Why Anti-Trump John Pavlovitz is being “Tone Policed”

John Pavlovitz

To read John Pavlovitz’s blog post, you’d think the country was just fine and dandy, and the government generally respected the Constitution and tried to serve the people – until Trump came along!

He complains that his Trump supporting friends are “tone policing” him by asking him to be more constructive rather than just raging against Trump.  He then seeks to justify his rage with a list of points, complaining that these Trump voters are giving Trump a free pass.  I’m going to go through them piece by piece.  He actually does have a few good points…a few.

Mr. Pavlovitz complained, “I haven’t heard a peep from them privately or publicly over the past eighteen months:” and then proceeded to his list.  I’ll start with the ones we more or less agree upon, and then work my way down.  (My comments are in direct response to Mr. Pavlovitz)

Not when he said protestors at his rallies should have been roughed up.

Fair enough, though I’d point out that many Trump supporters faced threats of violence entering those rallies, and when Trump cancelled one rally due to threats of violence, he was mocked.  Trump’s opponents aren’t so innocent.

 Not when Elizabeth Warren was silenced and persisted.

 I’m with you on this one.

 Not when kneeling black NFL players were called sons of bitches.

I’m with you here too!  They are kneeling, not making some obscene gesture.  I support Kaepernick and what he’s trying to do.  And guess what?  Trump is actually planning to meet with him and Kanye West to discuss race relations.  Yes, Trump should’t call them “sons of bitches”, but at least he’s open to reconsidering his position after some reflection.  Maybe Kanye’s gettin’ through to him?

 Not when Evangelists offered public prayers for predatory Alabama senators.

That was a low point for the Evangelicals.  I’m so glad Doug Jones won!

Not when the vile Access Hollywood video surfaced. 

 Right, the private conversation between Trump and two other people where Trump bragged about how because he was rich and famous, women LET HIM grab them.  It’s disgusting, but it’s also his personal life.

Not when refugees were stranded at airports.

I’m sorry things are so tough for people on the other side of the world.  But where were you when Obama was bombing the crap out of Libya?!  Where were you when Sec. of State Hillary Clinton was sending weapons to dangerous rebel groups in Syria?!  You know, the very place these refugees are coming from?  Why do you think Syria has a refugee crisis in the first place?  Because of Trump?  (But there I go deflecting, right?)

Not when they were bulldozing Standing Rock burial grounds.

What did Trump do that was any different from what Obama was already doing?  I realize the Republicans used to blame Obama for problems that began during the Bush era, but two wrongs don’t make a right.  Or do they?


Not when Sally Yates was unceremoniously terminated.

Right, right, right.  It’s fine to dig into every detail of Trump’s relations with Stormy Daniels 11 years ago, but looking into whether he was wiretapped by the FBI?!!!!  A travesty of justice to even suggest such a thing!  Gimme a break!

Not when Nazis and racists in Charlottesville were called “fine people.”

First off, Trump did not call “Nazis and racists” “very fine people”.  All you have to do is listen to his entire statement.  He said there were others there that were not involved with the white nationalists, who just wanted to support the statue of Robert E. Lee, and it was them that Trump called “very fine people.”

Not when tens of millions lost healthcare under the cover of night.

I’ll believe that you weren’t deliberately dishonest in the last one, but not this time.  No, repealing the individual mandate is NOT “tens of millions” losing “healthcare under the cover of night.”  He didn’t take away anyone’s healthcare.  He took away a tax burden, a penalty for not buying healthcare.  I, and tens of millions more, now have the freedom to choose whether or not to buy healthcare.  My body my choice, right?

Not when he tweeted taunts at North Korea.

 This is what you’re outraged about?

Not when the #MeToos were victimized a second time.

 Not sure what you’re talking about here.  I can only speak for myself, but I’m cautiously optimistic about #metoo.  I don’t want it to turn into a witch hunt, but as the father of a daughter, I’d like her to grow up in a better world where women who are harassed or worse can stand up for themselves and get justice…so that this happens far less often.

We’re not as blind as Pavlovitz thinks

Nothing moved them to say anything, nothing burdened them enough to rouse them from their silence, nothing offended their sensibilities significantly enough to merit even a whisper.”

Many of us do criticize Trump on issues when we think it’s called for.  I was very critical of Trump for his tweet that he was banning transgender persons from serving in the military.  We’re just taking Trump with a grain of salt, rather than being absolutely for him, or absolutely against him.  I’m sure Pavlovitz knows some pro-Trump fanatics who really would support Trump if he killed a man in the street, but few of us fit into that category.

But we’re also weighing the alternative, and keeping things in perspective.  The only thing unprecedented about Trump is his tweets and rhetoric.  None of his actions are any more shocking than what you can find in previous administrations, except his trade policies, which are long overdue!  (Thank you Trump for finally doing something about our crippling trade deficits!)

Many of us #eventrumpers, the kind of people who voted Obama and then Trump, we haven’t forgotten that it’s possible to disagree with good people.  Having a different political view doesn’t make you the devil.  Sadly, Trump Derangement Syndrome has the effect of making anyone who voted for Trump appear to be a demon from the 9th circle of hell.

Advertisements

We Should Be Relieved That Trump Used Note Cards

TrumpsNotecards

Ask yourself this.  In a room full of students and parents of shooting victims, including a man who just lost his 18-year-old daughter – Do you want THE Donald Trump speaking to them off the top of his head?

The Trump presidency warrants many criticisms.  Probably more than anything, Trump is criticized for what he says.  He speaks carelessly off the cuff, he offends people, and rather than apologizing, he doubles down.

When I saw the snippets on the morning news of Trump’s conversation with these parents and victims, I sighed in relief!  Trump actually spent more time listening than talking.  He was sensitive (yes, Trump!)  He chose his words carefully.  Even when it came time for the most controversial part, when he proposed arming school teachers*, he proposed this about as tactfully as anyone could.

So how does a man like Trump manage to conduct himself professionally in such a sensitive situation?  He does exactly what Obama did for every one of his great, optimistic speeches – he plans his words.  Obama used the teleprompter, while Trump used good old fashioned note cards.  A teleprompter wouldn’t have been practical in that setting anyway.

Yet for some reason, Washington Post’s Aaron Blake has a problem with this.  In Wapo’s Analysis section (though this would have been more suited to Opeds), Blake claims that Trump’s note cards show a lack of empathy.**  Now, if I had a history of saying horribly insensitive things on the spot, and I wanted to show empathy; I’d be sure not to say anything on the spot, and furthermore, to show that I put some serious thought into what I would say.  If I had a history of over-talking people rather than listening, I’d show empathy by forcing myself to not fall into that bad habit, and instead, I’d listen for a change!

I know it’s a disappointment to those who enjoy sensationalizing every careless word that comes from Trump’s mouth, every awkward hand gesture, every golf game, and every socially awkward appearance he makes with Melania; but Donald Trump actually handled himself well this time.  Like it or not, Trump will almost certainly be our President until 2021, and possibly until 2025.  Wouldn’t we rather him do whatever he needs to do to conduct himself professionally and presidentially, than continue to speak off the cuff just because it makes for entertaining news?

But don’t worry Mr. Blake.  This is Trump we’re talking about.  Maybe next week he’ll insult a girl scout, or bump into an old lady with a walker or something.  You can go to town on that.

 

Note(s):

*For the record, I think arming school teachers is a recipe for disaster, and definitely oppose making this a national policy.  I’m mainly worried that in a chaotic classroom, a teacher might forget to lock it, and the wrong student will get a hold of it.

**Though Wapo published this article, they placed a video at the front of it showing clips from Trump’s meeting with these students, and you’ll see a very different Donald Trump in those clips than the one portrayed by the article that follows.  It seems Blake is alone (or in the minority) on this issue at Wapo

***Note that I don’t fault Wapo simply for publishing this article, though as I not so subtly hinted above, I think it belongs in Opeds.

How To Raise A Daughter Who Will Appreciate Your Sweet Son

StrongGirl

For too long, as in, most of human history, women have been subjected to various forms of sexual abuse at the hands of men.  Most of this is in the form of harassment, some of it is groping and the like, and some…is rape.  As the father of a beautiful baby girl, I’m glad to see the amount of attention that is being brought to this now, and the effort being put into combating this.  After reading Faith Salie’s Time article, “How to raise a sweet son in an era of angry men”, it’s clear that many women only see half the problem.  There isn’t much in this article with which I disagree, but what isn’t said is very troubling.  It is troubling because I know from personal experience that she could be setting up the “sweet boys” of today to become the “angry men” of tomorrow.

How Boys Become Angry Men

Salie addresses many of the problems with how boys are raised.  They are taught to be “tough”, and not allowed to be “sweet.”  They are taught that showing vulnerability is a sign of weakness.  The contrary holds true, however.  As Salie explains rather hopefully, “Sweet boys grow up to be men who recognize the strength in being vulnerable and empathetic.”  This is, indeed, a strength.  But here’s what Salie completely neglects to consider.

From about the 90s onwards, boys grow up in conflict.  Their dads tell them to toughen up.  TV tells them that such macho men make fools of themselves, and that the sweet guys are wiser.  So, some boys listen to Dad.  Others, with a rebellious streak, spite Dad and listen to TV.  I’m sure Salie is hoping for the latter.  But the latter, little does she suspect, can become the very angry men she fears.

Here’s how it works.

The boy grows up being “sweet”.  As a teen, instead of hitting on the girl he likes as a typical teenage boy, watching her bend over and wolf whistling, and the like, making his innuendos, moving in, copping a feel, etc. – instead, he is “sweet”.  He respects the girl he likes, holds her books for her, buys her things, complements her makeup, pretends to like the same girlie shows or chick flicks she’s into.  The sweet boy soon finds himself in the “friendzone.”  Regardless of ideology, biology is what it is.  And girls are attracted to what they’re attracted to, especially when they’re raised permissibly.  As Gloria Estefan once sang, “Bad bad bad bad boys, they make me feel so good!”  A timeless truth.

While mutual friendship between boys and girls, men and women, is healthy; the “friendzone” paradigm is toxic.  This toxicity is part of the problem.

As the sweet boy grows up, he watches the girls he likes going with the wrong kind of guy, over, and over, and over again.  As he starts thinking and debating, and complains to the average feminist, what does she tell him?  “You’re not entitled to a woman’s body!  Her body, her choice!”  Gee, thanks, that’s very helpful.  Consequently, the “sweet boy” is filled with righteous indignation at the injustice!  I did what I was supposed to do!  I respected women!  And this is what I get?!  The most extreme of these might be the next “Elliot Rodgers”, and go on a killing spree.  Some of them become rapists.  A larger portion simply start pushing the boundaries.  They stop respecting women, they start hitting on women as their colleagues did as teenagers.  And guess what?  Sometimes – it works!  But any woman attracted to that, will never make him happy, nor will she be happy herself.

So should we raise “bad boys”?

I can’t blame fathers who care about their sons for raising them in such a way that they will thrive in this world, including in their dealings with the opposite sex.  But as a society, we can do better than this.  Many aspects of our biology are simply outdated, such as a man’s instinct to be overly macho, as well as a woman’s instinct to be attracted to such machismo.  Fortunately, there are some wise women out there who know better.  My wife is one of them, and I’m a very lucky man.  Sadly, our happy marriage is very much the exception, rather than the norm.

It’s a two way street, ladies

We are emphasizing raising boys to respect women, yet girls are raised to do whatever feels good in the moment because “girls can be anything boys can”.  In so doing, we are raising the angry men of the future.

If we want a future with the kinds of relationships built on mutual respect, vulnerability and empathy, and where a relationship and marriage is a partnership where each complements the other; then we must raise our boys and girls accordingly.

We need to teach our girls that the guy their instincts tell them to put in the “friendzone” because he’s “such a sweet guy”, he’s the guy who will treat her right.  We need to teach our girls the danger of going with the guys who excite them.  Get them out of the “Dirty Dancing” mentality.

We need to raise the kind of girls who will seek the kind of boys that Salie is raising.  We need to teach our girls that they teach others how to treat them, and that actions have consequences.  “Pussyhats” and promiscuity are not empowering!  But too often, this is exactly what I see from this generation of females.  I’ve seen a group of girls in a public place exchanging gifts that included some very explicit sex toys.  I’ve seen them take pictures of each other pretending to perform sexual acts on each other.  Then I’ve watched them suddenly become shocked and appalled that some random guy shouted a comment at one of them that was maybe half as crude as the behavior that preceded.

We have to raise our girls better than that.  How can we expect boys to respect them, if they don’t respect themselves?

The Example

I had a wonderful grandmother who was crucial to my upbringing.  And she taught me, not by words, but by how she lived her life, what a strong woman truly is.  She told me about her and my grandfather when they started dating.  He was shy.  She approached him.  She initiated their first hand holding, their first kiss, etc.  He was in many ways a strong man.  Abuse one of his daughters, get your lights knocked out.  But apparently, he was rather shy approaching the opposite sex when he was single.  My grandmother even at a young age was wise enough to appreciate a sweet boy, who became a sweet man.

My grandmother also understood modesty.  She had no problem calling a “slut” a “slut”.  She had no problem saying that women who were scantily clad, out late at night, drunk, etc. were likely to get raped.  My grandmother was of the generation that overcame the Great Depression, won the greatest war the world has ever seen, and put America on top!  She was the New Deal Democrat who also liked Ike.  Her generation had no more time for petty partisanship than they had for vitriolic gender wars.  They were left an America in decline, and they were not going to accept that.  They decided to do better.

Raising Girls To Become Truly Empowered Women

I plan to raise my daughter to be as much like my grandmother as possible.  If we raise our daughters to be strong yet modest, tough yet compassionate, and wiser than their primitive biological instincts, then Salie’s efforts to raise “sweet boys” will not be in vain.  If, however, a generation of women raise their daughters on their own insecurities, projecting their pain caused by the wrong kind of men onto their sons and daughters, then we’re just raising another generation of broken, angry men, and vulnerable, abused women.  There is no empowerment in going with “bad boys” because it “feels good.”  Girls are not “fighting the patriarchy” by subjecting themselves to their baser instincts, and then blaming the “sweet guys” for the consequences.  If my grandmother’s generation can overcome America’s greatest challenges and put us on top, then we can do better than our parents have over the last few decades.  Like America’s greatest generation – we can do better!

“If we really want to make America great, we do it together!” – Hawk Newsome (BLM organizer)

28 Reasons This Christian Liberal Is Done Talking To Conservatives

Tiffany Willis’s insightful article saddens me.  In 2015, she laid out 28 reasons she is done talking to her conservative Christian friends and family.  I’m saddened that America is getting to where we can’t discuss our differences anymore without wanting to strangle each other, but I do, nonetheless, understand where Ms. Willis is coming from.

I respond only as myself.  I’m a devout Christian, very political, but I don’t identify with the religious “right” or “left”.  In an Episcopal Church with a very left of center parish on average, I’m the “token conservative”, but put me in a room full of southern Baptists, and I turn into the liberal faster than Jesus makes water into wine.  

So, that’s enough context.  Let me go through each of her points, and I’ll try not to Tu Quoque each of her points, though that will come up in many cases.  From here on I’ll be addressing Tiffany Willis directly.

  1. You support revisionist history.

Here’s my first Tu Quoque.  Yes, I’ve seen the revisionist history that comes from the right.  I’ll use Civil War history as an example.  I’ve grown up white in the south, and am very familiar with the neo-confederate narrative.  “It wasn’t about slavery, it was states’ rights.”  Yet right now, I see revisionism coming from the left.  Just because neoconfederates go above and beyond to deny the importance of slavery, doesn’t mean that the exact opposite must hold true.  I’m not interested in defending the Confederacy.  But a fine man on the wrong side of history is getting his name dragged through the mud lately.  I’m talking about Gen. Robert E. Lee.  He was a complicated man who didn’t want to secede from the Union, and wanted slavery to be phased out.  Yet he fought for the Confederacy.  I, now, here bold faced lies claiming that Lee was a “white supremacist” who supported slavery.  While neoconfederates should be held accountable for their historical cherry-picking and denial, the victors shouldn’t be free to tell bold faced lies about the side they defeated just because – social justice!   

This is just one example, and I want to move on to the other 27

2. You cite Jesus as your reasoning for rejecting marriage equality.

I’m with you on this one!  I’ll defend someone’s right to believe what they will, but that’s not the same as defending the belief.  Jesus never once mentioned same-sex marriage, I’ve talked about my own views on this in detail.  

On the theology I’m with you.  Though I wouldn’t stop talking to my fellow Christians who are die-hard “traditional marriage” advocates.  I would say to them, however, gay marriage hasn’t hurt the sanctity of my marriage, nor your’s.  

3. You use Biblical scripture to excuse yourself from feeding the hungry.

9. You assume that everyone who needs help are losers and parasites who refuse to work.

I’ve see this too, and honestly, it reminds me of Satan quoting scripture to Jesus in his efforts to tempt Him.  I share your position on this.  If you’re tired of talking to the Christian right about this, I understand.  But I usually point out to them, as you did somewhere in this article, that the majority of welfare recipients have a working head of household.  They do work.  It’s just hard to feed a family on 40 hours of minimum wage.

4. You lie when you say you value “freedom of religion.”

Tu Quoque number 2.  Yes, I know.  They say “freedom of religion” and then try to suppress Islam and justify by saying “Islam is an ideology, not a religion.”  Apparently one politician gets to decide what Islam is.

With that said, I don’t know if you, Ms. Willis, are like this.  But anyone who supports punishing a cake decorator for not wanting to provide a wedding cake for a gay wedding, or some grandma for not wanting to provide flowers; anyone who supports this is a bully, and has no respect for religious freedom.  And don’t give me all that “Jim Crow” stuff!  A gay couple having to go to 1 of the other 29 bakeries instead is not the equivalent of a black family sleeping in their cars because no hotel would give them a room.  

5. You claim God speaks to you and tells you to do things.

I always get uneasy about this.  I long ago made the mistake of thinking God had “a plan for me”.  Maybe He does, but if He does, it’s best that I not try to figure it out.  Yes, the religious right does this, and I think it’s dangerous.  If people think they’re doing God’s work, is there anything they won’t do?

6. You question my faith.

I can only think of once when I was talking to someone on the religious right, who questioned my faith, and it didn’t offend me.  He was your typical creationist type, and I was talking about science, and the universe, etc.  And admitted that scientifically, I can neither prove nor disprove God.  He said it sounds like I have a “weak faith”.  He was right.  

That is the only exception.  Otherwise, who is anyone to question my faith, or your’s?  I know exactly what you mean here.  It’s like if I don’t embrace their particular brand of Christianity, they speak to me like I’ve never heard the “good news” before.  I cannot stand supposed Christians trying to “convert me” or “save me”, when I’ve already there!  I don’t question their faith, though I may question their understanding of scripture.  

7. You care more about your guns than you do about children.

This is a tough one.  But you’re thinking – It shouldn’t be!  Choice between guns and children, children win – hands down!  But is it really that simple?  The problem runs much deeper.  Our society is hurting.  People have no sense of hope, they felt alone, unloved, unimportant.  They want to matter.  They don’t get the psychological treatment they need.  There are ticking time bombs walking around every day.  And one of them goes off.  Banning guns, or restricting guns, isn’t getting at the root of the problem.  

8. You get excited about people dying.

18 You love war, death, and destruction.

I won’t Tu Quoque, because at the time this was written, 2015, it wasn’t quite applicable, yet.  But in 2017, we’ve just seen the Democrats nominate the biggest warmonger they could find – Hillary Clinton.  I just watched my loving, compassionate Church full of the tolerant left, rent their clothes and gnash their teeth, all because they didn’t get their warmongering “first woman president”.  

Ms. Willis, on the issue of war, and Christianity, I’m with you.  But it seems that since 2015, the tables have turned.  I hope that you did not in 2016 engage the same kind of hypocrisy you’ve criticized the religious right for by supporting that warmonger-in-chief just because – “first woman president”.  

10. You weren’t concerned about uninsured people– including me.

I know what you mean.  Jesus healed the sick.  

I have different reasons for opposing Obamacare.  Obamacare is a mandate to buy private insurance from for profit companies, with no incentive to keep rates down.  Rates have nearly doubled since Obamacare was implemented, and more than doubled for some.  I’m all for affordable healthcare, but this is not affordable health care.  If you personally benefited from it, then good for you.  But many have not.  What we need is at least a limited form of single-payer.  I’m sure you’re familiar with what that is.  But I’ll point out that by entrenching the private sector insurance, we’re only making single payer that much more difficult to obtain.  So I support the intention behind Obamacare, but I don’t support Obamacare.  It’s not what was intended.

11. The Creation Museum — that is all.

Agreed.

12. You’re liberal in youth, yet grow conservative in age.

Interesting story there.  Hardly seems a reason to be angry at someone.  (Calling you a “baby killer” is certain reason to be angry)  But for becoming conservative, in and of itself – people change.  I don’t want to be entrenched in an ideology my whole life.  I change my positions in light of new evidence, and my views are still evolving.  I’d encourage others to do the same.

13. You don’t want people who disagree with you to vote.

I know what you mean.  A former student of mine was earning his US citizenship.  I congratulated him.  He was proud he’d be able to vote.  I again congratulated him, even knowing full well he was about to vote for the aforementioned “warmonger in chief”.  

I share your disdain for gerrymandering, and wish we’d do more to ensure that districts are geographically logical, rather than political.  

14. Some of your best friends are black. Or Mexican.

There’s a difference between “prejudice” and “racism”, and I think that’s what you’re seeing here.  I see it all the time.  The reason your conservative friends deny being racist is because they don’t have an ideology of racism.  They are, however, prejudiced.  They tend to prejudge people based on such characteristics as skin color.  But they don’t flat our refuse to associate with people who are different.  That’s how they manage to have their “black friend” and still have their negative attitude towards blacks more broadly.  It’s sad.  But I think you’ll get through to them better (if you’re interested in trying anymore) by knowing the difference and discussing their prejudices with them.  Make it clear you know they aren’t in the KKK, and go from there.  Just my advice.

15. You scream about undocumented immigrant children at the border, but you hire Mexicans to do your dirty work.

Definitely hypocritical, and disgusting behavior if they’re exploiting these people.

16. You insist on calling undocumented immigrants “illegals” and “aliens.”

This is a tough one for me, from a religious perspective.  I know we should “welcome the stranger to our land”.  I also know we’re a sovereign nation with laws, and “he who bears the sword bears it not in vain.”  If people cross the border illegally, then I’m sorry, but they are illegal immigrants.  I’m not calling them less than human, but it is criminal behavior.  There is a difference I realize between crossing the border illegally, and crossing legally but overstaying your visa.  But I have no problem calling illegal immigrants – illegal immigrants.  I don’t wish them any harm, but I do want the law enforced.  They should be deported.  I’ll welcome the stranger to our land who comes here LEGALLY.  

17. You don’t mind using force against “lesser” groups to get what you want.

Tu Quoque time!  Have you not seen all the suppression coming from the left lately?  As despicable as the Westboro Baptists are, they aren’t suppressing freedom of speech.  But what about people shouting down speakers at universities?  What about people blocking the Sec. of Education from doing her job and visiting a public school?  Obama calls them out!  Will you call them out?  I have no problem calling out anyone, left wing, right wing, chicken wing on a string; who suppresses freedom of speech.

19. Speaking of war, you think draft dodging is OK and military service is for the little people.

This is a better description of Republican elites than your conservative friends and family.  But I share your disdain for chicken-hawks.

 20. You claim to care about the Constitution, but in reality you don’t.

Tu Quoque number…4?  Who’s counting?

Yeah, speaking of “undocumented immigrants”, what’s your attitude toward “sanctuary cities”?  If you care about the Constitution, that includes the authority of Congress, not local governments, to make laws regarding immigration and naturalization (Article I, Sec. 8, clause 4).  If you don’t support enforcing our immigration laws, than you care no more for the Constitution than many authoritarian “conservatives” who strip our civil liberties in the name of “national security”.

21. It’s impossible for you to see your privilege.

I’ve no disagreement with this statement, in and of itself.  But I hope this isn’t a thinly veiled reference to “white privilege”.  

  1. You don’t care about children.

I know.  If we’re going to be pro-life, we should be pro-life all the way.  I’m with you!

23. You’re greedy and miserable.

Mixed opinions here.  I know what you mean about being thankful and all.  As we see the wealth gap between rich and poor widen, however, I don’t see why the declining middle class should just put up with it in silence just because there are others worse off.  A stronger middle class is good for the poor, also, as it means more opportunity, and therefore a better chance for them to escape from poverty.  I won’t “check my privilege” while some politicians send our jobs to China.

24. You think our religion is the only one.

Half Tu Quoque.  The right is much worse about this than the left.  But on the left, I see a different version of this.  I’ve encountered some on the Christian left who think THEY are the true Christians.  I might agree with them on welfare, aversion to war, gay marriage, etc. but the second I suggest that we should not encourage promiscuity, that Jesus spending time with the prostitutes was NOT an endorsement of that lifestyle, they shun me!  I actually got banned from a rather large Christian Left group on facebook just for adding some context to their cherry picked Bible verses.  I think they interpreted it as “slut shaming”.  

25. You are lazy and you refuse to read.

We should all listen to each other.  Your conservative friends are like this not because of laziness, but because they feel entrenched.  It’s FOX News vs. Every Other Mainstream Media Source In America.  That’s how they see the world.  I’m sure you’re not like this, but some of your liberal friends might be the types who get all smug and act like CNN is the “real news”.  We should take it all with a grain of salt.  But we should listen to each other.

26. Your misfortune is God’s blessing.

Like with number 5, I agree with your point, but maybe not for the same reason.  I prefer not to claim I know God’s plan.  It’s dangerous, and I won’t tempt the Lord.

27. “Everyone has their lot in life.”

28. You think you’re the only one working and paying taxes.

I’m with you on this, and I’ve even seen it with government programs.  I had this man, Southern Baptist, railing against welfare recipients who “won’t work”, so he says.  Yet this same man will fight to the death for Medicare Part D, which, much like Obamacare, is about the most expensive and inefficient way to make healthcare (prescription drugs in this case) affordable.  It’s just subsidizing private, for profit Big Pharma with no incentive for them to lower prices.  

So yes, I’m with you here, too.

 

In Conclusion

Tiffany Willis, this may have been an odd way to go about it.  My original purpose in writing this is to hopefully get you to change your mind, because I fear this breakdown of communication, both in our country, and in our faith, will only make hostilities fester into something that will make the next generation suffer.  

As you can see, we agree on some things, and not on others.  But even with those “on the right” with whom you disagree on nearly everything, like me with those “undocumented immigrants”, you may not agree with their behavior, but remember they are human.  You can reach them!  Just regroup!

The Benefits of Reactionary Politics

Seemingly reactionary politics are actually a far more complex ideology that has for too long been marginalized by mainstream establishments in western civilization.  In this response to a New York magazine essay, I consider the merits of this “reactionary” ideology.

 

Andrew Sullivan’s recent essay for the New York magazine is a good example of how something can be insightful, and yet fundamentally flawed.  His subtitle “An open-minded inquiry into the close-minded ideology…” puts the article off to a rough start.  I do think Sullivan is genuinely open-minded after reading the entire article, but he is too quick to call these “reactionaries” close-minded.  Are they close minded for being skeptical of globalization?  Are they close minded for rejecting what most in academia swear by?  Or is most of academia close-minded for not giving serious thought to the possibility that globalization will do more harm than good?

Despite Sullivan’s inconsistent critical thinking, I do think this article is a genuine effort to understand this movement he’s calling “the reactionary right”.  First, he draws a brilliant distinction between conservatism and reactionism.  This is spot on!  Conservatives, as the very name suggests, seek to conserve the status quo, and implement modest, incremental changes.  The changes they seek are to build upon what is already there, rather than change it fundamentally.  In this last Presidential race, Clinton was actually the conservative.  Clearly, the conservatives are not who elected Trump.  As many in the media stated many times over, Trump voters were “thirsty for change”.  While I think the term “reactionary” doesn’t do this movement justice, Sullivan’s description of these reactionaries is astute:

“Reactionary thought begins, usually, with acute despair at the present moment and a memory of a previous golden age. It then posits a moment in the past when everything went to hell and proposes to turn things back to what they once were. It is not simply a conservative preference for things as they are, with a few nudges back, but a passionate loathing of the status quo and a desire to return to the past in one emotionally cathartic revolt.”

Sullivan’s first-hand experience, and my own

In the essay, Sullivan discussed his own background as a “reactionary”.

“Growing up steeped in traditional religion, in a household where patriotism seemed as natural as breathing, I became infatuated with a past that no longer existed. I loved the countryside that was quickly being decimated by development, a Christianity that was being overwhelmed by secularism, and an idea of England, whose glories — so evident in the literature I read, the history I had absorbed, and the architecture I admired — had self-evidently crumbled into dust.”

I can see that Sullivan is genuine in describing his own experiences, but also that he doesn’t do it justice.

Like Mr. Sullivan, I too have, in the past, fit this description.  In my early adult years, despite my mixed heritage and German surname, I strongly identified with my English heritage to the point of wanting to “go back”.  I romanticized England, the land of my forefathers, and imagined it much like Sullivan describes above.  I’ve discussed my dismay at what I actually found before.  I too know the despair of modernity, when compared to a glossy and cherry-picked image of a past I’ve never experienced except in my mind.  I admit that to this very day, this “reactionism”, which I prefer to call “nostalgiaholism”, is my instinct.  This level of nostalgia really can have an intoxicating effect, and I think of myself now as a recovered nostalgiaholic.  Despite this, the ideals of “reactionaries” should not be dismissed, and may have merits.

Sullivan makes two assumptions that should be challenged.  1. That looking to the past equates to resisting progress, and 2. That change is necessarily good.

The benefits of nostalgia in moderation

As drinking in moderation has proven health benefits, I contend that nostalgia in moderation can also benefit the health of society and human progress.  What Sullivan is calling “reactionism”, Roger Scruton calls this “restorationism”, and distinguishes it from mainstream conservatism, and this label is probably the most accurate.  Reactionaries, after all, would not be proactive, nor have any particular goal other than to impede some sort of change they don’t like.  But restorationists see something from the past they’d like to restore.

While trying to fully restore an entire era is not only dangerous but impossible, this does not mean that the past should be ignored.  Many times in human history, great leaps forward have been motivated by nostalgia.  It was nostalgia for ancient Rome that drove Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance.  It was nostalgia for the logical thinking of ancient Greek philosophers that motivated the creation of the university.  What is more civilized than the critical thinking skills developed out of the early modern university?

Sullivan refers to the Roman Catholic “Counter Reformation” as part of this “reactionary” tradition.  However, it should be noted that the Counter Reformation brought about much needed reforms in the Roman Catholic Church, much to the benefit of those nations that were predominantly Catholic, such as finally ending the practice of “selling indulgences”, and disciplining corruption among the episcopate.

The United States of America was motivated also by nostalgia.  Go back in time to 1776.  Monarchies and oligarchies are the norm.
Republican form of government?  Isn’t that the primitive government the early Romans had before they became an empire?  Oh yeah, they also tried that in England under Cromwell.  Didn’t he turn into a dictator and massacre Irish priests, nuns, and laity in their parish?  Why would anyone want a Republic?

But the Founding Fathers looked to those few examples of a successful republic in the ancient world with fondness.  They also saw the failures of the Cromwell Republic in England, and were careful not to repeat those failures.  (The first amendment guarantee of “free expression” of religion is a crucial component of that.)  Rather than living in the now of 1776, the Founding Fathers lived in the past, the ancient past.  Thanks to the ancient past, they were able to restore a republican form of government.

The Church of England has made leaps forward not only for the Church itself, but also for Great Britain, motivated by nostalgia.  In the 19th century, many in the Church of England started longing for their Catholic roots.  Few desired a full reunion with the Roman Catholic Church, but they did push for the restoration of many Catholic styles of worship.  Consequently, they also found themselves increasingly sympathetic to the plight of their long oppressed Catholic brothers in Ireland.  In the political sphere, they pushed for better treatment for the Irish with some success, and at least brought an end to formalized suppression of Catholic worship in Ireland.

Then comes the Irish themselves.  Around the time of World War I, they began looking to the past.  Ireland was free once, wasn’t it?  They began pining for an independent Irish nation.  They also looked to the United States for inspiration.  This all sparked the Irish revolution, leading to a now small but thriving Irish Republic.  How fortunate that the Irish looked to the past, rather than embracing the now of 1916.

The Fallacy of Novelty – Change isn’t always good

People don’t necessarily resist change just because they are stubborn and set in their ways.  Most academics would in principle agree with the statement – skepticism is a healthy component of critical thinking.  Yet, when it comes to “progress”, suddenly skepticism is to be viewed as the anti-thesis of critical thinking.  But this is not so.

Many of these salt-of-the-earth Americans are more intelligent than recognized by those in the ivory towers of academia, the Washington beltway, and the mainstream media.  There are many changes that they do embrace, some of which Sullivan has identified, such as a desire to fundamentally transform the administrative state.  But their skepticism of many proposed changes that are imposed upon them is perfectly healthy.  Rather than seeing it as a stubbornness that should, at best, be coaxed out of them, or a worst, should be broken by brute force; perhaps we should be humble enough to admit that they might actually be right, or at least partly correct.  Human history is full of examples, after all, of a nouveau elite imposing massive changes on a people with disastrous consequences.

The Cromwell example in England mentioned above is one such.

The Soviet Union is another such example.  Massive changes were imposed on the people of Russia.  Their historic Orthodox faith was suppressed.  Their economy was radically reorganized.  Dissenting opinions were not tolerated.  It was assumed that anyone who doubted communism was “insane” and they were institutionalized.  The Bolshevics never had the humility to consider the possibility that they may not have known what was best for everyone, all the time.  And the result was nearly a century of suffering, mass murder, starvation, and the final collapse of the Soviet Union.  Communism in China went similarly, though they managed not to collapse.

In America, the early progressives implemented some very positive changes that transformed out economy and led us to victory in World War II.  However, some of their imposed changes make up the darker chapters of American history.  Many of the early progressives sought to advance the human species with eugenics, which also influenced early Nazi Germany.  They also studied diseases on some “lesser human beings”.  Sadly, this meant the long oppressed African Americans, some of whom were denied treatment for syphilis as part of the Tuskagee Study in order to study its effects.  A growing number of blacks became skeptical of all that change.  They were right to be skeptical.

How fortunate that in Spain, many reactionaries resisted change!  Led by Franco, the seemingly benign center-left Republic was overthrown.  The momentum to overthrow this Republic was not a desire fascism, nor even Carlism (Spanish conservatism), though those elements were there.  The momentum that led Franco to victory came from the genuine fear that the Soviets were about to use the Spanish Republic to ultimately turn Spain into another Soviet satellite.  Spain could have been like Romania under Ceausescu.  Instead, it went from an authoritarian right government under Franco, to a monarchy, to a now a thriving democracy structured around a constitutional monarchy, much like Great Britain and several Nordic states.

As we should not hold on to tradition just for the sake of tradition, we should also not embrace change simply because it’s new.  Ideas old and new should be scrutinized, and it is the scrutiny of the new that is an essential function performed by these “reactionaries”.

 

Make America Great Again – What does this mean?

Many have dismissed this slogan as a racist desire to return to the Jim Crow era.  As a recovered nostalgiaholic, I can tell you that when I was on the wagon, I had no desire to restore white supremacy.  Actually, I had great sympathy for some of the most radical African Americans who wanted to embrace their African roots.  I wanted to embrace my English roots, they wanted to embrace their African roots…makes sense.  To me, the desire of any people to reconnect with their ancestors, their traditions, and the land of their forefathers, is a perfectly natural desire.  The philosopher Roger Scruton (the aforementioned restorationist) has argued that Islam is incompatible with the West, but he likewise has shown respect for the right of the Islamic people to be autonomous, and not have western values imposed upon their part of the world.    In so doing, Roger Scruton shows greater respect for the Islamic world than many a self-righteous neoliberal, who preaches compassion when calling for admitting refugees, but doesn’t hesitate to bomb entire nations into submission because they think that the west knows what is best for the whole world.

This claim that “reactionaries” or restorationists are racist is absurd, and is a cheap tactic by the globalists to racially isolate this movement as an exclusively white movement.  But people of all races across the world face different threats from the forces of globalization.

Sullivan, fortunately, is open minded enough not to dismiss this movement as “racist”.  But this is only a matter of strategy, rather than intellectual inquiry in the merits of “reactionary” politics.

“The American elite’s dismissal of these truths, its reduction of all resistance to cultural and demographic change as crude “racism” or “xenophobia,” only deepens the sense of siege many other Americans feel.”

It’s commendable that Sullivan seeks to reach out to these American under siege, but how can he expect them to be open to his ideas, if he is not also open to their ideas?

Sullivan himself not only acknowledges that globalization is very new and fragile, but admits to the negative consequences of globalization.  He refers to the work of Robert Putnam, who found that “people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down,’ that is, to pull in like a turtle.”  I saw this firsthand during my time in London.  You’ll never meet a more unpleasant Englishman than the one who lives in London.  But I found the English I met anywhere outside of London to be far more pleasant and welcoming, contrary to stereotypes.

In America, we are more accustomed to multiculturalism, given our long history as a nation of immigrants.  While the 1950s were, admittedly, “whiter”, it is not the “whiteness” that so many in Trump’s base pine for.  My father tells me of a time in America when you could walk into a factory and get a job the same day.  As a political scientist, I look at a time in the past when there wasn’t as wide of a gap between rich and poor, and America had a strong middle class.  Do I really care how “white” the middle class is?!

The great thing about restorationism is that you don’t have to restore everything.  If we can restore America as a manufacturing giant, it doesn’t mean we have to restore Jim Crow.  Manufacturing in no way depends on racial segregation.  (If anything, segregation was an impediment, and manufacturing thrived in the 1950s despite it.)

We can debate whether or not restoring America’s manufacturing sector is possible, or a good idea if it is.  But to claim that this is “racist” is a cheap straw man argument designed to impede any legitimate debate.

The stale intellectual elites, and Mr. Sullivan 

At the risk of getting back on the wagon, I must lament at the changes I see in academia.  I joined academia in the hope of becoming a part of an institution that valued knowledge and critical thinking.  Many in academia still do.  But I see this under assault by a violent wave of political correctness.  The short term feelings of students and faculty takes precedent over the development of their minds.  Expanding the mind is sometimes a painful process, which involves challenging everything you know, or think you know.  But when doing so is “offensive”, it is increasingly suppressed by those claiming to be the open-minded advocates of the oppressed.  I see this in academia, but others on the #trumptrain see it all around them.

This is not progressive, but the antithesis of progress!  We do not move people forward by shielding them from scrutiny.  We do not move society forward by embedding a strict set of social norms and ostracizing those who challenge those norms.  It makes no difference whether those norms are conservative values or politically correct values.  As John Stuart Mill stated, “This mode of thinking makes the justification of restraints on discussion not a question of the truth of doctrines, but of their usefulness; and flatters itself by that means to escape the responsibility of claiming to be an infallible judge of opinions.”  This assumption of infallibility I see increasingly from academic elites, as well as beltway bureaucrats and media pundits.  Those Sullivan comes from that ilk, he is fortunately more humble.

Sullivan, like me, laments the rise of left-winged authoritarianism on university campuses.  Maybe, like me, he also looks fondly on the past, on the foundation of the university, as a place of open minds, thoughtful questions, and the pursuit of genuine, objective answers.  Restorationism deserves to be a part of the conversation.  It is not merely reactionary, it is a method of critical thought, rooted in the principle that human history contains many examples of past glories that can be revitalized in new and interesting ways.  Don’t get drunk on it, but we could all use a nightcap of nostalgia.

How did America remember what “socialist” means?

BernieSandersfromMSmithArticle

I’m used to boomer generation “conservatives” equating socialism with communist dictatorships.  The boomers lived most of their lives during the Cold War era in constant fear of the communist menace.  I expect better from my fellow millennials, however, particularly the well-educated.

Marion Smith, Executive Director of “Victims of Communism” , has written an ignorant piece of red bait for Politico called “How did America forget what socialism means?”   If I were to write something with that title, I’d argue that decades of fear during the Cold War era, combined with manipulation by right-winged pundits had caused the boomer generation to forget what socialism means and instead equate it with the Soviet Union, as though Soviet style communism was the inevitable result of any attempt at a socialist economy.  As I’ve explained in one of my educational podcasts , Socialism actually can refer to a wide variety of economic systems so long as the means of production are publicly owned and the public decides the distribution of wealth.  Socialism can be anything from total communism to a community of farmers who have decided to collectively organize and share the fruits of their labor.

Mr. Smith’s article shows a picture of Bernie Sanders on the front, and then goes on to discuss the horrors of dictatorial communism, including that of the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba in particular.  His organization, “Victims of Communism”, does an excellent job of documenting the horrors that continue in Cuba.  At no point in this article, however, does Smith explain how this is in any way caused by socialism more broadly, or that it has anything to do with Bernie Sanders.  It pretty much amounts to, Cuba is socialist.  They do horrible things to people.  Bernie Sanders is also socialist.  Therefore…

It reminds me of Dinesh D’Souza’s “2016 Obama’s America” where D’Souza spends an hour or so cherry picking details like how Obama Sr. was a Kenyan revolutionary.  Many of those Kenyan revolutionaries were communistsObama Jr. loves his father and cried over his grave.  Obama must be a communist!

The kind of socialism advocated by Bernie Sanders is not Soviet style, nor Cuban.  He advocates the kind of Democratic Socialism professed by nations in northern Europe like Denmark.  If you want to criticize Bernie Sanders by criticizing Denmark’s economy, or the economies of other such systems in northern Europe, that’s fair game.  But Sanders advocates nothing close to the kinds of dictatorships seen in these countries that identify as “communist”, such as China, Cuba, etc.  Besides, China’s system would be more accurately described as “authoritarian capitalism” .  75% of China’s economy is privately owned.  The corporations exploit workers and make enormous profits, while being backed by the authoritarian “Chinese Communist Party”.

Smith is so disappointed that most of our millennial generation has “forgotten” the meaning of socialism.  By this, he means that we don’t have the same knee-jerk reaction to the word “socialism” as the half of the boomer generation with 24/7 Faux News echoing through their homes.  But these millennials haven’t “forgotten” what socialism means.  The boomers forgot.  The millennials are remembering.  The boomers on the right are still fighting the Cold War.  Someone really should inform them that the Berlin Wall came down.

I’m forgiving of the old.  They are set in their ways, and their worldview has been shaped by experiences that I’ve only read about in textbooks.  But for Mr. Smith, there’s no excuse.

Stop Exploiting the Victims of the Charleston Shooting for Political Feuds!

Charleston Massacre Victims

Last Sunday I visited a friend’s Catholic Church, and I’m glad I did.  The Priest gave a much needed sermon that helped to put the recent tragedy in perspective.  He was deeply touched that the very family members of the slain were able to look at the murderer and say “I forgive you”.  I recently saw the footage, and heard the pain in their voices.  I don’t know if they forgive him in their hearts yet.  But they said so, because they know that they need to forgive.  This deranged young man was driven by pure hate, and that is exactly what he seeks to fuel.  If this tragedy leads to more racial division, regardless of which side “wins”, that murderer will have what he wants.  As the priest mentioned above was touched by the reaction of the family, he was also appalled by the reaction of so many others.  People who’ve never been to the Emanuel AME Church and knew nobody involved has jumped on this opportunity to push their political agenda.  I remember this boomer age priest denouncing the “left” and the “right” for their selfish efforts to exploit this tragedy, and he was absolutely right*.

Unfortunately, some are all too willing to let that murderer have his way.  There are two groups that come to mind: the anti-gun crowd, and the anti-Confederate flag crowd.  With the first, I can at least believe that they act in good faith.  They truly believe that if we had better gun control, these kinds of tragedies could be prevented.  Though they opportunistically jump on every tragedy to call for more gun control, at least they have a logical defense of a sort.  They can say that they are directly responding to the very cause of these tragedies.  Still, it’s a far more complex debate than they realize, and best decided by people thinking clearly rather than worked up into an emotional frenzy.

The second group, those attacking the Confederate flag, are no better than those who started harassing Muslims after the 9/11 attacks – actually, they are worse!  These are the worst kind of bigots, because they think they are so enlightened.  We can argue for years and decades over the history of the American Civil War, and what the Confederate battle flag historically represents.  But does anyone honestly believe that most who display it today are pining for the “good ol’ days of slavery”?  The average white southerner who displays the Confederate Battle Flag today has no problem with black Americans.  He/she likely embraces the symbol as an identity – “Look at me, I’m a redneck”.  Some of the more sophisticated will make a more eloquent argument for states’ rights and the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution.  Others just like Lynyrd Skynyrd.  And yes, some who display the Confederate Battle Flag are racists.

The comparisons to the Nazi Swastika are absurd, however.  Nobody in Germany says, “Well, I don’t support murdering 6 million Jews, but I did like the Nazi policies on reparations from WWI, so I display the Swastika because of that.  Not the whole genocide thing.”  The Nazi regime was built around racial hierarchy.  The Confederacy, however, was about as racist as most other nations of the time, including the Union.  Furthermore, as terrible as slavery was, it wasn’t genocide.  If anyone is guilty of that, it would be the Union, who then went fourth after the Civil War to slaughter the Sioux and Apache.  Many were put on “reservations” (much like concentration camps) and barely kept alive in appalling conditions.  But I don’t call the stars and stripes a symbol of Native American genocide.  Bigotry of every kind must be opposed, and bigotry usually has its roots under pretense of righteous indignation.  Just like I don’t hold my Islamic neighbors responsible for the 9/11 attacks, I don’t hold the average neo-confederate responsible for the Charleston massacre.

I’m not into the neo-confederate stuff myself, but if I were, I would at least for a few weeks refrain from displaying the Battle Flag out of respect.  Like it or not, the murderer did display that flag.  If you want to argue that he had no idea what that flag truly represents – fine.  But right now, there is a family in mourning and they do not need to see the symbol displayed by the murderer of their family members.  Likewise, they do not need a bunch of supercilious white liberals exploiting this tragedy to attack their political enemies.  Before they judge us, maybe they should clean up their own back yards.  States’ rights didn’t murder those people at the Emanuel AME Church.  Neither did Southern pride, nor did Lynyrd Skynyrd.  And they sure weren’t murdered by the 10th Amendment!  I was happy to see CNN host a discussion over the Battle Flag, where one man was defending it with the usual states’ rights argument; and another was wanted it removed from state buildings (I wish I could find the clip).  I think now more than ever we need to listen to each other, especially in the South.  Stop exploiting a tragedy to settle old political feuds, and instead let’s send our condolences to the family and friends of those slain in Charleston at the Emanuel AME Church.  Rather than allowing this tragedy to divide, as the murderer** wants, let it unite us.

Links and Notes:

Rod Dreher also wrote an excellent piece on the tragedy

Dreher also wrote a piece calling for the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag.  I don’t agree with him, but he makes the case effectively without the kind of liberal, pseudo-intellectual bigotry I mention above.

*I admit to being a Christian of often weak faith, bordering agnostic.  But moments like that (the boomer aged priest denouncing the “left” and “right” exploiting the tragedy) certainly restore my faith, because surely it’s easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a baby boomer to see beyond the left/right paradigm.

**I don’t call him by name because people who do these things want to be remembered.  I won’t give him that.

***I do not display the Confederate Battle Flag here because, as I stated, I think we should suspend use of it for a few weeks out of respect.  However, if we can cross the racial divide and have a civilized discussion about the Flag, and race in general, I think we effectively honor the victims by doing so.