An Open Letter to Paul VanDevelder

Dear Paul:

A recent op-ed piece  by you in the LA Times captured my attention a couple of days ago. Not that this piece, about a secession petition making the rounds in a few red states, was especially important or even well-written. It got my attention for approximately the same reason that a loud, obnoxious drunk a couple of tables over does. Although your essay was not without merit, let’s be clear: You took an easy shot at a big, fat target.

I happen to be a native of Texas, one of the red states in question, and the state every lefty loves to hate. I can tell you most of us Texans have taken little notice of the secession matter because we have the sense to know a negligible thing when we see it. It’s pretty clear that the people behind this little brouhaha are tiny in number, and either misguided, delusional, publicity seekers, or some mix of the three. It’s actually rather embarrassing. But the significance of it, while not exactly zero, could certainly be rounded off to it. It is a tempest in a teapot that rightfully ought to be ignored, at which point it will, in fact, go away.

All of this appears lost on you, though. You could have had fun with it and given us all a well-earned laugh. Or as an alternative, you could have delivered a think piece about the perils of fanaticism. Instead, you chose to turn the proverbial molehill into a veritable Mount McKinley, insult million of fellow Americans, and trivialize an important issue. Nice job! You were trying to be clever and sardonic while appearing superior. Instead you revealed yourself to be a shallow and sloppy thinker, crippled by stubborn prejudice, and possessed of a scornfully judgmental streak any jihadi would be proud of.

Your essay perfectly encapsulates everything that is irritating about the Left. It was all there on full, splendid display: the smugness, the towering self-regard, the preachiness, the patronizing condescension, the veiled insults disguised as constructive criticism, delivered in the usual sneering tone.

When I saw the byline I thought Paul WHO? So I looked you up. (Thank you Google.) In reading some of your essays I observe that you are articulate and strongly opinionated. You are capable of turning a pretty good phrase now and again. I also detect contrarian, revisionist tendencies as well, in the manner of Howard Zinn. So far, so good. I can respect without necessarily agreeing. Congratulations, by the way, for your 15th place finish in the Screenwriters’ Contest of 2006.

But you also come across as a person who is quite full of himself, quick to turn on those who disagree, and downright disdainful of those inclined even a little bit differently. You are, I suspect, the sort of person who uses the term “flyover states” without a trace of irony, and cites “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” as authoritative proof that Southerners are ignorant, inbred idiots.

Since you are, to a certain minor extent, a public figure, there was more than enough material online to get a pretty good picture of the kind of person you are. As I read your work and read about you I began to experience a keen sense of deja vu. After a while, it hit me: I know this guy. Not literally, of course. But in every way imaginable, you remind me of a certain type of person I do know, very well, because my hometown of Austin, which is almost as full of itself as you are, fairly crawls with them. There must be hundreds of them in my zip code alone. Based on this personal experience I was able to generate a profile of you. Let’s throw some stuff at the wall and see what sticks.

You associate only with like-minded people and have not even one close friend with a political outlook different than your own. You frequently use inflammatory terms like “rethuglican” and “sheeple.” When you sense that you are losing an argument you are likely to resort to personal attacks. You agree that 9/11 could have been an inside job, but have enough sense not to say so too loudly. For a time you drove a Prius that bore a bumpersticker reading “Bush is a Punk-ass Chump.” You roll your eyes, often without even realizing it, when you hear the phrase “red state(s)” or say it yourself. You are fond of sweeping, unflattering generalizations about your perceived enemies. And you see yourself in rather grandiose terms, so you perceive a lot of enemies. You often underestimate your opponents. You have had more shouting matches with strangers than you can count. (But it’s OK because those people were all “idiots” and deserved it.) You have never held a job that required you to do manual labor; in fact you secretly despise menial work and those who do it. You think it’s OK to post fabricated, outrageous comments on opposition political blogsites in order to discredit those sites. In fact, you have considered doing it yourself, but have never quite worked up the nerve. You would never, ever vote for a Republican, even if he or she was clearly the better candidate.

How’s that profiling workin’ for ya? Am I hitting a nerve yet?

Moving right along:

You are terrifically vain and spend far more time than is normal in front of a mirror. You fancy yourself quite the swain and routinely hit on girls less than half your age. Ever since you won the Oregon Book Award, you don’t exaggerate your accomplishments quite as much. You merely tell everyone within earshot that you won the Oregon Book Award. You loathe working-class Southerners and Midwesterners. You are impatient to the point of rudeness with people who are not alarmed by Global Warming, and would you not even consider reading any article or book that downplays it, no matter how well-researched. You can count on one hand the number of times you have recently visited a red state without having to. You fantasize about taking up arms when the revolution comes, and you really, really hope that it does–soon.

A little harsh? Maybe. Or maybe not. This profile is based on data, a lot of it. You, on the other hand, have used a little information, blended with a formidable prejudice, to paint an unflattering portrait of an entire region, a place you dislike because it happens to have inhabitants who think differently than you. I have news for you, Paul: Living in a pretty place with a bunch of other self-proclaimed “progressives” does not make you special.

You are right about at least one thing, though. A terrible rift does exist in this country, which screeds like yours serve only to inflame. If things continue as they are, it seems only a matter of time before blood runs in the streets of our nation. Which would probably suit you just fine. Be careful what you wish for, though. With their martial culture and higher rate of gun ownership, I’m afraid the red-staters probably hold the advantage. You might find yourself on the wrong end of that deal.

Perhaps you are not the complete schmuck I imagine you to be. If so, I apologize. But your offensive and inflammatory essay casually, carelessly impugns an entire culture for no other reason than to make you feel superior. And this is exactly the sort of thing a schmuck would do. However, something tells me that you know this already and couldn’t care less.


Just another ignorant red-stater


p.s. By the way, men your age look silly in that hair style. Grow up, already.