Friday, August 14, 2009

The Price of Your Beliefs...

(uber-post warning)
Where to begin… First, my apologies for missing a day of blogging. I have been busy with a great deal of things and the post I plan to give is taking some time to develop. The reason being is that it may in fact cause the loss of a dear friend I have had for many years now. And all due to my new found views of the world.

My friend Ronn is a fantastic and brilliant individual. I first met the man when I was earning my first degree in the Arts. I was required to take a variety of art courses that would give me a full perspective of the Arts as a whole before I could proceed into my chosen specific disciplines of art. So there I was, awaiting my instructor to arrive to class when a moderate statured and lanky male boasting a cowboy hat, worn black T-shirt, jeans and cowboy boots strides to the desk at the front of the classroom. He sets a shoulder bag down and looks about the classroom briefly as he begins to unpack his satchel and prepare to start the class. I still remember how he opened the class… maybe not in the exact words, but close enough for quotes:

“Welcome to Beginning Graphic Design. My name is Ronn ______ (left out for privacy) and I am going to be working your ass of this semester. For those of you who took this class thinking it would be an easy grade, the door is over there… I suggest you leave now.” After a moment of pause and no one had left the room, he continued.

Over the course of the semester, I got to know Ronn well. Even after the semester, several of us from that Beginning Graphics class returned on a regular basis to discuss new work with Ronn, as he had proven himself to clearly be the most knowledgeable of all the instructors in the Graphics Department… despite only being an adjunct professor. Two semesters after I had taken his class, the rest of the department ousted him from the university due to this very reason.

Ronn and I had become very good friends though, neigh I say best friends. Despite a move to Dallas on my part, we stayed in touch and would visit any time I returned to Tucson to see friends and family. Often I wanted to see Ronn and my friends more than family, but if you knew my family… you would understand (for all my family that might be reading… love you all, don’t take it personally. I am talking about the rest of the family and not you specifically). Years later when I would return to Tucson, I would later move into a small group of Artists’ Lofts that would include Ronn as my across-the-courtyard neighbor. This brought on many evenings of talking over tea or the occasional venture out for a bite to eat. We became quite close friends and shared many of the same views.

I still revere Ronn as one of the most intellectual people I know. He is exceptionally well read and informed. He knows something about almost everything (intellectually speaking… he couldn’t rebuild a carburetor if he tried), and if he didn’t know he would usually try to learn by the next time it came up. But Ronn is an artist. He has always been an artist and always has felt a distain towards the rest of society. That most people out there were idiots and troglodytes not worthy of his time, as “they just didn’t get it”. This was the subject of a great deal of our debates. In particular when it came to the subject of art. Self admittedly I know very little about the history of art. I took three art history courses while in college and can’t remember much from any of them. And I never learned much about the history of Photography, one of my specific disciplines. But to this day I still hold my opinion on art… that it is a viewer's opinion that matters and not the art critic’s or even the artist’s. If an artist is intending to convey something through his work, it should be done in such a way that ANY viewer could walk up and look at the piece and understand what was intended. One should not be required to understand the nature of tribal upheaval during an African war from the 1600’s (completely fictitious for the sake of example) to get why a poorly taken photograph of an African American Man is significant. Why create art for only other artists that might or might not know what you are talking about? Art is for the world to see, not for artists to boost their egos among other artists! I doubt I will ever change this opinion.

But I digress… So recently (after several days of my initial blog posting), I sent an email to my friends Ronn. In my email I apologized for having not asked first, but mentioned I had added links to his and his girlfriend’s art websites to my blog page. And, that if they would like, they could have me leave them up or take them down after they had seen the blog. This was the first response:

“I'd prefer you take the links down ASAP. We're revamping our site and have asked everyone who has linked to it to drop the connection.We don't want people coming to the site right now. When we're done we'll give you a heads up. Got to deal with (for sake of privacy the name has been removed) right now. More later...”

A reasonable request… and as I mentioned I had failed to ask permission first. An error I have most definitely learned from. However, Ronn’s comments did not end there. He continued to send several more emails, each more heated than the next. The next came with the subject line “take us off!”, and the attack had just begun:

“Oh, sweet Jesus. I just read part of your rant and some snippets of Kevin's. I DEFINITELY don't want to be associated with anything that perpetuates this asinine, narrow-minded right vs. left malarkey. I think Kevin is nuts and you're both woefully misinformed. PLEASE take our names off this jive. Blake (Ronn’s girlfriend) and I are trying to stay out of the coming civil war and watch you teabaggers and jelly-wristed liberals SLAUGHTER each other. The less I hear from either side, the better off we'll be. Tribalism, received opinion and skewed versions of American history do NOT interest me.”

Frankly, I was a little shocked by this as Ronn has always been anti-government and more for the individual rights. He despised Bush for the choices he made as a president, but felt Obama was no better. He felt Obama was a sell-out the moment he threw his friend Rev. Wright under the bus for his ill timed comments during the campaign and would not support him from that point forward. And, for the most part, he agreed with Rev. Wright and what he had said. And he felt Obama should have stood tall with his friend verses doing the politically wise thing and distancing himself.

But the attack had not come to an end. It came again in the form of a third email. This one had a subject line of simply “NO!”. It read as follows:

“Mother of God. I read even more of both blogs. PLEASE TAKE OUR NAMES DOWN ASAP. This ignorant, incendiary, illiterate, piggish Know-Nothing codswallop is the very thing I've spent my entire life refuting. Even if the political stuff wasn't preposterous and vapid enough, the attention to bad movies and crap culture would be enough to make me run screaming into the night. REMOVE OUR NAMES

At this point, I was beginning to think that my friend was taking this blogging thing as if it was intentionally aimed at him. It wasn’t (until now)! I had received these three emails over the course of a single night and before I had the chance to remove the links or respond to the emails. Upon reading all three, I promptly removed the links as requested, but also responded to the emails directly as well. My response:

“As requested, I have taken the links to both websites down. Sorry you feel that this is something you wish to not be associated with.

If you could, please explain your views and why they are so opposed to someone like myself (or Kevin) for holding the views we do? Since we have begun having these discussions, you have always taken a stance of towards-the-middle and of lesser government. I understand your dislike for the film reviews, but it was something I have wanted to do for some time... this gave me an outlet for it. However, the political commentaries are the direction in which I find myself heading. Isn't our government running away without its citizens? Are they not abusing the powers that were given to them, and even executing powers never granted to them?

" Blake and I are trying to stay out of the coming civil war " - this is something that even Kevin agrees is coming... as do most of his readers. I have always thought there was something that could be done... all I have done is come to the conclusion the only place I thought that could do it was actually the one causing most of the problems.

You seem to be taking the stance of the innocent bystander... however, I believe you were the one that said there are no innocents. We all play our roll. I would agree that some (and maybe many) of the teabaggers may be the radical right, but a good portion of them are citizens that have finally had enough of big government and fear that the recent and future actions may actually be the nails in the coffin of our country. If they can do something to stop it, they will.

Frankly, I do not feel I am promoting any such "codswallop". Rather, I am freely expressing my new found insight of where I feel this country is headed. I have not posted anything I have not researched first. I link references to the things I discuss. And frankly... one of my few remaining rights as a US citizen is free speech... whether it be accurate or not. I have not entered this un-informed or light-hearted. I have seen things in a new light and this IS how I feel, and this IS how I have chosen to express it.

For the first time my friend, I am taking a firm stance against your opinion. For the first time I am going to flat out state that you are wrong on your judgment. You are entitled to your opinion, but I feel that you have thrown an unfair accusation at this. I can understand that someone of your age and health would not want to get involved, but I cannot help to think that these movements are quite similar to the reactions that took place during the 60's (that he had taken part in). The only difference is that the right is leading the charge this time. The 60's did amazing damage to this country, both educationally and politically. It also produced some good at the time. But for every bit of good that came from the movements of your time... we now face the damage left behind and are trying to navigate the ripples left behind by many of those actions. But then, I cannot truly blame everything on the 60's. The problems had started much earlier... about the turn of the century. At least in terms of education. We were no longer educating the public to keep them informed of what government was and was not allowed to do... mainly because government had decided that this country needed more drones for their factories. They did not need thinkers on the assembly lines that were being developed. The 60's was simply the complete and utter take-over of the educational system by the liberals. Peace and harmony became the status quo. Is this starting to sound familiar?

For now... I have found my new opinion. I have found my own voice, and I have found my platform from which to speak. It is no longer for you or me to judge whether it is right or wrong, but that of the public that reads it and gives it merit. You once told me that art unseen was not really art, as art is intended for an audience. Well... this is going before an audience. We will see what they have to say from here.”

Naturally, this did not end here. Ronn felt the obligation to respond. His attacks became more critical and poignant. While I admit to having a week “writer’s touch” at the moment, I am just getting warmed up. Give me time and I am sure my eloquence will begin to bloom. Ronn’s email came under the subject line “Retitle your blog ‘Me Like, Me Don’t Like’”. He writes:

“Let me make it simple for you:

You can't write. At all. You have no facility for it. Your prose is like reading the INGREDIENTS list on a tube of toothpaste--but less engaging and infinitely less informative.

At best you come across as a simpleton. Most of the time you sound like a a bloviating, egomaniacal twit. There are so many oxymoronic inconsistencies, tautologies, half-truths and appalling misrepresentations of history in your screed it would take 24 skilled linguists 6 months to decode it. But why bother? No serious person would waste their time and I won't, either. Not any more. I don't want to interfere with your "transformation" into a full-blown jerk.

It's excruciatingly painful to see somebody, like yourself, so willing to humiliate himself in a public forum. Your ignorance, your lack of empathy and compassion, your greed, your insufficient education and your embarrassingly bad taste are no longer just a few people's little secret. Now the whole world knows you're a pompous lummox. Congratulations.

Concerning your opinions--they are not an inalienable right. You earn them. Sitting on your couch watching TV for 30-odd years doesn't qualify you to have more than one--"Cheetos or Doritos?"

You remain, your own worst enemy. At least you're as consistent as you are ridiculous."

I might note that, despite my request for his “views and why they are so opposed to someone like myself (or Kevin)…” he did not respond. I since have replied once more requesting his stance on his views and opinions, but feel I will not get a response.

I regret that a friend that was so close to me would react in such a hostile manner to my changing views. Even if we find ourselves on opposite sides of the political spectrum, I would have hoped that our friendship would have been able to withstand such differences. In the end, perhaps he was not the friend I thought he was… I hope I am wrong. But do I not have the right to express myself in this manner? To post my opinions to the digital ether and see what responses result? How is this in any way being a “bloviating, egomaniacal twit”?

What I find interesting as a result of all this is that I feel more confident in what I have come to believe and understand. Before, as a liberal, I was always easily swayed from one liberal opinion to another… but not I feel more cemented in this ideal. I feel less discouraged but such criticism. Possibly as I came to this realization on my own and was not handed the opinions from which to choose to believe in, as I was when I was a liberal. My views now make more practical sense to me, and they seem more tangible and real.

It is an interesting and new time for me. As for my friend (I hope) Ronn… only time will tell. I would hate to loose a friend over a difference in ideology, but I think that I have to follow my beliefs and not the drivels of a person unable to define his position.


  1. "I would hate to loose a friend over a difference in ideology,..."

    You asked Ronn to clarify his opposition to your views, and he responded with ad hominem attacks.

    Looks to me like he is making it pretty crystal that he isn't interested in anything approaching an amicable relationship.

  2. Let's see here person posts their views on a public forum and extends a heartfelt request for the opinions of another on those views.

    The other responds by pointedly refusing to address the substantive issues with which he has a problem, but reverts to schoolyard insults (granted, they are grammatically correct, beautifully constructed schoolyard insults, but lipstick on a pig makes it no less a pig).

    Who, exactly, is the egomaniacal twit again???

    You've committed the cardinal sin: you are no longer blindly accepting what a person who considers himself your better is feeding you. Intellectuals can countenance no such thing.

    That's why so many so-called intellectuals refuse to tolerate dissenting viewpoints. How DARE you question the superiority and obvious correctness of their own personal worldview and positions? Don't you know your PLACE???

    As a good friend of mine who, as an American Indian (he hated the term "native american") raised on a reservation, had received a very poor education - which could not disguise his obvious intellect and which he overcame through drive and determination, once said to me in reference to a similar narcissistic, egotistic pseudo-intellectual: "That boy's been educated all the way up to stupid."

    "I think one must be careful in assuming that intellectuals have some kind of insight. In fact, if the track record of intellectuals is any indication, not only have intellectuals been wrong almost all of the time, but they have been wrong in corrosive and destructive ways."
    --Sander L. Gilman, University of Illinois at Chicago

    "Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously."
    --Gilbert Keith Chesterton

    You have committed the cardinal sin: You have questioned someone who sees themselves as your superior. You have challenged the very foundation upon which their self-worth is built...their rightness...their infallibility...their superiority.

    Someone who's entire sense of self-worth is built upon that superiority cannot countenance such an egregious insult as your questioning of it.

    "What is wrong with America, in the eyes of the intelligentsia? The same things that are right with America in the eyes of others. If one word rings out, and echoes around the world, when America is mentioned, that word is Freedom. But what does freedom mean? It means that hundreds of millions of ordinary human beings live their lives as they see fit -- regardless of what their betters think. That is fine, unless you see yourself as one of their betters, as so many intellectuals do..."
    --Thomas Sowell

    I would wager that you were never a "friend" from his were a sycophant...a inferior who's sole use for him was to help prop up his narcissistic ego. As soon as you began thinking on your own, you no longer served your purpose for him and, therefore, were discarded out of hand.

    With "friends" like that...

  3. Anyone who starts off an email with "You can't write..." should proceed to exercise more care with apostrophes and commas in the body of the text, lest it turn into unintentional self-parody.

  4. Ironhand has been trying to leave this comment without success. I thought I'd give it a shot:

    I've got a couple of friends/acquaintances I WILL NOT discuss some things with: they've got the "If you don't agree with the PC attitude on this you're stupid, a racist/bigot, or just don't care about people. Maybe all three." attitude down pat. But none of them ever slapped at me the way this clown did you.

    If he'd actually argued one thing, there'd probably be hope, but all he did was insult and belittle you ("You don't have the education, experience and brains to have an opinion". For diety's sake!): he either can't actually argue the points or sees it as beneath him to argue things like facts with someone who's supposed to know how to properly behave.

    I suspect Curt is right; when you had the bad taste to step off the reservation - publicly at that - you went from an acceptable acquaintance who might be labled as "friend" for reference to unacceptable; and One simply does not waste time discussing things with such a disappointment, don't you know?

    One thing about 'coming out' with a change of heart and mind: you find out who's actually a friend and who isn't.

  5. The vehemence of your "friend" is not unusual for many people that I would term liberal. You had the audacity to disagree with his feelings and were hence subject to his "reasoned discourse". There is no room for discussion or debate with his feelings. It is a startling event on the first occasion.

    Your true friends will accept that you may have opposing views. They might want to debate but won't stoop to calling you names.

  6. How sad. You had the chance to grovel at the feet of the Shining One, breathlessly awaiting that which only He could provide, magnificent Truths Heretofore Unknown, the finest examples of Intellect Revealed, the purest of speech from the purest of thought. Wow. You grew up; Ronn never will.

  7. While your prose does need some polishing (incorrectly used words: roll instead of role and loose instead of lose) those are all minor issues and not uncommon mistakes especially for one who puts himself "out there" with his writing. You have the courage of a bull for trying and I hope you continue. I enjoy your words.

    As for your "friend", he obviously isn't. I've given you more credit than he ever will and we don't even know each other. I doubt I can add any more than what was already written here by those who write better. However, I will point out that no matter what your opinion, right or left, he was incredibly wrong for attacking you in the manner he did. However, I find that many with that kind of vitriol have no clue how to handle themselves in any other way. Keep up the work.

  8. You and Ronn seem to be talking past each other, Bill.

    I for one do not understand your "transformation" at all. Like many former liberals, when disappointed that the ruling class doesn't kow-tow and bend over, you decide that maybe it's easier to talk truth to the powerless and that way to get on with daily life.

    Your friend seems to have a point, from what I've read here -- that your conversion sounds opportunistic -- but he does it in such an irritating, condescending, and self-righteous way that your friends here can be forgiven for coming to your defense. I doubt that anyone reading all that bloviation could keep focused on what actually was being said except ANGER.

    As I said, you are but ships passing in the night. If you think you had something politically and culturally in common in the past, it appears to me that it was because each of you lived rather blurry existences devoid of sharp edges except maybe in terms of style.

    Now you have intellectual forms. You throw around "liberal" and -- what exactly, "non-liberal"? -- as if each term was its opposite and possessed objective integrity. (The terms aren't equivalent nor are they objective: each as used here means exactly what its detractors want it to mean, no more and no less.)

    For his part, Ronn throws around stylistic insults that are so well-crafted they melt like snowflakes on impact.

    This is "transformation"? Who's changed? You've each just come to grips with your limits. Congratulations.