A little more than a month ago I was reading a piece in the New York Times titled, ON STREET, CROWD GIVES LOUDER SIDE OF HEALTH LAW ARGUMENT. In it a passage read: “Linda Ensor, a former newspaper editor from Summerville, S.C., and an opponent of the law who came to the rally with her local Tea Party chapter, also felt nostalgic for the past. “This is not the America we grew up in,” she said, holding a handmade sign that read, “Give us back our America.” Among the changes she lamented were teachings about global warming in school textbooks, large amounts of new government regulations—and the pledging of allegiance, she said, to the earth, not America.
The first thing I did was vomit.
The second thing I did was contact Linda, via Facebook, to ask if she’d consider being Quazed.
And here’s the best part—she agreed. And, in the ensuing days, was fantastic in doing so. In person, we’d share, oh, zero political beliefs. I think Barack Obama is an excellent president. Linda thinks Barack Obama is a socialist intent on ridding America of all guns. I think Sarah Palin is a moronic loon. Linda thinks Sarah Palin would make a sound president (were it not for the media’s nonstop attacks). I think climate change is a serious threat to our nation. Linda, well, does not.
And yet, in reading her answers and exchanging some e-mails, I came to like Linda, and appreciate—to a certain degree—some of her stances. Do I agree with her? Not at all. But I can dig anyone willing to take a position in the name of national pride. And while I do not think Linda Ensor is correct in her points, I do find her to be genuine and sincere. Which matters.
Here, Linda explains why Barack Obama is awful, why climate change is garbage, why Jeb Bush is on her presidential short list and why “Ballad of the Sad Café” is an excellent film. Linda, who is very involved in the 9/12 Project, knows I’m a hard-core liberal, and I appreciate her still agreeing to be here.
Linda Ensor, the Quaz (but hopefully not the presidency) is yours …
JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Linda, so I first came upon your name in a March 27, 2012 New York Times article headlined, ON STREET, CROWD GIVES LOUDER SIDE OF HEALTH LAW ARGUMENT. Linda, as I made clear when I contacted you, I don’t agree. Like, I don’t even come close to agreeing. But I do promise to be open-minded. So let me first ask—why would anyone possibly lament the teaching of global warming. It has been documented again and again and again and again by the world’s most reputable scientists. I mean, the evidence seems, from my vantage point, to be beyond overwhelming. So tell me what I’m missing.
LINDA ENSOR: What you’re missing is the guy who started the Weather Channel say it’s a major scam, for one. P.J. O’Rourke (you know him, humor writer frequently in Rolling Stone, etc.) asked in 1994 in his book “All the Trouble in the World,” so where’s that Ice Age they’ve been carrying on about? We should all be bearing parkas and plugging our car batteries into chargers by now if THAT prediction panned out. Scientists make their livings making predictions; doesn’t seem to matter if they’re right or not because they can always change it based on new data.
Global warming has pretty much been written off outside of California and New York because it seems that a lot of those scientists falsified or exaggerated their stats, and that’s why I object to it be woven into our kids’ textbooks. Our kids are being brainwashed about social and environmental issues, and it’s just plain wrong.
Now, on the increase in government regulation: It’s mind-boggling; if the people who pass them don’t know what they are, how can they be followed? The regulations are strangling our businesses, right down to Susie’s Lemonade Stands.
J.P.: Oftentimes when I hear members of the Tea Party say things like, “Give back our America” and “This is not the America we grew up in,” I interpret it to mean, “We don’t like having a dark-skinned president with a weird name.” Am I off on this? And what, specifically, is your beef with the president (I’m assuming you have one)?
L.E.: Good thing you’re not earning your living as an interpreter. What your question really says to me is, if you don’t like this President, the only explanation is that you must be prejudiced, and that’s where you go off-track immediately. I was proud that America had elected a black President; I would love to see a woman President. I was actually very interested in Obama when I first heard him speak at the convention, and I remember saying to my son (a liberal Democrat in New York State, how did I go so wrong?), hey, this guy sounds great. Then the more I learned about him, the less I liked about him.
Hope and change? We lived in the most amazing country in the history of the world, so what was it people wanted to change? It turns out that the dreams of Obama’s father were of a creating a nightmare in America; since we have so much more than other people in the world, he must level it to the third-world countries so that we too will suffer higher unemployment, a shocking number of people on welfare and food stamps, a government takeover of banking, insurance, the auto industry, etc. I don’t like any of this, and by extension, I don’t like the person at the top, no matter what he/she is.
People aren’t prejudiced against skin color as much as against people who don’t behave. It’s a sad fact that more young black males do commit a lot of the crimes, and it’s because they are not successful in education. Let’s fix THAT, and the rest will work itself out.
Why isn’t the point made that prejudice in America has improved dramatically in only 50 years, historically a tick of the clock? Again, why aren’t we taking credit for this? Prejudice of some sort will always exist (cat people are prejudiced against dog people, people who love expensive dinners think people who eat Big Macs are disgusting); human nature can’t be legislated beyond a certain point. It’s biological, apparently, to need to have someone who’s doing worse than you are.
J.P.: What do you mean about the pledging of allegiance to the earth, as opposed to America? I’m not mocking by any means—I genuinely don’t understand what point you’re trying to make.
L.E.: There are a few schools who are actually pledging allegiance to the Earth, instead of to America. Oh please, how cute!
J.P.: So here’s what I know about Linda Ensor. You’re a former newspaper editor from South Carolina, you attended the University of Nebraska, you’re from Sioux City, Iowa, you’re a New York Giants fan and you like Dancing with the Stars. I’d love to know more. Who are you? What’s your journalism background? And what led you to become politically active and, I suppose, outspoken?
L.E.: I’ve got one of those checkered pasts that ranges from a stint as a matchmaker to Regional Director/fundraiser for the Easter Seal Society, to head of an editing and proofreading department at a large financial firm and all kinds of other stuff; apparently I get bored easily and move on, but I’ve always reverted to writing/editing/photography. Fun stuff included playing and coaching volleyball and tennis. You probably couldn’t have paid me to go to a political event, although I’ve always voted. This is all new to me, and like a lot of the 9.12ers, I really don’t understand why it has taken over my life. But maybe it’s this: We are frightened for our country; we are frightened of this government. Today the President’s people said that since Congress won’t do what O wants them to do, he is going to go around them (as he has been doing more and more) by using Executive Orders. That should frighten anyone who hears it, even if they agree with his goals.
I see my role (and that of the 9.12 movement) as educating people on what is really happening, not what we are being told is happening … there’s a big difference. It’s almost impossible to find straight, unbiased news anywhere. Then we teach them how to make their opinions known effectively (by getting involved with their school boards, and knowing their legislators personally, going to state legislative meetings, etc.) I don’t know a single 9.12er who would be caught dead behaving like the Occupy people.
J.P.: To say I loathe the NRA is no understatement. I loathe the NRA with every bone in my body. I can appreciate the Second Amendment, inthat people have a limited right to own a firearm. But the extent to which the NRA has taken things—fighting for the rights to pack on college campuses; in national parks; to slash waiting periods as long as possible—well, it all sickens me. Do you agree or disagree? And why?
L.E.: Without the right to bear arms and defend ourselves, we might as well be living in Venezuela. If the government succeeds in taking guns away from the citizens, as they are clearly gearing up to do, who will still have them? The criminals, who will always be able to get what they want, and the government. Are you okay with that? I’m not.
No one needs to own assault weapons, or machetes for that matter; there’s nothing wrong with a seven-day waiting period before you can buy a handgun. And you thought we couldn’t agree on anything! Ha!
Could any of the killings that have happened on college campuses and national parks been averted had the victims/teachers/passersby been armed? Some such nightmares have been thwarted by someone who was carrying, and thank God they were there.
Americans agreed in 1776 to abide by certain codes of behavior, and if the right to defend yourself was seen as important enough to become the Second Amendment, those guys were a whole lot smarter than I am. Far from being out-of-date, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc. is just the opposite. How they could foresee the problems we are having is amazing, but they did, and they set up excellent guidelines for us.
J.P.: It’s been said repeatedly and repeatedly that the media is controlled by the liberal elite. Yet every time I get in a car—anywhere in America—all I can land is far-right talk. Why doesn’t this count?
L.E.: Beats me. I don’t like far-right any better than I like far-left. Jonah Goldberg, in “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.” Goldberg points out that most journalism professors are extremely liberal (surely we can agree at least on this?). Journalism students think they are middle-of-the-road because they have been surrounded for four years by people who all think alike. Thankfully we have the John Stossels of the world, who remind us that some common-sense, analytical journalists are still out there. Let’s be honest, the news media has really let its viewers down as far as reporting critically or researching government adequately today. That’s why readership and viewership is way down. I have hopes, though … I see signs that they are beginning to wake up.
I went to the first rally in Washington, in 2010. All the roads, buses and trains had to be shut down because the city literally ran out of room. Mall police said later that based on aerial photos, etc., they estimated more than two million people were there. And yet the highest count we heard reported was a couple of thousand. Will the people who were there ever really believe news reports again? Doubt it.
J.P.: When I think of the Tea Party, I think of—just being honest—a bunch of white people who think government is evil and guns are fantastic. How am I wrong?
L.E.: We do have a bunch of white people, bless their hearts. What’s wrong with that? But we also have blacks, Asians, Filipinos, Mexicans, young, old … you name it. I’d bet you’ve never been to a 9.12 Project meeting. My 9.12 Project had six original organizers, one of whom is black.
You want to hear some serious shouting and name calling? Go to a union rally, not a Tea Party; those people are seriously out of control. Who are they, anyway? I see them in Indiana, for example; they would rather destroy the state and its residents than give up what they should never have had in the first place. The greed is hard to believe; it’s so foreign to how my generation was raised.
J.P.: Over the course of the next nine months Mitt Romney will be busting his ass to A. Convince the right that he’s one of them; B. Convince the left that he’s one of them. What does he have to do—if anything—to land your vote? And is it possible you’d abstain, or vote for a third party candidate?
L.E.: Abstain? Are you kidding? No way. A vote for Obama is a vote for socialism, and perhaps more likely fascism. Obama’s purpose is clear, from spreading the wealth to destroying America’s values. Why can’t you libs admit that the man who was the furthest-left man in Congress is now the furthest-left president? My liberal Dem neighbor says the only thing she doesn’t like about Obama is that he isn’t Democratic enough for her. Her refrigerator is covered with his postcards (Michelle and I can’t wait to have you over for dinner! Just send in 3 bucks for your chance to meet the girls!) Fair enough; I can respect her opinion; it’s the people who either don’t know or who deny what’s happening who depress me.
Speaking of the Democrats, Charles Barkley once said that poor blacks have always voted Democratic and they are still poor. It’s the conservatives who want better education for everyone in order to get them off public assistance; the social programs promoted by the Democratic Party have been proven not to work, and to keep people down instead of helping them to become independent and ultimately successful.
J.P.: Getting back to climate change—here’s a case I’ve been waiting for someone from the right to answer. I’ll ask you, Linda: OK, let’s say I’m wrong, and climate change doesn’t exist. Well, that would suck, and maybe we’d waste a ton of money. But we’d invest in cleaner air, and probably start some new industry. If you’re wrong, however, we’re screwed. S-c-r-e-w-e-d. Earth melting in an irreversible way. You’re not a scientist—so why not err on the side of caution? Because if you’re wrong, and we do nothing, it’s a nightmare.
L.E.: Do I need to point out that we don’t have a ton of money left to blow on this or anything else? Or that most of these new energy businesses aren’t succeeding? Or that polar caps have been melting for millions of years, that’s what they do?
America has been cleaning up its act. Maybe it’s not perfect here, but the environmental problems are horrendous in China, India, etc., and they have said flat out, tough darts. Does that mean we shouldn’t keep working on it? Of course not. I’ve been recycling my stuff since the 70s; somewhere my egg cartons and Coke bottles have been crunched up and made into Playtex bras. Again, why don’t we give ourselves credit for what we have done instead of the constant hammering of how bad America is?
But for the sake of argument, let’s say the polar caps do melt, and the polar bears die, and the oceans rise 25 feet. Isn’t evolving what the earth has always done? And haven’t humans evolved in whatever way was necessary to survive? We are better equipped to survive whatever happens now than ever before. Noah had his ark; I have my kayak …
J.P.: Do we need more religion in government?
L.E.: No, we just need to keep the symbols of religion in place as they have always been. Eighty percent of Americans describe themselves as religious; sounds like a solid majority to me. You don’t want to bow your head and pray? Fine, don’t, doesn’t bother me at all, but don’t keep others from their right to do so. How can a cross on a hill offend anyone? If you don’t like it, don’t look at it but don’t take it away from those who love it.
• Five reasons for someone to make Summerville, S.C. his next vacation destination?: 1. The town absolutely drips with wisteria and the azaleas are on fire in the spring! 2. The historic houses in nearby Charleston are wonderful! 3. If the sun is out, so are the alligators! 4. When you need to pull out onto a Main Street, they slow down to let you in! (In New York, that would have led to the one-finger salute—if not gunfire.) 5. People say hello and thank you to complete strangers!
• Rank in order (favorite to least favorite): Hillary Clinton, TupaC Shakur, Ross Perot, Ted Nugent, Ohio State, New York Times, Sean Hannity, Denzel Washington, Daryl Hall, strawberry milk: Ted Nugent, Rand Paul, Mark Steyn, bagels, the Weekly Standard, Madonna, the Washington Post and the New York Times, castor oil.
• Your top five desired picks to be our next president?: Allen West, Bobby Jindal, John Thune, Jeb Bush, Tim Pawlenty. Let me see, aren’t my top two people of color? Well, there goes the prejudice thingie again.
• Should gay couples be allowed to adopt? Why or why not?: Sure. Why not? Anyone who is willing to love and care for someone else’s child should be allowed to, and people who hurt their children should be forced to give them up.
• Have you ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If yes, details, please: Flying into Omaha one night years ago in a white-out blizzard, I have to admit it crossed my mind, and I’m not a white-knuckle flyer. That pilot didn’t see the ground until after he had landed. We figured he had a hottie waiting for him. Yikes!
• If Barack Obama knocks on your door, do you: A. Invite him in to chat?; B. Tell him to bug off? C. Not answer?: I can’t imagine having a conversation with him. I respect the office of the President and I am (mostly) a polite person, so I wouldn’t want to be rude, but boy, it would be hard to be civil.
• Is Ronald Reagan over-mythologized or under-mythologized?: Over-mythologized. Reagan had a unique ability to make Americans proud of their country, and to surround himself with excellent people. He was the best kind of administrator, who understands he doesn’t have to do it all himself.
• Best movie you’ve ever seen?: “Ballad of the Sad Café” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” stand out, but clearly I like the obscure. Worst? Something about Al Capone, back in the ‘80s.
• My friend Mike Lewis is looking for a creative way to propose to his girlfriend. What you got?: Ya know what? The more creative they were, the shorter the marriage. Tell him to call her dad and ask for her hand; she’ll probably be shocked.
• Would Sarah Palin make a solid president? Why or why not?: Palin is a good executive; she is capable of doing an excellent job but because the media has made a lightning rod out of her, it would be almost impossible for her to succeed, and no doubt it would divide the country even more than it is. We have to come together somehow.