Friday, April 10, 2009

Funny like a heart attack

Today started off like most days. Birds chirping. Cars honking. Fridge running.

Then it got all weird and political. One of my liberal friends posted a statement implying penance for Notre Dame for all this fuss about Obama and his upcoming commencement speech. Then somebody I know from the opposite end of the political spectrum responded, and things just went weird. Let's parse this out, with only the names altered:

Laura: Go ahead, Notre Dame. Say your million rosaries.

Calvin: "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation - at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers." - barack obama
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."
-Francis Bellamy

So glad to see our 'great' leader is leading us forward! What a joke this man is.

Andrew Schwartz: I'd like to interject that Francis Bellamy (a Baptist minister) did not include "under God" in his original Pledge. That wasn't added until 20 years after he died, as a nod to a portion of Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address", where he [Lincoln] refers to a nation "under God".

Calvin: Well, with his acclaimed homage to Lincoln in his presidency, or lack there of, I guess this is a contradiction for mr. obama. The only good thing that could come to him, following Lincoln's 'path' would be a trip to the theater. Tickets, anyone?

Andrew: Calvin. I understand being aggrieved by a president you don't care for. But alluding to presidential assassination in such a flippant manner makes you seem irrational and callous, if not outright seditious and treasonous. Please think about what you're saying.

Laura: Yowza! Here comes my first de-friending.

Exciting stuff, eh? The total time elapsed from the first entry to the last is just under two hours. I'm not friends with Calvin, except in the Facebook sense of an acquaintance. That is, we've been at the same bars before, have a lot of the same friends, but don't REALLY go together. He and Laura have clashed heads in message form before. Last time, it was something tame like excommunication as a punishment for government officials and whether that marked undue influence. This has been building quietly behind the scenes.

I'm not on Calvin's side in just about any manner you can think of, but I always felt the smoldering fire of "fair play" working just below my scalp. I disliked seeing him dog-piled by my acres of liberal friends, especially because he had a peculiar knack for getting information wrong. As a result, I often seemed to be a referee in these matches, serving as a voice of clarification and correction. I have no idea how this officious interference was perceived by him, but my sense of balance was preserved. As outspoken as he is, he needed no help from me to put himself back in the mires.

I have often been accused by my friends for thinking too much about things that don't deserve or merit it. No doubt this is one of those things, too, as I stumbled over the thought throughout the day. An acquaintance who seemed to be saying that the best thing for all concerned was for Obama to meet his own personal John Wilkes Booth. I can hardly believe it even now, but I'm certain that's the most un-American and shocking thing I've heard in this young year.

Calvin is a person of strict principles. He'd be flattered by this description, but I mean it as no compliment, especially in light of the nuance he allows to obscure those principles. He made no equivocation about the November elections: he was voting for John McCain. To Calvin, there was only one issue that mattered, and McCain happened to be the one with the correct answer.

That yardstick was the LIFE issue. McCain opposed abortion. That was the ONLY thing that mattered. All the other matters were secondary (at best!). The wars, the economy, the taxes, the environment, the foreign perception, the Russian advancement, the health care crisis: NONE OF THAT mattered as much as being pro-life.

It always seemed strangely zealous, Calvin's hate of Obama. For one thing, it was a well-and-true hate, not merely a dislike of the opposition: Obama was a genuine bad man who did terrible things under the cover of his media status. Calvin passed along pithy comments about Obama's suspect citizenship. Calvin was deadly serious about the threat posed by "Musilm sleeper agent" Obama. After Bobby Jindal delivered his middling follow-up speech to Obama's joint Congress address, Calvin crowed that he was ready to vote for him in 2012.

This would naturally bring him into "spirited discussion" with Laura, who is also outspoken and so much the Democrat that she probably has little stuffed donkeys on her mantle. They probably formed the "friend" connection in Facebook because they didn't REALLY know each other, other than the occasional wave at the bar. Rather like what defined the relationship between Calvin and myself...

I don't know what Calvin really thinks, in his heart of hearts. I don't know if he honestly thinks we'd be better off with the president dead. What I think is that Calvin was trying to use the inflammatory rhetoric which characterizes the most strident voices on the conservative side. I think he's saying it partially for shock value, but also because he's trying to stay afloat in a turbulent sea. Laura has a natural affinity for debate and always comes to knife fights carrying guns. I'm pretty sure that Calvin's crass hyperbole is mostly him being swept up and trying to "score a point", after being knocked slightly askance by my interjection.

As promised, Laura "unfrocked" Calvin as a friend. He'll most likely be prevented from seeing her updates and he'll certainly be prevented from commenting on them. Their tenuous connection is broken. I've been debating whether to do the same.

The quick and non-Hamlet part of my mind says to just cut him loose. He never communicates with me directly, shows no interest in what I'm doing, and is unlikely to get together with me for beers should we happen to be in the same city. Most damningly, he's the type of person who invokes assassination into debate; whether he does this for dark humor or actual policy is, somewhat strangely, irrelevant. There are some lines that should not be crossed, if for no other reason than avoiding visits from the Secret Service once you collect enough "chits" in your pile. The loss of his connection would make no ripple.

But then the wishy-washy side of my personality kicks in. Is it doing him a service to separate myself from him, leaving him with one less moderate opinion to stumble across. I'm not on a crusade to convert anyone, make no mistake. But it rubs some part of me rough to leave a person to an increasingly-reflective hall of mirrors. Mostly because I fear that's what will become of society, as we head to the internet for our individualized news sources. We can already receive our news from "friendly" outlets without hearing much of a dissenting or populist voice. The constructive interference of these echo-chambers is extremely detrimental. It leads only to the fragmentation and perceived isolation of communities. And isolated communities (by definition) show less inclination towards the larger groups and the ideas that unite them.

I don't know that either I or Barack Obama or anyone is right and has the right answers. But I do know that it is the constant friction of two opposing ideas that makes America great. We as a nation will fail if we don't TRY to engage everyone.

But assigning the sitting president to the assassin's bullet in casual debate is just giving everyone else the imperative to ignore you as an ignorant and backward child of no imagination or worth.

I don't respect the Calvins.

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