Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Cultural Green Light


Maria Ciano (on the right) at a Broncos game.
The rain-delayed Republican National Convention gets underway today, and it puts Mitt Romney in the political spotlight.  He’s got a major task in front of him: to change the perspective of the American people.

Right now, as Mark Steyn has indicated, “He's still Mitt Romney, and he'll put your dog on the roof, your wife in the ground and your Negro houseboy in the cotton field out back.”  (If you don’t understand the brilliant humor within that quote, please see my previous post.)

Mr. Romney has to change that perception over the next three days, and it will be fun to see how he does.  It will be a political battle.

Actually, it might be more of a political war.  While Republicans are fighting the battle with their votes, our opponents are engaged in a more personal battle.

What are their weapons?

MariaCiano employs lying - about her core beliefs.

Alexis Fecteau vandalizes property.

Brett Kimberlin and Neal Rauhauser see SWATting as a useful tool.

Jason Thomas Wilson carries a machete.

Floyd Lee Corkins II prefers a semiautomatic handgun.

Adam Smith is simply a bully.

These people all choose to show their anti-Republican sentiment in ways that are destructive, not only to Republicans, but destructive to themselves as well.

What gives them a “green light” to behave in this fashion?

Do they believe they won’t get caught?  Is there a financial incentive?  Is it a quest for glory?

What could be their motivation?

These are not societal misfits.  One is (was) an Air Force officer.  Another was a CFO.  They are educated and they are successful.

It doesn’t make any sense.

When something is going on within our society that needs to be better understood, an investigator typically investigates.  Unfortunately, here in Denver, 9News doesn’t want to know and The Denver Post believes things are hunky-dory.

Perhaps a social scientist at one of our leading universities sees something worth investigating?

Maybe Ferris Bueller sees it!

Bueller…Bueller…

UPDATE 8/29/2012:
David Chalian of Yahoo! News finds raaaaacism to be the weapon of choice.

UPDATE 9/5/2012:
Bonnie Pollak just throws your ballot away.

UPDATE 9/26/2012:
Michelle Neumann will personally threaten you.

UPDATE 9/28/2012:
Mona Eltahawy uses her moral authority - plus a can of spray paint.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Objectification



Halle Berry at the 2002 Academy Awards - Photo by Steve Granitz / WireImage

Occasionally you might hear a woman complain that she is simply “an object of sexual desire.”  She feels stripped of her humanity and made nothing more than an abstraction.

That’s objectification.

Our culture is well-versed in the concept.  Feminist theory plays up the idea as a demonstration of men exerting power over women.

Most people find objectification to be, well, objectionable.  We like to think of ourselves as complex beings, with free will, moral and ethical constructs, and ideological passions.  Being reduced to a simple object is demeaning.

While objectification is a part of our human nature, there is one particular type of objectification that often goes unrecognized.  It is political objectification.

It showed itself recently at the Summer Olympics in London.  Gabrielle Douglas was celebrated as “the first black woman to win gold in the gymnastics individual all-around.”

Was this really necessary?  Must there be a racial context to every American accomplishment?

The racial context is actually a political context.  Our culture elevates the accomplishments of non-Republicans, and Gabby is a Possible Lifelong Democrat (PLD).

(I know, I can hear you saying, “What’s the matter with this guy?  Does he see politics in everything?”)

Well, maybe.  Our culture has a political agenda, and we need to be aware of it.

In the case of Gabby, she is being classified into an identity group.  She has dark skin tone, and our culture knows this feature is closely associated with people who support the Democratic Party.

Gabby ends up being objectified.  She is singled out.  She is a PLD and she must be exploited.

It would be fun if she fought back against the objectification.  What if an exchange with a reporter went something like this:

Reporter: Gabby, what’s it like being the first African-American gymnastic all-around champion?

Gabby: First, I’m an American, not a hyphenated-American, and I’m part of a team with four other accomplished women.

Reporter: Well, you must be pleased that you’ve come this far in the struggle for equality in our country.

Gabby: I don’t feel any connection to the issue of slavery or to the segregationist policies of the Democratic South.

Reporter: But certainly you have made your people proud.  What do you want to tell other blacks?

Gabby: People are able to compete and get ahead in America because this is the best nation on earth.  Thanks for your time.

That conversation didn’t happen.  Instead, Bob Costas noted the “historic nature” of Gabby’s accomplishments and celebrated her as a PLD.

Yes, in America, we are conditioned to believe we have an obsession with ethnicity and race.  It is our American shame!

But if that were true, what about the treatment of leadership figures like Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, and Allen West?  And who can forget Condoleezza Rice before the Senate Armed Services Committee?

The abuse of these people may not be particularly uplifting or fair, but this is America in the 21st century.  Political objectification is a fact of life, and people like Gabby Douglas endure it.

So what is to be done?  Can our culture be changed?

I think we are taking “baby steps” in that direction, and awareness is a good first step.  When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, his accomplishment was considered “historic.”

That’s fine, but where does it end?  When an American becomes the first black dogcatcher, is that historic?

Awarding people recognition in a given field because of their physical appearance is patently strange.  Yet when our culture does it, it is seen as “right and natural.”   The news is delivered in a serious and reverent tone.  Attention must be paid!

However, from the perspective of the individual, it frequently seems inappropriate.  Gabby is a person with a family and all of the accompanying baggage.  She comes from a broken home and was raised by her mother.  Her journey has not been easy.  To complete her quest and find all that matters in our culture is the color of her skin, has to be an immense letdown.

But, at least she is being celebrated.  A similar story could have been told about Olympian Lolo Jones.  Instead, Lolo found herself the subject of a New York Times story that was less than complementary.

Why the difference in treatment between Gabby and Lolo?  Lolo is a young woman who, to put it gently, is not pro-choice.  (Yes, political objectification is alive and well at the New York Times.)

Again, what can be done?

In the case of the treatment of Lolo, she is perceived as a fundamentalist Christian.  She, like Tim Tebow, is abstaining from sex before marriage.  Clearly, that is a hallmark of the Religious Right!

And so we have two groups of Americans, one identified by physical appearance and the other identified by religious beliefs.  One is celebrated by our culture; the other is subject to demagoguery.  Both are instances of objectification.

We can’t do much about the hatred that is shown toward the Religious Right.  That is promoted by our culture and is largely outside the control of those Christians who are under attack.

However, the objectification of Americans with dark skin tone is wholly reversible.  All that has to be done is to relinquish the proxy association of the Democratic Party.

How to do that?  Simply change voting patterns.

Currently, the Democratic Party assumes that more than 90% of voters with dark skin tone will vote for Democratic Party candidates.  What if that changes to less than 70%?

That would be a shattering wake-up call to the Democratic Party, and a chance for a large group of people who are objectified because of their physical appearance to say, “We’re not going to take it anymore!”

While being taken for granted is not a positive feeling, sending a strong message to those who objectify you is.

I also think it would be pretty darn good for America.

UPDATE 10/3/2012:
All your lady parts are belong to us!  The Democratic Party shows that it "owns" American women.

UPDATE 10/31/2012
 Emily Esfahani Smith has some comments on the Lena Dunham ad for Barack Obama. She accurately refers to it as "re-objectification."

UPDATE 12/18/2012:
Amos Brown, host of an AM radio program in Indianapolis, demonstrates the downside of objectification.  His Twitter comment on the appointment of Tim Scott by Nikki Haley:
"Gee, courtesy of S Carolina GOP, the nation gets Tim Scott an ultra-rightwing, Tea Party devotee US Senator who's Black only in skin color."
Mr. Brown sees allegiance to the Democratic Party a requirement for people with dark skin tone.

UPDATE 1/10/2013:
Melissa Harris Perry makes the point in a backhanded way, saying that even though Justice Clarence Thomas has dark skin tone, he is not "representing necessarily the positions, the issues, even the Constitutional interpretation that is shared by the vast majority of civil rights organizations, by the vast majority of African-Americans."  She warns us not to "assume that any given physical body carries with it a set of political ideas."

Huh? In the United States, 90% of people with dark skin tone are aligned with the Democratic Party, and because Clarence Thomas is conservative, he is deemed un-representative.  Clarence Thomas is not "black enough" because he is not a Democrat.

That's objectification.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Life Imitates The Onion




James Taranto, in his Best of the Web Today series, often has a segment titled, “Life Imitates The Onion.”  It is meant to poke fun at news stories that have a spooky resemblance to parodies published in The Onion.

One that came up recently is our government’s desire to evaluate school discipline in the context of skin tone.  President Obama issued an Executive Order on July 26, 2012 to create a special panel within the federal government.

The title of the order is “White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.”  It creates a commission of up to 25 presidential appointees to improve educational outcomes for students with dark skin tone.  One of the functions of the commission is to promote “a positive school climate that does not rely on methods that result in disparate use of disciplinary tools.”

In 2009, I wrote “The Cat in the Bag” (available for $0.99 on Kindle).  It looks at how the Democratic Party has become a political movement, and includes a couple of chapters as a spoof.

One of those chapters is titled, “Human Rights Come to America” and suggests that our criminal justice system could be improved if we tied punishment to skin tone.  The idea is that the darker your skin, the more lenient would be the extent of any punishment.  If people of pallor end up staying in prison much longer than people with dark skin tone, our justice system would appear to be more “just.”

My hope in advancing such a concept was that people would appreciate the genius of our “equal protection under the law” constitutional framework.  I also wanted to poke fun at the Democratic Party for wanting to grant special treatment to an identity group that tends to always vote with it.

Self-promotion in the name of “equality” needs to be spoofed.

Now comes our President’s executive order, with its provision to monitor school discipline based on skin tone.  Why not take it one step further, as was done in “The Cat in the Bag?”

At some point, people begin to recognize the absurdity and appreciate the elegance of Chief Justice Roberts’ point: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

UPDATE 10/15/2012:
Things are not getting better.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Rope-a-Dope


Muhammad Ali vs. Heavyweight champion George Forman at the “Rumble in the Jungle”, October 30, 1974

Do you remember Muhammad Ali and the “rope-a-dope” tactic?  As a fighter, he let his opponent “punch himself out” while he conserved his strength.

Our 2012 presidential campaign is in its last 100 days, and it is definitely a fight.  Political punches are being thrown left and right as the candidates contend for the title of POTUS.

We hear that the campaigns are “too negative,” meaning that their advertisements tend to highlight the negative characteristics of the opponent instead of the positive characteristics of the candidate.

In actuality, “negative” is an understatement in describing the juggernaut the Democratic Party has unleashed against Governor Romney.  The former governor is under broadside attack.

Michael Moore captures the political essence in an interview reported by the Associated Press:

“[Obama] has a conscience.  He knows the difference between right and wrong, and I’m hoping in a second term…he’ll be the Obama that we want him to be.”

That’s the key.  Our culture tells us that Obama wants to do the right thing, while Romney does not.  As evidence, the Democratic Party brings a list of accusations against the former governor:











These are not assertions from a deranged person; most are from the leadership of the Democratic Party.  In fact, the last three come directly from the Obama Campaign, MoveOn.org, and the Majority Leader of the United States Senate. 

But continuing with the “fight” metaphor, it is worth watching Governor Romney’s response to the attacks and insinuations.  One thing he doesn’t do is engage in a counter-punch strategy.

Keep that in mind as you watch the response of the Obama Campaign to the “you didn’t build that” speech.  The campaign tendered the traditional political excuses: “He didn’t say that!” “It was taken out of context!” “He didn’t mean that!”

The Obama Campaign spent time, money and energy trying to land counter punches.

The Romney Campaign takes a different approach.  Governor Romney either ignores the attacks or issues a one-line response such as, “Put up or shut up!

Does it appear that Governor Romney is successfully using political rope-a-dope against president Obama?  We will know in November.

In the meantime, for all of you who don’t recall how the “Rumble in the Jungle” turned out, here is a look back at “The Greatest”.

UPDATE 8/7/2012:
Linked by The Blogfather! Thanks, Professor Reynolds.  Also linked by WSKY 97.3 FM in Gainesville, FL.  Thanks, Chip.

UPDATE 8/7/2012:
And now we have a new ad from Priorities USA Action that tells us, "Mitt Romney killed my wife!"

UPDATE 8/15/2012:
In a continuation of the accusations, Vice President Biden says, "Romney wants to...put y'all back in chains."

UPDATE 9/14/2012:
The Obama Campaign claims Romney wants to hurt the middle class.  The Wall Street Journal strikes back.

UPDATE 10/2/2012:
Mitt Romney doesn't like his garbageman!

UPDATE 10/11/2012:
Mitt Romney is a liar!