I enjoy watching the program, Real Time with Bill Maher, for two reasons: 1) I often agree with Maher whole heartedly and 2) I often disagree with him…, well, wholeheartedly.
That dichotomy appeals to me as a thinker. In this year of somebody’s lord, 2022, internet habitués are, by societal law, compelled only to watch, listen to, read, or otherwise consume content that fits so precisely in line with their own cherished notions that even the merest variation therefrom is seen as prima facie evidence the notion-er is a child molester.
To borrow from that old Dickens character, I say, Bah!
That whole echo chamber thing is why I steadfastly shun outlets like The Huffington Post or MSNBC with its star, Rachel Maddow. This even though the two dovetail so nicely with my worldview. I don’t need a website or a TV news program to validate my opinion. Plus, I want to hear what the other side has to say. Truth is, my opinion might be wrong. I may be misinformed. I’m willing to change my mind.
In politics and culture, if all sides are mad at you, you have to know you’re on to something. Maher, a contributor to the Democratic Party and advocate for many progressive causes, often is pilloried by those very Democrats and other progressives. He’s anti-vaxx, for instance. In that, per me, he’s as wrong as he can be. He feels the whole mask and vaxx thing in response to the COVID pandemic was (is?) a sham. In this way, Maher joins Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., son of the progressive darling of my youth, Bobby Kennedy. Kennedy fils, in fact, has written a book entitled A Letter to Liberals, telling them in no uncertain terms how misguided and silly they too often are.
BTW: they are. We are. Way, way too often.
And the funny thing is, Bobby Kennedy, liberal icon of 1968, before that was never confused with a liberal, progressive, leftist, bleeding heart. From birth through November 1963, he’d been a brawling, tyrannically righteous, insensitive, unforgiving almighty pain in everybody’s ass. It took a near-nervous breakdown following his brother’s assassination and years of soul-searching for him to become a more decent human being.
Which brings me to another of my own cherished notions: a person who can change, can grow, can admit she/he’s been full of shit prior to this moment, is worthy of my utmost esteem.
I like people who say I was wrong. I’ve changed. I like them as much as I like people who say I’m sorry. Then again, there are those who say I’m sorry almost as a mantra. They fetishize apology. Lots of liberals, progressives, etc. do that. There’s a tipping point after which the words I’m sorry mean nothing anymore.
Someone very close to me endured spousal abuse. Vicious, ugly, horrifying, criminal spousal abuse. And after each episode of violence, her husband apologized profusely, tearfully. It took many years for the woman to understand that her husband’s apologies were nothing at all besides disturbances in the air. One day I apologized to her for forgetting her birthday. She snapped at me. “Apologies don’t mean anything to me,” she snarled.
I have a friend who describes himself as a Bill Maher-Bill Burr Democrat. Both Maher and Burr say things that are considered inexcusable by whichever melange of Dems, libs, progs, lefties, etc. you may care to listen to. For instance, here’s Burr on domestic violence:
The generally accepted axiom is There’s no reason to hit a woman.
Burr responds: I can think of 17 reasons right off the top of my head.
Lots of folks may be horrified by this line. Even though Burr stresses several times it’s not right to hit a woman, he acknowledges that female domestic partners may, on occasion, drive their mates to thoughts of mayhem. Any of us can infuriate another person. The civilized among us resist those urges to lash out physically against someone who enrages us.
But that doesn’t mean the rage, the urge to hit, should be nonexistent or dismissed. As Burr explains:
Obviously I’m not saying hit a woman. But saying there’s no reason, I think that’s crazy. When you say there’s no reason, that kills any sort of examination as to how two people ended up at that place. You say there’s no reason, you cut out the build up, you’re just left with the act. How are you going to solve it if you don’t figure it out? … How come you can’t ask questions?
You may say he’s treading perilously close to victim blaming. That’s true. Nevertheless, he brings up a certain particularly male perspective on domestic violence. Does it not merit consideration?
I find refreshing truth in Burr’s bit. I also find so much to dislike, to disagree with it.
Debra Morrow, the outgoing executive director of Middle Way House, Bloomington’s resource and sanctuary for domestic violence victims, herself was a battered spouse. Charlotte Zietlow worked for Middle Way House when Morrow showed up as a client, years ago. Morrow was frightened, timid. Her eyes darted. Her shoulders were hunched. Her head bowed.
Morrow went to work for the organization and after several years she’d transformed herself into an erect, confident, determined human being, so much so she was tabbed to run the whole operation. That earlier incarnation of her, that beaten down, nearly defeated soul surely bore no blame for the condition a criminal, immoral reprobate had put her in.
Burr’s question doesn’t shift blame. At the same time, his whole bit minimizes a type of strutting, menacing masculinity. I’m left pondering the possibility that one day, he’ll forget that it’s not okay to hit a woman.
Then again, in a domestic relationship where one partner is asymmetrically superior in physical strength to the other, isn’t that the eternal tension?
Burr’s bit made me think, even though much of it is, in its way, unthinking.
Back to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. He may be right that liberals and progressives too often are misguided and silly. But that doesn’t mean they’re always misguided and silly. And because he’s right about that narrow point, that doesn’t mean he right about everything. His book, The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health, a half-assed screed against an exaggerated bête noire, is proof of that.
There are truths. There are falsehoods. And nobody on this Earth has a monopoly on either.