Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Oh no! Not "Orwellianism"

Reading about extreme weather, I was reminded of the twister I saw/endured 38 years ago. Before that blue-black funnel chewed up and spit out a low-rise storage building in an open field less than 500 yards away, which turned it hard left, the thing had been heading for where I stood struck still with awe.

The raw truth of the role chance plays in life was palpable that day. Although it’s hard to say exactly how that tornado experience changed me, it surely did.

A year or so before the tornado, by chance, I stopped by my mother’s apartment to find it in flames and her asleep. After I carried her to safety, I went back in to fight the blaze in two rooms -- some of my stuff was on fire, or about to be -- with an old foam fire extinguisher I had once liberated from an ancient apartment building that was being demolished.

Soon I passed out in the thick smoke. I don’t even remember feeling dizzy or falling down.

Then, I came to my senses on the floor. With flames around me on two-and-a-half sides, it sounded like a far away voice calling my name. I woke up. No comment on what that voice could have been.

Anyway, I scrambled reflexively away from the heat -- seven times hotter, hotter than it ought to be -- jumped up in a coughing/drooling panic, and escaped without even being scorched. The fire department was there in another five minutes, maybe less.

Nope, don’t want to do that again, either, yet I know the experience has great value to me. In my travels, long ago, I had a switchblade suddenly at my throat, and I got beaten up while being held by a group of cops. Both experiences taught me to be more careful about where I go, and when, if nothing else.

Over the years since those turbulent times my writing, and cartoons, have produced strong reactions at times, consequently I’ve been called a lot of names, sometimes in print. Occasionally a piece I’ve written has flushed out a bizarre character whose reaction has been disturbing.

There was a guy who called on Saturday night, about 15 years ago, he’d read an issue of SLANT and had to talk with me, right then, because I was such a good writer, and so forth. He was calling from a bar.

Well, I was watching a movie with my then-girlfriend, so I didn’t want to have a long conversation. It was late and the more this character talked the less comfortable I felt about having anything to do with him, at all. He said he had a story he had to tell me, something I had to write about. Then he started babbling religion.

So, I told him I did not want to meet with him, at the bar, as he suggested. Then I thanked him for the compliment and asked him to call back during business hours, if he wanted to talk any more. I don’t remember his name, now, but I did when I told the story of the odd phone call to some friends the next day. One of them promptly recognized his name.

“You remember him,” my friend said, “he was the guy they found on the Huguenot Bridge about a year ago; he was bleeding to death.”

It turns out my Saturday night fan had apparently bought into one of those old-world axioms -- something like, “if thy right arm offends thee, cut it off.”

So, he went down to the James River in that wooded area near the bridge, put his offending arm in the chilly canal to numb it, somewhat. Then he chunked it down into a fork in a small tree’s limbs, took out his righteous hacksaw and cut it off just below the elbow.

Everyone chuckled at that bizarre news from my friend, everyone except me. Why would such a person want to talk to me about anything?

What had I written that had set him off? It wasn’t the first time I’d been approached by a creepy reader who acted strange, but it was the weirdest, so far. It left a little mark on me, too. Sure, I think about what I write sometimes, as I’m doing it, in a way I didn’t before that incident.

Now comes the blog Skeptical Observer. The person(s) behind it says his name is James Young. He also claims he’s a lawyer; to prove it he provides a list of some of his clients: “... [which] include farmworkers [sic] in California, Congressmen in Washington (challenging an Executive Order issued by Bill Clinton), pro football players with the Washington Redskins, and Barry Williams (big brother Greg on the Brady Bunch).”

Mr. Young has now leveled a change at me that breaks new ground, in a piece on his blog -- "Orwellianism!" I almost shuddered when I read it.

Mind you, dear reader, I’ve has some “isms” thrown at me before. But this one takes the cake. This connection between the two of us began with a Monday post on SLANTblog -- “The newspeak of George Orwellian Bush.” Scroll down to the bottom of my post, and you’ll see James Young’s comment on it.

Then Young went on to post more commentary, “The Orwellianism of F.T. Rea” on Skeptical Observer. If you read the comments section of his post there, you’ll see Young actually took it easy on me. He labels another blogger, J.C. Wilmore, an “idiot” for simply disagreeing with him.

By the way, I’ve met Wilmore, he actually is a lawyer.

In truth, I haven’t paid a lot attention to the Skeptical Observer blog before. Having seen other examples of the rude style and mean politics on display there, I simply took him as another pretend lawyer, one who has an anger problem, perhaps because he feels powerless in his/her real life. After all, people pretend to be all sorts of things, in bars, and on the Internet.

Can anyone out there in the blogosphere tell me if this James Young of Skeptical Observer is a real person, or a pseudonym, or what? And, does he have all of both arms?


James Young said...

Once again, F.T., you ignore the facts when they are inconvenient. I label Wilmore an "idiot" because he states that the post defends the policy of preemption, when it in fact addresses the misrepresntation of the far Left --- and here, you are apparently with them --- that the Administration described Iraq as an "imminent threat." It did not, and you fail to cite a single instance where it did. Those with far more time than I have disproven this far Left urban legend --- I link to a study on my post --- yet you still don't trouble yourself to provide evidence to the contrary.

BTW, nice effort at denigration about my "claim" to be an attorney. Once again, you use belittling disparagement in the absence of evidence. Lincoln once described a lawyer's time and words as his "stock in trade." Apparently, misrepresentation is yours.

F.T. Rea said...

James Young,

The way you use language is unlike what I've run into before with lawyers. You don't write like any lawyer I've ever known, or even read before.

As far as the substance of your comment about WMDs goes, I’m not going to play games with you. I remember what happened during the run-up to the war. If you don’t, that’s your business.

I remember the references to “mushroom clouds.” I remember the so-called “yellow cake” threat, which launched the investigation that has Scooter Libby, and perhaps others, in such hot water. Plus, I remember the photos then-Sec. of State Colin Powell showed the world at his UN presentation.

If you’re a hawk, you can say the invasion was good, because, in the long run, it will all work out well. Of course, I would disagree.

But saying the Bush administration didn’t pin the invasion in March 2003 to the threat -- the imminent threat -- of vast stores of Iraqi WMDs is baloney. Bush blew off the findings of UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, and said we had to go in right away, or it could be too late.

Turns out Blix was right, Bush was wrong.

Mr. Young, I want no feuds. Not with you or anybody else. But if you fire a shot at me, don’t be surprised when I hit you back.

Stomp Allen said...

The administration claimed recently that it never said Saddam was an imminent threat. The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, last week dismissed the issue of WMD by saying "the media have chosen to use the word 'imminent'" to describe the Iraqi threat - not the Bush administration.

Such claims are easily disproved. A website run by the liberal activist group said that on 7 May last year the then White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, was asked: "Didn't we go to war because we said WMD were a direct and imminent threat to the US?" He replied: "Absolutely." Mr Bush, speaking in October 2002, said: "The Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency."

Also in that month, the US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said: "Ask yourself this question: was the attack that took place on 11 September an imminent threat the month before or two months before or three months before or six months before? When did the attack on 11 September become an imminent threat? Now, transport yourself forward a year, two years or a week or a month ... So the question is, when is it such an immediate threat that you must do something?"

Stomp Allen said...

PS FT: You are an incredible story teller!

F.T. Rea said...

stomp allen,

Thanks for the support.