Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Some of Us Can Relate

Right-wing commentators are still whipping on the dead horse that is the Obama/Rev. Wright controversy, despite the fact that nobody else much gives a damn. Most people that wouldn't vote for him before won't anyway, and most people who would, will.

Pundits are puffing with outrage--why aren't they judging Obama as harshly as they would a white politician in the same bind? Why didn't he walk out in a rage on hearing Wrights's noxious opnions? Well, some of the 'tudes are widely shared, even if not P.C. ( I remember one columnist who was shocked that Wright stated that rich, white people controlled the country. I'm a midwestern, middle-American white lady, and I don't this is necessarily a far-out or inaccurate idea. The horror!). Beyond that, I think I know why people are accepting Obama's ambivalent attitude towards the pastor--rejecting the bigotry, and accepting what he likes about him.

The selective acceptance is something that Americans are used to doing all the time, especially if they are wimmenfolk. How many Catholic women sit in churches and listen to a condemnation of birth control that they may well use, and abortions that they may well have had, and keep their mouths shut without walking out in protest? Lots of Catholic women just ignore their spiritual leaders on one particular thing or another, or accept that the church where they put their money, time, and on whom they depend to educate their children will never be in their corner on particular aspects of how they live. Lots of older women accommodate the cluelessness of their church leaders in the same way they accommodate their clueless hubbies--by saying little, and listening even less.

But women aren't the only people. Many otherwise satisfied church goers accept that Pastor So-and-So has a wild hair about something. It might be some weird theological point, or a social issue, and when he or she preaches on that one point, it's aggravating. But the kids really like the youth pastor, and he keeps them busy with good activities. Or it's the denomination the family has always been a part of. Or his/her sermons are otherwise so down-to-earth and helpful, or the Pastor was so good to them when mom died, or was a real rock of Gibraltar when their marriage was in trouble. Churches touch on so many different points of people's lives, and in such emotional ways, that people don't do the p.c. thing when confronted with a particular thing they don't like. They view the church as a family that will, if they are lucky, comfort more than aggravate. But if it's occasionally a pain, you deal with it without abandoning the church or making a show of it. Just like the last family reunion.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What would you do?

Last night, ABC News' Prime Time program was devoted to the theme, "What Would You Do," which included a segment in which a fat actress was sitting at a beach, minding her own business, when a group of teenage girls (also actresses) begin verbally harassing her about her weight. The purpose was to see what the public would really do when confronted by unacceptable behavior in public. See the link for the video.

Disturbing as the results were, they were no big surprise. It was a little surprising that, according to the narrator, more women intervened than men. Many people opted to mind their own business and not get involved. This, in spite of the fact that none of these fake teenage girls posed a physical threat--they looked small enough to break like an after dinner toothpick. It made you really root for the people who had the nerve to confront them. One, a British tourist on vacation, was moved to tears by their cruelty. Some just intervened because it seemed the right thing to do. Some had specific personal reasons. One of these was a women studying eating disorders who understood up close the difficulty fat people have in our society. Another was a man in the company of his children. When one of the girls told him, "Mind your own business," he retorted, "What my kids learn is my business." They are learning from their dad to have the courage to confront cruelty. Lucky kids. When a group of boys (also actors) began harassing her, one guy was about an inch from clocking somebody.

But most people had that frozen look on their face of the purposefully disinterested, hardened yet fearful. I've seen it before when I saw a man beating up a woman in public that he apparently knew(twice, in different cities). In that case, I could understand an element of physical fear, but as I said, that was not the case in the ABC program. Did people figure the fat lady got what she deserved? Maybe, to some degree. It was scary how close the actresses, with only ad libs, came to mouthing everybody's favorite fat prejudices: "Where you BORN that fat? Why don't you stop eating for about a year?" Maybe a disabled or black person would have had more defenders.

But if people has thought the bullying was appropriate, the fear/hardness would not have been there. They seemed too embarrassed to be involved, and seemed embarrassed at their own lack of nerve. What were they afraid of? People are afraid of the unknown: will I be embarrassed, will I get yelled at? Gee, this wasn't what I signed on for when I went out for a walk on the beach. But that's what life is--a bunch of things that just might happen, just might embarrass you, that you didn't sign up for. Every day that we put on our shoes and walk out of the house is a challenge to be more courageous than cautious. You just never know the second that challenge will come up, and you need to be ready for it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

How Could He Get It So Wrong?

No, Mitch, that's not it. At all.
Mitch Albom's moralizing about the Elliot Spitzer scandal at the Jewish WorldReview is a reflex that is trying to palm itself off as serious contrarian thinking. He is upset that, in his words, "he's out on his butt, ...she's selling hers." He is upset that Spitzer had to lose his job, and that the hooker is reaping some sort of benefit.

First of all, what she is benefiting from is not a double standard, just capitalism doing its thing. She has been offered a lot of money to take off her clothes, not because we approve of her, but simply it's the easiest way to get a peek of her naked. This is profitable right now because many of us have a burning curiosity about what Spitzer was paying over 4 grand (and his job and marriage) for. I bet that many frat brothers will look at those pictures and think, "Damn, I did better than that Saturday night. And all I had to pay for was my share of the keg." Furthermore, her nakedness lost a lot of its value when it turns out that she had displayed it for free previously. Again, this was not influenced by moral judgments at work, just capitalism doing its thing. On the other hand, his commodity was his honesty and public trust. He knocked that down the sewer, and lost his job. Sorry, but if you are the governor of a large state, that's the commodity you can't afford to lose. Game over.

And who has made her out to be a tragic victim, as Albom claimed? Nobody that I read. They talked about her past, but that's standard operating procedures for anybody in a public scandal. And, by all accounts, Spitzer was cast as an "arrogant bully" because he is one, and has been one for a long time before anyone found out he was a whore chaser as well.

Then Albom pulls out the standard outrage tactic: good, honest women like cleaning ladies and waitresses could have been making that money, but NOOOOOO...we are handing it over to a hooker. How terrible! Also, how common! That's why dope dealers make more than honest cops, and strip club owners make more than most preachers. Capitalism strikes again.

Albom is all outraged that the woman doing an illegal deed will probably not be prosecuted. This is the complete opposite of 99% of prostitution activity, where women bear the brunt of the prosecution. In truth, "Kristen" will be a star for a New York nanosecond, then she will be a rapidly depreciating freak show exhibit. Spitzer will keep his mouth shut for a couple of years, and his friends will get him a cushy job in a think tank, and he will be a sort of rehabbed elder statesmen type, like the Richard Nixon of New York state. Life will go on till the next sex scandal. Then conventional wisdom peddlers will dig their Angry Lightning Bolt of Predictable Morality out of the attic again.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cats with issues--Inky and Rocky

I'm in a snowed-in part of the Midwest, off work today, and with nothing pressing that would make me leave the house. The trip up to Ann Arbor to buy African violets is not going to happen, so I'm contemplating a whole day in the house. I was just going to write, "with nothing to do," until I heard cats screeching in the basement, and rightly figured that Inky was stirring up s--t. What will I do with him? He is an adorable black cat, a young adult male, with tiny spots of white on his chest and belly. Like many alpha males, he is sweet and affectionate with humans, but a holy terror on other cats.

I took him in on Martin Luther King's Day weekend, a couple of months after the distracted, doofus neighbors two doors down abandoned him. He was suspicious of people, but when he got sick enough, and the wind chill was below zero, I got close enough to grab him, and he didn't object. The neighbors are not evil people as far as I can tell, but they have trouble hanging on to anything--jobs, their home, etc. Even their son/stepson (a blended marriage family) seems to be sent around to other relatives, and they indifferently take in borders. Now Inky is in a warm, dry soft place, and they are losing their home. Karma is a bitch, and I suspect she has four feet and grooms herself.

The problem is Rocky, my nearly 8 year old gray and white cat. He was always sort of a high-strung, semi-feral scardy cat, and Inky freaks him out. He hides between the floors of the house damned near all the time. I lock Inky in the spare room--with water, food and a litter box-- all night, and part of the day, so that Rocky can feel free to come out, but now Rocky is scared of everything, including me. I can't just ship Inky to a shelter--he is a black adult, which means he would languish there for months, even a year, before adoption. I can't even figure out what to do, except confine Inky when I'm not around. The room is bigger than a shelter cage, and warmer and drier than the outdoors. Oh, and I can cross my fingers, and hope somebody gets socialized. Or struck by lightning. Whichever comes first.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Virgin Blog

Today's posting is my first. I enjoy writing for a small audience, and I suspect this audience will be mighty small, if it exists. It's time I stopped putting my energy into harassing other bloggers and their posters, and had someone harass me for a change. I love blog surfing all over--library blogs, fat acceptance (even though I am a lifetime Weight Watcher, and am therefore the devil), left-wing blogs, even free republic.com, where I amazingly have an account. I am an undercover leftist there, and sometimes post stuff just under the radar of discomfiting the readers and making them chipped off and fighting amongst themselves.

I don't really troll, but sometimes I do act as the skunk at the picnic at other sites and blogs. Sometimes this is unintentional, and sometimes I just feel a particular picnic deserves a skunk (misogyny, anyone?). I don't stir up stuff for no reason at all, and never say things I don't mean just to upset people. I mean pretty much everything I say, unless I am reacting in an angry rant.

What bugs me about the internet and the blogosphere is that, instead of the optimistic world that futurists predicted 15 years or so ago, in which people would be exposed to new ideas by the net, it seems that the world has split off into a million tiny slivers, where you can hole up in cyberspace with the other 15 people in the world who agree with everything you say, and the 16 of you can throw verbal rocks at all the dummies who disagree with your viewpoint. You can choose to read nothing except the other 15 smart people, and their take on everything, and create your own little universe. What especially bugged me was that NONE of these other people were smart enough to think exactly like me. So (eye roll), that leaves me to set things down in virtual print as I see them. Whether anybody else cares is unknown at this point.