Emancipate yourself from mental slavery

2 12 2015

So yet another clinic is attacked, yet more people murdered, and yet again cries are heard that the real murderers are Planned Parenthood or whichever organization or whoever clinician is performing the abortions.

Jamelle Bouie had a decent point: if you really do believe that abortion is worse than slavery, that every abortion clinic is the site of mass murder, then wouldn’t you think, even a little, that Robert Dear (or Scott Roeder or Eric Rudolph or. . . ) is a little bit John Brown, a little bit righteous?

It’s a serious question, and as someone who would hopefully act politically against any attempt to reimpose slavery in this country, I don’t know that I would rule against violence to prevent a massive, bleeding, injustice.

Which is to say, I might understand those who are committed to non-violent actions to end abortion who nonetheless think, Yeah, but. . . .

None of which is to say—surprise!—that I think abortion is a massive, bleeding, injustice. And I’ve long been irritated by those who compare Roe v. Wade to Dred Scott and thus, abortion to slavery.

I did used to struggle with this (oh, hey, maybe those prolifers are making a point about the fetus) until I decided just to dismiss the entire analogy: abortion slavery.

But now I’ll come up on that analogy from the other side: abortion isn’t slavery, the fetus isn’t a slave, but the legalization of abortion was, in fact, an emancipation for women, and any attempt to make abortion illegal takes away the freedom of the woman.

Now, I may have, in that second novel that I still haven’t managed to inquire about with an agent, had one of my characters argue with another that she wanted to “enslave women”, but speaking for myself, I don’t really like that language: as a great a loss to the dignity and liberty to women it would be to lose the right to end a pregnancy, it’s not the same as—not as horrifying as—chattel slavery.

It’s bad enough, though, as the loss of dignity and liberty is no small thing.

And thus to my final point: those who decry Planned Parenthood (et. al.) as mass murderers neglect (surprise!) the women who themselves get the abortion. Abortion clinics aren’t pulling women off the street and strapping them down so that the ‘abortionist’ can kill her third-trimester baby and sell its parts; no, women are choosing, one by one by one by one, to go to a clinic to end her own pregnancy.

Some women have one abortion, some have two abortions, some have more than two abortions; each time, it the woman herself who enters the clinic, who climbs on to the table herself, who asks that her pregnancy be ended. The abortion provider isn’t doing anything to her that she hasn’t asked to be done.

I understand that many intelligent and decent people do think that abortion is horrifying and  that 50,000,000+ babies have been killed in the U.S. since Roe, and are sincerely grieved by what they seen as the ‘abortion industry’ killing those babies en masse. They see abortion as a system that must be overturned as surely as the abolitionists saw slavery as a system to be overturned.

But what I see are the women, one by one by one by one, deciding, each for herself, what she can take, and what she can give, and what will be the course of her own life.

And that’s a liberty ardently to be defended.

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Just like everybody else does

2 06 2011

Were slaves humans to those who enslaved them? Were Jews and the Roma and Slavs human to Nazis?

Yes. And no.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s interests and mine once again intersect, this time on the question of who is human. TNC has posted a number of pieces in which he notes that the slaves-weren’t-human-to-slavemasters trope really doesn’t hold up; in his most recent post on the topic, he notes that

But throughout the South there were (poorly enforced) laws against the murder of slaves. Enslaved people were often encouraged to embrace Jesus, and ministered to by white preachers–treatment that mules and dogs were generally spared. Slave populations were filled with the progeny of white people who had sex with slaves–again treatment which most mules and dogs (as far as we know) were spared. It is surely true that blacks were seen as biologically inferior, but they were nevertheless generally recognized as human.

Frederick Douglass, as well, observed in What to a slave is the Fourth of July? that

Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgement that the slave is a moral, intellectual and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws, in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, their will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

The Nazis, too, did recognize that Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs were human, in their prohibitions and punishments, their sterilization campaigns, the theft of their goods, their enslavement, their use as experimental subjects, and, perhaps, above (or below) all, in their willingness to rape Jewish women, Roma women, Polish and Russian and Ukrainian and Serbian women.

Such practical recognition (one which is likely shared by all chauvinistic peoples) must be conceded: the superior knew the inferior to be human.

This concession does not, however, end the debate, for there is also the matter of the ideology of the slaver and the Nazi, one which also drove the practices of enslavement, brutalization, and extermination.

TNC admits to a kind of admiration for Cannibals All! author George Fitzhugh, largely due to Fitzhugh’s willingness to extend the logic of superiors/inferiors to all peoples, such that even many white people could justly be enslaved. Again, I’m not so sure that this consistency deserves any praise, but even more than that, I think a focus on such consistency itself obscures the practical reality of slavery, to wit, that those who were enslaved were both human and not human.

TNC, from the same post:

This posed a philosophical problem for the nascent Confederate intelligentsia. Thomas Jefferson’s notion that “all men are created equal,” particularly rankled. If black people were part of “man,” and all “men” were created equal, how could one justify slavery? Well, one could completely ignore the discrepancy, which is exactly what a lot of Confederates did.

He goes on to consider the “more radical position” that Jefferson was wrong, that the mere fact of humanity did not make one equal.

I happen to agree with this: the liberty and equality we grant to one another is just that, a grant in recognition, and one which could be either extended or withdrawn. (Arendt, too, noted that there was nothing particularly sacred about the “naked human”, and that acknowledgment of humanness is hardly sufficient to guarantee any sort of right.)

But TNC, having opened himself to this radical possibility, gives himself over to those who assert inequality  without also considering that they, too, were engaging in double-talk and legalistic bullshit, that is, that assertions of inequality or inferiority covered up their own discrepancies regarding humanness.

These discrepancies are, frankly, much easier to see in Nazi propaganda, what with their constant references to vermin and bacillus and disease and corruption (in the case of Jews) or weakness and stupidity and beastliness (in the case of Slavs): these people aren’t really people.

What you see, in other words, is that the Nazis had a kind of Platonic Form of humans, namely, the German* (with the asterisk indicating that to be truly German was to be not-Jewish, not leftist, not sick, not mentally ill, not handicapped, not Christian, etc.), and that those who were not-German—that is, those who deviated from the Form—were therefore less human. This dynamic could be seen as well in the belief that some Czechs and Ukrainians and Poles could, perhaps, be “Germanized”, that is, brought closer to  True Human Form.

In short, this is less about equality or inequality than about degrees of humanness: those who are closer to the Form are more human than those further away from it.

The question of the constitution of the form and the determination of relative distances to it is, of course, not a little caught up in questions of power, in particular, in the question of power over. This is where not a few of the discrepancies enter: are more human if you’re on top? if you win? If so, what does loss (as in, say, WWI) mean regarding your humanness? Et cetera. . . .

To bring the point closer to home: We Homo sapiens  use other species; norms and regulations over such use have both varied over time and space and from species to species, a variation dependent upon (among other things) utility and perceived nearness to us. In the US (as in many parts of the world), for example, the Great Apes—our nearest evolutionary relatives—are accorded rather different treatment than mice, rabbits, worms, and flies. And shall we discuss our agricultural and culinary uses of, say, chickens and cows and pigs. . . ?

This brings us back, then, to Fitzhugh, or at least, to the title of his work, Cannibals All! While cannibalism is not unknown among our species, it is an exceptional rather than normal practice—which itself indicates some widespread (if not quite global)  and basic acknowledgement of one another as being of the same kind.

That basic acknowledgement, however, is not quite enough: there is more to being human than, well, being human.





Apt observation

1 06 2011

“That’s libertarians for you – anarchists who want police protection from their slaves.”
Kim Stanley Robinson

h/t LM Dorsey, commenter 13 on a Paul Krugman’s blog post





Excuses, excuses

27 04 2011

Here I have my own blog and my own project(s) and what do I do?

Spend all day over at TNC’s joint arguing Locke.

Shees.

~~~

At least that’s better than spending all day dealing with the president’s capitulation to conspiracy-mongerers release of his “long form” birth certificate.

It’s not as if evidence ever actually disproves a conspiracy; no, any counter-evidence is immediately seized upon as further evidence of said conspiracy.

And no, I ain’t linkin’ to the conspirators. Enough.

(Although I did like the term ktheintz at Josh Green’s blog coined for this particular group of conspirators: after-birthers. Nice.)

~~~

Given my struck-through comment on capitulation, I pretty clearly disagree with Sullivan on all this. (For those who don’t read him: He thinks it’s not unreasonable to demand that public figures release any and all information about themselves. I do not.)

Just because Sullivan chooses to expose as much of his life as he does to the public doesn’t mean every other public person should be forced to do so.

I also don’t care much for his Trig obsession, not because I don’t think it’s possible for Palin to have lied about it—I think she’s his mother, although I also think she lied about the circumstances of his birth—but because I’m really fucking tired of the public interrogation of any woman’s reproductive status.

I think Palin is a malign force in our body politic; I also think she deserves the same goddamned privacy regarding her uterus as every other woman does.

In fact, I wish she’d take her whole damned self private.

~~~

Anyway. I need to get out more.





A great and good man: Robert Smalls

23 12 2010

This is pure theft from TNC, but this man deserves every last bit of attention he can get:

Robert [Smalls] was sent to Charleston in 1851 to work for his master (now Henry McKee) where he held several jobs. He started out in a hotel, then became a lamplighter on the streets of Charleston. His love of the water, evidenced in his childhood at Beaufort, led him to work down on the docks and wharfs of Charleston in his teen years. He became a stevedore (a dockworker), a rigger, a sail maker, and eventually worked his way up to a wheelman (essentially a pilot, though blacks were not called pilots). He became very knowledgeable of the Charleston harbor.
In the fall of 1861, Smalls steered the CSS Planter, an armed Confederate military transport. On May 12, 1862, the Planter’s three white officers were spending the night ashore. In the early morning hours of the 13th, Smalls and several other black crewmen decided to make a run for the Union vessels that formed the blockade, in accordance with a plan Smalls previously had discussed with them.
Robert was dressed in the captain’s uniform and even had a hat similar to the white captain’s. The Planter backed out of what was then known as Southern Wharf around 3 a.m. The Planter stopped at a nearby wharf to pick up Smalls’ family and other crewmen’s relatives, who had been concealed there for some time. Now with his wife and children and a small group of other African Americans aboard, Smalls made his daring escape.
The Planter not only had the blacks on board but it also had four valuable artillery pieces aboard, besides its own two guns. Perhaps most valuable was the code book in Robert’s possession that would reveal the Confederate’s secret signals and placement of mines and torpedoes in and around Charleston harbor. Smalls piloted the ship past the five Confederate forts that guarded the harbor, including Fort Sumter.
The renegade ship passed by Sumter approximately 4:30 a.m. He then headed straight for the Federal fleet, which was part of the Union blockade of Confederate ports, making sure to hoist a white flag. The first ship he encountered was USS Onward, which prepared to fire until a sailor noticed the white flag. When the Onward’s captain boarded the Planter, Smalls requested to raise the US flag immediately. Smalls turned the Planter over to the United States Navy, along with its onboard cargo of artillery and explosives intended for a Confederate fort.
Because of his extensive knowledge of the shipyards and Confederate defenses, Smalls was able to provide valuable assistance to the Union Navy. He gave detailed information about the harbor’s defenses to Admiral Samuel Dupont, commander of the blockading fleet. Smalls became famous throughout the North. Numerous newspapers ran articles describing his actions. Congress passed a bill, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, rewarding Smalls and his crewmen with the prize money for the captured Planter.
Smalls’ own share was $1,500 ($34,000 adjusted for inflation in 2007 dollars), a huge sum for the time. Robert personally met Abraham Lincoln in late May 1862 (two weeks later) upon which he heralded his personal account to the President. Lincoln was quite impressed with Smalls’ intelligence. His deeds became a major argument for allowing African Americans to serve in the Union Army. Smalls served under the Navy until March 1863, when he was transferred to the Army.
In December 1863, Smalls became the first black captain of a vessel in the service of the United States. On December 1, 1863, the Planter had been caught in a crossfire between Union and Confederate forces. The ship’s commander, Captain Nickerson, decided to surrender. Smalls refused, fearing that the black crewmen would not be treated as prisoners of war and might even be shot. Smalls took command and piloted the ship out of range of the Confederate guns. For his bravery, Smalls was named to replace Nickerson as the Planter’s captain.[2] Robert returned with the Planter to Charleston harbor in April 1865 for the re-raising of the American flag upon Ft. Sumter.

Read the whole thing, and read the thread for even more on this great and good man.

Forget the Lost Cause: This is the history we should be celebrating.





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6 04 2010

Declaration by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell:

WHEREAS, April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox Courthouse; and
WHEREAS, Virginia has long recognized her Confederate history, the numerous civil war battlefields that mark every region of the state, the leaders and individuals in the Army, Navy and at home who fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today; and […]

WHEREAS, this defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians, both in the context of the time in which it took place, but also in the context of the time in which we live, and this study and remembrance takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, a four-year period in which the exploration of our history can benefit all;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert McDonnell, do hereby recognize April 2010 as CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.

Two words, buddy. . . .

*UPDATE* TNC has a graceful follow-up to this story, in response to the Guv’s recognition that, oh, yeah, slavery was kind of big, bad deal, wasn’t it?

(h/t: Huffington Post)