Dangerous Talk Blog

Thursday, February 15, 2007

No More Mr. Nice Guy

My thoughts on separation from The New American magazine

There are two kinds of insanity, and the second kind is worse – definitely crazier, and much more dangerous to your health and that of everyone around you.

The first kind of insanity is the Chicken Little syndrome. You know the tale of Chicken Little, who was always running around screaming that “the sky is falling!” when it most certainly wasn’t. The political left is definitely afflicted with this malady, most especially in the case of global warming (or the ozone hole, or whatever the pandemic of the month is). The Chicken Little scenario is one of a chaotic person in an orderly world.

The second, more dangerous type of insanity is the inverse of the Chicken Little scenario. That second kind of insanity is one of an orderly person in a chaotic world. Picture this: The sky really is falling, it’s obvious the sky is falling, and Chicken Little goes about his regular day as if nothing has happened.

In comedy, this second scenario is by far the more hilarious of the two kinds of comedic madness. I’ve seen variations of it in probably a hundred comedies, where a shopkeeper on a downtown city street dutifully tries to sweep his front stoop clear of rubble just after a bomb has leveled the place – oblivious to the flames and the fact that his business is history.

That’s the kind of insanity gripping the entire Republican “right” at this time.

The Bush Administration has on numerous occasions argued in open court that it possesses total dictatorial powers (specifically: the ability to imprison citizens without trial, deny them counsel, torture them and then send them away to foreign dungeons without a hearing).

And yet those “freedom organizations” – the ones that aren’t on board with the Bush Administration’s “War on Terror,” anyway – are working on their own petty little projects as if nothing were happening to their freedom. Some are ignorant of this total assault on our liberties (you don’t have the freedom of speech or religion while you are being tortured in an Iraqi or Afghan or Egyptian prison), while most of the rest are simply gun-shy. Either way, nobody is doing anything about it – except some people on the left, such as the ACLU. But hardly anybody on the right is lifting a finger.

The right, which is supposed to be protecting freedom, is doing nothing while each of the sine qua non of liberties is openly and brazenly stripped from the American people. Simply put, there are no freedom organizations remaining on the right.

This brings me to my separation from The New American magazine.

First, let me state that the John Birch Society – of which The New American is an affiliate -- is an organization of some of the best men and women in the world. While I’ve run into a lot of people who said they had a crazy uncle who claimed to have been a member of the John Birch Society, my experience was almost always the opposite. Active members really were the best people in America, and still are.

My separation from The New American comes from my expectation that it was something more than part of a fine organization, that it was instead an organization arrayed to protect freedom. I thought it was more than it really was. It’s a good group of people trying to do good, and for that the JBS deserves nothing but accolades.

The John Birch Society takes a number of positions on public issues, and although I’ve disagreed with some of them in the past, I can’t recall a single one at the moment.

I’ve separated from The New American because I have limited time, and can’t afford to waste any more of my nearly non-existent free time (I have three daughters who are very active) on an organization that is not devoted to the fight for freedom. Although The New American magazine has run some nice articles on freedom subjects over the years, the JBS side of the organization has been silent with regard to these crucial freedom issues.

One of the criticisms I had of people who left the JBS in the past – a criticism I still believe is valid – is that you shouldn’t criticize any organization unless you have a better alternative. But I’m not advocating that anybody leave the JBS, even though there are a few organizations out there that are better right now.

One of the bright spots on freedom is the new Antiwar League, which is conveniently (for me, anyway) headquartered in Boston. They are pursuing lots of actions on key freedom issues, so much that I can’t keep up with them. Other organizations that give the same – or better – perspective than the JBS on current events are the Welch Foundation, The American Conservative, AntiWar.com and LewRockwell.com. There are probably a few others, but those are the ones that come to my mind at this moment.

Part of my problem – and it’s my problem, not The New American’s – is that I took to heart some of the images its principal salesmen used to use to push the organization. I still remember Larry Waters (now the JBS V.P.) using an image of a tree as out-of-control government. He showed that some organizations – such as the NRA – do a good job trimming a single branch of out of control government on single issues such as gun control. He then persuasively argued that the John Birch Society struck at the root of the out-of-control government using programs such as the now-defunct TRIM program to cut the funding and starve big government to death.

“That was then, this is now,” as S. E. Hinton would have said. Now the JBS is principally dedicated to trimming the smaller of the branches, while the main shoots of the tree grow out of reach.

Or they are still sweeping up the rubble from the downtown sidewalk as the fire rages in what remains of the shopkeeper’s store. Use whatever imagery you choose.

The point of the matter is not to criticize the JBS and The New American; they are no different from just about anyone else out there. They are still doing some good, though it’s not the good that most urgently needs to be done.

The point – to me, anyway – is that I’ve only got limited time, and I can’t waste time sweeping up rubble while a fire rages. And just as Chicken Little was out of place when he screamed “the sky is falling!” when it wasn’t, I’ll be all the more out of place if I continue to act as if nothing is happening.

My separation from The New American was a long time in coming, but it was precipitated in part by an e-mail I sent last weekend that reflected America’s reality, and I am informed it was not well-received in Appleton. The proximate cause of the e-mail was an AP story on Yahoo that reported the Bush Administration’s nearly successful attempt to deport an American citizen and veteran to Iraq without a hearing or trial (and he would receive no jury trial in Iraq). I was ticked off!

I should have guessed that someone would be unhappy with an e-mail composed while I was listening to Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

The John Birch Society was the only organization I mentioned by name in that e-mail last weekend, and I suppose it wasn’t fair to appear to hold them to a higher standard. Yes, I now see it wasn’t fair.

Too bad. I am neither sorry nor repentant.

One of the conclusions I’ve come to lately is that sometimes when the sky really is falling, if you want to get anything moving you are going to have to tick a few people off.

Chicken Little’s insanity wasn’t his reaction to the sky falling; had it really been falling his reaction would have been utterly reasonable. He just exercised poor judgment on the evidence for the sky falling.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather be notorious than be respected by the shopkeepers sweeping under the shredded awnings of their bombed-out stores. I’m going to start to piss a lot of people off, and I’m going to have fun doing it.

(Chumbawumba just started to play on my IPod. Hmmm.)

Say it with me:

No more mister nice guy.