16 July 2014

Something Sinister

Yesterday failed congressional candidate Matthew Burke found something sinister in President Obama’s hosting of the White House Iftar, an annual celebration for the past eighteen years. In a mere 280 words or so this “conservative” writer manages to cram more misinformation and outright lies than could be unpacked in an essay ten times the length. There’s probably a true word in there somewhere or other, but you’d be hard-pressed to find it.

All right, maybe the reverend Jeremiah Wright is or was an “(admitted) Marxist” as Matthew Burke claims; I don’t know, and Burke provided no citation for his assertion. Standard biographical sketches make no mention of this, so I’m dubious—but let it go. But it wasn’t Jeremiah Wright who said that Obama was “steeped in Islam” and “knew very little about Christianity” as far as the available record shows—it was Ed Klein, who was summarizing things he claimed Wright had told him in an interview. I don’t know how accurate Klein may have been in reporting Wright’s view—but the words are his, not Wright’s.

And again, Obama never “declared in 2008, completely on the wrong side of history, that America was no longer Christian.” Far from it. What he said was—and this is completely on the right side of history, so far—“Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation—at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.” As is well known, his original speech read “we are no longer just a Christian nation”; when he delivered it he accidentally omitted the word “just” and had to backtrack. He quite correctly noted that religious diversity (present since the founding) was growing in the United States, and that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and nonbelievers now have a substantial presence in the country. That’s a fact, by the way—not just the opinion of some self-described former Financial Advisor/Planner.

Yes, but the proper thing for the president of the United States to do is to merely tolerate Islam and other “legitimate religions” says this tea-party “writer”. The Father of our Country, George Washington, had a very different view: “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship,” he wrote to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, on 18 August 1790, “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.” Ah, but what did he know? Who ya gonna to believe, America’s Founding Father, or some “Constitutional Conservative” with an anti-American axe to grind?

Oh, yeah, by the way—George Washington never said that line about it being impossible to govern without God and the Bible—it was some lawyer in 1893. You could have looked it up, Matthew—if you weren’t so busy making a goddamn jackass of yourself.

13 July 2014

Rosie O'Donnell: Egotist or Asswipe?

I hear that we should be glad and rejoice that Rosie O’Donnell is returning to The View, and I might be joining in the happy celebrations if I had any idea who or what Rosie O’Donnell and The View are. I gather that Rosie O’Donnell is a liberal champion of LGBT causes, and that The View is a long-running morning talk show of some kind. These things I learn from that vast repository of all human knowledge, Wikipedia. My curiosity does not extend much further, alas. I no longer have a television, nor even a reliable internet connection, so I’m going to have to leave it at that.

What caused me to look them up is a story going around that a picture exists of O’Donnell posing with a dead hammerhead shark, an endangered species. I’ve never understood the mentality of people who entertain themselves by killing endangered species. I mean, I get the idea of enjoying a rare experience, and of having a trophy to show for it that few others in the world can aspire to, but really—it is a sort of monumental selfishness that mocks the sport itself. Killing an endangered organism reduces the likelihood that future practitioners of the sport will ever have the same experience. It puts ego above the good of the sport, the killer above the needs of the species. It is the action of, well, an asswipe, to use a term O’Donnell applied to a critic.

31 May 2014

The Guy Was a Misogynist (guest post by Nick Sutton)

[My roommate posted this on Facebook and I’m totally stealing it]

What is eating me up inside these past couple days is that people can actually sit around and have, what seems to be, a legitimate conversation about whether or not a killer was a misogynist in a murder which he explicitly stated was carried out for misogynistic purposes. The fact that women were not the majority of those killed is irrelevant (he didn’t actually get in to the building where he planned to kill most of the women he was going to kill for one… But it doesn’t really matter, because the reasoning behind the murders was stated).

I mean, yeah… Guy was probably crazy, most mass murderers are, but when a white guy murders a number of black people, and leaves behind a tape saying “I’m gonna kill those N-gg-rs because…” we wouldn’t generally ask whether or not the man was a “genuine” racist, even if he killed white people because “they were talkin’ to n-gg-rs!” or some shit (Pardon my use of language but I am attempting to stress an important point).

The guy was a Misogynist. Period. He stated it clearly. He made it known to everyone. The very fact that we’re attempting to have a “legitimate” discussion about whether or not he was a Misogynist is seriously fucking insulting.

I see people trying to make this about gun control, about the state of mental health care and psychiatry in this country, and a growing number of people who seem to turn their backs on anyone who says that this might have to do with a young man’s ridiculously overblown opinion of himself and what he is entitled to… The man loathed women, he resented them, he held them in contempt. He was, by the very definition of the word a Misogynist and he states that what he did was being done because of that contempt.

Was he mentally ill? Yeah… Probably… But Probably every religious extremist who blows themselves up for their cause is insane, it doesn’t change the fact that the culture in which they lived somehow gave them the impression it was okay to blow themselves up and murder innocent people to get their point across.

It’s getting to me, and eating me up, that I see so many conversations on my Facebook feed with people being careful not to call a Misogynist a Misogynist because they’re afraid someone might think they’re a *Gasp* Feminist or something (yes the belief that Men and Women are equals and that women are not innately subservient to men is an insult in this country!).

Am I saying we should round up all the misogynists and burn them at the stake for this? No! Not even remotely… I am, however, saying, that we shouldn’t have to walk on our tiptoes around the subject of Misogyny when it is painted in bold letters right in front of our fucking faces, but we don’t want to because so many people are insisting that this has nothing to do with Misogyny and we don’t want to insult them… I mean he is part of an entire sub-culture dedicated to, essentially, hating women that I am just going to briefly mention here (though I could probably write a book length message about that topic too!).

I say fuck them! Or don’t fuck them… That’s why we’re in this situation in the first place right? Probably shouldn’t reward these assholes for shitty ass behavior to begin with. Sorry kiddos you don’t get to fuck everyone you want whenever you like in life… Fact of life… And it sucks ass, but it’s something you’ve gotta learn to live with at some point in your life.

The point is, YES HE WAS A MISOGYNIST, that is a fact. You can’t get around that fact. It was a defining characteristic of his person, it was something he openly displayed on his sleeve for all the world to see. If someone stands the fuck up and says “I am a racist and I hate black people because…” we don’t generally make the argument that they are not a racist… Because CLEARLY they fucking are! They might be insane to boot… But an Insane racist is still a racist, and an insane misogynist is still a misogynist.

That alone, should point out how truly sad a state equality between the genders in this country really is. It’s really, really, really fucking sad to me that this kind of situation is required to really shine a spotlight on it.

17 May 2014

Terror

Okay, look, here’s what’s going on. I can’t write, I’m about a month and a half from being homeless, and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Phantoms of future terrors are ripping the words from my mind and leaving me speechless. I can’t blame my inability to write on this, really—I’ve had entries I intended to make for the last two years, but nothing seems to work when I try to type the words on my keyboard. I’ve even tried writing on paper again, but the problem isn’t with the physical method; it’s with the part that happens behind the eyes.

19 February 2014

Quotation of the Day

“Political Correctness” is a catchphrase which today means one of two things. The first is, “I have done no substantial thinking on this topic in at least twenty years and therefore anything I say past this point cannot be treated with any seriousness.” The second is “It is more important for me to continue my ingrained bigotry than it is for you not to be denigrated or offended by my bigotry, because I am lazy and do not wish to be bothered.” If in fact you do not intend to convey either of these two things, you should not use, nor sign on to a document which uses, the phrase “political correctness.”

17 February 2014

Washington’s Birthday Reading: from Lost Diaries by Maurice Baring

[Maurice Baring imagines what a passage from George Washington’s schoolboy diary might have looked like]

Bridges Creek, 1744, September 20.—My mother has at last consented to let me go to school. I had repeatedly made it quite plain to her that the private tuition hitherto accorded to me was inadequate; that I would be in danger of being outstripped in the race owing to insufficient groundwork. My mother, although very shrewd in some matters, was curiously obstinate on this point. She positively declined to let me attend the day-school, saying that she thought I knew quite enough for a boy of my age, and that it would be time enough for me to go to school when I was older. I quoted to her Tacitus’ powerful phrase about the insidious danger of indolence; how there is a charm in indolence—but let me taste the full pleasure of transcribing the noble original: “Subit quippe etiam ipsius inertiæ dulcedo: et invisa primo desidia postremo amatur”; but she only said that she did not understand Latin. This was scarcely an argument, as I translated it for her.

I cannot help thinking that there was sometimes an element of pose in Tacitus’ much-vaunted terseness.

September 29.—I went to school for the first time to-day. I confess I was disappointed. We are reading, in the Fourth Division, in which I was placed at my mother’s express request, Eutropius and Ovid; both very insipid writers. The boys are lamentably backward and show a deplorable lack of interest in the classics. The French master has an accent that leaves much to be desired, and he seems rather shaky about his past participles. However, all these things are but trifles. What I really resent is the gross injustice which seems to be the leading principle at this school—if school it can be called.

For instance, when the master asks a question, those boys who know the answer are told to hold up their hands. During the history lesson Henry VIII. was mentioned in connection with the religious quarrels of the sixteenth century, a question which, I confess, can but have small interest for any educated person at the present day. The master asked what British poet had written a play on the subject of Henry VIII. I, of course, held up my hand, and so did a boy called Jonas Pike. I was told to answer first, and I said that the play was in the main by Fletcher, with possible later interpolations. The usher, it is scarcely credible, said, “Go to the bottom of the form,” and when Jonas Pike was asked he replied, “Shakespeare,” and was told to go up one. This was, I consider, a monstrous piece of injustice.

During one of the intervals, which are only too frequent, between the lessons, the boys play a foolish game called “It,” in which even those who have no aptitude and still less inclination for this tedious form of horse-play, are compelled to take part. The game consists in one boy being named “it” (though why the neuter is used in this case instead of the obviously necessary masculine it is hard to see). He has to endeavour to touch one of the other boys, who in their turn do their best to evade him by running, and should he succeed in touching one of them, the boy who is touched becomes “it” ipso facto. It is all very tedious and silly. I was touched almost immediately, and when I said that I would willingly transfer the privilege of being touched to one of the other boys who were obviously eager to obtain it, one of the bigger boys (again Jonas Pike) gave me a sharp kick on the shin. I confess I was ruffled. I was perhaps to blame in what followed. I am, perhaps, inclined to forget at times that Providence has made me physically strong. I retaliated with more insistence than I intended, and in the undignified scuffle which ensued Jonas Pike twisted his ankle. He had to be supported home. When questioned as to the cause of the accident I regret to say he told a deliberate falsehood. He said he had slipped on the ladder in the gymnasium. I felt it my duty to inform the head-master of the indirect and unwilling part I had played in the matter.

The head master, who is positively unable to perceive the importance of plain-speaking, said, “I suppose you mean you did it.” I answered, “No, sir; I was the resisting but not the passive agent in an unwarrantable assault.” The result was I was told to stay in during the afternoon and copy out the First Eclogue of Virgil. It is characteristic of the head master to choose a feeble Eclogue of Virgil instead of one of the admirable Georgics. Jonas Pike is to be flogged, as soon as his foot is well, for his untruthfulness.

This, my first experience of school life, is not very hopeful.

October 10.—The routine of the life here seems to me more and more meaningless. The work is to me child’s play; and indeed chiefly consists in checking the inaccuracies of the ushers. They show no gratitude to me—indeed, sometimes the reverse of gratitude.

One day, in the English class, one of the ushers grossly misquoted Pope. He said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” I held up my hand and asked if the line was not rather “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” adding that Pope would scarcely have thought a little knowledge to be dangerous, since all knowledge is valuable. The usher tried to evade the point by a joke, which betrayed gross theological ignorance. He said: “All Popes are not infallible.”

One of the boys brought into school a foolish toy—a gutta-percha snake that contracts under pressure and expands when released, with a whistling screech.

Jonas Pike, who is the most ignorant as well as the most ill-mannered of all the boys, suggested that the snake should be put into the French master’s locker, in which he keeps the exercises for the week. The key of the locker is left in charge of the top boy of the class, who, I say it in all modesty, is myself. Presently another boy, Hudson by name, asked me for the key. I gave it to him, and he handed it to Pike, who inserted the snake in the locker. When the French master opened the locker the snake flew in his face. He asked me if I had had any hand in the matter. I answered that I had not touched the snake. He asked me if I had opened the locker; I, of course, said “No.” Questioned further as to how the snake could have got there, I admitted having lent the key to Hudson, ignorant of any ulterior purpose. In spite of this I was obliged, in company with Pike and Hudson, to copy out some entirely old-fashioned and meaningless exercises in syntax.

October 13.—A pretty little episode happened at home to-day. The gardener’s boy asked me if he might try his new axe on the old cherry-tree, which I have often vainly urged mother to cut down. I said, “By all means.” It appears that he misunderstood me and cut down the tree. My mother was about to send him away, but I went straight to her and said I would take the entire responsibility for the loss of the tree on myself, as I had always openly advocated its removal and that the gardener’s boy was well aware of my views on the subject. My mother was so much touched at my straightforwardness that she gave me some candy, a refreshment to which I am still partial. Would that the ushers at school could share her fine discrimination, her sound judgment, and her appreciation of character.

06 February 2014

Quotation of the Day

…if you believe in freedom of expression of some people, but not of all people— you do NOT believe in freedom of expression at all.
Taslima Nasreen (“Misogynistic book fair committee…”)
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