Sunday, November 21, 2010

Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle

I once heard someone say, if you're dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you're smart, surround yourself with smart people that disagree with you. If you don't know what to say, you have two choices, don't say anything, or think of something someone else said and use that.

So, because I am a history teacher (but not a bando) by trade, I'm going with one of my favorites to sum up not yesterday's game, but the I-can't-even-deal-with-this-any-more sniping between the two factions (and dozens of sub-factions) of the Michigan fanbase.

Having just won a hotly contested Presidential Election in 1800, Thomas Jefferson walked down the muddied streets of the District of Columbia towards an unfinished Capitol Building.  As he entered the chamber of the House of Representatives, he delivered an address that few heard because Jefferson had a notoriously weak voice and hated public speaking.  But those in attendance had a copy of the address, which had been printed in the newspapers that morning and were able to follow along as Jefferson tried to create something new in American political life, the notion of a loyal opposition:

So, if I may, Ladies and gentlemen, the First Inaugural Address of third President of the United States:

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety. But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.
In the end, my opinion matters no more than yours does.  I liked things I saw yesterday, I was disappointed by others, and further still confused by other things.  But one simple reality is playing through my mind.  Before the season began, when I was asked, I said "7-5, losses to Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State."  And I thought I was being hopeful, because there were no guarantees on the Connecticut, Notre Dame, or Purdue games.  Here we sit, during Football Easter week, and we're 7-4.  We're going bowling.  We're beating bad teams, we're losing to good teams.  The offense can do some amazing things.  The defense can do very little.  History, memory, and expectations become burdens.  They cloud our judgment, they make us see ghosts where there are none, mirages of what might be, but is not.
You want to tell me that Michigan needs a new coach, I will listen, but you better have your plan thought through, because I will have questions.  You want to tell me that Coach Rodriguez deserves another year, I will listen, but I want to know how you think the defense will improve. You want to tell me you just don't know and throw up your hands in despair, I will welcome you as a friend and kindred spirit, because you're probably the most sane Michigan fan I know right now (unless you're David Brandon doing this, in which case, I will be deeply deeply worried.  I wouldn't blame you, but I would be worried.) If you're upset that your fellow fans seem to have lost their mind, all I will say is, I can't blame them, because there really are no answers right now.

It's Ohio State week.  It is another final chapter, but not the end of the story.  There will be more, more written, more said, more speculated, more postulated, and certainly, absolutely, criticized.  But that chapter remains to be written, and sometimes a story playing out exactly as you expect has a shocking twist ending that comes out of nowhere.  There's a saying among writers that the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.  Here's to hoping something that happens out of seemingly nowhere happens and instead of criticizing the author for a plot hole, we find the deus ex machina enormously satisfying.

Go Blue!


pz said...


Joe said...

Well said. Thank you.

Misopogon said...

Good thoughts. But in context, maybe the speech reads higher than its intent.

It was really the first bitterly partisan election for the United States, when the prevailing media were such shills for one side or the other as to make Andrew Shirvell blush. And if we're being fair, Jefferson's side, which painted Adams as a sort of British crony who would let Pinkney and Hamilton do whatever they please, was far louder, more perverse, and more ubiquitous than the still utterly appalling rags by the Federalists that made Jefferson out to be a Frankophile.

You think the nutbag politico blogs (and major cable TV stations) today are bad? Think back on a time when the day's common political prose was essentially vitriolic hatemail that called the guy either who wrote the Declaration of Independence, or the guy most responsible for it, "anti-American."

To stand victorious over a Pyrrhic victory and speak of peace is both profoundly right and profoundly hypocritical, which I guess is the theme of any Jeffersonian character study.

Craig Barker said...

Certainly no argument here as no argument is to be had, and your facts are dead on. I like to read Jefferson in this case, and admittedly, as a Jefferson apologist, as someone who completely saw no issue with having engaged in this kind of tactics during the elections (perhaps even having seen himself as not having "personally" done it) and now wanted to bring every one back together as one.

My thinking here is that in the end, we as Michigan fans all want the same thing. We just don't know how to best achieve that and it's getting ugly out there. I hope we can figure it out and soon.

Jeff said...

great post. thanks. -MetsMaize