Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Stupidity of Public Discourse

Saturday Bob and I walked up to Penn Quarter for brunch and to check out a street festival. Lest you think this blog has become brunch- and Bob-centric, I’m not going to mention either again in this entry.

Getting to Penn Quarter meant wading through the pro and anti war festivities. I hear a lot about the loss of civility in public discourse, the increasingly partisan nature of politics, and inflammatory rhetoric. But nobody talks about the stupidity of public discourse.

Stupidity was out in force on Saturday. The pro-war folks were lining up along Pennsylvania Avenue, waving flags and chanting. OK, fine. But this was the dumb part: many were wearing badges that said, “Fighting the insurgency at home.” Say what? Fighting the what and where? Are these people complete and total morons?

I read the newspaper every day, and I have not seen a single report of anti-war folks bombing recruiting stations, attacking military installations, or plotting a revolution. Those things can rightfully be called insurgency. The antiwar folks are exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech and peaceable assembly. Same thing as, incidentally, the “fighting the insurgency” folks were doing. Calling them insurgents is inflammatory, hypocritical, pointless, and really stupid. (Let’s not even get into the pro-war dumbasses holding “Remember 9/11” banners, because, as we all know, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Using 9/11 for absolutely anything political is tacky and a cheap shot. Plus, see above, dumb.)

I don’t think patriotism equates to blind obedience. I think it’s fine to protest and lodge your opinion, both of which are protected by the Bill of Rights. If you want a brand of patriotism consisting of lockstep hero worship in which you are required to agree with everything your President does or says, move to a totalitarian state like North Korea or Turkmenistan. See how you like it. (Hint: you won’t. Those people are broke, peculiar and crazy.)

Lest you think I’m biased, I was equally unimpressed by the anti-war folks. It’s a fine cause, and it’s nice to know that people care enough to come into Washington just to wave signs. But the goofiness of their tactics fills me with more pity than admiration. First off, kids, take a shower. Wear shoes. Brush your hair. Don’t be a dirty hippie, because that makes it way too easy for the rest of us to dismiss you as a pack of dirty hippies.

Second, message discipline. Look it up, kids. In one brief glance across the crowd, I saw signs telling us to end the war now, bring the troops home…and then there were signs telling us to impeach Bush and Cheney, stop global warming, and so on. Pick one thing, just one, and beat the message home. Be a message and a cause, not a conglomeration of petty grievances.

Last, actions have consequences. Later in the day, I walked past a young antiwar woman who was screeching into her cell phone. Apparently several of her friends had jumped a barricade and gotten themselves arrested as an act of civil disobedience. This girl was stunned, yes, stunned, that her friends needed to be bailed out and may have to pay a trespassing fine. Well, of course. Actions (jumping a barricade) have consequences (going to jail and paying a fine). If you want to get arrested to prove a point, then you have to go through with all of the drawbacks of being arrested. Princess, that’s life in reality-land.

Finally, antiwar kids, can we stop with all the “die-ins”? That’s when a bunch of protesters stop in their tracks, drop to the ground, and play dead. Die-ins are just…goofy. I don’t know what the point is. Are you symbolizing our dead troops? I don’t think our troops have dreadlocks and reek of patchouli. It looks dumb in person, and it looks even more ridiculous in print. I suppose it’s a photo op, but, again, it looks goofy.

To be fair, both sides looked pretty dorky. The pro-war folks all looked like Leather Guy from the Village People, and the anti-war folks looked like an explosion in a flannel factory. A dirty flannel factory.

Saturday didn’t affect my view of the war, one way or the other. All it did was make me feel sorry for folks who value opinions over intelligence, obedience over free speech, actions over consequences, and anyone who can’t dress worth a damn.

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