Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2014

The Problem We All Live With, Norman Rockwell (1964)

The Problem We All Live With, Norman Rockwell (1964)

There is something startling, breathtaking even, about Massive Resistance, the set of segregationist policies attempted in light of Brown v. Board. In place of accepting equality and inclusion of a previously stigmatized out-group, Massive Resistance represents backlash. In part, it asserts that the state’s functions would better be dismantled than permit entry of the out-group.

The policy that stands out foremost in my mind is the shutting down of public education in some communities specifically for the purpose of avoiding integration – rather no public schools at all than allow desegregation. Let injustice be done though the heavens fall, a twisted perversion of the maxim.

Unfortunately, and much to the discredit of the state legislators involved, the legal sweep towards same sex marriage is facing a modern day version of Massive Resistance. United States v. Windsor’s reshaping of the legal landscape with regard to gay rights is the parallel for Brown v. Board in this instance. And paralleling the part played by segregationists like Harry F. Byrd Sr., we have Oklahoma state representative Mike Turner (via News9):

State lawmakers are considering throwing out marriage in Oklahoma.

The idea stems from a bill filed by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Edmond). Turner says it’s an attempt to keep same-sex marriage illegal in Oklahoma while satisfying the U.S. Constitution. Critics are calling it a political stunt while supporters say it’s what Oklahomans want.

[…]

“Would it be realistic for the State of Oklahoma to say, ‘We’re not going to do marriage period,'” asked News 9’s Michael Konopasek.

“That would definitely be a realistic opportunity, and it’s something that would be part of the discussion,” Turner answered.

In sum, Turner’s position amounts to: better to stop opposite-sex marriage than permit same-sex marriage. Aside from the fundamental obscenity of denying people fundamental rights, is this a stance that one can be proud of? In ten years time? A hundred years time?

Posterity takes names, makes judgements, and shouts through the decades, “For shame!”

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

C. Montgomery Burns’ note on the sensitivity of the well-off came to mind when reading Tom Perkins’ brief letter to the Wall Street Journal, entitled Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?. Perkins “perceive[s] a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent”. Essentially he sees parallels between the current state of the US discussion on inequality to the anti-semitism of Nazi Germany.

It is hard to capture succinctly the many ways the view Perkins presents is profoundly wrongheaded. He references the Occupy movement as part of this “tide of hatred”. Now, I was not deeply engaged in Occupy. I visited Zuccotti Park and I attended an Occupy sponsored teach-in at Union Square Park, on both occasions with a friend more sympathetic to Occupy than me. The beginnings of pogroms these were not. Where was the violence? Where was the threat of violence (other than that of the state against the protesters)? Where even, were the calls to forcefully seize the means of production in favor of the revolutionary proletariat?

In Zuccotti Park there was a lending library. There was recycling, with handy signs making the significant distinction between compost and non-compost items. At no time during my visit did I feel physically endangered by the then-denizens of the park. Essentially, a really sophisticated sit-in was underway. A peaceful protest that, by way of its location, called attention to many of capitalism in America’s central disjunctures: the unfulfilled promise of work hard and play by the rules yielding social mobility, the relative inattention to the well-being of the common man and underclass versus the well-being of the elite, and perhaps foremost, the mobilization of hundreds of billions in government resources in short order to shore up threatened financial institutions while the unemployed and downtrodden receive(d) scant attention.

With respect to the teach-in, two professors from liberal arts colleges in New York State discussed unions. We sat in a circle on the south side of Union Square Park; our circle gained or lost members or onlookers as the course of the discussion went along. Starting at maybe five to eight people, and maybe at its highest point reaching 30 . Yes, it was a progressive vision of the history of the union movement in America.

My previous questions obtain for the teach-in as well: Where was the violence, or threat thereof? Where was the call to arms, assault, battery, theft, rioting, arson? From the tenor of the discussion we could have been talking about Romantic poets or the architectural history of New York. Nary a voice raised in anger. If you’ve had a college seminar meet outside on a spring day, then you had the essence of this teach-in’s atmosphere.

Now, I don’t present my experiences with Occupy as definitive. But if Perkins has evidence of “a tide of hatred” in part represented by Occupy he needs to provide it.

As for the meaning of Nazi Germany’s targeting of Jews, it is a topic that won’t adequately be served by the attention I can give it here. The drawing upon centuries of exclusion and Othering. The erection of boundaries between a supposedly pure German identity as set against a supposedly Other, suspect, Jewish identity. Being in the society, but not of the society. The dehumanization and of course the violence.

The orgy of violence.

Preceded by violence and followed by violence. To invoke Kristallnacht is to invoke a web of terror, totalitarianism, and authoritarianism rarely equaled in human history.

I don’t know what kind of bubble being a billionaire provides for someone – the kind of insulation from the day-to-day insecurities of the average citizen. And what’s more, to have all kinds of society’s institutions falling over themselves to stroke your ego. But Tom Perkins, you urgently need to use some of that $8 billion to buy yourself a clue. Some clue as to what it means to live in a democratic society where people may peacefully protest and put their public institutions under scrutiny for compliance with key principles of social justice and human rights.

Read Full Post »

The Atlantic assembles a neat collection of New Year’s photos from around the world. My favorite, the all-time best World’s Fair investment.

"A reveler writes "2014" with sparklers ahead of New Year's Eve, in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on December 30, 2013. (Reuters/Benoit Tessier)"

“A reveler writes “2014” with sparklers ahead of New Year’s Eve, in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on December 30, 2013. (Reuters/Benoit Tessier)”

Read Full Post »