22 February 2014
The passion of Ted Nugent
It must have been like torture for the Motor City Madman finally to apologize to the President of the United States for having called him a "subhuman mongrel" recently. Ted Nugent's highly-begrudged apology followed a parade of Republican repudiation, from Gov. Perry down and from outside Texas as well, after Nugent had been campaigning on behalf of a Republican aspiring to succeed Perry. Nugent has never been reticent about his disdain for Barack Obama in particular or liberals in general, but he crossed a red line with the word "mongrel" that made more responsible Republicans realize that they had to distance themselves rapidly from him. Nugent's epithet was vile and stupid, yet I can't help feel that he's been vilified unfairly. It was impolitic for him to call the President a subhuman mongrel, but it's not as if he's the only person to think of Obama that way, or to call him anything like that. Look in the right places on the Internet and you may well see many other people using the same phrase to describe the President. What's unfair is the assumption that it's wrong for Ted Nugent to say it, that politicians feel it necessary to repudiate him for saying it, while anyone else who happens not to be a public figure can get away with it, and no one has to repudiate them. Nor do Democrats have to repudiate all the angry leftists who might find equivalent insults for Republicans -- I suspect that "inbred" is the left's equivalent of "mongrel," and George W. Bush was often depicted as subhuman in his day. Am I saying that politicians should repudiate every insensitive remark of their supporters? Not necessarily, and not until we figure out whether or not the sort of informal censorship that constrains us from letting our fellow citizens know what we really think or how we really feel actually impedes effective political deliberation -- whether holding back slows down the conflict resolution the nation needs. Honest hate is at least honest and might encourage further honesty. Rather than have people deny their feelings in the interest of an ideal of civility, we should demand that people justify their feelings or appear as the fools they'll be if they can't. That would take care of Nugent, I assume, and probably many others as well.