Friday, June 01, 2007

This Disgusts Me

I try to cultivate compassion, even for those for whom I have an initial impulse to label complete assholes.

Sometimes, it just doesn't work... but I continue to think that this really is the primary challenge presented for me and many others during our lives here on earth.

Case in point, an article this morning about some complete jackass who runs a publishing company formed to combat the so-called liberal monopoly on children's books.

Scholastic will be coming out in September with "The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming," a 176-page call to action aimed at children ages 8 and up. World Ahead will counter with its own book intended to debunk global warming and discourage environmental activism.

Kicking back in his Torrance office on a recent afternoon, under a giant poster of Ronald Reagan, Jackson glanced at a news release touting the Scholastic book. The cover illustration shows a child sitting cross-legged in the grass, cradling Earth.

"It's just so — so — what's the word?" marketing director Judy Abarbanel asked.

"Nauseating," Jackson suggested.

CHILDREN, he complained, are bombarded with tree-hugger propaganda: SUVs are bad. ExxonMobil is worse. Polar bears are drowning. The planet needs saving, and fast.

Jackson's response: Stop stressing.

He doesn't buy the international scientific consensus that human activity — chiefly the burning of fossil fuels — is causing the planet to warm. President Bush on Thursday tempered his hesitation on the issue, urging global curbs on pollutants.

Jackson, however, remains a skeptic; he maintains that any government solution would be worse than the problem. So he gets alarmed at the thought of children petitioning Congress to ban Hummers.

What. The. Fuck.? Seriously, this gets me so fucking angry and depressed at the same time that I don't know what to do other than shake my head.

Actually, part of me is smugly satisfied pretty much knowing that conservative ideology is (at varying rates of speed) dying out and being supplanted by more liberal ethics across the board. The average 18-24 year old has a vastly different worldview than the average 64-72 year old, and the only thing dickwads like Mr. Jackson can do about it is try to stick their fingers in the metaphorical dike! Within thirty years we will have more widespread same-sex marriage and so forth. I'm not so sanguine about where we'll be in terms of economic equality (I'm afraid more like Brazil or South Africa, with the haves all locked safely in their high-security gated compounds, while shantytowns spring up on the fringes of Jamaica Bay and South Los Angeles).

But still, Mr. Jackson and his ilk are on the losing side of history, in my opinion. Sorry, buddy, but your kids' generation is more than likely going to be more liberal than you are, on the whole. Faggots, and radical vegans, and animal activists are going to have a place at the table, and your pathetic cottage industry can only make incremental inroads in slowing their progress.

Still, I fucking hate this country sometimes and really feel that I don't belong here and wish desperately to be able to live somewhere in the EU. I don't want to be surrounded by people like this. I find it hard to reconcile the idea that "we should all be able to find common ground somewhere" even with those on the other side of the political fence. The problem is, in my heart, I really can't find common ground with people who are this disgusting and hateful. And I know they're as disgusted with "people like me" (whatever that means). So, no, most of the time I don't think it's possible to "understand" and have compassion for people who are extreme conservatives. The only way for me to even live among them is for us all to be silent on issues that we believe in, but there's no way I could "rationally discuss" our differences. I guess that makes me sad on some level, but mostly just makes me feel hopeless and disgusted that there is so much hate out there with which we're supposed to "make nice and get along."

The ridiculous article ends with these gems:

Fretwell's book — "The Sky's Not Falling! Why It's OK to Chill About Global Warming!" — will be released in September. That will put it on bookshelves at about the same time as the Scholastic book, which is co-written by Laurie David, a liberal activist and the producer of Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth."

Jackson plans an initial run of no more than 10,000 copies, about his financial break-even point. But he's hoping the book will catch the eye of a conservative talk-show host — Sean Hannity, maybe, or Rush Limbaugh — "and we'll sell out in the blink of an eye," he said.

If "The Sky's Not Falling!" takes off, Jackson hopes to launch a line of nonfiction books for children presenting a conservative take on other topics. In the meantime, he's overseeing final edits for "Joey Gonzalez, Great American," a bilingual story about a third-grader whose teacher tells him his last name is a sign that he's less capable.

"It's a little bit harder for minorities to learn," the teacher tells him. "Don't worry, Joey…. There's a special way to help minorities get ahead. It's called affirmative action."

Joey stands up to the teacher, telling her that his ancestors, Spanish explorers, "didn't come all the way over here to be minorities." They didn't need special help, and he doesn't either: "Great Americans don't cheat."

Jackson doesn't have children, but he suspects plenty of parents share his values. One day, he'd like to offer them a whole conservative library so they can put aside the picture books about socialist fish and gay penguins and snuggle up with a bedtime story about the right to bear arms.


Huntington said...

They have racism and economic inequality and Christ-based idiocy in the EU, too. Maybe it would help not to use "the United States" as your unit of comfort-zone ideation? They're not climbing the S.B. Riviera to try to force you to admit that the dinosaurs had plush accommodations on Noah's Promenade Deck, after all.


Joe said...

Hm, next thing you'll be telling me is, "It may not be perfect, but it's still the best an' free-est country in the world, boy!"

Point is, most of those ills are still measureably fewer in many places. And sorry, but there certainly is a "national ethos," to an extent sufficient enough for me to feel literally "out of place" -- sometimes even in this enlightened corner.

copperred said...

Mr. Jackson just sounds like a prick, conservative or otherwise. Conservatives of the neocon stripe have abandoned logic completely.

True Huntington, but most of it is in those nether regions of hell, i.e. Poland and some of the shudder inducing east. How anyone thought they were ready to join the EU is beyond me.

Was the LA Times having a slow news week?

Sin said...

Oh good grief. Isn't this just illegal on grounds of poor taste, this Jackson fellow's behaviour?

Lynette said...

solution would be worse than the problem ~ the solution would only be worse than the problem in that it would "burden" big business with finding solutions to industrial pollution. it is coal plants and the little bit of industry we still have in this country that's contributing the greater quantity of greenhouse gases. not that we don't all need to drive clean cars (but there again, corporate greed prevents access to effective clean cars ~ see Who Killed the Electric Car if you're ever wondering what to despair about next).

i feel the same way, joe. but what irks me most of all is people who simply don't care, who see no reason why being an informed participant in what passes for a democracy these days is important.

and i also get struck with care-overload, when i want to run off to the high mountains of mexico or head north to canada because i just can't bear to live in what our country has become and i think it will never get better.

why any parent would want to indoctrinate their children with hate is beyond me. "great americans don't cheat." my fucking ass. bush cheated to win two elections. he cheated to get us into iraq. he has cheated and cheated and cheated as have virtually all of our elected representatives and the heads of most enormous corporations, cheating and bending rules and finding ways around what's decent and beneficial to all.

but wait, it was great americans. great americans don't cheat. that's what we need, some great americans. heaven help us.

Lynette said...

outstanding post, by the way :-)

Junk Thief said...

Chill out over global warming? Makes one hope this guy drowns from a wave of melting polar ice caps.

Huntington, again said...

"National ethos"? Is that like the national anthem?

The stories Americans have told to explain their actions have changed several times even in the relatively short time of the existence of the United States. They've always been contradictory, false, and sometimes malicious. But there has never been only one, since we've disagreed since the beginning over too many basics to have such a thing. Probably this was an inevitable outcome to an Enlightenment-era attempt to stitch together some very different colonies into one country that in a sane world would have been ditched for something else.

There is a narrative strain that includes Thoreau, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, and Harvey Milk. It's just as American as hayseed Christian fundamentalism, and has a longer and more distinguished pedigree. Make that your national ethos, or just skip it altogether.

As far as the EU goes: no racism in France? No Catholic reactionaries in Italy? No economic injustice in the U.K.? These are the warm, advanced heart of the Union, not the "shuddering east." (Nice phrase, Coppie!) I'm a fan of the EU, and wish something like it could be constructed in the Americas, but it's not a utopia by its own lights or as seen from the North-South rubric. (You know I love working that word in...)

Joe said...

I'm surprised you left Eugene Debs & Upton Sinclair off your "narrative strain" list. I'm also assuming you realize that I have some sense of the history of diversity of thought in the U.S.A., right?

And who brought Utopianism into this? That's "so not" my point.

I've made the point before on JMG that I'd still choose Italy with it's "Family Day in St. Peter's" over living here, as its 'Catholic reactionaries' are less influential on its national polices than the right wing has been here for the past, oh, three decades. Also that ON THE WHOLE, almost every EU country (and you know I'm not much of an Anglophile or Francophile and tilt more toward NL, SE, DE, and ES) have more progressive social policies NOW than we're likely to see for another five to ten years (if we're "lucky"). I'm tired of watching us trying to play social policy catch-up.

Anyway, the theme song for this post might have been 'I'm Not Looking for a Utopia, I'm Just Looking for a Spanish Husband.'

Huntington said...

I'd thought of Debs (but not Sinclair; good one) after hitting Post. The point is that saying there's just one "national ethos" is simplistic, either here or there. I guess I just react when I hear "on the whole" used when things are more complicated than either/or.

(And I might've known that the real theme was sex...)

piet said...

But. But. The asshat is such a conservative, such a dyed in the wool neocon, that he's planning on publishing a bi-lingual children's book? Whatever happened to English as the official language of the United States? Or is that important only when we're not trying to indoctrinate our little brown brothers?