Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Day after Labor Day observations

Just a few random thoughts after catching up on blog reading, television viewing, New York Times skimming, and just other musings of my day yesterday:

*Comparing the people attending the RNC vs. the DNC I am struck by how white the delegates are. Granted, I didn't watch as much coverage (there wasn't as much coverage to watch given the scaled back convention) but in scanning the crowd it was difficult to make out any people of color, and there certainly did not appear to be any groups or crowds or masses of people of color. And there seemed to be an overwhelming male force in the convention hall as well.

*Is it just me or are the newscasters half-disappointed that Hurricane Gustav turned into tropical storm Gustav and the levees held and there wasn't sheer mayhem and devastation? I mean, they SAY they are glad, but then they (and maybe CNN is the most egregious offender) are quick to point out that there are even MORE hurricanes on the way, like Hannah & Ike. There is a tone of sensationalism running throughout the news coverage of the Gulf region that makes me feel icky--like I need to take a shower. Personally, I was THRILLED that it turned into a tropical storm--and even then it seems awful that people had to have their lives disrupted like this.

*I can understand people being against abortion--everyone I know is against abortion in the sense that they consider this to be a last option--something they would rather not have to choose. What completely BAFFLES me about people who espouse "family values" is the "abstinence only" education for teenagers and/or the belief that contraception is a form of abortion rather than seeing contraception as a necessary practice not only to prevent unwanted pregnancy but to guard against sexually transmitted disease. Abstinence only education DOES NOT WORK. Talking candidly with your teenage children about sex, waiting to have sex until they are ready, ways to combat feeling pressure to have sex, and using proper birth control in the event that they find they cannot wait, THIS IS SEX EDUCATION THAT MAKES SENSE. Having this message reinforced in the school where kids may feel more comfortable asking questions and talking amongst their peers rather than with their parents MAKES DOUBLE SENSE.

*Universities, colleges, and K-12 schools that begin classes BEFORE labor day makes me sad (and Southern U. is among these).

*Did I mention that the delegates at the Republican National Convention appear to be overwhelmingly white and predominantly male?

*Being pissed off at the government or at the Republican party and destroying property or taunting police does NOT seem to be the most effective way to get your message across. It actually seems to undermine your message of change. Protesting peacefully and in mass numbers against policies that seem to go against your principles, like protesting against the war and against inhumane treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, seems both moral and ethical.

*Tennis elbow (which I have) takes a LONG time to heal and resting it and icing it is good, but I'm antsy to play golf and to do other activities in which full use of my right arm and elbow would be good.

*The image of the digital flag behind Laura Bush & Cindy McCain at the RNC was HUGE. I'm glad that Republicans like to remind everyone what country they are in. I wonder if they worry that we will be confused for Canadians or Scandinavians if they do not put up an image of a big flag billowing in the wind behind the first lady?

*Kudos to CNN's Campbell Brown for hammering away at McCain's spokesperson (Tucker somebody) who kept dodging her very basic question of asking him to name one executive decision that Sarah Palin had made with respect to foreign policy (since he had just said that Sarah Palin had more foreign policy experience than Barack Obama since as governor of Alaska she was the chief commander of the Alaskan National Guard). Tucker kept repeating that she had executive military and hence foreign policy experience given the executive level commands that she gave the Alaska National Guard. Campbell Brown kept asking him to name JUST ONE decision she made with respect to the Alaska National Guard and poor Tucker just kept repeating himself without ANSWERING HER QUESTION. It made him look foolish and he sounded like a broken record.

*No matter how many times I re-read Persuasion I still fall in love with Austen's language.

*Did I already mention that in terms of a mixed-race America, the image of the delegates convened for the Republican National convention seemed very homogenous and not at all mixed (with two exceptions, I did spot an Asian American man amongst the denim clad Texas delegation (they all wore matching denim shirts and cowboy hats) and when Cindy McCain addressed the crowd they did pan to her children which included Bridget, who is South Asian.

SERIOUSLY, here's my question, and it's a very real question: Is the Republican party as white and as male as the delegates in the convention hall have me thinking they are? I mean, I understand that I am a die-hard Democrat. And I understand that I have surrounded myself with like-minded people who are also largely Democrat or at least liberal on social issues. But if I think hard about the people I know who are Republican, there are a handful of Asian Americans (like my parents friends R & J) but by and large all the people I know who are Republican are white (and I've only met one black Republican, a friend of Southern Man. Talking to him was an exercise in having an African American man tell me that racial profiling of black men by the police was completely justified because statistics prove that black men commit more crime. It was SURREAL having this conversation with him, because he is also anti-affirmative action, pro-life, and anti-immigration. I didn't know him that well, so I didn't feel it was a good thing to get in a screaming match with him).

Really, is the Republican party overwhelmingly white? I am not trying to say that this then means that all Republicans are more racist/don't care about people of color. But is it a coincidence that the people I know committed to social justice and anti-racism are largely people of color or white allies, and all of them are Democrats?

[10:12pm--This just in: Senator McCain withdraws from an interview tonight on CNN with Larry King because of Campbell Brown's questioning of his aide, Tucker Bound (see my comment above). Click here for the article and see this YouTube clip below where Tucker Bound becomes defensive and inarticulate at Campbell Brown's questions. Apparently the McCain camp is trying to "punish" CNN for how "unfair" Campbell Brown is towards Tucker Bound. Judge for yourself. Personally, I think Campbell Brown was doing her job.]


The Constructivist said...

The LPGA brass just tried dismissing criticism of their new English proficiency requirements as so much PC/liberal media misguided do-gooderism. I thought I was done with this topic over at Mostly Harmless. Guess not.

Anonymous said...

Re: Abortion
1.) I unfortunately know some people for whom abortion is NOT the last option, but in fact the first. One had multiple abortions. I believe there are times when an abortion is the best option (lesser of evils, really)...but I believe it is more a form of "damage control" than "birth control".
2.) Despite being anti-abortion, I mostly agree with what you said about sex ed. In a modern society, if we're doing things right...there should be almost no need for abortion. There are so many other options that can allow women choices about their sexuality and still insure that no one has to have a pregnancy they don't want.
3.) teaching your kids about sex and birth control makes sense? Agree.
Having that message reinforced in school? Disagree...because there isn't clear agreement on what message is being reinforced, or should be reinforced. IMO, this is the fault of extremists on both sides refusing to compromise.

Re: violent/destructive protesting...I agree 100%, and I respect you for mentioning it.

Re: Republicans = white men.
1.) Speaking as a conservative who's currently registered republican (it was just so I could vote in the primaries)...I'd have to say that while the rank-and-file is probably more mixed (more gender-wise than racially, though, I'd say), the leadership is (sadly) predominantly white male.
2.) I don't think Republicans are necessarily more racist...but I do think a racist is probably more likely to be republican than democrat. But while I find racism reprehensible, I find many other things reprehensible, some of which are more representative in the Democrat party. So it's a tradeoff...at least for me. I can't deny there's probably some white-male privelege involved there, though.
3.) Do you disregard the experiences/opinions of the African American republican because they disagree with your own? Disagreement and discussion don't require a shouting match; I doubt you're the first person to question his views.
4.) Whether all the people you know committed to social justice and anti-racism are democrat depends on many things, including your definitions of "committed", "social justice", and "anti-racism". Also, while I consider it well and good that many democrats may be committed to these things...there are other things I also consider important that they are not committed to. So again: it's a tradeoff, in many ways.
The best I can do is say that I'm a white male conservative who does his best to be anti-racist (I haven't found anyone willing to give me a definition of "social justice" yet), and I don't think I'm alone. I don't know if that gives any comfort at all.

Jennifer said...

Just left a comment at your blog -- hopefully this will blow over, especially if the LPGA (and sponsors) get any sense that this is going to play as offensive in non-English (and lets call it for what it really is, Asian is what they're really targeting) countries.

Abortion used as a form of birth control is lamentable, but we are going to have to agree to disagree about the role of schools/educational system in terms of having frank discussions about sex in high schools (and really I'd start in middle or elementary school).

I think having full knowledge about the reproductive and sexual functions of the male and female bodies is a good thing. And I think going through the difference between lifestyle choices versus reproduction/procreation is also important. My own axe to grind is that while I find abstinence to be a perfectly fine and acceptable lifestyle choice and option for people, it is not a form of birth control or contraception; rather, it appears to be one end of a spectrum, with polyamory or open sexual relationships being on the other end of the spectrum. The rhythm method is, perhaps, a form of birth control (albeit not a very effective one) and it certainly will not prevent one from acquiring an STD.

At any rate, it's a tough job, the role of sex educator, whether you do this in the home or school.

To answer your question about disregarding the African American Republican friend of Southern Man (lets just abbreviate him to "A"), there are many things about my conversation that were frustrating--and so my desire to scream at him had as much to do with feeling like he was discounting my experiences as a woman (and to a lesser degree as an Asian American) as well as other frustrating conversational issues of a more personal and disgressive nature that don't have to do with politics.

I've generally found that when I encounter someone like "A" who uses his own personal experiences as a way to try to "trump" anyone else's opinions/counter-experiences there isn't real dialogue going on--there's wanting to be right. And since "A" was holding forth in a rather narcissitic fashion for most of the night, I wasn't really in the mood, by the time we got to the topic of politics to get into a thoughtful debate about topics that he insisted he knew more about because he was "black" and I wasn't.

Having said that, I actually do think that he is right in a certain way: I don't know what it's like to be a black man and would not want to discount his experiences as such nor suggest that my own opinions/experiences trump him. However, the fact that I know others who are "black" and hold different experiences/opinions than himself (and as he acknowledge, he too knows others who are African American who disagree with him) seemed to be negated in favor of his wanting to "win" the argument.

One of the most frustrating conversations I ever had was with a friend of a friend who is a white Republican male who hates Hillary Clinton. "T" is also a really great guy--generous and kind hearted and respectful, of me, and avoided talking about politics for most of the weekend we were thrown together. But I decided that we should try an experiment and talk across the divide and I really wanted to know WHY he hated Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party so we had this really honest conversation.

Except the truth was, it wasn't a conversation so much as each of us politely refraining from contradicting or yelling at the other person. I don't think either of us changed each others' minds and to be honest I was really bewildered by the reasons he gave for why he hated Clinton--they seemed, upon closer scrutiny, to have a lot to do with her not knowing her "place" as first lady/a woman, but that is my own interpretation of "T's" comments about her butting into the business of the nation (this was during Clinton's second term in the White House).

At any rate, all of this is to say that I do wonder whether we can ever get to a point beyond agreeing to disagree, although given the amount of uncivil discourse, perhaps this is not a bad place to be.

And I will say this: Spartakos I am SO GLAD that you read my blog and feel comfortable leaving a comment and engaging with my words/thoughts/observations because while we may not see eye to eye on ideological issues, I do respect your opinions and like the fact that we can engage each other, even if, at the end of the day, we simply agree to disagree.

Jennifer said...

Forgot to answer your question about social justice, and it's a good question because it's one of those words that is a bit amorphous.

My own thinking about the phrase "social justice" is that it encompasses a great many "causes" under its rubric that are largely associated with "rights," be they human rights or civil rights.

So common social justice platforms are anti-racist ones (the rights people have regardless of their race), anti-homophobic (the rights of queer people to be enfranchised in the same way as straight people), agitating on behalf of working class people and tackling issues associated with poverty (minimum wage issues, fair wage issues, although once we hit the realm of the globalized economy and trade issues this all gets very tricky/sticky), anti-sexist issues (the rights of women as equivalent to the rights of men), and perhaps even pro-environment issues (believing that the human impact on the earth should be lessened for the good of the planet as well as society).

I think the "social" part of the phrase deals with human impacts and the "justice" part deals with the way certain groups have been unfairly oppressed/targeted/marginalized. So another "social justice" issue would be to recognize the ways in which Muslim and Arab Americans have been religiously and racially profiled in the country post 9/11 and recognize that their "rights" have been trampled on and that they deserve "justice" in the face of oppression.

I would, of course, welcome other commenters/dissenters chiming in with your own definition of "social justice."

Evan Carden said...


Regarding your point about his experience trumping yours, I'd make a broader point, which is that personal experience trumps evidence. Personal example (irony is delicious) I grew up in Washington, where the dams are a giant issue. In discussing this with a classmate, I had a great deal of available evidence (as I'd just written a report on the issues) and he had the counter-argument: I'm a farmer, I know you're wrong!

We both walked away from that conversation absolutely certain that we'd won. I hate to tie this back into the anti-intellectualism conversation we were having, but it seems like the belief isn't merely that personal experience makes a nice anecdote, but that personal experience is preferable to evidence, especially statistical evidence which is seen as dull, or easily manipulated (which to be fair, it is).

On the question of divirsity, I don't understand what the Republican Party is thinking. I mean, they're usually intelligent (wrong, very, very wrong in my opinion, but intelligent), but in a country with so much divirsity, with rapidly expanding minority populations and a divided white population, playing almost solely for the white vote is a good way to lose long term. It seems like they've forgotten that while we've usually had a two party system, it hasn't always been these two parties. They're committing slow, painful suicide, unless I'm missing something.

Finally, on the subject of the protests, I'm generally in agreement with them, but to paraphrase Jon Stewart: Congratulations on making even people who agree with you cringe.

Breaking windows is bad. Attacking delegates (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26497298/) is worse.

Anonymous said...

Re: Birth control in schools...well, we may not need to disagree quite so much. And if we do have to agree to disagree, no harm...I've done it with many people I like and respect.

I totally agree that abstinence is a lifestyle choice. As such, it is a value judgement or opinion, not a fact...and thus should not be taught by schools, but by parents. I don't have a problem with schools teaching basic biology, or even the facts about what can prevent conception/STDs. I do have a problem with schools teaching about what lifestyle choices are right/appropriate, or encouraging/discouraging certain ones, or getting into detail about sexual practices. These are things I feel are better left in the hands of parents. An analogy, if I may: I support the idea of schools teaching gun safety...not how to operate guns, or anything about guns, certainly not how to shoot them...but how to recognize them and handle them safely, to avoid them getting into a situation they don't understand and getting hurt. I feel we should treat sex the same way...teach kids how to handle it safely, but not necessarily whether they should be handling it in the first place.
My whole disagreement was with the idea of schools "reinforcing" parental teachings...when parental teachings are likely to vary so much, I doubt there will be any agreement on what teachings should be "reinforced"; hence, I'm careful about how heavy a hand I think schools should take.

Re: your acquaintance "A"...I understand where you're coming from...you can't have a discussion with someone who isn't willing to have one with you. It just becomes 2 people talking at each other, not to each other. To be honest, as a white guy, I've had similar frustrating experiences talking to people who seem to feel that because I am not black, I'm not allowed to have an opinion on racial issues.

Re: your friend who hates Hillary Clinton...I'm actually on your side here. I wouldn't say that I "hate" Senator Clinton...I've never met her. I will say (and frequently do) that I hate her policies, in many cases, and I hate the tactics I feel she has used to acquire political power. But none of that has anything to do with her as a woman or a person; solely with her as a politician. I think half the problems in politics is people arguing from their guts.

Re: your happiness at my reading/commenting on your blog...allow me to say that I am pleased to read someone with whom I disagree politically, but can still find some agreement with and have a pleasant discussion/debate about things without it getting hostile or personal. I wish all my political opponents (not enemies!) were as pleasant and courteous. This is how I met and made a good friend online, Purtek.
Similarly, I'm always happy to talk to someone with a different background and experiences than myself, especially where it concerns race in America (a topic I am eager to learn more about)...because all too often when I try to get into such discussions, I am told (quite literally) "shaddup, whitey". And the ironic thing is that I am told this more often by white liberals than by minorities.

Re: social justice...thank you for attempting a definition, but I find it so broad and vague as to be almost useless...two people could mention "social justice" and not even be talking about the same thing. In that regard, it's a lot like "feminism", and I've had discussions with feminists about the difficulty in having a solid conversation on gender when people aren't even speaking the same ideological language.

I'm for social justice, in the sense that I feel all people should be treated equally and respectfully, regardless of their skin color, ethnic background, religion, political views, gender, or sexual preferences. The difference mainly lies (I think) in defining what lengths government should go to assure that treatment...and in my case, it's usually not very far. I'm for social justice as social change, not political change, because I am anti-government. Additionally (and no offense intended), I feel social justice advocates sometimes use loaded language to automatically define their side as the "right" side...when you say you're for justice, it implies your opponents are automatically for injustice. When you talk of a "fair wage", you imply that anyone who opposes you is automatically for unfair wages, when in fact that term 'fair' is entirely subjective.

I guess in the end, it all comes down to "what is justice?". People have differing ideas on what is just and what isn't, who should enforce/dispense justice, and many other related issues.

Thanks for the conversation.