Hildegarde

Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Hung for a Sheep

with 13 comments

So, to start off with, let me apologize for how sparsely the posts have been lately.  With a book deadline and the term just starting up, they would probably have been sparse-ish under anyway, but for the last eight days I’ve been down with The Cold To End All Colds.

And, yes, for those of you who know that I will avoid doctors and medical care until I’m actually dying, I did finally go and have it checked out. 

I figured that, although it’s not usual for a student to give me penumonia this early in a term, it also isn’t impossible.  And, let’s face it, pneumonia is the easy part.  They give you antibiotics.  Forty eight hours later, you feel fine.

But no, it’s just a really bad cold, and it isn’t gone yet.  So I’m sitting here doing that weird shaking thing that says that the fever is about to come back in half an hour or so.

But I’ve also had some things on my mind, and I get a little crazy if I don’t write, so I thought I’d give this a shot.

To understand what comes next, however, I have to set the stage just a little bit.

A few nights ago–Tuesday night, I think–I came back home from teaching not only feeling ill but in a state of high piss off.

The students in one of my courses this term are required to read a short article or part of a book every week and to come and in take a quiz on the contents. 

This is, to use a cliche, not rocket science.  They need to be able to state the thesis of the piece and to list three of the main points supporting it.  They also need to define one or two vocabulary words taken from the text.

Since the focus of the course is “critical reading,” I figured being able to read at all was not an unreasonable requirement.

I looked through the quizzes before I came home and found out that, once again, at least half of them had responded to the vocab requirement by looking up the words on their phones as they sat in class doing the quiz.

This was obvious both because of the way the definitions were worded and because, when I called on individual people to define the words in class out loud, they didn’t have a clue.

So I was in no mood to begin with, and then by the time class was nearly over I was also running a very high fever and feeling rather dizzy. 

And I came home, and I checked e-mail, and one of the things I found was this completely off the wall rant by–I don’t really know who this person is.

This rant claimed that this person had read “a few pages” of Flowering Judas, he had gone to my web site to find out more about me, and been smacked in the face with a “letter” about why I didn’t vote Republican, in which I had ‘forced down [his] throat that I thought all Republicans were uneducated idiots. 

He therefore refused to read any more of my book, refused to tell anybody anywhere that he had ever heard my name, and refused to say anything about me in the course he taught on mystery and detective fiction.

Now, I have a couple of things to say here, irrespective of the fact that this e-mail was really long and largely emotionally incoherent.

The first is that I find it hard to understand how anybody could be hit in the face with that essay when they first looked at my web page.  You have to scroll down to see the essay list at all, and the Republican one is not the first. 

What’s more, it’s surrounded by other essays that are distinctly not left wing–Why Intellectuals Love Marx, for instance, and Why I Am Not  A Humanist. 

In fact, I expect a number of people who read this blog would find it downright funny that anybody would consider me a leftist at all–God only knows, I get enough mail from other people who think I’m some kind of right wing ideologue.

But on top of that, the rant did not accurately reflect what was in the essay to begin with.  And my guess is that the writer read the three sections but not the introduction.

I do want to go over what I said in that essay, and I probably will in a day or two, but I’d like to point out two things:

1) If this guy wants to exclude from his mystery and detective fiction course every writer he would think of as “left wing,” then he’s got a MUCH bigger problem than me. 

Writers in this genre are virtually universally doctrinaire liberals–very doctrinaire.  And although you’ll never find a book of mine where politically or religiously conservative characters are treated as universally stupid and igorant, I could point you to a good dozen mysteries published by mystery writers working right now where that is the case. 

2) MY problem is twofold. 

a) What people want is dogmatic adherence to their side, whatever that side is.  If you criticize ONE point in their program–you obviously hate their program,  you can’t stand them and you’re calling them stupid or evil or something.

And there isn’t anybody’s program out there I like 100%.

What’s more, if you LIKE one part of the opposition’s program, then you MUST support every single point of it.

For conservatives, it doesn’t matter how many times I oppose affirmative action, most social welfare spending as presently constituted, hate crimes laws and speech codes–nope, I criticize Republican policies but never Democratic ones.

The Democrats just call me a racist and a theocrat and get it over with.

b) I’m told that if I discuss my ideas in public, lots of readers are going to refuse to buy my books, because they don’t agree with the ideas, whether those ideas are in the books are not, because–

Because why?

Whatever.

I think this is true.  But I also think it is stupid. 

All that being said, I’d like to note one thing, before going on with a discussion about smart people who think they should be able to run our lives.  That’s coming soon.

First, I have never said that top tier universities could do no wrong.  I have opposed speech codes on this blog.  I have opposed the coercive “orientations.”  I have opposed the political jihad of faculty selection. 

I’ve said it all right here–obviously, I don’t think such schools can “do no wrong.”

But second–here’s the thing.

For better or worse, if you want to get a certain kind of education at all, you no longer have anyplace else to go.

Going to Yale or Vassar or Johns Hopkins won’t ensure that you get a full liberal education, but going to Southern Connecticut State will ensure that you won’t, because places like SCSU no longer offer the coursework that would enable you to pursue it. 

For better or worse, we have turned all but the flagship campuses of some of our state universities into vast vocational training schools with nary a glance in the direction of a classical education.

If you think that doesn’t matter, think again.

It’s the reason why those schools are producing not only Obama administration liberals and liberal intellectuals like Cass Susstein, but also virtually all the conservative and liberal politicians and intellectuals as well–William F. Buckley (Yale),  Thomas Sowell (Harvard), Charles Murray (Harvard), and I could go on for a year.

Hell, Mitt Romney went to Harvard, George W. Bush went to Yale, and Nancy Pelosi went to an obscure Catholic women’s college I’m willing to bet most of you have never heard of.

The point of that piece was not that Republicans are yahoos.  It was that some Republican politicians and writers deliberately pander to a certain subset of voters whose primary motivation is NOT a reasoned conviction that people who went to elite colleges and universities are trying to run their lives or are mucking up the country with their policies.

And that it’s pandering, and not conviction, was on display in the whole Harriet Miers mess, where one Republican writer after another shrieked that you couldn’t put that woman on the Supreme Court, she hadn’t gone to a good law school!  In other words, she was Southern Methodist U, not Harvard, Yale, or the public Ivies.

I got told today that I should think of what’s best for the country when I vote, and not if some things (that old Iowa add, for instance, about those awful NYT reading, brie eating snobs) remind me of the things of the way I got beat up in grade school.

So, let me try to be clear.

I think that the mentality that was being encouraged by that Iowa ad was far worse for the country, and far more dangerous, than anything Barack Obama could do even if he joined the CPUSA. 

When you use things like “Ivy League” as pejoratives YOU may mean to employ short hand to indicate certain attitudes or policies, but I’ll absolutely guarantee you that the people that ad was aimed at do not. 

And if you think I’m wrong–you really need to get out more.

Oh, and one more thing–if it’s okay for one side to vote based on resentments from their childhood, I don’t see why I should be denied the right to vote on mine.

But in the end, the issue is simple.  An ad like that Iowa ad is a declaration that the Republicans don’t WANT me to vote for them.

People like me have been declared unwelcome in the party. 

You’re not going to vote for people who look down on you and call you names?

Good.

I’m not either.

Written by janeh

February 4th, 2012 at 11:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

13 Responses to 'Hung for a Sheep'

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  1. So calling you “racist” and “theocrat” is NOT calling you names, but calling you “snob” is?

    And, once more, you drag in JHU, which was never part of the problem to obscure the bloody footprints leading to Harvard, which very much is. I have never heard a conservative speak with anything but the utmost respect for JHU, MIT, Cal Tech or UND. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia are another matter. For that matter, when did Norwich, the Service Academies and St Johns cease to offer good educations? It is certainly possible to get “a certain kind of education” without attending or supporting the universties which created and perpetuate many of our national problems. A good thing, too, because those universities don’t seem much interested in education. And even if it were not, it would still not make all criticism of those schools anti-intellectualism. If there is only one well in town, that does not make it improper topoint out that it’s polluted.

    I note your criticism of racial prefernces, hate crimes, speech codes social welfare programs and the political jihad never keep you from voting for the people who love them, and insisting the alternatives are beyond the Pale.

    The Chinese Communist Party allows five “opposition” parties, who remind me very much of you relationship with Harvard, its allies and the Democratic Party. You’re not even a respectable gadfly. You’re political cover.

    Try this again when you’re rested. You’ll still be wrong, but you’ll make a better case for yourself.

    robert_piepenbrink

    4 Feb 12 at 3:56 pm

  2. JHU is a top tier university. So are Caltech and MIT. And the people that Iowa ad was aimed at will denigrate them all.

    Not least of which because the graduates of all of them will largely fit the description of NYT reading, wine drinking, brie eating, Volvo driving, etc.

    If you want to proclaim your dislike of the performance of graduates of particular universities, you say we’ve had too many alumni of X, Y and Z whose policy decisions go in the wrong direction, so you question the value of an education at X, Y, and Z.

    You don’t go on about people’s taste i n food amd drink.

    And although individual Democrats have called me a racist and a theocrat, the Democratic PARTY never has.

    That was a campaign ad in Iowa, and there’s been a fair amount of similar crap this latest time around.

    Supporting hate crimes legislation will indeed lose my vote if I know about it, but telling me I’m no better than scum because I’d rather read than watch NASCAR will lose it for good.

    Lots of conservatives said they voted for Bush over Kerry because they wanted someone they’d feel comfortable having abeer with.

    Well, I want some I’d be comfortable having a drink with, and Michelle Bachmann ain’t it.

    Of course, neither is nancy Pelosi, so there’s that.

    janeh

    4 Feb 12 at 4:23 pm

  3. That would be a more impressive rebuttal if you hadn’t thrown Rush Limbaugh into the outer darkness for calling some piece of liberal idiocy “Ivy League thinking.” Not “top tier.” Not “upper level liberal arts.” Ivy League. Harvard, Yale and Columbia have their fingerprints on pretty much everything that’s gone wrong in the United States for two generations. I wouldn’t care if they actually DID insist on a liberal arts education, and were the last ones to do so. If you don’t like how the critifcism is phrased, you could speak up and phrase it correctly. Instead, you always hide the guilty among the innocent.

    Not responsible for Iowa campaign ads, and primary ads are not generally run by a party anyway. Haven’t seen broadcast TV–well, anything not on DVD, really–in 10 years. But as far as I’m concerned the Democratic Party called me an ignorant bigot before I was old enough to vote. Let them revoke the quota and preference laws and then talk.

    robert_piepenbrink

    4 Feb 12 at 8:39 pm

  4. Since I’m in Australia, I don’t know what the Iowa ad was about nor am I familiar with the present state of US universities. I’ve made a resolution to ignore US politics until 21 Jan 2013!

    jd

    4 Feb 12 at 8:49 pm

  5. Like jd, I’m in Australia and actively ignoring the Republican primaries.

    What intrigues me, Jane, is that from what I can gather, you always vote, and you always vote Democrat. This is despite your knowing and acknowledging much, if not quite everything, that’s wrong with the Democrat side of politics, and the corruption of a significant fraction of its prominent politicians, eg Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Teddy Kennedy and a supporting cast of hundreds if not thousands.

    After nearly 20 years of reading constant barrages of mainly ad hominem and straw man abuse of the vanishingly tiny number of admitted Republicans in rec.arts.mystery and elsewhere on the net, when Democrats stop casting all non-Democrats as being stupid, or uniformly at the extremist right end of the political spectrum, I’ll start taking Democrat criticism of Republicans seriously. Hell will freeze over first, I think.

    The most egregious of these are those who state, or imply, that people who vote Republican must be stupid because they are voting against their own interests. The sheer blinding arrogance and, dare I say it, rank stupidity, of such thinking boggles the mind. Don’t these people understand that it is precisely that mindset, that they know what’s best for other people, that brought the likes of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Hitler, Castro and every other totalitarian tyrant to power throughout history.

    In my experience, the beginning of serious electoral campaigns is the point at which sensible people should switch off and read up on what the various candidates/parties have actually done in the past rather than what they say they will do in the future which, invariably, is sheer bovine excreta.

    Personally, I’m with William F. Buckley, Jr when he said:
    “I’d rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the faculty of Harvard.” .

    Mique

    4 Feb 12 at 10:07 pm

  6. Thanks to the modern blessings of the CD and DVD players, I have found it possible to go entire election cycles without campaign ads, or indeed, much other advertising. This also means I’ll never be left with a cliffhanger ending on a TV show again. I buy them on DVD, and if they’re known to end that way, I never start them. I recommend this policy to you all.

    The infamous ad: run by the Club for Growth in 2004, and aimed at the “Deaniacs” who came in from out of state to tell the benighted Iowans how they ought to vote in the Democratic primary. If you google 2004 Iowa Primary Campaign Ad Volvo, you should get it on youtube. The interesting thing is that it DOESN’T mention NPR, Brie or tofu. The original list is
    tax-hiking
    government-expanding
    Volvo-driving
    New York Times-reading
    body-piercing
    Hollywood-loving
    freak show

    But it keeps getting reshaped in memory, leaving out things liberals don’t want to talk about, and throwing in others they’re proud of. There’s an article in there somewhere.

    robert_piepenbrink

    5 Feb 12 at 3:58 pm

  7. robert, thanks for the google tip. found it and eventually got captions working. I sometimes look at the online NY Times, and eat sushi, and it didn’t bother me in the slightest.

    jd

    5 Feb 12 at 5:24 pm

  8. Thanks! I KNEW I’d forgotten one:

    Sushi-eating

    If it was aimed at the educated, it was very poorly aimed. But if it was aimed at the “not from Iowa” I’d say it was right on target.

    robert_piepenbrink

    5 Feb 12 at 7:02 pm

  9. Have you been to Iowa, Robert? Specifically Ames or Des Moines? Lots of Volvo-driving, sushi-eating, New York Times – reading lefties there. It’s true that the rural areas are redneck, but the university towns and larger cities have the same Democratic-leaning people that are in other states’ larger cities and university towns.

    MaryF

    6 Feb 12 at 2:14 pm

  10. I’ve seen the term “flyover country” used. I took the ad as an attack on politicians who seem to think that the US consists of New York City, San Francisco, and “flyover” country (and refer to anyone living in small towns or rural areas as rednecks).

    jd

    6 Feb 12 at 3:27 pm

  11. MaryF, (1) No, never been to Iowa. (2) If there were “lots” of Volvo-drivers or NYT readers ANYWHERE, their boards of directors would be much happier than they have been lately. (3) I can find you a sushi bar in Lancaster County, PA–but the ad will still work in any state not dominated by a big city.

    But when discussing how a political party might gratuitously insult and drive away voters, I’d try to avoid calling rural and suburban voters–or is it just non-faculty members?–“rednecks.”

    robert_piepenbrink

    6 Feb 12 at 5:25 pm

  12. Back in the “truth or consequences” thread, Robert made a comment saying

    “I don’t think it will be very long now–five, maybe ten years to the crisis requiring a national will and sense of identity which no longer exists.”

    I fear this talk of “rednecks” and my mention of “fly over country” rather illustrates his point.

    jd

    6 Feb 12 at 5:36 pm

  13. But those indications are hardly certain, are they? Urban dwellers have been mocking rural ones since the times of the Romans at least. And there have been jokes about the city slickers, too.

    An electorate that appears (taken as a whole, not by region) pretty evenly divided, a decreasing sense of acceptance of those on the other side as being honest and loyal members of the same country and vicious political rhetoric would be more worrying.

    Although now that I think about it, poisonous political rhetoric used to be extremely common too back in the 1800s, so maybe that’s another example of reverting to old practices.

    Cheryl

    7 Feb 12 at 7:36 am

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