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Confucius on the Massachusetts Election

by Danny Fisher on January 20, 2010

Yuan Jang sat by the roadside pretending to
be receiving wisdom.
And Kung said
“You old fool, come out of it,
“Get up and do something useful.”
And Kung said
“Respect a child’s faculties
“From the moment it inhales the clear air,
“But a man of fifty who knows nothing
Is worthy of no respect.”

Scott Brown’s stunning upset victory in Massachusetts has redefined the American political landscape. I recall the words of Confucius as interpreted by Ezra Pound in Canto XIII:

“Anyone can run to excesses,
“It is easy to shoot past the mark,
“It is hard to stand firm in the middle.”

brown flags

Scott Brown was down 30 points a few weeks ago and won Ted Kennedy’s seat by 5. How and why did this happen? What does it mean?

Some things are obvious: it would have helped the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, if she knew the names of her constituency’s great baseball stars, if she understood that shaking hands in the cold outside of Fenway Park was actually a smart thing for a candidate – not something to be derided – and, in general, if she ran a campaign that was at least a half-step above disastrous. It helped Scott Brown that he not only knew the names of the sports stars but had them by his side, that he was good looking and drove a pickup truck, that he ran a serious, persistent and intelligent campaign and that he provided an excellent debate retort to moderator David Gergen questioning how he could vote “no” on health care while sitting in Ted Kennedy’s seat. “It’s the people’s seat” is not just a truism; it resonated within deep blue Massachusetts and became the “Scott heard ’round the world.”

Americans are frustrated and in great despair. We do not like being taken for granted. There has been an increasing disconnect between the governors and the governed. Real unemployment – taking into account the underemployed and those who have given up looking for work – is 17.5%. That means nearly one in five Americans are out of work. Iran is building nuclear weapons with impunity. An Islamist extremist commits a massacre at Fort Hood and the recent official government report of the incident fails to mention that the murderer is an Islamist extremist. Another Jihadist terrorist attempts to blow up an airline full of people and is granted the right to remain silent. Massive and costly environmental legislation that is supposed to save us all from immediate extinction takes no account nor debate of the inconveniently leaked emails from scientists discussing ways to manipulate climate data to fit their prior models.

What was supposed to be an era of post-partisanship in government has been one of the most partisan eras in history – it is an embarrassment and a shame and we are all fed up with politicians of all stripes gone wild. Meanwhile, the Leader of the Free World flies to Oslo to prematurely accept the Nobel Peace Prize, flies to Copenhagen to make a sales pitch for the 2016 Chicago Olympics – why did we not send Don Draper? – then returns to Copenhagen to participate in a global climate conference debacle that has nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with the transfer of wealth to nations run by brutal and ruthless dictators.

On Capitol Hill, after the stimulus failed to stimulate and the bailouts failed to bail out working people and the middle class, legislators have been trying to force feed the American people with health care legislation that they do not want, cannot afford, and which is a nonsensical hodgepodge of deals and bribes made behind closed doors that tackle everything about health care except the only thing I can think of that could actually improve health care and reduce costs: tort reform. Our legislators gone wild have taken to making a deal for the sole purpose of making a deal and achieving a political victory – with no calculation whatsoever on its impact on society, its atrocious timing during the midst of the Second Great Depression and the greatest deficits in our history.

And Kung said, and wrote on the bo leaves:
If a man have not order within him
He can not spread order about him;
And if a man have not order within him
His family will not act with due order;
And if the prince have not order within him
He can not put order in his dominions.
And Kung gave the words “order”
and “brotherly deference”
And said nothing of the “life after death.”

I am a lifelong registered Democrat who is pro-choice, pro gay marriage, pro stem cell research, and am generally liberal on most issues. And these days I have to go to the right wing Drudge Report, and – yikes – even to Fox News – to find some basic news that you often cannot find in the mainstream media. Little things of possible interest and relevance like the Islamist links of the Fort Hood murderer and the attempted airline bomber, the leaked emails of “Climate Gate,” massively growing tea party rallies and town hall meetings in which our enraged fellow citizens are trying to say: “listen to me!”

What we are seeing in our government is arrogance, pure and simple. It is not about left versus right, liberal versus conservative. Republican Scott Brown cleverly summoned Democratic (and Massachusetts) icon JFK in a TV commercial about the importance of tax cuts to stimulate the economy (while hapless Martha’s TV commercial could not even correctly spell the name of her state). We hear meaningless slogans from both left and right, from “drill baby drill” to “soak the rich.”

We do need intelligent and reasonable energy and environmental policies that are sensible for the times and context we live in – and not driven by hysteria and fanaticism. We need fiscal programs that help working people and the middle class, and while “soaking the rich” sounds populist, we will not create jobs unless the economy is truly stimulated – and that requires providing incentives to those in our society who create jobs – “soaking” those who create jobs hurts us all.

We have found villains that are too convenient, foremost among them Sarah Palin. The only rational writing in the media that I have read about Palin comes from liberal Camille Paglia, who has recognized that Palin’s life, words and deeds have been distorted beyond belief through blatant sexism and absurd double standards. It has gotten to the point for me, a liberal Democrat, to find it hard to even read Republican David Brooks’ op eds in The New York Times because, well – even he has become too “coastal elite” for me.

It therefore came as no great surprise to me that the most liberal state in the Union has collectively sent a message to our leaders: “we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!” and elected Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s senate seat.

And Kung said, “Without character you will
“be unable to play on that instrument
“Or to execute the music fit for the Odes.
“The blossoms of the apricot
“blow from the east to the west,
“And I have tried to keep them from falling.”

-From Ezra Pound, Canto XIII

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{ 1 trackback }

The Clear Air – waka waka waka
January 20, 2010 at 10:41 am

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Malcolm Pollack January 20, 2010 at 10:30 am

Outstanding post, Danny. This awakening is most welcome.
We have nothing to lose but our chains!

2 Michele January 21, 2010 at 4:21 am

Hi, I followed the link you left on Mort Zuckerman’s limp post at the Daily Beast about Obama: “He’s Done Everything Wrong.”

I love everything you say here. Including the Camille Paglia references. Words of truth, especially these days, feel like warm bath water sliding over my skin. There’s so much disinformation and blatant propaganda (I don’t even bother calling it bias anymore) by the media, I get so excited by posts from liberals with open minds.

I grew up a San Francisco liberal hippie kid, and stayed that way politically until around 9/11 when I started questioning the media, the education system, my friends… It all rang false. anyway, I won’t blather anymore about my political evolution. I am just happy to find intelligent people with truly open minds. People like you, open-minded and thoughtful, will be the ones to make a difference in this political climate.

Thank you for the great post.

3 Dawna January 21, 2010 at 8:58 am

Great post. You have expressed my sentiments exactly. This needs to be read by everyone in Washington.

4 Freedom Fan January 21, 2010 at 11:49 am

Danny, welcome to the Tea Party movement. We patriots surround the self-annointed “educated class”. Our numbers will grow like a juggernaut and we will win.

Your essay is marvelous indeed; kudos my friend.

5 Danny Fisher January 21, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Hi Freedom Fan, thank you for your kind words of encouragement. Although allow me to clarify that my comments are independent of any specific movement. I respect different points of view across the political spectrum, but I do not consider myself a member of the Tea Party movement. Best, Danny

6 Freedom Fan January 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Danny, I can understand that you are still uncomfortable with the thought, since the decent folks in the Tea Party movement have been maligned by the ruling elite and the MSM as a bunch of uneducated racist hicks.

But the concerns you have expressed exactly mirror those of the vast majority in the Tea Party movement who want to restore fiscal sanity and democracy to America. I speak as someone who has attended many rallies, including the 9/12 march on D.C. which drew more than a half million folks.

7 Kevin January 21, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Great post. I echo your sentiments and will forward your writings to my different groups I belong to. The disconnect between the governors and the governed has never been stronger in my lifetime.
Thanks for your expression of what a number of us are feeling right now.

8 Danny Fisher January 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Thank you Kevin, I greatly appreciate your response and your forwarding my thoughts to others – Best, Danny

9 Irene King January 22, 2010 at 2:12 pm


I followed the link from the RCP site and was pleased to see the comment was much extended over here. Don’t be uncomfortable about being associated with the “Tea Party” phenomenon. I am. And I guess we’re both members of a couple of very rare breed of people: you, an open-minded liberal, and me, a black conservative. Who’da thunk?

10 jason March 15, 2010 at 2:58 am

Hey Danny, great post. I’m studying Chinese, and most academics totally misinterpret Confucius to fit a liberal agenda. Actually, it’s surprising that not many have picked up on these parallels. Confucius’ entire purpose was to return society to its traditional roots, which included small government and family values. This article I saw just before I got to your site picked up the theme pretty well: It’s obviously not a 2010 thing – this kind of thing’s been going on for thousands of years. Anyway, thanks again for the blog.

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