We blended in with the crowd

31 01 2017

I’ve marched in enough protests to have lost count, but I admit that I’ve kinda lost my marching ways.

It’s not that I think marching is useless, not at all: it’s just that I’m lazy, and I find going to protests alone slightly depressing.

Still. I missed the NYC Women’s March (migraine, laziness, mood), but in reading about the many, many, many rallies from around the world, I was a little wistful. Also, I kept seeing the same refrain from women of color: All of these white women showing up for themselves; will they show up for anyone else?

And I thought: Good point.

So, last Wednesday, when there was a rally for immigrants and Muslims in Washington Square Park, I jumped into my Docs and headed on ovah. As I mentioned on Twitter, it was bracing to stand with thousands of others and yell “Stand up! Fight back!”

Not depressing at all.

Then, this past Sunday, in response to the execrable executive order on refugees, travellers, and would-be immigrants, I joined even more folks for a rally/march in Battery Park.

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Lotta good—short! rally speeches should be short!—speeches tucked into two hours, but I confess to ducking out at Rector Street a few blocks into the march (the third hour) to head back to the train. It’s gonna take me a bit to get back full protest stamina.

Oh, and did I mention that the route to the 2 took me down Wall Street and past the Trump Building?

Yeah, I flipped it off both coming and going. Petty, but satisfying in its pettiness.

Anyway, there’ll be more protests—Clio knows there’ll be more protests—and I’m working on rounding up some fellow marchers, but I showed up, and it felt good

It might even have done some good.





On a rooftop in Brooklyn

25 01 2017

Yesterday both cats scrambled to get on to the windowsill to gawk out at what I figured was a pigeon.

Well, it was, but not in the way I was expecting:

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She really went to town on that thing:

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She hung around, snacking, for a good long time, before lifting off with what was left of the carcass and leaving just a puddle of feathers behind.

I’m not a bird-watcher, so even with the help of various online guides I can’t be sure, but chances are that bird o’ prey was a red-tailed hawk. They’re pretty common in the city, but this was my first up-close-and-personal sighting.

Pretty cool.





Packed up and ready to go

24 01 2017

Given the news coming out of federal agencies of stifled staffer communications as well as numerous instances in various Republican-led states of information disappearing from government websites, it is not alarmist to think that information which is currently available may end up disappearing.

If you, as I do, rely on these documents for your work (or whatever), I strongly urge you to download and save this information on your own devices.

I make use of a number of NIH docs, only some of which are easily downloadable as pdfs (which I did); the rest, I screenshot and saved as pdfs. Screenshot-to-pdf isn’t as good as a straight-up pdf doc, but it does allow you to preserve the information.

(I use the free Fireshot add-on, which is really easy to use; there are also others available.)

There are millions of documents which are currently accessible to the public; I dearly hope someone is copying over as many of them as possible.

 





Nazi punks fuck off

24 01 2017

So y’all have seen the video (or the many gifs) of Richard Spencer punched in the head, yeah?

Anyone conflicted by the sucker punch? Anyone conflicted by their lack of confliction over the sucker punch?

I’m not conflicted. Mind you, I wouldn’t exactly recommend sucker-punching Richard Spencer or any run-of-the-mill Nazi, but I took perhaps too much satisfaction in seeing that fist upside this guy’s noggin.

As an Arendtian, I’m leery of the introduction of violence into the arena of discourse, i.e., if you’re able to talk, do that—but what if your opponents don’t accept the terms of that discourse? What to do, for example, about a white supremacist who thinks ethnic cleansing gets a bad name, has advocated for the forced sterilization of black people, whose website ran an article called ‘Is Black Genocide Right?, and who is using the instruments of democracy to undermine said democracy?

What do you do with a guy who would get rid of you just for being you?

That longstanding dilemma in liberalism—how to deal with illiberalism—is longstanding precisely because there is no easy answer. I tend toward the civil libertarian view, which says tolerate the intolerant, because I don’t want the state to throw people in jail for bad views. Clear, direct threats—sure, but general espousal of an abhorrent world-view, even a Nazi world-view? No.

But what about in political society? How may we as citizens respond to our fellow citizens who would seek to strip us of our full status as citizens? If you (Nazi, ISIS fighter) say you want to get rid of ‘my kind’, can I hit you?

Legally, no. If I hit you and I get caught, I ought to be charged with assault.

And tactically, that might not be the wisest decision, for all kinds of reasons, not least because it could lead to greater violence, which will lead to the breakdown of politics right quick.

Finally, if you believe as fervently in politics as I do, then one ought to act politically, i.e., through speech and coordinated public actions, not violently.

Yet for all that, I honestly cannot condemn the guy who walloped Richard Spencer. This is one of those cases where the better angels of my nature are nowhere to be found.





Get you instructions, follow directions

19 01 2017

I’ve been pretty crappy in this whole RESIST! thing.

Yes, I wrote the letter(s) and yes, I keep thinking—thinking matters!—but I see exhortations to Do X! Y! Z! on Twitter, and I’m, like, Um. . . .

WELL, I’ve finally found something which suits my house-bound ways: I’m gathering information for the Resistance Manual, on online, open-source, er, source of resources. I’ve already added citations to the readings list, as well as plugged in data for Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Minnesota.

It’s all pretty basic, thus far, but you don’t get to the complicated stuff without that basic foundation, so I think I’m, y’know, actually contributing something.

(I’ll keep adding information to my Life during wartime page, if only because I have my own idiosyncratic interests that may be best kept confined to this here site.)

Oh, and I did, finally, manage to call my Congressfolk: Rep Clarke (Thanks for boycotting the inauguration!), and senators Gillibrand (About those Sessions/Price/DeVos votes. . . ?) and Schumer (Yeah, vote against Sessions! Yeah!). Schumer’s DC line was way busy, so I called his Manhattan office—hell, it all gets to them.

Like many people, I’ve developed a thing, which is to say, a problem, with calling people I don’t know. Pre-email I never would have won a cold-calling award, but now that there are ways besides actually phoning to people I don’t know I prefer. . . not to phone people I don’t know. It’s a bit of an issue.

Anyway, my friend T. mentioned that she’s programmed her politicians into her phone and I thought, Hey, that’s a mighty fine idea. Then, once I did that, I thought, Hey, why not actually, y’know, maybe, call ’em. So I did.

It was nothing, as of course the rational part of me knew. They don’t know who I am, they don’t care how eloquent I am, if they saw me on the train they wouldn’t point and giggle She’s the lady who stammered her comment, and they’re not writing Ms. Absurdbeats of Lefferts/East Flatbush called to say. . . .

Nope, all that mattered was that I gave an opinion on something the rep/senator did, and they noted that.

So, if you’re like me, not crazy about cold-calling politicians, don’t worry: they have people, and those people know how to write Right On! or Ugh! and then politely issue you off the phone and not think about you again.

And I bet that when I do call again, they ain’t gonna remember me—which is just how I like it.





Singing songs and carrying signs

17 01 2017

My Congressional representative, Yvette Clarke, is not attending the inaugural. Yay!

My senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, are attending. And that’s fine, too.

I have, over the years (decades. . .) come to appreciate the importance of institutional norms and of the necessity of recognizing the peaceful transfer of power. That a nation is able to vote out leaders and peacefully replace them is an accomplishment.

That’s why I’m fine with my senators attending the inauguration. But why then cheer Rep. Clarke?

Because the President-elect has no interest in institutional norms, has stated his disdain for the notion of a peaceful transfer of power when the voting citizenry elected someone he didn’t like, and has barely acknowledged that he is, in fact, the president-elect of the entire nation, not just the minority that voted for him.

Regular folks (i.e., non-political scientists) are often frustrated by what they see as the hypocrisy of politicians—the paeans to “my dear colleague” in the Senate, the inclusion of members in the opposite party in the Cabinet, a partisan president vowing to rule for all of the people, etc.—but these gestures matter. They are way of saying politics isn’t war, and we are not enemies.

That matters. A lot.

So some Democrats will attend the inauguration to uphold the principle that we, however fractious, are a people, and we honor the institutions by which we are so constituted, and some will boycott to uphold that same principle.

That seems about right.





No time for dancing, or lovey dovey

10 01 2017

I’ve never been accused of optimism.

Well, okay, I was a happy happy kid, likely to believe that the Good will out, but nothing like a bout of life to kick the stuffing out of such positivity.

That said, I do think part of our political resistance ought to have nothing to do with politics at all, that it is not enough just to resist: we must celebrate the Good in the world. There should be dancing, and lovey-dovey: We want bread and roses, too.

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In my piece on Modernity’s Ideologies I divided the response to the historical moment, Modernity, into particular worldviews (Liberalism, Totalitarianism, and Reaction), and extend the various ideologies out from those worldviews.

This can lead to a bit of confusion, insofar as I identify both Liberalism as a worldview, and liberalism as one of its ideologies. I’ve considered changing Liberalism to, say, Pluralism (which would then contrast nicely to Totalitarianism), but I think the term as I mean to use it is so entrenched in political theory that switching it up might simply lead to greater confusion. (I still might be convinced otherwise, but at this point, I’ve stuck myself with Liberalism and liberalism.)

What does this have to do with anything? Well, Liberalism can itself contain and tolerate a variety of illiberal elements, but its ideologies (liberalism, conservatism, and reform socialism) will generally seek to uphold and even further a Liberal worldview, even as they may, at times, be used to further what its opponents might argue are illiberal goals.

See, for example, disputes over whether business must serve all customers or if they may choose to turn some away. Those in favor of serve-all refer to principles of equality and justice, while those against might call on individual liberty and, yes, justice as well. These partisans are using Liberal values to advance/defend their particular ideology.

Now, various disputes about campus activists, safe spaces, trigger warnings, etc., often bounce back and forth between worldview and ideology, and often in ways which obscure the level at which the dispute is taking place. So, for example, someone like Jonathan Chait or Mark Lilla might chastise those campus activists as behaving illiberally, when it seems their real beef is that they appear to be acting against pluralism and tolerance, i.e., against Liberalism.

I’m not convinced of this, not least because I think Liberalism can also contain fierce partisanship and passionate, intemperate, even intolerant argument. I think, for example, that instead of smacking the activists as bad Liberals (which they probably could give a shit about, anyway), the tut-tutters should engage the argument at the level of ideology—by which I mean, actually engage the fucking argument instead of dismissing it as impolitic.

In other words, while I do think it’s necessary for liberals (and conservatives and reform socialists) to defend Liberalism, I also think that liberals (and conservatives and reform socialists) and anyone else gets to fight for what their version of the Good, and to do so without apology. If you disagree, fight back.

That, I would argue, is a great way to defend Liberalism.

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But let’s get back to the fighting-for: we need to do more of this, without apology. I don’t mean nastily or triumphantly, but sincerely (jesus, did I just write that?) and profoundly and yes, even giddily.

As a bread-and-roses socialist, I want more dancing, more music, more art, more celebration of all we could possibly be. These are good, and part of the Good of human life.

This celebration needs a political grounding and goes beyond it—and in so doing, helps to justify the grounding itself. Liberal politics are often criticized—I’ve often criticized it—as deracinated, worn-out, and in its pure-procedural form, it is; but Liberalism is not just proceduralism, it’s also about possibility, an openness to what we can’t yet see. It’s about something more.

So let’s claim that, that openness and art and possibility, without apology.

I don’t want to reduce all of life to politics—too totalizing—nor demand that all celebrations celebrate all things—again, too totalizing. But when we have the chance to say, This is good, this song, this movie, this dance, is good, let’s take it.

When we have the chance to dance, let’s take it.