Time To End The War Of Attrition Plaguing The Star‘s Letters Section

Dear Kansas City,
Look, we get it. A lot of you are upset. A third of you think that President Hope is running this country into the ground. A third of you think racism is driving any and all criticism of the administration. And a third of you pretty much don’t care, which makes you the worst portion of the pie chart. But for now, let’s focus on the yeas and the nays — those all-too-vocal citizens who are reenacting the Thrilla in Manila in the pages of the Star‘s Letters to the Editor section. Every day for about three months, there has been a letter either warning of a looming apocalypse or warning of the lunatics saying such things. Today’s letter, a rambling, illogical, and shrill missive, from Leawood’s Pam Zubeck is evidence that the debate has finally gone too far. Some samples of its low points:

It doesn’t take a talk show host to make reasonable, rational individuals realize there is something wrong with the way this country is being run today… News flash to the left: You don’t own the First Amendment… It seems to me the 9/12 protesters are the very people who are trying to save this republic… The “progressives” of 1776 gave their lives, fortunes and sacred honor so we can be free. The “progressives” of 2009 in no way resemble the “progressives” of the American Revolution… The 2009 progressives want enslavement to the government… Don’t call yourself a progressive and then say you’re in the same league with Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin, because you’re not even close.

Well. I’m not sure I have the energy to point out exactly why Ms. Zubeck has deep-sixed reality so fervently, but perhaps a message to the respective sides will help us end at least one theater of this war: the Star‘s letters section. Because, you know, we need more room for stuff like this. Anyway, to the lecturing.

To the right, we say this:

Honestly, your devotion to principle is admirable. We’re glad there are people so concerned about protection of individual rights that they’ll write letters, go to marches, and warn of consequences. That’s great. It really is. Our question is this: where was all this for the last eight years? Did you simply not notice when 43 turned the military into an imperial force? Or the half-trillion dollar Medicare expansion? How about the creation of a new federal department, or the expansion of wiretapping, email surveying, and government surveillance under the absurdly named Patriot Act? If you’re so concerned about executive power, why were you so quiet during eight years of the biggest swelling of executive power in a generation — not to mention a doubling of the deficit using financial chicanery like keeping the war off the books? And can you please recall that the Wall St. bailout was passed under Bush, as was the beginning of the auto bailout? And that every president has czars, and that the system was started by Nixon? Can you maybe understand, since you waited until a black guy was in charge to start yelling about things, that racism might cross people’s minds now and then?

So surely you understand how people might see your cries as hypocrisy. And surely you can recognize that your bloviators — Hannity, Beck, et al — are just as bad as the left’s bloviators (Olbermann, Moore, etc.). No one is trying to silence you or shut down your message; in case you hadn’t noticed, you guys sort of own corporate media, which forms all the messages. Here’s our advice to you, if you’d like to win this battle: always focus on finances. Always. People like their freedom, but they love their paychecks. If you’re going to be up in arms over the health care reform proposals, stick with warnings about deficits and de facto taxes (which are perfectly valid concerns). When you get caught up in calling Obama a socialist (a word that lost its cultural cachet 20 years ago, so find something else) or focus on the birther movement, you’re just wasting time. Convince people that expanded deficits are unacceptable, and you win. Where are those letters? The calm, reasoned arguments for fiscal restraint — could we see some of those, please, instead of angry dispatches from a ritzy suburb?

To the left, we say this:

Think we’re on your side based on the preceding text? We’re not. You’re being just as ridiculous. Crying racism every time someone criticizes your guy is preposterous. There are all too many valid complaints to be made about the administration thus far; in fact, things haven’t really deviated too much from the Bush course so far. The guy you fought so hard to elect hasn’t changed state secrets, much of war policy, or deficit expansion. Many parts of the stimulus were questionable at best, and pork-laden boondoggles at worst.

Obama is not a messiah, and he can do wrong. He has already. So you need to cool it with the racism charges, and with the indignation over the loss of jobs. That’s not a political thing; it’s just the way the world operates. Capitalist systems exploit inefficiences and streamline production processes — thus, more automation and the loss of the those manufacturing jobs you loved for so long. Let’s face it: the U.S. manufacturing sector has been a Potemkin village for a generation. Stop thinking that Obama can bring those jobs back. He can’t. No one can. They’re gone for good.

And let’s let go of the devotion to unions already, huh? Yeah, corporations are often greedy and corrupt. You know who else is often greedy and corrupt? Unions. When you get mad over the shunning of SEIU, or grow angry at the right over the ACORN controversy (and was there ever a more cartoonish and obviously guilty organization?), please recall that groups on your side have done some bad stuff in their day.

Clamoring for health care reform isn’t the answer. Yes, it’s a shame that so many millions of people don’t have health insurance, but there are perfectly logical economic reasons to oppose universal care. So can you maybe accept that when someone criticizes the proposal, it might not necessarily be because of racism? And that maybe it’s because this country faces a devaluing of the dollar, deficits at unacceptable proportions of GDP, and a perilously frail financial system — and so maybe it’s not the best time to enact a $1 trillion spending program?


Let’s all just take a deep breath, okay? There are calm and reasoned things you can do to make a difference for your cause. Penning letter after letter accusing the other side of everything but murder isn’t going to help you. Leave the Star‘s letters section alone for a little while. Go outside. Have you noticed we’re having a two-month stretch of San Diego-ish weather? Take a walk. Go to the zoo. Have a picnic. Just please, please stop the hyperbole. It’s enough already, Kansas City.


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Filed under Economics, Education, In the News, Media, Politics, Race & Ethnicity

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