Neil Heinen

Heinen: Stop playing me for a fool

Election season means emails inundate Heinen

In her wonderful book on writing, “Devotion,” Patti Smith references a book by the Russian writer and sociologist Serge Tchakhotine which Smith describes as a “chillingly relevant appraisal of the abuse of the masses through political propaganda.” Now how was Tchakhotine, more than 65 years ago, able to anticipate my email inbox in 2018? Talk about abusive political propaganda: I am inundated with it. And very likely you are, too.

"Yes, Walker tried to Kneecap the Department of Natural Resources" was the breathless headline of one recent email. “Foxconn Folly Fueling Family Farmer Famine” was the exhaustingly alliterative headline on another. Barbra Streisand, reaching out to me as a “Dear Friend,” a friendship of which I was unaware, asked me for $1. Why? Because President Trump “lies daily.” 

I got a similar request from Carole King. And she used to think she felt the earth moving under her feet. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent me this “time sensitive” email: “I emailed you Monday. I emailed you Tuesday. Now I’m emailing you again.” Maybe that’s the problem right there, Nancy. 

Stop with all the emails, please. I receive emails weekly from Sherrod Brown, who’s running for a Senate seat in Ohio, somebody named Mazie who’s running for something in Hawaii, Elizabeth Warren, John Lewis, Beau for Congress, Keith Ellison for Attorney General of Minnesota, Jon Tester who’s running for the U.S. Senate in Montana and Dan Kildee who’s running for Congress in Flint, Michigan. And, of course, U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir’s email with the subject line "Won’t Be Intimidated by the Left’s Anger," and “Walker and Trump play politics and let kids suffer,” at least according to Tony Evers for Wisconsin. And on and on and on. Yes, I feel abused. And to make things worse, I get two of each, one to my Madison Magazine email address and one to my WISC-TV inbox.

But beyond abused, which is a lousy word in this context anyway in these times, I feel manipulated, talked down to, disrespected and played for a fool. And I fear it’s only going to get worse as the fall election draws nearer. At least half of these daily intrusions into my life are desperate pleas for money, with impending deadlines of mere hours or minutes which, if missed, will mean the likely fall of the Republic. James Carville, in an email slugged “we’re SCREWED” (sic), wrote I could “sit like a lump on a log — and let Trump bulldoze our Democracy,” or I could “rush in $1 before midnight tomorrow.” 

And you thought a dollar didn’t buy much anymore. One of the extortion, er, fundraising pleas said President Obama has never needed me more. And sure enough, there’s a picture of Barack Obama looking right at me to say “I’m asking for the first time since I left office.” It was the sixth such request I’d received in Obama’s name in two days, so he must have meant the sixth time.

But back to Patti Smith for a minute. She came across the Tchakhotine book in the bookcases lining the room where Albert Camus wrote at his home in Lourmarin, France. And in that powerfully meaningful place, she said she “could not help but thank the gods for apportioning Camus with a righteous and judicious pen.” Camus’s brilliance was, and is again these days, found in his examination of freedom and the conscience and responsibility of writers and artists and all thinking people to not be seduced by a “universe of jealousy, of ambition, of selfishness.” 

Interestingly, those words pretty much describe the political garbage cluttering my inbox. We are being abused, my friends — an abuse of our intelligence, our shared civic values, our sense of citizenship, our compassion and our patience. Hit delete, and then look for words from the righteous and judicious pens working so hard right now. You might even send those wielding those pens a dollar.

Voice For Recovery
This annual fund-and-awareness-raising luncheon, now in its ninth year, continues to grow in attendance and importance. The luncheon supports the work of the Recovery Foundation, the life-saving agency that is doing everything it can to support people who are trying to live clean and healthy lives. The need is great and the mission is invaluable. Tickets and sponsorship information can be found at recoveryfoundation.net.

Pops Season is Here
I have a deep connection to popsicles, one of the most sensational memories of childhood. The taste and mouthfeel of the icy treat are inextricably tied to the endless possibilities of youthful days. Ahhh. Enter Chrysalis Pops. These gourmet pops are made by people with mental health disabilities, clients of Madison mental health agency Chrysalis. They’re lovingly made from organic and often creative combinations of ingredients and you can get them at the Willy Street Co-ops, East Side and Dane County farmers’ markets. Hurry, summer will be over before we know it.


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