Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Reading

Righteous Indignation — Andrew Sullivan takes on the proposed law in Kansas that would allow anti-gay discrimination on religious grounds.  (Sounds like someone’s been reading my Facebook page.)

If the Republican Party wanted to demonstrate that it wants no votes from anyone under 40, it couldn’t have found a better way to do it. Some critics have reacted to this law with the view that it is an outrageous new version of Jim Crow and a terrifying portent of the future for gays in some red states. It is both of those. It’s the kind of law that Vladimir Putin would enthusiastically support. But it is also, to my mind, a fatal mis-step for the movement to keep gay citizens in a marginalized, stigmatized place.

It’s a misstep because it so clearly casts the anti-gay movement as the heirs to Jim Crow. If you want to taint the Republican right as nasty bigots who would do to gays today what Southerners did to segregated African-Americans in the past, you’ve now got a text-book case. The incidents of discrimination will surely follow, and, under the law, be seen to have impunity. Someone will be denied a seat at a lunch counter. The next day, dozens of customers will replace him. The state will have to enforce the owner’s right to refuse service. You can imagine the scenes. Or someone will be fired for marrying the person they love. The next day, his neighbors and friends will rally around.

If you were devising a strategy to make the Republicans look like the Bull Connors of our time, you just stumbled across a winner. If you wanted a strategy to define gay couples as victims and fundamentalist Christians as oppressors, you’ve hit the jackpot. In a period when public opinion has shifted decisively in favor of gay equality and dignity, Kansas and the GOP have decided to go in precisely the opposite direction. The week that the first openly gay potential NFL player came out, the GOP approved a bill that would prevent him from eating in restaurants in the state, if he ever mentioned his intention to marry or just shack up with his boyfriend. Really, Republicans? That’s the party you want?

As for the allegedly Christian nature of this legislation, let’s not mince words. This is the inversion of Christianity.

Even if you believe that gay people are going to Hell, that they have chosen evil, or are somehow trying to subvert society by seeking to commit to one another for life, it does not follow that you should ostracize them. The entire message of the Gospels is about embracing those minorities despised by popular opinion. Jesus made a point to associate with the worst sinners – collaborating tax-collectors, prostitutes or lepers whose disease was often perceived as a sign of moral failing. The idea that Christianity approves of segregating any group is anathema to what Jesus actually preached and the way he actually lived. The current Pope has explicitly opposed such ostracism. Christians, far from seeking distance from “sinners”, should be engaging them, listening to them, ministering to them – not telling them to leave the store or denying them a hotel room or firing them from their job. But then, as I’ve tried to argue for some time now, Christianism is not Christianity. In some practical ways, it is Christianity’s most tenacious foe.

If I am confident that this law is, in fact, a huge miscalculation by the far right, I do not mean to discount the very real intimidation and fear that many gay Kansans and their friends and families are experiencing right now. It’s appalling that any government should seek to place itself institutionally hostile to an entire segment of society. But in civil rights movements, acts of intemperate backlash are also opportunities. If this bill becomes law, and gay couples are fired or turned away from hotels or shown the door at restaurants and denied any recourse to the courts, the setback to the anti-gay movement could be severe, even fatal. Yes, of course this bill should never have seen the light of day. But now it has, that light will only further discredit the discriminators. Even they know this, hence the unhinged rationale for the entire bill: “Discrimination is horrible. It’s hurtful … It has no place in civilized society.”

On the Killing of Jordan Davis — Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic.

I wish I had something more to say about the fact that Michael Dunn was not convicted for killing a black boy. Except I said it after George Zimmerman was not convicted of killing a black boy. Except the parents of black boys already know this. Except the parents of black boys have long said this, and they have been answered with mockery.

Jordan Davis had a mother and a father. It did not save him. Trayvon Martin had a mother and a father. They could not save him. My son has a father and mother. We cannot protect him from our country, which is our aegis and our assailant. We cannot protect our children because racism in America is not merely a belief system but a heritage, and the inability of black parents to protect their children is an ancient tradition.

Henry “Box” Brown, whose family was destroyed and whose children were trafficked, knew:

I stationed myself by the side of the road, along which the slaves, amounting to three hundred and fifty, were to pass. The purchaser of my wife was a Methodist minister, who was about starting for North Carolina. Pretty soon five wagon-loads of little children passed, and looking at the foremost one, what should I see but a little child, pointing its tiny hand towards me,  exclaiming, “There’s my father; I knew he would come and bid me good-bye…”

Spare us the invocations of “black on black crime.”  I will not respect the lie. I would rather be thought insane. The most mendacious phrase in the American language is “black on black crime,” which is uttered as though the same hands that drew red lines around the ghettoes of Chicago are not the same hands that drew red lines around the life of Jordan Davis,  as though black people authored North Lawndale and policy does not exist. That which mandates the murder of our Hadiya Pendletons necessarily mandates the murder of Jordan Davis. I will not respect any difference. I will not respect the lie. I would rather be thought crazy.

I insist that the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy, and shall not be extricated through the latest innovations in Negro Finishing School. I insist that racism is our heritage, that Thomas Jefferson’s genius is no more important than his plundering of the body of Sally Hemmings, that George Washington’s abdication is no more significant than his wild pursuit of Oney Judge, that the G.I Bill’s accolades are somehow inseparable from its racist heritageI will not respect the lie. I insist that racism must be properly understood as an Intelligence, as a sentience, as a default setting which, likely to the end of our days, we shall unerringly return.

The Problem with the NFL — Eric Sollenberger at SB Nation.

The NFL has an asshole problem.

There is absolutely nothing that came out in the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin report from Ted Wells that can be taken to mean anything else. Enough about this “locker room culture” crap. There is no such thing as “locker room culture.” This is just a phrase used by people who are uncomfortable with good athletes being reasonably called out on deplorable behavior. What happened in the Miami Dolphins locker room can be described as nothing else but a group of man-children hiding behind a veneer of alpha male-ism in a society that excuses their stupid actions.

It’s time we stop searching for reasons to defend the indefensible. You don’t have to be an asshole. You’re well within your rights to act like a decent human being. I understand that NFL players have been told that they’re special for their entire lives, and this culture of making them a celebrity since high school has a way of inflating their ego. But there’s a way to be famous and not be a world-class dick to your coworkers. Trust me, it’s possible.

Not all NFL players are assholes. Most of them are perfectly nice, generous people around their family, friends and their communities. But when a coach lets the stupidest people speak the loudest, then you have an asshole problem.

Like anything else in life there’s a spectrum of being an asshole, understanding that is where people start to lose their minds when it comes to defending this type of behavior. Most of the people that I know who are fun to be around bust each other’s balls and joke around.

The problem is that you can slap the “busting balls” label on anything you want. It can mean that you’re making fun of the time your buddy got arrested for petting a police horse, or it can mean that you’re calling a teammate a “half-nigger piece of shit.” Not being understanding, or not caring, about the fundamental difference between something that cuts to the core of who someone is as a human and something that doesn’t makes you an “asshole” whether you’re comfortable with this term or not.

Doonesbury — Paved paradise…

2 barks and woofs on “Sunday Reading

  1. These are all very depressing contributions to BBWW even as I share the thoughts and the anger expressed. Still,I hope your day turns out to be more upbeat. . . . maybe a car show will give you joy.

  2. Whether it’s a**holes doing it or just normal people, it makes for a hostile workplace, and that’s against the law. Football “culture” aside it is illegal and should stop.

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