February 2007


Yeah, I’m currently sunk in a vast morass of work. More commentary on responding to Fundamentalisms creatively once i’m back in the land of the living.

Also, send love to your Union Rep if you have one, for they are good and helpful people. If you don’t, consider organizing your workplace.

-sly

Well. Hmm.

Apparently, someone had a reaction to my piece on the Edwards blogger mess.
And didn’t bother to leave a comment. Thanks! I’ll be returning the favor.

Pardon me while I roll my eyes for effect.

I knew that piece wasn’t a total package, and that it relied quite heavily on readers knowing my other work. But it’s what i had time for. So when you get a queer dude telling you to take James Dobson seriously, do you assume that I’m trying to welcome in the New Theocracy? I’m not that masochistic, I swear.

Criminy, folks. This is exactly what I’m talking about. I’m telling you how to beat the system. And the first step is to stop laughing at it. You’re losing. Wipe that stupid grin off your face, and you may still get out of this before we all take the Hell’s Greyhound to Theocracy Land.

The reason that you need to take Christian rhetorics (note the plural here, since one of the sillier criticisms i got over there is that i think that there is a singular Christian belief. Right.) is that they have a historic pattern of being used by various actors and factions to shape American life. And right now, they’re being used by a certain faction of Christendom for some pretty evil ends, and we’re getting fucking rolled.

But all of this does not mean that they are ontologically irrational, stupid, or inferior. As I’ve said before, we’ve done this to them before…America has pushed Fundamentalists to the sidelines by the application of epithet and shame. They left after Scopes as disillusioned social reformers. They came back as Jerry Falwell and the Left Behind series. If anyone thinks that this is a good trade…

Dismissing these folks as sideshow or simply railing at how terrible that they have influence, and looking for any possible way to Other them (think about all the American Taliban comments, the burqa jokes, and all the ways “liberal” types go for a racist joke to try to alienate Fundamentalists from the American mainstream…because if we can’t bond over racist humor, what’s left?)…is flatly unproductive.

Now, I’ve got no love for the electorally minded response that comes from outfits like Sojourners and Jim Wallis, but they have a point this far. Demonization doesn’t work. But they’re not right in thinking that the way to win is to throw our lot with disaffected Fundies and hope for a return to the Social Reform days of Fundamentalism. These folks brought us some of the major energies for Suffrage and Abolition movements, but they also did Prohibition. No go…especially when abortion is so frequently cited as the stumbling block. As someone once said, what does it profit one to win the world and lose one’s soul? Sacrifice of our deeply held convictions just to get a vote is not what is on the table here.

Where my thesis resides is that in the understanding of the social forces behind Fundamentalist rhetorics, and the way in which they connect to social power as it is currently expressed gives us the best chance of responding with intelligence. A lot of this lies in the anxiety that comes out of the various social movements of the last century. Understanding the backlash is NOT the same thing as saying it’s valid.

As I said. Take these rhetorics seriously enough to engage them on their own terms.

Unless, of course, you like losing.

In which case…go on ahead.

-sc

Everything that happens, happens twice or more. Every journey, some one has taken those steps before. I’m watching my life play back over itself, and I couldn’t be more scared. Everything that had been catching my breath down in the depths of my throat has come to reside with me again. Strangely enough, I am in good health…and for all I’ve done to worry, I have not had the panic attacks or felt the destroying grip of depression. I’m just…scared. Of life, of death, just in terrible awe of how they come to meet.

I have precious few details myself, and even fewer that I can commit to words. Some danger is now passed, and I turn to wonder how we heal. Other shoals are still ahead, and I pray for deliverance.

The reading today in Chapel strangely fit my mood. Read for reasons much different than my hearing, it was a selection from Psalm 139.

Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways…thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

Every journey, someone has taken those steps before.

-sly

In the memory of Andrew Anthos.

Pam has the story here.

-sc

I have sat back and watched with bemused detachment the grand saga of the Edwards bloggers. I really do like Melissa’s writing, and I feel quite bad that she got dragged through this…so don’t get me wrong. As for Amanda, consider me a well wisher, in that I do not wish her any specific harm. Seriously, I’m very concerned to hear that part of the reason for quitting was the threats being received. That’s all shades of not right.

But where I take a step back is that I think Edwards is a total sham, and I’m about as nice to his campaign as the next. That is to say I’m not.

But we have a dilemma to resolve. Two smart and talented women, and their supporters, just got owned in the public square by a blowhard anti-semitic “catholic” spokesman. What gives?

To wit.

Morpheus: How did I beat you?
Neo: You’re too fast.
Morpheus: Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place? You think that’s air you’re breathing?

What happened was not an exercise of political muscle, prowess, or skill. It was a reflection of the dynamic of secularism of modern America. Bill Donahue is not smarter, more popular, skilled, or better at politics than the netroots. But what he has is the ability to stand back, and watch you run into a brick wall.

How did he beat you? One of the key issues with making criticism is understanding how to separate the diehards from the reasonable. Both Amanda and Melissa engage in commentary that is not criticism. It is polemic. This is not a value judgment…so hold your knee down for a moment. Polemic services the need to unite our position, and radicalize our loyal. But alone, it’s not sufficient, in my not so humble opinion.

Tactically, it is simply a fact that we need to acknowledge the social privilege of Christian rhetorics and act accordingly. This is not to say that y’all ought to begin to tiptoe around or sacrifice your better judgement, but for the sake of the Holy Thing on Top of the High Place…take these rhetorics seriously enough to engage them on their terms. Otherwise, you’re screaming into the wind. This is why i got so peeved at those who got taken by the Donnie Davies scam. If you can’t tell a con job from the real thing, how do you possibly hope to win?

The Falwells, Dobsons, Haggards, Robertsons, and such all offer much to laugh at if you care for such humor. But they also produce a moral vision of American life that millions find compelling. Learn the rules. Take them seriously.

Because then, and only then, will you know which ones can be bent. And which ones can be broken.

-sly

I am having a double espresso across the room from the Green Party candidate for MN 64A in the last election.

I am barely resisting the urge to heckle.

-sly

I’m just not blogging at the moment.

Reason One is a good one…i’m writing pieces on Minneapolis/St. Paul before i head back. I’ve got some guest blogging to do, and I’d like to actually, you know, have things written.

Reason Two is a good one, too. I’m writing sermonesque pieces, on account that I talked with my pastor yesterday, and he always inspires.

Reason Three is a bad one. I’m writing mopey shit that kind of spilled out over the sermons.

Reason Four is adiaphora. I’m writing school emails and such, trying to stay head above water with org stuff.

Anyhow. I head back Monday, but things are gonna be crazy once i hit the ground there. I do want to say something on the Edwards Blogger stuff…but that may take some time to write.

peace,

-sly

Next Page »