Sunday, July 31, 2011

Message vs. Method

I don't like to blog about myself or pretend to think that other people care what is going on with me. However, considering recent posts on the military and what I perceive to be an ongoing problem, I thought I'd share some slightly more personal thoughts.

I have spent the last few days in Indiana with my parents, who are both diagnosed with terminal illnesses. My father has lung cancer which has metastasized to his brain, and when his gall bladder was recently removed for an unrelated problem, they found cancer there as well. My mother has been living with amyloidosis for about 9 years now, was given a kidney by her sister this year in order to delay the need for constant kidney dialysis, and is basically always sick and taking dozens of meds just to stay alive.

They are very normal people, so normal that I would wonder if I was adopted if I didn't look so much like them. They are typical in that they don't discuss politics or religion, while these two things are the primary topic of conversation for me, both on my blog and when speaking with others. They would rather discuss the weather and sports.

I've been more or less told that I am intolerable to speak with. This doesn't bother me, because I have always placed my ideas ahead of personal things like family or my own reputation. I would rather say my opinion than be liked, and I would rather tell someone they are wrong than just politely smile. I have never had a shortage of people to discuss these matters with, even though I have turned many people off from wanting to ever talk to me again.

In fact, it has been my experience that my manner has pushed away the most boring and weak people in my life, while simultaneously drawing some of the most interesting and strong willed people into my closest circles. My wife is the smartest and most stubborn person I have ever met, and I am immeasurably happy that I have managed to fool her into believing I deserve to be with her. I know she could have done better, but I'm glad she didn't.

This weekend reminded me of the day me and my current wife told my parents that we were engaged. We went out to a nice seafood restaurant, and at some point in the meal we told them we have an announcement to make. My mother was the first to react to the news. I'll never forget... she turned to my then-fiancée and asked, "Are you sure?"

I think most people would have been insulted, but I knew what she meant. I am a tough pill to swallow, and my mother was just being my mother and looking out for me in the only logical way she knew how. The three little words that formed that question were loaded with the weight of having dealt with me and my antics for 18 years under her roof and several years of me half-assing my way through college. I'm fairly certain it was not intended as an insult, but rather as an act of protection for my benefit.

What she was really asking was, "My son is a very difficult person, do you know what you're getting into?"

I think you, the readers of my blog, have had to ask yourself a similar question from time to time. Is it worth it to read this blog when each line brings with it the possibility of reading a hurtful, callous, or downright cruel statement? I'm glad so many people have felt the answer to be, "Yes," and I don't take that lightly. I know that what I write is not for everyone, and sometimes seems to be for the benefit of no one but myself and my inflated ego.

Whether I'm suggesting that killing your own baby is not a crime or telling people in the military that I hope they kill themselves, there are those moments when I assume any sane and rational person would simply stop reading a post, or the entire blog altogether. I know there are also times (not very long ago, even) where the vitriol of my replies turned people off from commenting completely.

I think that maybe, and I could be wrong here, but just maybe the reason people do continue to read my posts, despite all of this, is because my message is usually sound, even when my methods are not. Maybe, but I could be wrong.

I have posted about this before, but in light of recent posts, I feel that perhaps I should explain myself for the benefit of those who are not long-time readers. This is and is not an act. In many ways, what I write is not who I am, but in a few significant ways, it is.

I learned early in my life that if you want something, you can't try to achieve it; you must try to achieve more. Out of pure necessity, I have honed what I sometimes see as an almost chilling persona that I can adopt effortlessly for the purposes of getting my way. That persona works on a very simple principle: if I want X, I forcefully demand twice X.

Using an example stated above, I argued in a post that women should be allowed to kill their children. Do I honestly think women should be allowed to kill their children? No. So why on Earth would I suggest such a stupid, ludicrous idea? Because defining the debate is more important than most people realize, and to move the line in the direction of infanticide puts the idea of banning just simple abortion completely off the table.

Republicans are masters of this technique. They demand the entire sky, when all they really wanted was the sun and the moon. When it comes time to negotiate, they hold firm to their insane demands until the last possible instant, and then they "concede" and "compromise" to receive what it is they had wanted from the very beginning. If you doubt me, look no further than the current debt ceiling "debate."

In essence, I see my techniques as being directly borrowed from the current conservative movement, while the ideas I apply them to are purely liberal. I fear my tactics have failed, and I have usually blamed this on other liberals, who I see as spineless wimps who are afraid to get their hands dirty in the trenches of what is truly a war of ideas.

It is liberals, after all, who tend to heap the most anger on me when I attempt such measures. This disgusts me, because when conservatives are confronted with the more extreme vision of their ideal, they largely embrace it without criticism. As it turns out, I cannot count on liberals being so generous with their approval.

It's not rocket science as to why this is. The kinds of people who find this method of pseudo-extremism to be attractive simply are not liberals, they are conservatives. I am forced to see my methods as being fundamentally flawed, tantamount to trying to cook a big, juicy steak to impress a vegetarian.

While it may surprise some, I have little problem in admitting when I am wrong. In fact, I am actually eager to admit when I am wrong if I realize that I am clearly incorrect. Like I imagine so many others are, I think it is more important to be correct in the end than to be correct from the beginning.

So what does all of this rambling amount to? What is the final summation?

I was wrong to suggest that all military personnel should kill themselves, though I have yet to see a comment or e-mail that adequately encapsulates why I feel this to be the case.

What is my reasoning for recanting such a comment? There are kids who should not grow up without their mom or dad. There are spouses and parents who don't deserve to lose a loved one. There are friends and co-workers who should be free from the grief of losing someone close to them. In short, I lost sight of the most important principle that I cherish in liberalism, which is the idea that we are all connected, regardless of the choices we make or the anger we may harbor.

I still think the military is fundamentally wrong. I still believe it is foolish to enlist. I still believe that America and the rest of the world would be better off without the US military industrial complex. But none of these ideas can negate the fact that every soldier is a human being worthy of my tolerance, from the medic whose sole job is saving lives to the criminals who ran Abu Ghraib.

For losing sight of that, I express regret, and I thank all of you who continue to read my blog for tolerating me. I don't seek forgiveness or approval in making this statement, I just think you all deserve an explanation for what I've written.

Thank you for reading.


  1. Your mother sounds like a wonderful person. I hope no one ever thinks to call her a whore.

  2. I think it's more likely she would be called frigid.

  3. I love you Bret, no homo


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