Friday, April 30, 2004

Ain't Gonna Happen

Some days this blog keeps me sane. I put here the words I have to swallow all day long on my job, to keep the peace.

I work in the kind of office where you can't escape anyone. There are no partitons or Dilbert-cubicles. The desks literally jam against one another and the computer monitors aren't big enough to shrink behind. So people are in your face, whether you want them there or not.

Which is why it's good that we're not a diverse crew. White, educated, middle- and upper-middle-class college graduates, secular, of more or less liberal leanings: you guessed it; it's a media newsroom.

We had a black reporter for a while. He moved on but the stories and jokes about him still abound. You would have thought true liberals wouldn't behave like that, but since I saw Condi Rice called a "monkey on a chain" on the "Guardian" Web site, I lost that delusion. One or two sincere people of faith, Catholic or Protestant, work among us. They keep their lips shut tight when religion-bashing, a popular theme, comes around again in the office conversation.

Lately I feel an identity with them. By "lately" I mean since the drive began to go to war in Iraq. I don't know the opinions of every co-worker on this issue, but there are a couple of very vocal, rabid anti-war people who won't shut up about it. They rarely take the direct approach of hectoring (I'd actually prefer that, since it invites response), but these people will do the passive-aggressive thing and find one another and yap for a long time, very loudly and publicly, execrating the stupidity and venality of enyone who could possibly support the U.S. military effort.

Or they take every encounter with a news story about Bush, or Cheney, or Rumsfeld, or Iraq (and there's one every 15 minutes), as an excuse to light up the roman candle of snide remarks and stale jokes.

The talk is peppered with meaningless references to WMD and bloodforoil, and it's as uninformed as it is opinionated, deeply sarcastic and highly illogical, all pomp and few facts. This is the way people talk who are only in the habit of talking to people who agree with them. (How sad that this is something I now associate with universities, and sure enough the most vocal anti-war baiter has a college teaching background.)

No insight, no skill, all blunt points and phony presumption. It's intellectually flabby, and a pinprick could deflate it. But I don't do it. I come to work to do a job and collect a check. I don't expect to have my thinking corrected by PC deprogrammers. I extend them the courtesy of keeping my trap shut, in hopes that someday they'll decide to do the same.

Oh, I'm not trying to hide anything. I know my lack of anti-war correctness has been noted. I've been exposed by my refusal to join in the vulturing over American dead and my failure to laugh at the lame jokes about "Georgie" or "Bushie Boy."

[Note to the Left and the Right: If you want to make hatred of one man the sole object of your politics, and defeat of any of his projects your sole policy, feel free to do so. But don't expect me to take you seriously.]

And so I sit here, hour after hour, having to smell this intellectual clogged drain. I hear things that are flat-out wrong, over and over, but out of politeness I say nothing. It's gotten to the point where I actually look forward to the days when certain people aren't on the schedule to work, and I hope that my days off never coincide with theirs.

So on Saturdays, Luke and Amy and I go downtown to do our market shopping. And there they are again, in front of the courthouse or on the town square, with signs and banners. This time they're with others, who run the diversity gamut from white upper-middle-class aging hippie to white upper-middle-class aging hippie.

I have to pass by and acknowledge them. They're looking for me. If we have other things to do and don't get to market in the hour when they're out, I'm sure to get asked about it on Monday. Like the minister who corners you in the grocery and makes sure he knows you know he knows you weren't in church on Sunday.

In fact, it all reminds me very much of the cheap proselytizing of a Bible society tract. I deeply resent the presumption that I'm too stupid to have made an intelligent decision, and I need to be guided on the paths of righteousness by these pure souls. I've educated myself on these issues for years, read everything from the Quran to Gertrude Bell to Francis Fukuyama to Abdolkarim Soroush to Victor Davis Hanson. I've sought a path through tough choices that was consistent with adult compassion and national honor and personal values, and come to certain conclusions.

But my co-workers seem to expect that, if I stare at that big "Bush Lied" sign long enough, I'll be like Scrooge on Christmas morning. I'll have an epiphany right there in front of the Cal-Mart and fall on my knees weeping and blubbering hosannahs to Tim Robbins.