Sunday, September 07, 2008

Shooting from the hip

is an idiom. Someone who shoots from the hip talks very directly or insensitively without thinking beforehand. It's the very opposite of "thoughtful", which implies attentiveness and the careful exercising of judgment; solicitous concern. .

Linda Grant has a post on the Guardian's "Comment is free" about Sarah Palin. Mick Hartley has already pointed to the self-unfastening of her logic in this piece of writing, by simply quoting her as first declaring that:

"The conviction by the left that the right is stupid is one of the defining and least attractive characteristics of contemporary politics."

And then undoing this admirable habit of crediting one's interlocutor with intelligence by blurting this question:

"I asked a sophisticated and well-travelled Republican why he voted the way he did. ... how, I asked him, baffled, could someone as intelligent as he is believe that George W Bush was anything but a cretin?"

Grant is "a novelist and journalist. She won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2000 and the Lettre Ulysses Prize for Literary Reportage in 2006. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Vogue. Her latest novel, The Clothes on Their Backs will be published by Virago in February 2008"

I got this information from her blog, where she vowed on one of her posts earlier this year that

"Since we've decided that we are not going to discuss the issues in the US elections, I have been looking for a way of talking about fashion and politics which doesn't demean the candidates and their wives/husbands with spiteful tabloid finger-pointing."

Then, again, shooting down her own very commendable principle by her inability to resist inserting a not too unobtrusive jibe at the Republican VP hopeful by the sneaking in of a demeaning spiteful note:

"Whatever you think of Sarah Palin [DISCLOSURE: fear and loathing] "

I just don't get it.

Nor do I understand how someone who is not a well-travelled American, and who has not spent a lifetime living and actually experiencing America broadly and deeply, could be irresponsible enough to make this comment about the relationship between the Republican and Democratic constituencies in the US:

"Two countries, mutually irreconcilable, who never meet each other and don't want to, either. Who distrust each other at best, despise each other at worst. And who have absolutely no understanding of the other."

The comment seems to be fashioned upon Benjamin Disraeli's famous quote about the "two nations":

"Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor."

And even Disraeli was speaking of two classes, not two political parties whose followers share much more than they differ about.

Let me suggest that Grant misreads American society and does Barack Obama (whom she probably supports without reservations) much disservice by presenting the US as a hopelessly sundered nation. Obama understands it, much like that other insider/outsider, Disraeli, understood the Britain of his times. Obama proved this intimate understanding when he said, in his acceptance speech:

... one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and each other's patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.
The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together, and bled together, and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America or a blue America; they have served the United States of America.


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