The Lingering Poison Of Cynicism

“Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it.”

—Stephen Colbert, in a commencement speech to Knox College, 2006

A regular conservative commenter on this blog, who also writes a lot of “guest columns” for our local paper and used to be one of its paid bloggers, wrote in recently expressing a rather cynical opinion related to a piece I wrote on the restoration of the Duck Dynasty patriarch. You can read his entire comment here, but I will post below my full response. The reason I think it important to do so is because I think this particular conservative expresses a brand of cynicism that a lot of conservatives still cling to these days, even after the radioactive fallout produced by Mitt Romney’s “47-percent” nuclear blast that surely helped doom his low-denominator campaign and continues to contaminate the Republican Party.

Before I get to my response to this local conservative, I want to share with you a headline from a right-wing “news” site, one that claims with a shout that it “is here reporting THE TRUTH”:

 benefit recipients and full-time workers

That story generated a lot of buzz on the right (among others, Fox’s website picked it up, Bill O’Reilly did a segment on it, featured it, etc.) because it supported (and still supports) the right-wing’s Romneyesque view of contemporary, Obama-led America. The story is false, of course. A nice summary of why it is false you can find here, but the idea persists that there are too many “takers” among us, and the country will eventually collapse because of them.

With that brief background, here is my response to the local conservative who wrote in:

Just now catching up with the comment section. I saw your post here and, well, I just don’t understand why you continually fail to empathize with others not in your shoes, or who have not walked the paths you have walked. I believe (or at least hope) you are better than this post indicates. 

You expressed your concern regarding “what to do about heterosexual ‘slugs’ always asking for more money for other people and not working to earn it themselves.” Then you added:

Top it all off and look at public education, a factory producing more and more people that demand more and more from government and fail to achieve the basic skills needed to produce more and more for themselves.

All that makes homosexuality and even discrimination (white against black or the reverse thereof) pale in significance as matters of real concern in America today!!

First, your ridiculous indictment of public education would require a much longer response than I am prepared to offer at this point. Suffice it to say that to claim public schools are factories that produce an increasing population of moochers is insultingly outrageous.

Second, you and your right-wing friends—most of whom have at some time or another benefited in some way from the help of others—have this strange fixation on the relatively small number of non-working adults who get relatively ungenerous government benefits for a relatively short period of time. I just don’t get what that fixation is all about, especially while the moneyed class is making off with the country’s wealth and trying to use some of it to bend the nation’s political will to theirs.

Third, because of your strange obsession with the poor “slugs” who get government help, you then fail to imagine just what it would be like to be discriminated against as a homosexual or an African-American. I would bet that if you had ever suffered from institutional and structural discrimination, such as getting fired from your job for being gay (or for merely being perceived as a gay person), you would feel differently. I would also bet that if you were ever told you couldn’t piss in a white toilet because the law suggested you were some kind of inferior being, you would most definitely not say that such things would “pale in significance” to “Democrat over spending.”

Alas, though, you have enjoyed, as a white man in a white-dominated culture most of your life, the relative privileges of that position, and you now fail, as that same white man, to understand or appreciate what every person who has ever suffered from law-blessed discrimination feels in their very bones. 

And that is too bad for you personally, even though it is problem you share with many white conservatives these days. And that sad fact, that so many white folks are so cynical about the country we all claim to love, makes it too bad for all of us.


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  1. ansonburlingame

     /  January 6, 2014

    We have had this discussion before and will have it again, I suppose. Simply because I am a white man, raised as a child in the “south” (n…. and queers were two words used all the time by most that I knew while growing up), I cannot honestly and objectively comment on race, gender, sexual orientation or even maybe my view of what our schools fail to achieve today. Baloney!

    I was raised in a racist and homophobic environment but deny in any way being racist or homophobic in any reasonably meaurable way today. I support equality of opportunity for all in every way that you do, by and large. Where we differ is I do NOT support government mandated equality of outcome of one’s individual efforts. That is our big difference and I find it disgusting that I continue to be called or infered as a racist or homophob because of my political views, today.

    If I had command of a submarine today (or President of a large civilian company) I would take any and all blacks, hispanics, females, gays, whatever aboard my ship (after they successfully completed a rigorous training pipeline) and demand of them the exact same professional performance demanded of anyone else as well, no excuses accepted for their race, gender or sexual orientation. For those that in fact made it through training to my ship, I also would never expect to hear any such lame excuses over race, gender or sexual orientation. They would just “know better” that to make excuses for their own shortcomings as professionals.

    THAT I assert is a true and color blind society where race, gender, sexual orientation make no difference whatsoever in evaluating ones performance. MERIT in performance is all that counts, period, in schools, training in the military, training for any workplace and of course performance in any work place, bar none.

    As for all the income inequality “stuff” you harp on, I don’t like it either (the gross inequality). But my solution is NOT to call for government controls to fix that problem. And youi know full well what I do believe should be used to fix the problem. But you refuse to even acknowledge my call for such an approach as well, fix education in America.



    • Anson,

      Let me address your revealing response this way:

      1. You suggested that I said you “cannot honestly and objectively comment on race, gender, sexual orientation or even maybe my view of what our schools fail to achieve today.” On the contrary, I think you “honestly” and sincerely commented on those things. Thus, it was your lack of objectivity, your utter subjectivity, that I called into question.

      2. You wrote that you were “raised in a racist and homophobic environment but deny in any way being racist or homophobic in any reasonably measurable way today.” You can read my response a thousand times and you will not find any suggestion that you are a racist or homophobe. What you will find is that I marveled at your continuing lack of empathy for those who have suffered (some still suffering) from “institutional and structural” discrimination. Perhaps you have forgotten what “empathy” means:

      the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings.

      3. I have no doubt you would run a meritorious ship (submarine) today. That, of course, is not the point of the piece. See (2) above.

      4. As I stated in the response, your allusion to public education would have required a much longer post, which I haven’t the time to author at the moment. I will stand by what I said in the response, notwithstanding your plea to “fix education in America.” You cannot fix what is wrong with the education system in America by first calling it “a factory producing more and more people that demand more and more from government and fail to achieve the basic skills needed to produce more and more for themselves.” That kind of statement will turn off the very people who you are trying to reach. And for good reason.



  2. ansonburlingame

     /  January 6, 2014

    Now more to the point, or another point, in you blog above, the “welfare vs. working wages” debate.

    Census B. says, Cato says, O’Reilly says, and now some progressive analyst says. OMG, who to believe, right? Beats the hell out of me in the details of such a debate. I could also add in our own local “czar” doing a lot to help the destitue in Joplin, James Whitford, as fine a man as one could meet in my view. He CARES, a lot and devotes his professional career to such efforts.

    As well, I can toss out another person, respecting her anonimity as well, the leader and founder of the local Asscent program for the long term addicted population in Joplin. She would echo exactly what Whitford says, based on her similar experiences with those that are “down and out”. Is anyone reading this aware that the people that spend a full year in her program and “graduate” remain clean and sober and productive (have good jobs) at above the 90% level, right here in Joplin??? That remarkable statistic has been steady for about 5 years, since the program first started up in Joplin.

    James wrote a similar column in the Globe showing, with his numbers, how a homeless man in Joplin can apply for and receive far more income from benefits than he could working for a minimum wage, right here in Joplin. I note you failed to dispute his column in that regard of several months ago. He by the way, goes out of his way to “help the homeless and downtrodden” to apply for every nickle they can get, legally. I have seen him speak on that subject and know some of the people he has helped in that regard as well.



    • I am familiar with James Whitford but I did not read the column you referenced, mainly because I do not have a subscription to the Joplin Globe. I have, though, read his stuff before and one of these days I will address his approach. I have thought a lot about it.

      In any case, admittedly studying statistics presented by advocates can be difficult. And admittedly we are all prompted to believe what we are predisposed to believe. But let me say this. When you talk about people like Whitford who say (truthfully or untruthfully) that the available governmental benefits, if taken together, would be “far more income” than working for a minimum wage, I hope you can see that the problem is in fact the minimum wage.



  3. ansonburlingame

     /  January 7, 2014

    Simply to avoid narrowing the string, I respond one last time to the discussion with Duane above, related to now my lack of objectivity in considering solutions to problems related to “fairness” or “equality”.

    I repeat by saying I am all for equality of opportunity but NOT equality of outcome, be the outcome wages, positions of rank or authority, socio-economic status within a community or other “progressive” ways of measuring equality. Equality before then law as well I support without question. I could give glaring examples where such “equality” was NOT rendered by our justice system as well, but I don’t support such inequality, either. Bring on the 14th Amendment, at least as I read it, and I support it with rigor. Unfortunately our system of justice fails to deliver it, equality before the law, still, in many cases. Incidentally, I would put the old OJ trial near the top of that list of examples and the progressive outrage over the Zimmerman verdict would be on the list as well had progressive gotten their way and “hung” George Zimmerman as well despite the evidence presented.

    As for “name calling” I also agree that Duane does not stoop to such nonsense, usually. Sure he “yells” at me, XY!@’s me the death sometimes, but he has not called me a racist, homophobe, etc. either. But some real zealots in these comments over the years have done so for sure as well. To me that demeans to full thrust of this blog, one that always promotes the progressive side of things and never or rarely at least acknowledges any validity whatsoever to a conservative point of view.

    In that sense, this blog perpetuates what goes on all the time in Congress as well. There is only one view that is valid on this blog and stand by for retorts of all sorts if that view is not held.



  4. Anson,

    No matter what independent commenters have called you in the comment section of this blog, I can assure you that it doesn’t compare to the things that have been said about me on your blog, some of the nastiest of them said by a Joplin Globe columnist. And speaking of that columnist, I don’t know what the comments that have come from him reveal more, his repugnant personality or the newspaper’s incredibly poor judgment of writing talent.

    In any case, you still fail to see my point about your apparent lack of empathy for the plight of others not situated in your shoes. Empathy, not agreement, is all I am suggesting.



    • Sedate Me

       /  January 8, 2014

      Hey, at least Anson can spell “empathy”! That puts him far ahead of the right-wing pack of today’s capitalist running dogs (and most wired human beings in the digital age, for that matter).


  5. ansonburlingame

     /  January 8, 2014

    Looks like your most recent blog will give me a chance to address empathy. Enough for now on this string.



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