Rant on Our Times, With Reply

Posted Jun 5, 2009
Last Updated Jun 5, 2009

(June 5, 2009)

     Back in 2001, someone forwarded an email rant to me.  It felt genuine, but it may have been cooked up just to rattle people's cages.  Anyway I wrote a commentary on it, and sent it to the daily paper in Spokane WA, where I lived.  The Spokesman-Review liked it, and gave it a half page plus on Sunday, June 10, 2001.  They got some 600 favorable email replies from their North Idaho subscribers alone.
     Recently I ran across it in my files, and despite the intervening eight years, it still seems timely.  So I'm posting it here, with some updating, and with most references to AD 2000 politics left out.  For your examination:

Ranter:  I am your worst nightmare.  I am a BAD American.  I like big cars, big boobs, and big cigars.
Tastes are tastes.

Ranter:  I'm not in touch with my feelings and I like it that way.

The saying "You should be in touch with your feelings" means whatever the speaker wants it to.  The writer is obviously deeply in touch with his feelings; he wallows in them.  But it doesn't seem to be doing him much good; he seems to have finished his letter at least as aggravated as when he started.  Which is all right.  This is a democracy.

Ranter:  I believe no one ever died because of something Ozzy Osbourne, Ice-T or Marilyn Manson sang.

Murders, drug deaths, etc. grow out of things a lot deeper and more potent than Ozzy Osbourne.  But there are people who strike out at whatever pulls their trigger; mostly passionate people who are emotionally self-indulgent.  Just about all of us, seems to me, do it now and then.  Some people create crusades out of them.

Ranter: I think owning a gun doesn't make you a killer.  I don't think being a minority makes you noble or victimized.  I don't celebrate Kwanzaa.  I believe that if you are selling me a Big Mac, you'd better do it  in English.

I see nothing there to quibble about.  But on the other hand,  while I haven't heard  anyone claim that owning a gun makes a person a killer, from time to time it certainly facilitates killing.  I don't celebrate Kwanzaa either, or Hannukaah, but what's the beef?  Within broad limits it's a free country.
Rant:  I think Oprah is a big fat pig.

I've never seen an Oprah show.  I did appreciate the smooth way she highlighted the idiocy of the  Texas beef producers association.  I don't doubt some cattlemen thought it was idiocy too.  (I have Kansas kin who produce feeder cattle.)  At any rate, people will react however they react.

Ranter:  I think fireworks should be legal on the fourth of July.

The fireworks prohibition did not grow out of liberalism.  It grew out of fire prevention.
     I remember the 4th of July in 1934.  (I know the year because it was when mama and I lived in Shearing's boarding house at 4420 Adams St. in Gary, Indiana.)  We were in the front yard watching people set off fireworks, and a rocket took off like the old Vanguards, sideways; hit a roof and set it on fire.  It was probably a rarity, but....  Earlier that day another kid on our block lit a firecracker that went off before he could throw it.  Ripped his fingers wide open; bled to beat heck, and boy did he scream!
     A case can be made that we have too many laws protecting us from stupidity.  The question is, which laws are worthwhile?  It's a matter of judgment.

Ranter:  I think that being a student doesn't give you any more enlightenment than  working at Blockbuster.
Enlightenment?  Maybe not.  But knowledge?  That's something else.

Ranter:  In fact, if your parents are footing the bill to put you through four to seven years of  college, you don't have the right to tell any working person anything!

The ranter claims the right to do this and that, then tells others "you don't have the right." Hmm.  Feelings like those are part of  the human species, and he has the right to tell us we don't have the right.  It's when someone tries to  take that right away from someone that serious trouble is likely. 
    As for students and working people — I was further left as a merchant seaman than I was later on as a college student.  On two ships I was the engine department's delegate for the Seafarers' International Union. 

Ranter:  I don't want to eat or drink anything with the words light, lite, or fat-free on the package.  I believe everyone has a right to  pray to his or her God or gods or not  pray at all.  Just leave the rest of us out of it…
Eat what you please.  As for praying…seems as if the ranter's problem is someone else's right to talk about their beliefs. 

Ranter: This also applies to sexuality.  I don't care what  your sexual preference is, it gives you no special rights, and if I want to call you a [term for homosexual], I'll do so.
Ah!  Rights again.  But keep in mind that when you call someone a name, accurately or inaccurately, and they're touchy about it,  they may pound on you.  And while you may be tough (or not, as the case may be), he may be tougher, and whup your butt good.  Even if you just use the term on  someone you feel sure you can take, the world does hold surprises for us, with after-effects and  side-effects, a ruptured spleen for instance, split lips, broken nose, bruised ego…

Ranter: I am not and never will be "politically correct," which is nothing but a cover  for liberal, left-wing censorship.  The  Bill of  Rights applies to conservatives just as much as it applies to liberals.  Someday liberals might even understand that it applies to everyone, not just to lesbians and gays, socialists, anarchists, artists, actors, talk-show hosts, and other assorted misfits.

But my impression is, the ranter doesn't approve of others saying what they think or feel, when it offends him.

Ranter:  My heroes are John Wayne, the  Simpsons, and whoever cancelled "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman."
Depends on what you mean by heroes.  John Wayne made some sure enough good movies.  And a varied lot of people enjoy The Simpsons, me among them.  I know nothing about Dr. Quinn.

Ranter:  I don't hate the rich and I don't pity the poor.  I know wrestling is fake and I don't waste my time arguing about it.

Hey hey!  That sounds good to me.

Ranter:  I never owned a slave, or was a slave.  I didn't wander forty years in the desert after getting chased out of Egypt.  I haven't burned any witches or been persecuted by the Turks, and neither have you.  So shut up already.

What the ranter wrote here, I don't argue with.  He does, though, make clear that he doesn't like it when other people talk about those things.  "My freedom of speech, not yours."

Ranter:  I want to know which church is it exactly where the Rev. Jessie Jackson preaches.  And where does he get his money.  And why does he always become a part of the problem and not the solution.

Wikipedia replies to Ranter's basic questions regarding Reverend Jackson.  Jackson hasn't had a pulpit.  He did attend Chicago Theological Seminary, would eventually obtain a master of  divinity, and an honorary theological doctorate.  Beginning in Reverend Martin Luther King's era, he's been deeply involved in the black advancement crusade, but on  occasion he can sound more like Jerry Falwell: his recent put-down of Barack Obama damaged himself waay more than it did Obama.
    Ranter's accusation that Jackson has been "…part of the problem and not the solution…" describes most of us to some degree. 

Ranter: I think the cops have every right to  shoot you if you're running from  them.  I also think they have the right to pull you over if you are breaking the law, regardless of what color you are.

The police may or may not have legal authority to shoot, depending on the jurisdiction and circumstance — authority that inevitably is abused.  We can't expect perfection in law enforcement, any more than in anything else.  We can try for improvement though; there is always room for improvement. 
     Buy maiming or killing someone in the line of police duty, or executing someone after a trial, is damned hard to correct afterward, if it turns out to have been unjustified.

Ranter:  If you are too stupid to know how a ballot works, I don't want you deciding who should be running the most powerful nation in the world for the next four years.

If enough voters, liberal, centrist, and conservative, are stupid enough, they're the one's who'll decide.  That goes with democracy.  Meanwhile it helps if the machines work properly, and if  people pay attention to the instructions.  It's been argued that the Supreme Court gave the White House to Bush II.  In fact, if the vote hadn't been so close, the call wouldn't have gone to the Court. 

Ranter:  I worry about dying before I get even.

Efforts to "get even" are a major source of grief and trouble in this world.  But it's possible, on the spur of the moment, to not give a damn because revenge feels so good at the time, and to hell with the results.

Ranter:  I hate those [part of the anatomy] standing in the intersections trying to sell me crap or trying to guilt me into making donations to their cause.  These people should be targets.

Targets for what?  By whom?

Ranter:  I think if  you are in  the passing lane, and not passing, your  license should be revoked, and you should be forced to ride the bus until you promise to never delay the rest of us again.

That would amount to legislating common courtesy.  Which has been tried a lot, and mostly doesn't work all that well.  It's the ranter's version of political correctness.

Ranter:  I think beef jerky could quite possibly be the perfect food.  [Mutton jerky is just as good.  There ain't no perfect food.]  I enjoy high speed pursuits, the more damage the better.  I believe that it  doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes two parents.  I think tatoos and piercings are fine if you want them, but please don't pretend they are a political statement.

Opinions are a matter of choice, good or bad.

Ranter:  I think Dr. Seuss was a genius. 

Sounds good to me.

Ranter:  I'm neither angry nor disenfranchised, no matter how desperately the mainstream media would like the world to think otherwise.

Not angry?  Most of what the ranter wrote here sounds angry.

Ranter:  I was proud as Mr. Bush took his oath of office.  I was sad when Mr. Clinton boarded Air Force One for the final time.  It may surprise you that this made me sad, but watching this part of the day's festivities, I saw 21 U.S. Marines fire a 21-gun salute to the outgoing President.  It was then I realized how far America's military had deteriorated.  Every last one of them missed. 

Just what we seriously don't need — political assassinations by the military.  Okay, okay.  I realize the ranter was joking, but it's food for thought.

My Analysis
    My main point in posting this is to point out how upset some people are with the stumbling progress we're making in the evolution of a humane and just democratic (small d) society.  There's no way around it: A lot of people are unhappy because change is taking place too fast for them — while others are unhappy because we're changing too slowly for them. 
     Humankind is a mixed lot.  Some folks fall very much in the too-slow group, and some in the too-fast group.  And both are given to bad-mouthing, finger-pointing, exaggerating, putting weird spins on things, and flogging dead horses and straw men, while sometimes lying outright.  All in a good cause, of course. 
    (Incidentally, the  dishonesty was at least as bad when I was young, and the ignorance, heedlessness, and simple cussedness were probably worse.) 
     Over the past half century, change has accelerated.  And people who think it's changing too slowly push harder, which pains hell out of those who think it's already changing way too fast. 
     And the ranter feels put upon.  He's grumpy as hell about it — and he lives here too.  And deserves consideration.  He genuinely does. 
     Just as science rides on the backs of skeptics, pressure comes from the impatient,  prudence from the reluctant, and progress from patience and persistence.  Riding on the shoulders of visionaries, with pragmatists at the helm, aided by realists with a sense of actual versus suppositional reality.
     And us in-betweeners?  We provide momentum and stability.  ∞