Blogged with Flock
Blogged with Flock
Blogged with Flock
Blogged with Flock
We're up against decades of bitter partisanship that cause politicians to demonize their opponents instead of coming together to make college affordable or energy cleaner. It's the kind of partisanship where you're not even allowed to say that a Republican had an idea, even if it's one you never agreed with.
That's the kind of politics that is bad for our party, it is bad for our country, and this is our chance to end it once and for all.
We're up against the idea that it's acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what's wrong with our politics. This is why people don't believe what their leaders say anymore. This is why they tune out. And this election is our chance to give the American people a reason to believe again.
But let me say this, South Carolina. What we've seen in these last weeks is that we're also up against forces that are not the fault of any one campaign, but feed the habits that prevent us from being who we want to be as a nation.
It's the politics that uses religion as a wedge and patriotism as a bludgeon, a politics that tells us that we have to think, act and even vote within the confines of the categories that supposedly define us, the assumption that young people are apathetic, the assumption that Republicans won't cross over, the assumption that the wealthy care nothing for the poor and that the poor don't vote, the assumption that African-Americans can't support the white candidate, whites can't support the African-American candidate, blacks and Latinos cannot come together.
We are here tonight to say that that is not the America we believe in.
Blogged with Flock
This is going to be very meta-. Since Matthew and I are doing this little project, neither of us having any idea what we're doing, I thought it might be useful—if only on my part—to make a longer preliminary statement. I do this, in part, because misunderstandings can arise in these discussions, particularly if the issue is race, one is black and one has a significant parting-of-the-ways with what could be called ideological orthodoxy. I am not a political conservative. By any reasonable definition, I am a Socialist for most practical economic purposes. I am a social libertarian meaning that unless there is some compellingly good reason for a non-harmfulact or substance to be illegal, it should not be illegal. I am, on principle, on board with the idea that you get to end your own life as you choose. I believe that the war-on-drugs is a massive and tragic failure. I believe that a woman's right to make decisions about her own reproductivity is an inherent right. I believe that marriage should be a contract that people can enter into and if some wish to impose religious ceremony or meaning on it, bully for them. Since there is no reason why two women or two men could not enter into such a contract, I strongly support gay marriage. I oppose the death penalty on a number of fronts although, to be perfectly honest, not categorically. If someone were to, for instance, release smallpox back into the ecology, death would be a fate altogether too good for them. I believe that it is indicative of racism that so many black men are on death row, relative to their representation in the population as a whole. I am no fan of free-market capitalism (regulated capitalism is another story).
In other words, I am a pretty typical left-coast Progressive. That said, my views on race and multiculturalism, in its strongest forms, are not in keeping with Progressive orthodoxy. Why this is so is the subject of this post.
Firstly, it would be helpful to define what I mean when I use terms like 'justice' and 'social contract' because they're very relevant.
I am a Rawlsian Liberal. Meaning that I take a lot of my thinking about Justice from John Rawls' seminal work, “A Theory of Justice”. In it, he articulates the idea of justice as fairness. As a thought experiment, he asks us to imagine creating a society ex nihilo. We get to make a truly just society, wipe the slate clean and start all over. Everyone involved in the negotiation starts from exactly the same place, as equals. The really clever bit is this, no one knows where they will end up in the social hierarchy; meaning that you don't know whether you will be rich or poor, in the ethnic majority or an ethnic or religious minority. No one knows if they will be male or female. The set of rules that this group of self-interested parties would come up with for ordering a society will tend to be a just one. There is a great deal more to it than that, of course. (It's a difficult book, it took me a long time to get through it because it's very dense but well worth the read. )
One cannot help but notice that this assumes a social contract which is the other grounding assumption I make. I believe that humans order society by sets of agreements between parties. We form coalitions, build alliances, have hierarchies, etc. All of these are relational and, ultimately, contractual arrangements. This may be a good thing or it may not be, for my purposes this is simply what is and what we have to work with if we desire to see great social justice and equality.
There is one last important grounding assumption I feel the need to confess. I believe that human beings are animals and that means that we are what we are because evolution. Whatever transcendence we may attain, however brief, we carry our Pleistocene past with us. We are not creatures of the city so much as we are creatures of the village. This also means that we are neither angels nor are we monsters. This means that there are practical limits to the perfectability of humans and thus, to our societies. I think we are not there. This is not it, there's a lot of work to do, but I think a better world is possible just very difficult to obtain and it can only be so much better.
Again, I felt the need to put this out there first before going to the meat of the matter. So here we go.
In order for there to be racial progress, and I think most folks would say that things have ground to some kind of impasse to some degree, we must re-envision what it is we are trying to achieve. We have to re-think what the struggle is about and this will change how we go about thinking about solving the problem. This is not my parent's civil rights struggle. They were involved in the Struggle during the 40's, 50's and 60's in Alabama. That is not where my life is lived, it is not really the life lived by any black folks in America today. This struggle is different and, to some degree, the greater part of it must take place within the black community. It pains me to write that. It pains me deeply to write it. But it must be said. This is not to say that this work is the whole of the thing, merely that it is a large part of the thing.
It is time for the black community, particularly the black intelligentsia, to abandon the strong form of multiculturalism. The strong form states that cultures are sacrosanct. All cultures are sacrosanct and have rights that transcend the rights of people within those cultures. Such that if one is a person of goodwill one is obligated never to criticize a culture except for the dominant one. What this has meant is that a number of things that really shouldn't be tolerated are tolerated and I am talking about things that have been going on in the black community, certainly as long as I have been aware.
Afrocentrism must die.
I will start with the most ridiculous (yes, that's the word I'm using) idea that I think does harm to race relations in America and that is Afrocentrism. At the core of this ideology is the idea that black children will only identify with figures of historical note or with various achievements if the people who performed these feats are of the same color. So the fact that someone built the pyramids is secondary to the idea that these people were black (which they weren't—these were not sub-Saharan Africans). Aristotle did not get his ideas from the library at Alexandria because when he lived,
It was a pointed statement to black parishioners in the pews. He did not hold back.
For most of this country's history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man's inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays - on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.
And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.
We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.
Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.
This was a courageous statement on the part of Senator Obama. It would be a foolish person who would contend that his words are not necessary or that it took great political courage to make this statement. It's long since past time that a politician of national stature would stand up and say this in the black community. What's more, this should go some distance from Obama's earlier gaffe of appearing with an ex-gay minister.
I wonder, though, if Obama just cost himself no small portion of the black vote with this speech. Not that the national media will take much note of this since it doesn't play into the dominant narrative du jour.
Now, I'm not surprised that he said this:
QUESTIONER: Is it your goal to bring the Constitution into strict conformity with the Bible? Some people would consider that a kind of dangerous undertaking, particularly given the variety of biblical interpretations.
HUCKABEE: Well, I don’t think that’s a radical view to say we’re going to affirm marriage. I think the radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal. Again, once we change the definition, the door is open to change it again. I think the radical position is to make a change in what’s been historic.
The sad thing is that he'll pay no political price for this.
I recently left Butch-Femme.com, most likely for the final time. In my three years, I tried to be a positive presence and while a lot of my posts there were academic or, at least, intellectual they were also, I hope, entertaining. I wasn't the most popular person there, but my personality isn't one that is driven toward popularity at any rate. About a month ago, I started a thread on BF where I asked a question about the over-the-top religiosity in the current American Presidential campaign. In the last few days, a newcomer came into the thread and started ripping on myself and another poster, Matthew, who consistently have tried to use reason and rational argument in our postings. This poster was insulting (to put it mildly) and the end came for me when she claimed that my posts were coming from the perspective of 'dead white men' and that there was nothing 'black or brown' about my rhetoric. I know racism when I see it and this was easily the most racist thing said to me on BF.com. What's more, all of these wonderful, liberal/progressive and allegedly oh-so-open-minded lesbians just sat back and watched. No cries were raised in my defense or in the defense of Matthew, even while these women were patting themselves on the back for how 'open-minded' and 'tolerant' they putatively are. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. All points of view are not respected, despite whatever rhetoric is used. Rather, what is respected is fuzzy-thinking, platitudes and spiritual posturing. Clear and reasonable thought is put-up with but is not tolerated and certainly not protected in the same way. If this poster had said to any of a number of other BF member what she said to me, she would have been pilloried and rightly so.
However, there is more to my leaving than merely a few incidents with a few fanatically New Age posters. In the course of my three years there, I witnessed people doing everything they possibly could to avoid ever being in error. By this I do not mean that folks did their homework to make sure that they had their facts straight. Rather, they took a position that 'all world views are true to those that hold them' which, in one sense, is entirely true. People do not believe things that they believe to be false. However, to acknowledge the latter is not to endorse the strong relativism that has become part and parcel of the American Left. Because if everyone is entitled to their world view and all world views are equally true (well, except a scientific or rational world view. Say that you believe that the Virgin Mary appears in your tortilla, THIS is to be respected. Say that humans share a recent common ancestor with chimps, and no such respect is forthcoming) then you need never be wrong. The logic of this (if you can call it that) is straightforward. If the person you disagree with can never be wrong, you can never be wrong. It doesn't matter how contra-factual the statement is, if you believe it, it's true, and therefore it cannot be wrong.
To offer up another example from BF.com, someone posted some New Age poppycock about a polar flip that is supposed to occur on 12 December 2012. Now, at some point the magnetic poles will flip but this will not be a physical shift of the planet, merely the magnetic poles. It has happened before, it will happen again. Another poster, picking up the theme, claimed that the map of the Earth would change (it won't) and that this would be a sign of 'the final alien invasion' (I am not making this up, I swear). So, it was left to me to point out what a polar shift entailed, why the map of the Earth won't change and why this has nothing to do with the orbital direction of the planet. But did it make any difference? No, of course it didn't! Folks are still convinced that this has to do with the Mayan calendar, alien invasions and the planet literally being turned upside down!
At some point, I had an epiphany that folks not only dislike being wrong but that this particular sub-culture is obsessed with never having to admit to error. From the 'if I don't call you wrong, you don't call me wrong' to the embrace of ignorance as a sign of moral strength and mature wisdom, it became clear to me that the worst thing that could ever happen was that one might have to say "I was wrong" or "I was in error". And so, by unspoken agreement, a mythology has become an ideology. The mythology is that we can get through life without having to admit error. The ideology is multicultural relativism.
Let me be clear that when I talk about multicultural relativism, I am talking about bromides like the idea that Native Americans are one with the Earth (they aren't, ask the Anasazi--oh, that's right, you can't they wiped themselves out in an environmental disaster), Indigenous People are holistic thinkers, etc. What's more, the 'we love this' attitude, which I do not dispute or doubt, covers over the elephant in the progressive living room; these ideas are the very essence of racism. It does not matter that one is coming from the perspective of "this is something to celebrate", the moment you start to say "well, Asians have an affinity for calculus and I respect people who can do calculus so that's wonderful" you have engaged in a stereotype and have made a statement that is, at its heart, racist. (As a quick aside which I'll take up in another blog post, racism is not just what the guys in white sheets do) It is racist because it attributes to a group qualities more appropriately adhering to individuals. Saying "Indigenous People" are holistic thinkers dehumanizes the people talked about. It does not matter if one is talking about ones' in-group, if one attributes this to something that people of group X are, because they are members of that group, it is still racism and still dehumanizing. Wrapping it up in nice language doesn't change that equation at all.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Greatest Hits - Don't Come Around Here No More