Thursday, May 12, 2005

Liberal guilt and hate mail

One day I saw a bumpter sticker that said, "Envison No Democrats."

It has always amazed me that for many years my hometown newspaper the Indianapolis Star has carried regular columns by Dan Carpenter. His views are so divergent from the rigidly conservative newspaper with its connections to such Indiana luminaries as Dan Quayle. His views are unabashedly liberal. They're my views, almost 100% of the time.

Dan and I go way back. We were in the same class at Cathedral High School, and he was even the valedictorian or salutorian at our graduation. (I can't remember which, but I'm sure he can.) During the years I lived in Chicago and San Francisco my mom would send me columns of Dan's and reading them would make me proud. "A voice of reason in the wilderness," I thought.

When we moved back to Indianapolis in 1992, we rented a house that turned out to be just up the street from Dan and his family. In fact, his wife Mary was the one who found the house around the corner we soon bought. They were our neighbors for twelve years, and you'd see them and their kids regularly walking the tree-lined streets of Butler-Tarkington.

Whenever I'd see Dan, I thought about what it must be like to be someone so utterly reviled by the large know-nothing element of the Indiana population. I'd read one of his columns and wince, imagining the hate mail he was sure to receive for it.

Yesterday he wrote a column about just that. I could feel the pain of this caring and thoughtful man. The beginning contains these words:

"As a professional complainer, I will be asked by readers from time to time to time why I am so angry, so unhappy and so hateful toward America. From this we can infer any of several things:

• The reader thinks I expect America to be perfect.

• The reader thinks America is perfect.

• The reader sees at least some of the faults that I mention but does not become angry or unhappy about them.

• The reader defines "America" as the current government."

He goes on to discuss the sources of liberal guilt, and those readers who accuse him of being anti-American because he takes exception to the excesses of the likes of George Bush:

"In obvious ways, assent and obedience are a lot more healthful than anger and unhappiness. Life is awfully short, after all, even if you're not in any danger of dying—from disease for lack of basic medical care, from bombs for residing under the wrong flag or from bullets for growing up on the wrong street. Why make their problems your problems, especially when it's so easy to convince yourself that their problems are their fault?"

You go, Dan!

You can read the full column, "Seeing Red with White and Blue" at in the Opinions section.


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