I Try.....And Sometimes I Fail


Posted on : 7/01/2010 05:10:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Ta-Nehsi Coates, writer for the Atlantic whom I have come to read frequently, enjoy immensely, and with whom I disagree on a wide range of subjects, offers the following thoughts regarding written criticism in the wake of the Dave Weigel/Washington Post affair.

With that in mind, a few quick words on my own approach to this matter. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of having dinner with James Fallows, along with a few other Atlantic folks. Fallows offered some really wise words on how to criticize people in print, the gist of it being, "Speak to those you would criticize as though they were standing right there."

That's a high standard, but one I've generally tried to maintain. My sense of my role here is as follows: I'm not here to try to humiliate people I disagree with. That goes as much for Jeff Goldberg, who is my friend, as it goes for Bob McDonnell, who is not. For sure there is a little more hot sauce on the thing, when I don't know the person. But by and by, I hope to speak to McDonnell as I would speak to Goldberg--not the other way around.

It's fun to be mean, and it makes your side howl--and sometimes it's even necessary. But  my game is as follows--stating my opinions directly, clearly and without equivocation and without undue malice.

A high standard of discourse indeed.

And yet today I find myself tempted by the following bon mot:

In sum total, what you people did was drive someplace where there wasn't a problem, complain about something you don't fully understand, get in the way of people who may actually be performing a function, and then do nothing, en masse, except hope that someone else notices your little snit and makes it all better.

My god, if there's a more perfect metaphor for the modern progressive movement, I've never seen it.

Emphases in the original.

I am privileged to know a fair number of intelligent people that are a bit left of me politically.  I am also aware of the many reactionary, reflexive, and unthinking people on the right.

Yet there is an underlying truth to the above.  I have sadly come to expect nonsense will follow whenever I hear the word "progressive", or the phrase "speaking truth to power", or similar leftist twaddle.  Sadder still, I am rarely disappointed in that expectation.

I try to think the best of all of my fellow Americans regardless of their opinions.  I hope that what animates their politics is a desire to improve our nation and our world.  I try to remain at least open enough to hear their point of view before presenting my own.

Today...momentarily...I failed.

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