Good thoughts for Learned Foot

When I started Polinaut, we really wanted to shed some light on the blogosphere and the people in it. I’m glad we did, because everybody I’ve met, everybody I’ve read, has made for a very entertaining election season.

We get wrapped up in politics a lot. We think it’s life and death for us in the same way the Twins losing the playoffs is. Sometimes, it’s just a game. But that doesn’t stop us from projecting as ‘evil’ those with whom we politically disagree. We should catch ourselves doing that in the heat of the campaign because when all is said and done, we’re supposed to be united and when this election season is over, if we still view others as ‘evil,’ then nothing good can come of it, regardless of who wins the election.

The next person I meet in the blogosphere who actually is a first class jerk personally, will be the first one.

That’s a long-winded way of saying it would be good if we can think good thoughts for others during this “hair-trigger” stage of the campaign… even those with whom you may disagree politically.

Because some things are more important than politics.

  • Bill Prendergast

    It is entirely possible that a person you disagree with politically–is in fact “evil.”

    For example: if a person is a hatemonger who makes false charges against her fellow Americans to further her political career–doesn’t that make her “evil”?

    On the gay Americans and the consequences of same-sex marriage: “This is a very serious matter, because it is our children who are the prize for this community, they are specifically targeting our children.” — Senator Michele Bachmann, appearing as guest on radio program “Prophetic Views Behind The News”, hosted by Jan Markell, KKMS 980-AM, March 20, 2004.

    On Governor Pawlenty’s “Tax-Free Zones” initiative: “…it’s all for the planned redistribution of wealth which is also stated in this document, the redistribution of wealth which is based on a new concept called equity. And it says this: we must not lose sight of equity, or fairness based on need. Where have you heard that here, today? From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” — Senator Michele Bachmann, EdWatch conference, October 10-11, 2003.

    And if a person tells lies in the name of God–doesn’t that make her “evil”?

    Bachmann giving her testimony for Christ at the Living Word church: “And in the midst of all this, as if we didn’t have enough to do, He called me to run for the Minnesota State Senate (in 2000.) I had no idea, and no desire to be in politics. Absolutely none.”

    (In fact Bachmann had previously campaigned for office in 1999 as a GOP-endorsed candidate.)

    Civility in politics is much to be desired. But if a politician regularly does evil things, it’s fair to say that they’re “evil”–isn’t it?

  • Yes, it is moments like this that put things in their proper perspective. Our best wishes for a complete and speedy recovery for “Mrs. Foot.”

  • “The next person I meet in the blogosphere who actually is a first class jerk personally, will be the first one.”

    Bob, can I introduce you to Bill?

    Bill is a person who hijacks a post about sympathy for a blogger whose wife just found out she has cancer to go off another rant about how he thinks Bachmann is evil.

  • Bill Prendergast

    Jeff-Thanks for the “good thoughts for others” you sent to me, per Bob’s advice. I’m surprised Bob didn’t delete it on “incivility” grounds.

    My heart goes out to a woman who’s just found out she has cancer. She has my deepest sympathy, so does her family.

    But this is a blog about politics, and the world doesn’t stop turning because a family is suffering an awful personal tragedy. Bob chose to cite a personal tragedy to make a broader point–that someone we disagree with politically isn’t necessarily evil, and that there are some things more important than politics. I would point out to all of you–again–that neither of those statements are necessarily true–even if someone gets cancer.

    Even people who get cancer and their families are affected by politics by the choices we make at election time. Politicians make policy; some of them even oppose extending public health care to help families deal with the kind of tragedy this family is suffering. There are political groups that lobby for better laws regarding long-term care for cancer patients; would you guys have them stop what they’re doing and start writing “get well soon” cards instead because there are “more important things that politics?”

    Politics and political decisions affect everyone and everything, everywhere. A personal tragedy doesn’t change that, and it doesn’t relieve us of our obligation to take political choices seriously. Every day.

  • Bob Collins

    Let me try to make this simpler.

    It used to be in politics, opponents would go to a debate, beat the bejeebers out of each other, and then leave in the same car and go chat.

    Those days are gone. We categorize the value of people by the politics they hold; not who they are as people. We have parents who won’t let their kids play with the kid next door. Why? Because the wrong candidate sign is on their lawn.

    And the problem is we continue that AFTER the election.

    Nobody ever said anything about not voting because Mrs. Foot has cancer. So let’s put that nonsense back in your holsters. The post was as much about putting the humanity back in our politics.

    It shouldn’t have been that hard to understand. The fact that I’ve gotten the number of emails today, however, shows that it is, and underscores my original point.

    In our zeal to embrace politics in the name of humanity, we’ve allowed the humanity to depart the political process.

  • Bill Prendergast

    Speaking for myself, I’m not the kind of person who would forbid kids from playing with neighbors’ kids because they have the “wrong” lawn sign. I have many friends and relatives who disagree with me politically; I don’t shun them because of their politics.

    Bob, I’ll take you at your word: that nobody ever said anything about not voting because Mrs. Foot has cancer. I didn’t attribute that sentiment to you, neither did anyone else in this thread. So why are you attributing that criticism to anyone?

    My original comment, as I’ve pointed out, had to do with a statement you made at the top of this thread: that we shouldn’t “project as ‘evil’ those with whom we politically disagree.” I disagree; evil is as evil does, and if a politician is practicing evil, it’s good for democracy for citizens and the media to point that out.

    I think a basic area of disagreement is rooted in what you define as ‘politics.’ When you refer to ‘politics’ on this blog, I think you are referring to the political game that you cover on Polinaut—who wins, who loses, who’s ahead and who’s behind, the campaigns, the tone of the electorate and the ads by the candidates, the election season. If that’s all that politics is, to you, I can see why you don’t think people should get too worked up over it.

    But politics is much, much more than that—it’s also policy, the decision making by the people who ultimately attain power and go on to make the decisions that affect the rest of us. Which people attain that power, which people make those decisions, has very real daily consequences for the rest of us—the voters, the ones who aren’t in power. Those policy differences are real, and they are the reason that people get “worked up” over politics.

    That’s why diffidence is not an option for many of us. We know that the people who are elected will implement policies; some of these people implement policies that hurt us and our country. I recall the 2000 election; I recall some people who preferred to remain above the political process, arguing that it didn’t really matter whether Bush or Gore was elected because they were both career politicians and that if Bush was elected he couldn’t go as far to right as he said he would, and that if Gore was elected he wouldn’t go as far to the left as he would—that it didn’t really matter who was ultimately elected.

    Those people were wrong. The last six years have shown that who was elected, mattered very much. The changes in policy after 2000 were violent and unprecedented. It turned out that that election, and who won, mattered very much to the people of the United States, to the people of Iraq, to the world.

    You raise the issue of humanity in politics. Well, politicians running for office sometimes espouse policies and practice tactics that are inhumane. Some of them exploit and even foster the political division that you say you deplore. That is an evil; people who do that—politicians who make false charges against their fellow Americans to advance their political fortunes. What do you do with politicians and political movements like that? The ones who would exploit on our religious differences, differences in sexual orientation, etc to obtain public office? The ones who exploit fear and xenophobia because it plays well with their base?

    Nostalgia for the “good old days” doesn’t cut it when there is so much on the line for the people affected by the election. And nostalgia for the good old days is often misplaced—Martin Luther King and George Wallace didn’t “leave in the same car and go chat,” after the debate on civil rights for blacks was over.

  • Bob Collins

    Politics to me, is whatever I think it is. Politics to you is whatever you think it is.

    There’s no obligation on the part of anyone reading Polinaut to accept my definition of how the world relates to politics.

    We no longer bother using the phrase “in my opinion” in political discourse. It is simply….you’re wrong, as if it’s a fact, proven by the argument that another person has an opinion and the ability to voice it.

    There’s nothing but closed minds in politics anymore, which is why there’s no bipartisanship.

    The problem is that mindset has filtered down to every other human interraction.

    In my opinion.

  • nerdbert

    There once was a place called Athens where they believed that politics was the most important facet of civilization. In fact, they’re the ones that invented “liberal education” since it was important for the citizens to be informed to cooperate in government, as well as the idea of pay for government.

    But Athenians also had a strong belief in majority rule, coming to believe that power came to those who deserved it. If you weren’t in the majority you were wrong, and defying the ruling committee was a terrible thing.

    Along came a man named Socrates, who challenged the Athenians to think about the individual’s rights and beliefs, and to believe that there was something nobler than merely governing and participating in the politics and committees that ran Athens. He dared to think that something was more important than the group politics. He dared to think that individuals had rights and responsibilities that transcended politics and the law, that those rights and responsibilities demanded that individual defy the group and follow moral laws.

    For this heresy and the greater civic good, the Athenians killed Socrates. A death judged unjust by later thinkers and that echoed through history and shaped many of the ideas we have come to hold dear, such as rights from G-d, not from men.

    So even though this is the 21st century and not the 4th BC it’s interesting that the lessons of Socrates and the effect they on the shaping of liberty haven’t penetrated some folks’ beliefs and that politics can so dominate their lives that they are willing to ignore the humanity of others in the pursuit of power. But then again, history, that invention of the Athenians and ancient Greeks, has been much neglected in this age, too.

    Sorry, Bill, but it seems you were born 25 centuries too late. Most of the rest of us believe that there are things more important than politics.

    At least, that’s my opinion.

  • Bill Prendergast

    I think I understand you, nerbert, but your conclusion doesn’t follow from your example.

    You cite the example of the execution of Socrates to show that “some things are more important than politics?” According to your own account, it was a political process that resulted in a death sentence for Socrates, wasn’t it? How does it follow from that example that “some things are more important than politics?”

    If it helps you understand my point of view any better, know that I wouldn’t have cast a vote for the death of Socrates, or for anyone whose only crime is to dissent from the majority view. And you should know that my personal motivation for arguing the importance of politics and policy is rooted in my belief that politics should respect and protect the humanity of others. It’s not about “the pursuit of power;” that’s politics at its worst–empty careerism and egoism.

  • nerdbert

    To continue the history lesson, the death of Socrates caused a rather severe backlash starting with Apologies of his student Plato. The revulsion at the execution of such a learned and wise man for mere politics (because some of his students had lost the war with Sparta) led to the rise of the individual being considered important, and led to these things that you consider important like freedom of speech and other individual liberties.

    In defining that individuals had rights and responsibilities, he provided the germ of the idea that majoritarian rule could be despotic. But in your zeal for politicizing everything, you are removing the basic humanity of those you criticize. In fact, your blinders show that it IS about the pursuit of power for you, just the pursuit in which your side has the power because you recognize no limits on what should be politicized.

    I find it ironic that for someone to whom politics trumps respecting the humanity of others arguing that he wouldn’t have voted for the execution. Perhaps not now, but for how long?

  • Bill Prendergast


    Actually, the backlash against the execution of Socrates inspired the rise of the Thirty Tyrants, the oligarchy that overthrew Athenian democracy.

    See Bertrand Russell’s History of Philosophy, paying special attention to the section on Plato and how the circle around Socrates and Plato were anti-democratic elitists whose ideal government was like the Spartan oligarchy–a militarized state the suppressed individual humanity for the common good.

    Your contributions to this thread indicate that you are in over your head with this “lessons we can learn from ancient history” stuff, Nerdbert.

    So all I will do is the sum up: Nerdbert brought an historical example to Polinaut to show that some things are more important than politics. But Nerdbert’s example didn’t show that some things are more important than politics, instead Nerdbert’s example showed how a great man can be killed by the political process.

    I called this to Nerdbert’s attention, but failed to explain the apparent non-sequitur. Instead he went on to present more severely edited history, ignoring the parts that didn’t suit his thesis (Platonic philosophy as the roots of totalitarianism, not the dignity of the individual) and once again failing to demonstrate the logical connection between his example and the conclusion he is still trying to draw from that example.

    I’m sorry, Nerdbert, but I don’t think you’ve done your homework on this, I think our dialogue here shows that you’re not willing to honestly address the innate flaw in your argument. You even misstate my basic position to combat a strawman. And I am desparately trying to get the word out about how Michele Bachmann is a dangerous lying nut–because the media has failed to do so for years, because they’re only beginning to catch up now, and because it may be too late.

    Read the Russell chapters on Socrates, his disciples and their ideal political state; read about the Thirty Tyrants . It will be a real eye-opener for you on the issue of how much those guys valued the humanity of the individual over politics. They would have voted for the execution of dissident citizens; in fact they did. You chose a bad example to make your point, nerdbert, a very bad example–and you don’t even seem to know that.