Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Middle class values are swayed by middle class gay rights

Jan Brewer, conservative governor of red state Arizona, has vetoed an anti-gay bill that would have permitted discrimination against gays on religious grounds.  Good for her.  But, more to the point, good for the middle class of America.

Once the gay movement became a movement of people trying to get married to people they loved, the mainstream of the country started to be persuaded to let go and let them do it.

In the '70s, the gay movement exploded in anger and focused on gay sexuality in very overt and blatant ways as a declaration to the world that they were free to express themselves sexually, and as an expression to themselves that their sexual attractions were not shameful.  There was a lot of defying of the sanctions of the mainstream.  It was a kind of adolescent rebellion.

But, it didn't necessarily help their cause to have the primary images of gay sexuality to be erotic parading of gay men in overtly sexual images focused on leather, bondage, s&m, etc. - outliers of promiscuous behavior - crystalized in bath houses and San Francisco exotic erotic parades.  It was not unexpected that the mainstream middle class would be repulsed and dismayed. 

But, in the last few years, the images and reality of the gay rights movement have moved and matured.  Today's images are of middle aged and elderly gay couples tearfully joyful at being able to be married after years or decades of stable relationships.  The consciences of the middle class was and is being moved to accept people who are wanting nothing more than to live normal lives married to those they love.  It is a very different sales pitch than prideful promiscuity of thirty years ago. 

There is a long way to go, still, for gay rights, but the arc is clearly in the direction of acceptance.  The elderly and the South are behind, but when Jan Brewer bows to tolerance, the rest are fighting a losing war.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I fight, therefore I am

The philosopher Descartes famously wrote "I think, therefore I am."  He was trying to prove that he existed, philosophically, and he decided that the very fact that he was thinking about whether or not he existed was proof that he existed.  Another way of understanding Descartes' statement might be that he thought he was a really smart guy, and he identified himself with his brain and he was saying that the basis of his existence, or rather the basis of his value, was his ability to think.  (This is kind of a pop-psychological explanation of Descartes' statement)

Today's Tea Party Republicans seem to have a different way of identifying themselves.  Their motto seems to be "I fight, therefore I am."  They seem to identify themselves as fighters, as really tough Real Men, and get their value and meaning from their pugnacity.  

Ted Cruz is apparently thinking that he will filibuster the raising of the debt ceiling that was just passed cleanly by the House of Representatives.  This is pretty silly, it seems to me, for a few reasons.

First, if he doesn't filibuster, the Senate can cleanly pass a raising of the debt limit with a simple majority vote - that is, one that needs only Democratic votes.  If Cruz filibusters, then 60 votes rather than 51 are needed, and some Republicans will have to vote for the bill - which they will, but I doubt that they will thank the pugnacious Cruz for the situation he put them in.

Second, this is just another campaign stunt by Cruz which is symbolic only. This bill will pass, no question about it, and the filibuster will have no effect except give Cruz a headline he can use for his 2016 presidential campaign.  Always nice to waste the time of the Senate for your own campaign stunts.  I doubt many in the Senate will thank him for that either.

Third, it seems that most Republicans understand that they are hurting themselves by refusing to pay our country's debts by refusing to raise the debt ceiling.  Except for the Tea Party mix of libertarians and social conservatives who seem to think that refusing to pay our debts is a noble way to blackmail the rest of the country into cutting as many humanitarian programs as possible and thus forcing everybody to become as rough and tough and independent as they imagine themselves to be.  

Perhaps Cruz will relent and just wanted a headline to endear him to the hard right base.  But, the underlying question remains why does the Tea Party deliberately pick fights it can't win?

I believe it is because, as I have written often, the hard right wing of the Republican Party see themselves as hyper-masculine, super tough, Real Men, who Take No Prisoners, never give an inch, and fight, fight, fight to the bitter, and oh so brave end.  

In other words. They get their value from being tough.  Or, they get their value from fighting, and at least on a subconscious level they say to themselves "I fight, therefore I am."

They could use a little brains to mix with their pugnacity, it seems to me.  Mr. Cruz gets a lot of credit for brains, but all of his brainpower seems to be directed toward fighting, not governing, which demands cooperation and compromise - anathemas to the I Fight Therefore I am crowd.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Coke Superbowl ad and the specter of America's future

I no longer follow football because when I watch a game I no longer see a noble game played by superb athletes, but rather I see poor deluded fools in the process of inflicting brain damage on each other and consigning themselves to to the possibility of decades of emotional and mental illnesses. So, I didn't watch the Super Bowl. 

But apparently, the most interesting thing about this particular Super Bowl was a one minute ad for Coke. I watched the ad on YouTube and thought it was quite lovely. It was many Americans of different cultures signing "America the Beautiful" - some in english with an accent, some in their native language.  

But I guess some on the extreme right wing of the political spectrum were offended. Dean Obeidallah of The Daily Beast quotes a few of their reactions.  

"This tweet summed up the sentiments of many on the right: "Fuck that bullshit.  This is America speak fucking English #ThanksObama#fuckcoke"  Others labeled Coke as communists while others claimed that a woman in a hijab was featured in the commercial (who actually is a friend of mine), that Coke was supporting terrorism."

An especially choice quote is from Fox News:

"And there was Todd Starnes - host of a Fox News radio show - who tweeted, "Coca Cola is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border.#amiricais beuatiful."

This is obvious wingnut bigotry, but what is the anger, and what is the fear under the anger?

I have written before that the hard core right wing is lost in a fantasy of hyper-masculine self image, one that is white, of course, and one that ties into an imagined past of a Real America of noble, brave, independent, self sufficient, Real Men, men who need no help from anyone, men who Made This Country Great, men who are very, very, very Strong.

But, woe is they.  They are shrinking.  They are losing America.  They are just one of many cultures in what really is a wonderful country - America.  A country where the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, created the Great Seal of the United States in 1782 and gave it the official motto of the United States - "E Pluribus Unum" - from many, one.

The country is continuing on its destiny of welcoming all cultures from every part of the world and joining us in our great experiment of democracy.  Only in America can you become an American by becoming a citizen.  Germans, Frenchmen, Dutch, etc. are only so if they are born there and speak their languages.  Americans, like my grandparents on my father's side, came from Italy, or Germany, or Portugal, or wherever, and became American by choice.  And, oh yes, my grandmother spoke some Italian, but she was most definitely an American.  And if she wanted to sing an Italian version of America the Beautiful, well that would have been fine, who on earth cared?

The point I am trying to make was summed up nicely by Mr Obeidallah"

"I get why these people are mad.  In essence, the Coke commercial was the Ghost of Christmas Future providing them with a glimpse of an America that features even more people speaking languages other than English, practicing other faiths than their own and celebrating cutures they don't understand.  That scares the crap out of them.

 You know, just like their forefathers and foremothers scared the crap out of the Americans who were here before they came, from Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Portugal, Italy, France ...