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Carrot Sticks

Disapproving of people who aren’t “Normal” went from a virtue to vice within my lifetime.

I still see a lot of baffled resentment about that shift in public morals.

I still read a lot of pushback, and a sense that something’s gone terribly wrong.

If you strip away all the rhetoric and conspiracy theories that call marriage equality and gender neutral restrooms a subversive attack on normative institutions in prelude for the ushering in of a totalitarian state that demands full ideological compliance at all times, you’re left with a portrait of some very simple, wrong, but simple feelings underneath:

People miss being socially rewarded for conformity.
People miss being socially rewarded for enforcing it.
People resent being punished for what they were once rewarded for.

The shift in public morals changed the rules on what it took to be seen as a good person.

It used to be about not doing anything weird, and looking down on anybody who did.

Now it’s about not doing anything cruel, and looking down on anyone who does.

There used to be people it was not only OK to be cruel about, but REWARDED to be cruel about.

People fear the loss of unity that a loss of conformity-as-a-public-moral represents to them. They don’t understand what that unity cost, and don’t understand that it was a facade that was no more true then, than it was now, and just required a lot more people to hide, pretend, live unsatisfying inauthentic lives, and often suffer anyway, because the people who fear this were the ones conformity came easily to. They were the ones around whom the idea of “normal” was designed.

They built their senses of self partially on a bedrock of pride at being “the right kind of person.”

They see the idea that there even IS a “right kind of person” going away, as a threat not only to the unity of their nation, but to the socialvalue of the principal virtue from which they’ve always derived their standing and self-worth. Public tolerance of nonconformity, and public intolerance of intolerance toward it, feel like an existential threat.

If you’re wondering what animates and underwrites some segments of the modern Conservative outrage over ostensibly harmless live-and-let-live tolerance being adopted as the norm, and why they cast objection to them as FreeSpeech issues on THEIR behalf rather than HumanRights issues on someone else’s, this is how that logic works.

Within their lifetimes, whole swaths of the belief systems they were raised with and feel religiously and culturally virtuous for espousing, changed entirely without their buy-in from things everybody was supposed to agree with Or Else, to something you’d be treated badly for asserting.

Practically Overnight, as far as they were concerned.

And since these changes came from outside their communities –

And since these changes regarded discrimination and basic human rights –

They were accompanied by changes to the law regarding who it was ok to shun and treat differently.

That answer used to be “Someone”
That answer is now “No One”

BUT

All they know is they got a taste of what it was like to suddenly feel like pariahs at the hands of people who suddenly asserted influence over the laws of the land and didn’t respect their values or beliefs, and accomplished all of this without their consent or agreement, practically overnight.

It became NOT OK to hold beliefs that they held dear, not just on a social level, but also on a legal level, where those beliefs meant engaging in discriminatory practices against “the people it’s morally appropriate to treat badly.”

And That Was Terrifying.

It was the closest thing they’d ever felt to persecution.

Legal protections granting equality to the people they felt dutybound to shun and look down on felt like the government, acting at the behest of radicals who “didn’t love this country” (read: love it exactly how it was) felt like an attack not just on the character of the nation but on their individual right to self-determination and free thought.

So the next time you’re on a comment thread and you encounter someone dashing off manifestos about liberal nazi thought police, while you still won’t (i hope) respect and agree with them, you’ll at least know how they came to be as freaked-out as they are by things that nobody should mind, and why they see nothing but tyranny and totalitarianism in a public morals shift that says cruelty’s not ok.

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Chosen. Anointed. President?

In the winter of 57-58 AD, in Corinth, the man who would come to be known as the apostle Paul sat down with Tertius of Iconium, to dictate a letter to the budding church in Rome.

While that letter wouldn’t come to be thought of as “Scripture” in a meaningful sense, for ~300 more years, it contained one line that the emperor Diocletian (who ordered Christian materials confiscated and destroyed, during the end of the 3rd century A.D.) would have liked.

See, Diocletian, while he hated Christianity HARD, did something prior emperors (and former roman generations) wouldn’t touch, but modern Evangelicals would probably have liked. He re-styled the office of Augustus (what we now call Emperor) away from couching the power of the office in the imagery of a “First Citizen” serving his people, whose authority derived from the governed, themselves, into a Mandate From On High, conferred upon him by the gods, that he rule over Rome.

There are periods across history where the basis for rule, the source of a ruler’s authority, and the consent upon whose continuance a ruler’s continuing governance rests, are re-framed. Diocletian’s transition of the nature of the Augustus from military dictator to divinely-backed theocrat was later used as inspiration by the Vatican for the doctrine on the source of governmental authority that ran Europe up through the Enlightenment, called the Divine Right of Kings.

It should be noted here that a whole lot of the shapes the framers of our Constitution baked into its formula were a deliberate refutation of that the idea that the authority of leaders rested on anything but the consent of the governed – a point of divergence between our new republic and prevailing foreign norms.

Which circles us around to Paul. He says in chapter 13 verse 1 of Romans (or his letter to the early church in Rome) “All authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God,” while what he’s doing is actually settling a hot contemporaneous argument over whether or not the early church ought to pay taxes to the countries they lived in, or consider themselves wholly independent of mortal law and principalities – an argument which he concludes five sentences later, saying, in verses 6 and 7 “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

Periodically, though, in an effort to retain the loyalty of people who don’t know their bibles well enough to put cherrypicked verses in their original contexts (read: the bulk of the American church) someone will trot out Romans 13:1 (alongside some Old Testament hits explaining the theocratic monarchies of ancient Israel and Judah) to claim that anyone elected with an (R) next to their name governs with the divine mandate of God, and was appointed to that place of power because God knows what is best, and picked this yahoo as the right man for the job.

They tend to bring it up in times when people of conscience poll as having a hard time backing their boy. When Bush 43’s poll numbers were falling apart over Iraq, Afghanistan, and the recession, talk about God choosing rulers reared its head. During Obama’s terms, they suddenly forgot about that creed, and to help Evangelicals hold their noses and vote Republican again even though it meant casting votes for Donald Trump, once more, we heard Romans 13. And now today as scandals break and break and break and 45 gets harder by the day to back, we hear at CPAC, Mike Lindell say, “As I stand before you today, I see the greatest president in history. Of course he is. He was chosen by God.”

“When the facts are on your side, pound the facts.
When the law is on your side, pound the law.
When neither is on you side, pound the table,”
goes the old lawyers adage.

It strikes me that may very well be what this is. If it’s looking like your boy’s public-support-derived authority is dwindling along with that support, it might be time to reframe that authority in terms of backing from another granting source.

“If God be with him, who can be against him? You?” they’ll say. “Who are you to think you’re a better judge of who we need in leadership above us now, than God?”

I don’t know what’s sadder, sometimes; that anyone believes a move like that will work, or that Americans are overall too poorly trained in Rhetoric and democratic norms, such that it all-too-often DOES… Eyes up, out there, everybody. Some deeply UnAmerican ideas are on the march, in an attempt to plug the leaks in this old tub.

Vices Versus Verses

This week, you’ll likely read and watch a lot of hot takes and deep parses on the conflict on Lincoln’s steps today.  There’s a lot to say, and plenty of people to say it.  The smartest ones will point out that the same commentators who condemned Trayvon Martin’s hoodie as provocative, have suddenly forgotten they think clothes communicate, and make a bevy of excuses for the way that folks react to MAGA hats, as if they symbolize nothing…  But that hypocrisy will find no shortage of red-hatted adherents, nor critics to point it out.  I’m occupied.

Y’see, I’m hung up on a phrase used in the NewYorkTimes, by member of the third faction present – the one that no one seems to be talking about for two reasons – one, because their message and identities are unclear and don’t map easily to the way this story wants to polarize, and two, because it’s an arcane minor point utterly tangental to the story itself, but deeply telling about the American religious landscape – so, y’know, just the kind of thing that interests me.

I’ll be honest, I don’t completely know what to make of a group of protestors shouting at both the indigenous activists and the anti-abortion march attending catholic school MAGA student group before most videos of the event begin, which catalyzed their interaction with each other at the start.  I encourage readers to engage the article itself, but here’s the quote from it that stood out from the rest:

“I know we seem aggressive reading the Bible, but the Bible states for us to cry aloud and don’t spare anybody’s feelings,” he said.

Let’s take a look at that verse, in its context, then, and wonder at it being misappropriated in 2019:

Isaiah 58 King James Version (KJV)

58 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet,

Tell you what, let’s jump on over to the NIV.  King James sounds poetic, but it’s also kind of an Opaque read.  (which is one of the reasons fundamentalist sects prefer it, since the archaic inscrutable language is harder on the ear of modern english speakers, and since that leaves the meanings harder to parse, it’s easier to beg the case that it means whatever idea the party wants to push, so long as it includes some words that modern connotations push toward their goal.)  Regardless – NIV from here, for reading ease:

Isaiah 58 New International Version (NIV)

58 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail. 

I think it’s especially emblematic of the state of religious discourse in America right now,  taking a single line of this particular scripture and press it into service justifying a philosophy of Insensitivity and Aggressive Assignation of Blame – a meaning opposite its own.  Few things reflect the modern church’s thorough co-optation by the values of political alliance, than someone using this verse this way.

That Big Tent Blindfold

Y’know, it’s funny. Most Republican voters I know, would tell you, if you asked them, that they’re not Republicans.
 
They’re fully on-board, but they’re hipsters about it.
“I’m into this popular thing, but I’m not into it in an uncool way like everybody else who’s into it.”
 
The thing is, they’ll never vote for a Democrat, and they reliably show up to vote, even in midterm elections.
 
But “they’re not Republicans” they just happen to vote exclusively for Republican candidates and ideas, in lockstep with the party line, holding their noses all the way and trying not to look too hard at who else is voting for the same candidates for other pillars of the party platform those candidates support.
 
It walks a whole lot like a duck, it’s just too proud to call itself one.
 
It’s just important to remember that Republicanism is a Big Tent party, and a lot of its factions are inherently embarrassing to the others.
 
The only glue that keeps this machine working is a simple scare tactic that says, as long as we can make the very idea of voting for a democratic candidate feel like treason to your country and your party, we can keep you holding your nose and voting for our guys, overlooking the parts of this Big Tent coalition you abhor, and the parts of the party platform that cater to them.
 
Everybody gets theirs, and nobody has to look too hard at what they looked the other way about, to get it.
 
Deniability. The grease that keeps the engine viable.
 
“I’m not a white supremacist.”
“I’m not a fundamentalist theocrat.”
“I don’t personally have any problem with _insert group Republicanism persecutes here_”
“I’m not an authoritarian like those other assholes. Although I don’t like seeing protests, they’re an important part of democracy.”
“I actually hate how much influence big moneyed interests have in politics.”
“I’m not some militia gun nut, I just feel safer with one.”
“I don’t care who people sleep with. That’s their business.”
“I’m not interested in telling anybody what they can’t do with their bodies.”
 
“BUT…”
 
_Insert reason to look the other way about voting in lockstep with people who are, and do, all of that_
 
Whatever helps them sleep at night, I guess, but the important thing, mechanically, to note here, is that because of the shape of this deniability-enabled Big Tent look-the-other-way-and-hold-your-nose relationship most republican voters have to the party, a funny thing happens when they encounter pushback for the way they vote.
 
People outside the party look at Republican willingness to ignore the harm done by factions they vote in lockstep with but don’t agree with, as evidence of complicity and support.
 
People inside the party look at Republican willingness to ignore the harm done by factions they vote in lockstep with but don’t agree with, as no reflection on themselves, since their PERSONAL beliefs don’t line up with any of the really bad stuff.
 
That disconnect in how insiders/outsiders read the same lockstep voting pattern contributes to some dialog-obliterating conflicts, and I think there’s something to look at, there, for anyone looking to talk across the aisle. It’s something anyone who tries to has to contend with, knowingly or not, so it bears looking at, I think.

What Women Want

Gents, if your grand theories on what “ideal social role” makes women happiest is basically the opposite of what THEY say makes them happy… I just want you to entertain the idea that your theories might need work.

I come across a lot of guys online desperate to prove that a societal departure from the lifestyle of marrying young, avoiding contraception of any kind, and being fully subservient to a male head-of-household is the cause of all female depression, anxiety, discontentment, etc etc, and if the ladies would JUST RE-EMBRACE “God’s Chosen Role” for them, they wouldn’t need to SUFFER so…

And I just keep thinking how much more it says about the insecurities of the guys claiming that to be true, than it does about what might make, really anybody but them, happy.

And look, I’m sure that works for some people. People who choose it for themselves un-coerced. But it’s something entirely different when national politicians go on record laying society’s problems at the feet of the fact that women are legally allowed to work outside the home and therefore don’t NEED to bind their economic fortunes to a breadwinning male and trade on-demand sex and maidservice for food and a roof, or starve in the street. The American Family ™ is under threat, I’m told by cable news and AM radio, from Feminism, threatening to Turn Women Into Men, making them unhappy, depressed, listless and anxious since “living outside their god-ordained role isn’t what they’re designed for.” Leaving fully aside the fact that this is the most far-fetched unfounded straight-up ignorant notion of what the “god-ordained” role for ANYBODY is, let’s just all take a second to sit with the fact that people with broadcast platforms are claiming there IS such a thing, and “in the name of saving women” are suggesting a return to mandatory economic slavery.

These are ideas that’ve always been present in the dark corners of the internet. The NeoNazi corners, along with the WesternTraditionalist, self-styled “Manosphere” MRA blogs, WesternChauvanist, and NeoReactionary backbirths, have all been gibbering about how great it would be for them if everything from the right to work outside the home, to immodest clothing, to artificially-dyed hair, to disobeying their husbands/fathers, to premarital sex, to tattoos, to legal divorce, to the freedom contextualize domestic violence as something other than a man exercising his right to discipline his wife, should all be denied to the half of the species that, VERY CONVENIENTLY, the people advocating for it were not born members of. The sentiments aren’t new. What’s new is that these ideas are showing up in evangelical talk radio now. What’s new is that these ideas are getting national airtime out of Tucker Carlson’s mouth, and he still has advertisers. What’s new is that there’s so much else to be up-in-arms about, that this messaging-creep can go largely unnoticed.

What’s my point? If your idea of “The American Family” requires one member’s degradation for another’s artificial elevation, it’s not worth “Preserving” in the first place. I’m not big on gatekeeping masculinity, but if you feel degraded and denied opportunity by a culture that says you don’t get to degrade people and deny them opportunity, leave your man card in the box on your way out. I’d say don’t let the door hit you, but honestly that’ll be the least of your worries if you’re not out it fast enough, shooting off about “the role of women” in this house.

This Post Has Been Brought To You By Encounters With:
Fox’s Tucker Carlson
Focus on the Family’s AM Radio fetish
Acting SSA AC Robert W. Patterson
and my local JW Kingdom Hall’s friendly Missionaries

Stay frosty out there, gents.
There are pathetic Manchildren in our midst.
Educate or Excoriate. I leave the details up to you.

Birthright Rubicon

Ok so this one’s thorny, and deep in the weeds of policy debate and legalese, but stick with me, there’s some circular silliness in here that’s hard to top:
 
So this morning’s news cycle has everyone debating whether or not the executive order DearLeader has announced intent to sign is constitutionally within his reach. This conversation is playing in a number of different ways, publicly, dictated mostly by an individuals familiarity with the text of the 14th amendment. So let’s start there.
 
Section 1 reads:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
 
Now, depending on the resolution of the conversation that you’re having, and who you’re having it with demographically, you may be talking about this from any number of angles, reaching from
 
*Whether or not amendments can be repealed by executive order (spoiler: they cannot)
-to-
*DearLeader’s motives for suggesting such an order at this particular moment (news cycle derailment is the prevailing theory)
-or even-
*Which amendment the 14th even is (a pretty important one actually, from the Reconstruction era, not the initial batch)
 
But what they’re talking about in the WhiteHouse is Birthright Citizenship. Specifically, they’re talking about an executive order that explicitly revokes the settled law that U.S. Citizenship is guaranteed to every person born on U.S. Soil regardless of who their parents are and which state they’re born in. It’s the basis of YOUR citizenship, if you’re reading this. Really, it’s the ONLY thing that makes you a citizen, legally, unless you came to be an American via the green card lottery or elsewise immigrated to these shores. So this floated retcon isn’t just about some brown-skinned strangers far away. If you’re pregnant, this is very much about your child, if they’re sloppy in the way that they proceed. But that’s another rabbit hole, for another day, dependent on too many as-yet-unknowables to tackle here. So let’s recenter on the things that we CAN know: Birthright Citizenship is the constitutional provision that underwrites the grounds for legal citizenship. DearLeader’s bunch has a longstanding beef with that, because a side effect is, even if your parents aren’t citizens, being born here means their child gets to be. So the fly they’re swallowing this spider to catch, is that pathway to citizenship.
 
Let’s leave aside for a moment whether or not it’s legal and constitutional and can be accomplished by executive action. DearLeader seems to be guessing himself into confidence on that point, himself, saying “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t. You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order. It’s in the process. It’ll happen . . . with an executive order.” So we’ll leave white house lawyers some time to navigate that maze.
 
What matters is the conclusion they’ll come to, and the argument they’ll make.
 
When all the proud know-nothings have blustered themselves out, the ones left standing in that room will be the one or two smart people arguing that Birthright Citizenship is NOT implicitly guaranteed by the 14th amendment, and therefore an order or an act of congress nullifying that policy has a chance to pass a **Now With 100% More Kavanaugh** Supreme Court challenge. The argument that THOSE people will make, is that while YES it’s true the amendment says explicitly that, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States,” and that may LOOK pretty ironclad, there’s one word in there they can play with. Jurisdiction.
 
“Subject To The Jurisdiction Thereof”
 
A linguistic flourish of an afterthought? Maybe. More likely it was written as an explicit reassurance to the reconstruction era electorate, that this new amendment wasn’t about to fold Native Americans into the fabric of the nation alongside former slaves, which was a hard enough sell at the time, that it would require a whole other amendment just to let THOSE people vote.
 
The smartest racists in the room will argue that on THIS turn of phrase, rests their authority to deny the citizenship of what they call “Anchor Babies,” finally stemming this tide of brown migration from the South, by removing both the path and the incentive that a lot of families use to make the trip.
 
They should be careful though, as often happens, when we swallow spiders to catch flies. See, the smartest racists in the room’s argument is – because these migrants aren’t citizens, they don’t fall under U.S. laws. They aren’t “Subject To The Jurisdiction Thereof.” They should be careful, because it’s that Jurisdiction that underwrites deportation and all immigration law. Things they kinda sorta like…
Apparently the smartest racist in the room still isn’t smart enough to tie his shoes.
 
Now, one last thing before we turn the page on this obvious pre-election stunt. Yes, it’s a move to shift the news cycle against white right-wing terrorist attacks against minorities-at-large. Yes, it’s an obviously unconstitutional move, not even worth floating in any serious way… Except, is it?
 
Remember, as of this American moment, we are a full One Party State. Republicans loyal to the president control both House and Senate, hold a majority of governorships across the USA, the White House, and as of quite recently, a clear majority in the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
The nature of power isn’t something that we talk about a lot in the U.S. because traditionally we’ve been a nation that valued its laws. But power, really, only comes down to two things: “Who will follow your lead,” and “Who will oppose it?” The Law can, and often does, guide those decisions, as do forces like institutional inertia and tradition and so on. But at the end of the day, in Cleveland, flouting ordinance, ladies still wear shiny black shoes, and high society in Hartford pays a dear friend of mine every single day to train their dogs, despite a standing city ordinance that bans the education of canines. A law – all law – is only more than an idea if the institutions tasked with its enforcement decide to penalize infractions, when it breaks.
 
If the answers line up right; if those answers hash out something like this, for instance:
Q: “Who will back your plays?”
A: 42.3% of the voting public, both houses of the congress, and the us supreme court.
 
Q: “Who will oppose them?”
A: A staggering number of people who, while they’re legally correct, have no particular position or authority that might make their disapproval matter in this case.
 
Then the more relevant questions to be asking today really are these:
 
Q: “If a law falls in the woods and no one with the power and mandate to enforce it, even minds, does it matter that it’s a law?”
 
Q: “To discourage desperate migrants from crossing the Rio Grande, is it worth crossing the Rubicon instead?”
 
I guess we’ll see.

Unfair, You Say?

Don’t you think it’s weird that a certain caste of White American is obsessed with the idea that out there somewhere is a lazy black man, unemployed and living fat, on an imaginary cash handout version of welfare, collecting the economic fruits of someone else’s hard work?

They can’t let this vision go. It’s just so unfair, they say, being forced to pay somebody else’s way… They don’t deserve to benefit from someone else’s work, they say.

But then you point out that they’re right, and that their ancestors turned that idea up to eleven for a few hundred years by literally enslaving the ancestors of the people they’re complaining about, to leverage the ENTIRETY of a whole other captive race’s economic activity for themselves.

But sure, paying taxes that marginally support things like grocery assistance for anybody who needs it is super-unfair, right? It’s not just paying back descendants of that unfairly maligned race, who even long after emancipation, were systematically boxed-out of meaningful economic and political participation in a hundred different ways, to safeguard opportunity for, and then solidify the gains that system bestowed on White American families while it was in place, creating a social and economic framework that places everyone who doesn’t look and sound like they do at a starting disadvantage, and then insists that fair play means identical, not starting-line-based-equitable, treatment? Nah, it’s not that. It’s actually more fair than that, because our social safety net ISN’T just for the victims of our great ancestral sin. It’s for anyone that needs it.

But these guys can’t seem to get over the vision that somebody black and poor might not have a job, and might in the meantime benefit from the labor of white folks for a while. Like that wouldn’t just be justice for the past.

We didn’t do reparations in this country. We enshrined sabotage instead. Creating the very conditions that create disproportionate black unemployment, incidentally.

It takes a brass pair for WhiteAmerica to obsess over this mental image of a lazy black man getting something for nothing at their expense. A real brass pair indeed.

Banhammers For Polite Correctness

I’m thinking this morning about a friend who just got banned from Twitter for telling the operator of an ethnic-cleansing apologist account to go pleasure himself with a pineapple.

He’s one of a string of people recently who’ve encountered someone calling or the default-death-or-forced-relocation of whole populations of Amercians, going unchallenged, and told those people where to stick it… and found themselves punished by their platforms for saying mean words to a politely genocidal stranger.

It’s got me thinking about how, in the default moralities of online public spaces, Disturbing The Peace and Harassment are higher crimes than incitement to crimes-against-humanity. It’s a funny mechanism that emerges, wherever politeness is the only public morality, and where that politeness is defined by a majority group to whom said crimes-against-humanity are distasteful, but ultimately no threat to.

Platforms as simple moderators of manners, not gatekeepers of ideology SOUNDS TEMPTING. SOUNDS FAIR. SOUNDS EGALITARIAN AND BROADMINDED.

It’s not. And rallying support for / organizing EthnicCleansing is one of those areas where failing to oppose it tooth-and-claw constitutes a willingness to look the other way when it happens. If your platform then also moves to censure people who do what the platform won’t (make those organizers feel socially unwelcome) the platform is now actively protecting that endeavor, all while thinking all they’re doing is standing up for for decorum.

Decorum works funny, in climates where “politely go about your business” requires smiling and making nice with monsters who will kill people when they get enough support.

It’s the morality of groups who have nothing but their consciences at stake in discussions of ethnic cleansing.

There’s an incentive on the part of platform companies toward adoption of an Anti-Aggressor Bias, as the consensus morality. It’s a lowest-common-denominator every one can agree on thing. Nobody likes to be yelled at, but all the users of your platform want to be able to say whatever they want and feel validated for doing so.

And so massive evil Slow Steady Ideological threats to people’s lives and the wellbeing of whole population groups are relegated to the realm of acceptable political discourse…

WHEREAS

Directly telling someone off or using “fighting words” and tangible belligerence, is an easier thing to police without feeling like you’re taking any kind of alienating or ideological stance as a platform.

“WE don’t involve ourselves in policing anyone’s beliefs, so long as they’re polite about them with the other participants on the platform” is a seductive ideology that FEELS like you’re balancing the moral with the practical while actually fostering soil for pro-majority insurgencies to thrive.

And we need to start having these conversations, before things get much further along.

Anatomy of a President

A friend asked, earlier, what 5 traits I would look for in a president that I got to design – what aspects, policy positions, attributes, would mean the most to me.   I took a minute, then I wrote.
 
* I want a leader whose intellectual integrity I can trust – that means, to me, someone whose decisions (appear) not just guided by, but subject-to a comprehensive reading of the facts. Even the ones they don’t like. Even when it undercuts an argument that their gut wants to make. I want a leader, whose own leader is the fruit of honest, cultivated, curiosity. One who wants to FIND right, rather than just be SEEN as right. Someone who cares what’s true.
 
* I want a leader who understands America. That sounds trite, but it’s important. One who understands not just our founding principles, but the breadth and diversity of humans that’s represented in this multiethnic secular republic of religious freedom and ideals it may yet one day live up to. One who understands, not on paper, but in-person through relationships, what different regions, gender ethnic and religious minorities are like, and what they face in terms of trials. I want somebody who sees and has an interest in the details of the tapestry, and not just the broad strokes. Someone who’s just not interested in vague americana shorthand, and feels personally accountable to COMPREHENDING what all of the factions want.
 
* I want a leader keen on acting in good faith. In case it isn’t immediately clear why this is worthy of inclusion on the list, I’ll point to the dysfunction wrought across the federal government, as sabotage-appointees handpicked for their life’s work objections to the mandates of the agencies they’re tasked with heading up, have demonstrated what a mess it can make when the head of an organization opposes that organization’s core mission. I want a leader for whom that kind of sabotage would feel like a moral failure, rather than a victory, because I want this country to succeed. Abolish any department you want, but don’t force taxpayers to remain on the hook paying for agencies that aren’t allowed to do what they’re there for because the boss was put in place to neuter that.
 
* I want a leader who knows how to bring out people’s better angels. The presidency is an executive position, but it also comes with the opportunity, and the duty, to inspire. Whether that’s building a consensus for a policy they’d like, by making that case to the press, or whether that’s setting agendas for their party in congress, there is a tone-setting, pace-car quality to the presidency as an institution that grants that desk a hard-to-ignore voice. I’d like to hear that voice, from my idealized leader, used unflinchingly to help us as a nation find our kinder, most American of selves. I want a leader with an interest in fostering a healthy responsible engagement with one another and a more perfect union.
 
* Finally, I want a leader who understands the problems that we face, and knows enough about the issues to arrive at nuanced insightful readings of the moving parts, and can articulate opponents points of view in their own words, and explain with a measure of respect what they’ve decided are the flaws in that approach. I want somebody in the chair who has no patience for a talking-point that plays well, but ultimately won’t play out in point of fact. A person of real comprehension, who’s surrounded with the same. That’s what I’m interested in.

How Hard Is That?

What meaning am I to take from the fact that — when I presented the question yesterday about what one habit or platform people wish their own political party/tribe/side would reject — when I could even pin the GOP voting respondents down to answering the question about their OWN tribe, rather than just throwing out vague “ALL political parties need to stop doing X Y and Z and Focus on the People” type answers…
Not one of them – the public respondents or the private answers – not one current registered GOP voter among all of the participants – said one word about the fact that the party is currently not just running but putting money behind a handful of self-identified white nationalists in state races across the country.
What does that mean?
Should I read tacit approval?
Such shame-aversion that they can’t even look that fact in the eye for long enough to say, “I love my party and its other goals, but that’s not me and I’d like it better if we were’t running white nationalist candidates in several states?”
Is that just too much crow to eat, even in private with a friend?
I really don’t understand how it’s 2018 and we’re in a place where every Conservative voter I know isn’t screaming from the hilltops that these people have no place among their ranks. Why that isn’t priority number 1.
I asked the question. Gave a silver platter opportunity to safely pick on anything at all. The thread was filled with Democrats doing the same about their own party. Thoughtful, nuanced, break-the-party-line answers on every subject you can imagine, and having interesting calm discussions about it. This was the safest possible space to break ranks far enough to say, “Hey all this UniteTheRight swastika stuff actually kinda bothers me and I don’t think we need those folks, to win.” And nobody even thought it was important to bring up.
So we can’t even admit we have a problem. That’s what I’m hearing. And what it tells me is, they aren’t GOING to see it. It’s head-in-sand denial every time this shit comes up. If you’re waiting for your friends to come around and take the simplest most American kind of stand, and say, “Y’know what? I feel safe to condemn nazis in the streets. There are limits and that’s past them. It bothers me that my newssites take a sympathetic view of that, and make excuses for them. It bothers me that my president deflects on their behalf saying there’s lots of good people at those rallies too, rather than saying, ‘those fuckers aren’t with us,’ and it doesn’t feel disloyal to my party to say I don’t think we need to endorse candidates who incidentally also tweet about ‘the coming race wars’ and so on.”
I would have taken, “I lament that besides all the things that my party gets right, the number of protest-restricting laws they’re proposing in state legislators across the country feel like free speech violations to me, and I am pro-free-speech.”
It doesn’t seem that hard.
So is the takeaway that despite this information being easy to access, and everywhere, that they somehow don’t know, or don’t acknowledge this is a component of the party’s active base?
Or could it be that they don’t care?
I’m feeling disillusioned with my countrymen today, and it’s struck pretty close to home. It was a pretty simple question.
“What’s one thing about your party you don’t like?”
How hard would it have been to say – “They’re remarkably tolerant of racists, open nazis, and people who swear their not, but whose policy positions line up 1:1 with fascist policy. That’s not what Conservatives are about. We value liberty, religious freedom, government accountability, and I’m tired of my party looking the other way and pretending WhiteSupremacy is not a problem we have in-house. Most of us aren’t like that, and we want that shit expunged. It shames us all, to let them stay, and to pretend they aren’t there.” ?
I know you think that, GOP friends. I know you believe in your heart-of-hearts that’s right.
So why can’t you say so, when you get the safest easiest right-over-home-plate underhand pitch? I need to know.