Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Dendahl Comment

Last night someone left this comment as an Anonymous contributor on my blog. It is really a great piece of work and wanted to leave it on the main page here for you to read. Really, it is more than a comment about our departing Dendahl.

Mr. Baca: It can't be denied that when it came to shameless and brazen, John Dendahl personified the classic definition of the Yiddish word "chutzpah": the young man who killed his parents and then begged the Court's mercy as an orphan. Live by the sword, die by the sword? Surely, the tale of Dendahl is flush with irony: a man who relished character assassination and the art of the cheap shot -- only to be turned on by so-called friends, hypocrites, and opportunistic opponents. For long before John Dendahl turned his sights on Bill Richardson; long before making his name in New Mexico history as the biggest electoral loser in a two-man race for Governor, Dehndahl almost single-handedly brought the Lee Atwater/Karl Rove brand of national nastiness to New Mexico. You know the type: go for the knees, hit 'em in the back -- truth or fairness don't matter, only winning does. Casting decency and dignity aside, focus exclusively on maiming or destroying "the enemy". Known today by the trendy moniker "Swift-boating," and indulged in with giddy recklessness and amoral glee, its signature is the dehumanizing attack: grotesque, over-the-top damnation served up as the awful truth. Yea, a humble public service to alert the good citizens to a horrible evil lurking beneath that false front of normalcy masqueraded by one's opponent. The anti-Dendahl -- the personification of all that Dendahl and what he represents is not -- might be former Rep. Manuel Lujan, Jr. Now a distinguished elder who served with honor and distinction, Manny used to tell a story his father told him, about the two ways to become the tallest tree in the forest. The first was to reach for the sky, and to grow strong and tall. The second was to cut down all the other trees in the forest. Neither father nor son needed to slash and burn to become strong, tall, and beloved in NM. But the one who foolishly and furiously kept chopping away just couldn't understand why the rest of the forest dwellers failed to see how smart, how right he'd always been. When he realized they would not bestow the honor and attention he craved (and knew he deserved), the man left embittered, casting aspersions on the entire village. -- Now whenever a story ends with a bully slinking away with his tail between his legs, there is often a jolly round of "good riddance," and here will be no exception. But that's not where this story should end. In recent history, it is true the Republican Party has cultivated and improved upon the most cynical and ruthless methods of personal and political destruction. But no party can lay claim to virtue; seemingly all fall victim to hubris, a false sense of security when in the ascendent. The moment a ruling political power's moral authority is revealed as utterly bankrupt should be a moment of humility for all. ("There but for the grace of God go I.") Following his electoral triumphs, Lee Atwater unexpectedly faced an unbeatable opponent: terminal brain cancer. In the shock that forced a reappraisal of his life, Atwater was overcome with sorrow as he faced the truth and consequences of his life and conduct. Before he died, in an apology written to a former adversary, Atwater said, "My illness has taught me something about the nature of humanity, love, brotherhood and relationships that I never understood, and probably never would have. So, from that standpoint, there is some truth and good in everything." And in an article for Life Magazine, Atwater wrote, "My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiring -- acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty." "It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime." It is never too late: not for Atwater's protege, Mr. Rove, nor for any of us. We can repent, we can learn, we can grow. May John Dendahl find the space for reflection and understanding that eluded him in New Mexico. May we all see what we might if faced with Lee Atwater's plight, without having to pay such a price. May our leaders gain wisdom from Mr. Dendahl's experience. And may we all, as New Mexicans, no matter the trend from Washington, the degradations from the Potomac or elsewhere, pledge ourselves to a path that honors our past, our future, and our people.


Anonymous said...


Natalie said...

Powerful. Beautifully written.