Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A few thoughts about semantics, feminism and how the Left communicates it's ideas

I've been thinking a lot about semantics recently. Specifically, I've been thinking about the way in which the language lefty types such as myself use affects the way our ideas are percieved by others.
Let's see if I can explain this in a way that makes sense to anyone else. I consider myself to be pretty far to the Left. I also have a tendency to be rather an academic sort of person, to read very serious books full of complicated jargon that a person has to already be familiar with in order to understand what the authors are trying to say. In college I used to read linguistic theory for fun (clearly I was quite mad). I also have a tendency to deconstruct situations and political issues using what a friend of mine affectionately refers to as 'Marxist analysis". I am comfortable in the company of academics and intellectuals, and I enjoy theory for the sake of theory.
However, I'm also painfully aware that feminism has an image problem, and I think that part of the problem is our tendency to use obscure academic jargon that no-one outside our own little circle understands. By this I mean the habit of dropping words like patriarchy and heterocentric into casual conversation. I think that we often forget that when we use this kind of language, the vast majority of the population has no idea what the hell we're talking about. Furthermore, I think that some of the words we use are deeply alienating to people who are not already committed to the same philosophy we are.
This language problem isn't limited to feminism. The same issue shows up in all the social sciences and in most Leftist movements. Have you ever tried talking about socialism with someone who has no idea what "proletariat" means? Ever get the feeling that when you do talk about these things a lot of people are looking at you with thinly veiled resentment? If so then you, my friend, may be suffering from Lefty Intellectual Syndrome. I know it well, because I am Exhibit A.
Recently I've been running a little experiment in which, when participating in conversations in the blogosphere, I make a conscious attempt not to use lefty intellectual verbiage. Pretentious sociological terms such as "symbolic interactionism" (always my favourite example of academic babble) have been banished from my vocabulary. I am also making an effort not to use loaded terms that I know are often misinterpreted, "patriarchy" and "male privilege" among them.
The results so far are quite interesting. There's one blog that I regularly comment on which is maintained by a male women's studies professor. This particular blog has for some reason attracted a number of MRA commenters. Since launching project "drop the academic jargon", I've found that many of these same MRAs have become strangely civil towards me. One of them even made the comment that I had "earned his respect". I've been trying to parse out how much of this is based on what I've actually been saying and how much is based on the way in which I'm saying it. If anyone wants to chime in with an opinion I'd be happy to direct you to the blog in question.
This has got me thinking about how the Left "sells" our ideology in a more general sense. I think that part of the issue we often encounter is our own belief that we shouldn't have to sell our ideas at all. We assume that our natural moral and philosophical superiority is so self-evident that everyone else should just grasp the rightness of our position immediately and rush to join us. The problem it, that doesn't work. The Right is kicking our collective asses in large part because of their mastery of the ability to manipulate via the use of semantics. I suspect that if we keep playing fair and refusing to play the game of semantics we're going to keep getting our asses handed to us. Maybe it's worth exploring the possibility of actually trying to tweak the language we use in such a way as to get our points across better. Maybe we need to find and deploy a leftist Frank Luntz. On the other hand, in doing so we might lose our souls and forget what we really stand for. What do you think?
Yet another reason why I hate PETA
I found the following story in the New York Times

Beastly killing unleashes attack by PETA's foes

The Hollywood-cozy animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is nursing a big PR black eye over a terrible dog-and-cat-killing incident involving PETA employees last month in North Carolina.

Two PETA workers are facing felony charges of animal cruelty after they allegedly collected puppies and kittens from shelters in Ahoskie, N.C., euthanized them in a van and threw the carcasses in a Dumpster behind a Piggly Wiggly store.

So yesterday one of PETA's enemies, the Foundation for Biomedical Research, crowed about PETA's image injuries in the Hollywood bible, Variety.

"If your name is on this list, fire your publicist," the $11,000 ad taunts 50 celebs - including Kim Basinger, Moby, Ally Sheedy and Al Sharpton - who are on the honorary committee for PETA's 25th anniversary gala in September.

"The recent gruesome discovery of 31 dead dogs and puppies in a Dumpster," the ad continues, "casts serious doubt on the legitimacy of this ... organization."

All but two of the PETA celebs contacted yesterday didn't return Lowdown's phone calls.

Sharpton said he joined PETA's honorary committee out of his love for animals, "and this is literally the first I've heard about the killing of any pets." He hasn't decided whether to let PETA keep using his name.

Sheedy defended PETA and criticized the animal-testing advocates, who are funded by universities, drug companies and research facilities.

"Why don't they take some fake blood and throw it on a fur coat?" she joked. "I don't know anything about the case. But it's one of those things where this is an organization that's done so much good for so long. I'll go to the party if I'm in L.A. I'm sure the two dog killers won't be there."

I have always had severe doubts about PETA's real committment to animal welfare, and if this is true it just underscores all the doubts I have about them. What kind of a psycho thinks that killing some animals is justified in order to call attention to the suffering of other animals?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I stole this statement made by Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo from Jesse at Pandagon.
"That being the case, perhaps the civilized world must intensify its approach," Tancredo says. "Does that mean the United States should be retargeting its entire missile arsenal on Mecca today? Does it mean we ought to be sending Stealth bombers on runs over Medina? Clearly not.
"But should we take any option or target off the table, regardless of the circumstances? Absolutely not, particularly if the mere discussion of an option or target may dissuade a fundamentalist Muslim extremist from strapping on a bomb-filled backpack, or if it might encourage 'moderate' Muslims to do a better job cracking down on extremism in their ranks."
OK, I've been trying not to do the "I grew up in the Middle East so I know more about this than you do" thing too much, because I don't want to sound patronising, but I have to say...are you out of your fucking mind? The Middle East is already buzzing with anger like a gigantic hornet's nest - why does a certain segment of the American population want to hit it with a stick over and over again like a pinata? Are they actually trying to start WW3, or are they just too stupid to grasp the likely results of this kind of jingoistic idiocy?
A little history lesson for those who haven't read much about teh radicalisation of one Osama Bin Laden. He was an angry young man with issues for a long time, and his involvement in the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan didn't exactly help to make him more reasonable. But the final straw that seems to have moved him from generalised anger to a specific intent to punish the US was the moment when US troops entered Saudi Arabia. I used to live in The Kingdom, and I remember seeing maps on CNN explaining where the US soldiers were stationed and getting a cold queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. The troops were much too close to Mecca and Medina, closer than there was any need for them to be. At the time I wondered why the Saudi government was allowing them to get that close, and which idiot in the DOD though that placing them there was a good idea. I remember Muslim friends, moderate people who are more or less culturally Muslim but not at all observant, flinching at the sight of those maps and asking why the troops needed to be there, why they couldn't just be stationed by the Kuwaiti border or in the areas around Jeddah and Riyadh. Even Hussian wasn't crazy enough to attack the holy cities - why did the troops need to be there?
It's hard to explain to people who didn't grow up around Muslims just how important Mecca and Medina are. Non-Muslims still aren't allowed into either city except in very special circumstances. I've actually been to Medina, smuggled in the back seat of a car wearing an abaya and full veil. It's a beautiful city and I'm glad I saw it, but even as a child I knew I was taking my own life into my hands by going there and could have been imprisoned or killed just for being there. And I was a 14 year old girl with no malicious intentions travelling with Muslims. Imagine how much more threatening and offensive it is to have military battalions approaching the area. Even I, with all my years in the Muslim world, can't really explain the special power that Mecca and Medina hold in the hearts of Muslims. The closest analogy I can think of is the way Jews feel about Jerusalem, and even that doesn't really capture it. The pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the pillars of Islam, a holy duty. Even I, a non-Muslim, react with a kind of visceral horror at the idea of Us troops being too near the city. The idea of someone actually aiming a nuclear warhead at the holy city? Horrifying. And very frightening.
If this were actually to become policy the Muslim world would react with the kind of wrath that I'm not sure most Americans can even imagine. Picture how Americans would react to someone pissing on the Constitution and you're still not even close. This is simply madness. And if there were ever an actual strike made against either holy city? Every Muslim in the world would consider it a religious duty to seek retribution.
This is the kind of thing that has had me seriously considering joining the Foreign Office. The current Western policy towards the Middle East is so wrongheaded and so stunning in its cultural inteptitude that it makes me want to bang my head against a concrete wall. I keep wanting to jump in and do something, explain to the people making policy and running the media the depth of their ignorance and how dangerous that ignorance is. The lack of basic understanding of the Middle East by most Westerners is astonishing. It feels like out leaders are setting us on a collision course that we don't need to be on, and I don't know what to do about it. Most Westerners seem completely unwilling to look at the very genuine grievances that Muslim world has and try to address them. They also seem to be unwilling to see how the failure to do so is driving poor, unemployed and frustrated young men into the arms of fundamentalists. Instead of an effort to understand what the underlying causes of conflict are we get dismissal of all Muslims as zealots and veiled (or in the case of Mr Tancredo not so veiled) threats. Why are they doing this? What can they hope to accomplish by this way of dealing with the Muslim world? Why is it so damn hard to get people in the West to look at Muslims as people with real concerns are real grievences?
This is how my blog got it's name, by the way. Ever since 9/11 I've felt like the prophetess herself, making horrible predictions which I desperately wish would turn out to be wrong, only to watch them come true over and over again. When I sat and watched the planes plowing into the World Trade Center the first thing I said to my husband was "London is next". I even guessed that it would be the tube that was hit (the tube is far more important to London then either the airports or the financial center are). I knew that the Shrub was going to be re-elected even as I campaigned against him. And I knew that at some point some moron would suggest bombing Mecca. I also know what will happen if they do. I only hope that this time I will prove to be wrong, and that someone will intervene and gently explain to the idiots in power exactly why pissing off every Muslim on the planet is a very bad idea. I would also like to think that someone would explain to them why this idea is also wrong from a moral perspective, why hitting civilian targets is fundamentally not acceptable, and that like it or not they're going to have to accept sharing the planet with people they don't like. I'm have to admit that right now I'm not feeling very hopeful.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Career Crisis
On the off chance that there's anyone actually reading this blog I thought I'd lay out my particular career dilemma to see if anyone might have some helpful advice. I am at somewhat of a crossroads, and I need to make a decision soon. Decisions are not my strong point. My most noticeable flaw is a tendency to prevaricate, to fail to make plans and follow through on them. This is apparently entirely typical of Third Culture kids. So if there are any of them reading maybe they can commiserate.
Here is my problem. I want to be a writer. Specifically, I want to be a journalist focusing on long op/ed type pieces about culture and politics. In an ideal world, I would really love to write about cultures which the Western mainstream doesn't understand and in which I have a strong interest. I have a long-standing obsession with Russia and with China, and if I were to name my dream job right now it would be being stationed as a foreign correspondent in either Moscow or Shanghai.
Here is the problem with this idea. My undergrad degree is in Psychology. Clearly this has little relevance to journalism. I had hoped that, given that journalism has traditionally been a vocational field in which one can enter without any academic qualification and learn on the job, I would be able to get a basic entry-level reporting job and work my way up. What I have discovered over the past few years is that the profession doesn't seem to work that way any more. Nowadays getting into the field seems to require a journalism degree, preferably an MA, and multiple internships. I am therefore considering going to grad school. There are many problems with this. Firstly, I don't really have the money. I could of course get a student loan, but given how poorly paid most jobs in journalism are I'm worried that I wouldn't be able to pay off the loan once I graduate. Secondly, unless I get into Berkeley I would probably have to move. I'm not sure that I even want to go to Berkeley - I know several people who've gone through their MA program and I don't think that it focuses on the areas I'm interested in. Columbia would be a better fit, but it would also be prohibitively expensive (see the earlier comment about student loans and watch me start to panic). Another option is to apply to grad schools in the UK. This option offers the tantalizing possibility of moving back to London, which is something I want to do anyway. However, London is the third most expensive city in the world. Thus, again we are back to the financial issue.
Honestly, I'm stuck and starting to panic. I'm beginning to think that I should just abandon the whole idea and content myself with becoming an office drone and working in a job that I have no real interest in but which pays the bills. This prospect scares the shit out of me. I don't want to wake up at 50 and wonder what the hell I did with my life. I don't want to lose whatever it is that makes me myself.
There is a second option. I could go get a Masters in Psychology and become a therapist. This option would also involve student loans, but it would also involve ending up in a job in which I would be earning enough money to pay back those loans. Clearly this is a plus. I think I would make a pretty good therapist. I don't hate the idea. I don't love it either. It would be the safe, boring, sensible thing to do. Why can't I bring myself to do it?
There is yet another option that has recently occurred to me. I grew up in the Middle East. I have a pretty decent level of knowledge of the region, and a strong level of cultural competency. Physically I can pass for Persian or Turkish quite easily. Recently I've been thinking about joining the British diplomatic service. This isn't an entirely new idea. When I was in high school a recruiter from MI6 tried to persuade me to follow this very path. The UK lacks people with a background in the Middle East and knowledge of Islam, and right now it needs those people more than it ever has. I went to a very fancy British boarding school, and am thus in the group which the service prefers to recruit from. I might actually be useful and able to do some real good in such a role. If I made the effort to learn Arabic the fact that I can pass as Arab would come in very handy. I've always had the desire to do something with some sort of redeeming social value. Third Culture kids are notorious for the fact that they make excellent diplomats. I like to travel, I adapt easily to new environments, I have unusually good social and interpersonal skills - in other words, I fit the profile. The idea intrigues me.
So, what to do? I need to make a decision soon. Ever since I turned thirty I have an eerie sense that the clock is ticking and I need to take some kind of action. I feel like I'm running out of time. I've been mulling all this over and not getting anywhere. Does anyone else have any useful insights, any brilliant suggestions, or any personal experience with the fields that I'm considering that might help me break through this impasse?
To add to the confusion, my best friend thinks I should be a therapist, my grandmother things I should write novels, and my husband thinks that I should go get a PhD and be a university professor. I think my head may explode.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Right now I really love my hometown...
Only 24 hours after a major terrorist attack, London is up and running again. The tube is open, the buses are running (although they're diverting traffic around Russell Square), and people are going back to work. Not that I expected anything less, but still, it's good to see.
I hope that Blair and his cronies don't try to use this as an excuse to press ahead with their erosion of civil liberties plan. The ID card scheme was a terrible idea 48 hours ago, and it's still a terrible idea now. Biometric passports are still a stupid idea, and one which would drain public money that would be better spent elsewhere. Detention without trial is still fundamentally unnacceptable. I hope that, in the rush to figure out what happened and try to prevent future attacks, no-one forgets that.
On another note, once they start sifting through the evidence, shouldn't they be able to get some useful information from the web of CCTV cameras that are all over the city? Personally I've always hated the idea of CCTV - it seems inherantly fascist to be constantly spying on people as they go about their daily business. There's something creepily 1984-like about it. However, if there was ever a case in which they might be useful this is it. The question is, could you really pick anyone carrying a suspicious package out of the crowds at Kings Cross or Liverpool Street? Especially given that the devices seem to have been on timers, so they wouldn't ever know what day they should be looking for. If they can't find any useful evidence in this case I'd say that seriously undercuts the justification for having the damn things in the first place.

Here's a perfectly British response to this whole thing, taken from the Guardian. The speaker is an average guy, a cleaner called Albert they found making his way into work on Friday morning.
"I know I'm sat at the back of the bus and yesterday this would have been ripped off. You can't imagine what happened to the people onboard, but we have to get on with things. People are all going in to work today - life has to go, doesn't it?"

He sounds just like my grandmother when she talks about WW2. Here's hoping that the Alberts are still in the majority and that sanity will therefore prevail.
Still in a wierd mood and thinking about London. I just thought of a better and more appropriate "fuck you" to the people who planned this than anything I could write. This is more or less the UK's unoffical national anthem (and notably less jingoistic than GSTQ) and is making me tear up right now. I'm hoping that my countrymen don't descend into the same kind of anti-Arab hysteria that afflicted the US after 9/11, and I don't think they will, but just in case it's worth remembering that this is the song that really represents the UK best.

I vow to thee, my country—all earthly things above—
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago—
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Just a quick note if anyone is actually reading this. Is it completely crazy that, as soon as I heard about the London bombings, the first thing I thought was "I want to go home"? Home being London, of course. You would think that the rational response would be to be glad that I'm over here, out of harm's way.
I think it says something about what love means. If you love anything, whether it be a person or a place, when it's wounded your first response is to want to help, or if you can't help at least be there to offer whatever comfort and support you can. The wierdest thing about today, when I've spent the whole day glued to internet and TV news reports of the attacks, is that it doesn't make me want to avoid the city at all, it just reminds me why I love the place so much. Look at the TV reports and see all the people of all ethnic, religious and class backgrounds helping and comforting each other. Watch how strangely calm everyone is - the feeling is that we've all lived through much worse than this and have endured. We'll get through this too.
So yes, wierd as it is, right now there's nothing I want more than to go home.
OK, now I'm really pissed off...
Check out this link to Fox News (thanks to Jesse at Pandagon for the heads up about this)
So, what they're saying is that London being hit by multiple bombings, 40 people dead and 300 injured, and the infrastructure of one of the world's financial capitals shut down for the day is a good thing? Are these people smoking crack?
Hey asshole. Scotland Yard has been tracking terrorist activities since before you idiots had ever heard of Al Quaeda. They've prevented 12 previous attempts at terror attacks in the UK since 9/11 alone. Where do you get off complaining that the British have been insufficiently attentive to terrorism? Have you people never heard of the IRA - the UK has been dealing with terrorism since you were in diapers.
This part was particularly charming. And I quote...
"It puts the Number 1 issue right back on the front burner right at the point where all these world leaders are meeting. It takes global warming off the front burner. It takes African aid off the front burner. It sticks terrorism and the fight on the war on terror, right up front all over again."
Yep, why worry about the millions suffering and dying in Africa when we can be selfish pricks and just worry about ourselves? Hey, isn't it fun to be a conservative?
London Calling
I awoke today to the news that my most beloved place in the world, the city I still consider home, has been the victim of a coordinated bombing attack, most probably by Al Quaeda. No matter how hard I try, I can't find the words to express how angry and sad I am right now. How could they do this? This is madness. 1 in every 7 Londoners is a Muslim. What kind of sociopathy does it take to kill your own people and then claim that you're doing it for them?
Part of the reason this seems so colossaly unfair, so completely without reason, is that London is the most diverse city in the world. Look at the Guardian ethnic map from a few months ago - there are at least 135 different languages spoken in London. The city shelters multiple well established ethnic communities. In the time I spent there I lived along side Cameroonians, Muslims and Irishmen in Finsbury Park, Egyptians in Richmond, a rich diversity of Arabs in Edgware Road, people from every African nation you can imagine in Brixton, Japanese college students in Camden, and Indians and Pakistanis in the East End. One of my college professors got it right when he described London as not so much a melting pot as a salad bowl - all the ingredients live harmoniously side by side and complement each other beautifully, while none of them ever lose their unique flavour, or are ever expected to. It's a perfect metaphor for a truly unique city.
Reading the coverage in The Guardian, you can't help but be struck by London's diversity. Just look at the names of the eyewitnesses and you'll see people from every continent on earth. If the lunatics who run Al Quaeda wanted to punish the British for colonialism this was a very poor way to go about it. There are simply too many people affected who had nothing to do with colonialism at all. Look at the middle aged Jamaican woman wrapped in a blanket crying in one of the shots they keep showing on CNN - what the hell does she have to do with colonialism? Why should she pay the price?
You know what really pisses me off about this, what makes it perfectly clear how little these people really care about other Muslims? They hit Edgware Road. For those of you who've never lived in the capital, Edgware Road cuts through the city from the West End, starting at Marble Arch, and goes all the way out of the city. The stretch of Edgware Road starting at the tube station and running for at least a couple of miles is mostly composed of Arab businesses, such as hardware stores and groceries and so on. Walk down the street and you'll see old Egyptian men sitting in the back of their stores smoking Hukkah pipes and playing backgammon or cards. Edgware Road tube, which was one of the stations targeted, sits directly next to one of the most establised Muslim sections of the city. What kind of hypocrisy does it take to target this neighborhood and claim that you're doing it in the name of Islam?
From what I can see this attack was designed to cripple the capital's infrastructure rather than to inflict maximum casualties. If you look at the stations hit, they were well spaced out in such a way as to bring the entire transit system down. Which also tells me that an insider planned this. Someone who knows London, who understands the traffic flow during rush hour. Whis also proves once again, for those morons who keep talking about restricting immigration, that it wouldn't have made any difference. This was done by someone who's been in London for a while.
The odd thing is that there's almost a sense of relief from most Londoners I've spoken to. Everyone knew that something like this was going to happen sooner or later, and most people are just glad that there weren't more casualties. The city has an excellent public health infrastructure, so the wounded are being well attended to. In a moment of strange irony, the bus that was attacked was directly in front of the headquarters of the British Medical Association when the bomb blew, so a whole building full of doctors ran out to help tend the wounded. In general people are just quietly coping and getting on with their lives, and there was remarkably little panic. If whoever planned this thought that they could reduce the city of London to hysteria they seriously underestimated us. Anyone who's lived in London for any length of time has lived under constant threat of IRA bombings. It's part of living in the city, and you adjust to it. There are also still many people who lived through the Blitz, and this certainly isn't going to reduce them to panic.
Tony Blair has a lot to answer for here. It was his decision to drag Britain into a war that we had no reason to be involved in that led to this attack. If there's anything positive that might come out of this, it's that this might lead to Blair being ousted as leader of the Labour Party. He's allowed his own personal religious convictions to interfere with the way he runs the country, and that is simply unacceptable. It's time for more rational minds to prevail, and Gordon Brown is waiting in the wings. Blair should pay for getting Britain into this mess with his job, and we should have a new leader capable of steering us towards a more intelligent foreign policy.
The overall feeling I'm left with is one of sadness. This is all so completely pointless. Ironically enough though, given that the real target of the anger of many Islamic militants seems to be modernity itself, London is actually a great target. The city represents the modern ideal of multiculturalism in action, and on the whole it works pretty damn well. It stands as living proof that people of all cultures can live together and thrive, and that's an ideal worth standing up for. So, from one displaced Londoner to the idiots that planned this attack - kiss my ass. You're not intimidating us, and you never will. London has faced up to bigger and better than you and never crumbled, and it's not going to crumble now. What is going to happen is that people are going to come together and support each other. We are also not going to turn on our Muslim brethren, which may have been part of what you were hoping for, to radicalise young British Muslims and push them into extremism. Everyone who's ever been lucky enough to spend any time in London knows exactly why our beautiful, vibrant multicultural city is worth preserving, and nothing you can do is ever going to change that.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Why the Democrats are going to keep losing elections
It's the minorities, stupid. Or to put it more clearly, it's the fact that the people currently running the show are determined to re-define any demographic other than "soccer mom" or "NASCAR dad" as a minority that can be marginalized and ignored with impunity.
Let me explain. Anyone paying attention to the lefty blogosphere in the last few weeks will have noticed The Great Rape Debate. For those who somehow managed to miss it, this debate started when vacationing teenager Natalee Holloway vanished in Aruba, presumed raped and probably murdered, and the MSM decided that this was a far more interesting story than America's ill-fated attempt at colonialism in Iraq. Several bloggers posted about this story, and this quickly turned into a discussion of how women are just so silly to walk around drunk on tropical islands, and that's why they get raped. Of course many women quickly jumped into the discussion to point out that when a crime is committed surely the person who is to blame is the criminal. These women were immediately shouted down by a chorus of supposedly liberal guys who INSISTED that the conversation return to the more proper subject of how many ways we can find to blame the victim for her own rape. Most of this was couched in terms of the men just wanting to HELP us poor misguided women, who apparently are simply not bright enough to realise that wearing miniskirts is dangerous, dammit!
The reason that I highlight this particular discussion is that it's a perfect microcosm of what's happening on the left as a whole. The straight white guys are insisting on their RIGHT to make policy for everyone else. They are apparently deeply offended by the very suggestion that anyone else should have a say in how the party is run. The blow-up over the pie-fight ad at Kos was another perfect example of this. What got most of the women so pissed off wasn't so much the ad itself as it was Markos's snippy and condescending way of responding to criticism. The basic gist of it was how DARE the women think that they had any right to complain about something that offended them. Why, they were acting like they actually had some role to play in the movement other than serving coffee and making cookies. They were acting is if their opinions mattered. Perish the thought!
The saddest part is that Markos clearly still doesn't get why so many women are so angry with him. The reason is that he, and many other people on the left, have apparently decided that any issue that predominantly concerns women is a "minority issue" and not something that the boys who set the policy need to concern themselves with. Many male Democrats are starting to do the same thing with abortion, dismissing it as a minority issue that doesn't really need to be part of the party's platform. We heard the same thing about gay marriage in the aftermath of the last election, with far too many liberals complaining that Gavin Newsom lost the election for the Democrats by allowing a few thousand gay people to get married in San Francisco.
I call bullshit. Women, gay people, labor unions, people of color - these are not "special interest groups", they are what smart strategists commonly refer to as the party's BASE. No Democrat will ever win a national election without the support of these groups. And you know what? If the Democrats continue to marginalize their own base they don't deserve to win. If we don't care about abortion, gay rights, support for the poor, the labor movement and support for racial minorities what the hell do we stand for anyway? What you're left with is a half-assed version of the Republican Party, and who really wants that?
If a movement is to have any meaning, and any hope of succeeding, it has to stand for something. If the Democrats keep on selling out their own constituents in an attempt to win over the elusive swing voter why should anyone support them at all?
So if you guys, and I do mean guys, want to keep selling your own allies down the river go right ahead. Just don't assume that you can count on us to shut up and accept our own marginalization for much longer. We're all getting mighty tired of listening to you pontificate about how any issue that doesn't affect you personally isn't really that important and can be used as a bargaining chip to appease the religious right. If you want our support you need to earn it. You can start by actually listening to what we're saying instead of just lecturing us about what "the important issues" are. Because you know what, the way you're discussing the abortion issue is making your contempt for anyone you deem to be a minority and thus unimportant absolutely crystal clear.
If half of your party is telling you that something is important do you know what that means? It means that it really is fucking important, and it's about time that you started acknowledging that, or risk seeing the progressive movement splinter into a thousand pieces and lose any chance at taking back the White House in 2008.
You have been warned.
You know, I'm a pretty positive person in general. I tend to be willing to stick things out, try to make things work. For the last few years I've been watching the rightward drift of the USA with considerable alarm, but I have clung to the idea that surely people will come to their senses eventually.
That idea is becoming harder to hold on to every day. The retirement of Sandra Day O'Conner may just be the final straw for me. Between my friends on the left falling over each other in their rush to concede defeat and argue that we'll just have to accept that Roe is going to be overturned, and my enemies on the right threatening that Bush better not nominate Alberto Gonzales because he's just not conservative enough, I'm about ready to pack up and leave. This is why I held on to my British passport and didn't become an American citizen, folks - I had a queasy feeling that something like this might happen.
I keep telling myself that the wingnuts are in the minority (there are about 25 million of them according to some estimates), but the fact is, minority or not they're running the show. These are not people who see politics as a civilized conversation between reasonable adults, these are people who see politics as the WWF with nuclear weapons, complete with bizarrely exaggerated machismo and a level of staging and fakery that a reasonably intelligent five year old could see through. Not only that, but they seem to have read A Handmaiden's Tale and interpreted it as a how-to book (now retitled Sexism for Dummies). And boy do they love their guns. And hate gay people. And anyone else who's not a married middle-class white man.
I just don't get it. The country is going to hell in a handbasket and hardly anyone seems to notice. The British papers put it well on the day after Bush was "re-elected" (I'm still not convinced that he really won Ohio) - how can 250 million people be so dumb?
Given that Tony Blair seems determined to make London, my old home town, into a prime target for Al Quaeda (Scotland Yard has already foiled 12 cases of attempted terrorism since 2001, and it's only a matter of time before one of them succeeds), I'm not sure that going home is such a great option right now either.
Canada's not really all that cold, right? I can buy some thermals, maybe invest in a good pair of snow boots. I already love hockey. I'm smart and well educated, shouldn't be too hard to find a job. I know some of the words to Oh Canada, or at least enough of them to sing in a drunken haze at sporting events. I look really cute in my winter coat with the furry hood. Think they'll let me in?