To the left

For me, this election has been very revealing and helpful. Here are some jumbled thoughts I wanted to share.

For starters, I’ve come across many new leftists whose work I’ve started following. I found most of them on twitter – it’s a useful medium if used correctly, I swear!

I’ve also largely given up on the Democratic party. I can no longer support a party that is so wedded to the very institutions that oppress us. I’ve been a D-voting independent since I turned 18, but voting blue gets harder and harder every election.

I’ve supported Sanders, and even though the primary has been over for a while now (realistically, anyway), I’m grateful he continues to run. He’s hardly a radical and is not without fault, especially on foreign policy (he voted against the Iraq war, but in support of a number of other military actions), but he is the best major democratic candidate in a long time, and the party would do well to follow his lead.

One thing about the Sanders campaign that has not been adequately covered by the pundit class is how young and diverse it is. People have focused so much on those pesky Bernie Bros that they fail to see that the Sanders/Clinton divide in this primary has been generational. Young people support Sanders, older voters go for Clinton. Please do not erase minorities from the Sanders coalition.

The older I get, the more of a leftist I become, and the more reluctant I am to claim the “liberal/progressive” label. I’ve been on the socialist end of the political spectrum for years now, and this election season has only pushed me further to the left. It’s not a bad place to be, really.

Racists for Trump

I got a chuckle out of a recent SNL skit lambasting Trump’s racist voters. The skit is accurate and rather tame, really, but it’s bold and edgy by the show’s standards. It’s a good sign that they are now willing to point out and mock the hate and absurdity that comes from Trump and his supporters. Still doesn’t excuse them inviting Trump to host the show last year, though. Much of the blame for Trump’s rise can be put squarely on the media’s shoulders. In their fevered chase for ratings, they’ve given a platform to some of the most hateful and damaging elements of America.

Chait and the “pc police”

Jonathan Chait’s latest column for New York Magazine is getting a ton of attention for its deliberately provocative thesis: that political correctness within the left has run amok and poses a serious threat to liberalism. Which: lmao.

Chait has come under frequent criticism from the left before, most notably by the Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates. The reason for this has mostly been Chait’s shortcomings when it comes to talking about racial matters and how the white liberal establishment shares some of the blame for upholding white supremacy.

So perhaps this is his way of punching back at his critics. If so, I’m not impressed, and I can’t imagine his critics will be.

Chait argues that the left has embraced political correctness to a fault, and uses it as a weapon to cull dissent within its ranks. I disagree strongly. Much of what he argues against can be blamed on the immediacy of social media, which makes it easy for people – normal people, not just those with social capital – to weigh in on the controversial topics of the day. Naturally, with little to no filter, some people will be a little overzealous in their criticisms. This can undoubtedly be annoying, but that’s about it. As Chait notes, the left doesn’t have all that much power, especially when compared to the far-right. The problem, you see, is that the far-right can’t hurt Chait’s feelings, but the left evidently can.

As is the norm for thinkpieces of this ilk, there’s a lot of self-pitying going on. Witness (emphasis his):

I am white and male, a fact that is certainly worth bearing in mind. I was also a student at the University of Michigan during the Jacobsen incident, and was attacked for writing an article for the campus paper defending the exhibit. If you consider this background and demographic information the very essence of my point of view, then there’s not much point in reading any further. But this pointlessness is exactly the point: Political correctness makes debate irrelevant and frequently impossible.

He is arguing that many on the left, especially minorities, automatically tune him out because of his color and his gender. This is nonsense. What many on the left have said is that him being white and male and well-off means that his words come from a place of great privilege, a privilege that most of his minority and leftists critics lack, and which makes it harder (but hardly impossible) for him to understand their concerns and where their coming from.

This piece is unfortunate because, among other things, it reinforces the absurd and lazy notion that minorities and the left are somehow anti-white, or at least resentful of whites. In his quest to strike back against his leftist critics, Chait is doing the right’s work for them. Not that he would ever see it that way.

I’ll end by saying that you should absolutely read Alex Pareene’s take on this over on Gawker. It is tremendous.

If not now, when?

“No, the time for justice, the time for freedom, and the time for equality is always, is always right now!”

-Samantha Booke

Following the shooting of two police officers in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio called for activists to stop the protests until after the officers were buried.

“It’s important that regardless of people’s viewpoints that everyone step back,” de Blasio said at a Police Athletic League event Monday, his first of two public appearances to discuss the Brooklyn shootings that day. “It’s a time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in all due time.”

If I were a New Yorker, my reply would be: hell no.

The deaths of the two officers was a tragedy, and it came at a particularly horrible time as the city and the nation are dealing with the serious topic of police brutality and the bigoted policing of minority communities. That, however, is no excuse to call for end to the protests.

I sympathize with the Mayor, really. Idiots like Rudy Guilliani have blamed him in part for the officers’ deaths, and he is also dealing with the near insubordination and inflammatory comments coming out of the NYPD. He’s probably just trying to get a grip on the situation and keep it from becoming more heated. But the cat is out of the bag.

The frustrating part is that the Mayor’s comments are hardly a surprise. One of the most common tactics used to silence those who call for change is to attempt to put off the discussion until a later date. You see this a lot in the aftermath of mass shootings. The calls come immediately to stop discussing gun violence and gun laws.

“It’s too soon”

“Stop being divisive, people were killed!”

“Don’t use this tragedy to score political points”

One can see why we get these remarks: because merely talking about making possible changes to the status quo upsets people, and rather than try to have an honest conversation, they attempt to claim the moral high ground and guilt people into avoiding the issues altogether.

But that’s bullshit. We can mourn the slain police officers and continue the protests and calls for justice for victims of police brutality. It’s not an either/or situation. People who say otherwise are only trying to silence those who are calling for change, and that’s not acceptable.

Links of Awesomeness

Max Read ponders why anyone should respect the law when the law does not reciprocate.

Many people have decried the blatant unfairness – and outright hostility – of the American justice system lately. But Albert Burneko says the system is working the way it was designed to. A snippet from his piece:

America is a serial brutalizer of black and brown people. Brutalizing them is what it does. It does other things, too, yes, but brutalizing black and brown people is what it has done the most, and with the most zeal, and for the longest. The best argument you can make on behalf of the various systems and infrastructures the country uses against its black and brown citizens—the physical design of its cities, the methods it uses to allocate placement in elite institutions, the way it trains its police to treat citizens like enemy soldiers—might actually just be that they’re more restrained than those used against black and brown people abroad. America employs the enforcers of its power to beat, kill, and terrorize, deploys its judiciary to say that that’s OK, and has done this more times than anyone can hope to count. This is not a flaw in the design; this is the design.

Some good stuff from Gawker Media lately. A lot of their stuff is silly nonsense, but they got a handful of good writers.

I’m working on a poem and another short story. I hope to publish the poem on Thursday.

Send a Holiday message to a survivor of prison rape

[Content note: prison rape]

I was reading Gawker today and I found out about this wonderful program from Just Detention International – Words of Hope – that enables you to send some Holiday cheer to a survivor of prison rape. It’s quick, easy, and free, so please check it out. Prison rape is an atrocious crime that targets an already vulnerable population and the assailants often go unpunished (worse still, the assailants are often correctional officers). To top it off, instead of standing in solidarity with the victims, popular culture often treats this issue as a laughing matter, effectively minimizing the pain and trauma the victims go through and making it harder to enact policies to combat this type of violent crime.

Sending a Holiday message is a very small thing, but it can help brighten someone’s day. It is worth doing.

Ferguson links

I’d like to share some of the more interesting and enlightening pieces on Ferguson I’ve come across. Among other things, they argue against the belief that riots and some of their more aggressive aspects – looting, property destruction – are inherently bad. Do take a moment to read them. Even if you don’t entirely agree with the writers’ conclusions, you might walk away with a a more nuanced perspective.

Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

In Defense of the Ferguson Riots,” by Robert Stephen II.

Smashy, Smashy: Nine Historical Triumphs to Make You Rethink Property Destruction,” by Jesse A. Myerson and Jóse Martín.

In Defense of Looting,” by Willie Osterweil.

A great quote from Osterweil’s piece:

The mystifying ideological claim that looting is violent and non-political is one that has been carefully produced by the ruling class because it is precisely the violent maintenance of property which is both the basis and end of their power. Looting is extremely dangerous to the rich (and most white people) because it reveals, with an immediacy that has to be moralized away, that the idea of private property is just that: an idea, a tenuous and contingent structure of consent, backed up by the lethal force of the state.