Try to stay healthy, physical fitness

3 02 2017

Stand up! Fight back!

Yes yes yes: Good to remember, good to shout. Let us oppose this wretched administration in every way. But opposition is not enough.

I’m not saying anything particularly original, here. We’re riled up because the actions and policies of Trump, Inc. are an offense against our values, threats to our ways of life. Most of us out there yellin’ aren’t political nihilists, but seek to defend what matters.

And we—perhaps I should stop with the royal “we?—and I have to keep that close, that I am standing up for what matters to me as a citizen and as a human being, that I should not simply become the negative to whatever this administration proposes.

This doesn’t mean I think protesters or Democratic politicians should play nice, but that our dissent is not just about Trump or Steve Bannon or Jeff Sessions and their terrible policies, but about what we want our country to look like, to be.

I don’t know that all of us agree on that, which is fine, not least because I don’t know that all of us know. But if I am fine with obstruction as a tactic, it can’t be the entire strategy—that would just turn us into counter-Republicans. Our goals have to extend beyond NO.

That we should be “large” is something I’ve already mentioned: big-hearted and generous welcoming, confident and curious and capacious in our thinking, willing to take risks and just as willing to take care.

Hillary Clinton and the Democrats did a decent job of with the practicalities of how to build a better country—I and many others have our disagreements here and there, but there was a lot to work with—but I also think the Dems have coasted on a reassuring rather than compelling story of America, and that that wasn’t enough.

Trump has given the country his frightening, fearful, fractured, nasty vision of us. We have to say No! to it, to yell Stand up! Fight back! But that’s not enough, we also have to shout about what we’re fighting for.

Because we can’t just react to these wretches, to let them dictate our actions. In standing up, we have to stand on our own, and forge a new way.





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.

005

011

014

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.





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.





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.

~~~

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.

~~~

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.





We got computer

21 12 2016

So I’ll be collecting all of the sources and resources I’ve mentioned in these various ‘Life during wartime’ posts on the—hm, what should I call it? I KNOW—Life during wartime page.

Please do add any suggestions in the page’s comments (which I just enabled).

In the meantime, let’s listen to this series’s musical inspiration:

~~~

As I’ve said, I have no idea what’s going to happen next. The possibilities range from ordinary Republican (bad enough) to Oh holy hell-shit-fuck! and everywhere in between—and, honestly, given how little I now realize I know, anywhere outside of that range as well.

I tend toward thinking it won’t get as bad as it could possibly be (fascist takeover, nuclear war), but given that either of these are a rather plumper non-zero possibility than I, well, I would have thought possible two months ago, I have to keep them in sight—even if only out of the corner of my eye.

Reading about Weimar leads me (as I’ve banged on about repeatedly) to believe that we’re not Weimar, that the Liberal elements of our political culture are stronger and our democratic institutions sturdier than those German republicans were ever able to enjoy. And while we are a violent society, our levels of specifically political violence is, compared to Weimar, low.

But we are polarized, and a good chunk of our society—the economic sector—can’t be counted on as bulwark against authoritarianism: if they can make money off of this administration, they won’t oppose it.

Nor can we count on certain cultural institutions to take a stand in defense of Liberalism and pluralism.  It’s not at all clear that the news media will defend itself against attacks on it or on its reporters; a “scrupulous neutrality” may end up being more neutered than scrupled.

And Google, which used to think not being evil was important, refuses to adjust its algorithms regarding Holocaust denial (which has led to a campaign to fuck with that algorithm to drive the denial off the front page) and a search for “oven definition” offers this as the first item:

oven-googleYes, “a cremation chamber in a Nazi concentration camp.” Excellent, excellent. Right up there with Twitter reinstating the neo-Nazi Richard Spenser’s account,  or A&E’s planned series on the KKK.

And we on the left aren’t doing ourselves any favors with our sniping at those nearest to us rather than aiming our fire at the other side. I’m not against criticism (Santa Maria, I am not against criticism), but I’m seeing too much of the I WAS RIGHT/YOU SHUT UP variety and not enough of the What worked, what didn’t?

As Mark Twain is popularly attributed as saying, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

I don’t trust anyone who knows for sure why we lost, not least because I used to know for sure that Donald Trump would never be president. The sting to my ego, however, is nothing compared to damage to come—damage which will be even greater if we fight each other rather than the forces which threaten us all.





This ain’t no fooling around

17 12 2016

Militance does not require violence.

Stand up.

Don’t back down.





Can’t write a letter, can’t send a postcard

8 12 2016

I’m still (mostly) avoiding articles on that One weird trick! which won Trump/cost Clinton the election, mostly because I don’t trust anyone right now who is confident in her conclusions.

As I mentioned in my original election post-mortem, I think there are a number of variables which factored into Trump’s win and Clinton’s loss, and that the particular ordering of those variables likely shifted from state to state. Further, given that information is still coming in—any bets on what will ultimately be Clinton’s popular-vote lead over Der Donald?—we don’t even have all the pieces to begin trying to assemble these puzzles.

What can be done, however, is analysis of each of those pieces: how much did Clinton’s sex matter? what was the role of economic anxiety in voting? what is ‘economic anxiety’? etc.

And, of course, what was the role of the media? Well, that may only be theorized, never truly known, but one can at least look at the coverage, it’s shape and tone—which is exactly what the Shorenstein Center did.

This is only one study, of course, but it highlights the role of the negative in press coverage:

Negative coverage was the order of the day in the general election. Not a week passed where the nominees’ coverage reached into positive territory. It peaked at 81 percent negative in mid-October, but there was not a single week where it dropped below 64 percent negative.

Even those numbers understate the level of negativity. Much of the candidates’ “good press” was in the context of the horserace—who is winning and who is losing and why.

Negativity in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but

The mainstream press highlights what’s wrong with politics without also telling us what’s right.

It’s a version of politics that rewards a particular brand of politics. When everything and everybody is portrayed as deeply flawed, there’s no sense making distinctions on that score, which works to the advantage of those who are more deeply flawed. Civility and sound proposals are no longer the stuff of headlines, which instead give voice to those who are skilled in the art of destruction. The car wreck that was the 2016 election had many drivers. Journalists were not alone in the car, but their fingerprints were all over the wheel.

There’s a lot more at the link—a lot more—so g’head and read it all.

Media folk will have to figure out for themselves what, if any, professional standards they wish to uphold in their campaign coverage, but it’s also damned clear that candidates must prepare themselves for another worst- (or even worst-er-) case scenario in plotting their own messaging strategies and tactics.

I have precisely zero advice on what those strategies and tactics should look like. Trump received a great deal of negative coverage, which (apparently?) didn’t hurt him; Clinton was also covered negatively, and it (apparently?) did hurt her.

Man, it’s tough even to figure out the affects of the coverage: how much did it really matter in any direction? I tend to agree with Rick Perlstein that it sure as hell didn’t help, but beyond that? Dunno, and dunno if anyone does know: I’m guessing there will be all kinds of regressions run over the next few years to try to tease out some kind of answer.

In the meantime, it might be worthwhile for current and would-be Democratic politicians to start dry-running different tactics right now to try to determine what works vis-à-vis the media—and if nothing works, what then.

Because they—we—have to be prepared. Even if it only matters on the margins, well, elections are won and lost on those margins.