I’m just going to start writing here, hoping that I get where I need to go. This is something of a life philosophy, actually!
You’ve said a lot, and I wanted to respond to the things that made the biggest impression on me, and also wanted to offer a few new thoughts that might sum up, to a degree, why I think those things made an impact in the first place.
You talked about how my writing seemed pessimistic to you, or that it seems like I am taking on too much of a burden, claiming responsibility for the whole human race or something. I actually see it quite the other way around; I think doing this at all, reaching out and trying to go somewhere together, is a profoundly optimistic, hopeful practice. Maybe I overinflate the potential, imagining hearts and minds being won through a lowly blog on an artist’s website. More likely, though, it’s a sign of something bigger happening, some kind of broader reconciliation or search for truth that we are part of. I am happy to be a small part of it. It’s like when I moved to New York, headed downtown with Uncle Vinnie and realized that I didn’t want to own the town, so to speak, become some new sensation. I just wanted to participate.
However, in offering that response something gets left out: the place where you were coming from, the caring, the sense that you are still able to be a parent after 37, almost 38, years. I was deeply moved by that, and wanted to say thank you. I was also really moved by the nice things you said about the boys, the relocation, that Max and Miles add years to your life. It was, again, a moment of real caring and depth of feeling that rang out.
Out of that depth of feeling, which I feel like really defines you as a person, comes my puzzling over a few things. Of course I am pleased that you seem to see the Trump phenomenon for what it is. In that place. where you talked about being unable to listen to him speak, you also talk about Hillary Clinton and how you feel the same way. Your feelings on the Clintons have been clear to me for a long time, in fact I think those feelings were the things that, in my view, really cemented and intensified many of your beliefs and political affiliations. At least that’s what my memory says; I could definitely be missing something. Regardless, “I can’t stand Trump but I sure can’t listen to Hillary, either” as a sentiment bears a little bit of scrutiny. I think it brings out a pervasive view that you articulate other places as well: I might think such-and-such a thing, but someone equally intelligent or whatever might think the dead opposite, therefore we have to accommodate both views.
For me this idea is somewhat helpful in some cases, but for the most part, given the polarization of our politics (our meaning our whole country’s/world’s), it is a big lie. There are not equally good ideas on either side of the fence on any given issue, in my view. (Especially when you move the fence.) Because some ideas are actually better than others: those that relieve more suffering, that foster more community, that allow people the freedom to become their best selves. Somehow this has become contestable. I’ll blame Fox and you can blame MSNBC, and we’ll get nowhere. Still, though, for me it’s definitely this “fair and balanced” idea that Fox was so good at pushing at around the time the world turned upside down. We’ll just give equal time to these other, equally good ideas, the logic goes, and offer an antidote to the “liberal media bias.” So you call something fair because it shows the polar opposite of some idea. But what if the idea is actually a good one, one that bears out upon scrutinizing it in terms of human good? In terms of compassion?
Which brings me to the next big claim, and one that seems more provocative, and extreme, and maybe more potentially alienating to you than most that we’ve been making. From where many of us sit, the logic of Fair and Balanced allows really bad ideas to fester, to be justified by those in power, to be stoked and intensified among people who might actually vote. So I can’t take someone like Ben Carson seriously, or anyone else that actually wants to lead the GOP, for that matter, that believes in its tactics and core values. To me it’s pretty straightforward: the playbook seems to be to get on the dead-wrong side of social/environmental/economic issues, to fire people up to vote against their own interests, to make rich people richer and powerful institutions more powerful. Guns, climate change, the whole enchilada. It’s the same play in all cases, and I have trouble seeing it any other way. Which is why I am here. Convince me otherwise?
Thanks in advance,