Passion makes up for a lot. Passion is beautiful and dangerous; sometimes it’s scary as hell. Passion doesn’t discriminate between good ideas and bad ideas, between the sublime and the profoundly stupid. The same thing that makes Patti Smith an amazing artist who can transcend her own pretensions makes Michele Bachmann frightening and creepy. Yeats, I think, was only half right:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
You can switch those around, and it’s still true.
The best are full of passionate intensity, while the worst
Lack all conviction
As crazy as it sounds, I respect Michele Bachmann’s passion. As far as I can tell (or as far as I care to look into it) I disagree with very nearly every political, economic, and social position she advocates—but I don’t doubt her sincerity and I respect her willingness to voice every crazy bat-shit idea she has.
But here’s the thing: you have to accept the existence of Michele Bachmann in order to truly embrace Patti Smith. Or Billy B. Yeats, for that matter. Because let’s face it, Yeats and Patti Smith share that willingness to voice crazy bat-shit ideas. If you want a world with Yeats in it, if you want a world with Patti Smith, then you have to accept a world with Michele Bachmann. That’s how passion works.
I’m willing to tolerate the Bachmanns so long as I can live in a world where Patti Smith can do this:
Passion is over the top. Always over the top. That’s why it’s dangerous, why it’s beautiful. That’s why people listen to Michele Bachmann talk stupid shit about The Lion King as gay propaganda, and why people listen to Patti Smith sing her fucking heart out about stupid shit like a man on the run, heading down to Mexico to shoot his unfaithful wife. Passion, dude, don’t try to make sense of it.