Editor's note: None of the letters we got last week about Clif Garboden's essay ("Screw You, America," Nov. 17) were the least bit wishy-washy. Readers either loved it or hated it. Here's a sample of the reaction. This page is rated PG-13.
How difficult it is to pull off righteous indignation?
Attempts at such usually end up coming out as impotent rage or junior high school locker room swagger. Clif Garboden manages both in "Screw you, America." My, how he can cuss. I guess that is supposed to show us how mad he is. Okay, maybe a little over the top, but with this piece he's doing something constructive with his anger, right? He's, um, uh, screaming at Christians and telling them how stupid they are to believe in the Rapture. Brilliant social commentary. Boy, those fish in that barrel didn't stand a chance.
Perhaps Clif might take a moment to reflect on the possibility that he, not John Kerry, made the fatal error. Ask any flag-waving, bible-toting, troops-supporting conservative what he most loathes about liberals (or "progressives" if you want to play word games). You will not hear a diatribe against abortion or evolution or sex education. What you will hear about is attitude--the condescending lectures and finger-wagging didactics about how conservative voters are too dumb to know what is good for them.
People who believe Jesus will appear in the eastern sky and that they will fly up into the air to meet him (any day now!!) are just as sensitive as anyone else about being called stupid. Has it occurred to Clif that calling people dumb might turn them against your candidate? Furrow-browed meddlers like Clif, not monotheistic South Dakotans, are the ones responsible for another four years of W. Thanks a goddamn fucking lot.
Screw you, Clif.
I loved the article by Clif Garboden. I can't remember a time when I saw something in print that sounded like it came out of the mouths of my best friends. We have this crazy idea that the written word needs to be more formal than spoken language and for the most part, written language is sterile. Not the case with "Screw You, America. " Thanks for making me laugh at our pathetic political situation.
Left not served
Clif Garboden's ugly rant belongs on a toilet wall, not in an intelligent periodical like yours.
I've been an activist for decades. I worked for Kerry in this campaign. I'll admit I find myself as disillusioned and angry as anyone about the seemingly incredible ignorance of the electorate. I will also confess I can resort to calling on my repertoire of insults and curses (which is extensive) to characterize political opponents. All of us on the left/liberal side of the political coin probably found ourselves coming up with a few choice adjectives the day after the election.
But I know when to remind myself to try and pull myself back up to a decent level of thinking and response.
It is both self-destructive and politically destructive to degenerate into the kind of foul-mouthed, self-righteous, hateful rhetoric Garboden does in his political tirade. This is the kind of gutter political talk we rightfully accuse the right with voicing. Do we need to sink to that level to make our points?
The people on the other side may be misguided, but they are, after all, human beings. Garboden is appealing to and playing to the worst in us with this mean-spirited article. He has more in common with the "hate-laden Limbaugh" he alludes to in his article than he realizes. This piece is an example of low-life graffiti and detracts rather than contributes to your usual fine level of political discourse.
Perhaps the saddest thing about Clif Garboden's rant in your recent edition is the bio sentence at the bottom of the piece. So he is the president of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He represents all the nation's alternative weekly newspapers. Nice. Really nice. Allowing him to speak for you was a mistake.
His rant did nothing more than remind me why I pick up your newspaper only once in a blue moon: You've grown completely irrelevant and out of touch. Newspapers that lack energy and snap and good writing can continue to make a difference by being relevant to the lives of their readers. Unfortunately, you've lost even that bit of connection.
End the polite fiction
I can't stop laughing at Clif Garboden's marathon rant, "Screw you, America." As someone who's been on a non-stop tirade since Nov. 3, I happily prostrate myself at the feet of a true master of the genre.
The 2004 election has exposed a dirty little secret: America is two countries, with two mutually exclusive imagined futures.
In the first imagined future, there is no American "exceptionalism." America is a nation among other nations, obligated to "play nice" with others. This imagined America actively embraces all those marginalized, "different" Americans. War is seen as a failure of human reason, not an occasion for flag-waving and parades.
The other imagined future is uncompromisingly fundamentalist, built around America's world-historical mission. This America revels in a manic triumphalism, symbolized by the ubiquitous flags and the constantly mutating variations on the yellow ribbon. This America has the God-given mandate to wage war any time it chooses to do so. This America is overtly Christian, with laws and conduct that are Biblically grounded. Call this vision the "Bush future." For the Americans who voted for this Bush future, there are no more alibis. They knew what they were getting this time--and they embraced it anyway.
And what of those other Americans? I believe the phenomenon of "internal emigration" will increase as these people move to ideologically friendly enclaves. Americans with different views will interact less and less. The hopeful discourse of civilized disagreement will simply dry up.
Perhaps it is good that it came to this. Perhaps, finally, we can stop the polite fiction that this was "just another election." Perhaps, finally, we can stop pretending that we are going to give and get group hugs, toast s'mores and sing "Kumbaya" together. Perhaps, finally, things have gone too far for us to "try to get along" anymore.
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