Monday, March 3, 2008

It Shouldn't Come To This...

“You Always Hurt...The One You Love...”

When I heard this just kind of summed the ridiculousness of this so-called “Silly Season” up...

It's Clinton, Not Obama. No, It's Obama!

Pa. Authorities Say A Man Stabbed His Brother-In-Law In Argument Over Clinton And Obama

NORRISTOWN, Pa., Feb. 27, 2008
(AP) Montgomery County authorities say a man stabbed his brother-in-law during an argument over who should get the Democratic nomination for president. What's more, Jose Ortiz, 28, who's charged with felony assault, is a registered Republican.

District Attorney Risa Ferman said Ortiz supports Hillary Clinton and Sean Shurelds supports Barack Obama. She told reporters Monday that the two got into an argument in a Collegeville home Thursday night and Shurelds tried to choke Ortiz. She says Ortiz then stabbed Shurelds in the abdomen.

Shurelds was taken to a hospital in critical condition, but is expected to recover.

Initially, I laughed at the tale, thinking just how stupid and over-the-top it was—and then something kind of hit home about it.

You've got family—people actually linked through marriage and relation literally knifing the hell out of one another over a presidential primary choice. Words and whupass. Blades and blood.

I could conceivably see that level of emotion in terms of a General Election, where I think we can agree that the polarizing battle between the opposing sides is more pitched and the stakes even greater. A continuation of the policies of the last eight hellish years versus a choice that would effectively end most of that. A punch-out or two I could see over the heated emotions, policy differences and stakes involved.

But THIS is a Democratic primary battle we're talking about here—and we've got a dude laying in a hospital bed in Pennsylvania over it, and his assailant—his Brother-In-Law in jail maybe years over a difference in candidates.

Just...the dumbest Goddamned situation I could imagine.

And we're—meaning those of us on the left side of things—“progressives”— doing a rhetorical version of the same dumb-ass thing those two relatives did. We're cutting each other, and in effect—the party to bloody pieces over this primary season. Going way beyond mere hard talk and policy debate, but rather, devolving into the sort of partisan bloodlust that reminds me of the worst elements of European soccer hooliganism. It's not just happening here. If you're something beyond the casual blog-checker you can see the ugliness in places you hold near and dear. Old haunts you now think hard about clicking over the threshold to because of the infighting and nasty tone that's seemingly ramped up as this season's gone along.

On the whole, I understand it. This is without a doubt the LONGEST primary season in my memory—and I go back as far as 1968 with these, as well as the most-covered. No mere three TV networks and a clutch of radio chains reporting. Throw in cable news, the internet—fact-checking and reporting on those—as well as the work of the thousands upon thousands of folks in the blogosphere, and you have more opinion and analysis out there than anyone could have imagined even a mere ten years ago. There's so damned much to chew over and obsess over, and over-obsess over, and more time to do it that I really can understand how people might have even more invested in things than ever before. We're to put it bluntly—bombarded with it all. And thus, an increased level of the temperature of the feedback from us—and you, the target of it all is to be expected.

But the level of invective—going back to the knives again for example, and the way we treat each other—people ostensibly on the same side of the battle has been at best, fierce and at worst, downright venomous. To the point where friendships have been damaged and in some cases ended, where spite and ill-feelings have balkanized people into “gotcha” camps where we wait for any moment available to not just point out issues and inconsistencies, but pounce, pillory, purge and piss on,

I'm not talkin' 'bout everybody standing around “Kum-ba-ya/We Are The World” style and singing the same pithy lyrics that in the end don't mean shit. Disagreement is some bomb-ass shit. If disagreement wasn't allowed, 99% of all blogs would shut down, leaving only those devoted to cat fanciers—and then they'd go to war over the merits of the tabby versus the calico and chew each other's heads off accordingly. Disagreement is part of the process—we write, we agree or disagree, you comment, and you agree or disagree. It's the “Wild West”. Everybody's got a gun.

But there is something of a “code”.

In the movies at least, you didn't shoot another man in the back, or blow away the unarmed. We may all disgustingly spit in that nasty spittoon in the corner, but you don't spit on another man's boots.

Emotions get hot. Especially around “Primary Days”. The 72 hours before and after one of these countless “make or break/brawl for it all” days of intra-party reckoning wind people up in a major way. Sensitivities get ramped way the hell up. Small slights are conflated into fighting points. People gloat, people mope. Emotions are rubbed raw and others ride high on 'em. With all that “heat and smoke” we sometimes don't see as clearly as we should and our senses betray us. Mistakes get made. And that goes for all of us.

No one is immune to the fuck-up.

But too many of 'em can wreck a community—any community. Long-standing ones and the relatively new. And we, progressives need as many spaces and communities as we can possibly have to blunt the right wing's edge in talk radio and broadcast media.

Thus, I think a little bit of sensitivity would go a long way for us. Here on the internets, we—you the readers and us the content creators tend to be uncannily tuned into things, down to what we call ‘meta” levels. And in being so tuned in, we know the ebb and flow of things—the emotional undercurrents and when they spike and lull. We know the buzz-words—the nice ones and the fucked up ones. But most of all, I think we know—I think we know—that in then end, we're on the side of good. In knowing that, think about those two brothers cited at the top of this post, scrappin' and stabbin'.

We don't need to be stabbing each other.

Take a moment to discern. When you read, when you post, and when you comment. Roll it over in your head. Look at what you're writing—what you're saying before you hit “publish”. Say it aloud. Re-read what you're replying to or what you're putting out there as your opinion or reportage. Nothin' wrong with being tough. Drippin' a little venom. Bring the snark! But remember—for the most part (beyond the obvious trolls), you're dealing with friends and fellow travelers.

Leave the knives for the enemy. Gut him—not your “brother”.

Tough as this time is, the over-the-top personal attacks and casting of aspersions I see in places I no longer frequent because the community got fucked, makes me want to spit acid like the “Mother” Alien in the movies. Let's extend ourselves a little and give a wee bit more benefit of the doubt to each other—poster, commenter, and community, all. Weigh a person's words not just against the heat of the moment, but against their history and track record as a whole. Step back. Take a breath. Disagree. Be fiery as all holy hell. But I think of it this way—this is practice, and it's the middle of the week. We can go up against each other in drills and knock heads and trash talk. Work hard. Offense against the defense. But you don't go berserk in practice ripping up the knees and concussing your fellow teammates.

Save that crazy for Sunday, against the real fucking enemy. We don't help the team wiping each other out.

As I said about the actual stabbing incident, it was just...the dumbest Goddamned situation I could imagine. The participants ended up in two of the three potential places you can end up while bugging out like that. The hospital. Jail. Or the morgue.

The virtual stabbing going on about us? Equally Goddamned dumb.

Enough of that. Seriously. As no one wants to go to the blogospheric equivalent of those three shitty places. Word.

And with that, back to drills, Gatorade™, and looking for choice bulletin-board material from the other side to stoke the fires with—so we can get to work against our real enemy, John McCain. The video clip below is the kind of whup-ass we need to see. The mighty stiff arm of “The Tyler Rose”—Texas' immortal Earl Campbell wiping out an opponent. Earl's wearing #20 in the tan jersey, moving from right to left from the middle-right to the top left (how appropriate) of the screen.

That's what we need.