You can’t make homophobic jokes and be a Progressive.

Lindsey GrahamI have real, enormous, and numerous issues with Senator Lindsey Graham. Indeed, my first tweet of the day was to call him an asshole. Because he is. An asshole.

Also a dick.

Douchnozzle.

Douchcanoe.

Human sack of effluvium and fucknuttery.

And what have you.

But here’s the thing: If I, or any other Progressive in this country, want to take issue with any of Graham’s hateful and cruel policy positions — that’s what we should do.

We should argue the value of not holding up important Presidential nominations for the sake of personal glory; we should argue that President Obama’s plans for immigration reform are an important step forward; we should work to turn the tide of public opinion against the gun lobby; we should make clear the advantages of Obamacare; we should clarify just what it means to oppose the Violence Against Women Act; and we should lobby aggressively for the right of women everywhere to bodily autonomy (links to all these issues in the list of insults, above).

What we should not do is make puerile jokes about the fact that Lindsey Graham “looks/seems gay.”

For the record, I have come around to believing that when conservative politicians and anti-LGBT activists are, in fact, in the closet, it’s an important political act to out them publicly. I understand the arguments against such actions, and I have genuine compassion for the people who have been so outed — but if you have spent your days and your power dehumanizing your fellow Americans, your fellow Americans have a right to know how much you’re lying. Given the imbalance of power, our right to know outweighs your right to privacy.

But that is not the same thing — by any stretch of the imagination — as making jokes that traffic in America’s widely-held homophobia.

It’s not Progressive to belittle and/or dehumanize anyone, period. It is, thus, Not Progressive to belittle and/or dehumanize LGBTQ Americans — and when we mock Lindsey Graham or any other person in a position of political and social influence (Marcus Bachman comes to mind) for appearing to be that which they loathe, we’re agreeing that calling them gay is an insult. We’re agreeing that there is a way to “look” or “act” gay, and that these things are laughable.

Now, I’m not going to presume to judge the gay community on this. If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community and you want to mock Lindsey Graham, go on with it. That’s your community and your struggle and you folks have to decide for yourselves what the limits are within your own community (to the extent that consensus can be reached, and as a Jew, let me say: Good luck with that).

But straight Progressive America? Step off. If you cannot find a way to mock Lindsey Graham’s heartless version of “conservativism” without resorting to humanity’s centuries’-long abuse of gay folks? Then you’ll just have to work against his agenda without eliciting the lulz.

Because you can be a Progressive, or you be that assclown who mocks teh gayz. You can’t be both.

Dear too many people on the left: Yes, you’re better than everyone else. Now get over yourselves.

head-deskI get so frustrated, and on a nearly daily basis (thank God for Shabbat, mirite?) with the never-ending carping that happens on my side of the political map regarding the lack of purity of those who would dare condescend to communicate with the vast middle of human opinion.

Yes, it would be nice if everyone on earth believed as I believe about women and rape and Palestinians and human rights and LGBTQ equality and gun violence and whatever whatever whatever, but you know what? They don’t. They really, really don’t.

And there are a lot of people out there doing excellent work, either on the ground or in opinion advocacy (or both) who — gasp! — have the temerity to speak to all those millions of people who have yet to see the wisdom of my great and marvelous mind. To speak in terms that most people will understand. To draw comparisons that are not perfect, but are informative to those who are unfamiliar with the facts. To speak in broad terms, because they only have 800 words, or to deal with a single aspect of a struggle, because they only have 24 hours in a day. To favor immediate needs over long-term goals, or to favor long-term goals over immediate needs. To, on occasion, fall prey to human error or — heaven forfend! — to have once held a different opinion to the one they now support.

And there are a lot of people out there who invest a lot of time and energy in dogging those other people, for not being good enough, or for being too nice to the bad guys, or for failing to fully comprehend the enormity of What Must Be Done and All That Is At Stake.

Fuck that noise.

You cannot organize people where you want them to be – you can only organize them where they are.

You will change no minds and win no hearts by accusing your allies of perfidy – you will only exhaust your allies and convince them to ignore you.

Anger is not sign of sincerity, patience is not a sign of weakness, and purity is unattainable. And snooty sarcasm (to quote Rat, of Pearls Before Swine fame) is never prudent.

Here’s what does help: Talking to people. Raising questions. Thanking them for their commitment, and offering additional information. Assuming that people who identify with The Cause are not, actually, trying their level best to screw you. Most people are mostly decent, and if you don’t believe that to be the case, why are you even trying to live among us? I am going to fail you, I promise you that, and so will everyone else.

And now I’ve yelled (again), and convinced no one. But I feel better. Which is pretty much all that yelling can do, anyway.

And PS: You’re not the only ones who are angry. I am too. Always.

 

 

On public insults and the nature of activism.

It’s ok to yell at Kahn, though.

It’s been a somewhat rocky couple of weeks here at In My Head HQ.

As a direct result of my Israel/Palestine activism and open enthusiasm for the current President of the United States, I have recently been called (in no particular order) a defender of anti-Semitism, a supporter of neo-Nazis, someone who spreads hatred of Israel, the anti-Christ, willing to murder in order to have an easy life, dumb, #biggestliberalasshole2012, a liar, willing to shrug away evil, and disgustingly indifferent to women of color (these are all direct quotes).

It has also been darkly suggested, by someone with 50,000 Twitter followers, that s/he “knows a lot more about you, and what you support, and what you are, than you realize,” and by someone else, with far fewer Twitter followers, that I am sexually aroused by drone strikes in which people are killed (my previous arguments against drone strikes notwithstanding). Oh, and something or other about me being too cowardly to argue with someone who was hectoring me.

And (I have very good reason to suspect) a great deal else that I know little about, because I block/spam/ignore people when they behave in such a fashion and thus don’t see subsequent insults, and I certainly don’t bother to go looking to see what folks might be saying about me or my work in the internet’s more extreme corners.

I tell you all this not to gain sympathy (well, ok. You can give me a little sympathy) but to make a larger point, one that starts with the fact that what I’ve experienced is as nothing compared to the flood of bad behavior endured by writers and activists with a higher public profile and/or full-time employ. Nothing.

Of course, there’s a point at which this is simple trolling: People with a nominal worldview who are mainly in it for the abuse. Whether it’s me liking Barack Obama, women who call out sexism, men who like Star Wars the wrong way, or teenagers who don’t know how to use internet slang, the fight’s the thing, the act of screaming insults the actual point.

And of course, there’s a point of simple incandescent anger, tinged with fear (you know: I’m a danger to Israel and Jews everywhere, etc and so on).

But there’s another point — a very important point — at which this sort of thing is about a difference in tactics and values (and not just the “don’t call people the anti-Christ before you’ve even met” one).

Because there are two different kinds of social activists in the world: There are those who think that change only ever happens incrementally, that we can only organize people where they are and not where we want them to be, that revolution (as an Egyptian revolutionary recently noted) is a process, not an event. And there are those for whom all evil must be relentlessly labelled as such and any change that isn’t instant is not fast enough.

And both kinds of people are right.

We will never change the world by refusing to talk about what’s wrong with it, and any change that isn’t instant is — really and truly — not fast enough. Lives are ruined or lost as we struggle forward, and the human race needs angry prophets who remind us of that.

Yet, for all that that is so, the fact remains that revolution is a process, not an event. That we can only organize people where they are, not where we want them to be. And change only ever happens incrementally. It’s genuinely unfortunate, but it’s also, simply, true.

I try to listen to angry prophets. I try to give them their due, and I try to incorporate at least some of their righteous fury (because, aside from anything else, while “reasonable” might be my brand, I’m always angry, Captain). I know that we move things forward by steadily making the list of that-which-is-infuriating broader and longer: Once it was slavery, then it was poll taxes, now it’s effigies of the President hung on front lawns.

But I cannot hear anyone while I’m cleaning “anti-Christ” and “murder” from my ears, and I can only imagine that the people who have a higher public profile and/or full-time employ have it even harder, because they hear so much more of it.

People stop listening when you treat them with derision — it’s really that simple. No change is fast enough, but if you want any change, you’re going to need people who are willing to listen to you.

Unfortunate, but true.

Progressives are feminists or they’re not Progressives.

Here’s a radical notion: If you’re a man and you call yourself a Progressive, you can’t sling sexist insults at women.

Any women.

Not just Progressive women. Not just women you like. Not just your mom.

If you want me to take you seriously and believe that you are genuinely committed to the Progressive agenda, you may not take sexist swipes at Conservative women, either — not even the really awful ones.

Not Michele Bachmann.

Not Sarah Palin.

Not New York Daily News columnist SE Cupp, of whom I had never heard until Hustler magazine (a decidedly questionable source of Progressivism, I admit, despite what Larry Flynt might think) photoshopped an image of her with a penis in her mouth, and opined:

S.E. Cupp is a lovely young lady who read too much Ayn Rand in high school and ended up joining the dark side. Cupp, an author and media commentator who often shows up on Fox News programs, is undeniably cute. But her hotness is diminished when she espouses dumb ideas like defunding Planned Parenthood. Perhaps the method pictured here is Ms. Cupp’s suggestion for avoiding an unwanted pregnancy.

So yes, the latest example of men on the left who think it’s ok to viciously dehumanize Conservative women by reducing them to their sexual organs and/or conventional attractiveness is provided by Hustler — a publication predicated on dehumanizing women by reducing them to their sexual organs and/or conventional attractiveness. BUT.

But, as can be seen by clicking on the links embedded in the names of Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin above, Hustler is far from the first or last example. Need more?

Ed Schultz and Laura Ingram. Keith Olbermann and Ann Coulter. Keith Olbermann and Carrie “opposite marriage” Prejean. Matt Taibbi and Michelle Malkin. Bill Maher and Karen Santorum. Bill Maher and Megyn Kelly. Michael Moore and… all women (some of whom are, presumably, Conservative).

And perhaps unsurprisingly (to me, at least) it doesn’t stop at the Republican Party door — it turns out that so-called Progressive men are often happy to say these things about women they don’t like on the left, too: Chris Matthews and Hillary Clinton. Keith Olbermann and Hillary Clinton. Matt Taibbi and Hillary Clinton. Matt Taibbi and Erica Jong.

In some of these cases, the men in question apologized, and did so in a fashion that to me seemed sincere (Olbermann, for instance, and Schultz), and that’s to be respected.

But I’m not going to applaud it, because I am just so damn tired of the whole thing, and honest to God: I know I have to expect this from the other side of the aisle — but from my compatriots, too?

It’s everywhere, this treatment of women, everywhere. And it is most certainly not limited to Famous Men. It’s in conversations, and on Twitter, and on reddit, and in blogposts, and among comments on blogs, and on Youtube, and at the work place, and at school, and on the street.

It’s exhausting. It’s demoralizing. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s fucking everywhere.

If you are a man somewhere on the left side of America’s political map and you don’t understand these facts well enough to understand that pulling old-school sexism out of your back pocket and wielding it against Conservative women is just plain wrong — you’re betraying me. You’re betraying me, and all the Progressive women in your life, and any daughters you may have, and ultimately, the cause of Progressives everywhere.

Just as I support the right of Log Cabin Republicans to get married (despite their party’s efforts to prevent it) and the right of African-American Republicans to vote (despite their party’s efforts to roll back the Voting Rights Act), I support the right of Conservative women to be treated as human beings (despite their party’s efforts to legislate women as something less).

This is not about party affiliation — this is about the radical notion that women are people. All women.

Even the Conservative ones.

Van Jones at the Take Back The American Dream Conference

So this morning I had some plans. They were good plans. They involved looking for a grant for a position I’m trying to create for myself in the area of General Do-Gooderness (it’s more detailed than that, but let’s not digress) and moving forward on a huge writing project that I really need to move forward on (…) — and then I discovered, via the Twitters (thanks Shoq!!) that I could watch a livestream of Van Jones’s speech at the Take Back The American Dream Conference.

I thought I’d listen, sort of keep it on in the background, as I worked.

Well! Apparently one doesn’t just keep Van Jones on “in the background.”

Aside from the fact that he is a hell of a speaker (which I already knew), his words were powerful, and very, very necessary. They kept hitting home — boom! boom! boom! Like powerful, necessary words will. So I started live-tweeting, a little late to the game — and even a little late to the game, there was enough there to light a fire in even the most weary belly. My excited tweeting is chirpstoried below*, but it boils down to this, progressives: We can be miserable, or we can do something. Let’s do something.

(I didn’t even capture what was probably the best line – Jones was talking about how people have been really beat down, and some are saying they just can’t bear to get up anymore: “I won’t be aspirational anymore!”, he said, and crossed his arms much like my children used to and made a big ol’ pouty face. And then cracked himself up. It was delightful, and honestly, how often have we progressives done “delightful” lately?)

*Oy mein Gott, I cannot get the chirpstory to embed here! You can see it by clicking here or by going to my crosspost at Angry Black Lady Chronicles (where it embedded just fine, thankyouverymuch) — as soon as I figure this out, I’ll replace this annoyed parenthetical with the real thing…. Sigh. Fired up! Ready to go!

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

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