Category Archives: My (largely correct) political views

Patriotism as political correctness

New Orleans is finally doing the right thing and taking down statues of famous traitors.  The linked story relates that “opponents see this as suppressing or rewriting history in the name of political correctness.”*  Says one such opponent:

This is American history, whether you like it or not.

I find it curious that the only way these opponents can see to preserve history is through monumental statues of traitors and enemies of our country.  (Side question:  how many of the opponents have American flags on their cars or sweaters or lapels?)

On the opponents’ theory, the only way we can learn the history of World War II would be to erect a statue of Adolph Hitler; avoid suppressing or rewriting the history of the Cold War by installing a statue of Stalin (perhaps the Russians a few extra lying around); tell the true story of all of the brave boys of the revolution by putting up a statue of George III?

No one is preventing anyone from learning about the history of the civil war, individual sacrifice and brutality on both sides, or who these guys were who used to be displayed greater-than-life-size in the middle of traffic circles.  Books — and movies and TV specials, for those less inclined to read — abound for learning just about everything you’d like to know about those awful years.  Hell, even our ignorant president seems curious about what the heck could possibly have caused the Civil War.  But the people we honor through giant carved slabs of rock should not include those who tried to rip our country apart in the name of enslaving our fellow humans.

Preview of coming blog posts I may or may not ever get the energy to write:  Conservatives don’t understand hypocrisy because you have to (1) be capable of rational thought (“one of these things is not like the other”); and (2) give enough of a shit to engage in it.  And, I suppose, (3) not have your entire worldview and sense of self defined by the need to reject it.

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*I also deeply love this use of political correctness:  now simple loyalty to country is dismissed as “PC.”

Discipline before rule of law

As most of you know by now, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last night.  He commissioned a rationale from the Department of Justice, which he presented to Comey with a cover letter from Attorney General Sessions.

Here is the first sentence of Sessions’s letter:

As Attorney General, I am committed to a high level of discipline, integrity, and the rule of law to the Department of Justice.

Discipline first; rule of law third.

This is inconsistent with the oath of a civil servant, whose first duty is to the rule of law:

I, ——–, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

The attorney general takes that same oath.  (TW:  This links to the swearing in of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which may cause fatal levels of nostalgia for the decency, fairness, and the rule of law.)

Hell, even the oath Sessions took to become an attorney in Alabama requires him to support the United States Constitution (albeit second to the Alabama Constitution — I suppose just in case they secede again) and nowhere speaks of “discipline.”

I, ————, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will demean myself as an attorney, according to the best of my learning and ability, and with all good fidelity, as well to the court as to the client; that I will use no falsehood or delay any person’s cause for lucre or malice, and that I will support the constitution of the State of Alabama and of the United States, so long as I continue a citizen thereof, so help me God.

I was interested to learn that Sessions has also sworn not to “delay any person’s cause for lucre or malice.”  Let’s see how that plays out in the Trump/Russia investigation.

Ultimately, Sessions is a mean, insecure, racist punk.  His need for discipline reveals a lifetime spent fearing independent or abstract thought, essential to support and defend principles instead of people.  He’s the one of those little shits who always surround the school bully, egging him on.  Vincent Crabbe or Gregory Goyle to Trump’s Draco Malfoy.

Image: four wizards from Harry Potter, middle school-age kids in black academic robes. All white. Second from left is Draco Malfoy, blond and sneering. To either side and slightly behind him are his sidekicks.

Prejudice leaks

I wonder about the term “micro-aggressions,” because they’re neither.  They seem to me to be prejudice leaks, neither aggressive nor — because they reveal an entire worldview — micro.*

We all have internal worldviews that are full of prejudices and assumptions.  Some true, some false; some examined, some unexamined; some praiseworthy, some benign, some offensive.  Then we encase the whole mess in the persona we are presenting to the world.  A thick exoskeleton of personality that is all most people ever see.

Image: Michelin Tire logo - human figure made of tires, with the effect of a puffy, tire-encased human.

Many people choose to encase themselves in an open-minded persona.  Maybe it helps them fit in to a liberal social circle or workplace.  Or maybe they genuinely believe they are open-minded.  It’s important to their self-image.  Or maybe it’s important to you to believe they’re open-minded.  They’re your friend, teacher, colleague, doctor, pastor.  You want to believe they see you as you are.

Then they say:

I’m so sorry your husband uses a wheelchair” ::furrowed eyebrows concerned face::  or

“are you the nanny?”  or

“where are you really from?” or

“you must be the first person in your family to go to college.”  or

“you’re so articulate!” or

is the father still in the picture?” or

“I know your kid has two moms, but who’s the real father?”

and a little fissure forms in the exoskeleton and the prejudice leaks out.**

Image: Michelin Tire logo - human figure made of tires -- with a small hole in his head and lines indicating a leak.

Suddenly you can see, in that small leak, the entire worldview that sits inside the protective exoskeleton.  That they view disability through a lens of pity.  That they have seen your skin color or facial features and constructed an entire narrative that has nothing to do with you.  That their views of LGBTQ families are stuck somewhere around 1950.

In many cases, it’s not aggressive,*** but it’s not micro.  It’s an inadvertent glimpse of an entire worldview you didn’t know existed, or didn’t want to know existed, or hoped against hope and experience did not exist, or perhaps they didn’t know existed or had been suppressing or had never stopped to think about or didn’t even have the framework to understand.

Prejudice leaks.

It doesn’t sound as cool as micro-aggression.  It sounds like something that requires padded undergarments.  But I honestly think it’s a more accurate description.

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*I realize I’m wading into an arena that has been the subject of a good deal of academic thought, research, and writing, and that I have 0.00 qualifications to take on that analysis.  This is a strictly non-academic view, from someone who has witnessed many real-life prejudice leaks that seemed neither micro nor aggressive.

**Not bad for someone who can’t draw, eh?

***There are plenty of cases where comments like these are aggressive, but in that case I wouldn’t call them “micro-aggressions,” I’d call them “prejudice” and perhaps also “being an asshole.”

Bathroom segregation as it should be.

Image:  Two bathroom doors.  The one on the left has a stick figure of a human and below it, the words “People who don’t pee on seats or floors, don’t steal plumbing fixtures or toilet paper rolls, throw paper towels in trash cans, flush, and only write witty and  entertaining graffiti.”  The one on the right has a stick figure of a pig’s face and below it, the words “People who pee on seats and floors, steal plumbing fixtures and toilet paper rolls, throw paper towels on floor,  don’t flush, and write disgusting or boring graffiti.”

 

 

PROTECT • RESIST • REACH OUT: a liberal manifesto … with beer and BBQ.

In these Trumpist times, we liberals have three essential tasks.  Spoiler alert:  I propose we all come together at a “table of brotherhood” — possibly including BBQ and beer — to appreciate the important things liberals can do to save our country and its people.

PROTECT • RESIST •  REACH OUT

PROTECT

Protect individuals and groups under attack by the new administration and its fellow travelers.  Whether through lawsuits challenging discrimination and harassment, representation of immigrants, trans* people, and others seeking to secure their rights, or simply standing up to bullies and showing solidarity with their targets, we need to protect our brothers/sisters/siblings from this administration.

RESIST 

Resist the legislation, policies, and nominees who threaten civil society.  Call your congresspeople and tell them Sessions, Bannon, and other regressive choices are unacceptable.  Prepare to work with agencies largely hostile to civil rights, the social safety net, the environment, and other important values and policies.

REACH OUT 

Reach out to marginalized populations whose sense of hopelessness or despair led them to vote for Trump.  I’m not suggesting we reconcile with racism, sexism, ableism, or homophobia.  Instead, we need to reach out to people — yes, poor white people — who are feeling so desperate that they were willing to believe Trump would bring positive change to their lives.  People who rely on Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, or food stamps, and yet voted for Trump.  People who have lost their jobs and are under the impression that Trump will bring them back.  These people are going to suffer over the next four years and we need an organized effort to not only protect them (see Item 1) but to let them know that Democrats and liberals are on their side.  My friend Carrie Lucas said it best:  we need to take credit for the things that are helping people.  We also need to be able to convey the ways that the GOP Congress and GOP governors made their lives miserable enough to make Trump attractive.

And we need to do all of this with a deep layer of mutual respect.  One of Trump’s most successful lines was that he opposed “political correctness.”  I personally hate that, because what I hear is opposition to attempts to be civil to traditionally oppressed people. For many folks outside the coastal/urban bubble — even many who are not themselves “ists” of any sort — “political correctness” has come to stand not just for the caricature of having to use specific words for specific groups of people, but for the entire perceived message from elites that they’re doing it wrong, that is, the class divide in a two-word catch phrase.  Everything from “you’re not supposed to say ‘homosexual’ or ‘handicapped’ anymore,” to “you’re feeding your kids the wrong things and I can’t get a decent cup of coffee for miles.”

We need to formulate, promote, and distribute widely a plan to save America from Trumpism — and elect Democrats in 2018 and 2020 — that can be quickly and easily conveyed and understood.  And then we need to convey it respectfully, compassionately, human to human; to to reach outside, drive outside, roll outside, get outside our coastal/urban bubble, connect with people, and talk about these important things.

Here’s the platform:

  • Mutual respect.
  • Medicaid for all.
  • Massive investment in public education including vocational education.
  • Free community college.
  • Higher minimum wage.
  • Sensible gun laws that treat guns like cars:  readily available if licensed and trained.
  • Progressive income tax and social security tax.
  • Sentencing reform focused on drug and mental health treatment and education toward successful release.
  • What else, policy wonks?

Let’s talk about these important points over BBQ and beer.  Not kidding.  My plan needs unifying food and drink.  An army of Democratic-sponsored food trucks.  It was no coincidence that Martin Luther King spoke of us “sitting down together at a table of brotherhood.”  I see a plan starting to come together.  Step 1:  the Democratic party adopts my platform; Step 2:  food trucks.  Who’s in?

 

Taking Trump voters’ concerns seriously, or, conservative thundershirt.

A recent article in Vox,  Taking Trump voters’ concerns seriously means listening to what they’re actually saying, ends where we need to begin.  It makes a very strong case for the proposition that Trump voters are not — as a matter of demographic fact — poor whites pushed to the economic edge by globalization or immigration.   They tend to be more affluent than Democrats, and were approximately the same as Cruz voters.

Trump voters aren’t economically fragile; they are angry, insecure white people.  The article concludes:

What’s needed is an honest reckoning with what it means that a large segment of the US population, large enough to capture one of the two major political parties, is motivated primarily by white nationalism and an anxiety over the fast-changing demographics of the country.

Yes, exactly.  But how do we do that?  We are not going to civilize this part of our population by telling them that they are anxious, evil, wrong-thinking racists.  (OK, of course, that’s what I’m doing here.  But I’m assuming no one reads this blog, especially anxious racists.)

What we need is something like an anxious white-person Thundershirt (TM), which works very well to calm our dogs when they start barking wildly at nonexistent things that freak them out.

(Image: brown and white beagle wearing a tight grey vest around its torso.

If that doesn’t work — or if anxious white people refuse to strap themselves into a tight, gray, felt-and-Velcro contraption — we need some hard thinking about how to make them feel like they belong in the multi-racial, progressive society we are on track to becoming.  Obviously, pandering to fear and racism is not the answer.  Nor is it appropriate to demand that the targets of Trumpist hatred (blacks, Muslims, people with disabilities, immigrants, women, anyone with a shred of decency) take on the task of being teachers, hand-holders, reach-outters, or kum-ba-yah singers for precisely the folks who are currently treating them like crap.

What, then?  How to raise the dialog, create an inclusive environment, and bring the Trumpists along with us?  This will be especially necessary after the election should Clinton win.  They will be even angrier, barking at even more outlandish imagined conspiracies.

This is a very real question that desperately needs an answer.

Mother Jones: I Spent 5 Years With Some of Trump’s Biggest Fans. Here’s What They Won’t Tell You.

The deep story was a feels-as-if-it’s-true story, stripped of facts and judgments, that reflected the feelings underpinning opinions and votes. It was a story of unfairness and anxiety, stagnation and slippage—a story in which shame was the companion to need.

. . .

We may never know if Trump has done this intentionally or instinctively, but in any case he’s created a movement much like the anti-immigrant but pro-welfare-state right-wing populism on the rise in Europe. For these are all based on variations of the same Deep Story of personal protectionism.

My sense is that we should not be making fun of Trump voters.  I depart from Elizabeth Warren on this.  If we are going to be stronger together, we need to include these folks — not by pandering to their fears and prejudices but by respecting them as people (if not their views) and figuring out how to build a future that includes them.

Source: I Spent 5 Years With Some of Trump’s Biggest Fans. Here’s What They Won’t Tell You. | Mother Jones