Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nattering Nabobs Need Not Naysay

Back in the good old days (circa 1970, which for our purposes should be seen as a very narrow definition of "good"), Vice President Spiro Agnew unleashed one of his most famous of his many great attack lines. Written by William Safire, the line went thusly:

"In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club -- the "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history."

Ah, for a time when politicians could string along stemwinding alliteration like that, instead of what passes for speechmaking nowadays.

At any rate, I'm reminded of this wonderful line as I read some of the reaction in the blogosphere to different things: the health care debate, the Church sex-abuse scandal in Ireland, the new overtime rules in the NFL - well, maybe not that last one, but you get my point. I find this pessimism exceedingly tiring, because it serves no purpose. I've read comments ranging from "we're doomed" to "the war is over and we've lost" to "I'm near tears." Doesn't matter what the issue is; this is how some people feel.

I say "some" people, because somewhere in the back of my mind I still have confidence that people know how to fight. As Tom Baker's Doctor put it in the Doctor Who episode "The Sun Makers," "Remember that you're human beings, and humans always have to fight for their freedom." True, he was talking to people living on Pluto (in an episode so old that Pluto was still a planet), but the sentiment is the same.

If you're upset about health care, I don't want to hear talk about giving up. Fight it. Even if we lose, there's no shame in going down fighting. If you're in despair about the Church, pray. There's no greater weapon than prayer. Remember that Christianity is ultimately a religion of optimism, one in which even death is not the final word. Despair is a sin, and no matter how down you might feel at a given point in time, it is crucial to not give in to it.

I think Rick Brookhiser puts it very well at NRO today, when he talks of what we don't need:

Talk of Doom. We are all doomed in the sense of Psalm 90, "The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." To drag doom into politics is almost always attitudinizing, worse when something bad has actually happened, because it substitutes preening for thought. I spent a quarter of a book dealing with the doom and gloom of Henry Adams, and at least he was a genius. Get to work.

Indeed. If you think something needs to be done - and it most likely does - then you know what to do. Get to work. There's too much for all of us to do to be bothered by the nattering nabobs.


  1. It reminds me of "Pinks". The theme song of the original show's final season (2008) said "Get up, get in it, Fight the good fight." The show was too popular and couldn't film in 40 states because of the show's rules where losers forfeit their cars to the winner.

    We must fight the totalitarian régime, and like the teams who fought hard and even squabbled to prevent losing on the drag racing show, not surrender. Trust me, I am so mad at losing I've been forced to starve on Thanksgiving.

    There's a country-ish song on the soundtrack of a Robert Duvall movie that could be our "fight song" -- "I Will Not Go Quietly".

  2. But all the people on Soma have no fight in them...

  3. A great sentiment, MH... and a nice reference to Doctor Who as well!

    It sounds daunting, and surely it is... but we not only need to pester our representatives but we also need to talk about this stuff (fairly, sensibly, and without any kind of fear or timidity) in public with friends and colleagues.

    Folks on the left side of the aisle (and more importantly, the progressives, Marxists, and socialists out there) need to know they are opposed. Not rudely... and certainly not with any details on our efforts.

    Breitbart's doing his part... those of us who don't operate a series of high-traffic news and opinion blogs need to do ours. ;)

  4. Badda,

    Breitbart's doing a great job - and you're absolutely right about standing up to the left. Bullies (and I'm not making a blanket statement about the left there) almost always back down when they're challenged. In politics, where it's now winner-take-all, we can do no less.

  5. They run us over like a monster truck -- or like an American in Martinsville (the Japanese just crushed the Americans today; I stand for the Japanese National Anthem).

    No debate, no discussion, we liberals are the gospel is their attitude.

    I admitted recently bullies in middle and high school that was extremely serious. Grades dropped because of kids who just assaulted me, threw bleach, fondled breasts, and the rest of it. Never was even able to date until the past few years. Admitting the pain of this in the winter was hard but I had to do it. They won the war because they got their dates, their grades, and I was left scarred permanently while they took it all.

    Same thing in politics now. They will steal to ensure a victory. See Al Franken.


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