Monday, April 16, 2007

Bashing White Men

My UPI column today is for the strong of stomach and those willing to see that I'm dealing in categories rather than individuals. It should be obvious to any reader here how much I adore individual white men. They make up the majority of my readership and are thoughtful, not racist or sexist, insightful, partners in the journey toward a just society, and frankly, most of you white dudes who read and post here have tutored me in what it means to not be racist or sexist. Honestly, I relate to Rebecca because her rhetoric is familiar. I used to be a fan of guys like Rush and Dr. Dobson, and women like Dr. Laura.

Let's just say that through my graduate program years and my hundreds of interactions on the web, I've come to see much more clearly just how much privilege I stand on unconsciouly every day.

So today's column is dedicated to all those white men "who get it" and to the rest of us who are just starting to.

35 comments:

Chuck said...

A great post, Julie. I was appalled that anyone took the Imus debacle as an opportunity to shift focus to my "minority group". As a relatively privileged white male, perhaps I can't identify directly with those who have specific situations that are less than optimal, or don't go the way they want. But anyone who thinks they can make fair comparisons between blacks and whites in terms of opportunity and open doors is totally delusional, IMHO.

And the thing that appalls me the most in such situations is that the loudest voices are usually conservative Christians. They seem more concerned about self protection than about anything else. Did you ever see the film "The Big Lebowski"? My favorite scene is when the German Nihilists complain "it's not fair". Hello???

Ampersand said...

Watching the 60 Minutes segment on the Duke Lacrosse players last night, this disparity struck me too. Yes, it is a travesty of justice what happened in this case. That should not ever be minimized.

But African American males are falsely tried and even sent to prison and we don’t see the same brouhaha. We just see blurbs on the news about how so-and-so, black male, was released from prison after x years due to DNA testing.

I feel for those Duke kids. It is just awful that they were the victims of an overzealous, ambitious prosecutor. But, if they had not been white and privileged, it may (and I emphasize may) have had a different outcome for them.

Then again, if they had not been white, it would not have made such wonderful fodder for the DA's ambition. Interesting to think about.

carrie said...

I've read both column and am "cogitating." I guess it doesn't seem such a "slam-dunk" to me. I don't see why anyone has to be ridiculed in order to "even the score." Personally, as the parent of two white male teens, I am sick of seeing dads and other adult males portrayed as idiots while the bright, barely tolerant wife so obviously is the only one with any brains. What's the purpose in that? What does it accomplish toward furthering minority progress?

Maybe the collective white male ego needs to be brought down a few notches. Fine. But individually, these young men need role models that aren't the jerks of TV, the jerks of the popular entertainment world, or the jerks of the sports arenas. And role models that deinitely aren't the mentally challenged losers of many TV shows and commercials.

The Title IX situation is wrong. Plain and simple. Government beuracracy has once again screwed up what it was trying to fix. It almost always does. There has to be a way to encourage women's sports without slashing men's teams in order for there to be "equality." It's like getting rid of competitive sports (like kickball)in elementary schools so no one has to lose. In the end, no one benefits from these decisions to try to make "fair" and "equal" the same thing. The distribution of work around my house between Will and I is "fair" given our situation, but it isn't "equal." I'm home all day, he isn't. On the other hand, our contribution to the income is fair and unequal, too. He brings in all the money and I stay home, but it is "our" money. In the sports situation "fair" should means women's teams are promoted and funded fully, it shouldn't mean men's teams are cut if there aren't corresponding women who want to play that sport.

Honestly, I think Rebecca H overstated her case, and I agree with much of what you've said. But promoting or defending hostility toward any quarter of our populatioon undermines the stated goal to "be Christ" to others. It's hard to be Christ to someone when you're making fun of them.

Ampersand said...

Carrie, I have to say that I agree with everything you say here! Just wanted to stop and take note of that :).

I am hoping that the reaction to Imus is part of a larger reaction, and rejection of, the whole culture of shock jock humor. Disparging people, just to be funny, is not.

Chuck said...

I watch a fair amount of television, but perhaps I'm in another universe. What programs/commercials portray these "negative" white male role models? I seem to be missing something here.

Kansas Bob said...

I guess I don't get it. I don't think that white males are bashed much at all. TV shows, like Everyone Loves Raymond, that portray guys as socially stupid and insensitive are pretty funny because they help guys see themselves the way some see us. I don't find (most of) these shows offensive to my white maleness ... I just find them funny. I laugh with Raymond because I see myself in him ... I can really be stupid and insensitive ... I like that we all can laugh with Raymond :)

Bilbo said...

Regarding Chuck's question about "negative" white role models...Over the years four very popular sitmoms come to mind. All in the Family, The Simpsons, Home Improvement, and most recently Everybody Loves Raymond. I realize these are all "sitcoms" and not intended to be taken literally...but...I also believe that these kind of programs can potentially effect our "collective" conscious over a period of time in ways perhaps not intended by the producers...and...am not sure it is healthy for our country in the long run...and agree with Carrie who said, "I don't see why anyone has to be ridiculed in order to "even the score."....My hope is that what happened to Imus will lead us all to further explore how we treat each other, black, white, female, gay, conservative, liberal, etc...I also want to suggest there is a place for satire and humor but am not sure it should be done at the expense of a "group of people" especially those who have experienced marginalization and discrimation. It's one thing to poke fun at individual politicians, celebrites, etc. but to make fun of gays, women, or ethic groups, imo, is not healthy for our country. For example, I love Saturday Nights Live political humor but I abhore their portrayal of gays in a cartoon piece they run from time to time. Just my take on things...

Bilbo said...

Hi Bob,

I too love Everybody Loves Raymond but am also concerned about the potential "accumulative effect" of shows like this over the years and do question if it is good for our country, our communities,and those groups who are the target of such humor...

julieunplugged said...

So a couple of things.

1) My title and teaser were both deliberately provocative and a bit tongue in cheek. I am not for "bashing" in the true sense of the word. What I was responding to is the idea that TV sit coms are considered bashing. I don't have a problem with white males in authority roles being taken down a peg in some of the family situations. As Bob says, some of that reflects reality, some stereotypes and some just allows us to see that men are as human as the rest of us.

That has been a necessary corrective. Men aren't being bashed. They are being portrayed as fallible. Pretty big difference.

2) TV should not be a source of role models for anyone. Do you think black young teens ought to take their images from the news where they are usually shown as thugs? Or from MTV where bling and sex are shown as the right ambition for their futures? Or from TV dramas where black males figure prominently into the roles of criminals? Thankfully more and more TV blurs the lines between race and gender in various roles. But really, to be outraged over sit com humor as though white males are now the "most discriminated against group on the planet"? Overkill.

That's nothing to real conditions that continue to marginalize the poor who are mostly black.

3) Title IX's original intention was very important. The funding of male sports programs meant that women's sports were virtually non-existent. Has it outlived its usefulness? Perhaps. But does that mean white males are suffering? That they are robbed of the right to a sports scholarship or playing in college? Are they objects of oppression? Spare me. We're talking about the privilege of college education and playing sports for a few years... How does that stack up with the inner city poor who not only don't play sports well enough to get into college on scholarship but can't even afford what it would take to be a lacrosse or fencing player to begin with!?

This does not equal oppression and to characterize it as discrimination is insulting... at least to me.

4) The group that is on top becomes the object of ridicule when they haven't sufficiently recognized that they have been dominant in an unfair way. Think of the NY Yankees. Who likes them outside of NYC? No one. They have advantages taht keep them dominant in the sport of baseball which means everyone takes shots at them.

Level the playing field and you unhook the ridicule. TV sit coms seem to be a pretty innocuous way to level the playing field in our culture, honestly. Not exactly demanding reparations.

5) Biblo makes a good point that satire aimed at groups is dangerous. I think we are in the phase where reaction against a time of unconsciou racism is being exposed and we are being confronted with what we think about racism really. Whites have still not suffered racism systemically... ever... in this country.

Julie

Bilbo said...

Does anyone else feel that they got the wrong guy when they fired Imus?...I have been listening to Imus for about six months becasue many of the politically heavyweights appear regularly on his show during the time when I drive to work. I don't mean to imply that there is any excuse for his racially loaded insensitive words but I do feel that his radio brethren Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage are much more dangerous and offensive than the "I Man"...Just curious what some of the rest of you think?????

Ampersand said...

Bilbo -

I love the I-man. I have just sifted out his extreme rants for years now...even with a pause to cringe at something here or there.

I guess he is an equal-opportunity offender, which I would have previously thought was better than offending as part of an ideological agenda. But now, I am not so sure.

What struck me about this latest thing by Imus was that we all got to be privy to the hurt that the remarks caused. The speaking out of the Rutgers ladies put a face on the hurt that was caused by his careless, angry humor.

julieunplugged said...

Bilbo, here I think you are onto something. Michael Savage has been speing nothing short of overt racist remarks for years and goes on doing it without being called on it.

Kim may be right that Imus crossed the line by specifying a group within a group that could "talk back." Perhaps that is what we need to hear more of.

TiaDavidandourLittleChickens said...

Brava! I read 'em both. The first made me want to play the world's smallest violin. Yours made me roll along with your enthusiasm, a big clarifying, remember-the-point-people, admonishion. Love it. (says the poor white momma in the country who won't be able at this point to provide college for her kids either but knows there's more than one way to skin a cat and blaming another ethnic group for my reality AIN'T it)

Rachel said...

So the deal is that because white males are not treated as badly as anybody else, they deserve whatver they get. And besides, what they get isn't really so bad after all. They're just whiny and we don't listen to or belive whiny priveleged people because their stories and impressions can't be as true as those of the truly oppressed, and I get to define who is truly oppressed so that's that. Seems to me that it shouldn't be a question of who gets treated better or worse than whom, it should be a question of whether someone, anyone, everyone, inside our outside of my personal protected categories, is being treated RIGHT, with no comparison to any other person, group, or standard than that one.

Dave said...

I think it requires a certain form of brittleness to be offended by the 'doofus' portrayal of white guys on sitcom TV. The examples cited here (Raymond, Home Improvement especially) are pretty benign compared to what we see on "Family Guy" and "American Dad" so I grant the point about increased coarseness and vulgarity having a negative effect on pop culture, but really now. I see that kind of humor as pretty similar to the kind of self-directed putdowns that George W. Bush indulges in at events like the White House roasts, Christmas videos, etc... in other words, it's safe, no risk, not really challenging the status quo, certainly not calling into question the whole matter of privilege, ownership, headship and so on that a lot of white guys literally consider their God-given birthright - not only in the home, but in society at large, even to the point of managing global affairs via American foreign policy. I mean, we could really expand on this quite a bit if we wanted to talk...!

Re: Bilbo's question, did they get the wrong guy? I think the response Imus received (getting fired) was appropriate. While I'm not a fan of Hannity, Limbaugh, Savage, etc. (nor was I particularly impressed by Imus before all this happened) I don't think they've ever used the word "jigaboo" on their programs, which to me is just about as offensive and inflammatory as "nigger." Everyone is focused on the "nappy headed ho's" line but there was a lot more to it than that. The right-wing radio hosts are a lot more skilled at couching their stereotypes and insinuations, except for Michael Savage when he deals with gays. But there is still a considerable "mainstream" that condones prejudice toward homosexuals just because they are homosexuals.

julieunplugged said...

Dave I think you make good points about the differences between radio commentators and the kind of strident racist humor Imus employed. Savage is savage in his attacks on Muslims too.

Rachel: So the deal is that because white males are not treated as badly as anybody else, they deserve whatver they get.

No the deal is: white males are not systematically oppressed in our society by the government or people in power. Therefore, quit crying oppression and outrage over what amounts to ridicule on TV.

Seems to me that it shouldn't be a question of who gets treated better or worse than whom, it should be a question of whether someone, anyone, everyone, inside our outside of my personal protected categories, is being treated RIGHT,

And what does that mean?

Usually "right" is determined by law. What law is violated by sit com humor?

Title IX may be outdated. But that is not oppression. That's not even discrimination. It's outdated legislation that was put in place to correct systemic discrimination.

The "outrage" over how white males are treated strikes me as utterly out of synch with the facts. It would be like the boss saying he is being mistreated because the employees make jokes about him and don't invite him to lunch without admitting that he, their boss, has deliberately underpaid his employees.

The legacy of the white race and male dominance in America is in a period of correction. We're living through it. Of course there will be a backlash to centuries of mistreatment. My advice is similar to Mike and Mike in the Mornings: Man up!

Corrections for centuries of discrimination take time.... After all, it took a long time to oppress and then to end oppression.

Bilbo said...

Re: Dave's comment "The right-wing radio hosts are a lot more skilled at couching their stereotypes and insinuations"...While they may be more skilled I can think of numeber of examples where they have said some very offensive things, imo....For example, Limbaugh for years has been calling feminists "Feminazis" and Glen Beck, recently said that Hilary Clinton sounded like a "bitch" on his radio show...and...I suspect numerous other examples will come to light in the days and weeks to come...I am not suggesting censorship but I do think we need to think about what we, as a society are willing to tolerate on the public airways...It's one thing to rant and rave like Howard Stern on satelite radio, or listen to Bill Maher on H.B.O. but do we want talk radio hosts to be calling people what they do during the middle of the day for everyone's consumption?....

jo(e) said...

Have you read The Heart of Whiteness by Robert Jensen? It's a small book but he does a terrific job with some of these issues.

(Watching the news from Virginia Tech has left me too worn out to jump into this discussion -- a book recommendation is the best I can come up with ....)

Steve said...

Julie:

You got it right again.

brian said...

Julie,

I loved the article. I'm intrigued by the comments you've been getting.

I could go on and on about this. But, I think you've summarized it pretty well.

Peace,
Brian

julieunplugged said...

Thanks for the book recommendation Jo(e). I haven't read it but it sounds like relevant reading. Like you, my energy gave out once the VA Tech masscre was reported.

Brian, thanks for weighing in. I always like to hear how you and Ty are processing stuff like this. She and I had a good conversation yesterday at co-op.

brian said...

Julie,

Ty told me about her conversation with you yesterday. Some of the comments you've gotten remind me of the time a white lady took me to task about our company that caters to African-American hair care products. She said it was discriminatory. She also wanted to know if we had any white people working here. I told her no. (we only had Ty and myself at the time anyway- now we do have a white woman working for us and an Asian teen and a white teen. So, Ty and I are in the minority- LOL). Anyway, I had to explain to her that just about ALL hair and skin care products are for white people. As such, there is no NEED for a "white hair care" products company.

Similarly, I don't see Everybody Loves Raymond, or the Simpsons or whatever sitcom about "white people". Most shows on television have been and will be about the dominant force in our culture, white people. The exception would probably be All in The Family, which was specifically about a racist and how silly he was. It was one of my all time favorite shows, BTW. Anyone complaining that the show targeted the poor white male, should keep in mind one of the most successful spin-offs, the Jeffersons, which had an equally silly black racist as its main character.

Anyway, I thought you did a great job with the article. It's always fascinating to get different perspectives on stuff like this.

Peace,
Brian

Davis said...

Julie you're UPI column is on the mark in so many ways. We white men have a long walk ahead of us if we are to begin to understand how we have and continue to oppress.

Dave said...

Just a small note of clarification here: The Simpsons are yellow, not white, people!

Rachel said...

No the deal is: white males are not systematically oppressed in our society by the government or people in power. Therefore, quit crying oppression and outrage over what amounts to ridicule on TV.

So the only disrespect worthy of notice or correction is systematic and large-scale? And to stand up and say "I (or a group with which I am well acquainted) am being treated with disrespect. " is "crying oppression and outrage"? Anyone who doesn't get disrespected enough to show up on your scale of oppression should just shut up and take it?

Usually "right" is determined by law.

Slavery was legal. Just because no law is broken does not mean no harm has been done.


Title IX may be outdated. But that is not oppression. That's not even discrimination. It's outdated legislation that was put in place to correct systemic discrimination.

So then no one is responsible for for the harm title IX causes and no one who is harmed by it has a right to feel there's been injustice?

The "outrage" over how white males are treated strikes me as utterly out of synch with the facts. It would be like the boss saying he is being mistreated because the employees make jokes about him and don't invite him to lunch without admitting that he, their boss, has deliberately underpaid his employees.

You're connecting the treatment the boss receives from his employees with his treatment of them. If you apply that same connection to the treatment of white males, the conclusion would be that white males are getting what they deserve because of what they've done to those who are disrespecting them. So the best-case interpretation there is that the second bad treatment is made okay by the first, although what I think you are saying is that there is no bad treatment at all--that there is no problem. You're saying that all those men who feel they have been harmed for one reason only--they are white males--are wrong, imagining it, whining, making a mountain out of a molehill, that they ought to stop acting like weenies and "man up". How do women like it when men listen to them like that? Whatever happened to "believing"? Everybody who feels dissed gets believed but white males don't?

But what I'm wondering is why the connection is made in the first place. Why does discussion of how one person or group is treated turn into discussion of how another person or group is treated? Why compare? Shouldn't the goal be to remove all dissing? Why can't we hear from a white male "I am being dissed" without it turning into how much white males have dissed others? That's the classic childhood technique of deflection; it avoids the issue at hand by bringing up one more personally advantageous.




Corrections for centuries of discrimination take time.... After all, it took a long time to oppress and then to end oppression.


I don't see how disrespect or injustice of any sort corrects anything. I understand that your concern is laws and big stuff, but that comes from little people like you and me and how we think of others.

julieunplugged said...

Rachel, did you read the column to which I was responding? That might help you interpret my comments. She asked "Where is the outrage?"

My point is that the tendency to feel our own pain as outrageous ought to be tempered by a historical perspective.

Rachel said...

Rachel, did you read the column to which I was responding? That might help you interpret my comments.

Thank you for the kind suggestion on how I can improve my interpretation, but that's not going to help. I already did read it so my interpretation of your comments is just gonna have to stand.

She asked "Where is the outrage?"

Right, and the kind of outrage to which she refers seemed to me to be the personal indignation that any human being should feel when injustice of ANY sort is done--the kind of concern you said white men didn't warrant because they weren't suffering any injustice. I don't think she was trying to tell people to run out and start a movement or call their senator because the world was about to end or comparing the level of outrage one should feel for white males with the level of outrage one should feel about any other event in history, which is more how you seemed to characterize her use of the word. I think she was using a vocabulary commonly heard elsewhere as a way to ask, "Are you practicing what you preach? Are you as good at showing respect as you are at telling others to show respect?"

My point is that the tendency to feel our own pain as outrageous ought to be tempered by a historical perspective.

I didn't hear her say the pain white males feel when they encounter disrespect is outrageous or even unique. I heard her say it exists, and that humans who care about such things as respect and listening and justice and fairness might want to add yet another group to their list of "people who deserve right treatment". And maybe someday the list will include everyone and the list of discarded disrespectful behaviors will include all of them, large and small, and the excuses and justifications will all be gone.

Ampersand said...

Rachel, you said:

"I don't think she was...comparing the level of outrage one should feel for white males with the level of outrage one should feel about any other event in history, which is more how you seemed to characterize her use of the word."

But, Hagelin said (with seriousness, I think):

"The white, Anglo-Saxon male, the young teenage guy, is probably the most discriminated-against kid on the face of the earth right now."

I think it is that kind of statement that some of us are rolling our eyes at.

Do you agree with her statement?

Rachel said...

But, Hagelin said (with seriousness, I think):

"The white, Anglo-Saxon male, the young teenage guy, is probably the most discriminated-against kid on the face of the earth right now."

I think it is that kind of statement that some of us are rolling our eyes at.

Do you agree with her statement?


I took her statement as hyperbole--a way to draw attention to her belief that young white teenage males don't have it as great as lots of people think, not as a serious attempt to quantify all the acts of discrimination that have occurred since time began. And if she really did intend a serious comparison in that statement, she limits it to "kids" living today. With that subgroup in mind, I honestly haven't personally seen much of what I would call discrimination, in a formal or legal sense. I've seen a ton of disrespect, but that seems to be distributed based more on who the disrespecter is than the disrespectee. But the fact that I don't see it is kind of the point--is somebody on the outside looking in really the one to ask? And if someone who does experience it stands up to say, "Here's what I experienced; I believe I have been treated wrongly because I'm a white male" who am I to say, "No, no, that's not discrimination, that's not disrespect; just look at what these other people went through. Yours is nothing compared to that. Your feelings are completely without justification."? I'm just against that type of response on principle.

Ampersand said...

Well, Rachel, I think this woman is serious. Very serious.

"The truth is, your "average white boy" in America is a pretty decent human being. Yes, various minority groups have been treated poorly in our nation's history. Yes, women haven't always been recognized and valued as equals. But guess what? It ain't my son's fault, and he shouldn't be treated as if it is.

Her poor son, being blamed for the fact that "various minority groups have been treated poorly in our nation's history."

Treated poorly? Words don't begin to describe. Her son is not being discrimated against. Her son is part of the flow of history as it attemps to make recompense for agregious wrongs.

Her attitude is pathetic and self-absorbed. We are our brothers keepers.

I think your point that no group deserves disrespect, or poor portrayal in the media is quite valid. But Hagelin reaches much, much further than that. You are defending her with subtle points that she didn't even make.

For her to imply that what white men or boys go through is even in the same league as any historical discrimination is just patently absurd. And I doubt she was using hyperbole, since she took such time in her column to document how many wrote to her to affirm what she said on the show.

I just have to disagree with you here Rachel. Strongly.

Rachel said...

I just have to disagree with you here Rachel. Strongly.

Disagree strongly with what--that she was using hyperbole? That's cool; disagree away. Say I take your interpretation, though, that she really was equating her son's situation with the worst crimes against humanity the world has ever known, what's the difference? She might be the biggest dimwit around or, worse yet, the quintessential "evangelical woman of the year" (I sense a collective wince and shudder in the audience here), and she might be pathetic and self-absorbed, but the central question she asks, if you get past the cliched drum-beating (from either end of the spectrum), is "Does bashing of white males exist?" Quibble for hours over whether what she described is discrimination or disrespect or a justified corrective for past abuses by white males or a tempest in a teapot or sour grapes or just bad TV, but the question is still there, and how it is answered (not just the answer given but the manner in which that answer is arrived at) says something. I just hate to see honest questions that affect real people's lives answered with eye-rolling and straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel instead of an effort to get to the heart of what's being said, where the person is coming from, the bit that asks me to evaluate myself instead of the author. I know you know the kind of response I'm talking about--that whole "puh-leeze, give me a break" thing. I do it a lot, which is why I know it doesn't help. Makes me feel great to put myself in the "gets it" club, but it doesn't help, and it's the kind of thing that leads inevitably to discrimination. As my dear mother says, "Two wrongs don't make a right."

Ampersand said...

Yes, disagree that she was using hyperbole and disagree that her main point was about white-male-bashing.

Her point was discrimination, and she used bashing as part of her argument.

I'm not for bashing, but I'm not for her kind of self-pity and whining either.

And, no, I'm not wincing at her evangelical status, just her ideas. I think you know me better than that. Even when I do have a knee-jerk reaction, I take the time to honestly try to hear the other person.

We can agree to disagree.

Rachel said...

Her point was discrimination, and she used bashing as part of her argument.

You could be right about that. In my own mind, the difference between the two is only in degree, not kind, though, so a willingness to summarily dismiss as pathetic and self-indulgent or minimize or fail to take seriously charges of one is a willingness to open the door to the other. Why do you think people couldn't see that women or blacks were (and are) being discriminated against in ugly and evil ways? I think it's because they had a long history of rolling their eyes and thinking women and blacks were making mountains out of molehills.

I'm not for bashing, but I'm not for her kind of self-pity and whining either.

You say below that you "take the time to honestly try to hear the other person." So what else did you hear besides self-pity and whining?

Even when I do have a knee-jerk reaction, I take the time to honestly try to hear the other person.

I know you try to. Whether you succeed (or whether anyone who prides himself or herself in truly listening succeeds) is another matter altogether, not one that the person in question can answer. The only one who can answer that is the one whose view is being dissected. If the author of that article had read Julie's article and the comments here, do you think she would have felt that she had been listened to?

Ampersand said...

I'm not sure what the author would have thought of Julie's column. It would be interesting to ask her.

julieunplugged said...

Quick comment.

This blog can't possibly address the feelings of a not-present person. My column is to be the topic of discussion, not anyone's ability to hear or not someone else's point of view expressed in another column.

So if anyone wants to discuss where discrimination of white males occurs that contradicts the points I made in my article, that's fine. But there is no obligation to try to hear the point of view of someone who is not here to talk to.

Rebecca has asked for feedback to her column via email (which I sent her, in fact). If you would like to give her feedback about her article, feel free in an email directed to her. But let's not do that on this blog. Too theoretical for my purposes.

Last thing: please remember that the dynamics of column writing are very different than sitting across the table for coffee to discuss things. My column was meant to provoke (as I imagine Rebecca's was too).

The blog is the place to discuss the ideas that the column generated, not to evaluate anyone's willingness to listen to another point of view.