“Hang Obama!” Is that always racist?

Correlation, causation, race, the President, and hanging

Once upon a time not so long ago, someone on the Internet expressed an opinion. I found my umbrage and took all of it. And, thinking I’m the Deathmonger Whisperer, I took it upon myself to gnaw on another huge leg of futility. I was fresh out of lamb, you see.

As one might gather from the title, the opinion expressed was none too subtle. One might even divine which side of the partisan divide excreted this little gem. Of late, I’ve taken to trying to engage rationally with those with whom I disagree…with tact and diplomacy. I know. I know. “Who are you, and what have you done with Frank?!” It’s only an exercise in futility if I actually hope to persuade someone to change their mind on an issue. Failing that, I’m learning a great many valuable things, not least of which is to vent expletives into the room instead of through my keyboard. It accomplishes just about as much, but it leaves the door open to genuine discussion.

The specific opinion expressed was that Obama is guilty of treason [citation needed] and should be hanged, as per the Constitution. Never minding for a moment that the Constitution only calls for Congress to determine the punishment without expressly stating how it should be carried out, much less that it should be death, much less that it should be capital punishment by hanging, I went with what to me (and a great many others) was the apparent (if not actual) racism implicit in the suggestion. To that end, I replied much as follows: Continue reading

Tony Dungy is the Clarence Thomas of football

When he goes to bed tonight, Tony Dungy should offer a prayer of thanks that the US isn’t at the mercy of people like him.

Tony Dungy wouldn’t have drafted Michael Sam. But not because he’s gay! No, no. Because things will happen. You know … things.

Three thoughts.

1: Look! Look! See, Michael Sam is on TV being interviewed about non-football issues. He’s being a DISTRACTION! And why? Because … well, because Tony Dungy is in the media talking about how Sam is a distraction.

Don’t start no distraction, won’t be no distraction. Just saying. Continue reading

Conservatives

American conservatives: some of the most important history you’ve probably missed

Racism or abortion? You decide.

For the sake of history and truth, this might be the most important thing you read in quite a while.

The Real Origins of the Religious Right @ Politico

Short version: evangelical “community organizers” (recognize that dig?) and bearers of false witness initially tried to fire up the right wing evangelical “moral majority” (currently only approximately 26% of the US population…hardly a majority of any kind) in support of racially segregated schools. Patron Saint of the new GOP, Ronnie Reagan, who committed treason to win the 1980 election by interfering with the release of US hostages held by Iran (somehow omitted from this article), trotted out support of racial segregation but got punched in the political junk for it and backed down. Bob Jones University, the school that took the issue all the way to SCOTUS, eventually lost, and with the case any hopes of regaining its tax-exempt status in an 8-1 decision. That’s one helluva SCOTUS decision. The one justice that supported racial segregation? Ronnie’s SCOTUS appointee Renquist. Continue reading

Breitbart & Gawker, match of the century?

Wherein I try for a more evenhanded tone

ICYMI, Breitbart recently engaged in the kind of, how should I put it, less than rigorous journalism that many have come to expect of the source. In this case, the effects would be downright comical if not for the radical xenophobia espoused by their sources and the author. Naturally, with “border crisis” being the cause du jour, in between assaults on women’s rights and genuine religious liberty, this story involves the border and what was found there.

“That’s when I saw this thing laying around. And I was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ We walked over there and I didn’t really want to pull at it not knowing what was on it. I poked a bit at it with a stick and noticed some of the Arabic writing and was just like, ‘Oh boy.’ I snapped a couple of photos and then went on our patrol.”

Continue reading

Feminism

Why can’t you ladyfolk be nicer when explaining feminism to us? [trigger warning]

A personal perspective from the front lines of the war on women

Oh. I see. Share this if you get it.

Source: name withheld for safety

In the quote that follows, “I Blame the Patriarchy” blogger Twisty addresses a question I, like all feminists, have SO often been asked: “Don’t you think you could win more men to your cause if you were nicer?” And now, now, in my late forties, my answer is a firm “NO! NO I FUCKING DON’T.”

In my thirties, while I was also busy volunteering at and raising funds for battered women’s shelters (did you know the most requested item at a women’s shelter is hair dye, to make the women harder for their abusers to spot? If you ever run across a great sale price on hair dye, buy some extra and donate it to a women’s shelter, please – they always need it) and I was volunteering at the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant, and producing “The Feminist Papers” and “The Vagina Monologues” on my campus and marching in “Take Back the Night,” and taking the stage at “Speak out against rape” and being active in my campus Women’s Studies club and writing and editing the biweekly social justice newsletter for my church, and going to college with a near-perfect 3.9 grade point average, and raising a female child under the patriarchy, often as a single parent having to bring my daughter to classes with me as my military husband was frequently deployed during this period, I was also willing to take precious time to talk to men, both online and off, who demanded that I explain feminism to them, convince them – and it was required to be sweetly, nicely, patiently, with a smiling, pleasing feminine demeanor, and I complied, used up lots of time complying. Continue reading

CATEGORY: WordsDay

Sinclair Lewis imagines American dictatorship: It can’t happen here … can it?

“More and more, as I think about history…I am convinced that everything that is worthwhile in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit, and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system, whatsoever.  But the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and of silencing them forever.” – Doremus Jessup in Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here

 

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (image courtesy Goodreads)

It may seem strange that I choose to write about Sinclair Lewis’s dystopian satire, It Can’t Happen Here, for July 4th, the high holy day of the American ideal/experiment. Lewis’s novel is, after all, about the subversion of American democracy into a dictatorship. Worse, that dictatorship, is controlled by the leader of a political party called, presciently enough, The American Corporate State and Patriot Party. If ever someone seemed a political seer trying to warn us to consider the results of our actions, Lewis is that seer and It Can’t Happen Here is his warning. Published in 1935, the novel both reminds us of the complicated economic and political stresses of that time and, in an eerie way, reads (for anyone who has been paying attention over the last decade) like the playbook of – well, of both the “corporate citizen” and “patriot” movements within American politics.

For those who don’t know the work of Lewis (and, sadly, that will be far too many), his stock in trade as a novelist was the closely detailed, wittily sarcastic satirization of American life and culture. His masterpiece, Main Street, looks at the smug conservatism of American small towns; Babbitt is an indictment of bourgeois conformity and the practice of “boosterism” (called by another name today, but as rampant now as when Lewis wrote his novel); Arrowsmith, an inquiry into how science, specifically the practice of medicine, is affected by “expected” definitions of success; Elmer Gantry, his attempt to expose the hypocrisy of too many “big time” religious evangelists;  and Dodsworth, a critique of the wealthy (whom Lewis found intellectually empty and self-absorbed). Continue reading

CATEGORY: Racism

Open letter to the National Republican Congressional Committee

Creeps and jigaboos and death wishes, oh, my!

Dear National Republican Congressional Committee:

Your Facebook page is one of those pages that makes me answer the question, “what does a Like even mean?” in a really atypical way.  I “like” your page so I can see your posts in my news feed to keep abreast of your political positions.  Like I don’t have enough stress in a day, right? Today you had a beaut. a quote from Congressman Greg Walden, dated 6/9/14, against a backdrop of President Obama with his feet up on the desk, top-captioned “Obama is ignoring the constitution.” The quote:

“[The White House] needs to learn that Congress actually matters under the Constitution.”

Continue reading

ArtSunday: LIterature

Tristan and Isolde: Gottfried von Strassburg is All About the Love…

 Gottfried reminds us that love is complicated – and, we can assume, chemical, too….

Tristan by Gottfried von Strassburg (image courtesy Goodreads)

Back to  the 2014 reading list again. After taking a break from heavier (and, in one case, more depressing) works to read a little about fly fishing in my home state, I’m back to the sort of “serious” literature you’ve come to know and be bored out of your skulls by that I, ever needing to scratch the scholarly itch, adore wading through. And so we return to medieval literature.

If you remember, the last time we visited this area was to discuss Christine de Pizan’s remarkable The Book of the City of Ladies, a tour de force of proto-feminist argumentation against the deplorable depiction of women in the late 4th-early 15th century (Pizan’s work was published in 1405).  For this essay we jump backwards a couple of hundred years to the early 13th century and look at one of the great courtly/chivalric romances, Tristan by Gottfried von Strassburg. Continue reading

WordsDay: Literature

Thomas Dixon’s The Clansman: the South’s stories, demagoguery, history…

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Clansman by Thomas W. Dixon, Jr. (image courtesy Wikimedia)

We leave the 2014 reading list in this essay to consider a classic American novel of dubious repute that I read as a substitute last week when I was traveling and had forgotten my current book from the list.

Sometimes it is easiest – and wisest – to begin with a cliché. So here’s one about the place I am from and love with all my heart:

All Southerners are born storytellers….

This oft repeated claim has, as do all clichés and truisms, its basis in fact. Southerners seem to find in storytelling a needful way to explain the world and how it works. This is not to say that other regions of the United States do not feel this. But Southerners, more than people from any other region of America, are noted for their propensity to offer stories as explanations for “the way things are/were/will be/should be.” Leave it to Southerners, too, to take religion and make that all about storytelling. Continue reading

Jackie Mitchell: the legend of the woman who struck out Ruth and Gehrig

Did a woman really whiff two of the greatest sluggers of all time … back to back? We’ll never know, but it’s plausible.

My buddy Guy Saperstein sent this around last night.

The Woman Who (Maybe) Struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

One spring day my son came home from school and asked, “Do you know about the girl who struck out Babe Ruth?” Continue reading

50__s_Housewife_ad_cutout_by_AbsurdWordPreferred

Princeton Mom and the Chinese Government are on the same page

What do American conservatives and Chinese Communists have in common?

50__s_Housewife_ad_cutout_by_AbsurdWordPreferredHere’s a question I never thought I’d ask: What do the Princeton Mom, Susan Patton, and the Chinese government have in common? Answer: they both advocate educated women choosing marriage over careers.

In case you missed the Susan Patton story, she’s the Princeton alum and proud mom of “two [male] Princetonians” who wrote a letter to the Daily Princetonian advising coeds to “Find a husband on campus before you graduate.” Her reasoning is interesting:

Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are.

Continue reading

Donald Sterling’s appalling racist rant: the NBA must force him out of the game NOW

Clippers owner tells girlfriend not to bring black people to his games, officially replaces Cliven Bundy as America’s racist icon of the moment.

Holy fuck. Are you kidding me?

Donald Sterling, the owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, told his girlfriend not to post pictures on Instagram of herself with black people and not to bring black people to his basketball games, according to an audio recording posted by TMZ.

Ummm. Excuse me?

In the recording, Sterling and his girlfriend are fighting over a picture she posted to Instagram of herself with NBA legend Magic Johnson, and Sterling demands that she stop “broadcasting” that she associates with black people. Sterling tells his girlfriend: “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.” Continue reading

Fred-Phelps

Gay marriage: Fred Phelps’ death is the end of an era, but it isn’t the end of the fight

The passing of Fred Phelps actually makes the struggle for gay marriage and LGBT equality a little more difficult.

A few days ago I summed up the impact the late Fred Phelps exerted on American society, concluding that he was, ironically, one of the best things that ever happened to the LGBT community’s quest for social justice. A number of other observers agreed, including Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast and Peter Scheer at TruthDig, who thanked him for “his years of service to the gay rights movement.”

Continue reading

LGBT

Fred Phelps is dead: the LGBT community owes him a debt of gratitude

An evil man has departed the Earth, but not before inadvertently making it a better place.

Without Contraries is no progression. – Blake

Fred Phelps, founder of Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church, is dead.

Over the past several years Phelps distinguished himself as one of the most vile people in America, which is no small feat given the high profiles our society has accorded Hall of Fame hatemongers like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

As he has lingered on his deathbed in recent days, we’ve had a chance to ponder this moment and discuss what the proper response might be. My own pot shot – “may his funeral be well attended” – paled compared to some of the (justified, it must be admitted) rage against the man’s legacy. At the same time, we saw altogether more noble comments from people like Facebook’s First Citizen, George Takei, who reminded us that hate is conquered not by more hate, but by love. Continue reading

Washington Redskins and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell meet with Native American leaders about changing the team’s name. Sorta. But not really.

You can tell the Racist Epithets are serious because of who they sent to the meeting!

Did you see this at ThinkProgress?

In Secret Meeting, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Discussed Redskins Name Change With U.S. Senator

As calls to change the name of the Washington Redskins escalated in 2013, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and top officials from the Redskins organization, including general manager Bruce Allen, met in secret with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Native American leaders who support changing the name, two sources with knowledge of the meeting told ThinkProgress. Continue reading

Billy Jacket

Initially I wasn’t sure what to make of this use of Native American imagery. The man wearing the jacket was white, and at first he didn’t want me to photograph his design when I asked if I could. “I don’t want someone to steal my visual ideas,” he said.

Continue reading

ArtSunday: LIterature

Christine de Pizan – and whatever medieval feminism is…

Maybe feminism isn’t all that recent as a social movement – or, “we built this city on women’s roles…”

The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan (image courtesy Goodreads)

One of the tendencies of modern scholarship has been to “re-interpret” texts from other historical eras in light of modern (or postmodern – or post-postmodern) sensibilities. My most recent completed work from the 2014 reading list (I’m a little behind now due to some family matters) is by 14th/15th century author Christine de Pizan. The Book of the City of Ladies is typically medieval. Its author uses much material from “other sources” – which is medieval-speak for “borrowing” freely from both classical and contemporary sources – and the work is itself allegorical – the “city” of the title is actually de Pizan’s book.

The premise of the book is, however, anything but medieval. Christine de Pizan explains that she is “building the city” at the behest of three virtues (all represented in feminine form, of course): Reason, Rectitude, and Justice. These virtues – which are cardinal virtues of women, Pizan is subtly arguing – have appeared to Pizan in a dream in order to help her defend the intelligence, honor, and integrity of women. Women’s intelligence, honor, and integrity have been maligned, primarily, Pizan explains, at the hands of two groups of men – theologians and courtly romance writers. Theologians, despite their elevation of the Virgin Mary to a status nearly equal to that of Christ, primarily depict women as the source of mankind’s trouble dating back to the original troublemaker Eve. Courtly romance writers such as Jean de Meun in Roman de la Rose portray women primarily as sexual objects – creatures to be used for male pleasure and amusement with little or no thought given to their sense or feelings. Continue reading

Steroids

Should Major League Baseball allow steroid users into the Hall of Fame? No, Says Sam Smith.

Part 2 of a series.

How can we honor athletes for cheating and then talk to our children about honesty and integrity with a straight face?

Matt Record’s post yesterday arguing that Major League Baseball should admit steroid users to the Hall of Fame gets a lot of things right. For instance: Ty Cobb? Sub-human PoS, no doubt about it. And Matt could have devoted volumes to the abject malpractice of the sports “journalism” industry during Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s pursuit of Roger Maris’s single season homerun record; they chose to ignore what was obviously happening under their noses because the steroid era was good for business, and the less pontificating we her from them now the better.

And what about the ways in which MLB’s apartheid system kept some of the greatest stars of their time out of the league for decades? If anything, Matt doesn’t stomp hard enough here. Babe Ruth was a legendary hitter, but he never had to stand in against Satchel Paige, whom DiMaggio called the best pitcher he ever faced after playing against him in a 1936 exhibition.

Lefty Grove and Dizzy Dean were two of the premier pitchers of the 1930s, but neither had to deal with Josh Gibson.

The Baseball Hall of Fame maintains he hit “almost 800″ homers in his 17-year career against Negro league and independent baseball opposition. His lifetime batting average, according to the Hall’s official data, was .359. It was reported that he won nine home run titles and four batting championships playing for the Crawfords and the Grays. It is also believed that Gibson hit a home run in a Negro league game at Yankee Stadium that struck two feet from the top of the wall circling the center field bleachers, about 580 feet (180 m) from home plate. Although it has never been conclusively proven, Chicago American Giants infielder Jack Marshall said Gibson slugged one over the third deck next to the left field bullpen in 1934 for the only fair ball hit out of Yankee Stadium. Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith once said that Gibson hit more home runs into Griffith Stadium’s distant left field bleachers than the entire American League.

What would these men, and so many others, have accomplished had they had the sense to be born white? We’ll never know, of course, but it’s safe to say that The Bambino stroked a few taters off pitchers who, if not for the color barrier, would have been in the minor leagues. The same goes for MLB pitching icons, who certainly benefited from hundreds, if not thousands, of at-bats against minor league hitters instead of the likes of Gibson.

Matt gets these things right. So right, in fact, that it’s tempting to swallow his whole argument. That, however, would be a mistake.

The problem is that his case for throwing open the doors of Cooperstown to cheaters is a misdirection that asks us to look away from the real issue. In short, we are being asked to accept that since a group of people perhaps doesn’t belong in the Hall, that we should simply abandon our standards.

First off, all those white players who never faced a black or Latino weren’t cheating. As bad as the system was, DiMaggio and Ruth and Gehrig and Shoeless Joe didn’t break any rules that others were adhering to. The fault was on the owners, not the players.

Matt’s point is a valid one in another argument, but it’s irrelevant and misleading in this one.

Second, even if we accepted his reasoning, there’s still something profoundly disturbing with the idea that since one group of people got away with something, everyone should. If we wanted to push this principle to its logical extreme, we might find ourselves concluding that we should legalize murder because people have gotten away with it in the past.

I’d argue the precise opposite. Instead of using historical crimes to justify present crimes, I’d be more comfortable using what we know now to go back and purge past miscreants. Of all the major sports halls in the US, baseball is the only one that has an integrity component. If you want to launch a move to kick Ty Cobb out of the place, call me.

The Steroid Generation was a special case, wasn’t it? Each day, every day, a generation of cynical athletes woke up every morning, wiped the sleep from their eyes, and pondered, with deliberation and malice aforethought, how they were going to break the rules that day. It was premeditated, it was first degree, and it was arguably as bad for the game as gambling. When you roid up, you are attempting to alter the outcome of a contest. You are actively intending to fix the game.

I’m not going to go into a rant about the virtues of team sports and how they can mold character. But I am going to assert that character matters. Honesty matters. The integrity of the result of a sporting contest matters.

And at the risk of marking myself as some kind of archaic geezer yelling at the kids to get off my damned lawn, I’m going to say this: sportsmanship matters. It is important that we as individuals and as a society have values, and if you don’t believe that our sporting culture is an integral component of our society – as both cause and effect – you’re not paying attention.

Matt is a smart, thoughtful guy, and I wouldn’t attribute to him for even a second anything but the most honorable intentions. Truth is, there are a lot of people whom I admire that agree with him on this.

That’s great. But I want to be there someday when they have to explain to their children that it’s okay to cheat if others do it. It’s okay to break the rules if there’s money involved.

I understand how good people can be driven to such a position in a society as corrupt as ours, where the dirtier you are the better you do and where moral and ethical fiber is for punks. Trust me, I get that. I work in goddamn marketing, okay? I’ve had talks with myself where I confronted the ways in which my integrity was putting me at a competitive disadvantage. If I were willing to play the corporate game the way Barry Bonds played baseball odds are my life would be very different.

There are days where I want to cheat so badly I can barely stand it. But when all is said and done, I have to hold myself accountable to the values I think matter in life.

I can’t divorce athletics from society in general. And as such, I can’t accept that its okay to accept, let alone honor, our sporting heroes when they do things we’d punish our children for doing.