I appreciate bloggers who let me peek into their lives a little bit. I’m sorry to keep bringing Say Uncle up whenever I talk about this, but to me, he’s the biggest stand-out. I was ambivalent about guns, leaning towards “So what if we just let the government chuck them into the sea?” when I started reading him.
And it wasn’t just his continued talk about guns in a reasonable manner that caused me to say, “Wait, there’s more to these gun nuts than just gun nuttiness.” because, of course, I already knew Sarcastro and Exador, who are both probably daydreaming about guns right now as I type this… guns and boobs… But it’s also the way he presents himself on his blog, as a kind of straightforward well-meaning and well-considered person (with good taste in dogs).
Maybe it was the dog. Seeing him write about his dog and feeling similarly about my politically incorrect dog made me feel like we have something in common. And it made me willing to trust his take on guns.
Do you see what I mean? Because I trust his authorial voice about his dog, because something about how he talks about his dog rings true to me, it made me more deeply consider his other points. It works because I don’t know him and I would feel rude fighting with him because I don’t know him (whereas I often easily dismiss points Exador and Sarcastro make because I know them and feel free to fight with them. I can refuse to see their point of view because fighting is somewhat pleasurable and because the goodwill between us is reinforced through email or beer or whatever, unlike with Say Uncle where we just read each other). So, I’m forced as a reader to either consider his points or be an asshole.
I’ve ended up considering his points.
Sometimes I disagree with him, but I respect his perspective.
Uncle says, “I like Terry and we generally agree.” And I have to tell you, I’m kind of confused. I don’t read Terry Frank that often, but I don’t find anything in her writing that I can connect with. I don’t need to agree with the people I read, but I need to feel connected to them in some way. I need to feel like there’s a real person writing about things that really matter to her. I mean, look at Coble and I. We have a great deal of common ground, it’s true, but the things we disagree on? We’re polar opposites.
And yet, I feel some stake in what she’s writing. I don’t with Frank. I don’t feel like she’s writing from her heart; I feel like she’s writing from some position calculated to help her market herself as Tennessee’s girliest conservative pundit. I don’t dislike her, but I don’t know her and I don’t feel like there’s enough of her in her writing for me to come to like her.
I mention all this because, at the end of the day, I really like Carter. If you met him in person, he’s kind of got this very quiet, shy, goofy way about him. When he’s in a room, he seems to do a lot of alternating between surveying the landscape and trying very hard to not notice that I’m flashing my boob freckle at him. He is kind of goofy in a way I find charming.
He’s the kind of guy it’d be very easy to have around at a picnic or a party or a funeral. I feel like Carter is a person and a person that, if circumstances were different, I’d be regularly going out to eat with and having loud, animated arguments that ended with one or the other of us stomping off and then having to send sheepish email apologies later. But he seems like he has important ideas that, though different than mine, must be considered.
Until he goes and writes shit like
How can I possible be this devoid of compassion?
Because compassion is part of the problem. It is the compassion of
us all that the business community counts on to continue to get their
It is compassion that Democrats count on to get their cheap votes.
There are all sorts interests clamoring for compassion. They want
stories like these to get out so that we shall remain weak. They want
us to hesitate. They want us to be reticent about doing what we need to
do — enforce the law.
You want compassion? Have compassion for the natives. Have
compassion for those whose health care costs have risen do to
immigrants using the emergency room as their primary care physician.
Have compassion for those whose jobs have been lost and wages depressed.
The need for compassion is overstated.
And my first inclination is not to fight with him, but to… I don’t know.
It makes me want to stand near him and just punch everyone who stands in his way throughout the day. Or to get matching tattoos. Or at least to make up a secret handshake.
But then I think, he was in a fraternity, wasn’t he? Shouldn’t he have already got that?
It honestly upsets me so much I want to cry. I read that and I think, “Fuck. Someone must have done Carter as wrong as a person can be done.” And then I wonder if that’s not kind of patronizing, to say “Oh, Carter is so wrong that the only way he could really be that wrong is if something happened to him to deeply fuck him up, because a normal person could not believe as he believes as deeply as he believes it.” I guess it kind of is.
I grew up believing that my first priority was always to serve others, to meet their needs ahead of my own, and to try to extend compassion as far and wide as I could. I believed that to be central to Christianity and central to my identity as a Christian.
I’ve since changed religions and I now believe that my first obligation is to the well-being of the folks whose luck is tied to mine and that I must protect myself and operate from a position of strength in order to meet that obligation as fully as I can. I still believe in the importance of compassion. I believe compassion is a strength and I believe that compassion leads to wisdom and fosters good luck.
I don’t believe there’s anyone standing over me judging whether or not I’m sufficiently compassionate. If I act in just, wise, and compassionate ways, my life will go better and I will be happier. If I live a better and happier life in a just, wise, and compassionate way, it improves the lives of the people around me. That’s not a result of some judgment, just as if I stop watering the houseplants, they will wilt. That wilting isn’t a judgment, it’s just how it is. If I fail to live by my own standards, my life will be more difficult than it’s already going to be. That’s no judgment; it’s just how it is.
One thing that continually frustrates me about Carter is that just when I think I’ve got it figured out–what the standard to which he holds himself is–he says this crap that just seems so hateful and incongruent with the way he seems in real life that I’m at a loss.
If we’re not here to try to improve our lives and the lives of the people we come in contact with, why are we here?
What is achieved by not just turning your back on people who need help, but actively arguing that others should to?
Carter, everyone deserves compassion. Even you.
I do hope you, deep in your heart, at least suspect that to be true.