By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
And, by the sound of it, this Kucinich was no boob.
“Last time we spoke,” I begin, “you mentioned Erich Fromm, who was one of my heroes when I was in college.”
“Absolutely,” he says. “I mean, you take The Art of Loving, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness — here was somebody who had a very deep understanding of human potential and a deep understanding of love. I was reading him in high school. You had a number of people who were writing at the time, whose books were getting popular circulation. Carl Rogers was somebody else who I’ve long admired. Rollo May was another. Morris Berman’s Reenchantment of the World was a great book. These were humanistic philosophers, important people to the health and well-being of a society.”
“The overall premise of Fromm’s The Sane Society was how, in the broadest, nonclinical sense, sanity is subjective and that if you have a community where most of the people believe that the moon is made out of green cheese and you’re in the minority who doesn’t, then you’re the lunatic,” I said. “Do you ever feel that because of your views on peace and labor unions and impeachment and so on, when compared to other members of your own party, you’re marginalized for equally subjective reasons? I guess the question is, Are you the lunatic in Washington? And the second question is, Would you be proud of or offended by that characterization?”
“Well,” he says, laughing, “I happen to know that the moon is made out of vegan cheese. I look at it this way — one must have the power of one’s own convictions, and you really have to have faith in that. It’s much like what Emerson wrote about in his essay on self-reliance, when he said, ‘Above all, to thy own self be true, every heart vibrates to that iron string.’ ”
“Uh, some of that is Shakespeare,” I start to say, but Kucinich isn’t listening.
“Madam Secretary, how’ve you been?”
“Condoleezza Rice just walked by. I’m sorry, go ahead.”
“Well, I wanted to get back to that question we were talking about before the phones cut out the other day on your way to the airport — about the troops and Iraq as an illegal occupation . . .”
“Hang on for a second,” he interrupts.
“Aw, crap!” I think to myself. Hearing the phone muffled by his palm, I fear that, once again, I’ve moved too quickly with my troops question and not spent enough time engaged in the rigmarole of intellectual foreplay. Have I flung myself at the congressman with all the cloddish enthusiasm one typically reserves for the scratching off of a lottery ticket before making him feel like the most beautiful ass in the Democratic Party? Maybe I need to remember the respect I had for Kucinich before I met him — when I thought he was a decent guy standing on a soapbox, before deciding that he was really more a decent guy pictured on a soapbox, no more capable than any other advertised product of replacing the doldrums of life with something lemon-scented and affordable.
“All right,” Kucinich suddenly says into the phone, “go ahead.”
“I wanted to talk about the concept of supporting the troops,” I say, ignoring my own advice. “It seems like it’s something that can’t ever be talked about in any depth. Specifically, there seems to be a contradiction in our supporting the troops and our not supporting the war — the troops are the ones engaged in the actual violence, and, of course, that’s their job; the violence is what defines their role as soldiers, as occupiers . . .”
“Well, you know, actually,” Kucinich says, “it’s extraordinary that you’re talking about this, because you’re the first person in the media who I’ve talked to, in the 40 years that I’ve been in public life, you’re the first person who . . .”
I brace myself in anticipation of what I expect to hear him say next — something along the lines of “You’re the first person who, if I could just get my peace-loving, little-girl hands around your lousy fucking throat for sniping so relentlessly at our beloved servicemen and -women who suffer horribly every day at having their humanity compromised by the inherent inhumanity of their duty! Do you think it’s fun to have to be reminded every day of the death and violence and mayhem that your presence is causing? Our soldiers have to look at the blood they spill, and that’s yucky!”
Instead, he says, “You’re the first person I’ve talked to who put his finger on really what is a deep philosophical question. In a way, we’re in times where to take a stand for the truth seems to some anarchical, which shows you how meaning has been so powerfully inverted. It is really the fulfillment of George Orwell’s prophecy about the debasement of language, the destruction of meaning and the destabilization of civilization.”
I pause a second to be shocked, half a second to be flattered, and then no time at all to realize that I haven’t said anything worth the compliment.