I changed my mind

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I often write about a topic before I do much research on it. Some might call that the epitome of laziness or stupidity. Regardless, after doing enough reading, I’ve changed my mind of trigger warnings.

I was talking to a friend who’s done research in PTSD, and when I attempted to make my argument, he told me that he didn’t see anything wrong with a trigger warning on a syllabus, especially If those traumatized people are set off so easily. And that really is the crux of the issue: Whether we are willing to make the smallest amount of effort to extend courtesy to victims of sexual assault, violence, or whatever. The fear of trigger warnings is that they are a form of censorship, and that it will allow the “weak hearted” to get out of dealing with important things. But if a person is that upset by the issue, wouldn’t only a insensitive jerk force that material upon a person? Is it not like your asshole friend who would showed you Two Girls One Cup or Pain Olympics without any warning? Except imagine that you actually had past experience and problems with the content, and that triggered a flashback because you have PTSD.

The other issue is that overly sensitive students will be able to get away with avoiding difficult discussions. I don’t think this will be a problem, though. The students who want to avoid tough topics will likely avoid them anyone. Do we really think, for instance, that a racist would take a class on Hispanic studies, or that a misogynist is going to major in women’s studies? Hardly, because it still is an object of derision for those people. Avoiding challenging material is something that is already done without trigger warnings. As long as the material is still taught to those who do not need to avoid it, trigger warnings will have a minimal effect on the classroom.

Imagine you have a friend who is a veteran struggling with PTSD. Would you make him watch war movies and read war literature, even if he said not to because he has flashbacks? We can’t make the world a padded room, but we can at least warn people about sensitive issues so that they can protect themselves. It doesn’t bother me that some shithead somewhere could use trigger warnings as an excuse to get out of class, because more important are the people who can benefit from a trigger warning. We don’t ban alcohol, for instance, because some people misuse it. Trigger warnings are a bandage on a more serious problem, which is how we treat victims and those with mental health issues in our society. Nevertheless this is a small but significant step towards recognizing them in our society. Sure, there are people who abuse the word trigger to mean something that upsets them, which has caused the meaning to drift from its intended purpose, which was to describe phenomena which caused the negative feelings of a PTSD sufferer to resurface. We shouldn’t lose focus that trigger warnings are for people who actually have triggers, and not for people who merely feel uncomfortable with certain topics.

For those who worry that we will be using trigger warnings in our every day speech, that’s plain unlikely. People can understand context, and they can understand with whom what is appropriate to speak about. I have an aunt who has had her mother and a brother commit suicide. For that reason, I don’t speak about suicide with her or around her because of how much it could upset her, nor would I send her recommendations to read The Sorrows of Young Werther or Mrs. Dalloway without a warning of the content. A trigger warning.

nick cannon, oh geez

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Nick Cannon has never had many defenders, and I don’t intend to be counted among them, not that I would matter enough to be noted, but I do want to say something about his whiteface shtick. For a lot of people, there is a false equivalency to whiteface and blackface, and that is what I would like to address. Though a white person might somehow be offended by this dumb joke, there is no historical basis for using whiteface to mock white people, but instead has been used by black actors in order to appear in roles as white characters. Blackface, on the other hand, was used for minstrel shows that did mock black people, and was even used in movies in order to avoid using black actors. The use of blackface is one of African-American exclusion and derogatory humor at their expense. In today’s context, I don’t believe most white people who don black face are intentionally trying to hurt black people, but it is insensitive and ignorant. The insensitivity is important, because almost everyone by now should understand how offensive blackface is, so by putting on the characteristic makeup, you are basically saying that the feelings of black people are secondary to your desire to make a crude, historically racist joke, which is just another symptom of how blacks are still marginalized in our society.

            There is, of course, humor that can be milked from blackface and whiteface. A successful example is Dave Chappelle’s white TV anchor. A less successful one is White Chicks, depending on who you talk to. Perhaps by going even further, by cross dressing (and which happens considerably in black entertainment), it is hard to be offended by its obvious parody. What whiteface is notably free from is caricature of white features. This in part makes Robert Downey Jr.’s blackface more acceptable and able to be taken as a joke, but blackface was done with the clownish features in minstrel shows, which should be apparent in its extreme repugnance, and is what adds that connotation of ridicule that is not easy to wipe away, even from realistic portrayals. The only equivalent is clown whiteface, which is used by white people and which realistically cannot be used to offend white people, nor does it, nor importantly does it demean them or lessen hurt the image of white people. Black people have to worry about their image in this society, and think about how their actions reflect on how whites will continue to see them, something that white people do not have to think about.

            Which brings me to the real point of what racism really is. The casual racism at the individual level does exist and absolutely causes harm to minorities of all stripe, but it is not the same as the institutional racism that blacks suffer from which inhibits their viability as a community. It is important to separate the two, because individualistic racism can go both ways, in that a black person could make a white person feel bad and vice versa (though if we are being honest, minorities will encounter it far more than whites will and is more pernicious due in part to the white majority). Institutional racism, however, is something that doesn’t affect whites (affirmative action does not hurt whites because they still attend college is far greater numbers that blacks and Hispanics, while it hurts Asians and Indian who would outcompete the white population based purely on academic standards), and is something that blacks cannot get away from, things like being targeted as criminals and drug users disproportionately by police, being convicted at greater rates than white people for the same crimes. Whites point out that they are often the victims of black violence, which is true, and it does happen more than white on black violence. But that is not the same as receiving a different form of justice under the same laws. Whites don’t need to protest for six weeks in order for the police to charge a man for shooting a young, unarmed teenager. Nor would they tolerate black men shooting unarmed teenagers and then claiming self-defense.

            White people who are offended by what they perceive as whining and woe-is-me accounts of how hard it is to be black and how evil white people are are under no obligation to feel guilty, not that many do, nor is that the course of action we need. It is easy not to feel guilty for how blacks and other minorities have been treated by becoming part of the solution. And it’s very easy to do so. No need to treat people of another ethnicity differently; in fact, treat them just like a white person. That is to say, when they do something, don’t judge their action in light of their race. So if you see, say, an Indian driving fast in his car, don’t think “of course he drives recklessly, because they all drive like that in India,” or “of course the Asian woman got into an accident,” because you would not think “of course that white guy is racing around, because he thinks he’s Nascar.” Stereotypes hurt because you cease to think of people as individuals, and instead merely as products of their race. Once you stop thinking of people in light of their color, congrats, no reason to feel guilty for racism! (And also stop using racial slurs or believing any white supremacy nonsense). But that doesn’t excuse us from not working to ensure a society that is free of privilege based on color. Regardless of whether you like it or not, programs like affirmative action are not special privileges for black people, they are designed to combat the huge advantages that white people have in our society in order to ensure that blacks have an more equal opportunity to succeed, which in turn will alleviate the need for blacks to rely on the government for support (not that they get that much) as they become more self-sufficient as a whole (not if the corporations have anything to say about it). It is not a guilt-trip, sorry-we-enslaved-you-here-is-free-education-and-better-jobs-at-the-expense-of-white-people-forever.

what i remember about school in (near) detroit

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I grew up in suburb a few minutes outside of Detroit, one which was mostly white until late. A lot of the white residents blame a realtor there for bringing the blacks to the city, and thereby ruining it. It’s a laughable statement, because the street I grew up on, almost entirely white except for the hint of color my family brought, was a little crime ridden. There were two or three drug busts on the street. I remember the FBI came to a neighbor’s just across the street from my own because the two mentally disturbed brothers were stealing mail. Crime doesn’t have a color; it is only a disease which festers in the pockets it can find. Of course, those areas are poor. At least, how most people imagine crime. White collar crime hardly constitutes illegal activity, and really, who does hurt, right? Certainly not the homeowner who buys a brand new house that is poorly insulated and poorly constructed, that requires a large of part of the subdivision to pay for new windows and doors and new roofing after less than ten years (I almost forgot to mention the siding is rotting) all developed by a company that with great timing folded within a year of the development of the area, just before the bubble burst. That’s my parent’s house. It’s worth mentioning that somehow most of the people of color in that subdivision have been grouped onto one street, locally called “The Hood” because of its concentration of Egyptians, Mexicans, Chaldeans, and blacks. I’m sure the realtors had nothing to do with that.

            But I have a focus here I don’t mean to divagate from. In elementary school, the student population was less than a quarter black. I was only slightly conscious of it at the time, but minority students were grouped together and given the worst teacher in each grade. In fourth grade, I was placed in the minority dominant class, which the teacher did not handle, and which I, being a straight A student, grew extremely frustrated in. I liked learning, I wanted to learn, and not being able to made the class unbearable. My mother had to petition the school to have me placed in another class. I’d like that to sink in. Some idiot racist may think that it’s better to keep the minorities together so that everyone else can learn properly, let the disruptive group keep to themselves. Aside from the obvious stupidity of such sentiments, there is a little grain of truth to it. The black students were not the best performing students. But to me that is not surprising.

 

            As I mentioned before, I was not very conscious of this at this time, mostly because I was not affected by racism in the same way that the black students were. My brother and I were the only Hispanics in the entire school, and prejudice against Hispanics is not as strong in Detroit, if only because of the relative scarcity and our distance from the border. We could also kind of pass. I was an excellent student and behaved well, so even if a teacher held my Mexican heritage against me, I’d most likely be held up as a credit to my race. I do remember being sent to a speech therapist once though, and maybe that was fucked up because my English was fine and I didn’t even speak Spanish when I was young. The therapist was a little confused because she agreed that I had no problem with speaking, and the other girl who saw her with me had a very strong lisp for which she was perpetually made fun of. Another digression, yes, but this is rather complicated and subtle. The big picture only comes with the accumulation of details.

 

I have a very strong memory of an interaction between a black student and a teacher in class once, it shocked me at the time, and it continues to have a strong effect on me. A student had asked something about Arabs, but she pronounced it Ay-rab instead of Air-ub. While I understand that this is a slur, it is also common for the uneducated to mispronounce things, like Eye-talian instead of Ih-talian. My father says Ay-rab, and he means it without offense. It is in part due to the tendency of English speakers to frontload, to put the emphasis on the first syllable. Let’s look at a bunch of words we do that with: English, Mexican, Franklin, Arthur, Angela, Jordan, Georgia. So instead of correcting a young fourth grader who I highly doubt understood the negative connotation of mispronouncing Arab, the teacher told her that Martin Luther King would be ashamed of her, and she said it with all the fury that she could muster. The class was silent for at least a minute, and the girl’s mouth hung open. It was obvious she didn’t even understand what she did. To her credit, she didn’t mouth off, nor did she cry. She was really tough. I know that in her position I might have cried, because I once almost did when I got in trouble for something I didn’t do. I’ll never forget that day. Even that young I knew it was a fucked up thing to say to a child. But it was more than that day. The black girls were never doted upon like the white girls were. The black students never received as much help, and they always got into more trouble than the other kids for doing the same things. If you got into a kerfuffle with a black kid, the lunch moms or the teacher generally took your side, which was great for you if you were white and in the wrong. I, somewhat unwittingly, took advantage of that loophole a few times to save my own neck, because as kids we can be shitty to save ourselves. Well, I was.

 

I do remember one black girl crying to the teacher – this was around first grade – because she never believed her when she told her someone was picking on her or took her things, or ever took her side. The teacher felt bad about it. But that’s what went on. It’s no surprise to me that black students underperform in an environment that is hostile to them, or even makes them feel unwanted. Well, they just need to buck up and hit the books harder to make something of themselves, some asshole racist might say. Never mind of course how school, where we are supposed to do just that, becomes connected with alienation and distrust for many black youth. Ask any kid who is bullied how hard it is to want to be in school when you are uncomfortable being there. America bullies its black students and then blames them for underachievement as indicative of their race. And it’s all done by people who don’t even realize they are doing it.

youth, artistry, and liberalism

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If there are any groups that one would immediately associate with liberal and progressive ideology, it would be the young and the artistic. I’ve heard many people say that you are liberal in your youth and conservative in your old age. A reductive axiom no doubt, but not entirely without merit. There is something to the young and the creative that brings out progressive ideas, and it is not because those groups are wide-eyed dreamers, unknowledgeable, or simply naïve, denigrating notions used to reject out of hand what they bring to the table. I would argue that it is the youthful and the artists who, having the least to lose because they are the least invested in the economic system, are therefore among the most unbiased observers to our current order. The reason why many begin as liberals and become conservative with age is because they find little recourse in engaging against the colossal system that is inherently resistant to change. They lose heart, and find a way to live the most comfortable life available, which comes by adhering to the economic system that brings with it judgments of who deserves what. Conservatism is a means of conformity necessary for the system to properly function, which rewards conservatives who don’t question the system in the same way that liberals do.

 

Of course I don’t mean to assert that liberals are not compensated by the capitalist economy. One only need to look at George Soros. What I do mean is that with conservatives comes an attitude of who deserves what, and that the wealthy deserve their all their wealth, that working to the top, ambition, all that is good not just for the individual but society. They are more accepting of the profit motive, with all the cynicism that it entails. I’ve met many conservatives that want a more compassionate society, but not with their hard earned money, and not for the lazy (i.e. the poor).

 

Artists and the young, on the other hand, often don’t have that hard earned money (at least, not yet anyway). Creative work does not always reward the artist monetarily, and more often than not it won’t. Herman Melville and F. Scott Fitzgerald died destitute, despite writing two of the most important novels in the American canon. Would you argue that the makers of Candy Crush had a better impact on American society? Likely you would not, yet they were far better compensated for an insipid mobile app. Perhaps a more illustrative example is art.

 

It is not uncommon for a painting of a long dead artist to sell for millions at auction. The principal of scarcity applies here, meaning that the exclusive nature and greater desire for an artwork makes it more valuable. But the artist who painted it is often never compensated for the aggregation of its financial worth. Instead, the owner of a van Gogh can purchase a painting and then sell it for more money. From this it is easy to see that making money comes from ownership of property more than it comes from the labor of the individual. Banksy, arguably the most famous artist of the day, could sell a work for a million, but the resale of the work will make more money, even though the seller did nothing to add value to it other than possess it while its value accumulated as the artist’s reputation rose. There is, unfortunately, no mechanism for the restitution of the artist for his cultural contribution other than the fickle, “free” market, which fails for artists as much, if not more than it rewards. And that is without taking into account piracy, whose cost publishers and record companies push onto the artist.

 

Most artists will labor for years in obscurity without any guarantee of success. Sure, there are the prodigies, but there are also those who need many years to develop their craft. Similarly, if one looks at the average age of entrepreneurs, they tend to be around forty or fifty. Imagine spending two decades on building your skills, with little compensation, and then not making it. It takes a lot of courage to persist in a creative endeavor, and it is far riskier than most realize. We only hear about the success stories because the success stories that make the most visible works. This pursuit places the artists outside of the conventional, which is why artists tend to be described as weird, and because artists don’t just question the economic system, they question societal norms, religious conventions, and all other beliefs and values that constitute “normal.”

 

Let’s look at Percy Bysshe Shelley. Writing toward the beginning of the 19th century, Shelley was a radical, atheist, vegetarian, advocate of nonviolence and free love. John Milton in the middle of the 17th century was putting forth his arguments for complete freedom of the press and the ability to divorce, and argued that marriage should be for love. Some of these ideas we take for granted now, and some are still radical. At the time, of course, they were mocked.

 

The young can be equally as radical, and especially among the student populations because, rather evidently, they are the group in best position to agitate politically. They have fewer responsibilities than working parents, are most often not engaged in the work force, and are involved in intellectual endeavors. What working stiff has the time between job, kids, and the myriad other obligations, to actually spend time philosophizing or questioning the world around them? The honest answer is not many, because work is tiring, and raising kids is tiring.  Most people don’t question the rise in hours they week each week because they welcome it, the extra pay keeps them from drowning in bills, or helps them get their car repaired, or allow for some money to actually be saved. But we should question it, because the more time we are working, the less time we have to think about what is actually happening to the world around us, and the less we have to enjoy the life we have left.

 

Again, it is worth saying that it is easiest for the youth to question our world, and practically a necessity for the artist. Those who have the most success in the economy have the least impetus for questioning it because they profited from the system. Those trying to succeed, in the midst of working up the ladder, are unlikely to question because they are focused on their own affairs, and the distribution of wealth, for instance, has seemingly little impact on the new opening in a higher up position. The young, at the beginning of their lives in the workforce, don’t automatically see within the system. They don’t think “that’s the way it is,” quite yet.

poor behavior and the failure of systems

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One of the defenses of our current capitalistic system is that it is criminals who betray the system, that otherwise it works. In some sense it borrows from Stoic thinking, that overall the cosmos is just and good, that catastrophes and wrongdoing are not intrinsic to the system, more like a brief illness or malfunction that eventually rights itself. But this is facile and reductive, like a turtle thinking it sees the world within its shell.

            If we look at the criminality in other systems, say feudalism and slavery, what we see is that the misbehavior of the powerful (i.e. slave owners, feudal lords, aristocrats) does not disrupt the system. Abuse by kings, dukes, and emperors, etc. often went without punishment, and was not the primary reason for their downfall because the feudal system existed for over a thousand years in Europe after the fall of Rome. Similarly, a slave owner can mistreat his slaves at his own discretion. These are inhumane systems, but that was how the functioned. To draw a parallel to our own times, a boss can demand of workers longer hours, can poorly pay his workers, and even treat them discourteously. None of this upsets the system. One could argue that just as a slave owner who cares for his slaves might get better quality work out of his slaves, a company that cares for its workers would get better work. And this is true, but it doesn’t affect the bottom line without the ability for workers to penalize mistreatment. Wal-Mart is one of the biggest corporations in the world and makes a lot of money while poorly paying its workers and generally not caring about them. But Wal-Mart is the not the only one guilty of this. The majority of service industry jobs do not pay well. And the reason why this happens is interesting, if only because of the myriad excuses for it.

            Many argue that businesses are designed to make money, and therefore have an imperative to pay as little as possible and sell as high as possible, which is called “good business.” And I agree with this. The system not only encourages this, it rewards such behavior. There is a reason why slave owners did not educate their slaves; if they had, they would be empowered, desire better conditions and a better life, and would revolt. Similarly, our system only works by having poorly educated workers. A person does not need a G.E.D. to work at Wal-Mart, and I would argue that many of the credentials we demand of workers are superfluous, which has resulted in degree inflation.

            Now, many people like to argue that no one sticks a gun to a person’s head and tells them not to get an education and work at Wal-Mart, and therefore it is their own fault for working a dead end job, and therefore they should not get paid much. This was the same type of argument justified for slavery, that Africans were racially inferior and therefore suited to working the hard labor of slavery. There is a reason that the poor end up working at Wal-Mart and rich people don’t (outside of the its corporate head). Unless you believe that the poor are inherently dumber, lazier, and therefore worse and less deserving, a conundrum is to be found.

            The argument that people will be paid the amount they produce (how much money they generate with their labor) is ridiculously idiotic, but it’s one that I’ve heard to justify our system. How much a person gets paid depends on their leverage with the company. Unskilled workers will always lose out against a company unless they can utilize one of their few advantages, which is numbers. Obviously I am talking about unions. It was not long ago that an unskilled worker could stand on the assembly line and bring enough money home to send his kids to college. Try that on the grocery line. So what is the difference? Why are automobile workers so much more deserving than people who flip burgers or ring up your shopping list?

            They aren’t. If we believe that some people do not deserve to make a decent living even if they work a full, forty-hour work week, then we need to ask why capitalism is seen as a better system than feudalism and slavery. Either people deserve this or they don’t; it is not about jobs being entry level or that only people who can fit in our education system and pick the correct field deserve to live comfortably.

            In American history books, when the topic of guilds come up, it is used as an example of worker’s organizations impeding progress, that of the mechanization of work. Well, something that doesn’t get talked about is how and why guilds, the antecedent to today’s unions, were busted. This can be seen is every country that is industrialized. The steps are the following:

  1. The privatization of communal farm land (see for example enclosure in the U.K. or the Dust Bowl in the U.S., which is a bit of a stretch) that forces agricultural workers into the cities for work.
  2. These workers undercut the guilds as scabs, being forced by necessity into low wage work for long hours and with poor conditions. The modern day sweatshops of the third world existed in the developed work too, which we are slowly falling into again.
  3. The ability of capitalists to produce goods quicker and at a cheaper rate is viewed as progress, but it comes at the cost of destroying the middle class, which were the skilled artisans of the guilds, and so dismantles them by absorbing their business.

Again we come to another question we really need to ask ourselves. Is it progress to be able to produce more goods for less money if it destroys the wages of other laborers, and ruins the health of the workers while demanding of them long hours? This only ended, if temporarily, in the developed world because of the reintroduction of labor unions, this time for the unskilled worker. During the industrial revolution, many workers died because of the horrible conditions. One need only look up the various lung diseases that people suffered in the mining and textile industry. It was also necessary for every member of a family work in order to survive. Today, after the anti-union policies of the Republican Party in the U.S., it is not atypical for both parents in a family (supposing that it is not a single parent household) to be required to achieve a level of economic comfort.

To return once again to understanding the criminality in systems, or the abuse of the weak by the powerful, what should become clear is that these abuses are inherent to the system. Abuse of the system does not break it. Slavery did not end because the slaves rose in revolt, it ended because the North, morally, objected to it (thanks to the efforts of former slaves and abolitionists), and the South revolted. In fact, it was the abuse of the slaves that kept them in their state of perpetual fear. Today, many workers do not protest or attempt to unionize because of the fear of reprisal. This is called hegemony, and it is does exist in our society. When we see Wall Street go awry and ruin the investments of average folk, or companies union bust, or endeavor to suppress wages and benefits, they are doing so because the system rewards them for it in the same way that drug dealers are rewarded by their efforts, regardless of the supposed criminality. It follows, then, that if we want a more egalitarian, democratic society, we need a new system. One solution is called Worker’s Self-Directed Enterprise, which I will talk about in another article.

a brief respite: on racism and acceptance

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Only three parts in and I find myself a little tired of dissecting our political spectrum in America. And more annoyed with how our partisanship is built over false divides. The reality is that most Americans want a fairer distribution of wealth in America and a system more like that found in the Scandinavian countries. I believe the poll I saw was 92% of Americans. The more I’ve put my thoughts to words, the more frustrated I’ve become at seeing what is holding us back. I don’t think that the Democratic Party is free of bigots, but they don’t support racist or sexist policies (only on occasion), unlike the Republican Party. Nor are bigots necessarily bad people, something that is easy to ignore. We say, look at the evil these people wreak with their wrongheadedness, in their actions and their thoughts. We want to blame them for the ills of our society. They are not blameless, but in the same way that we see the poor, or criminals as products of their environment, I see the same with the racists, sexists, politicians, and capitalists. It is very hard to exist within a social group while maintaining completely different ideologies, which is why you don’t see Marxists casually hanging out with Tea Partiers. Our entire concept of how the world works is in the ideology we accept. Ageism is a perfect example of this, because in some cultures the old are still venerated, while in our youth-centered, consumerist culture we deride the elderly for their inability to fit in, to adopt our rapidly changing technologies and ideas. Are we really surprised that old people tend to be more racist and more sexist? No, because that was more normal in their day (doesn’t make it right, but it is what it is). We look at our youth, which is far more tolerant than the generations before us, which, again, is not surprising. It’s a feedback loop; the more accepting our society is, the more accepting we are because we are society.

In the Progressive Era, many abolitionists abandoned their posts as champions for the black folk and turned racist. This isn’t as known well as it should be, but most abolitionists were pretty racist even before this and said pretty racist things. But after the turn of the century, the country just became even more racist. It was everywhere; one could not escape racist messaging. It was in advertising, it was in schoolbooks, it was in all forms of media, a constant barrage on the psyche of Americans in that day. Ernest Hemingway referred to blacks in his early works as nigger, just used the word as if that’s what the term was for blacks. Which, at that time, horribly, is how it was used.

What I mean to say, with this, is that we don’t win necessarily by shouting down the bigots. I know people will disagree with me, but what I believe is that we need to have completely open discussions with racists about race. Let them state their views without coded language so it can be truly seen for what it is. No more hiding behind states’ rights or other bywords. The Crown Heights Riot is an amazing story about what conversation can do for communities. After the riot, which resulted in two deaths, the black and Jewish communities engaged with each other and have improved racial relations in the neighborhood. This is what is needed, not simply condemnation but showing people the error of their ways, without shaming, because what is more important than being right is bringing us all together in acceptance.
Or we may just have to wait for the bigots to die out.

left vs. right part 3

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Religion is generally conservative, not that it has to be. Liberation theology, for instance, is a radical form in Latin American that places its focus on economic and social freedom for the poor. But in the United States it has been a force for conservatism, and dates back at the very latest to 1909 with the publication of The Fundamentals, a series of essays that denounced liberalism, Marxism, evolution, and many other topics we continue to debate today. Perhaps a new Protestant Reformation is needed that would ask where in the Bible it says that social welfare is evil, though Jesus asked us to be anti-wealth and give to the poor. Atheism and Marxism have generally gone had in hand, which is undoubtedly why it is rejected so by the Christian right.
Despite publication in the Progressive Era, we don’t see Fundamentalist Christians making an impact on politics until the 1970s. After half a century of losing court cases, like the Scopes Trial (1925), Engel v. Vitale (1962), and Roe v. Wade (1973), which diminished conservative Christian values in the mainstream of the U.S., as well as demonstrated their lack of efficacy in the federal government, Fundamentalist Christians began to exert their power on their state governments where they maintained majorities. They lobbied to fill positions such as the Texas Board of Education and continue to push for conservative Christian judges on the federal courts in order to prevent cases going against their favor. This is another reason why we see the Republican Party champion states’ rights; they do not want the federal government to remove their bans on gay marriage, their restrictions on abortion, or lessons on creationism in the classroom. What the Christian right wants is a Christian society; they want the laws of the land to reflect Christian values, even if it breaks the barrier between church and state, because the only thing for them more important than the Constitution is their interpretation of the Bible, which is literal.

It is worthwhile to note that the U.S. was in part founded on religious extremism. I don’t use this word lightly. Puritans were mocked in English society as extreme, and many saw their zeal as a mental illness. In fact, Puritans are still mocked in England to great effect, as recently, to my knowledge, as Blackadder II. The Founding Fathers themselves were deists, which if one were being honest, is atheism. Voltaire used to hide behind the label. The reason for our beloved separation of church and state is not because each sect of Christianity in the United States was equal in each other’s eyes, and so as a means of respecting one another they would not adopt one official religion; it was because each sect feared persecution at the hands of the other, should one become dominant and enforce its worship on the populace. Thomas Jefferson cleverly played on this fear in creating the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

If one looks for state sponsored religion, one will indubitably find persecution. England is one of the most laughable, depressingly so. Under Thomas More’s office, Protestants and those in possession of the Tyndale Bible were tortured and killed. And then Catholic monasteries and the religion itself abolished, and Catholics were persecuted. Then when Bloody Mary took over the blood of Protestants spilled again until Elizabeth I took reign, after which Catholics were banned from holding office. A great example of how divisive this was at the personal level is Lady Falkland, the author of the little known The Tragedy of Miriam, and her husband Lord Falkland, who remained Protestant and consequently separated from her. In response, Elizabeth Cary stole her own children from him and shipped them off to France so they could grow up Catholic.
Speaking of which, it is also of great interest to note the Lord Chancellor Cardinal Wolsey’s progressive reforms. He created a progressive tax that lifted the burden of taxation from the poor, bought up surplus grain when there was a bad harvest and sold it to the poor at a reduced rate, and closed down inefficient, poorly performing monasteries that ill-educated its monks in order to found two universities, one of which survives today as Christ Church, University of Oxford. A progressive tax, food stamps, and an emphasis on higher education in the early 16th century under a Catholic, feudal reign.

My point in this article, other than illustrating the rise of the Christian right, is that the Christians need not be to the right. But it is understandable why Fundamentalist Christians are. Their base in America is in rural areas, but especially in the South. Awfully, racism has commingled with religion by being embodied in the same people. We should not forget how racism was justified by readings of the Bible in the same way that it is used to justify homophobia (which, to be honest, is much more explicitly denounced in the Old Testament). Since the Protestant Reformation was a movement to get the Bible in the hands of all Christians in their own vernacular, and well as a means of uprooting the aristocratic and abusive clergy by the burgeoning middle class – this is why I believe business continues to be so important for Christians in the U.S. – many readers, and importantly many uneducated readers, took the Bible literally. Evolution, therefore, challenges their entire world view. Homosexuality and abortion are sins, and should not be tolerated. Marx, by referring to it as the “opiate of the masses,” became an enemy. The apocalypse being nigh is another issue that is thrown into the mix of American politics.

The right, we can see, represents the interest of the business-oriented, the racists, and the religious. Not that a conservative necessary be an entrepreneur, white supremacist, or a Fundamentalism Christian, only that the GOP serves these issues whether its supporters realize it or not. Its propaganda (I use this term because it is more honest than public relations), is what draws so many diverse voters to its tent. It is the appeal of good old-fashioned America, unplagued by issues of growing minority groups, homosexuality, explicit sexuality, political correctness, or other “threats” to our society. Halcyon days when Americans didn’t ask what their government could do for them and were men of action. Of course this America never existed. The post-New Deal America we clamor for had its own share of problems, like red scare, extremely violent and overt institutional racism, and the threat of nuclear war. But more importantly, that time in America had the strongest safety net we’ve ever had, lowest income inequality we’ve ever had, and the strongest union workforce we’ve ever had. Minimum wage in the past has been as high as $11 in 2013 money, according to one graph on Wikipedia. If it kept pace with worker productivity it would be as high as $22. There is a reason why this illusioned past does not appeal to minority and female voters as much as it does to white males (the majority of the Republican Party); because it was much worse for them.