Excruciating

"Hey, boss, I think I should be allowed to go home at 4 p.m. instead of 5. It's a matter of principle."

"I pay you to work until 5, you want to stop getting paid at 4?"

"No, I still want to get paid for working until 5 p.m. every day. But I want to stop working at 4."

I don't imagine that conversation with a hypothetical boss ending well, yet Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kans., believes that she should be allowed to knock off work at 4 p.m. and get paid as though she worked until 5, every day, for two years. And she thinks that her bosses — the people of Kansas — will congratulate her on this idea.

More specifically, Jenkins recently announced that she will "re-introduce the End the Lame Duck Act," to ensure that no Congress works throughout the entirety of the full two-year term it was elected, and paid, to serve.

See, right now, we hold elections at the beginning of November, but the winners of those elections don't get sworn in to office until late in January. That gives us three months of a so-called "lame duck" Congress — one that includes several legislators in their final three months of service who will not be returning later. Horrors.

Jenkins' solution to this is to mandate that members of Congress are not allowed to serve the final three months of a term. Three months out of a 24-month term is one-eighth of the total service for which members of the House of Representatives are getting paid. So, yes, Jenkins' proposal is precisely like the above conversation. She wants to get a full day's pay for less than a full day's work — a full term's pay for less than a full term's work.

It's a slick attempt to mooch extra pay for less work, but no matter how she spins it, Jenkins' proposal is an argument for irresponsibility and pay without work. For someone that dedicated to not doing her job, I have a better suggestion: Don't run for re-election.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., didn't enjoy working a full term in the 111th Congress either, but I don't think in his case it was due to laziness. On Face the Nation a couple Sundays ago, Graham said, "The last two weeks have been an absolutely excruciating exercise," and he singled out the DREAM Act and "don't ask, don't tell" as particularly "excruciating" votes.

I'm sure those were painful votes for Graham. I doubt that these were the sort of tactical, cynical positioning and maneuvering votes he had in mind when he first decided to run for public office back in 1992. He was 37 years old then and it's hard for me to imagine anybody at that age saying to himself, "If I work hard, within a few decades, I'll be able to shore up support from my xenophobic base by screwing over the innocent children of immigrants!" Back in 1992, Graham certainly wasn't imagining that he would some day devote years of his life to the knee-jerk opposition of every stance or idea commended by Barack Obama, who was then a little-known lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago.

But this is Graham's life now. His party's leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has explicitly stated that this is the only thing he hopes to accomplish — obstructing and opposing every piece of Obama's agenda, even when, as with the DREAM Act, that agenda is bipartisan or nonpartisan. McConnell's marching orders had nearly all of his Republican senators falling in line against the DREAM Act, against medical compensation for 9/11 first responders and against themselves since, for Graham and many other Republicans, these were proposals they had previously endorsed and argued in support of.

I can imagine that following McConnell's lead has indeed been "excruciating" for Lindsey Graham — not just for the past two weeks, but for the past two years.

The full quote from Graham bears this out, revealing how out of touch he has allowed himself to become from whatever impulses first led him to want to be a senator in the first place:

The last two weeks have been an absolutely excruciating exercise — 'don't ask, don't tell' — a controversial topic. Some say the civil rights issue of our generation, others say battlefield effectiveness was passed in the lame-duck session without one amendment being offered. The DREAM Act we've had two votes on the DREAM Act. Controversial immigration, there was no efforts to find a common ground there, passed without the ability to amend to try to make Republicans look bad with Hispanics.

There's a reason that Republican votes against the DREAM Act made those Republicans look bad with Hispanics — because those votes were designed, intended and calculated to harm Hispanics simply because they are Hispanics. Less bluntly, those votes were designed to ensure the continued enthusiastic support of the re-emergent John Birch Society, now rebranding itself as the "tea party." The Birchers are unable or unwilling to imagine that legislation like the DREAM Act might actually help one group — the children of illegal immigrants — without somehow, magically I suppose, therefore hurting Straight White Christians.

Sen. Graham knows better. He knows that the zero-sum, crabs-in-a-bucket Hobbesian jungle of the Birchers is not how the world really works. But he also knows that he needs their support lest he find himself, like Sen. Bennett in Utah, kicked to the curb as insufficiently Bircheriffic. So the Birchers "forced" Graham to cast an excruciating vote that made him look bad with Hispanics.

Just look at how Graham frames the matter there to see how far he has come, how far he has drifted, from whatever it was that made him run for office in the first place back in 1992. His discussion of the DREAM Act doesn't consider the actual effect of his vote — only whether it makes him look good or look bad.

When politics is reduced to only that it becomes an excruciating game indeed. Graham seems to have forgotten that he once dreamed of voting for or against policies based on whether or not they were effective or efficient or, yes, good for the country. He finds himself now voting based entirely on how his votes will make him look to this or that bloc of potential voters. Based on that calculation, he voted against the DREAM Act, even though he seems to realize it is a good bill that's good not just for Hispanics, but for the country as a whole.

Here, after all, is how the DREAM Act was originally introduced by it's Republican author, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah:

I rise today to introduce legislation aimed at benefitting a very special group of persons — illegal alien children who are long-term residents of the United States. This legislation, known as the "DREAM Act," would allow children who have been brought to the United States through no volition of their own the opportunity to fulfill their dreams, to secure a college degree and legal status. The purpose of the DREAM Act is to ensure that we leave no child behind, regardless of his or her legal status in the United States or their parents' illegal status.

Hatch voted against allowing a vote on his own legislation this month. After nine years of hard work, it finally had the votes to pass, but McConnell's anti-all-things-Obama-is-for strategy and the ultimatums of the Birchers led Orrin Hatch to help prevent an up-or-down vote on his own bill. He voted against himself.

I'm guessing he, too, found that vote excruciating.

The work of a senator doesn't have to be so painful. If you find yourself complaining because you're being forced to defend indefensible positions by voting on them, it might be that the problem doesn't lie with those forcing you to cast a vote and take a stand. It seems more likely that the problem lies with where you have chosen to stand and why you have chosen to stand there.

If Lindsey Graham and Orrin Hatch don't enjoy voting to screw over the children of immigrants, if they don't relish casting votes that crush the aspirations of innocent and patriotic young people for no good reason other than that they have brown skin, then they do have an alternative to complaining loudly about having to cast such votes.

They could also, you know, not vote that way.

That's also a possibility. Cast votes that don't hurt people — votes that are not motivated solely by the seething resentment and indignation of the hateful nut-jobs of the John Birch Society.

Those votes tend to be a lot less excruciating. For you and for everyone else.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    I saw the remake. I didn’t really dislike it but I didn’t like it either.
    Ambivalence is a huge improvement over how I feel about the orignal.
    The fact that it was sort of already designed to look creepy took the edge off. Stuff that is supposed to be humorous or light-hearted but is unintentionally creepy freaks me out really badly.
    That terrible Doctor Who episode with the monster that absorbs people has a similiar effect. Its played for laughs, but the idea is so horrible that the fact that it isn’t taken seriously makes it worse.
    Also I can’t watch that Monty Python skit where the guy eats the mint and then explodes.

  • P J Evans

    The original Disney Snow White, and a movie about people in a balloon that crashed somewhere in Africa, are ones that scared me even as an older child. Or at least were unpleasant enough that I don’t want to see them again.
    Not to mention ‘The Bible’ and ‘The Ten Commandments’ – anyone thinking those are suitable for children should think again. Some of the scenes are a bit graphic even by modern standards.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    My dad allowed me to watch the TV miniseries version of Stephen King’s It when I was around 9 years old. This was quite possibly the single dumbest parenting decision he ever made.

  • hapax

    I loved the original Willy Wonka. Gene Wilder seemed to do a perfect job of capturing the chaotic neutral potency of the character in Dahl’s book. (Am I the only one who think that Wilder would have made a fantastic Dr. Who?)
    The remake turned him into an overgrown two year old with daddy issues.
    I *hate* movies about daddy issues. (Except for GODZILLA VS DESTROYAH. Because that was *awesome*.)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a6452705970c Ruby

    Jason: Willy Wonka.
    I was freaked out by the concept of being sucked into a river of chocolate or turned into a blueberry or sucked into a TV…..
    I to this day hate that film.

    For me, it was the fact that Willy Wonka was a sociopathic, murderous ass. And he deeply offended my ten-year-old notions of fairness: Charlie broke the rules every bit as much as any of the other kids (and far more than poor Augustus, who did nothing wrong (except, of course, be fat, and all fat people must be punished))…but Charlie was rewarded and the rest of the kids horrifically punished.
    *pant pant*
    …hate movie so much…

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    Charlie broke the rules every bit as much as any of the other kids (and far more than poor Augustus, who did nothing wrong (except, of course, be fat, and all fat people must be punished)).
    Oh yes. I never got the point of the fizzy lifting drink scene.
    In all fairness to the story though- Augustus wasn’t just fat, he was gluttonous to a point where you start to realize there’s a reason its a Deadly Sin.* It comes through better in the book though.
    *I just realized that CatCF is essentially Se7en for kids.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    Various media that traumatized me as a child keep coming back to me…
    The first time I heard the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” I had trouble sleeping.
    I always had a vivid imagination and would imagine stories if told to me. I listened to the lyrics and imagined quite literal versions of everything in the song.
    The girl with kaliedescope eyes had clear glass eyes with small colored pieces of glass tumbling around inside them, just like the kaleidescopes that my mother had.
    but most horrifying were the rocking horse people eating marshmallow pies which were rocking horses where the head of the horse had somehow been replaced by a still living human head. In my mind’s eye, they were rocking back and forth and taking a bite of the pies on the downward part of the rock.

  • http://ldwheeler.livejournal.com L. David Wheeler

    Jason -
    The thing about the Dr. Who ep you reference: I’m one of the few who actually kinda like that episode, in large measure — but I find it marred by tone shifts. At one level, there’s a powerful story about people who’ve been touched by the Doctor at some point/level; coming together on that grounds and becoming genuine valued friends irrespective of that common link … then being exploited and, largely, destroyed by an enemy of the Doctor, though they play a part in the enemy’d defeat. On that level, powerful stuff (along with the subplot of Jackie’s resolve to stand by Rose and the Doctor even though she’s ambivalent about their relationship). But it’s spoiled, in my opinion, by being too frequently played for laughs — especially the appearance of the villain toward the end and *especially* how the absorption process is depicted (the woman being a part of his butt, in particular). (Adding to the tone-shift back-and-forth was that Looney Tunesish chase scene at the beginning.) I still find the ep powerful and poignant … though probably not as much as I would’ve had they decided to rein in the comedy impulses.
    And appropos of nothin’, I thought at the time it would have been neat if the main character’s childhood experience with the Doctor had been with an earlier incarnation than Ten … if they had sprung for Paul McGann or Sylvester McCoy for the flashback sequence. Ah, well.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a6452705970c Ruby

    I think Gene Wilder is awesome. (Has anyone else seen Start the Revolution Without Me? Because, so cute!) But somehow, that just makes me detest the Willy Wonka movie all the more–an actor I loved even then, and playing that horrific abusive hypocrite…grr…
    The only thing that makes it all better is watching Willy Wonka with the RiffTrax audio, featuring Mike Nelson and Neil Patrick Harris!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uba6foDVZJE

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    Ok, can we stop now? Because Jason’s description of the “rocking horse people” is A) freaking me out a little and B) may have just ruined “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” for me.
    …There was an episode of “The New Ghostbusters” or “Extreme ghostbusters” Or “busting Ghosts with 90′s cliches”…the animated one with one of them in a wheelchair? Whatever it was called.
    Anyway, it featured this freaky squid creature that came up through your shower drain and sucked your life force out, turning you into a creepy mummy.
    I was freaked out about taking showers for months after that.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a6452705970c Ruby

    CaryB: In all fairness to the story though- Augustus wasn’t just fat, he was gluttonous to a point where you start to realize there’s a reason its a Deadly Sin.* It comes through better in the book though.
    My little mind was so offended by the movie that I refused to read the book out of principle. :D
    In the movie, it is very simple: Wonka tells them to go to town, eat anything and everything they would like. Augustus innocently takes him at his word and drinks from the chocolate river. Why shouldn’t he? Wonka told him he could! But ohhhh no, gotta slap down the fatty…

  • Xavier

    For me, it was the fact that Willy Wonka was a sociopathic, murderous ass. And he deeply offended my ten-year-old notions of fairness: Charlie broke the rules every bit as much as any of the other kids (and far more than poor Augustus, who did nothing wrong (except, of course, be fat, and all fat people must be punished))…but Charlie was rewarded and the rest of the kids horrifically punished.

    This. So much.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a6452705970c Ruby

    Cary: Anyway, it featured this freaky squid creature that came up through your shower drain and sucked your life force out, turning you into a creepy mummy.
    I was freaked out about taking showers for months after that.

    That makes me think of an old Dave Barry column, where he talks about watching Mister Rogers with his little boy. And Mister Rogers sings the song about how, “You’ll never go down, never go down, never go down the drain.” As Barry put it, “By the end of the song, both Robby and I were intensely concerned about the possibility of going down the drain.”

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    The thing about the Dr. Who ep you reference:
    See, the worst thing about that episode is usually I LOVE episodes like that, where we get the little flashes of what it looks like to everybody else. The doctors actions make sense to us, because we’ve been able to follow the logic-y stuff, but its nice to see it from the outside and get that sense of “What the fuck is this crazy man doing?”
    In all fairness to the story though- Augustus wasn’t just fat, he was gluttonous to a point where you start to realize there’s a reason its a Deadly Sin.* It comes through better in the book though.
    Just realized this could come across as fat-shaming, so let me expand- Augustus in the book is not just fat, not just an eater, not even just a big eater, but food had taken over his life to the point where he is abusive and violent about it. Its been a while since I’ve seen the movie, but I think you get flashes of that as well- that he isn’t just a fat kid, he’s a bad kid and deserves to be punished as much as any of the other ten year old children, for what it is worth.
    That being said, the song the Oompa-loompas sing is fucked. up.

  • Xavier

    …There was an episode of “The New Ghostbusters” or “Extreme ghostbusters” Or “busting Ghosts with 90′s cliches”…the animated one with one of them in a wheelchair? Whatever it was called.

    Almost all episodes of that series terrified me. And I watched it when I was seventeen, I think (I have no idea why it was still airing). It was great! The scariest ones were the one with the horror writer who brought his (incredibly disturbing) creations to life, and the one with the haunted house and the ghost maid that kept repeating “Le Maison! Le Maison!”.
    Brrrr.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a6452705970c Ruby

    And speaking of the Oompa-Loompa song, that reminds me of another thing I hate about the movie–the fate of Violet. Okay, so Violet snatches the gum and chews it, despite being told not to, and gets turned into a blueberry. So, of course, she is being punished for snatching things out of other people’s hands and for not obeying Willy Wonka, right? WRONG! The Oompa-Loompa song makes it clear that the ONLY reason she is being punished is that she likes to chew gum (“like a cow chews its cud”). She was turned into a blueberry…because she likes chewing gum.
    That’s just…I can’t…*whimper whimper hate movie*…
    Okay, now must try to calm down and get some sleep. :)

  • Dahne

    Stuff that is supposed to be humorous or light-hearted but is unintentionally creepy freaks me out really badly.
    There’s a strange sort of relationship between what’s funny and what’s scary. Brazil plays that fine line wonderfully, like when the main character is about to be tortured: “Hurry up and confess, or you’ll ruin your credit rating!” It’s funny and horrible for exactly the same reason.
    Being not certain how you’re supposed to feel about it adds a lot to the unease. If you know it’s going all-out to scare you, it’s easier to prepare for. That’s why Silent Hill will never be half as creepy as Moonside from Earthbound.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/allandrel Patrick J McGraw

    We all have trigger subjects, major issues based on our past traumas or our present circumstances,
    For me, this includes the fear of being screamed at because I did not say things the right way, or dared to express how my feelings differed from someone else’s, or even expressed needs that conflicted with someone else’s convenience – screaming filled with invective about how much harm I was causing.
    Seeing that kind of verbal abuse being thrown about by MadG kept me from posting. I’m not making a tone argument. The way that these “nuker tactics” were used caused me harm, because it sent the message that this was clearly not a safe space for me as a survivor, that it was more important that it be safe for others… which is exactly the kind of abuse that I lived through.

  • hapax

    Has anyone else seen Start the Revolution Without Me?
    Best final scene EVER.
    I think I loved the movie so much because I practically had the book memorized before I saw it. If you know anything about Roald Dahl, you’d know that “fair” was nowhere in his vocabulary.
    Horrible stuff just happened to kids, especially if they had some personality trait that Authority didn’t like. (Mike Teevee, if you recall, was essentially punished for being American. The television stuff was a *symptom* of being American.)
    That pretty much resonated with my experience of life back then.
    And I still crack up at Wilder’s deadpan “Stop. Don’t. Come back.” It’s terribly heterorthodox of me, but I always imagine that as God’s delivery of the line as Adam and Eve approach the Tree of Knowledge…

  • http://profile.typepad.com/allandrel Patrick J McGraw

    Ah, good old-fashioned Nightmare Fuel!
    Lessee… there’s the claymation film The Adventures of Mark Twain that had the “Mysterious Stranger” segment. I won’t post a YouTube link because then I might watch it again.
    I saw the 1953 The War of the Worlds when I was about 8. I’d read the original book, but descriptions of blood-draining had far less of an effect on me than seeing people skeletonized by rays guns.
    Early episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, notably the one whose Godlike Space Entity that appeared as a huge distorted face, and the tar monster that killed Tasha Yar.
    Anything that involved being eaten, because I knew I was delicious.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    The Star Trek: TNG tar monster freaked me out too. We used to watch that as a family.
    I also remember being a tad unnerved when Picard got turned into a Borg.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    And speaking of the Oompa-Loompa song, that reminds me of another thing I hate about the movie–the fate of Violet. Okay, so Violet snatches the gum and chews it, despite being told not to, and gets turned into a blueberry. So, of course, she is being punished for snatching things out of other people’s hands and for not obeying Willy Wonka, right? WRONG! The Oompa-Loompa song makes it clear that the ONLY reason she is being punished is that she likes to chew gum

    Doesn’t the oompa-loompa song start out by saying that chewing gum is good as long as it’s only once-in-a-while (something something something rhymes with smile)?
    Except for Veruca Salt, all the kids who get it get it for obsessiveness, not just for the actual behavior they obsess over.
    (That said, I have made my feelings on wonka known)
    @Jason: I could not get properly scared by Star Trek TNG: because it came on right after War of the Worlds The Series. Which had people melt. In every episode.

  • Dash

    Your assertion was originally in a point-counterpoint style, claiming that MadGastronomer never “gets results” while Kit Whitfield does.
    At this point, I think I’ll ask you to reread my original statement. I did not speak of “never” or “always.” I said two things: first, that I had not seen evidence that the nuking had the effect MG said she was going for, and second, that the Kit examples I’d looked at got results faster than the ones we had been talking about.
    Your question about confirmation bias was reasonable, assuming perhaps that I was just trying to remember various cases. But I did actually read through some threads to see if what I thought was true actually was true. So no, I didn’t find anything to suggest confirmation bias. I didn’t just check cases where I thought Kit got fast results and MG didn’t.
    I’m going to resist the attempt to apply language like “falsify the hypothesis” to this issue for a couple of reasons. The main one for now is that I really don’t think we’d have enough examples for a good statistically supportable hypothesis, so the term isn’t applicable.
    Again, if someone’s got evidence that I’m wrong, I’d be glad to correct my impressions.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/gdwarf GDwarf

    I was, as far as I can tell, a pretty easy-to-scare kid.
    I was terrified of the original Willy Wonka movie (not the tunnel scene, more the floating into the fan-blades part, and a few others.)
    I loved Star Wars, but couldn’t watch the scene in the garbage compactor.
    I remember turning Fern Gully off because the main villain terrified me, I don’t know why.
    Heck, I think I once had a nightmare due to One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. (Something about evil fish that were larger than any whale.)
    But probably the thing that most terrified me, that gave me nightmares for weeks, was a Ghostwriter serial where the cast were writing a fictional story about a chewing-gum monster that would encase people in gum and then kidnap them. I watched that show religiously (though, looking back, I’m certain I wasn’t actually following three quarters of the plot) but not that part. The monster itself horrified me, and when I stumbled across a picture of it online I almost jumped out of my seat.
    I don’t even know why it was so terrifying. I mean, the kids got kidnapped all the time in Ghostwriter, and some of those plots were pretty dark, but that one monster…eeegh.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/allandrel Patrick J McGraw

    @Jason: I could not get properly scared by Star Trek TNG: because it came on right after War of the Worlds The Series. Which had people melt. In every episode.

    Why I why did I have to be reminded of that series? The people melting wasn’t so bad for me as the people getting their faces torn off, or eyes pulled out by suction-cup fingers, or exploding in a vacuum chamber, or an entire room full of people with their skulls split open and their brains removed.
    ::shudder::

  • Dahne

    GDwarf: That would be because the main villain in Fern Gully was terrifying. Tim Curry’s <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PLQ1XfaTuU"<weirdly sexual singing didn’t help.

  • Dahne

    That was supposed to be “Tim Curry’s weirdly sexual song didn’t help,” but at least the link worked.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    I’d also like to give an honorable mention to almost everything that was ever on the Outer Limits. Particularly these guys:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyvR-lQwNzM
    …and the Twilight Zone episode where Bill Mumy turns some guy into a Jack in the Box.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/allandrel Patrick J McGraw

    I thought Hexxus in Fern Gully was awesome. Just goes to show how subjective Nightmare Fuel can be.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/allandrel Patrick J McGraw

    … that Outer Limits bit is seriously freaky. The giant insect with the human-like face is bad enough, but that was a very effective use of showing us only the reactions of onlookers rather than… whatever it did.

  • Darth Ember

    I think I’ve successfully repressed most things that terrified me as a child.
    Except… oh dear Eru, those creepy picture-books with the monsters in. There was one about the monster under the bed that made it seem so evil, and one about a weird flat monster that could hide in bedroom curtains… *muffled whimper*
    To this day I can’t sit on my bed with my feet on the floor, or stand close to the bed. I gradually get more uncomfortable until I move. The residual fear/habit is that strong.
    And… well, I used to read above my age-limit. But sometimes I used to haul the books down that Mum said I wasn’t allowed to read yet. Like Clan of the Cave Bear. There’s a scene in that with brain-matter being eaten that gave me horrible mental images and terrified me utterly, and I couldn’t talk about it because I wasn’t supposed to have read the book.
    (I reread it much later as an adult and was surprised to find it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but I definitely couldn’t handle it as a child.)

  • http://ldwheeler.livejournal.com L. David Wheeler

    Snips and snails and puppy dog tails –
    Who can account for the taste of demons?

    Ending with
    That is not a blanket …
    It’s a Much Fun song — though I wonder what havoc it would do were it actually sung as a lullaby.

  • http://ldwheeler.livejournal.com L. David Wheeler

    Ach, that was only the latter half of my comment. I was referring to a song that’s fairly big in the filk community, called “Close Your Eyes” by Daniel Glasser. It’s essentially a father warning the child to go right the sleep or be eaten by the demons under the bed.
    Sample lyrics include
    Do not call for your mother
    Who is it you think let the demons in
    To eat you up?

    Heh. Much fun. Though maybe, were I *actually* four years old, maybe much nightmare-inducing.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Pius Thicknesse: You expressed concern some pages back about whether you might owe MadG or myself an apology. Speaking only for myself, no apologies are necessary or sought. You do good work, and I’m proud to know you.
    Jason: Thank you for your apology. And yet, having apologized, you still seem not to understand a very important point. Reread my last. I did not say that your privilege makes your opinion worthless. I said your privilege means you have never had, will never have, first hand experience of the damage and suffering that can make less privileged people so much more angry than you seem to think it’s appropriate for them to get. Which is *one* thing that makes you no good arbitrator of how much anger is too much anger for someone else to have.
    The other thing is the thing that makes *no* person a fit arbitrator for how much anger is too much anger for someone else to have: Not being that person.
    Having come back and read the rest of the thread since then, I’m feeling extremely uncomfortable. What I experience here (I speak only of my experience; I do not presume anyone’s intent) as a general atmosphere of back-patting over telling mean old MadG off, feels icky to me. Jason’s repeated prescriptive statements, up to and including “It’s time to change the subject now,” feel icky, too, as though MadG’s retiring from the community has affirmed his right to tell people exactly how this conversation’s gonna go from here on out.
    And Dash telling renniejoy that the best way to express that you’re feeling rageful, and have that respected as coming from a place of pain worth anyone’s consideration, is to publicly describe that pain on intimate, physical-symptom terms? (I’m referring to “Well, when you said ‘I am right now shaking and on the point of tears from rage,’ that was much more effective.”) That feels icky, too. Are you owed knowledge of whether anyone else is shaking with rage, or crying? Is the onus really on the people in pain to prove their pain is considerable before the onus moves to the people causing the pain to stop hurting them?
    And Raj, whom I’ve come to love dearly, making a goddamned joke about how some people deserve to be anally raped with red hot pokers? And never even responding to the people who called him on it? But clearly being around a page or two later to post cute animal photos, so it’s not likely that he simply didn’t see the handful of posts calling him on it? I didn’t expect that. That’s beyond icky; that hurts acutely.
    AND I’m extremely uncomfortable with characterizing MadG as “3 posts to raging asshole” without any acknowledgement of the real possibility that several weeks, months, years of the *same* people reacting to basic “check your privilege” nudges with “But I’m not a bigot!” and “But I’m on your side!” and “Explain me privilege 101 again?” repeatedly, predictably, tend to accumulate, steadily burning through a person’s patience and goodwill, which a person who puts up with enough of that bullshit everywhere else doesn’t have in unlimited supply, until that person has *no* *more* for *you* *in* *specific*, until they absolutely will go off on you when you demand a privilege 101 lesson while you proclaim “But I’m not a bigot!” while that lesson is going on yet-a-fucking-again!
    And given that these characterizations and presumptions and apparent attitudes seem to have carried the day (despite the much-appreciated rebuttals by, oh, Will Wildman for instance)… I feel a lot less safe commenting on issues of privilege myself.
    This incident feels as though it’s moved the community Overton Window non-trivially insofar as privilege and pain go.
    Such that I used to locate it in the general vicinity of trusting that people who say “you are hurting me” are speaking in good faith, and endeavoring to stop hurting them. And recognizing that successful ceasing to hurt people involves not making the conversation all about how one is a good person who would never intentionally hurt someone, or at least not going there until after the hurting was confirmed *stopped.*
    But now it feels to me as though that Window got moved to a place of where people who are hurting need to have unlimited patience, unlimited benefit of the doubt for self-identified allies, unlimited assumption of good faith regardless of whether their day-to-day experience tells them this is wise, and if they run out of patience/benefit-o-doubt/assumption-o-good-faith, they lose any right to expect the people who are hurting them to listen to them, and really they should go away until they’re fit for society again.
    I am not going to argue about this. I am stating as clearly as I can the current impression I have of the climate in this location after reading the pages since MadG announced her departure.
    So. I’m going on read-only mode for awhile, at least for the most part. I need to figure out whether my current impressions are accurate or unduly influenced by a more short-term anger and discomfort. I need to recalibrate. I don’t *know* if I’m safe here, given the community norm shift that has apparently occurred, mainly because I’m not sure yet what that community norm shift is. I only know that the apparent nature of the shift makes me feel unsafe. A lot of hostility got aimed at, is still being aimed at despite her absence, someone whose causes I identify with very much and whose stresses and triggers and patience-wearer-outers I feel I understand. I feel too much in danger of being the next target to post substantively here, for now.

  • Ysidro

    I typed a bunch of stuff. And deleted it. And typed more. And deleted it.
    Apparently I can’t say anything for fear of setting off a war. If I weren’t so bored at work, I’d just stop reading. I’m sick of everyone blaming everyone else. “You’re privilaged.” “You’re angry.” “You hurt me.” “Don’t talk that way.”
    Apparently no one can say anything without it hurting someone else. What the hell happened to the takeover of Texas and fluffy iguana cookies and only occasional flamewars?
    Maybe I should just stop reading the comments and only check out the Left Behind posts like I used to.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/ministerformagic Pius Thicknesse

    I really wasn’t sure how to respond to Raj’s comment and I admit to wincing and just not wanting to go near it. I fear I am silent about the wrong things and speaking up about the wrong things. :(
    Nicole makes a point about “recalibrating”.
    May I suggest we all think about the recalibration of the community as a whole? It is to be expected that after a rather outspoken person abruptly leaves that there is some transitional effects, but I would like to urge that we retain the “safe space” atmosphere and not simply define it as “nobody ever gets to yell again even when provoked”.

  • http://ldwheeler.livejournal.com L. David Wheeler

    Nicole, I dearly hope that I haven’t contributed to making you feel unsafe. Though I suspect that I have.
    I stand by the statements I’ve made, as humdrum and squishy and caveat-loaded as they were. But I seriously regret if anything I’ve written here has caused anyone to be hurt or uncomfortable, and hope people tell me if I do.

  • Scottbot (Mk whatever)/notscottbot/etc.

    Interesting to see the number of people saying they felt they couldn’t post.
    Referencing the past, Scott was obviously an individual with problems, which grew worse as time went on, leading to what in effect became a sanctioned mob in the comment section. Pretty shameful behavior, in my eyes, on many people’s part, and one of the lowest points in this forum’s existence.
    Of course, the reaction did take a long time to build, especially as the numerous problems on Scott’s part kept growing. My attempts to deal with Scott through mockery were certainly not successful – and at some point, it became obvious that he was simply losing his reference to anything but his self-created world.
    Which just happened to correspond to the rise of a mob (a term I find justified, though it is not flattering like ‘posse’ or ‘self-defence force’) against his behaviour. A mob that took a while to form, most likely contributing little to nothing to Scott’s own growing problems (if I recall, he was some sort of failed? seminary student – and he could have stopped posting at any time, which was the goal of the abuse, after all).
    But the reaction that took months to form against Scott, a reaction as predictable as human history, still makes me feel ashamed, even when telling myself that at least I didn’t join it directly, and near the end of this community’s continual pummeling against a clearly damaged individual, tried to at least make people aware of what they were doing.
    Scott was a problem – but he also had a problem. In the end, the main (and predictable) reaction to his problem was continual abuse to get him to go away. It certainly didn’t help him, and I still can’t find any justification in myself for anyone treating him that way, at least after his growing problems became clear, but that is just my opinion.
    However, recently, the abuse (I’m open to another term – ‘incivility’ is far too mild, however) that took months to form against a troubled poster is now routinely justified as being necessary at the first typed words of a new poster – in the eyes of the enforcer, whose judgments are not subject to review by anyone but the enforcer.
    Welcome to the U.S., 2010 (no predictions about 2011). The fact that the Slacktivist comments often seemed to be unrepresentative of the U.S., with many non-U.S. posters adding their voices, was always one of its major appeals, providing a larger world view, mitigating the tendency to see things in a simple black and white framework, in exclusively U.S. defined terms (as a concrete example – basically all of the non-U.S. resident posters live in countries with at least three major political parties).
    This broad discussion about how our host’s comment section works in the eyes of many who felt it wasn’t working very well any longer already seems more self-aware than the simple black and white worldview increasingly demanded as the only acceptable one – the all too familiar ‘with us or against us’ idea, as if everybody has to pick one of two sides.
    I have never believed that the best way to fight a mob is to join one or adopt its behavior, regardless of the undeniable attractions that being in your own mob offers. I believe that the only effective way to fight a mob is to keep it from forming, and when one forms, to never join it. This may be flawed – maybe the only way to beat a mob is with a bigger mob. I refuse to believe that, and still don’t care if this is wrong in anyone else’s eyes. Discussion is not simply about self-reinforcing adherence to a single acceptable view or style.

  • renniejoy

    I have discovered that a really truly major trigger for me is the perception that a person’s anger, frustration, or sadness is dismissable because their language or emotional reaction means that they are not being “rational”.
    I apologize to those I hurt with my words.
    Ruby – Really, truly, thank you for taking the time to reread the TF thread. We are still coming to very different conclusions, but I truly appreciate your attempt to see where I was coming from.
    Thank you all for your kind thoughts regarding my teeth. It was not an emergency. :) (TW)
    It was a scheduled wisdom tooth extraction (top and bottom on one side) The doctor said they came out easy, but if I ever have to do it again, I will be unconscious. There are just some thins I was not meant to hear.
    (/TW)
    If I hadn’t drunk some wine INSTEAD of taking the Vicodin, I would probably be asleep right now. :)

  • Ysidro

    Oh, the lovely lovely Vicodin. I got that once. Only took one or two, but I have a fairly high pain tolerance.
    Glad it went ok, as far as these things can be ok.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/ministerformagic Pius Thicknesse

    @renniejoy: Oh dear! I really wish more dentists would allow you to be knocked out for such work. I hope you are feeling better.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/allandrel Patrick J McGraw

    Vicodin is one of the reasons that I will forever love chemistry. I don’t know that I could have mentally survived recovering from kidney transplant surgery without it.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/allandrel Patrick J McGraw

    Incidentally, I have now spent about five hours on Kindertrauma. It’s interesting to see what traumatized other children compared to my own experiences. It is, however, tragically lacking in coverage of Unsolved Mysteries or “nonfiction” books and programs about parapsychology, which kept me up many nights.

  • Tonio

    Two nightmare images for me when I was about 12 – the Alien exploding out of John Hurt’s stomach, and The Body Human TV show showing the more feral half of a woman’s face paired with itself.

  • Tonio

    several weeks, months, years of the *same* people reacting to basic “check your privilege” nudges with “But I’m not a bigot!” and “But I’m on your side!” and “Explain me privilege 101 again?

    Yes. Many of the posts had the same defensiveness as “Some of my best friends are black.” As if being asked to check their privilege was the same as calling them bigots. Combine that with complaints about tone and it’s understandable why a member of a minority would perceive that as effectively silencing people like him or her.

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    <iMay I suggest we all think about the recalibration of the community as a whole?
    Over on “It never stops” Kit suggest a summit about the community in general, which idea seems to be meeting with some approval.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/rajexplorer Raj, who doesn’t sparkle in sunlight (only flaw)

    I apologize for my Jan 01, 2011 7:14PM post. I apologize to Nicole, Lonespark, Pius, and all the people who have been offended or disturbed by that comment. A particularly strong apology to my friend Nicole. Nicole, you are someone I would never want to hurt, and it hurts me to know that I have. If there’s anything I can do, please let me know.
    FRED, IF YOU READ THIS, I REQUEST THAT YOU DELETE THAT DISGUSTING Jan 01, 2011 7:14PM POST OF MINE ASAP. I’m not yelling at you Fred; I just want to get your attention. (I’ll e-mail Fred with that request; that might work.)
    There is something I would like to clarify: I do not consider rape to be something to be treated lightly, and I am deeply ashamed of myself for making a “joke” that gives the impression that a flippant attitude towards rape is acceptable. That wasn’t what I was trying to do (I was actually going for something like one of Izzy’s flamethrower comments), but what I had in mind at the time doesn’t change the fact that the comment I did end up writing does evoke a very disturbing image. Yes, it was wrong; no question about it. The more I look at that post, the more disturbing I find it, and the the more ashamed I am that I wrote it.
    Now to e-mail Fred.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lorik922 Lori

    Except for Veruca Salt, all the kids who get it get it for obsessiveness, not just for the actual behavior they obsess over.

    Veruca is also basically punished for obsessiveness (I want it now, etc).
    I haven’t seen the movie in a long time and I also tend to mix-up bits from the movie and the book, but IIRC each of the children (including Charlie) was told not to do what they did. Even Augustus. He didn’t get punished for drinking from the chocolate river or for being fat. He was punished because when he started to drink from the river Wonka told him to stop and he didn’t. He kept right on until he fell in and got sucked up the pipe.
    Charlie is rewarded in the end not in spite of doing exactly what the other kids did, but basically because he’s not mean about it. The other children have a sense of entitlement that Charlie does not. He demonstrates that by refusing to use the everlasting gobstopper against Wonka, even though he’s seriously pissed and his beloved grandfather is telling him to do it.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    @Nicole-
    I said your privilege means you have never had, will never have, first hand experience of the damage and suffering that can make less privileged people so much more angry than you seem to think it’s appropriate for them to get. Which is *one* thing that makes you no good arbitrator of how much anger is too much anger for someone else to have.
    I was not telling her, nor did I ever tell her that she was too angry. Earlier in this thread renniejoy said to Ruby and I “The two of you are making me so angry that I am literally shaking.” You know what? That actually made me step back and reconsider my positions (I didn’t really change my mind which is why I didn’t say anything). However if she had said “JASON AND RUBY, FUCK YOU, YOU ASSHOLES!!! YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT ALL THE STUPID SHIT YOU SAY, ASSHOLES!!!! FUCK YOU!!!” Then I probably would have become extremely defensive and angry and not really thought about what she had to say or where she is coming from.
    No one here is telling MadGastronomer that she does not have the right to get angry. What we are saying is that she can’t allow that anger to get her so enraged that she mistreats many members of the community who are not here to grief or spew bigotry. She also can’t continue to behave in a manner that causes regulars to be afraid to post in threads where she is active. That behavior is not a productive or positive addition to the community.
    This is NOT, nor has it ever been about who does and does not have the right to be angry. I don’t like being screamed and cursed at all the time or seeing other people screamed and cursed at. That’s not why I come here. That’s not why most of us come here and I don’t care how much damn privilege I have, I don’t deserve to be treated that way and neither do most of the regulars in the community.
    Your original post to me really, really, really, really pissed me off and it pissed me off all the more because I like you quite a bit, because it implied that just because I come from a position of privilege and someone else doesn’t, I have no right to criticize anti-social behavior. She has every right to be angry. She does not have every right to express that anger in an anti-social manner.
    If I said exactly what I thought when I get angry, I’d have no friends, probably would not have a job, and my family probably wouldn’t want much to do with me and I would be perfectly deserving of that because I’m not really that nice of a person when I get angry. Everyone is entitled to feel the emotion of anger but there are healthy and unhealthy ways to express that anger.
    So please kindly quit characterizing what I’m doing as dictating someone else’s emotions, because I’m not doing that nor would I ever do that.
    What I experience here (I speak only of my experience; I do not presume anyone’s intent) as a general atmosphere of back-patting over telling mean old MadG off, feels icky to me. Jason’s repeated prescriptive statements, up to and including “It’s time to change the subject now,” feel icky, too, as though MadG’s retiring from the community has affirmed his right to tell people exactly how this conversation’s gonna go from here on out.
    I agree with you on the first part. I never intended to start 2 days worth of MadGastronomer bashing. I was upset about the way Cary had been treated in this thread and I was upset that this has started to become a trend. I also could tell that Cary was upset and hurt about how he had been treated. I had kept my mouth shut lately because I really didn’t want to start “Beat up on MadGastronomer Day,” but it reached a point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore so I said something.
    When I made that ‘Let’s change the subject’ post, it was because I felt that it had devolved into “Beat up on MadGastronomer Day” and I didn’t like that. MadGastronomer does not deserve to be beat up on for 8 pages of the thread. That was not my intent either. I don’t like that. I wasn’t trying to “dictate” what people talk about. I was trying to get them to lay off of the poor woman for a while. She’s taken enough abuse and criticism for the time being.
    I think ideally what should happen is we quit talking about her constantly and go back to talking about whatever else. Then what I hope would happen is that MadGastronomer takes some time to reevaluate the manner in which she posts and comes back, because I like her and do not want her to leave permanently. I want her to come back. However I fear that the longer this goes on, the less likely she is going to feel welcome to come back, if she is still reading this. …and that sucks.
    So yeah, I was basically saying “Can we lay off of MadGastronomer for a while?” Because it was never my intention to drive her away from the community. I really wish you stop characterizing my behavior in the worst possible light, Nicole.
    And Dash telling renniejoy that the best way to express that you’re feeling rageful, and have that respected as coming from a place of pain worth anyone’s consideration, is to publicly describe that pain on intimate, physical-symptom terms? (I’m referring to “Well, when you said ‘I am right now shaking and on the point of tears from rage,’ that was much more effective.”) That feels icky, too. Are you owed knowledge of whether anyone else is shaking with rage, or crying? Is the onus really on the people in pain to prove their pain is considerable before the onus moves to the people causing the pain to stop hurting them?
    Now we are not owed that nor are people in pain obligated to prove they are in pain. However people in pain are also not allowed to lash out and hurt other people’s feelings just because they are in pain.
    But now it feels to me as though that Window got moved to a place of where people who are hurting need to have unlimited patience, unlimited benefit of the doubt for self-identified allies, unlimited assumption of good faith regardless of whether their day-to-day experience tells them this is wise, and if they run out of patience/benefit-o-doubt/assumption-o-good-faith, they lose any right to expect the people who are hurting them to listen to them, and really they should go away until they’re fit for society again.
    This is the first thing you’ve said that has made me think twice about my position on this. I don’t really have much of a response to this other than “I will think about this, because this has kind of hit me and kind of rings true.” However exactly where do we draw the line? Since I’m coming from a position of privilege, that exact same behavior from me would not be tolerated by anyone. Someone new to the site wouldn’t know anything about MadG or her background. To them she’d just be a loud screamy person. Are we going to allow different levels of anti-social behavior based on one’s relative privilege level? When I first came here I acted like an asshole. People told me “Jason, please stop acting like an asshole” and I took some time to examine my actions and apologized and stopped doing it. No one had a big long debate about whether I was allowed to act like an asshole because of my background. It seems that because one person has been dealt a bad hand in life they are allowed to behave in a manner that we wouldn’t accept from almost anyone else in the community.
    A lot of hostility got aimed at, is still being aimed at despite her absence, someone whose causes I identify with very much and whose stresses and triggers and patience-wearer-outers I feel I understand. I feel too much in danger of being the next target to post substantively here, for now.
    Nicole, I really like you a lot. I’ve always wished you’d post more, so I hope you stay and I hope you keep posting. I also hope MadGastronomer returns. I also wish people would stop talking about her, because this has turned uglier than I wanted it to. I didn’t want to start this, but I also didn’t want to look at her cursing someone out every other day.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Over on “It never stops” Kit suggest a summit about the community in general, which idea seems to be meeting with some approval.
    I wasn’t aware of what was going on with this thread when I posted that. Seems other people were thinking along the same lines as me.
    However, would it be constructive to have people make more general statements that move away from this particular debate? Might help us put things in positive terms.
    (I want to stay out of this particular one. I’m sad to see MadG go, I’m sad to hear that other people have been discouraged from posting by her posts, and I can see both sides too much to have anything to say on the topic.)

    First thing: Since I’m being mentioned as an example, I should probably address that. This section is just Talking About Me, so anyone not interested, this is your advice to skip it.
    My aim in debates is to be intellectually aggressive but socially defensible. That is, if I think someone’s saying something wrong I go hard after their arguments, but try to avoid saying things they could use as an excuse not to listen.
    Sometimes I do indeed lose my patience. I’d divide it into two categories: really losing it and swearing at people, and getting curt.
    I think I’ve only flipped out a few times. I’ve cussed people out when I felt they were directing personal malice at me despite repeated efforts on my part to communicate constructively with them. I flipped out once that I can remember on what might be called a hair-trigger reaction, which is at the woman who chose to imply that her positive birth experience was because of her superior merits, but since I had stated on that very thread that I was currently struggling with PTSD after an extremely bad experience, I’m not sorry I did it.
    There are times when I get a bit shorter with people than I might. This is usually because I’m worn out with sexism or other forms of prejudice. Anyone remember the long thread about four months ago when several people chose to assert that men were just better athletes than women and were completely, obtusely deaf to any suggestion that this was sexist? That rather lowered my ability to assume non-sexism on the Internet, because it, along with a few other experiences, forced me to the conclusion that there were some genuine sexists around.
    Basically I feel I need a fair amount of evidence that someone is being actively malicious or insensitive to me personally before I feel justified in cussing them out. I feel I need less evidence to conclude that they hold a harmful attitude, but am more likely to be sharp if not shouty if I feel they’re being deliberately obtuse, lazy in their thinking or otherwise showing less effort to be decent people than they should.
    So that’s me: I think that unimpeachable aggression works better than aggression that can be used against you passive-aggressively, but I feel less like making an effort if, basically, I think someone seems to be such a jerk that they won’t listen to reason whether I’m polite or not. How shouty I feel I should be in response depends on how personally they’re insulting me.
    In the interests of helping out, I’d say that my techniques do not always work. Where they fail, it’s usually with someone who’s convinced that they have superior rationality. (Generally I don’t agree with them.)
    I do not think that I single-handedly convince people of anything, or at least, not often. I can’t speak for other people, but it usually seems to me that if I carry a point, it has a lot to do with community atmosphere and other people supporting what I say. But as I don’t know what goes on in other people’s heads, that’s just my impression.
    So whether or not my technique is particularly effective, I don’t know. I certainly don’t feel like I change people’s minds all the time.

    How could we create a positive formulation as to what we want from this community? I think we all want it to be a safe space where honest debate can take place; how do we work with that?
    In most areas I’m fairly robust, so in a way, I think there’s a limit to how much I should say what should and shouldn’t go. One thing I’d point out is that we’re a pretty white community; I can’t say why, but perhaps that might be a hint that we should all keep an eye to whether or not we’re being alienating for non-white potential posters.
    That said, I have a suggestion, though it may be problematic: I think we need to be more open about triggers. Others have raised the issue, and I think it’s important. Many people have them, and while they can motivate passionate and rational argument, I think it can cause big problems when you get a Clash of the Triggers situation, which I think has been happening a fair bit lately.
    It’s easier to trip someone’s triggers if you don’t know they’re there. Of course, people aren’t obliged to divulge their bad experiences and suggesting people talk about them gets into a whole minefield about privacy – and probably reinforces privilege as well, as the more privileged you are, the fewer triggers you’re likely to have, which means that if everyone had to disclose their triggers, the more privileged would get more privacy. So obviously I don’t think it should be mandatory.
    However, I think we might consider making a commitment to cutting some slack around personal triggers. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with someone who’s being triggered, or even to think that what you’re doing is not analagous to whatever bad experience they’re associating with it, but I think as a community that aims to be humanitarian, it shouldn’t be beyond us to extend a bit of patience to someone who’s having their switch tripped.
    It’s just a thought, and I’d like to hear others. But in general, rather than casting blame, how do people think we could take positive steps?

    Cats are the model of stereotypical masculinity. Fierce independent meat-eaters who rule over all they survey but are actually totally dependent upon those they look down upon to sustain their lifestyle.
    And I wuv them so.

    Will, please accept this shiny, dangly, canip-scented Internet.


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