Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Some Notes on Tragedy

Posted: November 16, 2015 in Braak, Politics
Tags: , , ,

It probably has not escaped anyone’s notice that I don’t usually write things in the face of terrible tragedies.  With one or two exceptions, I usually don’t know what to say.  I don’t know how other people survive in the world; I keep most of it at delicate, carefully-maintained distance.  Any horror is capable of collapsing that distance, bespeaking not just itself but every horror, every agony in the unremitting misery of the world.  I don’t have a good mechanism for feeling bad about only one thing at a time, I think.  Somehow, in my imagination, every tragedy is chained together and to drag one loose is to pull all of them free.

When things like this happen I start to feel…”deliberate” I suppose is a word.  Maybe this is a kind of vanity – in the face of external stresses I become introspective.  Vanity is certainly something I am capable of.  And maybe it’s a kind of cowardice – I look for, instead of some way to act, only the one way to act perfectly correctly, the opportune moment to do only the exact right thing.  Sometimes the opportune moment never presents itself, and I do nothing, and so maybe this is a way of forgiving myself of the responsibility of action.  Cowardice is certainly something I am capable of.

I don’t know.

A philosopher that I happen to like is Baruch Spinoza, and a quote that has felt especially pertinent to me lately is this one, from his Tractatus Politicus:

Peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from force of character.

I suppose I’m interested in what that means, what it means that peace is not the absence of violence, but is instead a resistance to violence.  That war is not an active condition but a passive one – a state of entropy that emerges on its own when the hard work of peace is abandoned.  That it’s peace that is the real work, the difficult work, the challenging work.

I don’t know the answer to this, either.  I don’t know how to win this war, and I am suspicious of anyone who claims to know.

I do know that I want to do the right thing, and only the right thing, and I don’t know what that is or even what it looks like.

So.  This is the letter I wrote to my congressmen.  I encourage you to write to your congressmen, too.

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Was Christopher Columbus a handsome dreamer? Or is this mere propaganda?

Was Christopher Columbus a handsome dreamer? Or is this mere propaganda?

So.  There I was, tooling around in my electric-hybrid Prius, sipping on my $5 a cup organically-grown locally-sourced free trade latte, generally just thinking about how superior I am to the god-bothering gun-snugglers of real Hillbilly America, and looking for a gun-free church vestibule where I might conduct this Samhain’s pansexual Mexican blood orgy, when I came across this absolute hum-fucking-dinger of an article:

Why Do Liberals Hate Columbus Day

Some in the Catholic Church would love to canonize Christopher Columbus as a saint, while Liberals and Native Americans seek to depict him as a brutal xenophobe.

The truth is quite a bit more complex, but we shall explore the absurdities attending the Liberal hatred of the controversial Italian explorer.

That is how it opens right there, and for as much as the author (DJ Pangburn, I don’t know if “DJ” is his name or it’s a title because he spins fire mixes with this hot takes) would like us to believe that the truth is more complex he spends several paragraphs showing that SPOILER ALERT no, it’s not.

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blm _ sandersProtest is a movement, and it has to be judged as a movement. Like it or not, perfectly executed or not, the Black Lives Matter protesters have directly influenced a shift in platform and in personnel within the campaigns of both Seantor Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Yes, protesters who may or may not have been part of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign stormed Sanders’ stage in Seattle on August 1st. This was less well-received than a similar incident where BLM protesters occupied a Netroots Nation conference in front of Sanders and Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The protesters in Seattle were more confrontational with the crowd, and seemed to have a less specific message to get out. To criticize that is to assume their purpose was to deliver a message. It ignores the context of protest and replaces the protesters’ goals with our own. What are our own goals? To be pleased with their message without having our day disrupted. That makes us a bit of an ass.

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david brooks
(I guess I am going to keep doing these.)

Friends, this week’s David Brooks column is…a little bizarre.  I don’t completely know what to make of it.  It’s definitely about Christian homophobes, and how they need to conduct themselves in the new, slightly-less-homophobic America that the Supreme Court has gay-married us all into, and I can’t tell if it’s this clever mixture of diplomacy and stinging criticism, or if it’s just astonishingly dopey.  Experience leads me to believe option two, but…man.

Just, look at this, check this out.

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Here’s the thing about nerds – and please know that I’m including myself in this, maybe as the worst of us all, the monster is within me, &c.: we all know at this point that there are nerds. Nerds are people who like weird stuff, and sometimes display a socially-unacceptable level of enthusiasm for our weird stuff. We dress up in costume for Harry Potter book launches or sign our emails with Star Trek quotes or what have you. But I think everyone also knows that there are nerds, and then there are nerd nerds: the kind of guys that you hope never show up to a conversation about any topic, because despite our enthusiasm and our granular knowledge of every little bit of a topic, we’re fucking terrible.

We’re the Comic Book Guys of the world, the Um, Actuallys, the Technically Speakings of the world. You all know us and I think that, even though we talk a big game about bullying, I think we maybe know, deep down, that when we do that kind of shit we deserve a little bit of the pejorative muck that still sullies the word “nerd.”

So, what I’m here to do is to present my Unified Theory of Being a Nerd, and then (maybe more importantly), I want to talk a little about the two major attitudes towards the world that it causes, and why these things are bad, why they should be rejected, and a little bit about how to quarantine them.

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Orson_Scott_Card_at_BYU_Symposium_20080216_closeup

I think this picture is super-hilarious. Look how jaunty he looks! With his jacket slung over his shoulder, Mr. Cool Guy, Mr. Hip Dad.

braak

Let’s talk about Orson Scott Card. Okay! As many of you know, Card wrote a famous and popular book that will soon be released as a famous movie (whether it will be popular remains to be seen; my bet is yes). Orson Scott Card is also a famous bigot. I am not going to link to all of the articles (UPDATE: I will link to one that it is a pretty good rundown), because they are readily available with Google and also that is a lot of work, but Card has done some straight up bad stuff – he’s said that it’s impossible for gay people to be good Mormons, that laws should be constructed specifically to punish gay people in order to discourage them from gaying it up, that homosexuality is a genetic “mix-up”, that if America legalizes gay marriage then all the good people need to rise up and overthrow the government, in his retelling of Hamlet he pretty clearly equates homosexuality with pedophilia, and has flat-out said that homosexuality is caused by sexual abuse. He has also said that he has gay friends, which frankly just seems like a bald-faced lie. (more…)

Now I will write about this article by Andrew O’Hehir over at Salon, which is a discussion of several movies (Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, and The Gatekeepers), because it is actually pretty appalling.  Let’s just set aside the headline (“Is Feminism Worth Defending with Torture”) as being race-baiting hokum (it carries the attendent implication that 1) the War on Terror is being prosecuted in order to improve the lives of women, and 2) all “enemy combatants” in that war must be misogynist because they are Muslim), and talk just about the torture bit that he brings up.  Here, I will quote the relevant material.

Does a society that produces female CIA agents (and reelects a black president) gain the right to commit atrocities in its own defense? Is torture justified if the torturer is a university-educated woman, and the tortured a bigoted Muslim fundamentalist?

I think those are excellent questions for us to ask ourselves, arguably defining questions of the age, and I think the longer you look at them the thornier they get. I certainly incline toward the predictable left-libertarian response that torture and other illegal and unconstitutional actions (like, say, the government assassination of United States citizens on secret evidence) are immoral and unjustifiable in almost every instance. But you’ll notice that I’ve left myself a little wiggle room, and if we’re honest we recognize that morality is always relative, and only available in shades of gray.

So.

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