Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Yes, I know who Gary Johnson is. I'm still voting for Obama.


I'm not voting for Gary Johnson.

From what I hear, from those pundits and random folks on the internet that are above all the political nonsense, this makes me a horrible, horrible person. Or, to be generous, a really stupid one. One that will willingly trade away rights for security from terrorists, one that is shielded from children being blown up in the Middle East because my focus on Obama's soothing, deep voice is all that matters. One that has compromised their true principles. One that just holds my blue pom-poms and cheers for whatever quarterback they serve up this year.   And as such, any post that might even hint at support for Barry needs to be shouted down, shut down, and dismantled because MY PET POLITICAL CAUSES MATTER THE MOST. MINE. And being that I fully admit I suffer from the same over-inflated, self-righteous ego as everyone else, it follows that I'm starting to get a bit tired of this.

I mean, sure. Perhaps my refusal to vote for Johnson could be because this Obot is just not paying attention. Perhaps it's because I totally heart the Barackster, I have to admit that it is true that I like to look at the White House Flickr pool. And yes, that man can orate the hell out of everything, so perhaps it is because I'm moved by good speeches because feelings. And in the spirit of keeping an open mind... perhaps it is because I'm just a complete idiot that puts more effort into deciding who to vote off of the latest America's Got Talent episode than I do my political elections, even though I don't watch that show.

Perhaps.

Or...

Perhaps it's because I just don't like Gary Johnson. Yes, this is possible!

Because perhaps my refusal to give Johnson the trump card in this election and all future elections ever centers around his completely fake anti-war cred. Perhaps it's because I know that Gary Johnson supports "humanitarian" wars, which I have been paying attention to the political circus long enough to know is just shorthand for "Your wars bad, my wars good" and clearly remember when Iraq became a "humanitarian" war after those WMDs didn't surface. Perhaps it's because Johnson has said he actually might not stop those predator drone attacks his supporters constantly lambaste Obama over, and because - get this - because he wants to "keep all options on the table". I've heard that one before, too! Perhaps it's because he straight up said he won't close Guantanamo, perhaps it's because I'm not going to buy into this whole backpedal claiming he won't do bad things there anymore, pinky-swear, he just thinks we we need an offsite detention center because... tax breaks on balloons for birthday parties there? Perhaps it was his statement that he finds Bradley Manning's discretions "problematic". Perhaps I'm not impressed by his supporters whistling loudly past that graveyard...

 Perhaps I think the fact that he has no chance in hell at winning the presidential election makes this even worse (say what you like about Dr. Ron Paul, but he knew damn well he didn't have a chance in hell either, which is why he could create the illusion of being ideologically pure on these issues which is exactly what the anti-war movement needed). But perhaps I still want a candidate that is an adult, and knows I'm an adult, and seems to know at least a little bit about what he's making grand, uncompromising statements about and instead acknowledges that this is a complicated issue and not a way to rake in support. So perhaps, just perhaps, the 100% anti-war cred Johnson is granted automatically by making vague, non-specific but awesome-sounding statements about "bringing them home" sounds pretty much like all the other simplistic political nonsense that every other campaign makes. Perhaps I stopped buying into the "My pet political issues are more ethical/moral/awesome than your pet political issues" stance a long time ago and stopped using that as a character attack to argue in favor of my preferred candidate. And perhaps, just perhaps, since I'm just not seeing that issue as the best trump card ever that Johnson and his supporters can use to peel off some disillusioned Obama supporters, I'm free to look at other things. And perhaps, just perhaps, I find them seriously flawed as well.

Perhaps I can't really support Johnson because despite all the lip service he plays to the failed War on Drugs, I find giving marijuana a softer classification cause all the white middle class bros are totally into the weed now and we can't have police shooting them up isn't going to stop the drug war and is just cheap pandering to the younger libertarian base. Perhaps it's because Gary Johnson was a big supporter of privatizing prisons while the Governor of New Mexico, and it's pretty blatantly obvious (cash 4 kids, anyone?) that making incarceration profitable within the law-enforcement industry is going to lead to the creation of more crimes to create more "criminals" ready for incarceration which ends up bringing more civil liberties violations than you can shake an illegal raw milk ice cream bar at. Perhaps I can't take someone seriously when they talk about how legalizing marijuana is going to fix everything, because they don't understand that while the War on (Some people that use certain types of) Drugs is sold as a social boogeyman to the public, the real motivation behind it is financially based.

Perhaps it's because I've reached a point in my life where I feel trying to pragmatically approach these issues and make a real change for those around me is more important than patting myself on the back for setting ideals that can never be achieved. Perhaps I don't see myself as the savior of all by supporting someone that will never have a chance to run this country, but thankfully can never prove my idealism wrong when they fall short because of it. Perhaps it's because I know that politics has an real impact on people's lives and is not merely some intellectual discussion, and that for those that do not have the same privileges that I have in this life, it matters far beyond internet arguments and self-righteous circle-jerks because it hits home at the dinner table, or place of employment, or even the doctor's office. Perhaps I just can't take someone seriously when they swear that all veterans and soldiers will receive the bestest care possible always and always and always but also swears they are too ideologically pure to vote for the NDAA, which provides the funds for those sorts of things. Perhaps I can't take someone seriously that actually takes the pundits' words out of their mouths and claims they will use the "bully pulpit" to enact change, as if they fancy themselves some sort of wizard... or dictator.

Perhaps it's because eroding federal protections against discrimination does not strike me as what liberty really looks like. Perhaps it's because I don't believe that property rights trump all other civil rights, perhaps it's because I know that people are a little more complex than simple one-size-fits-all solutions and pleasing slogans about liberty and the Constitution. Perhaps it's because the Obama administration has done more on equality issues than any before it, and because I find it silly to say that a sitting president coming out in favor of gay marriage is pandering but a governor that has no record on this issue is seen as a messiah when he states he same during his run for president. Perhaps it's because I don't find my rights as a woman to be a "distraction" and an so happy that finally, a sitting president gets that.

Perhaps it's because I realize that the position of President does not equal that of a dictator, and as such, a sitting president cannot wave a magical wand and grant everything on my wishlist. Perhaps it's because I know how congress works and realize that half-assed libertarian theories will easily ram a pro-corporate policy through a big-business friendly congress while leaving the pro-people one sitting on the shelf.

Perhaps it's because I'm old enough to remember that election that was so close it was decided by the Supreme Court, that election where everyone was telling me to stop being pragmatic in my voting and go for idealism in the form of Ralph Nader instead. Yet, I didn't see where doing so changed the country or politics forever. But perhaps I did see the wars start, and perhaps I was first witness to seeing that door to widespread surveillance of citizens busted wide open, and I saw this country taken down. Perhaps it's because I'm too cynical. Perhaps it's because I'm looking at a candidate that, despite it obviously being his most loyal and numerous selling point in this election against Obama, seems to shrug off talking those civil libertarian issues in anything other than soundbites but can repeatedly provide detailed opinions and links to information on the Flat Tax. Perhaps I just don't agree with what Gary Johnson's view of liberty looks like, no matter how many flags you can find in his YouTube videos and text images on social networking sites contain his picture with some vague statement about liberty.

Perhaps it's because even though I know a complete trust in government is naive, a complete trust in private corporations is even more so, because once you go that route, you don't have the option of voting them out as your overlords. But perhaps it's also because can I see that false dilemma pretty clearly.

Perhaps it's because of the basics of libertarian theory, and I see an economic policy as boiling down to "Trade in your safety net for this crossbow and bag of beans" as naive. Perhaps it's because I know that it is survival that is key for people, so if we fall on hard times and can't get help we are not going to be Dagny's pet Peter, eternally crying on the train tracks at the life they cannot have, but will instead take any path necessary to keep going.

Perhaps it's because when the most important question ever was proposed to him, Johnson went with the horse-sized duck, which is certain death, people.

To sum up, yeah, I know who Gary Johnson is. And I'm still not voting for him.

Spin that.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Ultimate Online Political Debate Translation Guide


I debate a lot online. I find it to be an excellent mental exercise, and I think it helps me from becoming an arrogant jackass.

Well, for the most part. See, I've been doing this for a decade of my life (literally - excuse me while I go cry about that. Okay! Back!). And as such, I've gotten so accustomed to certain patterns that happen during online debates, certain things that are said and certain reactions that accompany them, that I've started to fall into a bad pattern myself, and that is reading something completely different then what my sparring partner wrote. Perhaps this is a scientific experiment, perhaps it is just my being bored and amusing myself. I leave it to you, dear reader, to gauge if these interpretations are legitimate or not. Or at the very least, enjoy reading them, because we all know that one guy, right?

"I've given up on politics/I don't vote/The game is rigged/Both parties are the same"

I really have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to politics, but I really want you to believe that I do because it makes me look cool at cocktail parties.

"I only vote for the [insert fringe political flavor of the year here] party because I think we need to shake things up"

I have so much systematic privilege that I can treat politics as a joke or social experiment. Ha ha, fuck you, poors.

"Politics is just too hostile and cynical these days"

I don't really see why I should give any fucks about the forces shaping my society when it gives me a sad and The Kardashians are on.

"I don't believe in censorship/I support the 1st amendment!"

There has to be something illegal about you hurting my feelings

"I have thick skin"

I'm going to pretend that I'm really irreverent so that I can be really insulting to you. But the second you say something mildly upsetting to me, I'm going to completely lose my shit because only I'm allowed to be a dick here.

"The issue of race/gender/religion is too prone to irrationality from ALL sides to have a serious discussion about it"

I am unable to talk about race/gender/religion without getting upset. I'm just going to project this onto everyone else so I can still convince myself that I'm a rational and level-headed human being.

"I just want to have an honest/calm/rational discussion about this"

I'm a bit insecure and uninformed when it comes to this particular subject, so I'm going to need you to just agree with everything I say.

"I'll pray for you"

Fuck you.

"We can just agree to disagree"

Seriously. Fuck you.

"Sweetie/Honey/Dear/Kitten/Darling"

Fuck you. Bitch.

"Well, as we all know Aristotle/Locke/Machiavelli/Hobbes/Hitchens/ said..."

I read a book once in high school and the dude that wrote it and became famous and died totally agrees with me. I WIN

"I don't like your tone"

It's really rude for you to have opinions of your own instead of just agreeing with mine, Miss. But if you must do this, at the very least start using winky emoticons and "LOL" after everything you type so that you appear to be a thirteen year old girl and my intelligence won't be as threatened.

"With all due respect..."

I don't respect you.

"No offense, but..."

This is really offensive, but you are not allowed to react as though it is.

"These culture war issues are just meant to distract people from what is really important"

Do we really need to deal with your stupid civil rights and liberties right now when they are trying to raise the sales tax by a fourth of a cent?

"I'm just being objective/logical/factual"

I'm so convinced of my own self-righteousness at this point that it's probably a huge waste of time trying to convince me otherwise.

"Google it"

Even though I'm the one making it, I can't support my own argument. I was hoping you can?

"God is great"

I'm a condescending jackass that needs to push my personal moral system on you so that I can feel superior over you.

"God is not great"

I'm a condescending jackass that needs to push my personal moral system on you so that I can feel superior over you.

"I debate a lot online. I find it to be excellent mental exercise, and I think it helps me from becoming an arrogant jackass."

I'm going to assign some higher intellectual meaning to my behavior rather then admitting that I don't really have a life.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Also, Ron Paul would have given the slaves low cost medical exams, so it's okay


This came across my G+ stream today. In case you don't want to sit through it, it's a video put out to show support for Ron Paul's opinions regarding the Civil War (he didn't think it needed to come to war, but since it did, he supported the Confederacy), and apparently the best way Ron Paul supporters have come up with to respond to the inevitable "What the fuck" reaction by sane folks is to claim that Lincoln was the biggest racist ever and he just started the war because he's just a big old federal asshole and if he'd just left everything alone the confederacy would have abolished the institution of slavery the following Tuesday or something along those lines.

The sad thing is that I can't even tell anymore if this is sincere or a pretty brilliant attempt at trolling. I'd like to think it's trolling, I mean, you have to be at least a little amused by a smug-looking Lincoln hovering over images of dead confederates (I realize that some of these folks were roped in by other means, but still, it just reads "Aw damn, look at all those poor dead slave owners being all dead and shit!" to me). It seems kind of strange to put out a video pushing the idea that Lincoln was the real racist and slip in an "inspiring" speech by Ron Paul set in front of a confederate flag, talking about what a total waste the civil war was. And the jokes kind of write themselves - printed quotes that are pretty racist from a political actor in the 1800s should have you shaking your head at the shame of racism in this country but quotes from the 90s from a political actor? IT'S JUST AN ATTEMPT BY THE HATERS TO DISCREDIT A GOOD MAN IT WAS A GHOST WRITER GOD WILL YOU JUST LET IT GO ALREADY IT WAS LIKE 20 YEARS AGO.

But much like they do every primary season, some Ron Paul supporters become so unhinged that it becomes parody. So I'm thinking that this is sincere, yet another attempt convince the idiot public made up of folks like myself that blindly accept things called "facts" or "voting histories" or "published newsletters", that we are not thinking these things through - so certainly this YouTube video that features emotional images, inspiring quotes, and heart-string pulling melodies will free us from the confines of simple-minded propaganda. And people, if we just accept Ron Paul's completely false and re-written history of the Civil War, then we will totally see that he's not a racist, and that ending slavery was actually one of the biggest abuses of civil rights that the federal government has ever carried out!

Right. So let's just clear up a few things really quick before we get back to basing our entire political philosophy on inspiring 5 minute YouTube videos.

Yes, the civil war was costly, damaging, and devastating to human life. So perhaps one should ask why the Confederacy decided that keeping and expanding slavery was so important to them that they had to wage it. A funny thing that Paul and his supporters keep failing to mention is that the Confederacy started the Civil War, when they fired on Fort Sumter. I suppose you could say that the North goaded them into it, which in turn I'd have to point out that you could easily make the argument that the South goaded the North into goading the South into war what with the ownership of human beings and.... whatever. The idea that slavery would eventually just go away if we did nothing not only makes no sense at all (if someone starts a war to keep and expand slavery, doing nothing obviously would not have made it go away at that point), and the claim that everyone else avoided war in getting rid of it is false. What is really hilarious here is that Paul's claim that we didn't need a war, that we could have ended slavery by buying the slaves and freeing them? Well, Lincoln actually tried to do that, with little success.

Yes, the civil war was about protecting the right to enslave the black population. That this was based in economics (obviously the loss of free labor would mean a huge hit in profits) does not change this.  Alexander Stephen, the Vice President of the confederacy, put it pretty fucking plainly in what we know as the "Cornerstone Speech" back in 1861:

"Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition."

I have a hunch that this one won't end up in any of the YouTube videos.

And yes - the idea that we could just wait around is a statement of extreme privilege, to the point that it is too absurd to even entertain. If you are not in any danger of every being enslaved merely by the virtue of where and to whom you were born, it's pretty fucking easy (and incredibly lazy) to just ask those that are to be patient, grin and bear it as their spouses and children are raped, killed, or sold off to the highest bidder (funny how in that video we don't see any of those pictures) because eventually we think that society will totally figure it out, you know, maybe in a few decades or centuries or so. What is amusing is that I have a feeling that those that support Ron Paul because of his "Liberty!" shtick would be the first to scream bloody murder if I even suggested that perhaps they should do that.

Anyway. The rewriting of history that claims it was over "State's Rights" or an abuse of the federal government came decades later, because apologists for the white supremacist movement realized that blatantly supporting slavery and racism just wasn't as appealing to the public anymore and instead, they needed to code that shit into dog whistles. And what a successful PR move that was; for even though the history is right there for anyone to read, it appears that once you throw in a Hot Air Balloon and an avalanche of emotionally tear-inducing YouTube videos that feature inspiring images set over dramatic music and randomly cherry-picked and out of context quotes about liberty and then some scary pictures of police in riot gear, it apparently can dupe a lot of people even today.

Is it really so much to ask that people at least learn a little bit about this subject before they attempt to appropriate it?  For a movement that claims to be so intellectually above it all, that portrays itself to be the truth-speakers throwing us a rope to save us all from drowning in the a sea of propaganda, they sure set themselves up as useful little tools for the white supremacist attempt to turn this country back to a time where your basic civil rights ended at the state line.

But no war, and weed, and all that old shit.




Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Someone ought to set up a benefit concert for the absorbed zygotes

Big day today for the reproductive rights battle in Mississippi (and possibly the country):

Mississippi voters are casting ballots Tuesday on an amendment to the state constitution that would define life as beginning at the moment of conception.

Initiative 26 would define personhood as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."

Though the text of the amendment is simple, the implications if it passes couldn't be more complex. If approved by voters, it would make it impossible to get an abortion in the state and hamper the ability to get some forms of birth control.


If the amendment passes, it will end up in front of the Supreme Court as a direct challenge to Roe v Wade. Naturally, this can put reproductive rights supporters on edge, but it's inevitable this would happen. Anyone that has followed this debate closely knew that it wasn't ever a question of "if", instead one of "when". If Mississippi doesn't pass this amendment (the last poll I checked this morning had it fairly tight), another amendment will come along, and another, and another. The goal among some of the factions of the anti-choice movement, no longer content with just bullying women by passing legislation that treats them like idiots (waiting periods), makes reproductive health a luxury of the rich (Hyde) or forces unwanted medical procedures on them (mandatory ultrasounds), is the quest to up the ante by taking on Roe itself. I'd argue they always have wanted this, but the tight structure of the establishment GOP prevented them from gaining too much ground. When a party uses these issues as nothing more then political fodder, the worst thing in the world would be to get what they claim to want. However, with the rise of movement conservatism and a bizarre sense among the right that nothing could possible be too fringe to pursue, anti-choicers are starting to eye the ultimate trophy to their own self-righteous grandstanding. And Roe is, overall, a pretty weak ruling.*

What they are missing is that there's a reason the more institutionalized, old guard misogynists are staying far away from personhood amendments such as the one coming out of Mississippi - this could end up spectacularly backfiring on the anti-choice movement, who has seen some great gains within the last decade when it comes to oppressing women. It's not that the ultimate goal is to overturn Roe, it is, but if the court is presented with the question of whether or not a zygote is a legal person, and as such, a protected entity, it's not going to be able to make exemptions here and there based on the whimsy of anti-choicers on a state level. This could be a major setback. The more activist wing of the anti-choice movement are prematurely banking on SCOTUS agreeing that zygotes are persons; but the truth is that bestowing personhood on nothing more then the requirement of something being a fertilized human egg leads to so many legal quagmires that SCOTUS would have a hard time handing the anti-choice crowd a victory. This would hold true even if we had reached a point where the courts stacked with right-wing ideologues in order to favor these sorts of rulings (which we haven't yet, although we are moving in that direction quickly, because Republicans, unlike Democrats, understand the importance of the court system while liberals stupidly vote for Nadar or don't vote at all so they can pat themselves on the back and feel all awesome and non-conformist and shit).

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour amusingly points out some of the legal problems with Initiative 26 (while naively chalking them up to a problem with word usage):

“Some concerns that I had were about out of what I call ectopic pregnancies where the fertilized egg lodges outside the womb, say the fallopian tubes,” he said. “But there’s no question that the wording down here is what concerned people, not the idea that life begins at conception, but that the wording of it is.”


It's not a problem with the wording, Governor. It's a problem with the idea that you can establish legal personhood with something that is so fickle. Yes, if we legally define "person" with the fertilization of an egg, ectopic pregnancies are indeed legal persons. As are Hydatidiform moles. There is no way around that. And let's not even get started on the legal issues that will arise when we consider twinning (one fertilized egg dividing and developing into two separate entities long after personhood is granted) and chimeras (one fertilized egg absorbing the other, can we charge zygotes with murder yet? Probably not, but I bet we can charge the mother with creating a "hostile womb environment" that led to the death of that legalized and now absorbed dead person or something).

That's probably why it's a really fucking bad idea to classify "person" in this manner. And unfortunately for the anti-choice crowd, as it stands now, SCOTUS is probably going to agree.

I also feel that once we start taking it to the federal level it will start getting the attention that has been long lacking in recent years. My mother and I were discussing the Mississippi amendment this past weekend, she expressed frustration over the success of the GOP War on Women and the seemingly lack of care that these issues are getting - "I don't think women today realize how hard we fought for those things" is what she tells me. I realize some will think that statement is ridiculous, as we are seemingly embroiled in never-ending culture wars and abortion is just one of those topics where everyone needs to put in their two cents while at the same time really wishing you'd just shut up about it already. But it did stall for a while. I liked to joke after Obama was elected that hey, at least we might have a few years of peace where I don't have to talk about Hydatidiform moles again. And we did get that, if only briefly.

But a false sense of security or complacency often leads to apathy. Although the anti-choice movement is flawed in many ways, their ability to organize is not one of them, they never tire out. Which is why, as 2010 saw a massive wave of social conservatives flooding back into public office, we saw an increase of legal barriers to reproductive rights targeted at women even when it seemed absurd to do at a time when the concerns about the economy seemed to transcend the culture wars. In fact, the timing seemed so absurd that pro-choicers didn't really do anything to prevent it. 2010 was an election that was touted as being about the poor economy and job market, yet I think we saw more legislation passed regarding reproductive issues then we did any other issue. And the reason this happened was because while pro-choicers were trying to be the responsible ones, focusing on the things that matter instead of this culture war bullshit - the right wing was still doing the culture war bullshit. The fact that we set it aside because we were just too serious to deal with it right now just made it all the easier for them to be successful.

I feel this pattern has been consistent since the days after Roe. I mean, technically women have the right to an abortion, so we can relax now, correct? Like with most issues in this country, progressives have this stubborn idea that if we won it in the past, it can't be taken away. We won, fair and square. So we stop arguing, we stop fighting, we start to make a base camp at the bottom of whatever the next uphill battle will be and let the fire at the old camp burn out. The losers of history, however, have no need to do this. In fact, being the underdog is an amazing motivator. So while the slogans and campaigns and soundbites and protests for reproductive rights fade from the public eye and disappear from pop culture, the slogans and campaigns and soundbites and protests of the fight against reproductive rights have saturated it. And this is why you have so many well-meaning, starry-eyed teenagers of the newer generations waxing poetic about saving babies and posting this on The Facebook:



While having no clue what this sign means:



We are so accustomed to living in a society where we can take our reproductive rights for granted that it is hard for us to go back and remember what it was actually like without them. We can take to heart the pleas for "compromise" with anti-choicers because we have easily been able to ignore what the darker consequences of their movement really means for the rights of women, and what that says about their actual motivations. And we can cringe slightly while reproductive rights are chipped away at but be okay because after all, Roe is settled law, is it not?

Not really. For now, it's fine, but eventually, we cannot depend that it will just always exist to protect us. We need a wake up call. So perhaps the time is perfect for the anti-choice zealots to jog our memories about what sort of society they really want us to live in. So all I can actually say in regards to to Mississippi's Initiative 26 is this: Bring it.

*I'd rather pass the ERA. I feel women's protections in regards to reproductive health are due to their equal rights as citizens rather then an interest in protecting their privacy. Which is why, when discussions of personhood became repetitive and less of a challenge for me, I started arguing from the standpoint of zygotes being people - because hey, why not? - and found that it's not that clear-cut, you still have to argue successfully why special laws are necessary that ensure that pregnant women, and only pregnant women, are required to waive their rights away in order to sustain the rights of another. We see this demand for sacrifice in no other area of law. I think Ruth Ginsberg is attempting to create a safety net for women using this same sort of logic in case we do eventually lose Roe, her dissent in Gonzales v Carhart leans strongly towards the angle that this is overall an issue of equality.

Friday, November 4, 2011

30 Day Music Challenge: 01

I'm not sure where the idea originated, but I'm stealing it from Stereophone, which I should point out will probably feature better music choices and better writing than this little blog will, so perhaps if anything you can use these music posts you'll encounter for the next 30 days as a reminder to go read Stereophone. I won't mind, as I'm really just doing this as a distraction while I give up some of my vices this month and I feel this will be better for my overall mental health than screaming at someone about how I will totally find out a way to reach through my monitor and rip their fucking eyes out if they use the words "job creators" one more goddamned time (although that will be quite necessary at times as well).

But ahem, I am reaching to transcend the anger and cynical nature and run-on sentences that have consumed my life up until this point, so for now, it's thirty days of tunes. Thirty days of meditation and healing, thirty days on a deep and spiritual journey full of love for the self and for others, and thirty days of introspection and self-examination eventually leading up to fulfillment and inner peace. And so we dig in and start our travels off with:

Day One: Your Favorite Song.

WAIT, WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS BULLSHIT.

No seriously, did I just go back to 7th grade? Oh, I'm going to go buy posters and hang them on my wall because this song is like my favorite song ever and then I'm going to make a mix-tape with just this song on it because if my heart could write lyrics they would sound like whatever is at the number three spot on the billboard top ten list for this week and fucking seriously. Who the hell actually has a favorite song? How do you even define "favorite song" for something like this? I mean, I have a favorite song on a daily, weekly, or sometimes hourly basis, but there's never really "one" song to rule them all for ever and ever. I would actually go so far to suggest that if you have a favorite song, you just have it to tell people that it's your favorite song in hopes they'll be impressed by it. I don't feel a need to impress any of you fuckers.

Look, I have songs that I love because they remind me of my favorite places, or my favorite people, or my favorite seasons, or years, I have songs that I love for the melody or instruments used and songs that I love the for they lyrics or even songs that I love for those brief four measures where everything jives just so perfectly before going back to being utterly forgettable, I have songs that I love when sitting in Irish bars and songs I love when driving my car at night and songs that I love when dancing around my house and songs that I love to sing to the dog and songs that I love to daydream to and songs that I use to unwind.

But no, I don't have a favorite song. I'm honestly at a loss for what to put here. I guess I'll just go with this one because (a) it's Greg Dulli (b) there's a wicked piano in the background (c) it's naughty (d) so it's fun as hell to sing along with and (d) I just heard it while driving today.



More deep thoughts and self-discovery tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The lost art of civility

There's an interesting article up in the Times today regarding the decline of "Southern Manners". Interesting due to where it starts off:

One August night, two men walked into a popular restaurant attached to this city’s fanciest shopping mall. They sat at the bar, ordered drinks and pondered the menu. Two women stood behind them.

A bartender asked if they would mind offering their seats to the ladies. Yes, they would mind. Very much.

Angry words came next, then a federal court date and a claim for more than $3 million in damages.

The men, a former professional basketball player and a lawyer, also happen to be black. The women are white. The men’s lawyers argued that the Tavern at Phipps used a policy wrapped in chivalry as a cloak for discriminatory racial practices.


And where it ends:

“I will not give up,” she said, firm in her belief that Southerners still want to raise children who are kind and well-mannered.

“They must,” she said, “or my classes wouldn’t be full.”


I'm not sure how you start off with the use of civility/chivalry for racist means and then end in a wistful tone about how the South is fighting to keep this culture alive. Anyway, Amanda Marcotte tears down this bullshit quite well, so I've really nothing to add to that aspect of it.

But I have encountered the "civility" argument time and time again, and after being accused countless times of being uncivil myself (I'm pretty blunt. I swear. All of which, I'm informed, is quite unladylike), all I really have to say to that is, you know what? Fuck Civility.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about this in the sense of just being decent to your fellow human beings (this is a good thing). Not in the sense that we should just be inconsiderate as hell to everyone (although this seems to be the trend). Just that civility, as we commonly define it, is quite meaningless. I find that overall, it's not about being a decent person, it's about appearing to be a decent person while being kind of a scumbag.

Once upon a time at a site I wrote at I decided to run what I thought was a clever experiment. This was back when the John Edwards affair scandal broke, and as usual, Republican pundits had some very trenchant analysis of the situation. Rush Limbaugh, for example, speculated that perhaps if Elizabeth Edwards used her mouth for other things other than talking, poor Johnny wouldn't have had to bang the assistant, or babysitter, or whomever he was banging at the time, I forget.

This is what we would call an offensive statement. Now, I don't care much about Rush Limbaugh, he does what he does. Nor am I an advocate for censorship (I prefer to let things like this stand as starting off points for discussion). But keep in mind that during this time on the site, we were lucky to have the "conservative coalition outrage patrol", who felt their main purpose was to find offense at swear words on the site written by liberals and would shriek and scream about them until the article was changed or pulled down.

So I thought I'd do a little light trolling with this one. As someone that is aware of all internet traditions, I pulled a shorter, and although I went into detail in the article as to why Rush Limbaugh's statement was offensive, my title was fairly direct:

"Rush Limbaugh to the Ladies: Less talking, more dick sucking".

Oh god, the outrage. You'd be amazed as to what a title like that can do for your page views. Naturally, many folks came on to tell me that wasn't what Rush Limbaugh was saying at all, that I was putting words in his mouth to make him look worse then he was, that the title was vulgar, that it needed to be changed. It was actually one of the few articles that the site pulled from me (although it was reinstated). And for every complaint, I just asked the same question - is it the words that you find offensive or the idea behind them? Is your beef actually with me, or with Rush Limbaugh? Because let's face it, "Less talking, more dick sucking" and "Perhaps you would keep your man if you used your mouth for other things besides talking" are very similar statements - so much so that they are actually the same statement.

So I asked the outrage police - if I change the title to reflect Limbaugh's actual quote, can we then talk about why what he said was offensive? I was assured that we could. If I just took "dick sucking" out of there, we could have a nice, "civil" conversation about it. So I changed the title. As predicted, once that happened, no one came back. Tumbleweeds. The offensiveness of the statement that women need to shut up and sexually pleasure their men because that's all men really want from them anyway was magically eradicated with the removal of the words "dick sucking".

Anyway, I just bring it up because when it comes to civility, this seems to be the pattern time and time again. This is not to say that there aren't things that people say that are offensive. Just that I find what they are actually saying is to be more offensive then how they say it. I can't even begin to tell you how many "civil" debates I've sat through with some folks pontificating the inferiority of certain biological traits that some other folks have. And I guarantee you, even if there's not a racial slur or blatantly misogynist statement or any disagreeable language to be found anywhere, they are some of the most vile discussions I've ever sat through. They are usually worse for the fact that the folks discussing them assume somewhat of a intellectual superiority over everyone else merely for their ability to not swear, they'll gather in a circle jerk, grab out their thesaurus and discuss why members of group X are weak, or morons, or illogical, or violent, or whatever other negative trait you can muster up in such an educated and civil tone, and then it's back pats all around because of how civil and rational and totally objective the discussion is and aren't they all just awesome for being so intelligent and discussing these sorts of "touchy subjects" so civilly?

At which point the observer is pretty much tearing their hair out and wondering, in all caps, WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED THERE? There really is no other response to this situation then to tell these folks to fuck off. But that's the other nifty thing about pretending to adhere to a standard of "civility" - Would you like to take a guess as to what you are called when you go that route? Yep, that's correct. If you dare to actually take on a certain "tone" when responding to people that have just talked about how your biological traits automatically make you inferior to them, well, then you are just being totally uncivil and are not worth listening to. Perhaps you should choose your words more wisely next time if you want to be taken seriously, thanks for proving my point about how I'm totally better then you (snicker snicker nudge nudge).

And this really hits to the heart of why I find the whole civility debate tiresome. It's never about civility. Instead, it's about shutting down conversation. It's about getting away with being a douchebag while still coming off as a good person. It's a way of dismissing someone without ever actually addressing what they are saying. It's about what benefits you, and only you, not about what is beneficial to others.

Which I don't find civil at all, really. Good riddance.