Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Campaign Anger

I got an email yesterday from a reader who wished I hadn't written such an aggressive post as the previous one titled "Osama bin Palen". Here's how I responded:

"You're right, of course. And I hesitated to post the piece, and then re-hesitated over my choice of inflammatory title. But I lately I've been getting exhausted by behaving judiciously in dreadfully galling circumstances.

I don't think the post did any good for the Obama cause; I don't think it did any harm either. I think it would only affect people's opinion of me, not of my candidates; and I decided I didn't mind that on this occasion. I took some pleasure in letting off steam.

Yes, it's resorting to some of the tackier tactics of opponents. No doubt about it. Guilty as charged. And for me, I do see it as an aberration -- a low-impact bit of bad behavior -- not a career strategy.

I also think that Jane was right in her specific comparison. Both Palin and bin Laden seem to want to push their own restrictive world-view on others. Their means are very different, of course.

How I wish reasoned discourse could affect this election in the next few weeks! (I like very much what Peder Zane had to say on that subject in the most recent Sunday News & Observer.) I don't think it will. I think getting out the vote is what will make the difference. And maybe Tina Fey's marvelous Saturday Night Live parody of Palin.

I do agree with you philosophically about the high road, even in matters of style. And I very much appreciate your writing. No need to hesitate at all. I expect most, if not all, reasonable people would on their best days agree with you on this. There was a notable absence of comments to that post.

(And a question: may I post your email on my site with this reply from me? I would love to continue this discussion there and perhaps get others involved Either way, thanks for pondering this and for your very thoughtful message.)


If I do get permission, I'll post that email. And I invite and welcome continuation of this conversation here. I very much liked what Peder Zane had to say on this in Sunday's News & Observer. And I received a little while ago a piece from a psychologist arguing that Obama's idealism sets our dark side loose--our feelings of anger, resentment, etc.--leaves all that unattended. I think that's true. What we need to figure out is how to use that huge energy in a good way for a good cause. Doris Lessing has done some excellent writing on this in Prisons We Choose to Live Inside; she argues that public schools should address the fact that we all contain some angry and violent and intolerant impulses. She says we all contain some evil and need to be aware of it and educated in how to manage it nondestructively.

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