Archive for the ‘ Politics ’ Category

Violence : The Need for a Scapegoat Returns

Over the past few days, Sarah Palin’s rhetoric has constantly been brought up as the overarching scapegoat for the tragic casualties of an assassination attempt in Tuscon, AZ. And as ridiculous and thoughtless Palin’s comments were, as well as how clueless her reaction to people telling her to tone down the rhetoric have been, we need to step back and consider something for a moment.

Millions of people went to Palin’s Facebook and Twitter sites and read the comments she made, and glanced over the crosshair graphics she posted. Millions of people did not march to Palin’s targets and attempt to carry out Palin’s metaphor to its most literal and extreme degree. Millions of people have been indoctrinated to the likes of Beck, Limbaugh, and countless other people who have used fear and violence as a means to push their ideology, and yet millions of people are not laying strewn across a battlefield of Fox News idolators versus the rest of the world. For all the snuffed-out matches tossed into the garbage can that is our media system over the past few years, we have not seen a fire erupt and burn our home to the ground. Most followers, even if they had the gaul to threaten harm against our government (a practice as old as time), did not take the final plunge into becoming a murdering psychopath.

According to his testimony, this guy had been “aggravated” by what he felt was poor treatment at the hands of Ms. Giffords long before Palin was talking about reloading or putting crosshairs over election districts, and both his testimony and evidence would suggest this aggravation soon turned into an obsession. According to those who knew him, over the past few years his behavior had become increasingly erratic, troublesome, and focused on death, due to a “mental downfall” that, based on his behavior, started to spiral out of control. It is not difficult to put two and two together, and to understand that this is bigger than Palin, and ought to be bigger than the partisan bickering that has resulted from the tragedy. An unstable young man used an obsession to reach the bottom of his fall, and the lesson here is not that gun rhetoric is the root of all evil, or that Sarah Palin is capable of inciting people to slaughter the innocent, or even that gun control is now more important than ever before.

It is that we, as a society, need to finally stop blaming this and that for every tragedy that arises, stop attempting to politicize every tragedy with rhetoric about how video games are destroying our country, or how conservative rhetoric is breeding a country of insanity, and take some personal responsibility. This young man’s behavior screamed for attention for years, and we ought to have given it to him. We should not have needed to wait until he was a threat to “others” before we intervened; as a civilized society, we ought to have had the compassion to witness the threat to himself and want to help him in whatever ways necessary (whether that be simply talking to him, or, in extreme cases, seeking professional help for him). We must stop living with the illusion that everyone else is to blame, and embrace the reality that we as a society are to blame for conditions that allow for a man like this to fall through the cracks, and to only get the attention he requires after committing a travesty such as this. Only once we have accepted our responsibility as members of a civilized society, can we truly begin to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.


The Curious Case of Dr. Laura Schlessinger

So naturally my first real entry must be on Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a conservative talk show host who not only uttered a racial slur almost a dozen times on a recent show, but willingly resigned from her position and then claimed it was because she felt her 1st Amendment rights were being infringed, as millions of people condemned the tirade she issued on the air. Because there is no better way to kickstart a blog than to add my two cents to one of the most controversial events in the news today.

The incident began when a black woman called into her show, saying she was upset that her white husband would not stand up for her when his white friends said racist things towards her. Dr. Laura then asked for an example, as a lot of people tend to be “hypersensitive” about these things. The woman gives an example of how one of their neighbors tends to ask her how black people do certain things, and says she is offended by this; Dr. Laura tells her it isn’t racist, and mentions a lot of black people voted for Obama just because he was black, and that she made a joke that white guys can’t jump, and that neither is racist. The caller then mentions that some of her husband’s friends throw the n-word around, to which Dr. Laura replies that all one hears from black comics is “n*****, n*****, n*****.” She then goes on to comment on how there’s “a black man as president and there’s more complaining about racism,” and then says that a word can’t be restricted to race (repeating “n*****, n*****, n*****”), and telling the woman not to “NAACP me” and that “if you’re that hypersensitive about race and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race.” The latter being because as soon as you marry out of your race, people instinctively wonder “What do blacks think? What do whites think? What do Jews think? What do Catholics think?” She then goes on to talk about how black activists are fueling bogus claims about racism, and how she had hoped that people wouldn’t try to “demonize whites hating blacks” once a black guy became president, but that unfortunately power is causing these people to complain even more about racism. And that it’s sad that this is happening.

(listen to the full exchange here.)

Wow, where to begin? The beginning, I guess. Are comments about “What do think?” racist? In my opinion, to even ask such a question about a race (whose people are only bonded together by the color of their skin–not by philosophical ideals or anything similar) is to have such little disregard for the personal experiences of everyone in the race, to assume that they can all be categorized by some stereotype or some central dogma, and thus to assume there is no variety, no free thought amongst the people of that race.  In other words, it is to ignore the fact that each person in the category (black, white, etc) possesses their own personality and life story that shapes the foundations of their opinions and habits, and therefore to strip all concept of free will and intelligence from the entire group, and to refer to them as a mindless collective who follows one unified doctrine. So to answer the question, while it may not technically be “racist” (if a black person asks a white person what white people think about cats, and is under the assumption that every race has some general opinion of cats, then he is not being racist, as he is subjecting every race to the same generalization), it is strongly bigoted and close-minded at best, and the woman was not “hypersensitive” simply because she was tired of being treated as a drone of the black race. The same logic applies to “white men can’t jump” comments, etc. I could comment upon the Obama thing as well, but perhaps I’ll save that for another post.

Next comes Dr. Laura’s comments on black comedians and who is “allowed” to use racial slurs. Ignoring the fact that she also indulges a bit in over-generalization, she fails to understand that the word she throws around is a word that (predominantly white) people have used for decades to demean and humiliate blacks, and that this is the reason why the word is not one that everyone is entitled to fling around as they please. She also fails to understand the concept of taking something horrible (in this case, a racial slur) and internalizing it in the culture in an attempt to either transform it into something non-offensive, or to utilize it as a vaccine against its usage outside the culture (where it will more often be used for offense than for anything else). These are fundamental sociological phenomenon that are seen in a number of other instances (for example, there are studies on how female friends call each other b****, in part to make them immune from the insult when venturing outside of the “safety” of their friend circle), and Dr. Laura’s inability to recognize any of this only further highlight how little she understands about the topic she felt prepared to rant about.

Even more alarming is her comment that basically implies, “If you can’t take a bigoted joke, stay inside your race, because it is normal for people outside your race/religion/etc to ask you bigoted questions.” As if it is a healthy part of life to assume everyone is a walking set of stereotypes, and that it is the caller’s fault if she gets offended when she learns otherwise. To even suggest social segregation unless you have the “sense of humor” to laugh at blatant bigoted assumptions or insensitive behavior is one of the craziest things I have heard of in recent times.

But the saddest thing of all is her opinion that a black man is president, and therefore people ought to stop “complaining” about race relations. It’s a common opinion that stems from the opinion, “A black guy is president, therefore racism no longer exists.” This could not be farther from the truth, as Obama’s journey to the White House alone indicates that racism is alive and thriving in our nation. If this isn’t already evident, just look at all the people who assume he’s Muslim, who assume he wanted universal health care just to help “his” people, and who talk about him as a black man when he’s really a multi-racial man. Or, look at how many times he had to place pictures of his (white) mother in his campaign ads and how many times he had to make reference to his white relatives during his campaign, simply to get people to worry less about the prospect of his harboring the great Black Uprising of the century, or about reparations for blacks (and think about all the people who still fear he has such plans in the works). Aside from that, statistics from hundreds of sources will show that blacks are still being discriminated against everywhere, from education to the work force to buying homes, and are more than enough to prove that people do indeed still have reason to “complain” about racism. Racism never left; it’s just less apparent, having been shoved behind the rainbows and unicorns that cropped up when Obama became president.

So Dr. Laura, I will give you that racism is not as bad as it was fifty years ago, when people were being publicly lynched in the streets. And I’ll give you that after decades of persecution and discrimination, a fair number of blacks are over-sensitive about race relations. But you still have a LOT to learn about when it comes to race and bigotry, and you’re not getting out of any of the other claims you made.

But even after all this, I still have yet to get to the most hilarious part of the whole ordeal: that, after being allowed to keep her show on the air, even when sponsors are puling out left and right, she decides to take her show off the air herself, claiming the move is to “regain her first amendment rights.” In other words, Dr. Laura is allowed to say a multitude of bigoted things, is allowed to keep her job despite saying these offensive things, and then has the nerve to act as though her rights are being infringed just because millions of people condemn her for what she did, and because some of her sponsors no longer wish to be associated with her after what she did. The First Amendment protects her right to say what she said, but it also gives everyone else the right to express that they have a problem with what she said (whether that expression be through speech or by non-malicious action, such as pulling sponsorship).  One should not claim her rights are being ignored when she is ignoring everyone else’s right to have the same freedoms; it is hypocritical and, frankly, a bit petty.

So in conclusion, Dr. Laura, while I agree with close to nothing you uttered on your radio show and quite frankly consider most of it to be grossly insulting to the human race in general, I will respect your right to say such things. Hopefully you will in time come to respect my right to post counter-arguments like this as well.

Even more alarming
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