Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Giving the devil his due

"To give the devil his due"

Admit it when there is some good even in a person you dislike. This saying appears in Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes.

-The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. 2002.

Constable: I will cap that proverb with 'There is flattery in friendship.'
Orleans: And I will take up that with 'Give the devil his due.'

-Henry IV Part 1

Some ways back in my post 'Can you think?' I set out a set of self-examination questions designed to tell if you're actually thinking or just reacting to stimuli like one of Pavlov's dogs or Skinner's pigeons.


Number five was: How often have you listened to two sides of an issue and concluded that you agreed with someone you disliked and disagreed with someone you liked?

Since then I've thought of a related point: How far are you willing to give credit for specific ideas and accomplishments of people who your are in general totally opposed to?

Years ago during the Reagan administration I recall talking with an insufferable youth who was heaping scorn on Reagan for saying that trees cause pollution.

Understand something, I didn't like Reagan either then. My opinion of him has since risen considerably, but at the time I feared that he would give free market/libertarian principles a bad name by applying them inconsistently, leaving us with a mess that socialists could point to and say, "Look what your free market has done."

However, what I pointed out was that soft wood trees do indeed cause pollution when their sticky sap sublimes into the atmosphere. That ain't factory smoke over the Great Smokey Mountains.

Unlike factory smoke however, when rain brings it down into the soil, it's fertilizer. But in the air it's just as bad for your lungs.

The kid didn't see why I'd say anything good about Ronald Reagan - even to correct a factual error said in criticism.

Obviously he wasn't thinking, he was reacting.

I mentioned recently that Gloria Steinem had a point about John McCain - albeit expressed in an obnoxious and utterly uncalled for manner, that McCain's suffering as a POW said nothing as to his credentials for executive office.

And in fact to McCain's credit, he has claimed nothing of the sort. Unlike John Kerry, who chose to run on his military record when it was so manifestly open to criticism.

Hey, whatever you think about the validity of the Swift Boat charges, it has to say something that virtually every individual who served with, above or under Kerry appears to intensely dislike him.

I also intensely dislike John Kerry, which is why I'll use him in a 'give the devil his due' exercise.

When John Kerry said, "I voted for that bill before I voted against it" he was ridiculed by the Right. The smooth-talking sophisticate trips over his own tongue!

Well, no. Perhaps he could have explained it better, but this happens all the time in congress, and for good reason.

A bill doesn't just get written, argued about, then passed - or not. It gets changed in committee. Things get added, often having no relationship to the purpose of the original bill.

"Hey, this bill is absolutely necessary to protect our country in dangereous times. It just needs this teeney-tiny appropriation for the imitation Camembert industry in my district to make it perfect!"

A more humorous example might be Tom Cruise.

(Give the devil his due by all means, but you can't find anything humorous about John Kerry.)

Tom Cruise, like all Scientologists, is nuts.

Ooooh, bad, bad, you made a generalization!

Yep. And a valid one at that. Yes, I know there are perfectly competent people among Scientologists. John Travolta may be one of the most widely qualified pilot alive these days for example.

And after all, you don't build a powerful multi-billion-dollar movement by being entirely stupid.

Nonetheless, they're nuts. And dangerous. As in bust your head and sue you down to your underwear dangerous.

It's been known in Sci-Fi circles forever, that Scientology (in it's original incarnation as Dianetics) started when L. Ron Hubbard bet Forrest Ackerman at a convention that he could start a new religion and make money at it.

So I'm going to defend Cruise for his widely-ridiculed jumping on the couch episode on Oprah.

Hey guys, he was (and we hope still is) madly in love with a pretty and charming girl who thinks the world of him. You go home and tell your Significant Other that you'd never lower yourself to expressing your love for her in such an undignified fashion in public!

I'd do it for you honey. And happy Mother's Day.

And while I'm at it, what about Oprah?

I know she's flakey New-Agey. Worse, she's naive to the point of idiocy sometimes.

She once had on her show (on one of the infrequent times I've caught it) the parents of a young American girls who is doing hard time in Peru, "Just because she wanted to help people."

She wanted to help people by aiding Shining Path, through one member who was evidently her boyfriend, a fellow with a fair amount of "direct action" credit to his name.

Now I've been in some tight spots where I devotely wished the US Embassy would show up threatening good old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy - but I say, let the bitch sit there.

But, with whatever else you could say about Oprah, she encourages people to read! That gets points in my book.

So why not try this for an exercise? Who do you have to grit your teeth for and say, "Well to give the devil his due..."?

Note: My wife reads these, usually a while after I've posted them. Notice the sneaky Mother's Day card?


  • At 6:08 PM, Blogger Ted said…

    Looking for a redeeming virtue can be fun.
    About the closest I get is when a pearl of wisdom drops from the mouth of what's generally conceded to be an utter fool:
    "In the space where fear used to live, love is allowed to grow." - Michael Jackson (We just won't thoroughly investigate what kind of "love" he was talking about)
    "Some look at what is and ask why. I look at what could be and ask Why not?" - Sen. Edward Kennedy.
    "Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world; it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead.

  • At 6:18 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    I think that was Bobby Kennedy, though perhaps ghostwritten by the likes of Pierre Salinger. Nonetheless, it's pretty good.

    Margaret Mead had a distinguished enough career later, but it's generally, though discretely, acknowledged that in her first fieldwork in Samoa, she went there and found what Franz Boaz told her to find.

    the International Society for Individual Liberty (ISIL.org) uses that quote on their newsletter.


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