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Tom Coburn is a Big Fat Jerk


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Sunday, February 13, 2005

While Rome burns ...

I've seen a lot of "discussion" the past few weeks about PETA, radical feminism (Wellesleyan or Smith College style) and similar --- Naderites, whatever. On the bigger boards, the typical "discussion" breaks down rather quickly into a slugfest which usually takes the form of one side ranting about their singular rights and the other ranting over the distractions from the bigger picture. No middle ground is ever reached.

In the sciences, this is commonly referred to lumpers vs. splitters. In a very general way, it refers to the tendency of some people to toss a lot of things into single, large family groups, while others carefully and minutely categorize according to very specific details.

I'm a splitter about most things. It's one reason it took me over two years to get septic. Before I could make my decision, I had to read everything about septic systems, about the requirements of our Department of Environmental Quality, about the consequences of various systems for the Illinois River (which I live relatively close to) --- about composting systems versus septic, percolation, leach fields, humanure, the impact of backhoes and frontloaders on amphibians, grey water, whatever.

And now that I have septic, I've shifted my focus to rainwater catchment systems and cisterns.

Being a splitter has its advantages. I'm never bored because I'm always debating this vs. that vs. the other, and there's never enough time to gather all the information because there's always more information to be had.

But it has very big disadvantages. In particular, the work of splitters is never done, no conclusions are ever reached and I can testify that it can easily paralyze any movement forward.

More importantly, the intense focus on detail means losing sight of the big picture.

Which is one of the problems we self-defined liberals and leftists are having.

There have been a number of posts over at Seeing the Forest and elsewhere about this very issue, like this one and this. There has also been discussion about this at Due Diligence (AKA MyDD) and many other blogs.

In the most general of terms, the argument is that the radical Bushinistas are operating as a whole --- they've created a massive, functioning infrastructure and comprehensive general "messages" which may lack specificity, but imply specificity, thereby effectively encompassing innumerable splinter groups and factions, as well as Everyman, beneath a single umbrella.

Yes.

Take PETA. Now, I'm no fan of PETA. They go way too far for me. I also resent being categorized with them simply because I am quite liberal and, in general, hold leftist views. They are, as far as I'm concerned, more similar to religious Fundamentalists and the nutjobs occupying the White House.

However, they have a right to their views and, in general, it's true that their views are much closer to the liberal end of the spectrum.

HOWEVER ... I very much resent being wholesale tossed in with them, just because I believe in the humane treatment of animals and just because I believe animals have intelligence.

The Bushinistas have effectively develop a descriptive language for PETA which tosses people like me into their category. One such term, "animal rights", has become a smear which, in a sense, could describe my views (I am very opposed to factory farming and cruelty to animals) but these days, thanks to the Bushinistas, tosses me right in the boat with PETA, where I do not belong. I may oppose factory farming and animal cruelty, but I certainly enjoy a good steak. Furthermore, I grew up in a hunting household, am now surrounded by hunters and I firmly believe that hunting can be infinitely ethical, as well as an environmentally sound practice.

Which brings me to the rub. In the most simplistic of terms, there is a a growing outcry for Democrats to develop their own language, a more generalized language which effectively collapses a range of liberal issues under a single category and simple terms. Furthermore, there is more and more movement being made by small, but effective, advocates for the development of a liberal or Democraic infrastructure which funds and frames these larger issues.

However, there is a lot of resistance to these calls to action from various smaller groups and their advocates.

What they seem to be missing is that --- using PETA again as an example --- I may support PETA's right to be, but I strongly object to many of their beliefs and practices, and it is simply inaccurate to develop terminology and "mission statements" or whatever which forces me and ALL liberals/Democrats under their specialized umbrella.

More importantly, however, while various smaller "specialized" factions are demanding their share of the pie, Rome is burning.

Social Security is under attack. Successful programs for children and impoverished adults and communities are under attack. The media has been taken over by Bushinista clones with bad hairdos and cheek implants and too much botox. The standard of living for the majority of Americans is falling by the minute. We've already seen the first waves of impact from global warming, yet this administration and its supporters roundly rejects any kind of environmental protections.

Etc.

Etc.

Etc.

One of the many reasons I left academia and my supposed field of practice was because I was increasingly being forced to focus on detail (which I do anyway) while simultaneously being required to ignore profound poverty and human suffering and pain. I simply couldn't do it. And it seemed to me that it would have been the worst kind of narcissism for me to have continued ignoring Rome was burning, just so I could churn out yet another useless and unintelligible academic paper to further my career.

And it is my belief --- generalizing from my own experience --- that it is the same kind of worst kind of narcissism and self-indulgence for small splinter groups to demand their greater importance while all hell is breaking loose for everybody else.

PETA and similar have rights, yes. And their rights to believe what they believe and say what they say need to be protected.

They do not have the right, however, to demand we all kowtow to them while ignoring the profound danger we as a people are in.

It's time to stop splitting hairs over the details and time to start getting it together. We all have to give something up in the process. But it's for the better good.

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