The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Labels



There's an article in the new issue of Local Buzz about political conservatives in our Valley that mentions me. Despite that error in judgement Local Buzz is a cutting edge publication in ways that one might not expect from a spin-off of the Springfield Newspapers. The primary key to its edginess is chief editor Greg Saulmon, an avid fisherman with a natural nose for news, and a quirky sense of humor.

Local Buzz is really the only print publication that feels like it's comfortable in the digital age. For example the Valley Advocate , whose target audience partially overlaps Local Buzz, has been trying to move online in a big way, but its website doesn't really feel at home online. However Local Buzz, instead of just being a print publication with an online presence, has the feel of a website that just happens to also be available in print. As such, Local Buzz is evolving into the most successful effort thus far to bring the Springfield Newspapers into the digital age.

The article on local conservatives in its current issue is a good one, featuring the elegant Smith Republicans and righty firebrands like Larry Kelly and Mike Franco. I would have liked to have seen more about the UMass Republican Club, which from my perspective is the most vibrant of the local conservative groups, but overall it is a great piece about an often overlooked aspect of our Valley. As for what it says about me, in total I receive all of a one sentence mention in the article:

And there's Springfield native Tommy Devine, more of a working man's intellectual, who runs an often-libertarian blog that pokes fun at war protesters, Springfield politics, and all the colorful expressions of the left you can find in the Valley -- and gets around 20,000 hits a month.

Actually, I'm little surprised to receive any mention at all. The truth is I'm not always included in discussions of Valley conservatives, my blog being considered by some to be too stoney and too gay to be regarded as right-wing, in spite of the fact that I am probably the Valley's foremost defender of the Iraq War and freemarket economics. But when it comes to the social issues I flunk the conservative test in a lot of ways. I have only this Springfield streetkid's warning to those conservatives who use my sexuality and my innerspace explorations to disqualify me from their ranks:

My gang will get you.

But why are we so obsessed with putting labels on people and putting them into categories? I think it's because we're intellectually lazy, and we believe that if we have little boxes to put people in, with a set of characteristics for each box, then we don't have to actually go through the difficult, and sometimes scary process of actually getting to know people as individuals. If we think we know the characteristics of those we put in the Jew Box, or the Gay Box, or the Black Box, or the Conservative Box or even the White Box, then all we have to know about anyone is what box they belong in and we think we know their major characteristics.

Except when we don't. For example it annoys me when people think, just because I'm queer, that I'm good at interior decorating or fashion. You want me to give you a makeover? Okay, just let me go get my fucking sledgehammer! Because I'm not swishy or feminine I don't fit comfortably into most people's Gay Box. In fact, I'm a mess of contradictions. I live in the richest community in the Valley (Amherst officially surpassed Longmeadow last year) but if someone thinks I'm rich the fact is I'm always on the verge of going broke. I'm constantly bickering with my partner, yet instead of splitting up we have red-hot sex. I'm a classic Valley slacker, but my ambition is to save the world.

Let's do away with these boxes and labels that confound and confuse us more then simplify or explain. Open your mind and your heart and expand your realm of possibilities. It's not that hard, just remember this the next time you're tempted to slip into your categorizing ways:

Labels are for cans.



Possibly the Very Best Chicken Joke Ever

A chicken and an egg are lying in bed.

The chicken is leaning against the headboard smoking a cigarette, with a satisfied smile on its face.

The egg, looking a bit pissed off, grabs the sheet, rolls over, and
says, "Well, I guess we finally answered THAT question."

If anyone needs it explained - read it a second time

Finally, stare intently at this video and your mind will bend:

8 comments:

Mike Dobbs said...

Tommy...I tick off liberals and conservatives with my print rants. I call myself "liberal," but then find myself not wanting to approach the full length of the left.

And yet the Right frequently makes me sick.

People should talk about issues and find common ground on which solutions can be found.

Tommy said...

Larry, the only copies I see in Amherst are in the heart of downtown in special boxes that say Local Buzz on them.

Dobbs, you are that true rarity, the liberal with commonsense!

Mary E.Carey said...

Love the trip. The music is so powerful.

Bill Dusty said...

At least you guys got mentioned! I think the State jumped the gun on gay/lesbian marriage (divorce and child support laws should have been reformed and adjusted for equal treatment). I'm against gun control, against abortion (except in cases of rape [incest], or when the mother's life is in danger), and against smoking bans (and I'm a non-smoker). Heck - I even wear a Republican Party lapel pin on my jacket. :-\

Tommy said...

Bill, I agree that it was an injustice that you were not included, especially since I received at least passing mention while you are really much more of a traditional conservative than I am!

Anonymous said...

Tommy:

I've read your blog for years. I never knew you were gay - never crossed my mind one way or the other for that matter.

Interestingly, this fact has not affected my reaction to, thoughts about or (dis)agreement with your writing. If only that were true for everyone.

Bill Dusty said...

Anon -

Same with me about not knowing, although I did start to suspect earlier this year from a couple of his posts. It doesn't matter to me one way or the other (although maybe his *female* fans are sobbing in despair! ;-)

Greg said...

Tommy --

Great post.

Trying to break down labels was really the goal of our piece -- or at least what I had in mind when I asked Rebecca to take on the assignment. While one could say that the creative staff at the paper leans mostly liberal, I'm hoping to make the paper less about ideology and more about IDEAS. The article was born out of my observation that, in an area like the Pioneer Valley, critical thinking and honest, thoughtful discourse are often overshadowed by the labels we so willingly bestow upon ourselves and our "opponents."

Larry makes a good point about including the URLs. With every issue, there are several things I kick myself over as soon as we go to press and it's too late to change anything. That was one of them.

-- Greg Saulmon
Executive Editor, Local Buzz