just beggin' for a shitstorm of controversy

recently it's become obvious to me that this public forum is indeed just that--a public forum. although i think alison and i have used this blog largely as a means to communicate with our friends and with each other while i was away at school, and as a place to think out loud, it has come to our attention--through the recent anonymous posts--that strangers actually read this thing. I don't know why, but they do.

with this in mind, and now that the visting posters have kinda slacked off, i'd like to respond to one particular person's comments. While most of the anonymouses were merely inflammatory and forgettable, this person's post actually made me angry. that, for me, is a surefire indicator that they are close to the mark, and i appreciate being made to think. On "yet more butt stories" the anonymous commentator had this to say:

"Liberal associates with liberal and is always prejudiced against conservative. The views expressed here are liberal, intolerant, and lack any sort of thought that has not been approved by a hippie elder. You like free speech as long as it ain't uncomfortable, protest Wal-Mart because you can afford to not shop there, and think your noble thoughts while hudreds of people sweat day and night to put a few grams of sugar or no-calorie substitute in your grande' cup of java. Get off your high horse and do something to make the world a better place. Then, maybe average Joe and Jane will think you ain't noblese or sig. noblese."

I'd now like to address what this person had to say, but with one caveat: (as my hero wendell berry so aptly stated one time) it is impossible to provide an adequate public defense of one's private life.

our writer says: "liberal associates with liberal and is always prejudiced against conservative."

it's mostly true. I think most capital "L" liberals are a bunch of smarmy, self-congradulatory, elistist snobs. I find, to paraphrase another one of our anonymous posters, that being like that isn't a way to enter into helpful dialog. I often find myself thinking holier-than-thou thoughts, buttressing my own goodness by pointing out the flaws of others, and i work everyday to stop doing this.

that said, i do not identify as a capital "L" liberal. i am, however, liberal. I believe a person can live however they want to. i do not, for instance, believe that there are "limits to freedom." i do believe that the freedoms we enjoy find their root in personal accountability, responsibility and a respect for other people's way of life.

next: "the views expressed here are liberal, intolerant and lack any sort of thought not approved by a hippie elder."

first, kudos for a well-constructed and witty sentence. This is the one that got my goat the most--particularly the hippie elder part. but i have to ask: are all three of these things meant as criticism? i like my definition of my own liberal-ness, so that's flattering. I really don't see the intolerant part except for the admission of often being holier-than-thou--but like i said, i'm working on it. "Hippie elder." this one hurt, and i know why. i have an ego. i'd like to think that i'm all cutting edge and stuff. i'd like to think that i'm wildly brilliant and individualistic, but i'm not. i'm just a mouthpiece for a lot of smarter people--most of them hippie elders. my two all time favorite hippie elders are Jesus and Wendell Berry. some other wildly influential ones are the artist Joseph Beuys; Bill Wilson, the founder of aa (and technically not a hippie); Hector Black, a farmer in cookeville, tn; Paulo Freire, educator; bell hooks, radical black feminist; and Pete Seeger, the folk singer.

"you like free speech as long as it ain't uncomfortable..."

well, this is simply untrue. if the writer is willing to point out some places where i'm guilty of taking the comfortable route i'd be willing to take a look, but mostly i just plain have to disagree.
i will go to almost any length (short of violence--which i see as technically more than "speech") to protect ANYONE'S right to speak. (i do believe, on a rather conservative note, that this right ought to be carefully tempered with personal accountability, responsibility, and respect for other people's way of life.)

"...protest wal mart because you can afford not to shop there..."

ah, yes. it is true that i can afford not to shop at wal mart. i would like to point out, though, that that's only because of the generosity of family members. i myself have always been pretty poor and i'm grateful for this. It has taught me to empathize with people that don't have much. (this is not really the place to point this out, but i wanna: at 37 years old, the most money i've ever made in one year, before taxes, was 16 thousand dollars. every other year was easily half of that. i just want to say that in case the writer--who clearly has never met me--thinks that i live in a wealthy part of town, drive a new suv, or speak french).

i assume the writer got this opinion because of my wal mart website. i didn't bother to theorize that work on the site, but maybe i should have. Allow me the chance to do that here: i find wal mart to be an irresponsible company with irresponsible business practices. my website specifically states "the purpose of this web site is to invite you to get yourself banned from wal mart." it's about imposing--on yourself--certain restrictions and responsibilities. if you can't afford to do that, then by all means don't do it. however, do try to make some life changes that limit your need for a place like that. i actually don't think that wal mart makes whatever billions of dollars a year it does based solely on people's needs. i think it makes a lot of that money off of people's wants. cut your wants, limit your needs, then you too might not be relagated to financing an evil corporation. i'm currently collecting links for that site to provide names and addresses of small businesses that provide ethically produced products at affordable prices. if you have any that you particularly like, please send them on to me.

"...and think your noble thoughts while hudreds of people sweat day and night to put a few grams of sugar or no-calorie substitute in your grande' cup of java. Get off your high horse and do something to make the world a better place. Then, maybe average Joe and Jane will think you ain't noblese or sig. noblese. "

i do try to think nobly, i sweat for a living, am trying to wean myself off sugar, allergic and abhor no-calorie substitute, and don't buy coffee from a place that calls big "grande'." my horse has increasingly become a bicycle or my feet, and i'm doing my dead-level best to make the world a better place (and have a long long way to go). Finally, i recognize many average janes and joes as friends of mine--and it strikes me that you, sir, are no average jane or joe--perhaps you should take a look at why what we say here inflames you so much...

but in closing and most honestly, i really do appreciate the comment. i think i often fall into a trap of considering myself hot-to-trot. i have lived a life mostly of privilege and abuse it often. i live too luxuriously and am quick to point out the faults of others. i will continue to consider your comments, and hopefully will have the courage to act on what flaws i find. thanks for keeping me straight.


christiemckaskle said...

I have no controversy to offer, A&W. Just wanted to document that I read all the way to the end of this thoughtful post!

Maig said...

Rockin' post Walter.
I really related to many of the things you said and things said by anonymous commenter. I'm agreeing with Christie M again- so thougthful! (and have no controversy- still digesting these thoughts and will for a while! :) )
Also ALison,
Sucks about the Bike dilema.
I agree with Cate, and the Dad-both good options. But on my way to work this morning I thought- since you love your bike riding self and ride to work every morning...I personally would lean towards an upgrade. And find a way of letting go of the kids wrong doings. (Which I have to room to preach about it's just something I am always working on.) It only affects their Karma (I think). Listen to you heart to do what you feel is best.
Love to you both!

The Mom said...

Walter, I again loved reading what you have to say, and love that you say it so well. You guys have a wonderful blog, and I look forward to whatever is new every day. (Oh...I, too, read to the end.)

Love, The Mom

Scout said...

I read to the end. Which could be a new mantra for life.
Anyway, I like that you were able to find positive things to relate to the commented upon post. Oh, that cable pundits every where would try to follow your example. I feel that we should all take back the word liberal. We've allowed fundamentalists to redefine the L word. Notice that I didn't say conservatives. Conservatives should focus on conserving. Conserving resources, human lives, the environment, etc. Okay, that a fairly basic interpretation of conservative. For that matter, fundamentalists should focus on fundamentals. Some fundmentals that are important to me: breathing (preferably clean air), drinking (clean water), loving one another, first do no harm (not just for docs anymore), and shooting a good free throw. Rock on Walter.

Anonymous said...

This anonymous dude enjoyed your post--it was a cool way to transform anger and discomfort into a positive learning experience.

This anonymous could not help but think of a few books you might find interesting to read. These are guys who inspired the hippie elders:

For bell hooks
An American Dilemma by Gunner Myrdal
The Soul of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
Frederick Douglass' Fourth of July speach

For the guys that told us what Jesus said:
The Gospel of Thomas
The Septuagent
The Myth of Dionysus

Thich Nhat Hahn and the Lama guy do some good inspiring too. But an undergrad mentor probably had you read them. Even if you were a member of the Society of Heathens.

Now feminist thought-- I would say "Boss" (a.k.a. wife) got that covered. Those first wave feminists go back to John Mill and Mary Wollstoncraft.

Anonymous [friendly version]

Anonymous said...

MARRIAGE, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.

-Ambroce Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Anonymous said...

What a thoughtful, engaging post, and one that required quite a bit of self-analysis and honest self-reflection. A wonderful way to move beyond anger to more productive, positive emotions. Enjoyed reading it.

All best,