Sunny came home

16 09 2019

Hi! Hi! Hi!

Sorry I’ve been away for so long, but I was:

*Away, for a bit, in Chicago. I really like Chicago—it’s the place I’ll move to if I ever get chased out of New York—and every time I visit I think “Ohhh, maybe I should just move now.” But that’s just because NYC can suck hard, and when you’re in a likeable city for a few days it’s easy to think that that city won’t also have its sucky moments. Anyway, I was there with friends from Sheb Falls, and it was fun.

*Trying to cram in all of my hours on my second job. Whenever I work at my long-standing second job, I feel the need to work every last hour they give me, not least because these gigs are only temporary. I try to bulk up my bank account, because I just don’t trust the work, be it teaching or freelancing or this job, will keep coming.

*Prepping for classes. I’m using a new textbook for my American govt and politics course, so I have to take all new notes. It’s my contention that all American govt textbooks are mediocre, and that new editions are a scam—usually the only thing that gets changed (besides the price) are the 1- or 2-page intros to each chapter—but the text I was using was 5, 6 years old. I have tended to use the second-most-recent version, in order to keep the costs down for the students, but as American politics in the Trump era are occurring at hyper-speed, I thought I’d best go with the newest version of whatever text I chose. I looked first at the new version of my old text, but, jeez, that cheapest version of that one was 75 bucks; other books were even worse. So I said to hell with it, and went with a (legit) free online textbook, and, y’know, it’s fine.

*Writing an ‘intro to politics’ essay for those same govt-and-politics students. I’d long led discussions of ‘what is politics’ for relevant courses, and this essay pulled together a number of those ideas into a less-fractured format. In fact, this was an excerpt of an incomplete draft of what I plan to develop into a short-ish manuscript I’m calling “A Partial Politics” (have I mentioned this before? I think I’ve mentioned this before). Once I get a bit of breathing room, I want to get back to the manuscript; I may try to pitch it to the same online publishers as that textbook.

*I have a new great-niece! My second niece gave birth to Lyana Rosa two weeks ago. She is a wee angry potato, and it is all I can do not to pester her mum for more pics. No, I wasn’t there so I can’t really excuse her birth for my absence; it’s just good news.

So now that we’re all caught up, I’ll try not to fall behind (again). . . .


There is another world spinning inside of this one

22 08 2019

You know the old bit, said to someone saying something odd: “What color is the sky in your world?”

Well, that would seem to a be a real question these days.

The different worlds experience isn’t new; hell, written history is rife with WTF?! commentaries. Nor is the notion of worlds colliding—clash of civilizations, anyone?

I don’t even know how new is the discomfort with those collisions, but scrolling through this long Rod Dreher piece about the perfidy of land acknowledgements (i.e., the process by which non-Native peoples in the US, Canada, and elsewhere announce their recognition that X event is occurring on Native lands), and I thought, Man, are you pissed that your world isn’t the only one.

I’m not going to try to shoehorn this into the naming-claiming thing (though, you know, I could), but it was just so clear to me that Dreher and his interlocutors are not only unaware of the context for the acknowledgements, they’re unwilling to consider there even could be a context.

Ah, shit, I’m once again wrecking the road to the point. It’s just, it’s just that he responds to any recognition that things could be other than what he sees as yet another sign of the apocalypse. He thinks his world is going to hell, and that others insist on acknowledging there are other worlds out there is only accelerating the descent.

We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under

20 08 2019

I want to move off a bit from naming, and on to claiming.

Claiming is a related concept to naming, but one which emphasizes belonging: I claim this as mine. (This is the positive part of Carl Schmitt’s dictum that “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motive can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.” Friends belong; enemies, who are of course negative, must be excluded.)

I’ve stated in the past that a politics reduced to the friends/enemies distinction is a bad one, but in a well-rounded and healthy politics, the notion of us-vs-them isn’t terrible. If you define your side solely by who you oppose, well, that ain’t productive, but also by it? That’s fine.

Anyway, the words aren’t coming tonight, but I did want to get to Elizabeth’s Bruenig’s piece in the Washington Post on white evangelical support for Trump. The short version is that those evangelicals who like Trump like him because he recognizes them, claims them. Many don’t go so far as to return that claim back—they don’t necessarily see him as a Christian—but they are ardently glad that he sees them as his.

And, most importantly, they are glad they stand together against Them (ie, folks like me). He doesn’t have to make things better; he just has to keep my kind from making things worse.

Scholar Lydia Bean notes that “Basically, it’s like a fortress mentality, where it’s like — the best we can do is lock up the gates and just pour boiling oil over the gates at the libs.”

So it’s that Schmittian amalgamation of GO US! with FUCK YOU!; they feel positively toward Trump because he’s willing to fuck over leftists/libs/SJWs/etc on their behalf. They don’t even have to believe that he believes in their deeper or long-term agenda, just that he congratulates them for being on the right side.

Trump, Bob Collins said, “has done something no other politician has done: He’s circumvented the press. The press has a problem now. … I wish he would not do the personal attacks, but he needs to get the message out, even if it’s a blunt, brute-force message.” For them, the message was a welcome one. “We’re deplorables,” the Collinses intoned in unison, when I asked them what messages they had heard from Democrats. “We cling to our religion and our guns,” Coleman said, mocking the famous Barack Obama remark from 2008. “I don’t think there’s much room in the Democratic Party for evangelicals like me,” Barber added. “Even though Donald Trump is different than me, the Donald Trump White House tries to move toward evangelicals like me.”

And whatever their qualms, two mentioned that they prefer Trump to a more godly man:

At first, there were murmurs about the possibility of Vice President Pence. But then Maria Ivy warned that Pence is soft compared with Trump, too decent and mannerly to take on the job. Bob Collins agreed: “The president is having to deal with a den of vipers,” he said. “I’m not sure Pence could do that.” “It’s spiritual warfare,” Dale Ivy added, emphasizing that Trump is the only man in the field who seems strong enough to confront it.

There’s a lot more there, but I want to focus on this exchange between a father and son:

“Basically,” Joe argued, “Trump is everyone, without the filters. I’m sure at some time you’ve thought some horrible things, but you had a filter there to keep you from saying it.”

“But is that a defense?” Daniel asked.

“No, that’s just —”

“A fact to you?”

“Just an explanation of why. I mean, he is a raw personality with all filters removed. . . . I think he pretty much exemplifies this sin that we all carry with us. He just doesn’t know how to repress it.”

Daniel nodded, and pressed: “But it would seem like a natural question would be, you just sounded like you just described some pretty good reasons not to support the man.”

I don’t want to attribute this sentiment to every Trump supporter, but I’ve heard variations of this over the years: Trump is who we all really are, deep down.

Which is a pretty grim view of us. I don’t hold what I think is an elevated opinion of our species, but, jesus, this holds that we are all, at root, terrible.

It also means, as not a few others have noticed before, that they like him because he’s terrible: he liberates them.


Once again, I don’t know what to do with this. It points to a sense among Trump’s supporters that they’re being pushed out of . . . the culture, the country, the mainstream—some place in society they value, and he’s saying No, no, you’re at the center, here with me.

I could have been your woman of the road

12 08 2019

Allrighty, then: dmf asked in the comments if I differentiate between naming and defining. Good question! I don’t know!

I mean, I think I do: although the concepts are clearly linked, naming seems to be more about marking out the boundary lines and defining, filling in those lines? With the proviso that the filling can affect the lines? . . . maybe? To really make the case would require greater philosophical and linguistic chops than I possess; in any case, as I’m interested in the political dynamics of naming, I think I can fudge on this.

But I can’t ignore it completely. If I say, for example, that I am a woman (which I do, and I am), then I’m making a claim to at least of the qualities of “woman,” as well as claiming that some qualities that others might say are necessary, are not.

To bring this home: I am neither a wife nor a mother. I’ve been ambivalent about ever becoming the former, and pretty consistently set against the latter, but never have I felt that I am less of woman for lacking these qualities.

Why do I say I’m a woman? It’s a grab-bag: my body and its functions, my recognition of a continuity of female identity from childhood to adulthood, my willingness to answer to being called a girl, then a woman, my understanding that others view me as a woman, my irritation when others don’t recognize me as a woman, my clear sense that I am not a man, my insistence that my woman-ness makes me no less human.

There’s nothing particularly elegant in that identification: Some of the pieces are mostly relational and others, funneled through social categories; some are positive (I am this) and others, negative, (I am not that). I don’t say much about personality or temperament or affective attributes, mostly because I’m considering the social-political aspects, but, sure, there probably are additional qualities of my woman-ness which are psychological.

And I should point out something else: While I was a tomboy as a kid and have tended toward the androgynous as an adult, I’ve never questioned that I was a girl or a woman.

Okay, two something elses: The original is that I’ve had some difficulty coming to terms with what it means to be an adult. On the one hand, this is easy: I have more than enough years to qualify as an adult. I have jobs, I take on many of the usual tasks of adulthood, and, yeah, I more-or-less look my age, i.e., I and others recognize me as an adult.

On the other hand, I’m physically small, I live like a grad student, and those nonessential markers of womanhood? I’m neither wifed nor mothered, which are among the (nonessential, but pretty damned clear) markers of adulthood. I don’t own a home or a car and my work-life is cobbled-together, with only semi-regular hours. I still don’t know who I am.

The second else? Eh, I’ll save that for another post.

I’m straying from the original point—if there even was one—but I’m noting that while I am firm in my claim on womanhood, I’m kinda pro forma in claiming adulthood. I put myself inside of those lines, because, yeah, sure, I’m an adult, but I’m not sure I fill out the category all that well.

I don’t know how or that this helps me figure out political identity or political adversaries, but it might. Maybe there’s something about what is firm and what is uncertain, what I send out and what I protect, that will give me some sense of what others advance and defend.

Or maybe not. I claim no clear lines for any of this.

Everything! Everything! Everything! Everything!

8 08 2019

I something is everything then it’s also nothing.

This is a problem when trying to sort out something basic: it’s basic because it’s a part of so much, and because it’s basic, it’s easy to find evidence of it everywhere.

Thus with naming-power: it’s basic, and it’s everywhere—which means it’s hard to get my analytical mitts around it.

I guess I could get into a discussion of the different dimensions and levels of power—hell, I once taught an entire course on this—but given that I see naming as a manifestation of power, that whole thing would just collapse in on itself.

(As an aside: it’s pretty clear I think of power as some kind of manifestation or expression, that is, that it exists in relation to or through something else; on its own, well, I guess it doesn’t exist, does it? Power has no being, no ontology; it is not a thing-in-itself. Okay.)

Anyway, one way to find naming-power’s edges is to put it in a particular context. Since I am—surprise!—interested in the cultural and political aspects, specifically, in the sharpening of the concept of “identity”, then that’s my mud-pit.


You can get some sense of how I learn to sort things: I have an idea, I run it out a few paces, see if it holds up, then decide to stretch it further. Of course, in the stretching I see the thin spots and irregularities and tears and Oh, look at this line, let’s see where it goes. . . .

And then at some point I stop and go, Wait, what was the question? And I have to retrace my steps or maybe I just find another way back and sometimes the point is still there and sometimes it’s. . . not.

That’s fine. I mean, that can be frustrating as all hell, but how can I know if an idea can fly unless I toss it out there?

(Oh, and welcome to the mixed-up metaphors of Ms. Messypants NewYorker. Whatever. It’s late.)

So that’s what I do: I fling ideas hither and yon and see which ones hold up enough to stitch into a thought-line, and, maybe, just maybe, to make some sense.

I’m afraid of the words

5 08 2019

So, there are a couple of different types of naming-power.

There’s the power to determine what it is to be a part of a group. This is so common a form of naming that we often don’t call it as such; instead, we call it ‘defining’ and defenses of such definitions, ‘boundary policing’.

Examples: Who is American? Who’s Christian or Muslim? Who’s a Democrat or Republican? Conservative, liberal, leftist, etc. Such defining is a basic part of any society, and any politics, and, really, any commentary on society or politics. We seek to make sense of a jumble, and so sort things into “this” (and “not-this”) and “that” (and “not-that”) and “the other thing.”

This matters in politics, not the least in determining whether something counts as political as all, and conflicts over such definitions can lead to great anger and, in the worst cases, violence. Who’s in and who’s out and who gets to decide is a foundational set of political questions.

There’s also the power to name oneself: I am this, and this, and this, and not that, or the other thing. This self-naming can set eyelids to twitching; asking or reminding or demanding that others recognize one as this, and this, and this can, yep, set others off.

Coupled with this is the shrugging off of what others have named you: You have said I am this, but, no, I am not-this. Not only are you claiming the power to name yourself, you are denying the power of others to name you. Ditto on the off-settings.

Now, what can also happen in the process of claiming a name for oneself is the unearthing of the history of names, and how what was assumed, should not be.

This last bit sounds abstract, but it’s not: Consider how “the race question” in the US was so often about [white people discussing and defining] black people. Then black people said, loud enough for white people to hear, No, we’ll define ourselves, thank you very much. Oh, and by the way, we have a thing or two to say about white people. And over time something known as “Critical race studies” emerged, and race was jostled out of its convenient eternal meanings and historicized, with one result that whiteness was no longer a timeless standard, but just another historical artifact.

This is an utterly incomplete and not-accurate account of the evolution of the study of race in the US, but you get the point, yes? Whiteness had been claimed as the default, worthy only of defense and otherwise off-limits to the commentary of those who were deemed not-white. To take whiteness out of the assumed and into the studied is to destabilize it. It’s not that whiteness has no power—christ, no—but that it is contingent means that it is not, strictly speaking, necessary.


I don’t quite know where I’m going with this, and I definitely want to hit on gender-identity issues, but this is enough for tonight.


Oh, and you absolutely should listen to this.

That’s not my name

2 08 2019

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

1 John 1:1

The power to name is one of the most elemental powers: to name is to identity, and to identify is to place.

If I name you as X, I’m identifying you as belonging to a particular kind, a particular history, as having a particular potential, a particular worth.

I’m claiming a knowledge of you and over you; even if I’m not conscious of the power of the claim, the power remains, nonetheless.

This sounds portentous—I certainly write as if it is—and it can be: anyone who’s ever been the target of slur knows the sting of bad naming. But it can also be affectionate, silly, a form of play; it can divide, bind, clarify, obscure, demean, liberate, and on and on.

Any power worth its salt is a trickster.


All of this is a preamble; now let’s see if I follow up.

You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em

24 07 2019

I would give five bucks to the candidate who’s willing to say: “Hell, yeah, I’m a politician—and a damned good one!”

I know, I know, we’re all supposed to hate politicians and love the mavericks and outsiders and ‘jes plain folks’ who’ll stand up to the corrupt and immoral insiders.

Blah blah blah.

This is of the same piece as “those who can’t do, teach”, which, yeah, as someone who teaches, I find irksome. But more than the personal jibe at such a non-doer as myself, I’m irked at the falseness of the statement: teaching is doing, and it’s hard.

I work at it—the syllabus, the readings, the assignments, the lectures and discussions, all of it—and some days I’m great and some days I’m not; overall I’d give myself a B+. I wouldn’t mind taking a class from someone like me, but, honestly, I’d also want professors who were better than me.

And you, the dumb-ass who thinks teaching is nothing? You know nothing.

You see where I’m going with this, right? Being an effective politician is hard. Politics is a (sometimes glorious, sometimes fetid) mess, and being able to balance all of the competing concerns and different interests and principles and practicalities and rules and ratfuckers and flying monkeys to get anything done requires more skills than are dreamt of in such casual dismissal of the role.

So I want to vote for someone who embraces that role, who gets that just because anyone can run for the job—which is great thing, really—doesn’t mean that anyone can do the job. And to do the job well? You gotta learn, get better, become a pro—become a politician.

That’s a good thing, and should be recognized as such.

Not gonna happen, tho’, I know.

You see, got my brother down cause it’s nothing to me

16 07 2019

I have nothing to say about the racist bag of maggots currently befouling the White House—nothing beyond curses and sputtering, that is.

He’s a terrible man and a terrible president with terrible policies enabling the worst of us. And that he has a good shot at re-upping his tenure is really more than I can handle right now.

I don’t follow any pro-Trumpers on Twitter—Twitter is my junk food, and I prefer my snacks in salty left-wing, artistic, academic, or animal form—but I do run across them online, and, honestly, . . . huh.

The outright racists who love him, okay, that makes sense. While I only understand racism on an intellectual level—I don’t get on the gut-level why anyone would want to be supremacist—I can identify it as an interest that the maggoty misogynist meets. And the cynics, like Mitch McConnell, who’ll excuse anything to get what they want (tax cuts, 19th-century judges): again, the interests intersect.

But the people who consider themselves principled, moral, who support him? Are they just lying to themselves about their morality? Are they in denial about the awfulness of The Donald?

There’s a fair amount of anger I hear from them, and fear about coming breakdown/SJW totalitarian takeover, and it’s not hard to read that anger-fear as its own justification. It’s also a handy way to deflect responsibility from one’s own actions: Look what you made me do!

That doesn’t seem enough, though, to explain how we could look at the same Tweets or hear the same speech or at fucking children in cages and reach such radically different conclusions about them. It’s ideological, yeah, but that’s hardly a sufficient explanation.

This might be where political psychology comes in, which is extremely not my bag. I don’t have anything against it in general, but it’s always seemed to me that the ‘political’ piece loses out to the ‘psychological’; since I want to understand political phenomenon as political, I’ve been leery of anything (incl economics or orthodox Marxism) which reduces the political to mere epiphenomenon.

Still, since I take politics as necessarily a scavenger field, dragging in economics and culture and religion and passion and psychology, etc, perhaps I simply need to get to diggin’ in other areas of this messy yard. I might never get it, but at least I’d have a better sense of the disconnect itself.

Hot summer streets and the pavements are burning

14 07 2019

I am a dope.

I hate hot weather, hate being sticky, own an air conditioner, muscled that air conditioner into a window a week or so ago, and. . . I don’t use it.

I hate being hot and sticky and have a way to be neither and I don’t take it.

Right now I’m sitting in my chair with a fan propped in a window and angled toward me. Still, I’ve got my shirt half rolled up and if I move a body part even a smidge out of the blowing air it will start to sweat.

It’s not that bad out, actually: temps should fall below 70 overnight and it’s not humid, so sleep (with, again, the fan angled toward me in bed) should be fine. It’s just that it takes awhile longer for the cool of the outside to push aside the day’s accumulated heat.

And tomorrow, tomorrow shouldn’t be bad, either. Tuesday will suck, and Wednesday, even more so; my line for turning on the a/c is over 90 and humid during the day, over 75 and humid at night, and it looks like that line might be breached.

And yet odds are even that I’ll rely on my fan to wave around hot air rather than shut the windows and let the a/c clear out all concerns about the weather.

So, yeah, I’m a dope.