Sunday, May 30, 2021

Bloggiversary?

I thought of pre-dating this post, because I missed taking notice of the blog's fourteenth anniversary on May 21, in part because I'd hadn't posted since April.  I bring this up because an acquaintance from many years back checked in with me by e-mail, concerned that I hadn't posted in over a month.  I reassured him that I'm all right, my health is normal, don't worry.  (A couple of months ago I got email from someone who was worried about the blogger Arthur Silber, who's been inactive without explanation since 2019.  Since I had Silber in my blogroll, my correspondent hoped I might know how he's doing.  I don't know.  I have far fewer readers than Silber, but I'll try to give some kind of alert to you if I can when I stop.)

I don't know why I'd stopped writing here for so long.  I had numerous ideas for posts, but I let them go past me.  At 70, I have somewhat less energy, and in fact I've been somewhat less active on other social media too.  Part of the problem may be lethargy brought on by the comparative isolation caused by the COVID pandemic.  It may be a low-grade depression such as many people have suffered in the past fourteen months; I thought I'd escaped it, but maybe not. 

Maybe it's connected to the opening up we're seeing now.  You might think that the euphoria of having made it through, of being vaccinated and feeling relatively safe, would have given me new impetus to write; but maybe it doesn't work that way.  In some ways it's the opposite: yes, we can interact with people again -- in fact I just returned from a five-day visit to Bloomington, where I saw numerous friends face-to-face for the first time in over a year, and it was wonderful.  But at the same time, like many people, I've felt that we're in a kind of limbo.  Is it over?  Will it ever be over?  Is it safe?  Where should I wear a mask, and where don't I need to?

At any rate I'm still here.  My friend's nudge may have been what I needed to get moving again.  Thanks to him, and to those who are still reading me.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

You Have a Right to My Opinion

One of my right-wing Christian acquaintances posted this meme today.  I've noticed that a lot of right-wingers (which includes a lot of liberal Democrats, unfortunately) express this attitude, and it needs to be slapped down harshly.  (In fact, a liberal Dem FB friend also put a Like on this meme.)

The assumption seems to be that if they get pushback for posting viciously bigoted crap, as they love to do, it's because their critics don't "like" them.  Very often the pushback comes from family members who actually love them, but disagree with their opinions.  As Christians, they should be able to understand the difference -- "Hate the sin, love the sinner" is another of their cliches -- but they prefer to make it all about them.  It's an easy way of denying responsibility for their actions.

"Like" her?  I barely know her.  This woman went to the same high school fifty-plus years ago.  All I know about her now is what she posts on Facebook.  If you post stuff urging your fellow Christians to lock yourselves indoors and pray so that God will spare you from COVID (hah!), while all the unbelievers outside get sick and die, of course I'm going to call you out on it.  If your grandkids call you out on it, of course I'll back them up.  Get used to it.  Bigotry and lies do an enormous amount of harm, and you and your buddies have gotten away with it for far too long.

I don't mind when others disagree with me, even forcefully.  Really, I don't.  That's another story.  Well-meaning liberal friends have told me that I shouldn't be surprised if people get angry when I disagree with them.  I'm not surprised at all.  The surprise seems to be all on the part of people who've never had to face disagreement from people they know.  They just throw tantrums and cast themselves as victims of Cancel Culture (or whatever it's called this week).  It's common to speak of Trumpies as if they were totally distinct from the rest of the population, but they aren't.  They're our neighbors, our coworkers, our parents and grandparents, they're people we went to school with.  Of course, if they are nasty enough, we may decide not to "like" them after all.  But that's a result, not a cause of the disagreement.

Another Facebook friend from the same school and of the same vintage replied to my remarks: "I am glad I read your explanation because as a recovering people pleaser I may have interpreted this differently until I read on."  I'm glad she replied, because I'd overlooked that aspect of the meme.  Many older women have expressed similar sentiments.  But the original poster and I have frequently clashed over the content of some of her posts, especially since the rise of Donald Trump.  Now older right-wing women have claimed the freedom and power to be bigoted scum - though in reality they always found ladylike ways to do it before.

But that's oversimple: as I indicated, the person who posted the meme loves to post stuff that's hostile to everyone outside her bubble -- for example, at the peak of the pandemic she was posting memes about Christians locking themselves in and praying while everyone outside died. (In the real world, it was just the opposite.) Like many right-wingers of both sexes, she alternates between kissyface-huggybear memes about God's Love for All and hateful memes about those who do not love God and America Donald Trump. 

Men learn to submit to more powerful men while dumping on those they think are safely below them.  Heterosexual women are on the same hierarchical scale, below their fathers and husbands and above their children and anyone else they can look down on.  Trump's women supporters are standing under the protection of his leathery wings, feeling free to bash all the subordinates they couldn't make to suffer enough before 2016.

The deeper problem is that most people have no idea what to do when someone disagrees with them. At best they think that debate means that I state my opinion and you state your opinion and it stops there, because Everybody Has a Right to Their Own Opinion. (In fact that's where debate begins.) At worst they think debate means the shouting matches they see on CNN or Fox News, which isn't debate either.
A lot of people say there's no point in debate because you'll never change the other person's mind, and they'll never change yours. That's usually true, but I'm not trying to change my opponent's mind. I hope that people watching/reading the exchange will see what the arguments are and judge for themselves. Most of the time most people don't even know that there is another side to a question.  The function of the corporate media is to limit acceptable alternatives in order to exclude any others.

For example, this news clip about an anti-Biden flag flown by a Phoenix homeowner begins with one of the anchors asking rhetorically, "Is it vulgarity or political free speech?"  This is the kind of false antithesis centrists love.  "Fuck Biden" is both "vulgarity" and "political free speech."  (In my day, "fuck" was an obscenity, not a vulgarity.  And it turns out that the flag in question doesn't spell out the obscenity anyway, though I gather other versions being flown around the country do.)  The comments under the clip are educational too, with Trump fans exulting that they've shown how much smarter they are than "libtards" who say "Fuck Trump" by ... adopting their tactics.

But that's an old story, and in many ways I'm grateful to the Right, who make acceptable subjects and discourse that the media would prefer to censor quietly.  Does anyone else remember Anita Bryant? Her antigay crusade in the late 1970s enabled the mainstream media to cover subjects they were too cowardly to cover before. Bryant said that the Bible forbids fellatio because semen "is the most concentrated form of blood." No radical gay activist could (or would) have said that on national TV, but a reactionary Christian woman could. Thanks to Bryant for opening the floodgates to Queer as Folk!