Deep Blue

I live in one of the “bluest” neighborhoods of one of the bluest cities in the nation, the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. It is a lovely place, with splendid Victorian architecture, and it adjoins one of the world’s great city parks, Prospect Park, which is right at the end of my block. We have a fascinating, complex mix of educated and creative people here. The neighborhood prides itself on tolerance and inclusion.

But the fact of the matter is that you are only tolerated and included if you consider it axiomatic that any reasonable person:

a) opposed (and still conspicuously opposes, ad nauseam) the war in Iraq;
b) believes that George Bush is a literal incarnation of absolute evil;
c) agrees that any idea supported by the Republican party is by definition not just wrong, but malicious;
d) considers John Kerry’s loss in the 2004 election to be not only the work of criminal sabotage, but also the greatest catastrophe to befall civilization since the sack of Rome;
e) regards any unwelcome developments in the world (terrorism, global warming, or even, mind-bogglingly, last year’s tsunami) to be the result of malevolent US government policies…

… and on and on. An infinite, humorless cataract of sanctimonious and dogmatic loathing.

Although I am really neither of the Left nor the Right, but rather am “all over the map” on an issue-by-issue basis, I’ve pretty much just learned to keep my opinions to myself, as there is simply no profit in doing otherwise.

Apart from that, though, what a nice place to live! Concerts in the summer, no crime to speak of, lots of good food, convenient subways…

It’s been a good place to raise two children, too. Just mind what you say.


  1. Ian says

    Well, I’m glad to see I’m not the only person from Park Slope out in the ‘sphere.

    I agree with your (a), (b), and (d), but I have problems with the other two. In order for (c) to be true, you have to take out the qualifier “by definition”. Firstly, I knew a few people who liked McCain back in 2000. Second, people do give reasons for their anti-Republican beliefs. Or rather, older Slopers do give reasons, and their kids take it as axiomatic or definitional that the Republican stance is ill-intended. But isn’t Republican ill-intent so often obvious? “Death tax”? “Shock and awe”? “PATRIOT” act? Making/letting people think that Saddam had something to do with 9/11?

    As for (e), it’s not so much that people think the Bush administration caused these disasters as that it exacerbated them with inaction. These beliefs are probably not always as justified as others, however. Anyway, the government (if not just Bush) is consistently ignoring the threats of global warming.

    It is a hell of a neighborhood, though. One more day of finals and I’m home free…

    Posted December 14, 2005 at 8:29 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Hi Ian,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think for a great many in our neighborhood c) is true just as written, or if the idea in question is not wrong simply by definition, it is wrong by definition one level down, in that it is based on capitalism, or doesn’t favor automatic redistribution of wealth, or violates some other unquestioned axiom.

    When it comes to nomenclature, the estate tax is a tax that is applied when one dies, so “death tax” seems fair enough, I think. I do admit there is a good deal of bluster and strutting about on a very juvenile level – “Shock and Awe” made me wince the moment I heard it – and then there was “Mission Accomplished”, etc., but of course that sort of posturing is a feature of politics generally, as witness Kerry’s asinine “Reporting for Duty” at the nominating convention, and his attempt, generally, to make his four months of combat duty seem like the second coming of Alvin York.

    As for Saddam, there were any number of good reasons to unseat him, and quite apart from the legitimate moral, political, strategic, antiterrorism, and security considerations, the fact is that there were indeed connections – utterly ignored, generally, by the press – between his execrable regime and al-Qaeda. Read, for example, this.

    Regarding e), yes, I agree absolutely that this administration tends to ignore scientific data for ideological reasons, which vexes me no end. President Bush has also given aid and comfort to proponents of teaching Intelligent Design in our schools; you can see from some of my previous posts what my opinions are on that subject. In no way did I mean to imply that I’m an uncritical cheerleader for the Bush administration; far from it. I was only lamenting how difficult it is even to have a level-headed discussion of the issues around here.

    Posted December 14, 2005 at 12:22 pm | Permalink
  3. Robert says

    Yes, “how difficult it is even to have a level-headed discussion of the issues around here” is a problem in many places, and I believe it’s because so few of our friends and neighbors are clear-headed enough to understand that someone can disagree with me on many things and still be an intelligent, moral person. Not on whether genocide or child molestation is good, but on a range of political issues. Many people from all across the political spectrum suffer from this defect in their thinking. One of the pleasures of your blog (and others of intelligent and civilized discourse) is that disagreement is met with reasoned argument. Would that this were universal.

    Posted December 14, 2005 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Thanks, Robert! Would that it were.

    Posted December 14, 2005 at 3:05 pm | Permalink
  5. Duncan says

    Of course, not everyone in Brooklyn is blue:

    Perhaps she’s found a different neighborhood. (By the way, does that lament sound familiar? It’s making the rounds again).

    Posted December 14, 2005 at 8:34 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    Hi Duncan,

    Yes, I remember seeing that one when it was first published. She’s right, actually – it is much more the political issues than the religious ones that get you in trouble around here, though I wouldn’t bet much on school prayer if Park Slope were to cast the deciding vote.

    Posted December 14, 2005 at 11:48 pm | Permalink
  7. I think Ian does have one good point about ‘death tax.’ I ‘ve made the point myself, namely, that it is inaccurate and slanted. The estate tax — which I oppose — is a tax on asset transfer on the occasion of the asset holder’s demise, not a tax on on the death of the asset holder.

    That being conceded, the Left is far, far worse when it comes to linguistic vandalism than conservatives are. But I won’t document that here.

    With the exception of (a) above, I cannot comprehend how anyone in his right mind could believe the points listed.

    The problem on the Left is groupthink aided and abetted by ignorance of their opponents and what they really stand for. If your neighbors would get out more, and hang around with some intelligent conservatives, there might be some hope for them.

    Posted December 26, 2005 at 9:19 pm | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    Hi Bill,

    A sales tax is a tax that is levied on the occasion of a sale, and an estate tax is levied on the occasion of a death, so I still think “death tax”, though obviously chosen to be emotionally freighted, is still an accurate locution.

    You are right about your last point – in particular, “necons” are singled out for scorn by people who have only the vaguest idea, if any idea at all, what neoconservative political philosophy consists of.

    Posted December 27, 2005 at 1:05 am | Permalink
  9. You are not appreciating the difference. An estate tax is not a tax on dying, but a sales tax is a tax on a sale, and not merely a tax levied on the occasion of a sale for something distinct from the sale.

    You ought to agree with me on this: it is one of few cases where I concede that the Left is right about something.

    Posted January 2, 2006 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  10. Malcolm says

    Hi Bill,

    No, I think they are alike enough – both are a tax on a transfer of property, one occasioned by a common wish to do business, and one occasioned by a death. I do admit that a sale is nothing more than the transfer of goods in question, while one certainly can’t say that about a death, but while an estate tax is not a tax on dying, it is indeed a tax on dying-with-a-heritable-estate, and I think that the term is fair. And, not to be disingenuous about it, it is obviously a calculated, freighted term, intended to rally support on one side and irritate the other. Whether one supports it or not probably correlates with how one feels about a variety of other taxes, in particular the sales tax, but perhaps also the income tax, but the estate/death tax is somewhat different. It could be argued that in a sale or on the occasion of my receiving a paycheck, an even swap has been made – my money for your goods, or my time for your money – and that the government has no business extracting its piece, whereas in an inheritance the transaction only benefits the heir, without any balancing consideration – in effect, a windfall – and so is more fair game for taxation. But the “right” of a government to tax at all, and when, and how, is far beyond the scope of this post, and perhaps even of this blog.

    But Bill, I’m shocked – why “ought” I to agree with you when you side with the Left? You make it sound like that’s where my loyalties are. In fact I really feel no loyalty to any political faction – I just agree or disagree with various points they make, that’s all. I find myself agreeing with the Right more of the time these days.

    Posted January 2, 2006 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

One Trackback

  1. By waka waka waka » Blog Archive » Liberal Arts on August 10, 2006 at 10:35 pm

    […] As is the case in Park Slope, such an environment can be tricky for people like me whose political views skew more toward the conservative on some issues. At social gatherings there seems to be an assumption that all in attendance think in lockstep regarding certain matters, for example that the presidency of George Bush is the direst calamity to befall the USA since the Civil War, and that Bush himself can be reasonably considered the spawn of Satan; that the invasion of Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein was morally and historically unjustifiable, and was based solely on the desire to further enrich an evil cadre of oil barons; that Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and more recently Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and their ilk, rather than being power-besotted and ruthless proponents of a bankrupt and soul-destroying ideology, are in fact among the noblest figures of their age; and so on. […]

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