Alt Right There   (2016Aug27)

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Saturday, August 27, 2016                                                10:28 AM

Every once in a while, someone remembers that electing our first woman to the presidency would be an historic breakthrough—and immediately, someone else will pointedly comment that they’re not going to vote for someone just because she’s a woman. We suffered from no such timidity when Barack Obama was elected the first African-American president. Sure, people would carp that Obama was ‘half-white’—but, that being a distinction no racist had ever before bothered to parse, no one took them seriously.

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And much has been made of late about the racism of the Alt Right fringe—as if these troglodytes were mostly concerned with what Larry Wilmore calls “The Unblackening”, i.e. replacing President Obama with a Caucasian. But what both the Clinton campaign and the media are overlooking is the Alt Right’s far greater interest in maintaining male chauvinism. Both Trump and his new campaign-head, Steve Bannon, have been explicitly and publicly misogynist in both word and deed.

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“All men are created equal” was confined to men-only for so long that there are women alive today who were born before women had the right to vote. The discrimination against women in America—even after Suffrage was granted—included property, banking, police protection, the workplace, and exclusion from any social or business group or meeting place deemed ‘men only’. And the feminist movement has made slow, tortuous progress towards gender equality for the last fifty years—but even gay men were allowed to serve in the military before women were accorded the same privilege in full—what was it, days ago? Maybe weeks ago?

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One could easily make the case that, when the Democrats nominated a woman presidential candidate, the GOP was taken over by the “He-Man Woman-Haters Club”, known today as the Alt Right. They must have pinched themselves when a man renowned for his public misogyny (and not ‘just against Rosy O’Donnell’) was nominated by the Republican Party. How perfect for them that an enemy of ‘political correctness’ was able to slip his chauvinism under the media’s radar. Even better, the Democrats have mistaken them for racists, when their true, core agenda is the unwinding of Women’s Liberation.

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How else does a woman, who statistically is more honest than most politicians, find herself confronting an electorate that has 63% of its number believing her to be wildly dishonest? Why else would a woman whose first job was sneaking into Southern schools to expose their refusal to de-segregate, end up being called a ‘bigot’ by the most morally bankrupt opponent ever to run for office—and the media repeats his claim 24-7, as if it has even a whisper of credibility?

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Now, full disclosure—I want a woman. I think our entire political system can only benefit from an increase in femininity. Women are less likely to internalize power—and more likely to remember the weak and helpless, and, of course, the children. They are at least as smart as men—and far less likely to lose sight of their goals by getting involved in dick-measuring contests. Men consistently point to menstruation, pregnancy, and child-rearing as ‘handicaps’ of the opposite sex—but ask yourself this: Would you rather have a human race that doesn’t bother with all the inconvenience of reproduction? That’s a short-lived dynasty, bub. Just because women do all the work of perpetuating the species doesn’t mean that creating new lives is some sort of ‘accessory’ that only girls fool around with. Get a clue.

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We worry about national defense, upholding the law, strength and power—we forget that life also requires caring, sensitivity, and tolerance. Men can even feel embarrassed for showing any recognition of these necessities. Yes, a lot of women would be embarrassed to show strength and toughness—but it’s not as overwhelming a barrier to women as men’s desperation to maintain their machismo. The most important strategic value of the female broadness of vision is that they are more likely to see both sides of an issue—they are less likely to pick a side and fight blindly for conquest, without any regard for other points of view. I don’t want to profile, but it would be ingenuous to pretend that the sexes think the same way, or perceive things the same way.

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But forget all that difference business. Let’s say men and women are exactly the same—for argument’s sake. By that logic, it doesn’t matter what gender our president is—only that they are fit for the job. So let’s say the Democrats had a candidate, a man, with a lifetime’s experience in public service, with a stellar reputation among his peers, and accolades galore from nearly everyone he’s ever helped or worked with. Would you vote for that guy—or would you vote for Trump? Better yet, imagine that Hillary Clinton wasn’t a political nerd, a policy wonk who is uncomfortable in the public spotlight—imagine she had the charisma of Trump, or her own husband. Imagine she had a voice like honey and the presence of Angelina Jolie—would you vote for Trump? I don’t think so.

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The trouble with Hillary is that she is our national medicine—it would help us, it would make us all better—but we don’t want to swallow it. We want something more fun, more attractive. Yet the things that make Secretary Clinton so desirable as our head of state are the very things that make it hard for her to appeal to us on a ‘popularity-contest’ level. She is serious. She is tough. Worst of all, perhaps, she is very intelligent. Of course we don’t want to vote for her—we don’t even want to date her. But this isn’t a date. This election is serious business—I would appreciate it if all my fellow Americans would be serious about their vote. That would not only be one more reason to vote for Hillary, but also one more reason not to vote for Trump. Let that poisonous clown bleed out of his ‘wherever’.

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The Woman Herself   (2015Oct10)

Saturday, October 10, 2015                                              8:36 AM

I’ve never been good at music—I don’t have rhythm—I can’t keep a beat—not the way a musician can. That’s why I always say I play the piano—I never ‘perform’. Performances are for people who are sharing their talent—I play piano for my own satisfaction, but I know that I’m not good enough to entertain an audience. Don’t get me wrong—I would love to be a musician—but I was born with a gift for drawing—and people are rarely blessed with multiple talents (even if they prefer music to art).

Nowadays, the rule of thumb is: Rhythm is everything—if you can’t dance to it, it ain’t gonna fly. Exceptions include extended pauses, rubato, and caesurae—these are times when music sacrifices rhythm for theatricality, for dramatic or emotional effect. Nonetheless, there is no music without rhythm—I can’t disagree—but we weren’t always so enlightened. In early medieval times, plainchant was the music of the church—it was ponderously slow and entirely monophonic. Plainchant, even Gregorian chant, was meant to be solemn and reverent—it was a tool of the service, not an entertainment. If you wanted entertaining music, you had to go to a tavern, a wedding party, or a country dance—where one could hear jigs, hornpipes, and reels—the folk music that sprang from work songs, lullabies, and marching tunes.

With the advent of polyphony, especially counter-point, church music began to acquire texture, depth—and tempo. People loved it, but conservative types put it down as ‘rough’ music—that’s what Baroque means—Rough. When Vivaldi toured the continent with his Four Seasons, performed by his all-girl orchestra (he was a music teacher at a home for daughters of unwed mothers) it combined youth with rough music—kind of like medieval rock-and-roll—and they caused a sensation everywhere. People went mad for the new music. The young Bach, as a boy, was fascinated with Vivaldi’s music—and Bach was lucky not to have been born decades earlier, when his style of sacred compositions would have been considered sacrilegious.

The disapproving oldsters that deemed early baroque music ‘rough’ were concerned with maintaining the dignity of the church service—good music was not their lookout. But baroque music was good—it was downright irresistible—and we saw a split between those who wanted music confined to the reverence of plainchant and those who liked to listen to good music. Bach split the difference, believing that his compositions were offerings to God—prayers, if you will. This was in keeping with German Protestant views, moving away from merely worshipping God on their knees—and towards glorifying God with their good works.

Detractors of early baroque had the same success as detractors of early Elvis or early Beatles—history tells us that good music always wins the argument. Those old naysayers weren’t speaking out of concern for the music, they were simply trying to enforce a dogmatic conservatism that saw change as something to be feared—something wrong, even evil.

I see similar blindness in the behavior of so-called Pro-Life activists. Abortion used to be illegal because it was birth control—nobody in the pre-modern era gave a damn about fetuses—or new-born babies, or children in general for that matter. In the times before modern medicine, miscarriages and infant mortality were all too common—mothers of a large brood were lucky to see half their children survive to adulthood. Birth control was forbidden by religious dogma—and still is, for Catholics and many others—whether it took the form of abortion, a condom, or even the unreliable ‘rhythm method’.

The modern concern over ‘the rights of the unborn’ is a modern adaption—conservatives lost the fight over the legality of birth control in general, but they weren’t going to give up on abortion without a fight. Hence Pro-Lifers have a new dogma to push back against the struggle for women’s right to control their reproductive systems.

Let me add here that even progressives like myself don’t approve of late-term abortions—if a woman knows she’s pregnant, and doesn’t want to be—fine—but if she can’t make up her mind after a month or two—well, that’s just irresponsible. In the progress from fertilized egg, to fetus, to infant, it’s hard to say where the line is, since premature births are not uncommon—so putting it off will bring one to a time when it’s hard to say whether you’re performing an abortion or infanticide. Medical professionals use the term ‘viable’ to divide a fetus from a preemie—but in terms of conscience, it’s best not to let it even reach that question.

That question aside, abortions don’t appear to have any significant difference from the countless manipulations of nature that modern medical oversight of our lives entails. Doesn’t a vasectomy, or a tubal ligation, prevent numerous potential lives? Don’t incubators and other advances save more wanted babies than are lost to unwanted fertilized eggs and early fetuses of abortion patients? Pro-Lifers can be very insistent in their protests but they are very capricious in the reasoning behind it. Their furious insistence that a woman complete any and every pregnancy is never combined with an offer to foster the unwanted children.

Plus there’s the very important point that no woman is eager to have an abortion—they simply want to avoid becoming a mother when they are not prepared to do it properly. How nice it would be if anti-feminists were mobilized against neglectful parenting, instead of attacking those who see it coming and try to avoid it.

Conservatives insist that an abortion is the same as killing a baby—very picturesque, very dramatic—but hypocritically simplistic. Their own preachers will tell them that the body is nothing—the soul is everything. Being an atheist, I prefer the term conscience, or consciousness, but it’s all the same thing in different terms. The body is just equipment—the mind is the person. You can’t ‘murder’ something that lacks awareness—you can’t be guilty for ending something that is only potential, not yet extant.

Of course, arguments can be made on both sides, ad infinitum. Since it is such a fine point, I believe the question should be decided by the person most intimately involved—the woman herself. If anyone else has an opinion, let them back it up with an offer of involvement in the raising of the child, or mind their own damn business.

Good Word of Mouth

 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013                   8:52 PM

 

(paintings by Correggio)

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I’ve been stumped for writings lately—maybe I’ve finally run dry of grumpy-old-man-op-ed essays—who knows? I’d actually like that, I think… I only write those things because I want to expel the bile that festers at my brain when I see intentional stupidity and intentional harm. I’m no cynic—the people that own everything are intentionally making our lives worse—intentionally widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

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What’s worse is, we help them do this—every time we take a paycheck to look away—supporting a family is no excuse, it only makes it worse, since we are destroying the society they will inherit, while we collaborate in the name of ‘supporting them’. What is the answer? When an entire town is centered around a military complex, what do we do with those townspeople when The Base gets abandoned due to budget cuts? Do we keep it open for the sake of the town? That only sounds correct to the townspeople, god bless’em. Does the government simply walk away, and leave the gutted town to turn ghost in their wake? That sounds wrong to everybody. So, we see at once that simple solutions are not to be had. What do we do?

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Do we go out and protest in public? To me, that always seemed like giving too much power to the opponent—telling them to act, instead of us acting on our own initiative—though I suppose the media attention (if you could catch it, and for as long as it lasts) would be valuable. We’d have to come off as the ‘good guys’ on camera, though—and pissed-off people rarely look like ‘good guys’, at first glance.

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Sensible people might point out an obvious solution—enact a program of decommissioning an entire ‘economic zone’, not just the Base it once supported. Find (or Found) businesses that are a good match with the town’s focal skill sets. In areas where closing the Base means total evacuation (say mid-desert, like) then enact a program to place the townspeople in other towns still operating as theirs once did. It would still be a breakup of the community, but it doesn’t have to be an economic disaster as well. Letting a whole town full of people go dead broke will cost a lot more, in the long run, than helping them transition to new homes and new jobs.

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But all you sensible people out there know the chances of that course of action—none to little. So let’s think about political solutions that approximate the sensible solution. The last two days in Oklahoma have seen recording-breaking tornados (in both size and wind-speed) that devastated communities in Tornado Alley. So we liberals may enjoy the very bleak comfort of saying ‘I told you so’ to the climate-change-deniers, but down in Okie country the praying has been non-stop—the people there have put their faith in the lord—and so cannot be harmed. That explains why they would choose live in an area called ‘Tornado Alley’.

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I just know we could be doing all of this stuff so much better if there were better people in politics—but I’m damned if I’m gonna spend time with those nut-jobs. That’s why we need young people in politics—we used to insist on old people because our elders tended to know more than the rest of us. I’m getting into ‘old guy’ territory myself these days—and I can assure you, the people my age and older are as likely to be swamped by the Future Shock Wave that is remaking the globe as they are to have depths of wisdom–which applied to an earlier, pre-internet age—and so may no longer have any relevance to our present times, anyhow!

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Only the young guys and gals can even appreciate these new fulcrums of power, and the consequences of blindly trying to do business in the past. Plus, younger men and women are less ‘free for the purchasing’ than old cronies whose lives have always been defined by business. Today’s global business is a threat to humanity—soon, a tiny group of uber-bankers will own the entire world—and us with it, since we’ll all need to make a living.

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In the old days, when America and Big Business were synonymous, the famously quoted ‘business of America—was Business’. But that is no longer true. The business of International Mega-Corporations is ‘Business’—the business of we Americans has become ‘fighting a rearguard action against global corporate culture in an attempt to resume control of our own government’. That’s the new business of America.

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I’m tired of being proud of my country—it’s that right-or-wrong business—there is so much wrong with our society, our industry, our quality of life, and our Freedom from Fear—and then up pops these Tea Party people-Doh! You know, if the Cold War was still ongoing, I’d be sure that the Tea Party was a fifth-column action to make a nonsense-of-shouting out of what were once the Founding Documents, to turn Freedom of Expression on its head by using it as a shield against those who accuse them of hate-speech—and using Freedom of Religion to suggest that it implies their particular faith is the Default Faith for the whole country.

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Their ignorance is epic—but that’s OK, cuz they don’t hold much stock in all the edjicashun nonsense, no how. They are a tremendous threat to our nation. They are the pawns of folks like the Koch Bros. and they even act against their own self-interest—when that runs counter to whatever mind-boink of a narrative cheerleaders like Sarah Palin are feeding them through the mass media they all despise so indignantly—it’s pure stupid, and hold the rest, out there in Tea Party land.

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So I’ll be happy to be proud of my country when we start taking it back from the private interests of the super wealthy. I think we should start by refusing to respond to any TV or internet advertising—let’s all agree that we’ll only vote for a candidate when someone we trust gives that candidate a good reference. We should all unite in refusing any electioneering from anyone we don’t know and respect. Word of mouth will be the only criteria that we will base our decision on. And we disqualify all of the incumbents just to make it a clean start. (If we lose a good congressperson, we’ll come to re-elect that person, in time—but we must sand the floor before we slap on the new paint.)

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A total re-boot of federal representation via word-of-mouth may result in something more democratic than the moneychangers we endure today—but even if it doesn’t work, they’ll do no less than the last decade of blockage -and- it’ll keep the crooks busy enough to slow their insatiable greed.

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Word of Mouth Only! Word of Mouth Only!

Chant it with me now—

 

Word of Mouth Only! Word of Mouth Only!