When Evil Men Plot

I am sitting at my computer a little numb. I’m looking at the people on the internet equivocating about violence and pining for the day when America used to be a Nation unambiguously against Nazis. I know that these people have been there the whole time. I know that my white skin and sheltered life have protected me from seeing the reality of their naked hatred but I miss the days when they used to be afraid, when they used to hide and pretend not to be associated with these vile ideals. I hate that my country has sunk this low. I cannot comprehend how any person defends the terrorism that occurred or tries to sidestep reflections on what has lead us here by attempting to lay the blame somewhere else.

Can we no longer, without reservation, condemn terrorism? Is that where we are? Is it worth some political points to you to now defend the KKK? Do you actually see them as your allies? Why then you do attempt to deflect the blame? Put it where it lies, at the feet of a truly evil philosophy?  Torch wielding men chanting hate again Jews, Muslims, and non-white people, are not patriots, they are traitors.

To the people who say that this was a false flag, seek help. If it makes you feel better to believe that this act of terrorism was not committed by a white nationalist you should seriously reevaluate why. You are saying that these poor white nationalist were framed.

To the people who say that BLM is just as bad, remove the plank from your own eye first, then we’ll talk. Let me just say that I personally believe that BLM is a peaceful movement addressing legitimate problems in our society. I can hold this belief because I am confident that all acts of violence performed in the name of BLM are separate from the ideals and the purpose of that movement. I can separate these things because I can say without reservation that I support the underlying message of Black Live Matter.  I don’t believe that the marchers in Charlottesville have any legitimacy in they’re claims of oppression. I do not believe that the underlying message of their rally was anything other than blind hatred and bigotry. If you honestly believe what happened in Dallas is in any way pertinent to this discussion consider very carefully what that equivalency means, you are arguing that the underlying message of this march has been perverted and was not perverted to begin with. Once again, any deflection in the discussion of Charlottesville towards the faults of your perceived political enemies is an implicit declaration that these marchers are your allies. Deflection is a defense of their actions.

Lastly, to the people who claim that this violence is acceptable because the removal of the Gen. Lee statue is somehow worse than murder. Let me say this, NO! No action against an inanimate object is ever, EVER, a justification for violence. The loss of any human life has no justification. It is always a vile and unforgivable thing. We should remember our history. We should remember that the Confederacy was a rebellion against this nation you claim to love. You do not get both. You do not get to both praise America and praise the people who violently sought to destroy her. Enough of this nonsense! In 1776, after the passage of the Declaration of Independence, one of the first acts of the revolutionaries was to pull down the statue of King George III in New York City. We do not mourn the fact that our past as a British Colony is forgotten. We do not demand that there be monuments erected to honor Gen. William Howe. I say this as an ancestor of Confederate soldiers, stop it! If you do not recognize that remembering the past and lionizing enemies of this country are separate things then I question your loyalty. Why is it so important to keep that anger alive? Why do you keep waving the flag of traitors?

My point is that there are not many sides to this issue. There are two sides. Those who seek to protect what this country stands for and those who seek to destroy it. White Nationalism has no place in this nation of immigrants. Praise for Hitler has no place in a country whose finest moment was defeating that evil. This is not up for discussion or debate. Consider very carefully what makes you resist unequivocally denouncing not just the actions of the terrorist in Charlottesville but the entirety of the rally. This is not a partisan issue. I know that the events in Charlottesville in no way represent the beliefs of the mainstream Republican party, but you are failing to cut that evil out while you look for ways to change the subject. Please, we need to be united on this.

And to my progressive brothers and sisters, don’t use this as political fodder. The failings of our president and the fault of his divisive rhetoric is not an opportunity for us to score points against the right wing. We should stand together in unity with any human being, Republican or Democrat, who is willing to say without reservation that violence and hate are not tolerated in this country. This act of terrorism was against us all.

“When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. Where evil men seek to perpetuate an unjust ‘status quo’, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

You won’t like everyone you meet.

Is there no such thing as a basic truth anymore? What I mean by ‘basic truth’ is a thing which is universally acknowledged as certain. Something you can trust all other humans to believe in no matter what. I don’t really get the impression that I can rely on people to be certain about anything. There is always someone willing to contradict me.

When I was a kid, still figuring things out, I was pretty sure that what I was figuring out was all the answers that adults already had. I figured there was a knack to this life and that when you reached a certain age you just sort of got it. Of course, now that I’m swiftly approaching 30 I realize that that is a nuts thing to think. Nobody has it figured out, everyone who has ever existed was basically making it up as they went along. Gahdi, just making it up as he went along. Thomas  Jefferson, just making it up as he went along. Elizabeth I, Saint Francis of Assisi, Genghis Khan… the list goes on and on because it includes every human who has ever existed. All people are clueless and the successful ones are basically better at hiding it than anybody else.

But back to the basic truth- I used to think that there were good and bad ways to behave and that maybe there were a few people out there who behaved badly but that mostly everyone was good. At least everyone could agree, in the most abstract of senses, what good was.

I picked this basic truth up from watching movies. The popular movies of the 80s and 90s were certainly quite idealistic. Normally some Joe-Everyman hero would stand up to some blonde a-hole and would eventually, inevitably come out on top. It just sort of seemed to me that the qualities of a movie hero, compassion for others, strong sense of justice, some code of honor, were always rewarded and that everyone would naturally aspire to emulate these qualities.

I now know that good and evil are a lot more complicated than that, but I’ve still been holding (childishly) on to the idea that compassion, justice, and honor, are qualities that every human everywhere desires and respects in one another. But it doesn’t seem like we do that anymore (maybe I’m nieve and we never did). I don’t think we trust that other humans are capable of both disagreeing with us and remaining human.  All disagreements seem to take place in a suspension of decency. We no longer value these qualities enough to maintain them when we encounter people who we consider to be our enemy. And enemies are everywhere.

All it takes to find justice in an unjust thing is to decide that injustice is fine for your enemy. All it takes to abandon honor is to decide that honor is winning, honor is whatever it takes to hurt your enemy. Compassion has become something that we expect to receive from others but refuse to exude ourselves.

Something feels different in the world. I’d like to say that my disappointment in this countries direction has nothing to do with party politics but I’m not so sure that that’s true. There’s a good chance that part of what upsets me is that the way that I think things should be done is no longer happening.

But that is only part of it, and I hope you’ll understand ( I hope you’ll believe me) that the rest of it is a disillusionment with how I assumed this whole ‘being a species’ thing was supposed to work. I thought it meant that we could disagree and still be fine. I thought it meant that we could fight but still value each other as fellow species members. I thought that basically, we all wanted to be the good guy and we all agreed what a good guy looked like, just, honorable, and compassionate. What shook me so hard last November was not the realization that lots of people have different ideas about tax policies or the ideal purview of the federal government. What shook me was the type of rhetoric we are all apparently fine with now. If it means our team scores a point, it’s okay.

I read comment sections, a lot, more than I usually read actual articles. I don’t know why I do it other than a general morbid fascination. I see more and more, in the arguments that take place there, that even the people I agree exhibit none of the qualities I considered a basic foundation of decency. I’d like to sit out. I no longer want to be associated with any of it. But what is my other choice, apathy?

I firmly believe that political activity is the responsibility of any citizen of a democracy. More than that, I am a Socialist, I believe that there are solutions to be found for societal problems that can only be realized through dynamic and responsive governance. Even in this poisonous environment, I cannot accept that debate is a lost cause. We have to get back to the point where we can disagree with respect because disagreement is good, respectful disagreement builds compromise and compromise is democracy.

I’m not complaining about the election really. This isn’t about the election. This problem could not have just sprung up during 2016 and stuck around while winners and sore losers both refused to let it go. Something this big has to have deeper roots than one presidential race. I think that the race, if anything, was the result of our loss of compassion, our ability to accept any sort of behavior so long as it meant points for our team. We are okay with all the insults because the ones being insulted don’t deserve our respect.

There’s are a couple lessons I learned as a child;

  1. It doesn’t matter who started the fight. If you hurt somebody, say you’re sorry.
  2. If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.

The fact is, sometimes you meet people you don’t like. Sometimes these people are mean to you. Sometimes these people are mean to your friends. But the rules of human decency don’t get suspended if the other guys started it. That’s what I learned when I was young. Where did that go?

We might be giving other people too much credit. It’s easier to believe that people don’t deserve compassion if you assume that they must know what they are doing and that it’s all part of some dastardly agenda. They must know what you know about the consequences of their actions or beliefs and just not care.  How can you argue with a person who is purposefully trying to hurt you? We feel attacked and so we strike back.

But we’re all just making this up as we go along, remember? People tend to find a position and stick to it with all their might because that helps keep them orientated while they pretending to know what they’re supposed to be doing in life. If we are being attacked, it’s by people who are just as frail and lost as we are. Our responses should be tempered by the understanding that being wrong is not the same thing as being evil.

Compassion should remind you that when people are mistaken they deserve your patience, not your anger. Your sense of justice should remind you that the respect you expect from others should be given regardless of whether or not it is reciprocated. Your sense of honor should remind you that you (and only you) are responsible for the hate or the love which you put out into the world.

I miss the idealism of being a kid. I miss believing that adults had some ace up their sleeve, a secret that made the world okay, less scary. But I don’t think that the cynicism and anger of political rhetoric are inevitable when I give up that idealism. If I want change I’ll start with me.

My goal in writing this is to remind myself of a new lesson:

  • There will be people in the world who I don’t like and who hold opinions which I think are harmful to society. No matter what, the rules of decency still apply, always.

That is my basic truth. I hope it’s universal, but regardless I’m going to try and live up to it.

Side-Note on a Current Event: The Charlie Gard Case

I hesitated writing this. I thought about being vague as to my specific topic so as not to be part of the problem I intended to point out.I also wanted to be vague because I am a coward and didn’t want to be accused of insensitivity.

But it seems like the politicization of this tragedy was built on the security that any critic could be easily villainized. It is that security that I think is worth talking about. Because we are becoming less and less able to critique without an instant ad hominem backlash. It is possible, even in the most emotionally charged cases, to hold a different opinion and not be a monster.  If we reach the point that we are no longer capable of seeing our opinions as composites of millions of assumptions. If we automatically treat the questioning of any one of those assumptions as an assault on our whole person and our entire moral code, that is not just bad for politics, that sets up our society for the most bitter, pigheaded, and inefficient kind of discord. America is broken and this is not the way we fix it.

The sickest part of this case to me is how little it seems to be about the suffering of the actual people in the middle of it. This is a horrible case and a devastating loss for the family. I could not possibly comprehend the pain. I will not try to. Nor will I do them the disservice of making a grandstanding statement about the pain which I can not possibly comprehend.

It is not heartless to say that the politicization of this tragedy has nothing to do with the people affected by it. I think it is nieve to be unsuspicious of the attention this case has received from US outlets while the future of US Healthcare hangs in the balance. I have seen so many manipulative headlines which use the pain of actual people to draw an unnuanced view of an extremely difficult situation. This lack of nuance makes it easier to find villains where the political narrative would like them to be. Namely, in Socialized Healthcare. In the US, public opinion is warming to the notion but if that nuanced system can become a big, bad, one-dimensional enemy then it might cool.

It’s best in emotionally charged situations to give all parties, if not the benefit of the doubt, the benefit of humanity.  It is unreasonable to assume that any human being does not experience emotional life in the same way that you do. It is irrational to believe that the people who behave in a way you don’t like do so because they are incapable of empathy or because they are evil. I can say without reservation that nobody involved in this case wanted a child to suffer. I can say this because the idea of a simple evil defies logic. All humans experience emotions. Evil is never simple.

I do this too. I want to stop doing this. I unequivocally hate some of the things that are happening in this country. But do not think that evil things are ever the fault of one dastardly villain. It would be simpler if I could believe that because there would be an easy solution to evil. Unfortunately, in reality, evil is diffused. Evil is structural. Evil is a million tiny assumptions.

I do not have an opinion about the Charlie Gard case. I don’t think I have the right to an opinion here. It is not my family and it is not my country.

But I do have an opinion on what this case has come to represent in this country and I think the simple narrative has gotten it completely wrong. This is far from a simple matter but there is one simple truth; In America, after the tragedy would come the bankruptcy. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that every day in this country families are denied life-saving medical services because they must choose between their health and their ability to make ends meet. We do not have the luxury of choice, in fact, with privatized health insurance there is a de facto denial of care to anyone but the rich. We have the luxury of choice only in that the choice to preserve our health is considered a luxury. I do not consider Single Payer to be the perfect solution, that would come without complexities and faults but I do consider it to be the best solution.

The Doctor is a woman now and that’s fine

Yesterday, quite a bit of my newsfeed concerned the uproar of “fans” of Doctor Who who were upset that the godlike alien has gone from Time Lord to Time Lady.  But has there really been an uproar? I’m dubious. I suspect that sometimes content producers scourer twitter for the craziest of the crazies (the kind of internet troll who actually lives under a bridge) in order to drum up some drama around stories like this. I put ‘fan’ in quotation marks earlier because I cannot believe that anybody who actually follows this show didn’t see this coming. They have been telegraphing this for years (remember how it was basically the Clara Show in seasons 8-9?)

It’s difficult to believe that the kind of person who would be upset by the gender switch would have been onboard with the direction the show has taken over the last few years. The Doctor has been less about fighting aliens and more about delivering heavy-handed soliloquies lately. Even for a lefty like myself, it’s gotten a bit preachy. I figured that this show probably already represented the worst fears of the people who tend to decry “political correctness gone mad.” What I can believe that there are some people on the internet with a fundamentally bad understanding of what feminism is for and why representation matters who are only too eager to post a bunch of hateful nonsense threatening they’ll never watch a show that they already don’t watch.

I can also believe that it is good PR and good click bait to make this a thing. Okay, I’ll try and explain this in away that doesn’t outrage people (fat chance of that, I’m sure).

When my very favorite movie theater, Alamo Drafthouse, announced a woman’s only screening of Wonder Woman the kind of people who get predictably pissed got predictably pissed. I enjoyed reading the pro-Alamo op-eds as much as anybody. Of course, it was ridiculous to be mad at a one-time event catering exclusively to women. A silly stunt that allowed people celebrate a major motion picture franchise finally placing a female hero front and center. The kind of thing no-one would have batted an eye about had it been a screening of say… Sex and the City.

It didn’t occur to me until after I had liked about a hundred of these defensive articles and meme’s, that there were just so many people resisting the predictably pissed. Maybe resistance was predictable. There are people with a platform and a voice who will use both to explain what feminism is and why representation matters. Despite everything, the zeitgeist is still looking forward which is very hopeful.

But here’s the possible fly in the ointment… People can be counted on to resist. These diversity wins are bound to be shared and liked by supporters. Clever marketing folks have surely figured out that if you anger the right people you can earn yourself quite a bit of free publicity. We’re all anxious these days. We’re all eager for a fight. We especially want to fight anyone representing anything remotely regressive.  Doctor Who is now a woman, not because a Steve Moffat is a brave man who made a brave decision to thwart the patriarchy but because this is the move that fans of the show wanted and a move that a large portion of society wants, at least they enjoy pissing off the people who don’t want it.

So, does this fly invalidate the hope?

Nope.

If the point of petitioning for representation is to undo the structural violence which props up inequality, giving us a chance to see ourselves as heroes whatever our gender or orientation, then today is a great day. Today it has become economically viable to have a female lead. Let’s keep pushing and see what else we can do.

I’m not worried that this is a gimmick. I know it’s a gimmick. But isn’t every bit of popular culture a gimmick? I mean, it’s all about promising us something shiny and exciting in exchange for our attention, right? It’s gimmick and it’s also one I think will be pretty good for the show.

Someone pointed out in opposition to the idea of the woman Doctor that the Doctor hasn’t been a powerful decision maker for a while. The companion has been the leader… maybe since Donna? In light of this, they said, the audiences won’t like the female Doctor because she’ll be so dis-empowered. I take the opposite view.

As a legit fan [smug] the show has been really bad. Clara was the worst. Bill was slightly better but over all Capaldi was totally wasted in that role. He could have been one of the best, he had all the curmudgeonly snark that makes the Doctor great, but he was generally pretty useless. When he wasn’t soapboxing he was basically just marking time while Clara did stuff. Moffat totally Moffated the whole thing;

1. He gets something good

2. He doesn’t understand what’s good about it.

3. He selects a couple of bits he thinks are the good ones, then does them to death.

(Don’t even get me started on what he did to Sherlock).

All in all, I’m hoping this new Doctor is a stronger more decisive Doctor (the kind audiences want to see from the first female in the role) and I hope that this gimmick breaths new life into something that was so good once and can be good again.

I’m onboard for

jodie-whittaker-doctor-who