Cause they can’t make opinions meet about God

10 08 2018

I am generally polite to people on a mission.

In my neighborhood, they’re mostly Christian, from the Jamaican ladies outside of the train station with their copies of Watchtower to the, well, Jamaican ladies knocking on my door asking if they could have a Word with me.

I am very occasionally asked if I’m Jewish by some polite young man in a wide-brimmed hat, which, no, but thank you for asking.

I admire people who want to share their Gods: if you have an inside track on what you think is the best thing in the universe, it’s generous to to say Hey, look everyone!

Even the train evangelists, who can be quite loud, well, they’re out there walking their walk.

But this? No.

Now, certainly my response is due in part to the fact that I have zero respect for Franklin Graham. He may be sincere in his beliefs, but, unlike those Jamaican ladies, he seems to be more interested in people becoming Christian so as to boost himself than in offering a kindness to those others.

In the midst of an Oregon mission rally (during which he not so coincidentally urged his followers to get political), he said this about the (non-Christian) Democratic governor:

“Let’s pray for your governor, Gov. Brown. Wouldn’t it be something if she got saved? Amen.…We pray for Kate Brown. And Lord, I pray that she would come to know your son Jesus Christ as her lord and savior one day.”

I get it. It’s a part of a prophetic tradition to call out political leaders, and preachers left, right, and center have so called.

But that’s not what Graham’s doing. If he wanted to play the prophet he wouldn’t have aligned himself so closely with America’s Nero, and if he were sincerely interested in Kate Brown’s spiritual health he wouldn’t have engaged in an evangelistic version of cat-calling.

No, Graham is stunting. He doesn’t give a shit about Brown’s beliefs, only that her politics are not his.

Now Terri, you might ask, how do you know what’s in Franklin’s heart? Oh, I don’t know, maybe because he’s questioned the Christianity of Barack Obama?* Said that you can tell that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were Christians based on their policy positions?

Graham is a Trump-humper, a GOP tankie, and a political actor through-and-through. That’s fine: he can be as political as he wants to be.

Let’s  just not pretend that his call-out to Gov Brown is anything other than political.

*(Tho’ I should note here that he also doesn’t think Mitt Romney is a Christian. Mormons! Whattya gonna do?)

h/t HuffPo, Willamette Week

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No comment, no. 2

11 11 2009

Quote of the day: bishop says no to homo tourism at Vatican

ETN asked the Bishop [Janusz Kaleta of Holy See, the Apostolic Administrator of Atyrau] if the Vatican’s stand was clearly against [gay] tourism, and the Bishop answered: “The church teachings are from the Bible. If we change this teaching, we will not be the Catholic Church. Don’t expect the Catholic church to change these issues, because it is our identity.” When asked if the Vatican is open to dialogue about welcoming such homosexual groups of tourists in the future, Bishop Kaleta responded that “such demonstrations are just not ethical.”

Publisher Steinmetz clarified that what was meant by gay travel was traveling for the purpose of a visit, not as a demonstration. To this the Bishop replied, ”I consider if someone is homosexual, it is a provocation and an abuse of this place. Try to go to a mosque if you are not Muslim. It is abuse of our buildings and our religion because the church interprets our religion that it is not ethical. We expect respect of our church as we expect to respect that a person does not have to belong to the Catholic Church. If you have different ideas, go to a different location.”

(h/t Pandagon [w/its emphases], cribbing from eTurboNews)





God, cops, and, oh, God and cops

8 01 2009

He wouldn’t shake my hand. He said something about ‘respect,’ but it wasn’t clear if he were asking me to respect his wish not to shake my hand, or if he were demonstrating respect for me by not shaking my hand.

I smiled and said ‘Okay’, but, hmmmm, not so okay.

No hand shaking because he’s a man and I’m a woman. A dick, and I get a handshake. No dick, no shake.

So what’s the big deal? He showed me the apartment, didn’t he? He wasn’t unkind or unwilling to deal with me: he simply didn’t want our hands to touch. Different standards of personal boundaries, that’s all.

And on one level, that’s true. I like handshakes, but hugs, not so much. And I certainly don’t want someone feeling me up by way of introduction. Boundaries and preferences.

Perhaps had he not mumbled ‘respect.’ Again, it’s entirely possible that he was demonstrating his respect for me—but I don’t think so. When a man fears my hand, simply because it’s a female hand, I don’t respect that fear. No, I’m not going to force someone to shake my hand—duh, boundaries—but respect that fear of a female touch? Nope.

Oh, but this was about his religion, his relationship to God, and had nothing to do with me. Except that I was there, and I wasn’t feeling particularly respected.

So what do you do in these situations, where respect for the other seems to require a disrespect for oneself? Is there an equitable behavioral solution?

So we don’t shake hands. Perhaps that’s the best we can do.

_____

How many people have been ‘justifiably’ killed by police—i.e., how many victims of disputed deaths (i.e., clearly those not immediately involved in criminal violence) have had their demands for justice unheard because the police were able to claim self-defense—before the advent of mobile technology?

What would have happened to the police officers on trial in the Sean Bell shooting in NYC had someone had video of the events that night? Would anyone have taken Michael Mineo (allegedly injured and sodomized by police in Brooklyn subway station) seriously had video not surfaced which corroborated at least part of his claim against the police? What about what happened to Christopher Long, the Critical Mass bicyclist in Union Square who was charged with assaulting an officer—only to have those charges withdrawn after video clearly showed the officer assaulting the bicyclist? What about all those Republican National Convention protesters freed after film footage effectively erased police justifications for those arrests?

And now, Oscar Grant, the young man shot to death by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police New Year’s day. Would there be a vigorous investigation absent the cell phone video of the shooting? And what of allegations that BART officials sought (unsuccessfully, as it turns out) to confiscate any images of the shooting? And police claims that Grant was not cuffed while he was shot—while witnesses dispute this? Perhaps it was an accident, perhaps the officer didn’t mean to shoot Grant. But what the hell was he doing drawing his weapon on an unarmed man on the ground? (And what does it mean for the supposed professionalism of police forces if they kill citizens accidentally?)

I’m not necessarily a fan of the deployment of recording technologies in the public realm. I like my privacy, and while appearing in public does, of course, mean just that—appearing—I think of myself as ‘passing through’: I get to come and go. Recording techs freeze that passage, making permanent what I have always assumed evanescent.

And closed-captioned television (CCTV) as deployed by police and security forces? Nuh-uh. Yes, it’s supposed to make us all safer, help the police catch the bad guys, serve as a deterrent, and hey, it just might. But who the hell is in charge of those nifty CCTV cameras? Who controls that footage? Who decides who has access to it, what is kept, and what is deleted? Is CCTV for the public’s protection—or the police’s?

Still. Video techs in the hands of individual citizens may aid in just the kind open subversion of the security state ideology that’s needed. And no, I don’t think the US is a police state (cf. the bit, below, on Shirin Ebadi and Iran) but the security state ideology, which demands that all other values bow before the shield, is corrosive of an open society. The notion that anything goes as long as one is made secure may—may—make us citizens safer from one another, but it sure as hell doesn’t make us any safer from those security forces.

And it sure as hell doesn’t have anything to do with justice.

Justice does need security, and citizens in an open society need a competent—repeat, competent—police force. Citizens with video techs can’t make the  police more competent, but they can at least expose incompetence—and worse.

_____

Shirin Ebadi, kick-ass activist, is coming under even more pressure from the Iranian government.

According to the LA Times, young thugs from the Basiji Militia, which has connections to the Revolutionary Guard, attacked Ebadi’s home and shouted ‘Death to the pen-pushing mercenary.’

(An aside: Death to the pen-pushing mercenary? Really? That’s the best they could do?)

Police were called, did nothing.

Ah, the security state. . . .

_____

Hamas is full of shit, and shits. They’re totalitarian gangsters, providing much-needed basic services to the Palestinians of Gaza in return for using ‘their people’ as shields in their war against Israel.

Hamas leaders may call themselves freedom fighters or the resistance or martyrs for God, but what do they have to offer those they seek to liberate but a more correct (i.e., non-Jewish, non-Israeli) violence, a more correct oppression? They’re mobsters, performing the same ‘services’ for Gazans that Italian, Irish, Russian, Chinese, etc., organized crime syndicates have done for their immigrant communities.

Remember the scene which opens the first Godfather? ‘I believe in America’, the man tells Don Corleone, before he goes on to beg for help in seeking vengeance for his daughter’s rape. The police can do nothing; could the Don help? The man is berated: why didn’t you come to us first? But the Don will help, in exchange for a favor. . . .

The analogy is inexact, but it works well enough: in the absence of trust in the legal authorities, one will turn to whatever enforcers are available. And in the absence of any countervailing authority, those enforcers are as likely to subjugate as protect—will subjugate in the course of protecting—their communities. It’s an illicit version of the security ideology, mirroring claims of the necessity of violence and the suppression of dissent.

So Hamas is a Palestinian mob. Hell, it’s worse than a regular mob, not least because it directly endangers Palestinian civilians by firing rockets and weapons from within civilian areas. Hamas knows Israel will retaliate, will shell and bomb and shoot into neighborhoods and schools and homes and kill Palestinian civilians—deaths which can then be blamed on Israel. But Hamas, too, is at fault.

Note that I say ‘too.’ The Israeli government knows exactly what Hamas is doing, and they point repeatedly to evidence of Hamas’s tactics. But this hardly absolves Israel of responsibility for civilian deaths. To state that ‘Hamas fires rockets at civilians on purpose, and we do so only incidentally’ doesn’t quite wash in the face of hundreds of Palestinian dead and thousands wounded. How many times can you say ‘Oops, sorry’? Or ‘Sorry, but. . .’? No, Palestinian civilians matter as little to the Israelis as they do to Hamas.

I have read (and heard on the radio) a number of comments by Gazans blaming Hamas for the destruction, but that hardly means they love Israel. They are a hostage population, used and abandoned.

So what the hell to do? Even if Israel manages to weaken or even destroy Hamas, then what? What happens to the people of Gaza? To the blockade of the territory and immobilization of the people? What about the Occupied Territories and Jerusalem? There are still the competing claims to the land, competing claims for justice, for security. There is still the intransigence and hostility of most of Israel’s neighboring states.

What a fucking mess. So the Israeli Defense Force wins by pounding Hamas and Hamas wins if it survives the pounding and everyone else loses. Death all around.

. . . . ‘Yes, but whose deaths matter more?’

_____

A re-thought on God, hands, and respect: Opponents of same-sex marriage complain that advocates are trying to force respect for these marriages, and running over any concerns over the sacred nature of matrimony and the moral and social disorder indicated by open same-sex relationships.

I guess I get their distress. To respect same-sex relationships is to disrespect their own beliefs, and themselves. Why should respect only run one way?

Again, in cases where respect for A requires disrespect for B, tolerance may the best one can hope for. I don’t respect your beliefs, and you don’t respect mine, but we’ll recognize that each gets to retain her beliefs.

The difficulty with marriage, of course, is that it involves the law—another discussion. And I don’t want any laws on the proferring or withholding of hands.





Takedown! Takedown—two points!

26 09 2008

Some seriously unhappy things happening with the cats. It will be fixed, but in the meantime, grrrrrr.

So I was reading Chantal Mouffe’s The Return of the Political, and I thought, Hm, she might be able to help, after all. She is of the agoniste school of democratic theorists, that is, among those who believe that politics is less about deliberation (Guttmann & Thompson) or ideal speech situations (Habermas) than about plurality, conflict, and constant risks and possibilities of democratic engagement. Jeffrey Isaac has written cogently on this (Democracy in Dark Times), as has Judith Butler, albeit somewhat less cogently (Precarious Life). Arendt fits here, I think, as does Vattimo. (And not-so-far in the background, as Mouffe points out, is Carl Schmitt. Brrr.)

Blah blah, enough with the name dropping: how does it help? Because it reminds me that I’ve been writing as if Lucretia’s comment signalled some kind of crisis in democratic thinking. And it does—of liberal democratic theory. (n.b.: Mouffe does not herself reject liberal democracy, just the consensus modes dominant within it.)There’s a lot worth exploring in liberal democratic theory, but Mouffe reminds me there’s more to democratic theory than liberalism, and, by extension, more than ‘respect’ amongst political actors.  I think I was headed back in that direction anyway, but having her scowl at me and point the way was useful. (I’m being only a little melodramatic: she’s staring straight at the camera—and frowning—in her publicity shot.)

Anyway, I don’t know that Lucretia was really asking about radical democratic theory, but I think that’s the place to find a decent response to her initial question. Mouffe notes that ‘Once we accept the necessity of the political and the impossibility of a world without antagonism, what needs to be envisaged is how it is possible under those conditions to create or maintain a pluralistic democratic order. . . . It requires that, within the context of the political community, the opponent should be considered not as an enemy to be destroyed but as an adversary whose existence is legitimate and must be tolerated. We will fight against his ideas but we will not question his right to defend them.’ [emph in the original, p. 4]. Yes. Very ‘disagree-but-defend-your-right-to-the-death.’

In other words, the lack of respect is not a crisis, is not necessarily even a problem. If there is to be conflict, there the question is how to live with it. Some might seek to suppress it, others to deliberate it away; the agonistes, however, note that it is simply a condition of human existence, and to rid ourselves of conflict is to rid ourselves of. . . us. Thus, while consensus-liberal theorists (and I included the deliberatives among this large and varied group) consider tolerance too thin a mat on which to roll around with our problems, Mouffe says, pfft, it’s enough. The point is not to avoid bruises; the point is to continue the wrestling, i.e., to continue the politics.

There are many worse things than the hurt or anger which arise out of political disagreement. What, after all, are the alternatives to [a democratic] politics?





Complicated

23 09 2008

Still workin’ on the question Lucretia asked, regarding respect/no respect.

Still workin’ on Rawls, for that matter. I paused to re-read Mary Ann Glendon’s Rights Talk, and I’m taking Chantal Mouffe’s The Return of the Political to Jobs1&2 tomorrow, but I don’t think any of these folk are going to get me where I need to go.

Why? The focus on procedure. ‘Here is how you set up a system of justice in a liberal society’ (Rawls); ‘we need to more nuanced understanding of rights vis-a-vis other values’ (Glendon). Neither is wrong, but neither gets to the guts of Lucretia’s question:

How do you deal with someone who can’t deal with you? That is, how do you deal with someone who won’t accept that you’re someone else? Who insists that you respect her but she won’t respect you? (I suppose the flip side of this question would be: How do you deal with someone who persists in error? Hm. More on that later?)

This is where I ended, last time (in the Ain’t no love post): I think I’m still missing a piece of a response to Lucretia. I’ve talked about a kind of constitutional or generic respect for persons, and about intimates, but what about those strangers or acquaintances with whom we interact in the social sphere? More acutely, what about those demands from citizens for respect for their views? Not generic persons, not friends, but fellow-travellers in the polity, in the social sphere? How do we meet demands for respect for mutually-exclusive beliefs? Ah. I thought I captured this in the idea of creating space against an overlord, but I didn’t: this is how we treat one another within that space. . . .It may be a matter of reiterating respect for you, but signalling disagreement with your beliefs. But I don’t think that’s sufficient, either.

It’s insufficient, I think, because respect is being overworked: I’m trying to stretch it to cover all of these different situations and levels, and it’s shredding. I gotta let it go. Yes, keep it at the procedural and constitutional levels, and even, perhaps, have it frame discussions, as a minimal condition for that discussion, but as to content: done.

This means, of course, that one may in fact not respect the other person’s views and, as a consequence, not respect the other person. That sounds harsh—it is harsh—but it gets at how we actually do respond to one another.

I think there’s a parallel to this in my reaction to ‘love-the-sinner/hate-the-sin’ argument: it seems a cop-out to pronounce one’s love even as one proclaims hatred for what the loved one does. It sounds simple to separate out who you are from what you do, but that sound is wrong. (I’ve gone too far in the other direction, hoping that doing could overcome being, but that’s another story.) We are beings who do, so even when it is possible to make such a separation, it’s rarely simple to, erm, do so.

Consider how you respond to someone who you truly do love who does something awful. Well, maybe just lousy: Your partner is arrested for drunk driving, say. You love this person, but you’re also angry that he behaved recklessly toward both himself and others. So what do you do with this love and anger? It depends: on you, on him, on his behavior after the arrest, whether he’s done this before, whether you’ve done this before, . . . Not simple, in other words. Even if you do get past it, you still have to get past it.

Now, to ratchet up the complications, consider behavior which is more intimately connected to being, say, sexuality (this is where the whole love/hate/sinner/sin missile often gets deployed). You’re gay or bisexual or ambisexual or just plain sexual. Sex is something you do, but your sexuality is also a part of who you are. Furthermore, you like both the act of sex and your sexuality generally, and are not inclined to see it as something in need of either fixing or redemption. If someone says she loves you but not what you do, do you feel particularly loved? Do you think this person even sees you?

This can be flipped around with regard to respect: If you demand that I respect you just for having an opinion, how likely is it that I’ll actually respect the content of that opinion? How much do you think I’ll respect you? In each case, the formula gets in the way of the person, and in so doing, cheapens both respect and love.

Thus, in cutting back on respect-talk, we may actually get to—have to—deal with one another as human beings. By allowing each other the, hmm, courtesy? understanding? recognition? that who we are and what we say and how we act matters, we may allow for a fuller sense of the other.

This fuller sense, of course, may only be possible in particular circumstances: namely, in a free society in which one person does not have authority over or able to invoke power structures against another. And there are other objections to this conclusion, as well, including that ‘may allow’ is a damned slender reed, and that I, too, am eliding content in favor of process—this time of understanding rather than respect.

It’s late, so I can’t offer a full defense, but I want to get this down before I lose these thoughts: One, yeah, ‘may allow’ ain’t much, but maybe that’s all we’ve got. In other words, Arendt’s admonitions on the frailty of human [political] affairs may be spot on. Two, I’m trying to incorporate content into the conversation, and to recognize when content overwhelms or matters more than conversation.

Sketchy, I know. But I think there’s something here.





Ain’t no love

2 09 2008

Finally, a frame of mind in which to respond to a comment from Lucretia (about my last bit on Nussbaum).

BUT FIRST: I gotta say something about the whole Sarah/Bristol Palin thing. Damn! I feel bad for the girl. She’s seventeen, knocked up, and a week ago she was probably freaking out about what her classmates were going to say or were already saying about her pregnancy. Now, for reasons that have little to do with her, she’s worldwide news. That’s tough. I hope the people around her (and her boyfriend) are as supportive as they say they are.

As for her mom? I don’t like her politics. No need to say much beyond that.

Okay, on to the question of nonbeliever respect for the religious, especially when the religious show so little respect for the nonbeliever. On August 26, Lucretia asked

‘It’s such a common notion in our culture, probably in Western culture as a whole – maybe all human cultures? – that we have to respect people’s religious beliefs. I find I’ve absorbed this idea without quite knowing where it came from.

Why do we have to tiptoe around other people’s quirky, bizarre, or moronic ideas? Particularly when, if a religious nut knows you’re an atheist, he feels perfectly free to declare open season on us?’

I’ve been batting this question around for awhile, and I think I’ve got the beginnings of a response to it. And, ironically, Nussbaum, in Women and Human Development, helped shape part of my response.

The first part, that which to which Nussbaum’s discussion of political liberalism contributes, is the notion of respect for persons. One can reject or accept this notion, but it’s a pretty standard precept of modern philosophical-liberal thought. We are free and equal beings, individuals with distinct desires and personalities, and endowed with sufficient reason to pursue our own, individual ends. (This is a bit of a mash-up of liberal thought, but, again, not an unreasonable one; similar kinds of notions anchor many human rights declarations & charters, for example.)

Anyway, as free, equal, and distinct beings, the ends we choose for our lives ought to be left up to each of us. That is, whatever meaning we assign to our lives, including whether that assignment includes a supernatural element or not, is up to each of us.  Unsurprisingly, this means we are likely to choose different meanings, different ends. Some are so discomfitted by this plurality of outcomes that they seek to favor some meanings and outcomes over others, to say, in effect, that no rational person would choose these lesser ends.

Nussbaum argues, rightly, I think, that one can’t have it both ways: either you allow for respect for persons to choose their own lives, or you don’t. (There are issues about the conditions for choice, and choosing for others, especially children, but that’s a separate topic.) She distinguishes political liberalism from comprehensive liberalism, such that under conditions of political liberalism one creates the conditions for choice of ends, whereas under a regime of comprehensive liberalism, one seeks to shape those ends, to favor some over others.

Another, shorter, way to put this is to state that I will respect your ability to choose your own way, and you will respect my ability to choose my own way. Reciprocity.

This works, I think, as a formal model of respect, especially as regards respect among strangers, and as creating a kind of space against an overlord (government, religion) which seeks to choose our ends for us.

But while such formal or process-respect can help remind one not to trample on another’s ability to choose, it’s incomplete. It doesn’t get at that deep frustration over lack of respect for the choice of ends. In other words, while Nussbaum would like to bracket off discussions of ends (and which, in the context of her larger argument about constitutions and states, makes a great deal of sense), the issue of ends-respect remains.

And it is much harder to deal with, because we connect the ends a person has chosen with that person herself. In other words, it’s personal. So Lucretia’s question looms: why respect shitty ideas? why respect shitty beliefs which belittle the nonbeliever?

Don’t.

That, finally, after many years of trying to square my principled belief in respect for persons with the batshit things we believe in, is my answer. I will maintain my respect for you as a human being, but not so much for you, personally. If you believe menstruating women are polluting and to be avoided, if you think black people are inferior to white people, that Jews run the world, if you think anyone who doesn’t believe exactly as you do isn’t worth as much as you, then expect the ridicule you so richly deserve.

This sounds, hm, if not contradictory, at least, not right: Aren’t I, after all, expecting others to believe exactly as I do? Aren’t I saying dissenters to my view aren’t worth as much? No, and yes. No, insofar as I distinguish between the formal- or process-respect and personal- or ends-respect. I’m not saying you don’t get to believe what you do, or that you deserve less protection of the law than anyone else. You should never lose the respect owed to you as a human being, or, to put it more politically, as a citizen.

But we are not simply citizens, not simply occupants of the formal-human-being role. We are also individual personalities, with our own desires and flaws and beliefs, and to state that we can have whatever beliefs we want, but that we ought not take them so seriously that we form judgments in relation to them, is to miss something vital to our humanness.

You can go on and think I’m going to hell because I don’t pray or don’t pray to the right god or don’t pray to the right god in the right way—and you can say you condemn me out of love—but why on earth would you expect me to respect a position which denigrates me? If you judge me because of who I sleep with or how I sleep with that (consenting) person, why should I, who don’t think this matters to anyone but me and that other person, take your side against my own?

If the only way to respect your view is to belittle myself, well, I ain’t respectin’ your view.

I respect absolutely your right and ability to hold whatever views you choose, but I don’t necessarily respect those chosen views.

And this is where it gets funky, because we tie a person’s views to our own view of that person. If you hold to views I find abhorrent, I’m not going to respect you. And given that I think respect IS important, that bothers me a bit. But I also have a fairly wide range of views outside of my own which I find worthy of respect, so I’m not too worried that I’m going to whittle my interactions down to people who are just. like. me.

That could, and does, happen, of course: align with me, or be gone. And if that happens too often or infects too much of our civic life, that could be problematic. But on the personal level, well, who we want around us is going to vary from person to person. Some want family near, others, far. Some seek many friends and colleagues, and others choose to cultivate a few. Whatever. The point is, we use our judgment in determining who we want around, and, on a personal level, that’s as it should be.

Hm. I think I’m still missing a piece of a response to Lucretia. I’ve talked about a kind of constitutional or generic respect for persons, and about intimates, but what about those strangers or acquaintances with whom we interact in the social sphere? More acutely, what about those demands from citizens for respect for their views? Not generic persons, not friends, but fellow-travellers in the polity, in the social sphere? How do we meet demands for respect for mutually-exclusive beliefs? Ah. I thought I captured this in the idea of creating space against an overlord, but I didn’t: this is how we treat one another within that space.

Getting at that is gonna have to wait. It may be a matter of reiterating respect for you, but signalling disagreement with your beliefs. But I don’t think that’s sufficient, either.

Damn. And I thought I had a handle on this. Maybe not.