Monday, December 29, 2008

Thoughts about Rick Warren

Most lefty bloggers object strongly to Rick Warren speaking at the inauguration. While I have no use for Rev. Warren's views on, well, much of anything, I think their objections are a serious mistake.

It's important to remember that "Gay Rights" dates only back to the 1970's. The changes in the acceptances of women, gays, and lesbians in my lifetime is phenomenal, and actually speaks well of humanity, which is saying a lot. This means that many, many people have changed their minds on the issue in what is by historical standards an eyeblink.

What does this have to do with Rick Warren? He is, among leaders of the religious right, one of the most moderate, and easily the most moderate person one with a big following. Many of his followers are likely to be even more reasonable than he is, and will be important allies on environmental and economic issues. If they can be persuaded to work with progressives on those issues, especially if they work alongside feminists and gays and people they won't know otherwise, they are more likely to change their opinion on the issues where we disagree. In order to get to that spot, though, we can't demonize them on that issue now. We have to give them space to change their minds.

There is much good to gain from allowing people to change their minds, and using persuasion rather than anger. The Right is forever pointing out that the Democrats never kicked out Robert Byrd, even though the senior senator from West Virginia was a Klansman in his youth. This is a silly argument on their part, in that there is no evidence that Byrd is still a racist. Byrd's legacy in the Senate is principally protecting the coal industry and hauling back as much highway money for his home state as possible, but the man has genuinely changed his views on African Americans. He doesn't and didn't oppose civil rights legislation, he doesn't make speeches about black inferiority, he just plasters his name on every scrap of concrete in West Virginia. Civil rights leaders understood that vilifying Byrd for what he used to think wasn't going to do any good, and accepted that he really had changed.

Rigid sex roles were typical through the 1960's. Lots of people who grew up even through the 1980's will have said stupid things about gays and women, and many of those things will have been published. Allowing Warren to speak without interruption will win many more converts than a pointless protest.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

King's X

My mother had emergency surgery this week. Now, had things not gone well, I would not be writing this post, but I have to say that "My mother is in the hospital" is the ultimate "Get Out Of Jail Free" card. Want to evade any responsibility? Drop that phrase and you're free as a bird. Break in line at the grocery store on Christmas Eve? "My Mom is in the hospital." Christmas dinner has only one side dish? "Well, Mom was in the hospital." Avoid a dull party? "My mother is in the hospital." I managed to get out of doing something for Cub Scouts, having someone else over for Christmas dinner, got my mother-in-law to cook my side dishes, and even got my sons to help me clean house. Now, I'm not so awful as to suggest that my relatives start routinely scheduling surgery on major holidays, but I do encourage you to use this as the silver lining to this kind of cloud. I mean, it sucks to have close relatives get sick, but if it happens, use the advantage it gives you.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More on the primaries

It occurred to me last night that I had omitted an extremely important point in my previous essay. Neither Obama nor Clinton did anything to invite people to apply those odd sexist labels. Obama is not an effeminate person. He's thin, and likes waffles. Clinton is not particularly masculine, unless someone defines "masculine" as "intelligent, courageous, and ambitious."

Which is, rather, the point. For nearly ever, "female" has been a synonym for "dimitted, cowardly, weakling." Masculinity and feminity aren't primary sexual characteristics like testes or ovaries. Males possessed strength, courage, intelligence, and ambition. Women were passive, stupid, weak, and cowardly. Male = good, female = bad. A man could become woman by being weak or passive or just by being of slender build or short. Women could never become male, and any woman who demonstrated strength or courage or intelligence was playacting or dangerous. A woman's "virtue" was only between her legs, as explained quite well in the last speech in Alfred Hitchcock's "Marnie." Kim Novak says that she's a liar, a thief, a con artist, but because she was a virgin on her wedding night, she was still a lady.

In this race, Obama has to be portrayed as less than male, while Clinton is still just a girl playing dress-up in man's clothes. Because being female is always bad. Feminists are always accused of wanting to eliminate differences between the sexes. To the extent that those differences apply bad traits to women and good ones only to men, yes, we do. Women can be strong, brave, and smart. Men are capable of keeping their pants zipped and restraining their fists and matching colors on their own. Laundry detergent doesn't make the penis fall off. If the 2008 election can make the point that women are just as good as men, and that men don't have to be brutes, then it will really have been historic.

Friday, May 09, 2008

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Peace Patroller, also known as an anti-war liberal or neo-hippie. You believe in putting an end to American imperial conquest, stopping wars that have already been lost, and supporting our troops by bringing them home.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Thoughts on the primary

It's all but official that Obama will be the Democratic nomimee for President. There are many reasons to be happy at this result, but also many reasons to be happy about the legnth of the primary itself. I know many Obama supporters have been proclaiming that Senator Clinton should withdraw since the middle of March. Now that the nomination really is out of reach, they are getting even more insistent. Let me say that she should withdraw before the convention, but there's no good reason to leave before the end of May. The main thing I want to mention in the post is the reasons to celebrate:

1. 2008 saw the first major primary victory by an African American.
2. 2008 saw the first major primary victory by a woman.
3. The candidates established highly effective organizations in all the states. This will be important in November.
4. John McCain is polling less than 80% in the last few primaries despite running against NO ONE. That is, 20% of the Republican primary voters have been rejecting their presumptive nominee.

Most blogging recently has been about Senator Clinton's remarks regarding her appeal to "hard-working, white voters," and whether this is racist. It's certainly a very poor way of phrasing the idea, what with the implication that people who aren't white don't work hard. I'm certain that Senator Clinton is not a racist. Nothing in her history supports that conclusion. She still said something in a very stupid way. So, what's the proper response?

I think this is part of what Senator Obama meant when he referred to the need for a "dialogue on race." And sex, for that matter. We've established that ascribing bad traits to people based on epidermal melanin is a bad thing. What we have not figured out is how to convince people who think in this way to change their minds. It feels really good to berate people for being wrong on something, but that rarely changes their behavior. If there are a large number of white people who can't bring themselves to vote for an African American, I want to know why and see what we can do to change their minds. For one thing, I want to change their minds because thinking bad things about people based on skin color is a really bad idea. Also, I don't want to give up on any voters that have interests aligned with the Democrats. There are plenty of people who actually think having an aristocracy and an Inquisition is a good idea for this country, since that worked so well for 17th C. Europe. We Dems need to find every vote we can.

Right now, Senator Clinton's supporters are not feeling so great, and I wish Senator Obama's crowd would leave them alone. Hillary Clinton is not killing the party, and in fact the Governor of Montana wants her to stay in the race until his state's primary. I know there are lots of people making stupid blog comments at the moment, but that's mostly an effect of the fact that both Clinton and Obama had lots of really loyal supporters. In any large group, some of its members will have established residence in the tonier neighborhoods of Outer Crazyville. (Liberals live in the nice parts of Outer Crazyville. The trailer parks contain commenters for Michelle Malkin, Redstate, and VDare.)

It doesn't help that Senator Clinton was subjected to really astonishing sexism from her own party, and liberals in it. Kos was so awful I quit reading it. Shakespeare's Sister had NINETY entries in its Hillary Clinton sexism watch. Nine --Zero.

I really don't think Obama faced anything like that on his race. What he did face was, oddly, sexism. The Austin American - Statesman ran an editorial today by Kathleen Parker in which she referred to Senator Obama as "lithe," as in slender, as in girly. Isn't that what all the "latte-sipping" crap is about? Obama is feminine, and being feminine is the worst thing imaginable. Of course, if Obama were heavy-set and didn't wear nice suits, he'd be portrayed as a Scary Thug. As a black man, he's either threatening or feminine.

Clinton, by contrast, is portrayed as an ex-linebacker in drag. She's Tough and Mean and Ambitious and all sorts of other big male things. Maureen Dowd is the worst at this one. Had Clinton had played up her health care and education plans extensively, and worn more pink eyelet, then she would have been too girly to be elected.

Thing is, we have no mental template for powerful people who aren't white and male. Both Democratic candidates are from traditionally powerless groups, and the Punditocracy wants to keep reminding us of this fact. They don't do it in the good, "ain't it great to be an American?" sense. They go out of their way to mention, over and over, that lots of people have a hard time supporting people for high office who aren't white and male. This doesn't get us anywhere. We've been all those places before and left. Now, how do we get to a new place?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I'm an herb

You Are Basil
You are quite popular and loved by post people.
You have a mild temperament, but your style is definitely distinctive.
You are sweet, attractive, and you often smell good.">What Spice Are You?

Okay, so these things are sorta silly. As it happens, I love basil and grow tons of it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Back Again

I can't believe I haven't posted anything for nearly 18 months. Oh, well, I'll be back at it frequently very soon, with more and better content, and maybe even a blogroll or a link or two. Later, dudes.