When to speak up. When to let it go (5×8 – 10/24/12)

The company you keep, the digital candidate, the conservative Bruce, Empty America, and the Mississippi River’s houseboat life.


1) THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

Is there any level to which a partisan will sink that prompts her political colleagues to take a stand against her? Or is politics so important that decency is a weakness?

Ann Coulter, the Republican commentator, tweeted this after Monday’s presidential debate.

It’s inviting to turn such a comment into a political debate between Republicans and Democrats, but it’s not that at all. It’s a debate between the media-made personalities of today’s political coverage and people and families who did nothing to deserve such a horrible insult.

Meet John Franklin Stephens, a Special Olympics athlete from Virginia, who penned an open letter to Ms. Coulter:


After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.

I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.

Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.

No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.

“I get the joke — the irony — that only dumb and shallow people are using a term that means dumb and shallow,” he wrote in a previous column. “The problem is, it is only funny if you think a ‘retard’ is someone dumb and shallow. I am not those things, but every time the term is used it tells young people that it is OK to think of me that way and to keep me on the outside.”

Of course it’s a legitimate point, but there’s another one. Where is the line between making an appropriate stand on behalf of a sense of decency, and when does it merely feed a troll?

Rose Woodhouse, a parent of a special needs son, says “just let it go.”


As I’ve written before, my feelings about the R-word are complicated. I wish it were not the only issue that brings disability into the mainstream eye. I have noted before, too, just how many insults are derived from what were once legitimate terms for disability: idiot, moron, imbecile, dumb, spaz, lame, stupid, etc. Just last night, Kyle Cupp discussed “crippling” sanctions. Interestingly, people don’t seem to know where the word “idiot” comes from. Several Facebook friends were calling Ann Coulter an idiot for using the word retard. Yet we reflexively use adjectives like “dribbling idiot” or “slack-jawed idiot,” so I’m guessing the real meaning is buried in our minds somewhere.

Demanding an apology makes sense in the case of Obama making his comment about his bowling being like the Special Olympics. His apology is likely to be more or less on the sincere-ish side of things, and might make him a little more aware of what he’s saying.

But Ann Coulter? Hundreds of demands for apologies, with bunches of accompanying news articles, is exactly what she wants. So let’s end it here. Let’s agree never to demand an apology from Ann Coulter again. Let’s let this particularly odious incarnation of Gloria Swanson totter down the stairs for her grand finale with the lights turned off.

When should people speak up when a line is crossed? And when should we just “let it go?”

More political science: God Intended’ A Pregnancy Caused By Rape, Indiana Candidate Says (NPR)

2) THE DIGITAL CANDIDATE

What happens to all the digital breadcrumbs you leave around during your daily trip around the Internet? They all get swept up and are made into a presidential candidate you might like.

Watch The Digital Campaign on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

3) BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, CONSERVATIVE?

Shot in the Dark’s Mitch Berg takes MPR and The Current up on its offer to consider what song best describes the state of the union. Mitch, a conservative, picks Springsteen, who’s not a conservative. Or is he?


Every generation dreams of leaving a better world to their kids, and my new granddaughter. We have a distinct chance, as things go, of leaving them a world that my ancestors in the Dust Bowl would look at and whisper “there but for the grace of God…”. And unlike the the Okies, our immigrant forefathers and protagonist in “This Hard Land”, this time there’s noplace to ride away to to start over. We’re stuck with this hard land.

For me, the song also is further evidence that Springsteen – my favorite American R&R songwriter since Johnny Cash – is America’s best conservative songwriter. Looking at his prime output from the height of his muse, there’s a case to be made that once you peel off the rhetoric and the Hollywood and the dross of the past decade, his music was fundamentally conservative. And I’ll make the case, since American conservatism’s most important non-electoral mission is to engage in this nation’s larger non-political culture.

Take the time. It’s worth the read.

4) EMPTY AMERICA

America is all in how you look at it. Thrash Lab continues its series, Empty America, this week with a portrait of Seattle as empty and desolate. We’re looking forward to when it’s the Twin Cities’ turn. Insert the obvious downtown Saint Paul joke here.

Photographically related: What if you took the images from World War II and placed them on the same location as it looks today?

5) THE HOUSEBOAT LIFE

Latsch Island, near Winona, has dozens of boathouses tethered to its shores.

Bonus I: This gets funnier the third or fourth time you watch it.

Susan Farnsworth Madsen Goes Ballooning from Kathryn Marshall on Vimeo.

Bonus II: iPad owners, does it bother you that the reason you’re actually spending money on an iPad every year is because you can’t stand the idea that you don’t have the newest and coolest? Who’s fault is that?

Related: Yeah, OK, new Apple Stuff (Wirecutter)

TODAY’S QUESTION

Voters in several states are considering ballot initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana this year. In at least one state, Washington, the effort is considered likely to pass. Today’s Question: Should Minnesota voters have a chance to decide whether to legalize marijuana?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Advice for college grads entering the job market.

Second hour: The U.N. report on aging in the 21st century.

Third hour: Canadian radio host Buzz Bishop created a stir when he admitted to having a favorite child on his blog. Should he be criticized for voicing his favoritism? Is it possible for any parent to be completely impartial? And what’s the science behind favoritism?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Gary Eichten and Cokie Roberts on “The Political Condition.”

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Forget medical marijuana. This year, three states are asking voters if they want to legalize pot for recreational use. The measures have surprising supporters, including some in law enforcement and a Republican Senate candidate. NPR will report on changing marijuana laws.