Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Humbled by the Teens

Emma Gonzalez, via Getty Images
The Parkland kids who started the #NeverAgain movement are simply amazing. They're in high school, so it's inevitable one or more of them will do something dumb, or has already done and we don't know it yet; but, that they've owned so many conservative (biological) adults online & in person, and seem to be making a real difference in the battle against the NRA is beyond commendable. It's positively life-affirming. In an age where it seems like the grown-ups are determined to render the Earth uninhabitable in order to make a few criminally wealthy families even wealthier, the idea that the teens might, just might, collectively tell the olds to fuck off and seize the levers of power for themselves is heartening.

Those kids have suffered more, and have accomplished more, at or by 18, than most of us whitebread blogging lefties have at 48. It's humbling. (I don't mean to disparage those of you who've organized to bring about change. I know you're out there. There's just so many more online opinion-havers who basically have day jobs, families, watch too much TV, read too many easy books, and have attended but never instigated a march. As a result, our greatest legacy in the political sphere is a string of votes for the lesser evil ... and not much else.)

When I think back on what a huge dumbass I was in high school, it makes me all the more proud of these kids. Man, I was so fucking dumb. Never dumb enough to identify as or vote Republican, mind you, but dumb enough that as late as the year 2000, almost 30 years old(!), after reading a glowing book review in the WSJ (ignored that red flag) by an author I was unfamiliar with, I posted perhaps the stupidest thing I'd ever posted, in my already long history of posting half-baked takes. To this day I'm so mortified that, whenever I see that author (who is still making a living, despite a felony conviction, by braying racist takes) cross my feed, I want to dig a hole and bury myself in it. 

The young folks out there doing work for BLM, they're the real deal. The Parkland kids, they're heroes, too. Can they bring an end to capitalism? Well, to paraphrase LeGuin, the divine right of kings once looked to be impossible to overthrow. It may be harder to imagine the end of capitalism, but if this upcoming generation can't, it's only going to get easier to imagine capitalism being the end of us.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Re-reading Jack Graham on Villainy After Black Panther

If Black Panther had ended with Killmonger taking the throne
and the weapons going out, I'd have been OK with that.
Instead, in Merlin, as in so many other products of the capitalist culture industries, the oppressed in revolt become evil and more powerful than the oppressors. The oppressors become the victims of the oppressed. The oppressed become the aggressors. They become machiavellian schemers. They become simultaneously cynical demagogues, fanatical zealots and amoral nihilists. The various villains that Arthur and Merlin face are all representatives of the groups that Uther has ruthlessly persecuted. They are engaged in antagonism because Uther has persecuted them, but they are depicted as the evil victimisers of the poor tyrant who just wants to live in peace. Their behaviour – disproportionately ruthless and destructive - justifies the structural violence of Uther’s regime. It’s perhaps unfair to hold Merlin up as a whipping boy. This is a very common and old strategy. On screen, it’s as old as Stagecoach and Birth of a Nation. And it goes back much further than moving pictures.  
It’s worth remembering the origin of the word ‘villain’. It comes from villein. The villeins were pretty much the lowest of the low in feudal Europe. The scum of the earth. The serfs. Peasants, tied to the land. Effectively, the property of the landowner. And they were in the majority. Our word for ‘evil person’ or ‘antagonist’ comes from the word that described the great masses of oppressed, bullied, exploited working people in feudal Europe, the people who created all the wealth that the kings ate and wore and traded and stored and administered and fought wars with and sat their fat arses on. 
Jack's essay is fantastic, each time I re-read it I want to go back and immediately read it again. Re-reading it today because it helps to clarify why #TeamKillmonger is so appealing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

R-e-s-p-e-c-t, find out what it means to me ...

Respect First, Then Gun Control - The New York Times

Because letting Red State gun-lovers lead has been working so well.

And while the NRA and their supporters have been leading on the issue of gun control, how exactly have they been productively respectful of the majority of people who want firearm sales and ownership to be more regulated? I don't feel like I've been respected, but at least I haven't been shot to death yet so I've got that going for me.

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, one of my neighbors shared a meme blaming school shootings on the lack of prayer in schools and the godlessness of society. Basically, he thought the most useful thing he could share was that people like me, who ask that others keep their religious beliefs to themselves, but worship any way they like as long as they're not forcing down the throats of non-believers of folks of a different faith than their own, are to blame for mass shootings. Not people who vote for NRA-backed politicians, for the status quo or worse, when it comes to regulation of firearms. Nah. Apparently the fact I've never bought a firearm, never voted Republican, have spoken out and marched against the NRA for decades, and am raising my children to be open to the best of religious teaching, regardless of the faith tradition they come from, to be tolerant of the religious, respectful of their traditions, but also to question, to think for themselves and to be sceptical, and to stand up for their freedoms ... apparently that means it's me and others like me who are the problem.

The hypocrisy, the arrogance, and the ignorance of people who blithely share victim-blaming platitudes (because the kids clearly didn't pray enough either) makes me tremble with rage. I don't expect to be applauded for not punching that asshole in the face, nor for continuing to be polite to him when our paths cross, but it would not be wise to not take my continued forbearance for granted. Eye to eye, in person, I'm going to expect to be treated with respect and I will say my piece when the topic comes up. My style is to ask questions, to listen and paraphrase back to confirm my understanding, and only then to point out factual errors if any, and ask if we agree about the implications of a stated position, but I won't let any bullshit go unchallenged either. If you're going to look me in the eye and blame me for dead kids, you'd better convince me that more assault weapons in the hands of domestic abusers, troubled teens, white nationalists, Christian (and other) religious extremists will prevent more deaths. I'll let you make your case, but unless you can convince me, you'll either take back the accusation or fists will fucking fly.

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