I’m a San Francisco radical.

After speaking with a friend, I realized that I’m not as cynical as I thought.

“You’re not cynical; you’re radical,” he said.

To his mind, a cynic sees the world with a sour, sometimes bitter sense of potential. A radical sees things as they actually are.

I understand his viewpoint. If Katie Couric told America that BP and the government are deliberately misleading us about the extent of the oil spill, she’d be marginalized immediately and accused of bias.

If a Fox News guest said sympathetically that Glenn Beck exhibits bipolar symptoms and is in need of an intervention, Bill O’Reilly might well cut their mike and accuse them of making scandalous personal insults.

It’s an interesting frame of thought to follow; The Daily Show and Colbert Report aren’t snarky commentary on current events — they peel back the veneer that most news organizations wax and polish. Olbermann and Maddow are obviously liberal, but in terms of the topics covered and the guests who appear, they’re fairly radical.

Who else on television speaks as plainly about race as Melissa Harris-Lacewell? Before the last election, I felt a sense of relief each time I heard John Dean and Jonathan Turley enumerate the letter of which laws Bush-Cheney had violated earlier that day. It let me know I wasn’t going crazy, because they knew and I knew they’d never be held accountable.

The “liberal news media” trope is successfully spread by people who cater to the faith-based community. “Faith-based” isn’t a religious term; it aptly describes hucksters like Fox News, Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber who ignore facts in favor of their feelings. Conservatives’ actions and principles seem like they’re largely driven by emotion and not reason. For example, people make fun of and complain about San Francisco’s ban on plastic bags or our minimum wage but logically, these policies simply work.

Perhaps this anecdote will tie this post together: I visited East Texas a few months ago and spent a few days getting to know some great people, including a 9-year-old girl. She listened to adult conversation with great interest. One evening after a pause at dinner, she asked, “What does ‘feminist’ mean?'”

I thought about it for a moment. “Well, a feminist is a woman who feel that she’s entitled to the same things a man can have, you know — an equal chance. And they’re independent. Some feminists don’t change their last name when they get married, for example.”

“Really?” she said. “Feminist. I like that.”

“Okay, sweetie; use it in a sentence,” said her father.

She dug into her ice cream sundae with gusto. “When I grow up and get married and have kids, I’m gonna keep my last name, because I’m a feminist.” She then stuffed her mouth with fudge and whipped cream.

Look out, East Texas.


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