Friday, May 16, 2008

I Interview the Writer Behind Political Friends

I have been asked to answer a few questions on here from some of my readers. I thought an interview might be the best format for this. I also thought it might be fun. However, with the limited budget available to me ($0.00), I had to do the interview myself. Here is the first in a multi-part series where I try to answer questions that were asked of me that had nothing to do with the post at the time. Enjoy.

I arrived at Andy's house one evening to begin our interview. Andy invited me into his office where he had been playing Kingdom of Loathing before I arrived. We sat in comfortable chairs, drinking coffee while we discussed some of the questions his readers had asked.

Interviewer: First, thanks for taking the time to have me here today. I am looking forward to your responses to the reader submitted questions.

Andy: Your welcome. I am glad for the opportunity. I am very excited to discuss the issues my readers find interesting. I created this site to discuss politics in a civil forum. Too many sites like this degenerate into name calling and insults. I have tried to avoid that with Political Friends.

Interviewer: I think most of your readers would agree that you have avoided it. But onto the questions. First, how would you define "Anger" and "Hatred"?

Andy: I think both of these words are thrown around to easily sometimes. "Anger" is an emotion that can be brought out in someone, but is usually a stronger than just being "mad". For example, if someone cuts me off in traffic, that usually gets me pretty mad. A few seconds later, the feeling has passed or I might not even think of it any more.

Anger is feeling that you might get if you have been seriously wronged by someone. For example, if a co-worker stabbed you in the back at work, you are probably going to go past the "mad" stage and into the "anger" stage.

Hatred is an ugly feeling that is in an entire realm past anger. There are abstract concepts I might hate, and actions I might hate, but I can't think of any individual I hate. My faith teaches me that to hate is wrong. I can't off the top of my head come up with a person I hate. This may be a terrible definition, but perhaps my readers can come up with a better one.

Interviewer: Fair enough. While we are on definitions, how would you define a "patriot"?

Andy: I think many people think of different things when they think of patriots. If someone asks for a definition of a patriot, I think they are really looking for two other definitions: patriotic, and unpatriotic.

I think it is easy to describe patriotic: a soldier in the field fighting for his country or an athlete representing his country in the Olympics. For the most part, whenever you put the nations interest ahead of your own, you are a patriot. I like to think that I am patriotic because I try to teach my daughter and others about the history of our great nation. I try to convince people who believe our nation is no better than any other nation that they are wrong. I wouldn't call myself a patriot though.

Since 9/11, many people have used the term unpatriotic. I think in some cases it was used appropriately, and in some in wasn't. It isn't "unpatriotic" to question your country's actions, or the motives or actions of its leaders. It isn't "unpatriotic" to argue against your nation using military force. These are all arguments that fair and sane people with the best of intentions can disagree on.

However, I dont' think it is patriotic to attack the motives of our soldiers wholesale for political reasons. I don't think it is patriotic to blame the worlds problems on the feet of your country. I don't think it is patriotic to try to weaken your nation. I don't think it is patriotic to put the interests of foreign powers ahead of your nations. It's one thing to argue that getting into a war or a military engagement is a bad idea. It is quite another to try and weaken you nation once it is engaged in that war.

Being a patriot doesn't mean blindly accepting whatever your country does. However, when you repeatedly accuse your nation of atrocities, one after the other, you should expect your patriotism to be questioned. But what I really don't understand is why it is so important to people. If you truly believe you are doing the right thing, then why do you care what label people put on you? I believe I am right on the vast majority of issues I talk about on Political Friends. Many people call me names and criticize me for it. That doesn't change or impact my opinion of what I think is right.

The rest of the interview to be continued always, I welcome your comments and suggestions, thoughts and ideas.


Mrs. Familyman said...

Thanks for your answers. I appreciate that you took my suggestions seriously enough to write this post.

Mrs. Familyman said...

Do you think its patriotic or unpatriotic to dodge military service?

Can there be a fine line between anger and hate?
Or is extreme anger easily distinguishable from hate?

Anonymous said...

Fun change of pace on the format, Andy.

I agree with many of your answers. I especially appreciate your thoughts on anger, hate, and the tenor of discourse.

Two questions:

1) I wonder if you think people who regularly critique their government's actions in countries like Cuba, China, North Korea, and Myanmar are patriots? If so, do you divide the world into countries that should be regularly critiqued and those that should not be regularly critiqued? What do you say to people in the countries I listed who say that it's unpatriotic to criticize regularly your own government?

2) If Senator Obama becomes president, do you intend to support him and not regularly criticize him and the actions he directs the executive branch to take? (I don't think you should have to take that pledge, but it seems like your own logic demands it.)

David Weisman said...

I think anonymous has some great questions - the kind Andy would expect to hear. If you go easy on him for nepotistic reasons he'll respect you less.

Andy D said...

I am very flattered by the reactions to this post already.

Mrs. Familyman,
I take any suggestion someone makes on here very seriously. If you take the time out of your day to post a question or comment on my site, I should take the time to consider what you have written. But thanks for the appreciation anyways…

If by doge military service you mean avoiding a draft, then yes I do. However, our military today is an all volunteer force. Because of that, I think it is patriotic to serve, and what sets that person apart is that they have chosen to serve. The rest of us are just normal people. There can be a fine line, and sometimes anger leads straight to hate.

Thanks. I had fun writing it and I am looking forward to the next installment.
First, I don’t think it is unpatriotic to question the actions of your government no matter what country you live in. Would I consider people in these countries patriots? Truthfully I don’t know. But I would say they are doing the right thing whether you label them as a patriot or not. Again, it amazes me how much people get caught up in the label of “patriot” or “unpatriotic”. It seems like we should strive for the right thing and worry about labels later.

If Obama were to win the presidency, and he tries to implement the policies he has talked about during this election, you can bet I will be criticizing him. My biggest problem with Obama isn’t Wright, or the Weathermen, or Hamas, it is his policies. I think he will make a terrible president based on those reasons. The people he has decided to surround himself just add more reasons to oppose him.


His questions definitely made me think. Though both Mrs. Familymans and your comments had me thinking as well. Hope you like the next installment.

Anonymous said...

However, I dont' think it is patriotic to attack the motives of our soldiers wholesale for political reasons. I don't think it is patriotic to blame the worlds problems on the feet of your country. I don't think it is patriotic to try to weaken your nation. I don't think it is patriotic to put the interests of foreign powers ahead of your nations. It's one thing to argue that getting into a war or a military engagement is a bad idea. It is quite another to try and weaken you nation once it is engaged in that war.

Just pointing out: people get accused of these things you list pretty often. "Patriotic" Soviets accused democracy-minded dissidents of exactly the things you list above as "unpatriotic."

Many right-wingers accused plenty of us (and "us" includes people in the CIA, the intelligence services, the military, etc.) of being unpatriotic, weak, "blaming" the U.S., etc. in the run-up to the Iraq war--when we were pointing out things that turned out to be *right.*

Those of us who have fought for equal rights, fair treatment for our enemies, civil rights, womens' rights, clean air and water, the right to privacy, a free press, freedom of speech, have often been accused of "weakening" our county, being "unpatriotic," etc. We do that work because we love our country, believe it to be great, and we love our world. And this country is much better for that work. So you can understand why some of us get a little suspicious when we hear right-wingers presuming to define what is patriotic or not. We've been down that road a few times.

Mrs. Familyman said...

Andy -

Can there be a fine line between anger and hate? Or is extreme anger easily distiguishable from hate?

I noticed that you only answered one of my questions.

Mrs. Familyman said...

Sorry - You did reference my question, but you didn't directly answer it.

Can you tell the difference between extreme anger and hate?

If so, what is the difference?

Again - sorry for my mistake, but at first glance, your response appeared to be referencing a different question.

Andy D said...


In a true definition of patriot, there is no mention of doing the right thing. A patriot is simply someone who loves their country according to the dictionary. You can love your country and want to go about things differently. Rehashing Iraq is an entirely different post. I continue to see things that make me question if certain individuals really have the best interest of our country at heart.

I only defined patriotism in this post because I was asked to do it point blank by a reader. That can make you suspicious or not, it doesn’t matter to me. And the list of things you have fought for, have been fought for by many people from both sides of the isle. Anyone who says their party has a monopoly on those issues is just plain wrong.

Mrs. Family,
I don’t know if you can tell the difference from the outside looking in between Anger and Hate. I would say that the longer the feeling goes on, the more it becomes hate. I think there are plenty of Democrats and Liberals who are very angry with George Bush, but don’t hate him. However, I think there are also plenty of Democrats who would describe their feelings towards Bush as hate.

Mrs. Familyman said...

Do you think political leaders who have dodged the draft and then a generation later sent young men and women into an unprovoked war are patriotic?

If you can't tell the difference between hate and anger from the outside, then what's the difference between extremely angry language and hateful language?

Andy D said...

Mrs. Family,

I don’t think there is a blanket answer for the first question. Benedict Arnold was largely considered a patriot before he became a turncoat. Just as his label of patriotic or not changed, I think the same can be said of someone who does something most would consider unpatriotic early in life, and then changes later in life. Off the top of my head, I assume you are talking about President Clinton. While I disagree with his policies, I think it would be a tough sale to call him unpatriotic based only on his actions from the Vietnam War.

I think a onetime instance could easily be labeled “angry language”, but when you start to get more and more rhetoric that fits the same hate filled mode, I think it starts to point towards “Hateful”.

Mrs. Familyman said...

So if a public figure (could be a colunmnist, activist etc...) is upset due to a wrong (real or perceived) and speaks out on it regularly, vehemently and angrily, then the more they speak out they start to become hateful?

How do you identify the "hate filled mode'"?

I'm not trying to be antagonistic, I'm just trying to get you to be more specific in your definition. Because you concede in your original post that you think your original definition might be "terrible".

Andy D said...

I am not sure I can be more specific. I think you are trying to get me to give you a checklist of what makes "hate", "anger", or "hate-speech". I don't think I can do that. I think you have to look at what the person is saying, and the way they are saying them, and make a judgment based on that.

Mrs. Familyman said...

Now there's a slippery slope if I ever saw one.

That's like saying, "I can't tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it."

You've really left that up to individual interpretation then.

Is that okay with you?
Because it's been my experience that you're more comfortable when things very concrete, either black or white. You've left this one as sorta gray.

Mrs. Familyman said...

If you're going to accuse someone of hate-speech, shouldn't you be able to articulate the difference between angry speech and hate-speech?

Anonymous said...

dang good point, Ms. Family

Mrs. Familyman said...

Thank you, Anon.

Andy D said...

How about this then:
Hate speech is a public expression of a perceived outrage that blinds the speaker to evidence of the contrary. This form of discourse is different from what some have called “angry speech” because it is repeated over and over, often in order to incite others to some action.

I don’t really like that definition, but I think it is the best I can come up with.

Mrs. Familyman said...

So, extreme anger can't blind people to evidence of the truth?

"This form of discourse is different from what some have called “angry speech” because it is repeated over and over, often in order to incite others to some action."

So, by this definition, If I'm angry about a specfic issue, and I regularly speak out to try to "incite" a group of people to go out and vote a specific way, then I'm using hate-speech?

Andy D said...

If you think you have a better definition, I would invite you to place it here for comment. As I said, I don't think this is an easy topic to define. I also said I wasn't 100% happy with the definition. Are you wishing to get to a specific point here, or are you seeking a hard, air-tight, definition of "hate speech".

What would you cite as an example of "hate speech"? Or do you believe there really isn't such a thing?

Mrs. Familyman said...

I left this comment on another post, but I'll leave it here also.

For the record, I pretty much agree with your definition except that I would add " incite others into harmful or violent action."

Extreme anger can blind people to the truth too.

Andy D said...

hmm... "harmful" is a very nebulous word. Would you limit that to physical harm, or is something that breeds mistrust in people harmful as well?

Mrs. Familyman said...

Okay - after my last comment I was still mulling this over. I'm wasn't 100% happy with my definition either.

Lo and behold - on I found:
hate speech
speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

I think this definition is more accurate.

So would you agree that the difference is that angry speech (unlike hate speech) could be categorized as attacking a person or group based on something other than race, religion, gender or sexual orientation?

Mrs. Familyman said...

Andy -

A (hopefully welcome?) change of topic!

For your next interview with yourself, I'd like to know if the discussions you've had on Political Friends has ever directly or indirectly changed your mind on an issue.

Andy D said...

I think I like the definition better than mine too. I am not sure I would go with you definition of "angry speech". I think sometime there are legitimate reasons to attack a person (in a speech or discussion).

I will keep the question in mind. I think it is a good one.