Saturday, March 24, 2012

"More from Mr. Maher"

My letter to the editor (Feb. 23) of the Chronicle of Glens Falls was never printed. There was a lot of local news and business activity that probably squeezed me out. (The other possible answer is that Mark Frost, the editor, didn't want to print any comments from someone happy to pay taxes.) I've written letters to newspapers before that were not printed, so life goes on. Then last week Mark expressed sadness at the passing of Andrew Breitbart. He seconded an opinion by Jonah Goldberg, a conservative columnist. Among other things, Goldberg detests the U.N. and argued vociferously for war against Iraq.

I would be polite not to say anything critical of the dead, but Breitbart  had no such scruples. Wikipedia reports that "In the hours immediately following Senator Ted Kennedy's death, Breitbart called Kennedy a 'villain', a 'duplicitous bastard', a 'prick'[13] and 'a special pile of human excrement'."[14][15] Breitbart is credited with bringing down Anthony Weiner (who brought about his own downfall) and ACORN (a very helpful group of community organizations), and for "smearing USDA official Shirley Sherrod with a video titled 'Proof NAACP Awards Racism'. Breitbart's video showed Sherrod speaking at a NAACP fundraising dinner in March 2010 in which she admitted to a racial reluctance to helping a white man get government aid." (The unedited video showed a very thoughtful person reflecting on how all of us get drawn into prejudice.)

Here is my letter to the Chronicle under the heading "More from Mr. Maher":

Dear Mark,

Regarding Jonah Goldberg’s comment about the perspective of Andrew Breitbart. “I have profound contempt for those on the right who claim a birthright to a monopoly on virtue and tolerance. I reject in the marrow of my bones the idea that liberals need to apologize for being liberal or that conservatives have any special authority to pronounce on the political decency an honesty of others.” The ease with which I can turn around his words shows how little dialogue there is in our political culture now. The only way I see to stop this is not to speak out of anger, to call out others politely, when I think that they presume a higher moral ground. We need to lower our voices and argue for our principles and opinions without insulting or debasing the other. I for one would like it if conservatives would stop using “liberal” or “socialist” as dirty words, and stop the untrue insults of our President.

Dennis Maher
Lake Luzerne

Maybe I am too subtle. I said "right" when Goldberg said "left" and "liberal" when he said "conservative." My point was that if such things can be switched like that, something is wrong. Such comments are merely unsubstantiated claims. We need to argue at greater length why we think that the other view is wrong and ours is correct.

This week Mark expresses regret that Congressman Chris Gibson will be running for the new New York 19th, removing him from our area. I still can't figure out how such a conservative as Mark came out of Wesleyan. I do wish that all of us could discuss issues on merits without making them so ideological. To do that even I would have to risk accepting that something I think I believe is wrong.

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