November 15, 2010

Ruth Ann, Read Carefully

Take a look at today's column from P-G columnist Ruth Ann Dailey. The title of the column gives hint to what's inside:
Bad apples vs. good eggs: the power of one
The column posits an eternal struggle between the few bad apples, "the one person who..." and the greater community ("the good eggs") that has to fix the damage that bad apple caused.

She starts with an anecdote about jury duty and how the day was upended "all because one idiot phoned in a false threat."

Here's the core of her piece - it follows immediately:
It only takes one. One person, one moment, one stupid decision. It only takes one to mess things up for dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of other people.
She reiterates the point later on:
A relative handful of no-goodniks regularly screw up life for everyone else, and an unwritten law of the universe seems to be that the efforts of many are required to counteract each lone destructive act.
NOW look at her examples of "one person" whose actions messed things up for lots others:
We are near the end of a decade shattered by the violence that can be wrought, in modern times, by just one man willing to blow himself up for a cause.
One man - a suicide bomber. Obviously bad. She says a paragraph or so down the page:
We were there [in jury duty] because, in each criminal case, one person was charged with hurting another, acting in violation of laws written to protect all of us.
Another singular person - an accused criminal. Society has to correct itself for the misbehavior of that one person violating the rest of us.

Ruth Ann talks to a woman while waiting for jury duty:
But where she lives, decades of successful revitalization are beginning to crumble under the onslaught of drunken revelers.

Thousands live in her community and many thousands more pass through every day, bringing the benefits of commerce. But listening to a street brawl each weekend or stepping out the front door into someone's vomit once a month has longtime residents beginning to flee to quieter corners of the city.
The point is clear. There's that one person (or small group of people) who screws things up for the rest of us and then there's us.

So what should we make of this paragraph dropped in the middle of the compositional fabric of her column?
We were summoned to serve just six days after a historical election, a midcourse correction for an administration swept into power because of the charismatic promise of one man.
Guess Who? It's Obama!

Ruth Ann places The President of The United States among the lone terrorists, lone criminals, the lone vomiters on innocent people's doorsteps, to show how such no-goodniks need to be corrected by "We the people."

She even brings another president in to make her point:
Just as George Washington refused to be made king, our founders were wary enough of human inclinations that they designed a system of government to check the power of any individual.

Washington probably wouldn't look too fondly on Washington, D.C.'s unvetted czars. He and his peers probably would've been pretty skeptical that any one person could stop the rise of the oceans or cause the planet to heal, either, but here's a notion they'd endorse: We are the ones we've been waiting for. We the people.
And you thought the column was about jury duty and the value of civic involvement when it in fact it's all about how bad Obama is. And how good "we" were to stop him.

Subtle, Ruth Ann. Very subtle.

UPDATE: I forgot to link to Dailey's column. It's been corrected.


rich10e said...

t'anks for splaining 'at to us Davey

Piltdown Man said...

Ruth Ann is a seriously horrible columnist. Other than the fact that she probably appeals to the right wing oldsters who still buy the paper, there is no reason why she should be writing for "one of America's great papers." I read letters to the editor and random blogs every day which have more to offer...

Of course, I see that she doesn't mention that other "one man," who has been trying to polish his war crime cred recently. Ruth Ann answer me this. Which is worse; not acting forcefully enough on the economy or starting a war under false pretenses (also known as lies) in which thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of others have died?

You make the call....

EdHeath said...

Ruth Ann Dailey really is very shallow. I mean, I will say I admire the founding fathers - Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison and even Washington, although I have never heard of George Washington being described as a particularly intelligent political theorist (yeah, Cincinnatus and all that).

But I am getting sick of this "so and so founding father would not look kindly on unvetted political czars or deficit spending" or whatever. I would like to believe the founding fathers would believe society should evolve, particularly since technology has evolved (and academic thought has advanced). But past that, suggesting as Dailey and Kelly do, that we should return to the government and society/values of the early US implies a return to slavery, no rights or employment or voting for women, and income and property tests for voters. Is that what even any random white make voter would want, let alone a female and/or African American voter would want?

Obviously the whole (and only) point of evoking the founding fathers is to maintain or even increase the level of government deregulation, increase the amount of corporate welfare and further shave percentage points off the top tier of the income tax rates. There is no question of patriotism; if the rich were feeling patriotic they would offered/called for sacrifice after 9/11, perhaps used their influence to increase taxes and encouraged their children or grandchildren to enlist. None of that happened, instead we had the smirking George Bush, we had the impugning of the war record of John Kerry (in comparison to men who actively avoided serving in the war), we have Sarah Palin who on the strength of her folksy powers of persuasion has become a millionaire.

If the people on the right are morally superior to the people on the left, why don’t they admit the mote (not to say beam) in their own eye?

Pgh_Knight said...

Funny, isn't it? How people seem smarter, or better writers, or have "more to offer" Pilt down Man, less "shallow" Ed, when they agree with your positions?

EdHeath said...

Well, that is a fair comment, PK, we *all* see the world filtered through our beliefs and understanding of reality.

Still, are you making a case that Ruth Ann Dailey's evocation of Washington is somehow a very insightful statement? Do you think her statement captures the complexity of the United States of the late 1700's, or does justice to the complexity of our world today?

Bram Reichbaum said...

The founding fathers couldn't agree on anything, except maybe the fact that they wanted to run their own damn country (or maybe just their own very loose confederation). That's why they left us with an open-ended Constitution which is big on process, slim on proscriptions, and put off many major issues of their own day. Some of the founding fathers, like Jefferson I believe, even wrote very dubiously about the ethics of restricting future generations from living and constituting their government as they so might choose. This yearning to run our nation "how the founding fathers intended" is all a projection within a delusion.

That's kind of tangential to Ruth Ann's point here but I thought I'd air it.

In response to the column I guess I could only point out that a multitude of folks found one man's MESSAGE and AGENDA to be charismatic -- and the other party's choices as seen through their own primaries to be bizarre, obtuse and scary. And for all the thankless work of doing at-times unpopular things to clean up someone else's economic mess, liberal old Joe Sestak for example lost by only two percentage points. We're really only talking about subtle shifts in the moods of fence-sitters in the middle. This country is as evenly polarized as its been since 2000.

Piltdown Man said...

My comments about Ruth Ann relate not just to this particular piece, but to all the others which I've read over the years. She just isn't insightful on any level. I realize this is my opinion. So be it.

As to the "founding fathers" meme, it is just this; an seemingly unassailable myth being used as political cover by the Right wing, in exactly the same way in which they invoke God. Neither can be easily dismissed by the "other side" without risking the wrath of many people, particularly the vicious media hacks like Beck and Limbaugh. The Right is very good at this.

Democrats could learn from it.

EdHeath said...

Pilt, what was it the Dark Helmet said about why evil will always triumph over good?