What do you think? Can we in the gift trades liken ourselves to doctors who treat patients whose politics or morals they find repugnant? Can we liken ourselves to public defenders who make a good case, even for those they know to be quilty? Can we liken ourselves to professional "voices" who write tripe for whatever party or power pays them? Is gift planning a profession, then, a job the essence of which is "rising above" controversy, of meeting each client on his or her own ground? Is it a matter of celebrating all gifts, on all sides of every rift? Or, is that the kind of professionalism we associate with those who walk the streets, peddling a simulacrum of love? Can we separate ourselves - must we? - from the causes we espouse?
My dreams for Gifthub are vexed by two conflicting ideals: I want very much to include and honor those whose vision of the good, of the good life, and of a just society, are clean contrary to mine. To exclude them seems craven, close-minded and parochial. To exclude those who disagree is antithetical to open society. Yet, I do think that the essence of our craft is passion. And you can only be so passionate about football in general, or politics in general, poetry in general, or love in general. At some point you have to root for the Red Sox, work on behalf of a particular candidate, develop a taste for, say, Augustan satire, and love a particular person.
Could we create a convention, then, that you are welcome to your cause - and Godspeed. But that those who contribute are welcome as well to theirs, and that we meet here not to write and consume vanilla prose, and to reassure each other how great we are, but to contest our ideas, to learn, and to prevail, though not to dominate, or silence?
The abuses of giving, it seems to me, are so many, that unless we give ourselves leave to speak plainly, or in the indirections of art and parable, we may as well as well take from the snake the gift of the apple and be done with it.
What are your thoughts? Do you too fear that the bland is the enemy of the good? Or are you afraid that, among the free-spoken, self-esteem will suffer? That flame wars will erupt? I guess, as "moderator," I don't fear that so much. Crowd control is my job. Yours as reader/writer is to express yourself fully, with whatever tact or art you can muster, shaking with emotion.
"The lukewarm he spits from his mouth." Was that Christ's answer to the moderate style of Horace, and the well-schooled cadres of Roman leadership, descending from the Emperor and his circle? May we shake the Sleepwalkers awake? Could we do better than the mannered mutual admiration shown by Rick Cohen and the conservatives funders and thinkers whose strategic philanthropy he had critiqued as The Axis of Ideology? When the time came to press the points home, face to face, why did he shrink? Of what value is that insider dance that leaves so much unsaid for fear of giving offense? Even Peter Karoff, a poet and active citizen at heart, dances, as moderator, tactfully at the edges of naming abusers and abuses of all he holds holy. What is at stake is more than our own reputation, or our own cause, our own equanimity, but our ability as citizens to make ourselves heard in the rock tumbler of civic debate. Since these insiders will not speak for us, except as professionals living up to a role, with the courtesy of diplomats, can we here speak for ourselves in our own voices, however passionate and crack-pated?
Well, yes. I am in charge, and I give you permission. Would love to pull Lenore Ealy, William Schambra, Peter Karoff, Rick Cohen, and others into a discussion about Machiavelli (or Satan himself) as models for Strategic Philanthropy. Far as I can see Satan's gift holds the record for measurable results. Social Return on that Apple was infinite. How can we praise the means ("giving") and never critique the ends?