Monday, February 27, 2012

Lowell and the GOP: Zealotry on Parade

Consider Meredith Marie Lowell/Anne Lowery, an animal rights activist from Ohio with a desire to kill for her cause:

Woman tries to hire hit man to kill fur-wearer: FBI
(Reuters) - An Ohio woman who likened freeing lab animals to liberating Holocaust survivors was being held in custody Wednesday on charges she used Facebook to try to hire a hit man to kill a person at random for wearing fur, prosecutors said.
The details of the story just sink further into the morass of "why weren't you thinking" that the first paragraph revealed. Lowell was so poor at covering her tracks, she used library computers near her house to post to Facebook. She must've had the idea that using an assumed name would be enough. She was taken in by an FBI agent who she talked to about liberating lab animals, claiming it was akin to saving Holocaust victims.

And to add insult to injury, she only wanted to pay the "hit man" $850 to pick a random fur-wearing person and kill them. Which she didn't think would be at all illegal. Did she only watch the first half of Mafia movies and assume everyone got away with it? And since when does a hit man work for that small a fee? I've never priced the market, but I daresay buying a murder must be more expensive than that. There are escorts who charge more than that for a date. Even if you're opposed to all animal testing and fur-wearing, it should be obvious that Lowell/Lowery went way too far.

She's a small example of the larger problem with zealotry that Rick Santorum has been demonstrating as of late, not to mention the GOP's concerted attempt to force women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds before they have an abortion. Over-the-top pronouncements, a clear disconnect with how the world works, and sloppy attempts to force their will onto undeserving people they'll never meet.

Even if you don't wholly agree with the analogy, what point is there in forcing people to go through that kind of procedure or claiming that sending people to college is an attempt to turn them into atheists? And why do something to help that party stay in power? They're clearly working toward making the USA a theocracy, something our Founding Fathers would have protested had anyone proposed it over 230 years ago.

The FBI exists to stop people like Lowery. Since the Republican Party is dependent on the will of the voters, it's the people who get to decide whether they can wreak their havoc and work to stop them. That is why, now more than ever, I want Obama and the Democrats to win and win big in 2012. I'm not sure what I can do, considering my disabilities. But I can at least speak up on occasion.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

4 AM at the Privilege Cafe

The blogosphere got the most fascinating New Year's present: Glenn Greenwald taking a rape analogy seriously instead of dismissing it as being too extreme a means to insult Obama supporters. To add to the joy of the season, John Cole defended him for it the next day by constructing a straw man. Imani of Angry Black Lady was the target of the initial insult, so I will point to her summary of events. I for one decided I'd had enough of Cole and walked way from Balloon Juice as well. I was an occasional commenter, so it's not like I'm a major loss. But I just could not hang anymore.

There's a larger point to all of this, though. The problem of privilege. And there are multiple privileges that come into play here. The original rape analogizer (DrDawg on Twitter), Greenwald, and Cole are all male. And for sure, two of them are white. I'd gamble on the third man also being white, but that's not guaranteed. The fact he dared go there with an analogy of a black man raping a nun on national TV is why I say that. At best, DrDawg wound up seeing a rerun of Two Mules for Sister Sara recently and got way ahead of himself.

I'll focus on the gender privilege. But rest assured, I noticed "black man as rapist" was in there, too. And that's another thing that all three men had best check themselves on. This is white-to-white speaking: cut the crap and get over the 60's.

I could echo those who've discussed how explaining privilege is like telling fish about water. Or I could bring up the house shared by a Siberian husky and a gecko. But I feel like being visual and giving Tatsuya Ishida of Sinfest some props while I'm at it.

Because the moment at least some of us have when we realize we're surrounded by messages that tell us how to behave that the culture endorses and encourages? Feels just like this:

Direct link:

Direct link:

And after that red pill is swallowed, we know. And we can't escape knowing. So when someone tries to tell us it's not there because they can't see it or act as if it doesn't apply in a situation where it does, we get cognitive dissonance.

Denying that Greenwald failed to act appropriately when given that rape analogy is ignoring the truth. Attacking those of us who called him out on it or were hurt by its use is cooperating with those who want people to take the blue pill.

Ishida's analogy also applies to other forms of privilege, of course. But his first reason for using it applies here. Imani and her friends and supporters have taken the red pill. Cole claims to have taken the red pill, such as when he puts a rapid kibosh on people using "cunt" as an insult in his blog, but in this instance he acted like he took the blue one again.

And that's what really hurts. When someone who has acted like an ally in the past circles the wagons to protect the offenders in this situation, it's a betrayal. I almost expected Greenwald to permit the analogy to exist and even double down on it. Cole fell down on the job as an ally. He didn't have to defend Imani. But if he didn't want to do that, he should've just stayed out of it.

I've been the one who blew it before. I have made amends as I could when called on it. Cole doubled down. That is his real offense.

I'm not even close to being the blogger Imani is. But this hedgehog has her back.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Not All Perspectives on Race are Created Equal

By ardelfin at MorgueFile
Let me try to explain something to my fellow white people. If you're white, you don't get to have the same weight placed on your perspective of what is and isn't racist as that of a person of color. Call it unfair, but not for the reasons you think.

Why? Because we are not the targets of racism. We are the perpetrators, inheritors, and beneficiaries of racism. It is in our interest to disbelieve in its existence. We are encouraged to do so in small and large ways. And that racism is what makes life unfair for people of color and biased in our favor.

This is why it is frustrating to many people when some of us insist "but that wasn't racist" is a fair thing to say when someone like Michael Moore or Bill Maher get called out on their commentary. There is an imbalance of perspective going on. And it's not the black people noting they said something racist who are the ones with a skewed set of lenses.

Life isn't fair, my pale-skinned cohort. While intelligences and intellects may be equal, we do not experience the world in equal and equivalent fashions. You and I are protected from the slings and arrows of racism unless we choose to see it. Or more rarely, are forced to suffer material side effects from it. We take psychological impact from it, but that's a side point I will revisit down the page.

And even if you are one of those white people who knows that racism exists and is a daily issue, you are like me and not immune from occasionally blowing it. Declaring remarks by Maher or Moore to be racist is not identical to saying they have a white hood in their closet. It is calling those remarks out for enabling and perpetuating the system we are all a part of. And to be fair, Avenue Q has a point. We all are a bit racist, when that's defined as "prone to use stereotypes as a substitute for clear thinking or speaking."

Back to "I voted for a black guy and got a white guy/Why isn't Obama more gangsta." By saying that, they demonstrated racist thinking. And whenever we apologize for members of our cohort blowing it by telling people who know racism inside and out that they're misjudging the situation, we enable racist behavior.

There is also the sad tendency of many white people to complain that certain black people are "too confrontational." This is another area where we perpetuate the problem. Refusing to engage the content and focusing on the method of its delivery is redirecting. In other words, it belittles the content of the message and obfuscates it behind a smokescreen.

There are times I am honestly embarrassed to be considered white. I am aware my grandmother didn't have that privilege due to her Irish last name. I also know "white" is a status that was created to keep the slaves down and one that required some very dirty play by my ancestors to earn for me. So I wear it differently than some.

I'd rather not be embarrassed by an accident of birth and social engineering. The more my cohort realizes we participate in the issue by excusing members of our race when they misspeak, the easier it is.

My annoyance at being white is nothing compared to the suffering of people of color, though. It horrifies me that some people may read this and feel more sympathy for my frustration than for the real problems with the current system.

But I cannot speak for people of color. I can only speak for me. And to be clear, I consider making some of us more comfortable with being white a fringe benefit. Call it a small bit of proof that improving perspectives on race improves everyone's lives.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why the GOP and Democrats are not the same to me

Photo credit: kevinrosseel
from Morguefile
I know people who insist the Republicans and Democrats are just the same, sold us all out, etc. I used to think that myself. The last dozen years or so have disabused me entirely of this notion. I'm not saying the Democrats are angels. I just happen to know the face of hatred when I see it, and it's not looking at me with donkey's eyes.

Most recent example: the Pima County(AZ) GOP is holding a fundraising raffle. If that county name reminds you of anyone, it ought to be Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The raffle is providing a special prize for the winner, as these things always do. The winner of the raffle will be gifted with a Glock 23 handgun. Giffords and the other victims of the shooting were shot with a Glock 19. And if she'd been shot with a higher caliber gun like the 23, Giffords would likely be dead instead of recuperating.

If you think the Republicans and Democrats are two sides of the same coin, I dare you to point out where the Democrats have ever held a fundraiser that echoed how a Republican was shot. If your first response is, "But liberals don't like guns," tell that to my collection and quit derailing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ain't Misbehavin' Link List

I don't stay out late, don't care to go

Wasilla City Councilman Won't Resign After Drunkenly Trashing Hotel Room

I'm home about eight, just me and my radio

Anti-Gay Ind. Legislator Caught With Boy Toy: ’I’m Not Resigning’

Ain't misbehavin', I'm savin' my love for you

Cyndi Lauper Opening Safe Haven For LGBT Youth In Harlem 

Just struck me that these three came together the same day in my online reading. Two pols acting worse than Weiner did and refusing to walk away and a celebrity helping kids who might otherwise resign from life. 

And now for the song itself.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Republican Field Shrinks By Who?

The other day, I summarized the GOP Presidential field as it stood then. I left a name or two out and added someone who hasn't declared yet but keeps being brought up because she won't shut up.

One of the names I left out dropped out today. Tim "Polenta" Pawlenty is gone. His increasingly blatant irrelevance to the base was capped by a poor showing in the mostly irrelevant Iowa straw poll.

His departure both fails to change the field and points out how hard it is for someone with real experience to separate himself from the pack. Pawlenty was a terrible governor, but so was GW Bush. Looks like Perry's the one who gets to carry that label in more ways than one.

Marcus Bachmann and the Left's Other Little Problem

Last night on Twitter, I re-tweeted someone who noted that they can't stand Michele Bachmann but also can't stand the "Marcus Bachmann is gay" jokes flying around. I agree with this. The whole game is absurd to me for reasons I'll go into. I was promptly told by someone who was clearly a straight "ally" to the cause that he saw it as a valid commentary on "praying the gay away" and isn't it tragic how real the LGBT people's problems are?

Yes, there are real problems for people like me. And some of you are liberals.

We are told every day by popular culture that people who aren't straight and/or cisgender are different in ways that are wrong. I couldn't enjoy a simple House marathon the other day without running into anti-transgender snarkery between two of the characters, for one example.

And the anti-LGBT bigotry of the Right is definitely real. It also serves as a smokescreen for some on the Left to hide their own problem with people like me. And the Marcus Bachmann jokes are the most recent example of it.

I've seen the video footage of him. Yes, my gaydar went off. But someone who calls himself straight triggering a positive reading happens more often than you'd think. Consider the "metrosexual." Or a significant chunk of the male population of Europe. The tackiness of "gay or European" games aside, it's based on a standard reaction set people have. There are also plenty of gay and bisexual men who slide past the 'dar with a false negative, especially to heterosexuals who think they're hip but are mostly reading for signs of queenery.

So Marcus Bachmann, a man nobody has managed to catch with his legs in a wide stance, triggers some people's gaydar and because he has a "pray the gay away" mentality, people think it's fair game to speculate on whether he's gay. Or worse, they decide he's a closet case. And before you can say "Ann Coulter's Adam's apple," we're off to the races again.

The thing about cultural pressure to hate the Other is it's pernicious. It can be very easy to covet the perceived freedom of the openly bigoted to tap into that dark side. And someone on the Right who appears to diverge from cultural norms gets targeted in a misguided attempt to highlight their hypocrisy by people who probably don't realize they're just repeating the same old same old to many of us who have been targeted by it.

The first issue is that his orientation is questioned at all. Without hard evidence, you can't claim he's anything other than what he presents as without it reading as an attempt at labeling. Though to be frank, even if you DID have actual evidence Bachmann likes men, the fact nearly all of the jokes insist that he's gay pulls a double load of bigoted luggage.

The second issue is the problem of bisexual erasure. The culturally imposed binary on sexual orientation and gender identity is the heart of the hatred. Increasingly, the binary of "straight or perverted" is being replaced by "straight or gay," which causes those of us who are neither to continue to suffer while so many who think they're being enlightened to make the change go blithely forward with the new false dichotomy.

So just as saying "Mann Coulter" forces both primary genders into their boxes in the name of liberal attempts to poke at a conservative, claiming Marcus Bachmann is a closet case even in jest both ties gays to the stereotypes and eliminates even the possibility that Bachmann may be a monogamous bisexual who's decided his same-sex desires are something to suppress. Which, I will add, is his privilege the same way my celibate gay cousin is entitled to maintain his virginity until the Pope gets a clue. Even if you disagree with that choice, denying he has the right to make it is arrogant.

I realize pointing out the soft bigotry of the Left isn't going to make me popular with some of you. But this isn't the place to go if you want a queer person petting your head and feeding you ally cookies. Keep that in mind if your first reaction is to start sounding like Derailing for Dummies entries about your gay friends who agree with you. Look up "pandering" and "internalized homophobia" for why.