Category Archives: Politics

All Forms of Islam Oppress Women?

A response to a column on problems in all categories of Islam due to their treatment of women:

An interesting column, but the reasoning gets a little strained in the middle. It conflates, and then condemns, all forms of Islam because they all fail to demand complete equality for women. If we are to condemn every culture/subculture who fails at that line, we’re going to find very, very few still standing. The feminist ideal of total gender equality has proven to be very difficult to define in detail, let alone to accomplish, even in societies which have made the attempt to pursue it.

Islam is a different religion than Christianity or Judaism. The cultures which practice it are different than Western culture. And some in that religion, from those cultures, are attacking Western societies in an effort to destroy them. They draw their reasoning from the Islam of their understanding, and some of that reasoning will resonate, to a greater and lesser degree, across Islam. But their goals, strategies and tactics are not shared by all Muslims, and we need to exercise caution in casting too general a blanket over all Muslims. Not all are our enemies, and we benefit greatly by having some as allies. They are not unlike Christians who shoot abortion doctors and blow up abortion clinics, or who protest the funerals of soldiers, or who build compounds and gather weapons and explosives, in that these do not represent the view of all Christians. However, the Muslims who are trying to destroy our culture very much want to have this defined as a fight between Christianity/Western Culture and Islam. They want to frame it as the New Crusade. It’s the only chance they have to get wide-spread support among Muslims for what they are trying to do.

I think it is wiser for us to reach across the tribal barrier here and make allies than it is to continually reinforce that barrier and make all Muslims categorically wrong simply because they are Muslims. That is not only logically flawed reasoning — it’s counterproductive.

The “real” issue in the Shirley Sherrod case

A response to a column by Joan Walsh on the Shirley Sherrod incident:

I think there are several important issues that need discussing here, and that those who don’t want to discuss one will want to accuse those who do of trying to not discuss another.

There are problems with race in the country, but there is more to it than there are some vestigial fragments of the institutional slavery of the past several centuries. There is wide-spread distrust and anger along racial lines which does not seem to be improving. And there are voices in the civil rights movement who will only engage in the conversation if it is agreed that all and only white people are racist, because they benefit from a racist system. Since I recognize the realities of multiple brands of racial privilege (and identify this as one of them) while rejecting the legitimacy of any of them, we are unable to have a conversation on those terms. I don’t see a way around that impasse with those individuals. The only solution I can see is to bypass them, and engage in the conversation with real individuals who are prepared to have it without preconditions or privileged positions.

When Ms. Walsh claims that “people on the right” are trying to label as racist any black person who has ever said a bad thing about white people in general (without substantiating anything approaching that level of generality), the discussion becomes more difficult. Even if there were a significant number of individuals like she is vaguely describing, they would have a more sustainable position than the one mentioned above, where white people are racist even when they have never said or done anything remotely negative about black people, and that black people are incapable of being racist no matter how much hate and violence they manifest to people just for being white.

There is also a problem with the rush to make this problem entirely about Fox News and Glenn Beck in particular (although Ms. Walsh does not mention Beck in her article). Particularly when the narrative was established before the fact pattern was there to support any portion of it (and it does not support every portion of that narrative). Are Fox’s contributions to this situation really worse than the blanket labeling of Fox News, Glenn Beck, without regard to their participation in any part of this, as racist simply by associating with Fox. Or for claiming that Fox is trying to create white fear of black people by talking about this and asking why the Justice Department dropped the case against the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation.

Clearly, what is needed is to detoxify the topic of race, so we can talk about real issues on top of the table, and can spend less time trying to focus on hidden racism. And also less time trying to use race as a trump card to “win” on things that have only a minimum to do with race, if that.

Perhaps it was fear of criticism for racial aspects of this case that drove USDA and the WH to demand Ms. Sherrod’s firing. Responsibility for that fear is to be found on those who have it. Passing blame for their unwise and capricious choices, which clearly and unarguably damaged Ms. Sherrod, to Breitbart and Fox, is simple denial that a “friend” would hurt you and projecting blame for their bad behavior on your “enemy.” It is legally indefensible, and morally vacant.

Perhaps Ms. Walsh’s attention to the wrongdoing of Breitbart and some at Fox is justified by the evidence. Some of it, anyhow. But trying to wrestle every other question the incident raises into nothing other than a conversation about the wrongdoing of Breitbart and Fox is wrong in its own turn. There is more than one thing to talk about here, and more than one valid thing to say.

Whining is not an alternative to political parties.

Two of my comments on a post on the Bellingham Herald’s Politics Blog regarding the desire for a “third party.”

First:

Everybody wants another party so they can get something politically viable that doesn’t have the things they don’t want about the real parties that elect people. Here’s the thing:

Unless you outwork and outspend the people you don’t like, they will win more often than not. And they are likely to still be busy working after you decide you want to do something else. And this will not change, no matter how much or how loudly you whine. Continue reading Whining is not an alternative to political parties.

Health Care Bill Realities

Based in a comment I made elsewhere that I want to keep.  I may build on this at another time.

If the Democrat leaders in Congress want to pass a health care bill, they’re going to have to settle for consensus points.  If they really want to improve the health of Americans, they’re going to have to find the guts to tell people about the choices they are making that are exploding the costs of health-care across the board, and nobody likes to tell people they are dependent on that they need to eat their spinach.   Continue reading Health Care Bill Realities

Email to Harry Reid

Bro. Reid,

I have just received an email that tells me that you might be getting some one-word contacts with the word “Gadianton.” While I have many points of disagreement with you (only about political issues as far as I can tell), I disagree much more strongly with people trying to beat you up with the Book of Mormon.

So, if you wanted to start involving Republicans in the crafting of the Health Care bill, and keeping the President’s campaign promise that it would be drafted by Republicans and Democrats under C-SPAN cameras, I’d be very good with that. But, whether you do this or not, please let this one conservative Mormon Republican voice stand against the wing-nuts and nut-job Mormons who don’t understand that political disagreement doesn’t make you evil.

Sincerely,
Blain Nelson

Closed Circuit to the French and Polish Governments

Re: this.

Screw you and the horses you rode in on.  It’s sad and disgusting that you’re okay with this guy screwing your teen-aged girls, but it’s not okay with us for him to do that and then run away and evade responsibility for what he’s done.  I can’t imagine who is going to be pleased with you for trying to continue helping him get away with this — and this time through active choices and not the passive way you’ve done so for three decades through stupid extradition policies that attact murderers and rapists to your shores from ours — but I’ve lost a big chunk of respect for both of your countries for this.

Card and Polanski

Maybe I’m missing something.  Over the past few years, I’ve seen quite a few conversations and articles about Orson Scott Card where people are condemning him because they disagree with his opinions on political issues, predominately the legalization of same-sex marriage.  Not a few people have said that, while they’ve loved his writing, they aren’t going to read any more of his writing because they are so offended by his opinions with which they disagree.

Meanwhile, 30 years ago, film director/producer Roman Polanski admitted to drugging and molesting a thirteen year old girl, then ran away before he could be sentenced, and managed to evade arrest and extradition for all this time, until this past weekend.  During that time, he continued making films and being recognized by the film community for the quality of his work.  When he received an Academy Award, reports I’ve heard indicated that about half the audience applauded, and half refused to because they were upset about his sex crime.

I’m a little struck by the fact that so many people seem to have no problem recognizing the value of Polanski’s work despite their (presumed) disagreement with what he did, and yet so many people can’t get past Card’s disagreement with them on some political issues.  Perhaps there is little or no overlap between those groups, and, to be honest, I track news about Card all the time, and only know about Polanski’s arrest due to news coverage this weekend.  Perhaps there has been as much outrage about Polanski that I haven’t seen as I have seen about Card.  But it seems odd to me that there is comparable outrage over stating a contrasting opinion as there is over the sexual misuse of a teen-age girl.

Okay, am I getting this right? Resolving the problems in the Health Coverage Bill debate.

I’ve been trying to understand what’s being proposed in the upcoming health-care reform bill, and, let me tell you, it’s not been easy. There is so much emotion invested into the idea of this bill, both pro and con, that it’s hard to put all the claims and counterclaims together and get an idea of what it is and isn’t supposed to be — I’m not even talking about what it actually will and won’t be. Since the bills aren’t even finalized yet, nobody knows that yet. Unfortunately, there is little chance that the bills will finalize in time that people can really have a wide-spread public debate about the actual plans on their merits.

But I’ve been trying to understand how we’re supposed to provide health coverage for millions of currently un-covered people and, simultaneously, spend less money. On its face, this seems problematic — providing coverage for lots more people at less cost than we’re currently spending. Continue reading Okay, am I getting this right? Resolving the problems in the Health Coverage Bill debate.

Liberating Intolerance

Remember Political Correctness?  It was so 90s, so silly, and based in developing “sensitive” terms that didn’t accept culturally-based “norms” as moral points of reference.  Everyone made fun of such silly terms as “vertically challenged,” and “differently abled,” and the whole thing faded away, right?

Wrong.  Just like disco didn’t go away in the 70s, but evolved into “House” or “Dance” music, Political Correctness never went away.  All of the underlying assumptions of PC have been alive and well the whole time.  They were based in the concept of “Liberating Intolerance” by Herbert Marcuse.  Marcuse held the Orwellian position that the only way to achieve the goal of Tolerance was to display intolerance of the existing ideas and institutions that stood in the way of that goal.  It begins with assuming a point of view to be correct, and then in showing intolerance toward all those who disagree.  This is the “correct” part of PC. 

Today, it can be found in the backlash of the passage of Prop. 8 in California.  Identifiable subgroups of those who worked to pass the proposition have been targetted for hostility, vandalism, misrepresentation, and poorly focused economic repercussions.  Strangely, this includes members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who have seen church buildings and temples vandalized, but also Blacks who overwhelmingly supported the proposition.  At maximum, Mormons constituted 2.4% of the vote about Prop. 8, and not a dime coming from the Church itself spent on the campaign.  And not all Mormons, Catholics, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, or Muslims supported Prop. 8, and not all gay people opposed it — these are not monolithic groups that all agree about much of anything — but the backlash against them hasn’t taken this into account.  There has been no allegation that anything done in support of Prop. 8 was illegal or done improperly — the anger is because these people dared to make use of the legal process to advocate for their position in opposition to the “correct” point of view.  And now they are being punished for their “incorrect” activities, even when that punishment itself is illegal. 

Now, I am well aware that the self-appointed punishers of this “incorrect” behavior are an overly vocal minority of the people who disapprove of Prop. 8.  However, they still add up to a significant number of people, and they’re ramping up steam by exploiting the general ignorance and prejudice against these religious and racial minorities in a fashion that I find disturbing.  It is quite possible to disagree on these issues civiling yet strongly, and these people are instead choosing divisive and punitive tactics to intimidate those who might dare to stand in their way. 

Has the time come yet when we’ve been outraged enough that people have the gall to disagree with us?  Have we called enough names yet?  Have we vandalized enough property yet?  Is it yet time to take a few deep breaths and make peace with the idea that reasonable people can disagree with us, and that there’s an odd chance that we might be wrong about something that’s worthy of consideration?  That it’s as important to treat people we disagree with well as it is to be right about what we believe in? 

The problem with PC isn’t the silly word games — it’s the arrogant assumption that there is only one side of a debate that has merit, and that the other side of the debate is to be shouted down and never, ever listened to or treated with respect.  This is not the way to a civil society — it’s the way to anger and violence.  I choose civility.  How about you?