The Mark of the Barbarian

Barbarian:
noun
(in ancient times) a member of a community or tribe not belonging to one of the great civilizations (Greek, Roman, Christian).
• an uncultured or brutish person.
adjective
of or relating to ancient barbarians: barbarian invasions | barbarian peoples.
• uncultured; brutish.

We live in a time and place that puts high value on emotion, and that views emotions as self-validating. To feel something is thought by many to be sufficient evidence of its truthfulness, or at least its authenticity. This is a mark of the barbarian. I understand why post-Sixties liberals make the mistake of believing that nonsense. But conservatives?

This is another one of those “scary-to-write” posts because what I am going to say so breaks with standard Left orthodoxy that it feels as if I am writing religious heresy. The above quote is taken from a post at Frum Forum written by a conservative about older conservatives (Fox Geezers) who get all their news from FOX News. My concern in this post is not with the Right-leaning people who think that it is sufficient that they feel that the HCR law leads to ‘death panels’ or that Obama is a Marxist Islamist. My concern here is with the Left-leaning people, my own political tribe, that think it is sufficient to ‘feel’ something in order for it to be ‘true’ or ‘authentic’. The barbarian I speak of is in the second sense of the uncultured or brutish person.

The examples I have are too numerous to count. It is such a commonplace on the Left that whenever two or three of us are gathered together, it is a near certainty that someone will make a statement of the ‘George W. Bush was worse than Hitler’ species. If challenged, that person will then claim that “well, that’s true for me” as if that makes a difference. “That’s true for me” is just another way of saying “I felt it, that settles it.” The Left, generally, and the Queer-Left specifically has a disturbing tolerance for these kinds of statements. What’s more there is a colossal blind spot that people willfully ignore even though it causes all manner of problems. If your feelings are accurate barometers to what is going on in the real world then by what logic are my feelings not an accurate barometer?

In other words, if one leans left and believes that, for instance, the Republican party has active plans for the elimination of queer people in America and you believe that the mere fact that you feel it means it must be true how can you turn around and argue that the FOX News watcher who believes that Barack Obama wants to enslave white people is wrong? They aren’t working off of a basis having any more foundation than your belief.

I have had this conversation so many times in online lesbian circles that I have now had to leave two online lesbian communities because of it. The first time was when someone insisted that there were clauses in the 2009 stimulus package that were demonstrably not there. This woman kept posting ‘as if’ those statements were there and when I pointed out to her that they weren’t and that she was clearly lying about it, I was told by a moderator that we had to be ‘tolerant of diverse opinions’. Except she wasn’t expressing an opinion, she was making a statement of fact. Either the stimulus package had language about reparations for slavery or it didn’t (for the record it didn’t) but this woman kept insisting that it did, along with language about a train from Disney to Vegas. On another board, there was a discussion about whether quantum mechanics explained telepathy and telekinesis (it doesn’t) and when I pointed out to my interlocutor that the brain is too large and too hot for quantum effects to be observed, they kept insisting that in their quantum mechanics it did. On that same board, I did a post on how humanity has become less violent over time. As an example, I offered up the fact that slavery is no longer legal in most of the world and is certainly illegal everywhere in the West. Someone then responded to say that slavery still happened in the United States and the rest of the world. Now, it is important to note that I was talking about the legality of slavery and its being socially acceptable. This person was using the (cough) logic (cough) that if slavery happens anywhere then it might as well be legal everywhere. Their response was about emotionalism. They want, perhaps even need, to be able to see America as a nation that is singular in its malevolence and so the idea that things might have improved in America was anathema to them.

There was a time in the West that we thought that self-control and particularly control of our emotions was a virtue. Now, we believe pretty much the opposite. To practice self-control and control of the emotions is seen as inauthentic and is, perhaps, even a vice. At least it is a vice when it is oneself who is expected to show some self-discipline. On the other hand we still like it when others show self-control since it makes them easier to deal with. I have a sign “keep calm and carry on” on the wall outside my office at home. Can you imagine people giving that advice in contemporary Left-leaning circles in America? I can’t.

Ben Nelson Retiring Ahead Of 2012 Election

Someone will miss Nelson, I’m sure but I don’t know who that Democrat is but I’m sure he’ll be missed by someone. I wonder if he’s measured the drapes for his lobbying office on K street yet.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is expected to announce that he will not run for reelection in the 2012 election cycle, Politico reported Tuesday. Nelson is currently in the middle of his second term. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000.

Ben Nelson Retiring Ahead Of 2012 Election
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/27/ben-nelson-retiring-reelection_n_1171256.html

At least Newt is being honest

You’ve got to admire Newt for his honesty.  He doesn’t want our vote and is explicit in saying so.  It’s still insanely stupid but it’s honest stupidity.  Would that the GOP, as a whole, adopt this level of honesty and just tell the voters they don’t want voting for them that they can vote for the other side.  It would save the GOP a lot of pain gotten from contorting themselves to try to appeal to blacks while using racially charged and dog-whistle politics.  It would save them the trouble of turning themselves into four dimensional toruses trying to court the Latino vote while simultaneously trying to scare the bejeezus out of the base at the thought of hordes of Mexicans coming over the border.  And then there’s Arab and Muslim Americans who it is manifestly obvious the GOP does not want their vote.  They could at least be polite enough to tell Arab and Muslim Americans to just piss off.  

Newt To Gay Voter: Support Obama | TPM2012

If you’re a gay American, don’t vote for Newt Gingrich. That’s not a Democratic talking point — that’s reportedly what Newt himself said to a gay man in Iowa Tuesday.

Put a fork in it, Boehner is done

When the WSJ abandons you and you’re a GOP politician, you’re done.  The Journal has abandoned Boehner, calling him out by name.  David Frum, over at Frum Forum, makes another interesting observation that the Journal is responsible for the GOP being in this position because they taught them that this is what they are supposed to believe as good conservatives.  At some point, the GOP is going to have to decide that governing is more important to the nation than campaigning.  It’s clear, though, that they aren’t there yet. 

 

Another GOP Domino Falls In Payroll Fight After WSJ Cries Uncle | TPMDC

“Both Republicans and Democrats have agreed that this is going to happen and probably the best thing to happen now is just to get it over with — one more policy blunder— but just get it over with and move on because now it’s been framed as a tax increase which it’s not,” he said. “I know what’s going to happen and I agree with the editorial this morning in the Wall Street Journal,” Corker went on. “Probably the best thing to do at this point is just get this behind us and move on and hopefully figure out a way to deal with the real issues that our country needs to deal with.”

How Dare The WSJ Blame The House GOP? | FrumForum

The Journal also of course as always favors tax cuts too. But not this one. The payroll tax holiday is the rare example of a tax cut the Journal strongly dislikes. In today’s editorial, the Journal suggests that its dislike is based on the holiday’s temporary nature. Yet the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 were temporary too, and that time limit did not disqualify them in the Journal’s eyes.

The Huffing-woo Post goes all in with the 2012 Mayan flapdoodle

So to answer the question of whether 21 Dec 2012 will be the end of the world; in a word, no.  Do I know exactly what is going to happen on 21 Dec 2012?  No, but I’ll hazard a guess:

The Sun is going to rise in the East and set in the West.  People are going to be born and others are going die. The American news media will be patting themselves on the back and/or flaggelating themselves because of their horrible coverage of the 2012 elections.  Dogs will be walked.  Cats will clean themselves.  The kids will be alright.  

The thing I’m waiting for is 22 Dec when we will be treated to a lot of talk about ‘a spiritual change’ or ‘spiritual evolution’ that will have taken place. You can already see the shift if you are in an environment where the woo is thick on the ground.  Two years ago, people were wondering if the ‘polar shift’ was going to happen (there were people who *genuinely* believed that the Earth was going to turn ‘upside down’ so that the continents in the Southern hemisphere would suddenly be in the Northern hemisphere!) or if there was going to be this or that cosmic calamity.  As each potential calamity was thoroughly debunked, goal posts got moved until the ‘end of the world’ became ‘there will be a spiritual evolution’ or ‘the beginning of a new spiritual vibration’. Now the really neat things about spiritual ‘vibrations’ and ‘evolution’ is that the evidence for them is anything you want them to be. So it’s very convenient.  But somehow, when people are trying to sell their books or whatever other woo flapdoodle is going to separate the gullible from their money they aren’t talking about spiritual evolution but real, actual, 70s-style disaster movie events.  But those can be verified and so aren’t nearly as escapable.  

Dec. 21, 2012: Will End Of Mayan Calendar Bring Doomsday? (VIDEO)

No one knows exactly what will happen on Dec. 21, 2012 — the day that the Mayan calendar runs out — but it’s safe to say there will be a lot of hype regarding what might happen.

Newt as GOParasite

It is one of the true delights of a bizarrely entertaining Republican presidential contest to watch the apoplectic fear and loathing of so many GOP establishmentarians toward Newt Gingrich. They treat him as an alien body whose approach to politics they have always rejected.

I got on The Daily Dish!!!

I had responded to a post on The Daily Dish and Andrew Sullivan put it on the blog in full!
A reader writes:

I appreciate the comparison you highlighted between the gay vet who confronted Mitt Romney and the black veterans in history observed by Ta-Nehisi.  I am a former soldier, having served in the US Army from 1985 until 1989 before being discharged after a witch hunt.  My sister is a retired soldier and my son is currently serving.  We have a tradition of military service going back to at least the Second World War.  It is my father, who fought with the storied 761st Tank Battalion (the Black Panthers) and his generation for black soldiers and airmen that I want to talk about briefly.  
On my mother’s side, there were three Tuskegee Airmen.
My father, as I said, was a tanker.  Before WWII, both my father and my uncles had lived every day of their lives in either Louisiana or Alabama, respectively.  My father joined the Army the week following the attack on Pearl Harbor because the Army would let him fight as either infantry or a tanker but the Navy would have had him shining shoes or being a cook.  My father wanted to fight.  
He spent four years in the Army, was decorated with the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.  When he came home at the end of the war, he went to college where he met my mother, who had spent the war building airplanes as a ‘Rosie’.  Because my father served, he and my uncles got the GI Bill that allowed them to go to college.  World War II made my father who he was.  
My parents stayed in Alabama, where I was born, until 1968 when they moved us to California.  The 1968 election was the first time my father ever cast a vote in the nation he had fought and bled for. When I joined the Army my father was very opposed to it – partially because my sister had joined four years earlier, partly because of his memories of serving in a segregated military.  To convince him that my reasons were good, I told him that it takes a special kind of man to go and fight for a country that does not consider him enough of a human being to go to school where he wishes, to vote in elections, to live where he can afford and to work in any job he is qualified for.  That generation of black men who signed up and served knowing that they would return home and not be able to vote were very special men.  
When I think of the generations of gays and lesbians who served in our military, I think that whether the likes of Romney (or a non-trivial swath of the GOP for that matter) realize it or not, they are in the debt of these folks and are in the presence of the very best of America.  
I am not trying to blow my own horn.  This is not about my service.  I went in because I felt that I had grown up in a nation that did consider me an actual citizen and if my father could put on the uniform when he was, at best, a second-class citizen I could do no less.  I just want us, as Americans, to acknowledge that gays and lesbians have served and continue to do so and that these are the very best of our nation.  They get up and they do their duty knowing that the man or woman they love back home is not considered their actual, wedded spouse and yet they do it anyway.  We should honor them as the exceptional Americans they are.
As a quick aside, I also want the gay community to get off their Left-leaning, anti-American high horse and recognize that our queer vets are the very best of us and give them our full support and thanks for their service.

If I Were A Middle Class White Guy

Now, I’m not a middle class white guy, I’m a middle class black woman who grew up upper-middle class (and needless to say black) but sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. So since Gene Marks, the Forbes columnist, feels qualified to tell poor black kids what they should do I think it only fair to tell middle class white guys what they should do.  

So if I were a middle class white guy, I would start early, certainly no later than my junior year of high school, reading deeply in American history.  I would go much deeper than the history that I was taught in high school paying particular attention to how American history looks from the point of view of blacks and Native Americans.  I would read some slave narratives and then work my way up through DuBois and Washington.  I would spend a great deal of time reading the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.  I would watch Glory until I had it memorized and The Color Purple and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman until I had no more tears to shed.   I would ask more questions than I made statements when talking about race so I didn’t come off as an entitled jerk who was blind to the realities that others face.

I would take some time studying, in depth, the exploits of the black men who fought in WW II.  I would seek out Invisible Man and Native Son.  I would buy a seat for an entire run of “A Raisin in the Sun”.  I would try to familiarize myself with what blacks have said about life in America so that I might have some idea what I was on about.  When I heard a black person talking about racism, I wouldn’t dismiss them out of hand or assume that the black person in question was making it up or ‘whining’.  I would have a sense of historical perspective, recognizing that 1967 isn’t a time what no living human can remember but recent history as these things are measured in most countries. I would recognize that I have a perspective and that while it is the dominant perspective in America, it isn’t necessarily the most accurate perspective.  

I would avoid assuming that poor people are poor because of some fault of their own.  If I were a middle class white guy, I would recognize the role that luck and random circumstance played in my own life.  I’m not saying that white people who ‘make it’ or (if they were born with it) ‘keep it’ don’t deserve what level of comfort they have.  But luck plays a role and I would never forget it.  I would train my brain to think outside of my own context. I would avoid using phrases like ‘my black friend’ or ‘why don’t blacks just…’

No sane person thinks that being white is a trip down the primrose path in America.  White people have to get up and go to work just like everyone else.  Whties get laid off, have car accidents, get divorced, have dogs that chew up their remote controls and teenage kids who listen to music their parents don’t like or get.  Life happens to white people too, just like it happens to everyone.   But if I were a middle class white guy, I would try to remember the things that don’t happen to me because I’m a middle class white guy.  I would, for instance, remember that because I’m white and male, my intellect or competence will be decided after I open my mouth or act instead of having it dismissed before I do either as happens to, for instance, black women.  If I were a straight, middle class white guy, I would recognize that I can marry the person I love and that it was injust that my gay neighbor or lesbian sister can’t and that this was an injustice crying out for rectification.  

If I were a middle class white guy, i would stand up and shout everytime I heard another white guy say that blacks just need to ‘develop a habit of work’.  I would put as much daylight between myself and the likes of Newt Gingrich as I possible could.  

If i were a middle class white guy the very last thing I would think of myself was that I was in any kind of position to tell poor black kids what it was they should be doing in order for me to think that they ‘deserve’ success. If I were a middle class white guy, I would do everything in my power from being the kind of middle class white guy who writes articles in Forbes telling blacks what’s wrong with them.

 

If I Were A Poor Black Kid – Forbes

I am not a poor black kid.  I am a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background.  So life was easier for me.  But that doesn’t mean that the prospects are impossible for those kids from the inner city.  It doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities for them.   Or that the 1% control the world and the rest of us have to fight over the scraps left behind.  I don’t believe that.  I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed.  Still.  In 2011.  Even a poor black kid in West Philadelphia.

Destroy a company, lose a nomination?

This could be interesting and, quite honestly, I would love to see Mittens have to pay a price for destroying jobs–because despite the rather typical Republican denials that we have to destroy jobs in order to keep them–when you destroy a company in Anywhere, USA and move the jobs to Someplace Else, Indonesia you haven’t really created jobs in America!  

Republicans Warn Bain Capital Could Cripple Romney’s Campaign | TPM2012

Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital buying up and restructuring companies — sometimes with major job cuts along the way — has been a glaring vulnerability since his earliest political runs. But it’s rarely come up in his two presidential campaigns, where the GOP’s investor-friendly ethos has made rivals hesitant to use it against him. Until now, that is. Newt Gingrich got the toughest shot in on Monday, suggesting that Romney’s time at Bain showed he was heartless and out of touch with the average American. “I would just say that if Gov. Romney would like to give back all of the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, that I would be glad to listen to him,” Gingrich told reporters. Jon Huntsman’s been hinting at Romney’s investment capital years as well, albeit more subtly, making extensive use of a now infamous photo of Bain-era Romney awash in dollar bills in his new website 10kbet.com and an accompanying web video (This is the same Huntsman whose father is a billionaire). Why is the issue coming up all of a sudden? Despite the Tea Party’s anti-bailout streak, it isn’t because Republicans have suddenly decided they hate investors — Gingrich, for example, got pilloried in the conservative press as anti-capitalist over his “layoffs” line and conspicuously rededicated himself to a “positive” campaign the very next day. The real subtext is electability. President Obama has made it absolutely clear that this race is going to about the 99% vs. the 1% on taxes, entitlements, and regulation. Sure we think Bain Capital is a paragon of free market values, Romney’s Republican critics argue, but what about those swing voters who are all too easily swayed the first time they see an ad featuring workers Romney laid off?