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Says The Grizzled Sergeant

I've been having a multi-blog pissing match (here and here) with Simon from StubbornFacts on the topic of the Obama speech and Reverend Wright.

Simon irritates me, I'll be honest about that. He irritates me because he seems smug and cocky in that way that only the young and gifted can be. (And by the way, I may be completely wrong about his life experience.) He's a very smart guy. I've told him I think he's callow. And too partisan to see things very clearly. I imagine that irritates him. I certainly intended it to.

I don't disrespect the feelings of people younger than myself. I take their emotions very seriously. And I don't dismiss their ideas. Chris Hallquist is an occasional commenter here, he's a college kid, and I'd love to sit down with him, buy him a beer, (possibly illegal in his case, I'm not sure,) and have him school me on what he knows of philosophy. His reasoning is clear as crystal. He carries Occam's switchblade around in his pocket.

But if Chris were addressing life more generally, matters of morality and context, if he were passing judgment on another man, I'd discount his opinions a bit, as I discount Simon's. Not because either isn't smart as hell, and maybe (gasp!) smarter than me. But because life isn't just idea or theory or, god help us all, ideology. You don't get to pass judgment on another man until you've lived some. You know why? Because until you've lived some, you're the new lieutenant freshly arrived to take over the platoon.

You may turn out to be a hero. You may turn out to be a great soldier, a leader of men. But we're not going to know that until you've been under fire.

Smart people tend to see too clearly for real accuracy. They see sharp lines. Experience blurs the lines a bit. Experience teaches you that you -- yes, even you -- will fuck up in some way that will leave you ashamed and appalled and doubting your ability to go on. Everyone gets there, sooner or later. You think you won't, but you will. And it's the minutes and days and weeks after that point that determine whether you are the real deal.

You're not a veteran until you've been under fire, been scared to death, and kept going. You're not a fighter until you've climbed up off the canvas after being knocked silly. You're not a grown-up until you've taken some hits -- and I don't mean being turned down by your first-choice frat -- and survived.

In the political world, Hillary Clinton earns some respect from me, not for her policies particularly, but because she can take it. In my little blogosphere world, Amba gets extra points because she's taken some hard ones to the chin, and she's still standing.

Have you been scared? Have you been whipped? Have you been damaged in some way that will never quite heal? Have you done things that left a permanent stain on your soul? Have you betrayed and been betrayed? Have you carried some weight on your shoulders? Have you paid a price? Then I'll listen to you when you tell me how some other person has failed and, by implication, how much better you would have handled things. If not? If life is still pretty golden for you, then wait a while: you'll get your chance.

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“Says The Grizzled Sergeant”

  1. Blogger Rafique Tucker Says:

    Good post Michael. Good post.

  2. Blogger Randy (Internet Ronin) Says:

    I see your point. I share your opinion to a very large degree. But I'm not so sure that I, or anyone else, has to provide answers to those questions you list at the end before engaging in debate. For example, based on what you've written here in the past, when compared to my own experience, your life appears to have been a garden party. At the same time, I know others, quite well indeed, whose experience make mine seem like a walk in the park.

  3. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:


    Thanks, man. Appreciate it.

  4. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    For example, based on what you've written here in the past, when compared to my own experience, your life appears to have been a garden party.

    Emphasis on "Based on what you've written here . . ."

    But I would not argue at all with the point that I am currently living a very good life. If I were religious I'd say "blessed." Which, by the way, is why you'll wait a long time before seeing me diss a working man, or second-guess choices made by people in hard circumstances. Believe me, I know I have it good.

  5. Blogger Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    Boy, you hit it. The whole Obama speech/church thing seems to break on a line between those who "get it" because of life experience or an old soul and those who "don't get it" beceuae they can't get their heads out of the raw politics and wrap their mind around the larger picture. That's not an insult to those who have problems with Rev. Wright or Obama (well, not a mean-spirited insult, at least) just an atempt to explain why so many can give Obama a pass who wouldn't ever do so if we were talking about a political advisor here.

    Anyway, Michael, I know I'm young by your measure, but , come on, don't I get a little respect for matching you drink for drink and not falling into a puddle of my own making?

  6. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    I thought you had it right when (at D-Phant) you pointed out that Obama can be easily roughed up because he's such an unknown quantity. It's funny how that reservoir of public understanding gives you resiliency. It's why no one is really concluding that McCain is hurt much by his Iran-Qaeda gaffes. He's McCain: we know McCain.

    As for the other thing, you have kids. We both know parenthood ages you three times faster than normal. I'm actually only 28 in calendar years. 53 thanks to my kids. I figure by the time they hit college I'll be as old as one of those yogurt-eating Azerbaijani centenarians.