A Good Man Bows OutLate Poobah's Note: It appears as though Quaker Dave is giving it another go. I couldn't be happier, but I still think this post has some merit, even if he is back.
As anyone can attest, politics can be a rough and tumble, ugly affair. Mud gets slung, names get called, and attacks get personal and vitriolic. In the rush to press home a point, civility is often the unwitting victim of the rushing train of debate. That's bad enough when it comes between opponents on an issue, it's even worse when allies begin to tie their own to the tracks.
A recent brouhaha at Blue Gal is a case in point.
Blue Gal posted an innocuous piece requesting people to sign a petition in support of the separation of church and state. In her post, Blue Gal explained that while she's a Christian, she doesn't proselytize or agree with the ideas of many fundamentalists who believe the US should be run as theocracy. As a confirmed atheist, I can vouch for her open-mindedness and fairness and suspect that the lunatic fringe of the fundamentalist camp should fear her rage nearly as much as their God's. Blue Gal is not shy and she does not suffer fools gladly.
The comment thread started innocently enough, with people checking in to offer support. Among the commenters was one blogger who began with, "the more I study it, the more it occurs to me to believe that religion is a form of insanity." Another chimed in with, "Religiosity is one symptom of mental illness. That is not to say that religious people are insane, but mentally ill people gravitate to religion." Not surprisingly, some took offense at that.
One was Quaker Dave (QD) from the site Quaker Agitator. Dave is a blogger in the same mould as Blue Gal. He fervently believes in God, but is also the model progressive in thought, word, and deed. Like Blue Gal, I've never heard a cross word from Dave and he is always a gracious and polite host at his blog, especially to those of us who are non-believers.
Dave replied, "Well, count me amongst the happily insane. And really, please, could we lay off the anti-religious insults here? Bush is NOT a Christian person, and equating him with Christianity and then using THAT as a way of trying to tell us that religion is somehow associated with "mental illness" kind of defeats the purpose of the post here, doesn't it?"
This seemed like a calm and rational way of handling the budding disagreement to me and several other commenters agreed. But what came next was a classic example of a flame war burning out of control.
The ensuing comments became more and more vitriolic despite commenters - including Blue Gal - who tried to turn the passion down a notch before it spun out of control. As so often happens, that was an impossible thing to do. And so the comments went back and forth, each time getting a little more personal and edgy. In the end, feelings were hurt and damage was done. Dave ended the string with, "Okay. I give. You win. It's been fun."
Afterward, Dave continued to post as normal at his blog - that is, until 9/17. That day he posted his final piece. In that post Dave explained that after 786 posts he'd grown tired of the division and tired of having his religion dragged through the mud as if he was one of the fundamentalists he abhors as much as other progressives. Dave simply decided to hang up the keyboard and let others fight the good fight.
This turn of events was truly tragic. Friends of the left have lost a valuable fighter and truly eloquent spokesman. Dave was the living embodiment of the premise that not all Christians are bad. Some, like him and Blue Gal, agree that religion has lost its proper place in the American marketplace of ideas. All Dave wanted was to stay true to himself and to his God and do what he thought right and honorable, meanwhile trying to make the very point that so many of his progressive "allies" made it impossible for him to make.
There are truly some bedrock problems in this country and solving those problems brings all sorts of people and ideas to the table. The constant bickering and open warfare among those trying to right the ship of state is not only damaging, it makes it virtually impossible to solve anything. When allies begin to turn on themselves, manifesting disdain for people who not only did them no harm, but were arguing for the same things, the place is seriously becoming unhinged. To make the country whole again, we need to work together, support each other, and listen to ideas and viewpoints that we might not personally embrace. We'll need people of conviction to get us over this hump and the sad thing is, we're driving many of those valuable people away.
People like Quaker Dave.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, September 19, 2006