Monday, April 20, 2009

For Mattresses Only

On Friday's show, I was talking to James Boyce about the tea parties, and when the subject of Janeane Garofalo's appearance on Keith Olbermann's show came up, I mentioned that I thought Janeane was a little over the top in that she essentially called all Republicans racists. (NOTE: I did not call her a hater; I called her “over the top” with her comments.) [Start listening at approximately 14 minutes by going to this link, clicking on Friday's show (SkinnerShow-(17-4-2009).mp3) and giving it a few minutes to open up. Or, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and get it from there.]

(If you didn't catch Countdown Thursday night, here's the link)

And, wow! I got some nasty e-mails from a few listeners condemning me for not marching in lockstep and condemning and labeling everyone else right back. It was quite a show, and I admit, I’m a pretty sensitive person, so it upsets me. I thought long and hard about it. I mean, I can play the game that many radio hosts do, and fire up the base with hate. Like ACME’s, just add water and you’ve got a fine hate stew. (Yeah, sure, every single Republican I have ever met is a card-carrying racist.) My "honey bunny," Rush Limbaugh has made a fortune this way, after all…. and Glenn Beck is a Michelangelo at building the “fear Obama” sculpture.

Problem is: one, it isn’t true, and there are plenty of racist Dems.

And, two: Even if there was a racist draw to the faux populist made-for-cable-TV “tea parties,” it doesn’t get any of us where we want to go. It just makes things worse.

When President Obama met with Chavez, he didn’t point a righteous finger at him and challenge him to a duel, he tried a new tact: respect, hoping to eventually win over the people of Venezuela.

And, over the weekend, I had my own sign, if you will, that we’re on the right track.

I received an e-mail from a self-described white male, conservative, Rushbo-listening, evangelical working in the nuclear weapons arena (not exactly what we call my T1 in radio) named Rick in Albuquerque. I’m sharing it with you below because this is what I was hoping for when I started this show. Now, I'm not saying we have converted Rick into a post-nuclear metrosexual or anything, but he is listening, and we can start to have a dialogue again on the multiple crises on our doorstep. Hearts and minds, my friends. That’s where change starts.

I also received far more e-mails saying amen, sister – keep not hating! We’re so, like, over that. Now, you know I love a good debate, and I can get pretty worked up (especially when it comes to autos), but I can only be what I am – a very progressive and often idealistic person. But I do have friends across the spectrum, Democrats and Republicans, white and black, gay and straight. It's confusing at times, but the one thing I do know is that labels suck and should be restricted for use on mattresses only.

From: Chelsea Morning
Subject: Kudos


I am probably everything that most of your listeners hate. Dyed-in-the-wool Republican. Social conservative. Evangelical Christian. White male. Work in the nuclear weapons arena.

For years I listened to Rush, Sean, et al but started hunting for
something different when I grew tired of their continual bashing of the Left and their cutting off callers who had a different point of view. That's when I found Air America. It was interesting to hear the other side but also disappointing because Randy, Thom, and the others were doing the same things as their right-wing counterparts. I really wanted to understand what the world looked like through progressive eyes and all I was hearing was a continual stream of bile being spewed out against people who held toconservative ideals.

Today,however, was wonderfully different. At one point on your show you relayed a message from a listener promising to never listen to you again because you had something decent to say about Republicans. I thought your response about treating people well was great.

That comment and all of the calls leading up to it crystalized for me what I had been understanding at a subconscious level but could never put words on until this afternoon. I don't believe that nuclear weapons, the economic crisis, global warming, or any of the
other things normally discussed on these shows are the greatest threat to our nation. The real threat is ourcollective arrogance and selfishness.

It dawned on me today that the host of every show on TV and radio focused on politics comes from the perspective of "I am right on everything that I say and the opposition is completely wrong." Maybe it is all just theater, in a sense -- a way to bump ratings -- but I think that it is more than that. Some of the folks who called into your show today had hearts full of hate. One guy would have been comical if the irony hadn't been so tragic. He complained about the tea parties being a cover for hateful white racists even as every syllable he spoke was overflowing with his own poisonous hatred for the "haters" he was condemning. And it's not just on the liberal side you see this. Much of what happens in conservative talk radio is callers genuflecting to right-wing dogma and getting the same kinds of verbal strokes of approval from the right wing hosts that I hear being handed out by left wing hosts to their callers.

It struck me today that the whole lot of it is overflowing with arrogance and selfishness. If I believe that I am absolutely correct in every opinion that I hold, if I believe that I have nothing to learn from someone with differing opinions, if I don't take time to try to understand what "the others" believe and why, then I am an arrogant fool. If I insist that our national leaders work only those issues that are important to me, that they advance only my causes and in my way, then I am selfish.

Years ago I heard Tip O'Neill, commenting on how American politics used to be, say that they would fight like cats and dogs during the day in Congress and then go out after work and all have beers together. In the bar, it didn't matter who was Democrat or Republican. They generally respected one another.

My fear is that our nation is a house deeply divided and I wonder how much longer we can stand if, at the end of the day, we can't be civil to one another when the debating is done. We should each be able to hold our own positions passionately but should never allow these differences to foment hatred. Calling each other "idiot" or "mentally deficient" simply because we don't see things the same must come to an end if we want our nation to regain its strength. More than anything we need to grow big hearts and listening ears. We need to embrace humility ("I am sure that I don't see things the way you do; help me understand what you believe and why") and respect ("I will see you as a fellow American -- as my brother -- and not as my enemy").

Today, I saw a glimmer of that in your comments. Keep it up. Encourage dialog, not division, and I'll keep listening. I don't believe the Right is right on everything (there is much that has happened over the last few years that really disappoint me). I don't believe the Left has a monopoly on truth either. Maybe if we seek to understand more that we seek to be understood, we will all be better off.

Rick C.Albuquerque, NM


Anonymous said...

I have no problem with you defining yourself, however where have you been the last 30 years? When you are called every name in the book, and then some it is time to stand up for oneself. I certainly hope Janeane was serious and not joking because these people are exactly how she described them. Don't kid yourself for one minutes if those people could they would put every gay person in an oven, or a gas shower. Again Don't kid yourself for one minute. However you are right they will never hear anything they don't want to hear even if it is right.

Rustin said...

You have to realize, like on the right, there's an echo box on the left. People like Janeane have been part of those who have been around for awhile and have helped to set the agenda for a lot of people who identify themselves as progressives around the country. She's got herself a pretty large number of followers who connect with what she's saying, and when they attack you, they're just showing their lack of independent thought. In Janeane's own way, I assume, she was trying to help force a dialogue on race. She, like a lot of people (myself included), do feel there are implicit racial reasons for a lot of these tea bag/tax protesters (some of their signs they were willing to be photographed with were very explicit in that regard, too). She probably shouldn't have generalized, as that really makes her no different than Anne Coulter saying "all liberals hate freedom", etc. But sometimes, going a little over the top is the only way you can get people to discuss that racial element that the MSM has entirely avoided touching. Anne Coulter doesn't win people over to the right from the left, though, so yes, it's not the sort of statement that I'd call a political gamewinner. It's meant to force the sort of dialogue I'm having right now. :)

David said...

Your psychologist caller and the previous commenter right on. Janeane Garofalo is sharp as a tack, and she understands that she is being "over the top," and I'm sure she understands this is a useful device to stimulate dialogue. And there is plenty of truth to be gathered from the substance of her comments, even if you don't like the delivery. But she has consistently been willing to push the envelope and take the punches for getting in peoples' faces over important issues. She was, for example, one of the few celebrities who aggressively spoke out against the Iraq war in '02 and early '03, stepping up for anti-war groups who could not get on the cable shows. Google her pre-Iraq-war appearance and Fox News and tell me how she did not predict exactly what came to pass....

Jane said...

I believe that Janeane Garafalo has earned her credibility over the years, being quite outspoken about all the bush/republican atrocities over these past 8 years. I watched her on Keith's show that night and, frankly, applauded her. I seem to remember her starting her comments, saying: "i'm going to be very honest here..." If you bother to watch most of the clips from the "protests," the people are white, doubtfully earn $250,000/year, and some of them were carrying some pretty awful signs. Yes, I'm sure there are some non-racist republicans.....but, c'mon! Let's face the facts! Most members of the Republican party are either super-rich (& super-greedy--they don't like helping anyone who is less fortunate), OR, they are white who are filled with fear/hate for minorities and gays. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule....but they are few.