Thursday, May 5, 2011

Next Comes the Lunch-Money . . .

via here

I want to state three things up-front:
1) I hate bullies. I had to deal with plenty of them growing up, being a weird kid who read Asimov and Heinlein at lunch and was closer to teachers than fellow students. Bullying is a very touchy subject for me, wherever it appears.
2) I love Neil Gaiman. He has written what is probably my favorite book in the world (Stardust) and is the writer of another book in my list of Top Five (Neverwhere).
3) I am a liberal Democrat. Unashamed of that, though I do sometimes hang my head when Democrats do stupid things.

So, this is not an un-biased rant. You would have to be pretty new to this blog to expect one of those.

Neil Gaiman recently blogged about a bout of school-yard name-calling that took place on the floor of the Minnesota House this week. Apparently the Minnesota GOP is still sore about this incident, where Gaiman was paid what some saw as an exhorbitant amount to speak for the Minnesota Library System last year. Minnesota Republican Matt Dean, during an argument where the legislature was considering cutting funding for the arts, said Gaiman, who he apparently hates, was a pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.

Gaiman, who has a worldwide fanbase and readership that no doubt makes Matt Dean's fan club look like som,ebody three years late to the prom, decided not to stay silent. When someone you don't even know decides to call you a ridiculous name, calls you a thief, and does it all in the name of supporting a measure that would cut funding for public radio, the Minnesota Zoo, and the arts, it probably warrants a tweet. Or two. Or five. And possibly crashing that Republican's website (though Gaiman apologized for that).

Gaiman also sets the story straight: he was, in fact, paid under $34,000 for the contentious speaking engagement, which is a perfectly reasonable market rate for public speakers. This is a guy who's won 3 Hugos, 2 Nebulas, 1 World Fantasy Award, 4 Bram Stoker Awards, 6 Locus Awards, 2 British SF Awards, 1 British Fantasy Award, 3 Geffens, 1 International Horror Guild Award and 1 Mythopoeic. For a little perspective on this, Sarah Palin, who's major claim to fame was not finishing her term as Governor of Alaska and not becoming the Vice-President, commands $100,000 or more per speaking engagement. Gaiman also donated the entire fee to charity. I'm pretty sure Palin doesn't do this.

What's most distressing about this incident, though, is that it highlights what seems to be a growing issue within American politics: an absolutely stupifying bent towards childish school-yard name-calling. We are electing people who are going on to make unfounded statements so baffling in their sheer ass-facedness that we cannot even understand how some of these people get their pants on straight without help. We get outraged, the politician in question quickly retreads to say that the comments were taken "out of context" or "that was a staffer, not me", and then a month or so later, they do it all over again. I sometimes wonder if we really are too stupid to govern ourselves, as the Founding Fathers originally feared when framing the government of a new nation. It reminded me of this ridiculous story from earlier this year about a Michigan Republican's obsessive hatred of a college student, merely because the boy was gay and part of student government. Or, practically anything Michelle Bachman has said.

People, let's collectively, as a nation, grow the fuck up. Bullies do what they do because they get away with it. Idiots serve in government because we elect them. Let's not give any more of these asshats our support, because next they come for the lunch money.