Back in college, in between contracting genital warts and protesting the patriarchal structure of the dining hall’s pad thai station, you probably pretended to read some dense philosophical prose by Immanuel Kant. You thereby pretended to understand something called the Categorical Imperative, and can name-drop this term in totally inappropriate situations relating to current events, as I am going to do right now, using clunky, dense prose that you are going to hate, so you might as well stop reading and chastise yourself for wasting this much of your subway ride already. Kant described the Categorical Imperative thusly: you should only, like, do something if you can, like, do that thing in all situations.
Ergo, if I think actor Orlando Bloom is a douche bag, and am willing to put it in print, I should be fearless about telling actor Orlando Bloom to his face that he is a total douche bag, even though if I did meet him I would probably just ask him for money. Or: if I proclaim, “Any White House official who gets indicted should step down and remain disgraced forever,” that applies not only to Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby and Karl Rove, but means that I need to go back in time and call for Bill Clinton’s head on a stick, even though if I met Bill Clinton, I would probably just ask him for money.
I should be able to say, categorically (and imperatively!) that conservative pundit Ann Coulter is a grade-A asshat who spews poorly researched bile that does nothing except bring shame to the written word and stoke the self-serving hatred fires of the gated-community landed gentry. That should apply in all situations — even if conservative pundit Ann Coulter’s father is on his deathbed right in front of me and I have to interrupt Coulter’s agony and grief to tell her what a waste of human life she is, and that had her mother only aborted her, the world would be an innumerably better place. Semi-ironically, the Categorical Imperative is exactly the kind of moral rigidity Ann Coulter likes to employ in her shitty polemic diatribes.
Unfortunately for Kant, the Categorical Imperative is total bullshit, and I say this not because I am a pansy liberal moral relativist (I’m against the death penalty and in favor of abortion because I get turned on by convicted criminals and loathe babies, to end any confusion about that), but because I recently found myself in total agreement with both an opinion voiced by Ann Coulter and the way in which she expressed it.
To wit: Coulter’s unbridled disdain for Harriet Miers, the hilariously unqualified schoolmarm our President briefly nominated to the highest court in the land, mirrored my own, and this threw my worldview into the swirling Nietzschean abyss (keep in mind: I have no idea what that means, as I spent college eating nachos and crying).
“The White House considers it relevant to tell us Miers’ religious beliefs, her hobbies, her hopes and dreams,” Coulter bitched in her Oct. 19 column, continuing with trademark screechosity: “She’s a good bowler! A stickler for detail! Great dancer! Makes her own clothes!” I thought I would allow myself to be shot dead before uttering the following sentence: Man, that Ann Coulter really has a point.
Where does this leave me? With apologies to Kant (who totally cares what I think about him), I never really thought moral absolutes could hold water any more than the rhetorical strength of clichés like “hold water,” but just as I still hope the American people will magically begin disliking the suburbs, or that I might ever become un-jaded enough to fall in love again, I guess I once hoped, like a sucker, that no matter what went awry, I always had my categorical enmity for Ann Coulter. What a naïve Kant I am.