Apparently this is an Open Letter from a self-styled “True Liberal” (who prefers to remain anonymous) to Dennis Prager. For some reason it was in my mailbox. I pass it along as I found it. – James Como
June 20, 2015
Dear Mr. Prager,
So you’ve finally figured out (in your June 9th NRO article) that what drives us liberals are feelings, eh? Because we can “feel good,” especially about ourselves? Well, what the #$!* took you so long? (You might want to re-visit Christopher Lasch’s forty-year-old The Culture of Narcissism.) But, really, you just don’t go far enough. You’re only half right.
While discussing “down-spectrum, low-focus, contralogical thought” marked by “the transfer of our main attention from events in the outside world to events within the mind,” David Gelernter (adapting from his forthcoming Tides of the Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness) continues: “Emotions are more powerful, more ‘massive’ than thoughts; they linger in the mind and exercise strong attraction over thought – bending thought streams around them as a massive object warps the path of a comet or any space-body.” He concludes, “emotions are adjectives that modify the self.” (He’s writing in the current First Things, by the way, a journal I’ll just bet you like so much. And did you notice the last word of that quotation?)
I know that C. S Lewis – another “thinker” I bet you like so much – has said, “feelings come and go, mostly they go.” But so what? I answer with the irrefutable Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “nothing pains some men more than having to think.” Well, he’s right; thinking hurts! That’s exactly why I try not to. I don’t have to defend feelings or even explain them, like you do with, you know, arguments and opinions. Besides, no one can see you just thinking, right, so what the hell? (Remember: self) We can act out, or even up, because we occupy that moral high ground. Anyway, it’s so . . . so sexist and hegemonic and imperialistic and chauvinistic and racist (wait, I’m not to sure about the racist part) to emphasize thought.
I’m sure somebody will call it something like Sentimentalism, or some such. Again, so what?? Like, Guilty! I am sincere, and feelings make me authentic. So how can I be wrong? Why not make some public policy that vindicates those feelings (and along the way unleash them against those who, you know, don’t have them, insensitive people like you, who just don’t care?) For example, providing health care for those in need? We feel strongly about that. Oh, it doesn’t matter which law – we can read it after it’s passed. Meanwhile, we can feel good about ourselves. The downtrodden, disenfranchised, unheard, invisible, defenseless, needy: I feel for them (except the unborn, of course, who, unlike, say, trees are merely bundles of cells).
And listen: I’m no fool, my friend. Feelings aside, I can become very hardcore when I have to. Very hardcore. I can be triggered, made to feel unsafe, not in a back alley but in a college classroom – or even by a commencement speaker! No, not because I am a preening, self-indulgent, post-adolescent narcissist who takes my cue from self-appointed guardians of my psyche, but because I keep it real.
Almost real. Better to keep things abstract, as when dealing with, say, race, not actual people, or gender, not men or woman (let alone this woman or that man), or when decrying poverty without defining it. After all, the devil really is in the details, which require thinking. And anyway you know what I mean, so why do I have to spell it out? Words can be so tricky, like the ones in the Constitution, or in the Affordable Care Act, or . . . can you feel me? They are tyrannical! I want to say “Down with words!” but I’m sure you would say, Well then why are you writing? All snarky. As though thinking tricky thoughts like that could even dent my sincerity.
Especially tiresome are facts. They make you have to think, and that’s elitist, since not everybody can think as well as everybody else. Unlike feelings: we can all have strong ones any time we like, unless you’re just, like, you know, an authoritarian emotional cripple hung up on anal bourgeois pretentions to requiring the so-called truth. Okay, so this or that rape did not actually happen, and, sure, maybe some lives were ruined as a result of an accusation. Collateral damage. Even though the act did not happen physically it’s still real, because there’s this . . . culture. So one non-physical, non-event shouldn’t matter. The real question is how did that make you feel? It’s, like, a way cool Weltanschauung.
One more thing. By now you should know that what you think of as our cardinal failing is actually our cardinal strength. If you still don’t know why – if you still want to insist that feelings are fine as a motive force but cannot steer – if you still haven’t gotten the point – and here is what I mean by you being half right – then I remind you of Gelernter’s key word up there: force. Feelings are power, baby, power, and don’t you know that power is what I’m all about?
I hope this helps.
A True Liberal