of poor, I'm tired of hearing people with air-conditioned homes, color TVs and two cars called poor. The majority of Americans didn't have that in 1970, but we didn't know we were "poor." The poverty pimps have to keep changing the definition of poor to keep the dollars flowing.
Just when the writer is about to make a good point, he slams us with another pejorative term like “poverty pimps.” It is clear that he has a fondness for alliteration, but a decidedly lesser commitment to clarification.
I'm real tired of people who don't take responsibility for their lives and actions. I'm tired of hearing them blame the government, or discrimination or big-whatever for their problems.
Again, well said.
Yes, I'm damn tired. But I'm also glad to be 63. Because, mostly, I'm not going to have to see the world these people are making. I'm just sorry for my granddaughter.
I am too, but for different reasons. We need to work together so that our worst fears for the future don’t come true for either of us.
Robert A. Hall is a Marine Vietnam veteran who served five terms in the Massachusetts State Senate.
Thank you, Mr. Hall, for your service to our country. In my opinion, the cause you fought for was not in the best interest of our nation, but it was not your place to question the cause, once in uniform, and I honor whatever sacrifices you made in carrying out your duties.
I also respect your service as a state legislator. As such, you surely know that making public policy is complicated, and that in a pluralistic and democratic society where we all have a right to express our point of view, our views are frequently going to be in conflict. Those views do not deserve to be demonized, or ridiculed by facile and pejorative labels, or be dismissed or demeaned by either side. You have raised a number of valid points worthy of intelligent and tolerant discussion, which I would welcome.