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Friday, April 11, 2008
Last Week an Angry Liberal, This Week a Right-wing Nut Job

This didn't turn out exactly as I planned. My original strategy proved to be too much like carpet-bombing some of my neighbors and relatives, so I shelved it. Something more surgical is indicated.

In last Friday's post I recounted the morning I spent trying to be a liberal -- the angry Hillary/Nancy/Harry/Barack's-preacher kind of liberal, not the more thoughtful kind incarnated in some of my friends. In the interest of fairness and balance, today I tried to be a right-wing conservative nut job -- again, not a thinking conservative. The other kind. You've seen them. The kind of conservative the Big Media Acronyms (BMA) think all the rest of us conservatives are.

If you're thinking that I'm thinking of Rush Limbaugh, the leading thinking conservative entertainer, or even Ann Coulter (far too cerebral) or Mike Adams (far too conciliatory), you're not even in the right ballpark for today's experiment. If you're thinking of George W. Bush, you really must stop drinking the Kool-Aid. I don't want to mention a lot of names, but imagine Pat Buchanan if he were deprived of 50 IQ points and his innate humanity, or consider Jesse Ventura discussing the Twin Towers (not necessarily every other subject), or Louis Farrakhan if he flipped from mostly left-wing nutty to solidly right-wing nutty.

How It Went

You want to know how it went? It went painfully. I ruthlessly wove the idiosyncracies of at least two dozen actual right wing nut jobs, with whom I am personally acquainted, into one earnest, studious narrative personality. Forgive me for saying so, but I think I did so with insight and humor.

What I wrote in that assumed persona may have been spot on. It may have been cathartic. But I can't publish it. The collateral damage would be too high. There are two reasons for this. First, most of those two dozen sources of inspiration are people with whom I have a responsibility to maintain a continuing relationship, for familial or ecclesiastical reasons. Second, words aimed at nut jobs can hurt people with related but sensible views, especially if the latter don't read carefully (they often don't) and don't have thick skins (many don't), or if the writer's gift of clarity is imperfect (as it always is).

Some of you more playful, more aggressive political types may be disappointed, but these two excerpts are all you get of the original effort. They're from the conclusion, not the toxic middle:

I can't be the right-wing nut job I've portrayed here. I can't do the relentless mental, physical, and spiritual paranoia. I can't stomach the bad logic rooted in . . . froth. I know what real research looks like, and I can't abide the counterfeit kind, especially as the basis of lifestyle choices. . . . I am capable of sanctimonious claptrap -- so I have been told -- but I'm not sanctimonious enough to be a (right) wing nut. . . .

I already know my views make some well-meaning people fear for my immortal soul. I can live with that. I can even live with them, within limits. I just can't be one of them.

Now, if you have something better to do than wonder what I wrote that was so toxic, or if you're interested in some examples of potential collateral damage, you may want to read the rest of this post. You can deduce some of the former, more or less, from my discussion of the latter. If none of that interests you, I think we're done for now. See you next time.

Collateral Damage

Are you still reading? Okay, then.

Sometimes in war you decide that hitting the target with your bombs and missiles is not worth the likely (or possible) collateral damage to unrelated -- usually civilian -- buildings and personnel in the area. Accordingly, here are some of my right-wing nut job targets, which I would happily skewer, and the expected collateral damage which protects each for the moment.

Thus this blog post becomes less an exercise in channeling a nut job (as it began), and more a study of the subtle distinctions between reasonable and extreme views of the same subject, and the practical risks of one's words being misunderstood and doing unwanted damage to people who weren't targets in the first place.

If you want to think a little further, you may also observe an implied lesson here on how nutty zealots who embrace an otherwise respectable cause can damage that cause and prevent reasonable people from pursuing it effectively.

I divide the list by the original draft's paragraphs, which is a little weird only because you haven't read them.

Collateral Damage in the First Paragraph

(Take my word for it; it wasn't an especially long paragraph.)

Target: People who home-school their children because they want to shelter them completely from the world, whether or not the parents are qualified, committed, and able to be home-school teachers, and whether or not their corner of the world is particularly threatening.

Collateral Damage: People who home-school their children at considerable sacrifice, for sensible reasons related to their children's academic progress, physical safety, or suitability for the public schools.

Target: People who judge a teacher, for example, by whether or not she teaches her students to emphasize certain words in the Pledge of Allegiance as they think she should.

Collateral Damage: Good, patriotic citizens who prize the Pledge of Allegiance and who might mistake my criticism of people for criticism of the Pledge itself, or of their allegiance.

Target: Parents who pump out babies as fast as the reproductive plumbing can reset itself, without regard for their responsibility to raise all the children they create, or without regard for the mother's physical and mental health.

Collateral Damage: Good parents who love children and and are happy to have lots of them, or wanted to have a lot but didn't or couldn't.

Target: People who care more whether prayer is said in school than they care for the quality of reading, writing, and arithmetic instruction there.

Collateral Damage: People who believe in, teach, and practice prayer (of which I am one), without necessarily trusting the public schools to supervise it.

Target: People who get upset when public schools and other public institutions don't get all caught up in religious celebrations of religious holidays.

Collateral Damage: People who love those religious holidays.

Target: People who try to remove Santa and Rudolph from Christmas, even as they complain about others' efforts to remove Jesus Christ from Christmas.

Collateral Damage: People who believe Jesus is more important than Santa, but welcome both.

Target: People who want the schools to teach a specific sectarian view of sexual morality, but feel threatened when the schools teach our scientific understanding of human reproduction.

Collateral Damage: People who worry that the schools don't teach biology very well because they're so determined to teach a certain view of sexual (im)morality.

Target: Creationists (or Intelligent Designists).

Collateral Damage: People who believe the earth and humans are of divine origin, without believing all the narrow, unreflective, inconsistent claims of the creationists or insisting that public school science classes incorporate these particular religious beliefs into their science curricula.

Target: Zealots who beat their children.

Collateral Damage: Sensible parents who accept the occasional necessity of judicious, limited physical discipline.

Collateral Damage: Second Paragraph

Target: People who think the White House or the CIA was behind the collapse of the World Trade Center towers -- which, as every wing nut knows, were brought down by explosives planted in the towers, not by steel severely weakened by collision with a jumbo jet and by a huge inferno fed by dozens of tons of jet fuel.

Collateral Damage: None that I know.

Target: People who worry more about losing our liberty to mysterious international cabals, such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commisson, than they fear losing it to unwise people and their elected officials who happily trade freedom for handouts, and sell the nation's security for their own political power.

Collateral Damage: People who genuinely worry about legitimate threats to the United States' sovereignty.

Collateral Damage: Third Paragraph

Target: People who think illegal aliens are Satan's plan to destroy America, and that they should all be rounded up and sent home, and that our southern border should look like the Iron Curtain.

Collateral Damage: People who have intelligent concerns about the rule of law and the effects of massive illegal immigration on both natives and immigrants.

Target: People who insert their personal political views into their religion, unwisely vesting the former with the credibility and immunity of the latter.

Collateral Damage: Sensible people who take both their religious convictions and experience and their political views seriously, but are mostly able to discern the difference between the two.

Collateral Damage: Fourth Paragraph

Target: People who think the AMA and the pharmaceutical companies are deliberately suppressing all sorts of miracle treatments, and who completely distrust highly-trained medical professionals while embracing uncritically whatever they may read on the Internet.

Collateral Damage: People for whom conventional medicine has not worked, who are desperately seeking a real, reasonable alternative treatment.

Collateral Damage: Fifth Paragraph

Target: People who think they are honest but still justify cheating on their taxes on (supposedly) moral grounds.

Collateral Damage: None.

Target: People who think their tax money should only be used for policies, purposes, and projects of which they personally approve.

Collateral Damage: People who have to struggle to pay their taxes, and who are concerned that their governments might be doing things they shouldn't, perhaps even destructive things.

Target: People who will stoop to anything to shame people who make different moral choices than they do, and who demonize anyone who disagrees with them on any issue they care about.

Collateral Damage: Reasonable, compassionate people who mourn the wholesale slaughter of unborn babies, the evident decline of civiliation, etc.

Target: Mormons who care deeply whether their fellow Mormons drink caffeinated sodas (or use white flour, refined sugar, or chocolate, or order a double Whopper when a mere Whopper would fill the hole).

Collateral Damage: People who are trying to be both healthy and obedient to their religious principles, when it can be difficult to be either.

Target: People who fear the arts because some artists are homosexuals.

Collateral Damage: People who believe that homosexuality is a sin which destroys individuals and society.

Collateral Damage: Sixth Paragraph

Target: Parents who attempt to shelter their children from all worldly influences and every possible danger, no matter how unlikely or unreasonable.

Collateral Damage: Parents who understand the superiority of virtue to innocence, but still want their children to be reasonably safe.

Target: People of faith who believe that the Lord's protection means they don't have to do anything sensible to protect themselves, like fasten their seat belts.

Collateral Damage: Bereaved people whose lost loved ones didn't fasten their seat belts.

Collateral Damage: Seventh Paragraph

Target: People who blame their own evil urges on others (either Satan or the people around them), as if to excuse or justify themselves.

Collateral Damage: Imperfect people who are trying to live up to high ideals.


Sometimes an earnest, relatively compact salvo is still too crude an approach. Something more surgical is needed, perhaps something slightly different for each target.

By the way, is anyone troubled by my referring to right-wing nut jobs as "targets"? You understand that I mean rhetorical targets, right?

In any case, at least this blog post is less indiscrimately toxic than the original attempt. I'm sorry to disappoint you, if what you really wanted was indiscrimate toxicity. But one's (as in my) blogging really ought to be a positive enhancement to one's life beyond the blog (LBB), not a positive hindrance to it.

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