Showing posts with label Conservatives. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conservatives. Show all posts

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Right-Wing Loons Force Closure of National Butterfly Center

When two people can't get along they have to stop living together. 
One underlying reason that people can't get along is that they no longer share the same reality. 
From a societal standpoint two people's personal problems don't mean very much.

But when entire swaths of society reject empiricism, embrace outlandish disproven conspiracies, and seek to harass and intimidate other people based on their distorted reality map then that is a much bigger problem than two people getting upset because they have different ideas about money, child raising, fidelity, or clothing choices. 
Society begins to fall apart when too many people no longer agree on reality.
Conservatives have been on the warpath about race (what else, I may have more to write on that later) but have recently taken a detour to attack the National Butterfly Center. Yes you read that correctly.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Donald Trump is a Bully and Should be Impeached

Neutral Evil:"..neither groups nor individuals have great meaning. This ethos holds that seeking to promote weal for all actually brings woe to the truly deserving. Natural forces which are meant to cull out the weak and stupid are artificially suppressed by the so-called good, and the fittest are wrongfully held back, so whatever means are expedient can be used by the powerful to gain and maintain their dominance, without concern for anything. neither groups nor individuals have great meaning. A neutral evil character is typically selfish and has no qualms about turning on allies-of-the-moment, and usually makes allies primarily to further their own goals. A neutral evil character has no compunctions about harming others to get what they want, but neither will they go out of their way to cause carnage or mayhem when they see no direct benefit for themselves."

The above is the definition of the neutral evil" alignment philosophy and ethos from the Player's Handbook of Dungeons and Dragons, a role playing game I used to love when I was younger. It also happens to be an almost perfect description of President Trump. He has no real interest in law or freedom. He could care less about conflicts between law and order or freedom and individual rights. The only thing he cares about is his own interest above all. You may have seen that President Trump is refusing to turn over his tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee despite the fact that the law is crystal clear that the Committee--that is to say Congress can review anyone's tax returns for any reason they like--including those of the President.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin must enjoy irony. He penned a letter to Democrats on the House Ways & Means Committee threatening to refuse their request to see the President’s tax returns. The letter asserts that the Committee’s stated reasons for viewing the returns — among other things, verifying that the President wasn’t using his leadership of the executive branch for his own benefit — were mere pretext for their true, purely partisan motive. This, he said, was a reason he could refuse the request. At almost the same hour, the administration’s lawyers were arguing before the Supreme Court that possible partisan motivations were no reason to set aside a proposed citizenship question in the upcoming U.S. census.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Tucker Carlson Home Protest

In my home! In my bedroom where my wife sleeps! Where my children come and play with their toys. In my home.
Tucker Carlson is a conservative talk show host employed by Fox News who routinely traffics in white victimology. He gives mainstream amplification to the ugliest fears and tropes of white nationalism. I will give him some credit for having people on who disagree with him. However, with few exceptions these people are usually either so ridiculous that they step all over their own points or are shouted at or cut off by Carlson. Carlson often demands that his opposition guests respond to some rhetorical strawman that Carlson has constructed. If they don't respond to his silly side point Carlson insults them or laughs at them. 

Carlson is almost certainly smarter than he appears. He will sometimes make a cogent point and/or reject some conservative shibboleth. But generally he sticks closely to Fox News' basic talking points-that the US is a white (wo)man's country, evil dark people are trying to steal it, and whites are the real victims of racism today. FEAR! BOOGA BOOGA! Trouble in River City! That starts with T and that rhymes with B and that spells Blacks!

Although I would likely disagree with about 95% of Carlson's worldview I don't agree with harassing/protesting/vandalizing his home-especially when he's not even there. That's a cowardly vile act.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson was at his desk Wednesday evening, less than two hours before his 8 p.m. live show, when he suddenly started receiving multiple text messages. There was some sort of commotion happening outside his home in Northwest D.C. “I called my wife,” Carlson told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “She had been in the kitchen alone getting ready to go to dinner and she heard pounding on the front door and screaming. ... Someone started throwing himself against the front door and actually cracked the front door.”

Friday, October 26, 2018

Cesar Sayoc, Pipe Bombs and Conservative Hate

From what we know now the primary suspect in the pipe bombing campaign against Democrats and/or liberal "enemies" of Trump is a Republican. Fortunately, he or whoever sent these bombs was inept.

AVENTURA, Fla. — Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr., a South Florida man charged in connection with a string of bombs mailed to prominent Democrats, appeared to have a lively social media presence, where he frequently posted in right-wing circles and shared conservative news stories and condemnations of liberal politicians.

Mr. Sayoc, 56, appeared to post frequently in Facebook groups like “The Trump American Party” and “Vote Trump 2020” using an account with the name “Cesar Altieri Randazzo.” The account, which was suspended on Friday after reports that Mr. Sayoc was a suspect in the bombing case, shared photos of Mr. Sayoc attending political events and working out at the gym.

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, the account shared news stories from Breitbart, video clips from Fox News, and posts from pages like “Handcuffs for Hillary.” That year, the account included numerous photos and videos of Mr. Sayoc, a registered Republican, at a Trump campaign rally, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Mr. Sayoc had been charged with five federal crimes, and faces up to 48 years in prison if convicted.

Mr. Sayoc has a lengthy criminal history in Florida dating back to 1991 that includes felony theft, drug and fraud charges, as well as being accused of threatening to use a bomb, public records show. In the bombing case, Mr. Sayoc was accused of threatening to “blow up” a Florida utility company and a customer service representative who he had called to protest a bill. The records listed Mr. Sayoc’s occupation as “manager.”

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Trevor Noah and Tomi Lahren

You may have heard about this recent interview/discussion/confrontation between conservative media personality Tomi Lahren and Daily Show host Trevor Noah. Using both logic and gentle ridicule where appropriate Noah shot down most of Lahren's talking points. Although I think it's unlikely that Tomi Lahren will change her mind on anything anytime soon I think it's also important to engage and confront people who make bad arguments. One of the things which the right has done much more successfully than the left is to use telegenic seemingly friendly media spokeswomen and spokesmen to sell repulsive ideas. It's true that some of these people are indeed beyond redemption or aren't worth engaging because all they want to do is insult people. Debating your own humanity is a sucker's game. But sometimes people can be too quick to scream in outrage and cease debate when faced with ideas that challenge their mindset. This can be tempting; it's sometimes morally justified. There is no such thing as reasoned debate with a dedicated Nazi or someone who thinks slavery was a positive good. That person has made his decision. But to the extent that plenty of people on the right don't fall into those categories but still ascribe to "deplorable" ideas, as Hillary Clinton might put it, it is important for people on the other end of the political spectrum to engage in spirited debate and show people how and where they are wrong. Lies that go unchallenged can spread more quickly than one might think.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Charleston, Roof and the Confederacy

Lilly Belle, your hair is golden brown / I've seen your black man coming 'round 
Swear by God, I'm gonna cut him down
Southern Man-Neil Young
I was reminded of the above quote from the classic rock song "Southern Man" when it was alleged that an event which evidently pushed killer Dylan Roof into his downwards spiral from garden variety racist to murderous savage was the fact that he lost out romantically to a black man. This sort of hatred based in real or more often perceived sexual rivalry or sexual assault has been the basis for many racist actions, from slavery to Jim Crow to lynchings to police shootings on down through the years. Just as a totem of racial hatred and treason like the Confederate Battle Flag has survived, so have the emotions which the flag embodies. So no one should be surprised that a man who says that he hates and wants to kill black people was drawn to Confederate imagery. Many modern day Confederate Flag supporters either do not want to think about or admit the nature of the state which they are defending. They will blather on at length about their Confederate veteran great-great-great-grandfather veteran and how brave and honorable he was ad nauseaum. Well to paraphrase George Carlin, my great-great-great-grandfather said F*** your great-great-great-grandfather. The Confederacy was created to protect and extend slavery and white supremacy. This is emphatically not a modern day interpretation of historical events and motives. The Confederate military, political, journalistic and philosophical leaders were crystal clear about why they were fighting, what they thought the proper relationship of black and white was, and how long slavery would continue if they won (indefinitely). We've been over this before but it is evidently worth pointing out again. The Confederate states seceded because they believed that President Lincoln in particular and the North in general were both at the very least insufficiently dedicated to and at the worst openly hostile to the twin causes of slavery and white supremacy. Check it out for yourself. The secession declarations put in plain English for posterity's sake just what the drafters thought of black people. Southern politicians appealed directly to racism to motivate their base. Federalism, tariffs and industrialization mattered to them only to the extent that that slavery was threatened.

In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course. Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.


We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

Alexander Stephens 

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone 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....
Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. 

And so on. Slavery was the animating cause of the Civil War. Of course many whites who fought for the south did not own slaves but they, with some notable exceptions previously discussed here, generally did believe wholeheartedly in white supremacy. The idea of black people having citizenship or voting was anathema to the Confederacy, thus the post war ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. Post war, did white southerners graciously and quickly move to extend citizenship rights to the newly freed Africans? No. No they didn't. Rather, white southerners practiced sullen and violent resistance to any attempt to recognize, much less enforce, basic human rights for Black Americans. After reconciliation with the white North, the gloves came off completely. The South became a terror state for black people. The white southern population zealously enforced Jim Crow laws and customs in which a black person could be murdered for something as innocuous as looking a white person in the eye, refusing to move aside when a white person was walking on the sidewalk, or not letting themselves be cheated in a business transaction. Does any of this sound like the actions of people who went to war for any reason other than white supremacy? Except for the more honest present day racists such as Michael Hill, who wants a white state in the South, most Confederate flag supporters will not look too deeply into the history of the Confederacy and why the Confederacy attempted to secede. There's a denial that has grown up around the Confederacy and the very nature of slavery. Even conservatives who would wax indignant about dead enders in other situations still can't bring themselves to admit that slavery was wrong, a crime against humanity and that resistance to it was morally praiseworthy. Bill Kristol, who has the dubious distinction of being generally wrong about just about everything, thinks that it's problematic for the "left" to be insufficiently respectful of the Confederacy. It's hard for me to wrap my head about how backwards this viewpoint is, even coming from someone like Kristol, who makes a good living being wrong. There were SS men who fought tooth and nail against the Soviet invasion of Germany. Some were even heroic. But if a German today wrapped herself in Nazi regalia claiming she was only honoring the ultimate sacrifice of her brave ancestors, I doubt Kristol would see that as something worthy of respect or recognition. Hmm.

The fundamental issue is that the South never really went under anything approaching de-Nazification. Although they lost the war, for decades afterwards white southern political leaders and citizens adamantly refused to concede that slavery was wrong or that black people had human rights. It's only in the past 50 years that the South was forced,kicking and screaming, grudgingly and slowly, to give up legal segregation and white domination. It's ridiculous that 150 years after the South waved the white flag and ended the bloodiest war this nation ever endured, we as a country might finally be realizing that the regalia of traitor and racists isn't deserving of respect. But unfortunately that's what happens when you don't deal with problems when they first arise. Things fester and get worse. So it's a good thing that in places like Alabama, Mississippi and yes South Carolina, legislators and other political leaders are beginning to question the prevalence of the Confederate Flag on state grounds and insignia. Of course it's fair and accurate to point out that the US flag flew over slavery and other horrific acts. We shouldn't forget that. But unlike the Confederate Flag the US flag now at least theoretically contains the possibility of equal treatment under the law. The Confederate Flag is fixed forever in the belief of slavery and white supremacy. Roof chose exactly the correct flag for his actions. It's silly to pretend otherwise

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Religious Freedom, Discrimination and Airplanes

I am not religious though I have respect for people's religious beliefs. I avoid needlessly poking fun at them. There are limits to this respect but in general I don't see the point in deliberately pointing out fallacies and flaws in someone's faith unless they try to push it onto me. Lately religious freedom has come to be used primarily by people on the political right to avoid otherwise generally applicable laws. There's no reason that religious freedom should be a partisan issue. There are just as many historical and current controversies where people on the political left have cited religious freedom to avoid participating in things the right supports (saluting the flag, pledging allegiance, being drafted, etc..). So it should go both ways. I see religious objections as just a smaller and fiercer subset of conscience objections. And I often admire people who are truly motivated by individual conscience. There is one small caveat though. I may respect people who are standing up to the state or business or other members of society who are trying to make them do something. I don't have any use for people claiming religious freedom who are trying to burden OTHER people. I have the religious freedom to abstain from eating pork or shellfish. It's not religious freedom however for me to try to make you live by my dietary restrictions. It's a small but crucial distinction. Recently some male members of the growing and politically active ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have made some news by refusing to sit next to unrelated women while using transportation. Presumably this problem would also extend to unrelated men sitting next to traveling ultra-Orthodox Jewish women. 

Francesca Hogi, 40, had settled into her aisle seat for the flight from New York to London when the man assigned to the adjoining window seat arrived and refused to sit down. He said his religion prevented him from sitting beside a woman who was not his wife. Irritated but eager to get underway, she eventually agreed to move. Laura Heywood, 42, had a similar experience while traveling from San Diego to London via New York. She was in a middle seat — her husband had the aisle — when the man with the window seat in the same row asked if the couple would switch positions. Ms. Heywood, offended by the notion that her sex made her an unacceptable seatmate, refused. “I wasn’t rude, but I found the reason to be sexist, so I was direct,” she said.  

A growing number of airline passengers, particularly on trips between the United States and Israel, are now sharing stories of conflicts between ultra-Orthodox Jewish men trying to follow their faith and women just hoping to sit down.
Representatives of the ultra-Orthodox insist that the behavior is anomalous and rare. “I think that the phenomenon is nowhere near as prevalent as some media reports have made it seem,” said Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs at Agudath Israel of America, which represents ultra-Orthodox Jews. “The haredi men I know,” Rabbi Shafran said, using the Hebrew word for the ultra-Orthodox, “have no objection to sitting next to a woman on any flight.”

The ultra-Orthodox have increasingly seen gender separation as a kind of litmus test of Orthodoxy — it wasn’t always that way, but it has become that way,” said Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology at Queens College. “There is an ongoing culture war between these people and the rest of the modern world, and because the modern world has increasingly sought to become gender neutral, that has added to the desire to say, ‘We’re not like that.’”

I don't really care how you behave in the privacy of your own home. And as mentioned I modestly sympathize with some people who feel that they are being bullied by an ever expanding government determined to enforce, pardon the pun, orthodoxy, around questions of gender, child raising practices, sexuality and what have you. But that sympathy stops here. If you are older than say five years old and still believe that women have cooties, if you think that you will be tempted, seduced or made impure by every single non-related women you run across in life, if you think that you have the right to demand that society adapt to you rather than the other way around, maybe this country isn't really the right place for you. You're a dummy. There is no other way to put it. Being descended from people who did indeed have to give up seats, switch seats or otherwise adjust their lives to the fears and anger of bigots, I have absolutely no truck with any man or woman, regardless of their religion, who seeks to impose any sort of segregation in public accommodations. If you want to do that in your synagogue, mosque or church, knock yourself out. But don't try it in the public square. And certainly don't try it around me. Because you're opening up yourself and your religion up for public mockery. Nobody should ever switch seats because someone refuses to sit next to them due to gender. Nobody. And if some idiot is preventing the departure of a bus or plane because of this, throw them off the vehicle, and do not refund their money. If this happens often enough, word will get around. I believe that similar to how the Mormons had a revelation that black men could actually be priests, the Orthodox Jews pitching a fit over the possibility of sitting next to an unrelated woman, will suddenly discover a new interpretation allowing them to do just that. Ridiculous.

What do you think?

If you are a woman would you move?

If you are a man would you switch seats with a woman to remedy this situation?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Why Black People Generally Don't Vote Conservative

If you read what the blog members have written here, over time you will find a wide variance of opinions. Some people are strong feminists; others are skeptical of or hostile to feminism. Some are adamantly pro-life; others are just as profoundly pro-choice. Some are quite supportive of expansionary activist government; other people look askance at increased executive authority. Some are anti-war; others support increased drone strikes at America's enemies. Some people are gung ho about gay marriage while others think that linking gay issues to black issues is somewhat opportunistic and ahistorical. Some people's views evolve or change over time; others remain as rigid as Mount Everest. And so on. In short, just like every other black person in America, the black people on this blog have different views on different issues. And that's also reflected in and among the blog readership regardless of race or gender. That should not be a surprise to anyone.

Occasionally you will hear some conservatives (usually but not always white), express frustration and even outrage that in presidential elections, the black electorate usually supports the Democratic candidate. In fact since 1964 the Republican Presidential candidate has struggled to get more than 10% of the black vote and sometimes has gotten as little as 3-4%.

Such conservatives wonder then since black people also tend to show greater levels of religiosity and occasional adherence to "traditional values" why more black people don't vote for conservatives, especially social conservatives. There is a very easy answer to this which is embedded in the picture at the top of this post.
The post-Goldwater modern Republican party has made peace with and actively sought the vote of numerous whites who, as Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg first noted in his landmark 80s study of Michigan Macomb County Reagan Democrats, often have a profound distaste for black people and any public or private policy they think is likely to help black people. In a follow up recent focus group study on tea party conservatives and evangelicals and their attitudes about the President and the shutdown Greenberg found that race was still key.
We expected that in this comfortable setting or in their private written notes, some would make a racial reference or racist slur when talking about the African American President. None did. They know that is deeply non-PC and are conscious about how they are perceived. But focusing on that misses how central is race to the worldview of Republican voters. They have an acute sense that they are white in a country that is becoming increasingly “minority,”and their party is getting whooped by a Democratic Party that uses big government programs that benefit mostly minorities, create dependency and a new electoral majority. Barack Obama and Obamacare is a racial flashpoint for many Evangelical and Tea Party voters.
This hostility to black people flows through conservative thought. And as history is often just propaganda by other methods this animus has attached itself to the new film 12 years a slave. Investors Business Daily, a rabidly right-wing paper claims that much of the film is exaggerated, a white man wrote the book to try to start the Civil War, slavery wasn't that bad and that all this film will do is get the Negroes riled up. Seriously.
But historians suspect much of the story — which recounts cringingly graphic tales of skin-stripping floggings and paddle-breaking beatings — is apocryphal. They found the book was actually written by a white abolitionist who exaggerated slave mistreatment as part of a propaganda effort to bring about the Civil War.
To assure the historical accuracy of the film, producers hired Harvard professor and civil-rights activist Henry Louis Gates Jr. You may recall the name: He's the Friend of Barack who cried racism after police detained him at his Cambridge townhome a few years ago, inspiring the famous White House "beer summit" between the president and the cop he called "stupid." Predictably, Gates doesn't question the veracity of the slave memoir.
Slavery and Jim Crow were bad enough without Hollywood fictionalizing what actually happened in order to further a political agenda. Distorting reality only fans the flames of racial hatred. Hollywood should be careful not to give creative license to racial arsonists who leave truth on the cutting room floor.
This isn't quite the same as Holocaust denial but it's in the same universe. Hollywood usually puts out a Holocaust/WW2 movie about every five years or so. There are books about it released more frequently. Not counting Pat Buchanan can you think of any prominent conservatives who will publicly question if the Holocaust was really that awful or if a movie about the Holocaust ought to have showed the human side of an overworked SS Sturmbannfuhrer, who after all wasn't that bad if you got to know him. Probably not.
The Tea Party candidate for Mississippi Senator is seeking the support of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
And lastly just as I was finishing this post a North Carolina GOP Precinct Chair was forced out for among other things complaining that whites couldn't say "n*****" and boasting that if the new voter id laws would "hurt a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything" that was fine with him.

There's more but I think the point is clear. I do not think that every Republican is racist. That's obviously not the case at all. But the Republicans as a group have jumped in bed with some very ugly people. Like anyone else who's made some questionable social decisions, they're infected with something that's not so easy to get rid of. Until Republicans can find the political equivalent of Valtrex, most black people, even if they really really LIKE the idea of low taxes, limited government, unlimited corporate power, no social net, strong military, and traditional social values, are going to reject any Republican seductions during Presidential elections. Many* black people finding themselves on the same side as people waving the Confederate Flag and yelling the South's gonna do it again, are going to immediately recheck their mapquest and get back on the highway.

*-doesn't apply to Dr. Ben Carson, Herman Cain, or Star Parker among others...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Melissa Harris-Perry: Kids Belong To Communities

If you ever watch MSNBC you may have noticed a series of LEAN FORWARD commercials featuring their on air opinion talent earnestly giving bromides about how we're all in this together and we need to work collectively for the common good. Usually these things are calculated to be just this side of irritating to more moderate or conservative viewers as the unsaid implication in the spots is often that conservatives are doing every thing wrong. In some respects the commercials are examples of liberals being sore winners. A recent spot featured Professor Melissa Harris-Perry. The terminology and phrases she used sent conservatives as well as a few libertarians over the deep end in rage. 

Of course I doubt this was by accident. On some other boards I frequent occasionally extremely conservative or extremely liberal people will post stories or make comments that are designed to do nothing other than get a rise out of the other side. Flame wars can easily get started that way. I won't claim I've never done that in my life (ha-ha) but it is a pretty cheap way of getting responses and in my opinion usually not as good or mature as actually creating and sharing a deeper analysis. The person who instigates this often pretends innocence and claims to be above the obviously irrational, emotional and gratuitously nasty responses the other side is showing. Sure I poked the caged tiger in the eye with a stick but that's no reason for it to get upset...

When I read the phrases the good professor used I have to believe that she or the commercial creator had to be trolling somewhat. It was reminiscent of the old Looney Tunes cartoons when Foghorn Leghorn would stroll over to the sleeping dog and kick it in the behind. Foghorn would then wait just outside the limit the chained dog could reach. When the dog choked on its collar, sputtering in rage, Foghorn would say "Aw shaddup!!" and hit the dog againWhat could the Professor have said to make some people start barking and shaking their jowls in rage? Well let's see.


She starts out and ends with the usual progressive idea that we don't spend enough on public education and need to spend more, or as she would put it invest more. Conservatives generally disagree of course. There are good arguments on both sides here and there's room for legitimate debate. I would tend toward Professor Harris-Perry's side on this but I can see the other side. So if she had just stated that of course conservatives would have disagreed as they usually do. But what turned the intensity of disagreement up was her statement that "..We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or that kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities."

Game recognizes game. This sent conservative trolls like Beck, Palin and Limbaugh into fits of fury. It also set off alarm bells of warning in more libertarian circles. Do you see why? 

It is a deliberate oversimplification for brevity but conservatives (with some hypocritical exceptions) broadly speaking generally want the federal and to the lesser extent the state governments to have less power regarding the individual and the family. Liberals tend to feel exactly the opposite way, feeling that the federal government ought to have more authority. Some look suspiciously at the family, often seeing it as a breeding ground for patriarchal and generally wrong-headed ideas.
So when you say that we need to get rid of the idea that kids belong to their parents or families, you probably shouldn't be surprised that that hits a nerve with conservatives and they respond. Of course in the strictest sense kids don't belong to anyone. Adults are stewards of the next generation, not owners. But that's just semantics.

Parents, not society, have the primary responsibility for children. Parents, not society, get to make virtually all of the critical decisions for children. If someone doesn't like the way someone else is raising their children, that's tough. It's the parent's job to make sure that their child has enough to eat, attends a good school, learns how to resolve conflicts, stays in good health, figures out the birds and the bees, and any number of other things. I do believe that society, or rather government has a role to play in ensuring there's a baseline to help parents do all those things but in my view that's where everyone else's role ceases.  And it must stop there. Why? Because to start with, we live in an increasingly diverse society and everyone has different ideas about how to raise children. The only way we can live together is for people to mind their own business and absent abuse let parents raise their kids as they see fit. There was another video of MSNBC personality Krystal Ball talking to her five year old daughter about gay marriage and coaching her to support it. Some conservative members of society were outraged and considered this abusive. Would Professor Harris-Perry think that since kids belong to entire communities the community would have a right to step in and teach the daughter differently? I doubt it. If you don't like how someone is raising his/her kids, either have some of your own and raise them differently or go sit down and be quiet. Those are really your only two choices unless you happen to be the child's other parent.

Secondly although it's somewhat harsh to say it, parents care more about their children than society does.That's their direct biological investment in the next generation. That's why parents have such an incentive to make sure their child does well. Law doesn't mess with that relationship lightly. Professor Harris-Perry had a follow up to her ad in which she argued that she was just deliberately misunderstood by right-wing cretins. Well maybe. But I doubt that anyone with the command of the language that the professor possesses didn't realize that confidently stating "we have to break through the private idea that kids belong to their parents" would invite attacks. And what she says in her post is different from the ad.

The elephant in the room around all of this is the fact that recently for the first time in American history there were more minority births than white ones. This raises legitimate questions and fears across the political spectrum about what will be the policy outcome of this change. Seniors or people without children already may have issues with taxes to support families. Will a more diverse workforce wish to fund retirement and medical coverage for a very white older generation? Will that white older generation feel it necessary to pay higher taxes to support schools full of children who do not look like their grandchildren? Time will tell. I think this is what the professor was really referencing.


Do you agree with Professor Harris-Perry's ad?

Was she trolling?

Is this much ado about nothing?

Do you think kids belong to the community or to their parents?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Heritage not Hate Dodge

South East Michigan has many people (both black and white) who have parents, grandparents or great grandparents that came from the South. This was because of the 20th century automotive industrial boom. So many Southerners migrated here that certain Detroit suburbs or neighborhoods got the pejorative suffix "tucky" as in "Kentucky". The southern (white) migrants also brought a virulent racism which would be a causal element for riots in 1943 and 1967, not that Michigan was a sauna of racial tolerance before they arrived. I haven't been down South in a while but I always thought it was odd that I've seen more Confederate Battle flags in Michigan than I ever did down South. Usually that flag is attached to a pickup truck bumper or displayed in a gun shop or military surplus goods store.

My earliest memory of the city where I now work was two white men in a pickup truck with a Confederate Battle flag attached, slowing down to spit and hurl racial slurs at my then babysitter as she drove me and another child home. Such brave men, yes? So I usually associate that flag with racial hatred, white supremacy and above all, losing. The South lost the Civil War. I'm glad they lost because that meant that my great-great-great-grandfathers/mothers no longer had to live in slavery. So this was an unambiguously good thing as far as I was concerned.
Not everyone feels that way.
Some think that slavery was a good thing or at the very least not all that bad and black people should stop whining talking about it and find the positives. Others will, at least in public, not defend slavery or white supremacy but nonetheless will try to find some good things about the antebellum South and connect this to a pride in (white) Southern heritage. One such person would be Gary Rossington, famed guitarist of the reconstituted Southern Rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd.

CNN news anchor Fredricka Whitfield—who, it may not be irrelevant to mention, is African-American—mentioned the history of the band using the Confederate flag in concert and album art, saying, "We don't see that anymore. At what point did you make a decision to lose that, or what was the evolution of that?"
Rather than tell her she was mistaken, Rossington—the sole remaining member of the group's classic 1970s lineup—launched into an explanation of how the flag has been misappropriated. "It became such an issue about race and stuff,"
Rossington explained on camera, "where we just had it at the beginning because we were Southern, and that was our image back in the '70s and late '60s, because they kind of branded us from being from the South, so we showed that. But I think through the years, you know, people like the KKK and skinheads and people have kind of kidnapped that Dixie or rebel flag from the Southern tradition and the heritage of the soldiers. That was what it was about, and they kind of made it look bad in certain ways. We didn't want that to go to our fans or show the image like we agree with the race stuff or any of the bad things."
Singer Johnny Van Zant, who replaced his late brother Ronnie in the group, chimed in: "If nothing else, we grew up loving the old blues artists and Ray Charles. We just didn't want to be associated with that type of thing".


Since the early seventies the band has been associated with the Confederate Battle flag. So many fans gave a rebel yell at the idea of their band changing the imagery that Rossington was forced to reverse his stance and repudiate his comments. Having had tragicomic accidental exposure to classic rock radio at an impressionable age I actually liked a few Lynyrd Skynyrd songs. In some areas during the seventies/eighties it was literally impossible not to hear the mournful slide tones of Freebird or the boogie of Sweet Home Alabama somewhere on the radio or blasting out of someone's Firebird. Somewhat ironically the hook for "Sweet Home Alabama" is so catchy that other musicians like the Geto Boys used it. Even more ironically Black women singers provided backup vocals for "Sweet Home Alabama".

Just as some rappers and artists have sought to take what is referred to as "the n-word" and put their own meaning into it, others have tried to redefine the Confederate Battle flag as not being symbolic of a struggle to maintain slavery and white supremacy but as a simple pride in Southern heritage, not backing down from a fight and standing up for your beliefs. Some more honest people also try to attach a "non-racist" white pride to it, claiming that if everyone else can be proud of their ethnic heritage and ancestral deeds, why can't southern (or southern identified) whites?

I think this argument is sort of disingenuous though on the surface it's somewhat compelling. The Confederates initiated an armed rebellion against the United States, one which even today remains the bloodiest war the US has ever fought. And they did so precisely because of a fierce belief in slavery and white supremacy. Don't just take my word for it, look up what they wrote about why they were rebelling.

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

The Confederates wanted to make sure everyone knew what they thought about blacks.
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.

And like I said..they lost. When I see that flag I think of a racist loser. So I see nothing to honor or be proud of.
It is true that the Confederate Battle flag has been associated with white power movements, the Klan, and American Nazis. Rossington is correct about that. What he misses, most likely deliberately, is that there's a reason for that. It's not so much that the Confederate Battle flag has been misappropriated as it is that it's an almost perfect beacon for many of the beliefs that white power movements, the Klan and Nazis have.
There were many brave men who fought for the Confederacy. I have no doubt about that. There were also many brave men who fought for Germany in WW2. Some Waffen SS men laid down their lives trying to protect German civilians (and especially German women) from rape and death at the hands of the Russians. But if a German woman hoisted a Swastika or Waffen SS flag today and claimed that she is not supporting Nazism but is merely honoring the bravery of her ancestors, would anyone believe her? Probably not. Those symbols are fixed in their meaning. And despite the bravery of individual soldiers the cause for which they fought was so wrong that even attempting to honor them feels wrong somehow. They weren't the good guys.
The problem is that the South, unlike post war Germany, never had to admit that it was wrong for starting the war or wrong for having slaves. There weren't war crimes trials which ended with slaveowners dancing at the end of a rope or overseers being lined up against a wall and shot. There were never generations of education in the postbellum South which emphasized the wrongness of human bondage. And of course there were never reparations paid to the slaves. There was a brief attempt to ameliorate some of slavery's effects which was met with sullen and later openly violent Southern white resistance. The North shrugged its collective shoulders and by the 1890s or so the South had been left to handle its own affairs and write its own version of events, one which surprisingly enough was generally accepted by the North, at least insofar as black people were concerned. Slavery had nothing to do with the war. Slavery wasn't that bad. The South were genteel farmers who were were resisting an invasion by northern industrialists. Slaves were fat happy people who loved giving relationship advice to white people. And so on...
At a time when Confederate Battle flag enthusiast Kid Rock gets an NAACP award and says he loves black people and is not racist, is it time to look past imagery and judge people more by actions? Or is some imagery so disgusting that that's impossible to do. The great Southern writer William Faulkner famously wrote "The past is never dead. It's not even past'. I think that quote is quite applicable here. The Civil War and slavery still cast a heavy shadow over America, in part because some of the issues we thought were resolved then haven't quite been. And because historically speaking the Civil War wasn't that long ago it's not necessarily easy to let go of certain things. I doubt, by way of comparison that too many British are still too sensitive over the Norman invasion of 1066 or the War of the Roses. Why? Because those things are long long past. The winners and losers have merged. You can't tell a Norman from a Saxon. The issues have been forgotten or no longer matter. None of that is true in the American context of state's rights, discrimination, race relations, etc.


1) What does the Confederate Battle flag mean to you?
2) Is it possible to redefine symbols like the Confederate Battle flag?
3) Is it possible to have white pride without being racist?
4) Had you ever heard of Lynyrd Skynyrd before?