June 6, 2008KR BlogUncategorized

On Offense

When I’m writing a story and need a peripheral character run over by a truck, I name that character Charlie Long. Charlie Long was my basketball coach when I was ten years old. Charlie Long threatened to hang me from the basketball rim by my “dingle-dangle.”

It happens rarely, but it does happen. My sense of propriety is on the ebb, and I take the opportunity to settle a score. Sometimes, as in the case of Charlie Long, I settle the score multiple time. The only thing cheaper than a cheap shot is a cheapened cheap shot.

I know that, in these days of Ann Koulter and Michel Savage, there is an increased need for civil discourse. But I’m not talking about what Savag?? and Coolter do. These dishonest, repellant social Darwinists call for the real death of hundreds of thousands whenever they open their mouths. I’m talking about something honest and symbolic for my Charlie.

Christopher Hitchens is pretty good at this. At the end of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, his call for Kissinger’s prosecution, Hitchens points out that, in addition to being a war criminal, Kissinger is also a Big Fatty. A low blow, but also a beautiful cherry on top of a substantive critique.

Last semester, when I presented the invective as an option to students, floodgates opened. Students jumped at the opportunity to offend. Some of the results were excessively nasty and students ended up inadvertently painting unflattering portraits of themselves. Others were cutting and funny and, from all indications, well deserved. All were utterly honest.

One reason the invective is no longer in American circulation is that Americans are supremely offended by offense. Raised on Mr. Rogers under the supervision of politically correct bores, Americans have learned that nothing is worse than offense, even incidentally committed. That leaves little room for the outright insult, the joyful philippic. But what if the insult, the anger, the words, are well earned?

Take, as negative instance, the mealy mouthed and rhetorically flaccid Democratic Party of the last eight years. If only they had called a duck a duck (and, perhaps, some other well-chosen words) back during “the run up to war,” how many lives would be saved?