At left: Occupy Greenville has kept our plucky heroine from dissolving into hopelessness during her long period of unemployment this year: THREE CHEERS FOR THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT, which has restored many folks' faith in America.
I used to wonder why people (usually women) deleted their blogs. No longer. I get it now.
As net-denizens Google various religious-and-Christmas-oriented-posts I have written over the past four-and-a-half years, I feel theologically and emotionally bereft. I was so certain, and now I am not.
Or rather, I am certain that uncertainty is the state of humanity. I no longer unequivocally declare that particular existential points of dogma are true, except to say, this is what I feel right now. This is what I believe is true right now.
And this is, in fact, what we are always saying, we just don't seem to realize that our personal truths collide over time. We re-arrange the biography to make our wildly different, disparate truths make sense. But they simply don't.
This is because we are not the same people we were.
The person that started this blog is me, yet it is another me, a past-me. I do not agree with everything the past-me wrote, in fact, I wince at a good deal of it. I can understand why people feel the need to delete that which makes them embarrassed and makes them wince. And women, specifically, can find this nearly intolerable. On the above-linked thread, Feminist Avatar wrote:
I almost deleted my blog as I was fed up with discussions going on in my online community, which I disagreed with and felt had been done so many times before, with no resolution. And, my gut response was- get out of here- and I think I saw leaving my blog up as leaving a part of myself 'there'; in that conversation, even tho' I wasn't and hadn't posted in ages.Yes, I understand that, as well as the Buddhist concept of impermanence.
A wiser person than me once said that women were more reluctant to 'let go of the authorial signature' than men (that is to stop owning their words- seeing cultural products as a creation of society and context rather than individuals), because they had only recently won the right to own them in the first place (ie women's right to a public voice is historically new and hard won). Perhaps, as a result, when we need to walk away from particular online communities or just the internet as a time suck, we feel we can't leave something of ourselves there- we can't stop owning our words (even if they may be out of date or not where we are any more). And perhaps, because of that sense of ownership, if we move beyond those ideas or no longer agree with them, we also can't leave them out there, as it is no longer us.
I nearly titled this post "Can Ron Paul win the Iowa primary?" and then thought the better of it. Nah. But I am once again voting strategically for the good doctor, as I did in the last South Carolina Republican primary four years ago.
I heartily recommend Conor Friedersdorf's piece in The Atlantic, titled Grappling With Ron Paul's Racist Newsletters--currently up to a whopping 633 comments. The money quotes:
Do I think that Paul wrote the offending newsletters? I do not. Their style and racially bigoted philosophy is so starkly different from anything he has publicly espoused during his long career in public life -- and he is so forthright and uncensored in his pronouncements, even when they depart from mainstream or politically correct opinion -- that I'd wager substantially against his authorship if Las Vegas took such bets. Did I mention how bad some of the newsletters are? It's a level of bigotry that would be exceptionally difficult for a longtime public figure to hide.For the record, I certainly agree. I also agree with this quote--although regular readers might recall that as a true believer, I defended both Jeremiah Wright AND Bill Ayers:
For that reason, I cannot agree with [The Weekly Standard's Jamie] Kirchick when he concludes that "Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing -- but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics."
On the other hand, it doesn't seem credible that Paul was unaware of who wrote the execrable newsletters, and although almost a million dollars per year in revenue is a substantial incentive to look away from despicable content, having done so was at minimum an act of gross negligence and at worst an act of deep corruption. Indeed, Paul himself has acknowledged that he "bears moral responsibility" for the content.
Given its odiousness that is no small thing.
For me, the disconnect between the Ron Paul newsletters, which make me sick, and Paul's words and actions in public life, which I often admire, put me in mind of the way I reacted when candidate Barack Obama was found to associate with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, both of whom had said execrable things. I couldn't defend any of it. But I could never get exercised about the association in exactly the way that writers like Victor Davis Hanson wanted, because it seemed totally implausible that if Obama was elected he would turn out to secretly share the convictions of the Weather Underground, or hope for God to damn America. It always seemed to me that those relationships were the unsavory product of personal ambition. I don't mean to suggest that the two circumstances are entirely analogous, but I do find it hard to believe that if Paul were elected, he'd turn out to be a secret racist, implement policies that targeted minorities, or drum up support by giving speeches with hateful rhetoric.And then, he makes the points I wish I had been smart enough to make, says the things I wish I had been smart enough to write. YES!:
[Congressman Ron Paul] has a long history of doing what he says when elected, and no more.Read it all, and at least a few of the hundreds of brawling comments, well worth your while if you care about the Republican primary and the next election.
"How could you vote for someone who..."
Isn't that a thorny formulation? I'm sometimes drawn to it. And yet. We're all choosing among a deeply compromised pool of candidates, at least when the field is narrowed to folks who poll above 5 percent. Put it this way. How can you vote for someone who wages an undeclared drone war that kills scores of Pakistani children? Or someone who righteously insisted that indefinite detention is an illegitimate transgression against our civilizational values, and proceeded to support that very practice once he was elected? How can you vote for someone who has claimed to be deeply convicted about abortion on both sides of the issue, constantly misrepresents his record, and demagogues important matters of foreign policy at every opportunity? Or someone who suggests a religious minority group should be discriminated against? Or who insists that even given the benefit of hindsight, the Iraq War was a just and prudent one?
And yet many of you, Republicans and Democrats, will do just that -- just as you and I have voted for a long line of past presidents who've deliberately pursued policies of questionable-at-best morality.
In voting for "the lesser of two evils," there is still evil there -- we're just better at ignoring certain kinds in this fallen world. A national security policy that results in the regular deaths of innocent foreigners in order to maybe make us marginally safer from terrorism is one evil we are very good at ignoring.
Prison rape is an evil we're even better at ignoring.
It is a wonderful thing that Americans are usually unable to ignore the evil of outright racism. It hasn't always been so. The change is a triumph. But important as rhetorical issues of race and ethnicity are in America, we're by necessity choosing the lesser of two -- or three or seven -- evils when we pick a candidate. And so it's worth complicating the moral picture with some questions we don't normally consider when we talk about race.
For example: What American policy most hurts people who'd be a minority group in this country? I'd say cluster bombs, missiles and bullets that inadvertently kill them while we try to kill terrorists or convert tribal or sectarian societies into democracies. Or perhaps an even graver harm is done by the subsidies we give to agribusinesses, destroying Third World agricultural markets and opportunity. To think of the damage done over the decades by sugar dumping in Haiti alone! And isn't it uncomfortable to think about how race and nationality is implicated in the priority we assign to folks who suffer from the aforementioned policies? The policies aren't rooted in personal racism, like the lines in racist tracts -- sugar dumping is rooted in an amoral agricultural lobby that wants to enrich itself -- yet it's hard to imagine such policies would persist as uncontroversially if "people like us" were the victims.
In the U.S., the War on Drugs arguably does the most grave damage to poor communities, especially in black and Latino neighborhoods, where the majority of arrests take place, though whites use drugs more often. The greatest threat to an ethnic minority in the United States isn't that doctrinaire libertarians are going to reverse the Civil Rights Act -- it's that Muslim Americans or immigrants are going to be held without trial in the aftermath of a future terrorist attack because we've allowed our and their civil liberties to erode.
Were it 1964, I'd never vote for Paul, precisely because my desire to protect and expand liberty would've placed the highest priority on the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Paul once said in a speech that "the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty," despite the fact that it clearly enhanced the individual liberty of blacks, the group the state was most implicated in transgressing against.
But it is not 1964. Other injustices better define our times. In 2012, when accused terrorists are held indefinitely without charges or trial, and folks accused of drug possession have their doors broken down by flash-grenade wielding SWAT teams in no-knock raids, Paul would arguably protect the rights of racial, religious or ethnic minority groups better than Obama, regardless of whether Paul is now or ever was a racist, and irrespective of the fact that Obama, as the first black president, has in some ways transformed Americans' thinking on race. (LBJ, who signed the Civil Rights Act, was not know for his personal progressivism on race or women's rights, but he nonetheless backed policies that had powerful consequences for women and minorities).
What I want Paul detractors to confront is that he alone, among viable candidates, favors reforming certain atrocious policies, including policies that explicitly target ethnic and religious minorities. And that, appalling as it is, every candidate in 2012 who has polled above 10 percent is complicit in some heinous policy or action or association. Paul's association with racist newsletters is a serious moral failing, and even so, it doesn't save us from making a fraught moral judgment about whether or not to support his candidacy, even if we're judging by the single metric of protecting racial or ethnic minority groups, because when it comes to America's most racist or racially fraught policies, Paul is arguably on the right side of all of them.
Check out our show tomorrow, where we will be doing a year-end round-up. In upstate South Carolina, join us at 9am on WFIS radio, 1600 AM and/or 94.9 FM on your radio dial. We have online streaming, so drop by.
And winding up with some holiday tackiness/nostalgia. At left: The Great Southern Shopping Center in Columbus, Ohio, my hometown. As you can see by the cars, this photo was probably taken some time in the early-to-mid 60s, and certainly, my fondest Christmas-shopping memories come from this period. (This shopping center was only a short distance from one of my very favorite and beloved Drive-In movie theatres, which I know I have rhapsodized about here before.)
The shopping center featured the SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD in miniature, and we used to walk around them as kids, taking photos and gawking as if they were real. Surely, this was as close as most of us were ever going to get. My absolute favorite was the Taj Mahal, which apparently even had real water for awhile, but mostly I remember dried-up water with dirt and leaves in it. Unfortunately, my dogged net-searches could NOT bring up the Taj Mahal or Eiffel Tower, presented right alongside Woolworth's and hardware stores and everything else. At Christmas time, the tacky Christmas lights and faux-evergreens were draped around the SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD, and we thought it was the greatest thing we had ever seen.
Confession: I still think it was, but I have since learned how uncool it is to say so.
Thanks to Otherstream for the photo of little-Pisa, which brought back a nice Christmas memory.
PS: And if you have never read Truman Capote's amazingly wonderful A CHRISTMAS MEMORY, you should. Too wonderful for words, but get out those kleenex.