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September 03, 2015

Thoughts on Freedom, and Respect for the Different, and Larry McMurtry Having Been Right All Along

A long, long time ago, I was a fairly strong authoritarian. I believed in Rules. I believed in the Law. I didn't like the burning of the flag, because that wasn't Right.

The last several years I have drifted far from that feeling.

But way back when, in 1993, I read an article in the New Republic, by famed Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry. The article was about the demolition of the Koresh Compound in Waco, Texas.

McMurtry's essay is a long critique of the American habit of hating the Weird, and deciding the Weird cannot be tolerated, but must be made to brought to heel and to conform with the rest of Respectable Society.

Now, when I read this, I was kind of shocked. I was more politically liberal at the time -- meaning, oddly enough, I was less liberal than I am now. And while I wasn't a particular fan of Clinton's (though I did vote for him, but out of disgust at Bush the Elder), I thought that raiding Waco was the Right Call, and hey, if the joint got burned to the ground, that's on them, you know.

I thought Enforcing the Rules was the right thing to do, as I usually did.

So in reading Larry McMurtry's piece, I had a lot of psychic confusion. He was a writer, and so, I supposed, a fairly wise and astute man. (I always had wanted to write for a living so naturally I thought well of writers.) I liked the New Republic, and considered it a good magazine of the sane side of liberalism.

So what was this weird, paranoid, anti-american, pro-Cultist rant doing there? Why was a celebrated writer actually suggesting that maybe the American government did not have to come down on David Koresh's Weirdo Cult like a ton of well-armed bricks?

Why was this obviously-deranged crypto-right-wing Texan hippie talking such nonsense?

I thought the article was pure crap, leftism with a weirdly rightwing sheen, and thought so for 20 years. Or, rather, completely forgot about it.

Almost completely, at least.

The article failed to change my mind at all. It did not provoke questions. It did not set me down on a path of rethinking my initial biases in favor of enforcing the rules, because the Rules are super important.

It has only been in the past couple of years, watching the full force of government melded, fascistically, with the social power of the elite class that I've begun remembering: "Hey, didn't that old Larry McMurtry article talk about the American habit of spitefulness and naked anger towards Weirdos who are Different...?"

About 50 times in the past two years, I've thought to myself: "Yup, Larry McMurtry was right, and I didn't listen."

Today was another Larry McMurtry day for me, as I witnessed, yet again, the pure glee of vindictively enforcing rules against persons considered different and offensive.

Well, I looked up the article. I was shocked to see it's actually still available online.

So if you want to read it, it's here.

I recommend it.

Larry McMurtry was right. People are far too quick to become emotionally angry towards, and leap to violent means of coercion, against the Strange, against the Outcast, against the Different.

And we shouldn't be doing that in America. This is not Germany; we have rules because we need rules. We do not have rules just because we love the rules themselves, and we love inflicting them on people.

Well, maybe a lot of the time we do.

But we shouldn't.

Open Thread.


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posted by Ace at 06:17 PM

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