20 July 2016

I Don't Really Want to Beat Up Anarchists, But I Do Want to Discuss Politics, Police and Political Correctness

Hey, let’s go beat up some anarchists!

I don’t know why I opened with that line, it just came to me and I needed to do something with it. So there it is. It does bring to mind how some anarchists screwed up some demonstrations in these parts a few years ago by breaking windows. When people tried to stop them the anarchists punched them. I can’t imagine it’s too difficult to beat up an anarchist. You seen these jokers? They’re not muscular. I doubt they know any martial arts and most of them look like disaffected white suburban kids who’ve not actually been in any fair fights. They’re similar in this respect to punk rockers who always look like they’re reading to knock heads. But they all look skinny, non athletic and as dangerous as an angry kitten. They derive their power from numbers. Anyone can be tough as part of a group that outnumbers its opponents.

All of this being said I by no means advocate violence. Actually, though, it might be a good idea to surround and give a good beating to anarchists next time they try to ruin a non violent protest. I realize that goes against the principles of non violence but what else do you do with these clowns?

You think the anarchists have ever noticed that their “movement” has never gained much traction? Of course it hasn't. They don’t stand for anything. They are just against. There’s nothing appealing about them. Plus no one can figure out what they want. The anarchist movements of the law 1800s through the middle of the 1900s at least had a plan and actually made a positive impact in Spain before the fascists took over. What they understood was the importance of articulating a message.

Not to change the subject or anything but the current iteration of the conservative movement in the US is, I believe and fervently hope, doomed to failure because their ethos is all about denial, rejection and hate. They deny climate change, they reject proposals that will help the less fortunate (like a minimum wage) and they — deny it as they will — hate so damn many people. Of course what ultimately dooms them — again, I hope and pray they're doomed — is their anti intellectualism. Who the hell -- in the long run -- is going to want to follow a party or a philosophy that rejects science (climate change, for example) and continually minimizes the importance and value of an education? Some of their leaders (Santorum and Perry, for example) are dismissive of such fancy notions as book learning. Add to this their lack of inclusiveness and you can see that conservatism is in desperate need to re-invent itself. As things stand now the conservative movement serves as a safe haven for paranoid, xenophobic, homophobic, gun-worshipping, racists. Good luck with that.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment for me in my lifetime has been the decline of race relations and the entrenchment of institutional racism which has kept a disproportionate number of African Americans in poverty, prison and anger.

The Civil Rights movement was a stunning and long overdue success. In its aftermath, during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, there was a wave of success stories for Blacks in America. Suddenly,all over the country there were African Americans being elected to public offices. There were prominent roles for Blacks in the media and entertainment. There was a rise in awareness of African American culture and racial slurs had become unacceptable. Black studies courses and majors were being offered in high schools and universities (I was in Berkeley High Schools's first Black Studies class). But then the slow and steady backlash came personified by Ronald Reagan who kicked off his successful presidential campaign in, of all places, Philadelphia, Mississippi, the same city where three Civil Rights were killed in 1964. He also opposed sanctions against Apartheid South Africa.

We shouldn’t need Black Lives Matters today. But we do. (And every nincompoop in the country has to say that all lives matter. It’s like having prostate cancer awareness week and people saying: we should be aware of all cancer.) The Obama presidency has — sadly — served to illustrate the extent to which racism is alive and well in the USA. The only people who deny its existence — and this is both funny and sad — are privileged white people who make jackasses of themselves spouting balderdash on television — on one network in particular. On a side note it would really help matters if we didn’t have idiots shooting cops. First of all, let’s not shoot anyone, ever, not even anarchists. Secondly there is something particularly nefarious about shooting police officers. Yes many cops are rotten to the core or too quick on the trigger or uneducated thugs, but they serve a particularly important role in maintaining a safe and free society. What we need to do is to reform the way people are selected to become police officers and how they are then trained. While we are dependent on the police the whole deal is made a mess of if said cops are themselves operating outside the law, especially with guns in their hands.

There developed a distrust and even hatred of cops when I was a kid as the counter culture was growing and the police were beating protesters with nightsticks and being footloose and fancy free with tear gas and pepper spray. But there was still a respect for the position and an understanding that violence against the violent wouldn’t, as Dr. King preached, solve anything.

As I write this the Republican National Convention is fouling the airs around Cleveland, Ohio. In my lifetime I’ve seen some pretty fucked up republican presidents. The aforementioned Reagan, the unindicted felon Nixon and the worst of the worse, the blithering idiot GW Bush. There have also been some nut jobs who ran for president under the republican banner. Barry Goldwater being the biggest schmoe, though the half wit McCain and poor little rich kid Romney were no bargains either. But I’ve seen nothing to match Trump. I believe it enough to say that he would be worse for the country then the most recent Bush who I believe did more damage to the country than any other president before (see: war, Iraq). It has been pointed out that Trump is a total narcissist. There’s that. He also has no clue about governance, no diplomatic acumen and no tact, class or grace. He has more hair brained schemes than can be imagined (seriously, a wall? no Muslims?). It is true that stranger things have happened than a Trump election, but those things are on a pretty short list. In a year of so much tragedy a Trump win would be the cherry on top. Frankly though, I’m not worried about it. Any republican presidential candidate would need to take some of the states that Obama won in 2012 and I don’t know of any that are in play with Trump as the republican nominee.

I conclude with another diatribe about politically correct speech. This is the one issue that conservatives are sometimes right about. They argue that at its extreme political correctness sometimes borders on a suppression of free speech. I am forever hearing about yet another word, term, or saying that “you can’t say” or “shouldn’t say” or is “offensive.” Indeed I think there are a fair amount of people who actually look for things to be offended by. (In the future will some words be allowed back into the lexicon? Will there be announcements saying that such and such word is back in play and so and so word now passes muster? Will we get any back?) There is one helluva lot of energy wasted on arguing over what people can or cannot say and demanding apologies and retractions. This all started with the notorious “n word.” Talk about an over reaction. This word has been vested with so much power that no white person dare say it. A word only has power, as George Carlin noted, depending on the context and the user. I should be able to say, for example, that in college I had a roommate who used the word "nigger", because that’s what he said. He didn’t say "n word". The use of the word "nigger" by a white person directed at a black person, particularly when meant as an insult is truly offensive and wrong. There are a lot of other racial epithets that have been used against Black people in this country. Should those too be forbidden? Should derogatory terms about other races and religions and people with different sexual preferences be banned? Why is “fag” not the "f word"? Why is the use of the word “bitch” toward a women ever allowed? I would argue that calling a woman a bitch is just as bad as calling an African American a “nigger.” We either need to do a lot more banning of words or a lot less. If the latter (as I hope) maybe we can just worry about the context in which the word is used. For example directing the word “bitch” at a woman should be scorned but when referencing a female dog it is perfectly okay.
N'est-ce pas?

Lastly I offer this from a recent article in Atlantic Monthly:

A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses. Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.

Two terms have risen quickly from obscurity into common campus parlance. Microaggressions are small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless. For example, by some campus guidelines, it is a microaggression to ask an Asian American or Latino American “Where were you born?,” because this implies that he or she is not a real American. Trigger warnings are alerts that professors are expected to issue if something in a course might cause a strong emotional response. For example, some students have called for warnings that Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart describes racial violence and that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby portrays misogyny and physical abuse, so that students who have been previously victimized by racism or domestic violence can choose to avoid these works, which they believe might “trigger” a recurrence of past trauma.

Can you believe this shit? It boggles the mind. How do people come to understand history or literature or current events if mere words can traumatize them? You want a strong emotional response triggered? Go work at a homeless shelter, or with victims of domestic violence or in pediatric cancer ward or in emergency relief or with recovering addicts or in a goddamned leper colony, then talk about emotional responses. If you can't take jokes or read Fitzgerald you should go hide in a bunker the rest of your days. Shocking.

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