Friday, November 12, 2010

An Ignore Button

Sam Johnson sans KBM cap

Down at the Texaco Bob 2 (he has the UNC Pork Skins ball hat) said the other day that it'd be nice if we all had an "ignore button."  That way, he said, we could just hit the ignore button whenever somebody started talking about global warming or the alleged immorality of the Iraq Adventure, or any of that other stuff that just burns him up.  I guess the deal is, his blood just gets too up when he hears these arguments these days, and he'd like to just turn them off, period.

Kinda seemed like former President Bush has found one of those things, or maybe he always had one?  Back just after 9/11 (our 21st Century Little Big Horn), Bush found the surprising eloquence to remind Americans that the Islamic religion did not plan or execute the attack on the World Trade Centers or the Pentagon.  He correctly pointed out that millions of Americans are Muslims, that they serve with honor in the military, that they are doctors, lawyers, dentists, shopkeepers, working people--that they are just like other Americans.  Some of these Muslim Americans even numbered among the victims of the zelots who crashed the airplanes into the buildings.  Bush's fine statement, stressing our commonality, has been replayed in recent days as part of his many interviews concerning his new memoir, with some interviewers asking him to comment on his own words now--the context being the vicious anti-Muslim rhetoric we've seen and heard in the past few months coming from not only self-promoters like Pam Geller, but from people as central to our political life as Newt Gingrich.  Bush's response to this query has been breathtaking, at least to me.

He pressed the Ignore Button.  This was his own statement, mind you.  He wasn't being asked to comment on someone else's words.  In 2001 Mr, Bush made an essentially moral assertion about how Americans should view the religion of Islam and it's billion or so adherents.  But a few days ago he called a question by Matt Lauer that he simply affirm his own statement a "trick," then added a bunch of arm waving to distract the inattentive listener, ending with "buy my book."  Mr. Lauer looked rather stunned, and for good reason.  How can this be a trick?  If anything, it was an opportunity. 

It seems like too many folks are using the Ignore Button when things come up that might actually cause them to question their own beliefs.  I think it's an indication of our culture's lack of education.  Because an Ignore Button is a concept that was shown to be a fundamental intellectual mistake some years back--like probably by the 1600s or so.  See, there used to be this kinda lame solution to quandaries, which in drama was called Deus Ex Machina.   Such a solution is now considered to be a joke, an irony.  So, for example, Charles Bukowski can end "Post Office" by simply going to the track and winning enough to quit his job and "write this book."  It's a funny solution.

But Bob 2, down at the Texaco, is serious about it.  In his world, putting his hands over his ears means that the world actually shuts up.  And this, to be fancy about it, is solipsism.  To be sure, solipsism has a long tradition.  Bishop Berkeley tried to argue for it, and he's got some serious cred--a lot more than George Bush--amongst the philosophers.  But I'll have to go with Sam Johnson on this.  Bob 2 can push his Ignore Button all he wants, but my guess is, he'll still notice a good kick in the shins.

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