I’m Chris Tucker, not the actor/comedian with the high voice but a Dallas-based writer, editor, literary consultant (i.e., book doctor), and radio commentator for NPR/KERA 90.1 FM. I spend about half my time writing for magazines, newspapers and radio, and the other half writing, ghostwriting and editing books on subjects ranging from education to health care to business management.
I started this blog in March 2007 for several reasons: To see what it was like to blog, as opposed to interviewing bloggers and writing about them; to see if I would enjoy it (I do); to see if I’d stay with it as a daily discipline (I have); and to establish a venue where I could do short, quick takes on ideas and issues that don’t fit my print and radio gigs.
A number of beliefs and principles underlie my work on this blog. Here are a few:
1. I’m fairly non-partisan. I’ve voted for presidential candidates of both parties. In watching politics for almost 30 years, I really can’t think of any great failure or disappointment by one party that has not been matched in spades by the other.
I was marginally involved in party politics for a few years, but, looking back, I see that it was more about having a group of friends than embracing a set of ideas that I had chosen and tested myself. It wasn’t that their ideas were wrong–some were, some weren’t–but while in their company, I would often endorse ideas I really hadn’t thought much about. It was just part of being in the club.
2. I’m a patriot in the sense that, no matter how often I’ve been disappointed in my country, I begin by giving America the benefit of the doubt, as I do my family and my close friends. (I suppose I could extend that, like my hero John Updike, who said that he always gave the universe the benefit of the doubt because it’s the only universe we have.)
I think that most of the time since our country’s creation, we have been a force for good in the world. We have every fault found elsewhere on the globe. We go astray; our reputation rises and falls and rises and falls. But we’ve got principles, traditions and institutions that usually sustain us when individuals and parties stumble, as they so often do.
Besides, let’s be honest: While some few of America’s current problems may be solely the fault and responsibility of President X, Party Y and Company Z, many are also the fault of We the People and Me the Person. Some problems need a Washington or Austin solution, but we should be slow to absolve ourselves from all responsibility. Have I done what I could to chip away at pollution, poverty, greed, meanness? No. Most of the time I’ve gone to work, done okay, enjoyed myself and tended to my private garden. I’ve had a good life in America, taking much more than I’ve given, and that reality tempers my criticism. Maybe “They” need to fix things . . . or maybe there is no “They,” only “Us.”
That doesn’t mean I’m blind to our many blind spots; I just think those faults should be put into a context and measured on a realistic scale. Let our failures and successes be compared to what other peoples have achieved, not set against an impossible standard of perfection. No political system can solve every problem faced by humanity, and many of the most interesting aspects of life have little or nothing to do with which party wins an election or comes out in support of Senate Bill 2340.
In fact, an excessive focus on politics as the be-all and end-all of life almost guarantees dissatisfaction.
Suppose you argue with a friend over some political figure who has pledged to end AIDS or poverty. Perhaps you have bitter words and damage the friendship.
And three years later, what did you get in exchange for that lost friendship? The politician has managed to lead a filibuster blocking the other party’s attempt to mandate a phased-in 1.3% cut in the Supplemental Increase Allocation to the Department of Health and Human Services’ 2010 budget, and you get a letter from him touting ” our ongoing efforts to eradicate hunger in the developing world.” Meanwhile, you haven’t talked to your friend in years.
3. I try to take the longer view of things. During the Clinton years, many people believed that he had shamed and weakened America. Their hatred for him transcended every boundary of taste and respect. To them, he was so self-evidently loathsome that he was almost not human; he could be treated like trash because, in their eyes, he was trash. As a Clinton voter, I was both embarrassed by his behavior and appalled by his enemies.
I had never seen such unmitigated hatred for an American president–until now. And I feel the same way about Bush I felt about Clinton. He’s made some huge mistakes that may have long repercussions, but he deserves some modicum of respect for being the President, and we can’t treat him like garbage without doing some damage to our country. And the people who most resented the Clinton-trashing should be the last to use such scorched-earth tactics against Bush. As they confidently rail against Bush’s stupidity and Cheney’s puppet-mastery, they should remember all the vile smears launched against Clinton. Where does it end?
Update March 29, 2009: We now have a new president, and everything I said above goes for him, too, just as it did for Bush and Clinton. Disagree, protest, debate, but do it in a way that elevates the discourse and recognizes the common humanity we share with those we may oppose.
4. I hope to offer a sometimes enlightening, sometimes entertaining blog, but I don’t do blood sport, so people looking for venom, name-calling and trashing will need to find that somewhere– just about anywhere– else. I believe a constant diet of negativity, bile and scorn, much of it driven by jealousy and a desire for attention, is both unhealthy for the person and unproductive for the society. You won’t find much of that here. Anyway, so many people on the Web have all the answers. Maybe I can provide a few good questions.