Friday, September 23, 2016
Happens all the time these days. I post something on Facebook indicating I don’t support Hillary and immediately get this from Jane, a friend of a friend: “So your thought is to elect Trump? And that would be better?”
Instead of writing another editorial, I’ll just give you our ensuing dialogue.
Eric Mader: No. My thought is not "to elect Trump”. My thought is rather: A vote is a vote FOR someone, not merely a vote against someone else. Hillary does not deserve the votes of honest citizens, and I refuse to swell her numbers (and thus the illusion of her legitimacy) by giving her my vote. I will no longer join in the Democrat vs. Republican race to the bottom, but will vote third party. The mainstream Democrats deserve to lose, and I'm willing to take the risk of Trump in office if it will help delegitimize these utter fakes.
Jane Doe: Wow. If Trump wins, our world will be pretty scary, and if you supported the tenets of Bernie you will be in for a rude awakening. Unfortunately, at this time a vote for third party is a vote for Trump.
Eric Mader: You’re just being patronizing, Jane. I'm well aware of what rude awakenings there may be. And no: A vote for a third party is emphatically NOT a vote for Trump. A vote for a third party is a vote for a third party. That's why it's called "a vote for a third party".
Jane Doe: Call it what you will, but a Trump presidency certainly would not "delegitimize these utter fakes". He appears to be the biggest fake of them all. And because you are a US citizen you can express your opinions freely and vote for who you want. Good luck.
Eric Mader: Your response is characteristic. Realizing that I will not be voting Hillary, you immediately change the subject to Trump and how he's a bigger fake than Hillary--"the biggest fake of them all". I think which of these two is the bigger fake is arguable, because they are fakes in such different ways, but ultimately the argument is beside the point.
If a place offered you lunch with the choice of shit in a bowl or shit on a stick, your logic would have to be that the shit on the stick is the only wise choice because, look, the amount of shit in the bowl is larger. My choice is to not eat lunch. Who is wiser? Which is the course of action more likely to put that shit restaurant out of business, yours or mine?
I am not voting for Trump, so I'm not sure why you even mention him. The only way to delegitimize fakes in a democracy is not to vote for them. I'm not going to vote for them. You, however, are in the camp that keeps saying: "Mm, this shit on a stick, it really isn't that bad. Creamy actually. Mm, everyone should eat here."
I worked hard to elect Obama twice, the first time enthusiastically, the second time not so much. For me, this election is not between Trump and Hillary, it's between the possibility of democracy and the reality of corporate control over our whole political process. Whether you can see this or not, it is Hillary who is the consummate corporate candidate, which is why, surprise surprise, so many Republican establishment figures are now coming out in her favor. They're doing so because their Republican commitments, all along, have not been to maintaining a democratic republic but rather to furthering the smooth corporate takeover of our republic--ensuring, in short, that government continues to sell out the population to corporate interests. They know--which is bizarre, isn't it?--that the GOP candidate, this time, is actually a less reliable corporate rubber stamp than the Democratic candidate.
Anyhow, good luck to you. I'm fifty now, and I won't be supporting these people any more. I've spent thousands upon thousands of hours in politics, going back to my undergrad years, and am no longer giving the benefit of the doubt to anyone who's spent as much time sucking Wall Street and the corporate elites as Hillary has.
Check out my book Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
First, go read philosopher Michael Hanby’s brilliant remarks on the widespread sense among people great and small that our political order (the liberalism ushered in by the Enlightenment) is “exhausted” and somehow can’t respond to the crisis we’re in.
Then consider my following comments on how left and right function in our political thinking and day-to-day wrangling--or rather, how they fail to function. I see this dichotomy of left vs. right as one of the subsidiary blinders making our liberal horizon much more difficult to see past.
How might we overcome this impasse and begin to forge a more workable politics of hope?
Reply to Hanby:
One of our problems, along with the conceptual horizons imposed by liberalism, is the obsolete language of “left” and “right” that we continue to apply when weighing our options. This too is part of why we can’t construct a politics of hope, and in my reading this outworn dichotomy helps explain the decline of the left into identity politics and of the right into free-market fundamentalism/free trade or Trumpian nationalism.
Classical liberalism presents itself not as a tentative theory of how society might be organized but as a theory of nature. It claims to lay out the forces of nature and to make these a model for social order. Thus free-market fundamentalism, letting the market function “as nature intended”. It’s an absurd position when applied dogmatically, and no more “natural” than other economic arrangements humans might develop.
The only truly rock solid aspect of classical liberalism in my mind is its theory of individual dignity, the permanent and nonnegotiable value of each individual in essence and before the law. The left has taken this and run with it and turned it into identity politics, which has morphed into a virtual divination of individual desire and self-definition. This is of course something quite different from the classical liberal understanding of the nonnegotiable value of the individual. The capitalist right, on the other hand, has taken liberal individual rights and turned them into a theory of individual responsibility for one’s economic fate, which is helpful in ways, but not decisive or even fully explanatory as to why people end up where they are. Free trade enthusiasts have put a lot of people in dire economic straits, but when you listen to these enthusiasts they speak as if their economics somehow represents nature, as opposed to what such economics really is: a shallow apologetics for the practices of international corporations.
Further, as I suggest, our two camps left and right are no longer even distinctly left and right in any traditional sense. The market forces and self-marketing that lead to the fetishization of identity by the left are the same market forces championed by the capitalist right. In America today, both left and right are merely different bourgeois cults of Self. The right’s cult of Self is the old one of the self-made man, whereas the left’s, an utter betrayal of any real left politics, echoes the thrust of market forces in a different way, playing off the myriad little marketable differences between individuals or demographics. The “left” has thus morphed into just another version of the vast capitalist marketing cult that America itself has become: iPhone, myWorld, iChat, iVictim, SelfieLove, iBornThisWay, iPride, iDentity.
It should be no surprise that the inalienable dignity of the individual, that rock solid core of liberal thinking, grew directly from the Christian soil of Paul’s assertion of the equality of all--men, women, Greek, Jew, freed, slave--in Christ. (Galatians 3:28) The now internationalized Western concept of human rights is merely a universalized version of Paul’s thought, hatched in a Christian Europe by philosophes who didn’t recognize just how Christian they were.
After all the utopian dusts settle, whether the dust of Adam Smith or the dust of PC Non-Discrimination, we must see that the one thing holding us together is this recognition that the political order must respect human rights. The core issue at present, the most fundamental way of respecting human rights, is thus that we legislate in ways that reflect a realistic understanding of these rights. In short, we must wisely theorize these rights if we are to preserve them. As for the right’s free-market fundamentalism/free trade or the left’s PC progressivism, they each are proving to be pipe dreams that don’t address the economic or legal challenges in coherent ways. They each sacrifice true rights at one altar or another in the vast temple of the Market.
The obsolete language of “left” and “right” keeps us blinded to the real human challenges. It keeps us unwilling to grapple with our concrete economic and legal problems, if only because we’re too busy cheerleading either one version of the capitalist cult or the other.
I’m looking forward to Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option (to be published in 2017) mainly as providing some answers as to how the remnant of faithful Christians in this mayhem might both hold their faith intact while perhaps simultaneously developing less utopian modes of thinking about community. For us Christians, the current political order may very well be shaping up to be something like the pagan Roman Empire was to the early church. We finally have to face that, politically speaking, we are in the world but not of it. At least as regards any hope we might have of swaying the forces that capitalism has unleashed via its largely bogus “left” and “right” branches. I do not think left and right are completely useless as political concepts, but that they are less and less helpful in America, as the two sides are coming ever more to resemble each other.
Crucially, we must give up cheering for either of our two national parties, which have grown into one Corporate Oligarchical Party. We must focus our energies elsewhere, in building more solid local communities. When or whether these communities might offer alternative political parties is a different and less pressing question.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
“Basket of Deplorables”?
That’s what Hillary Clinton called tens of millions of Americans yesterday, claiming that those opposed to her were racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic.
I know the current liberal PC definition of terms like racist or homophobic, and it's likely I'd be called these things by many an unhinged activist. So I'm with the deplorables myself. And I feel solidarity with them.
We see through you, Hillary. Play your PC “-phobic” card all you want. We’re not buying it. Over the past dozen years, liberals have thrown around the word "bigot" so much that the word has lost its meaning. It is debased. All one has to do is disagree with the robots of political correctness on any small point and one is a bigot. I disagree with them on many many points.
We Americans who see what's going on aren't afraid of your smear words because we see the illegitimate way you define these words. And the way you, Hillary, use them to distract people from their real problems. Namely: Corporate control of our government. Namely: You yourself and everything you stand for.
No. Just because we think Black America needs to officially condemn its gangsta rap culture and take more responsibility for its communities doesn’t make us racist. It makes us awake to what is happening.
Just because we think LGBT activists don’t have the right to dictate sex and gender norms for our whole culture doesn’t make us homophobic. It makes us, uh, sane.
Just because we call radical Islamic terrorism by its real name doesn’t make us Islamophobic.
Just because we don’t of approve our elected leaders (your party, Hillary) exporting our jobs to foreign countries doesn’t make us xenophobic.
We see through you, Hillary. We’ve watched official Washington, your party included, sell us down the river for two decades now. Everything we know about you tells us you’ll do nothing but sell the last bit of us left to be sold.
We see that you have nothing but scorn for our values and traditions. Your former boss, Barack Obama, has shown this scorn time and again. We know you are full of such scorn too. Your words yesterday prove it.
In our minds, Hillary, the real deplorables are those who imagine you will stand for working Americans. We know very well you will not. You will stand for your PC special interest groups on the one hand, and Wall Street and the corporate boards on the other.
We see through you. We don’t accept your insulting labels. We are not "racist", "homophobic", etc., etc. We are Americans with our own vision of what our country should be. And we aren’t going to give you our vote in November. Count on it.
Saturday, September 3, 2016
We LGBT Americans have had enough. Progress has been made in recent years, and it is welcome, but it is still but a pale shadow of the full rights we demand. It is time for the heteronormative majority to recognize our rights. It is finally time for federal and state governments to put in place and enforce laws to stomp out, once and for all, the rampant homo- and transphobia that still guide our sick culture.
First and foremost, all Americans must recognize our right to police public discourse about sex. We LGBT citizens represent a massive 3.8% of the US population, yet there remain people out there who are allowed to live and hold steady jobs while refusing to bow to our wisdom on all matters related to gender, marriage and child rearing.
This has to stop. Such holdouts against the triumph of our ideology must be silenced, and if they will not shut up and learn to think and speak as we tell them, we will have no choice but to respond by enacting even stricter laws to threaten their employment and institutions.
Because enough is enough. Who do these people think they are claiming that "boys are boys and girls are girls", that humanity is "divided into two sexes"?
The cognitive disconnect is impossible to credit. Don’t they even understand where they live? They live in the United States of America. Don’t they realize that we LGBT activists have a constitutionally protected right to force them to parrot our every pronouncement?
The ongoing presence of these backsliders underlines a sobering truth about the hurdles we still face. Yes, thanks to the wisdom of the Obama Administration, and after many years (almost ten) of bitter struggle, we now control discussion of sex and gender in American public schools. Any public school district out of sync with our ideology will lose federal funding. Any teacher who doesn’t employ our psychojargon in the classroom will be publicly shamed and hounded out of a job. As it should be.
But this isn't the endgame. America’s schools are only part of the picture. In homes and “religious” settings across the country, offensive ideas about sex and gender continue to be foisted off on innocent children. It is a scandal that must not be allowed to continue.
Everyone now recognizes that being LGBT brings with it a better understanding of human sexuality and family than that held by merely heterosexual citizens. The science is clearly on our side. We LGBT activists are the best people to direct education policy--and we now largely do direct it--but the important issue of how children are taught the facts of life in other settings remains far too open. This is going to change.
Those who persist in naysaying our plans on these new fronts will soon come to regret it. Especially, parents with "Christian" leanings had better get their priorities queered within the next few years or we are going to have to take the gloves off. That day will not be a pleasant one for those on the wrong side of history.
History moves inexorably forward. Our vanguard role is clear. In this future we are bringing, the trans movement of course has a vital role to play. It is in relation to the trans movement that the holdouts against us will be revealed.
Incredibly, there are still parents out there who do not accept that their son, at age 4 or 5, has the wisdom and knowledge of sex to decide if he is a boy or a girl. There are still parents who think it is their right (rather than the right of LGBT-vetted school administrators) to decide what’s best for their children. Hard to stomach, yes, but these people still exist.
We’re now finding that some of these “parents” even get upset when they learn that schools have been instructed not to inform them of their child’s declared gender identity. Which is amazing. I mean DUHHH!--the schools are only doing it to protect your child, who may want to begin hormone therapy and live according to his or her or their or zir new identity.
Think about it. Here our school administrators are trying to protect your children from any undue or backward influence you might have on them, and all you offer in gratitude is complaints and threats.
It seems you don't understand who you are threatening. We are the “Love wins” people, the people who lit up the White House in rainbow colors. And when we say “Love wins”, it means love as we define it. Anything you might have called love previously, well, that is now actually hate. Haven’t you figured this out yet?
Truth is, we LGBT folks are getting fed up with the ongoing parental interference. Your child has rights after all. If your daughter decides she wants to be a boy during some months of her childhood, then she simply IS a boy. She has a constitutional right to allow us to declare her one, and once declared, she must remain a boy, because that’s what she IS, and for her protection we insist you acknowledge our right to administer hormone blocking treatments and, eventually, breast removal.
Likewise if your son is seen at some point playing with a Barbie doll--quick, change his name from Dan to Demi and start the hormone therapy before his stubble starts to grow in. Later we'll remove the offending male parts, government paid. Sure, he may be in and out of psyche wards now and then, the hormones will lead to secondary health complications, but so what? He will grow up to join our movement!
In Britain, claims of gender nonconformity among young people have surged more than 900% in the past few years. In short, things are going as planned.
In short: By interfering in the sacred process called Transition that only LGBT-approved doctors and administrators can guide, you only threaten your child’s well-being. Do you want to do that? Of course not. Do you want our laws to get even more invasive and punitive? No. Then why not just go along to get along? Why not be a good little rainbow butterfly and float on the hot air we blow? Because it's only going to get hotter.
Among that perverse demographic called "Christians", many people are waking up and choosing prudence over self-destruction. Like David Gushee, who has wisely abandoned Christian teachings on sexuality and embraced our rainbow revolution:
It turns out that you are either for full and unequivocal social and legal equality for LGBT people, or you are against it, and your answer will at some point be revealed. This is true both for individuals and for institutions.
Neutrality is not an option. Neither is polite half-acceptance. Nor is avoiding the subject. Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you.
This is the kind of Christian we can work with. Prof. Gushee, president of the Society of Christian Ethics, knows that in order to avoid our wrath, it is best to just submit. Unfortunately, there are many others out there who are not good Christians like Gushee, and who continue to put their hopes in a Jewish peasant from two-thousand years ago who managed to get himself crucified rather than in the leaders of our movement or prominent culture icons like Lady Gaga.
I have already said a few things about the importance of the trans movement. But I want to mention another issue that continues to put speed bumps in the path of our rainbow steamroller. Yes, I hesitate to even raise it because it’s now so passé, but there’s no telling what dinosaurs lurk out there. The issue is marriage.
We LGBT activists know what marriage is, as we should, since we rewrote the book on it. We rewrote it together with the Supreme Court last year. So it’s frankly mind-boggling that some people continue to think of marriage in terms of what their religious tradition or the history of the world (which stretches back a mere handful of millennia) tells them. To stick so stubbornly to such outmoded ideas when same-sex marriage has been accepted by a small fragment of the world’s population and for almost five years--it’s really a bit much to swallow.
Don’t you people know that one good way of determining what is true or false is to look at the calendar? It is now 2016. Think. Things accepted by a percentage of people in 2016 must be truer than things accepted by all humanity since the beginning of recorded history. It's called Progress. It’s obvious. You look at the year and the simple truth will hit you: If it’s past the year 2000, that must mean SERIOUS PROGRESS is happening. And progress being Ultimate Truth, and LGBT people having a UNIQUE ACCESS to Truth--it all points in the same direction, doesn't it? LGBT people are the VEHICLE OF TRUTH AND PROGRESS!
This is what is called a calendar syllogism. It’s both logically valid and perfectly true. We are the Vehicle. What does that mean? As follows: If you don’t want to become part of the pavement, watch your step as you cross the street.
Yes, it’s a lofty calling, being the Vehicle, but nobody should be surprised it fell to us. Being gay, trans or queer, we simply KNOW. We know the real meaning of sex and gender, the essence of marriage, how to raise and educate children, etc., etc. Which is why, again, we now insist on our full rights. For us who simply KNOW, full rights means the right to be right about whatever we claim and the right of anyone who disagrees to be called a bigot and suffer legal consequences.
That is another syllogism. Equally valid and true.
A bit of cultural history: We came into our Full Rights to Perfect Rightness thanks to a seismic shift in the understanding of liberal society, which we were sure to push along when we first discovered it. Yes, there are throwbacks and dead-enders in the American population who still believe in the old idea of "pluralism"--i.e. that groups with different faiths or ideas about fundamentals might still recognize each other’s rights to peace and prosperity and live side by side in the same republic. We were sharp enough early on to reject this outdated "pluralist" idea of America when we discovered the new concept called "diversity".
What "diversity" means is this: Any ideas of whatever cultural or ideological background can be respected and given space if they match our own ideas. And: Those who show thinking that diverges from ours are not to be considered diverse enough and must be silenced.
This "diversity" we’re championing is now the real meaning of America, as you will see by visiting any university campus. It replaces the old defunct practice of pluralism which allowed for far too much freedom in public speech and thinking and led to LGBT people feeling offended when other citizens didn’t show sufficient cognitive meekness.
Given the recent triumph of diversity over pluralism, Americans who hope to continue holding down a job must demonstrate their diversity by affirming us in our various LGBT identities. If you are not ready to affirm us in our Diverse and Full Right to Rightness, you are not a true American. You are just a bigot, and bigots are worse than the lowest criminals, some of whom might be LGBT people and thus have redeeming qualities.
We hold these Truths to be self-evident. The Sacred Truths that those alone possess who can claim an alphabetically-designated sexual identity (LGBTQwerty) will continue to march forward until the Rainbow Flag shall be All in All. You who do not bow to this Flag while there’s still time, where will you stand on that day?
I ask you that.
David Joseph Stern
Philadelphia LGBTQIA Human Rights Commission