Postcards from the culture wars

“That’s the really revolutionary act – to dare to believe that people can change their hearts and minds.”

I don’t hate myself nearly as much as you wish I did.”

“I am so sorry for the loss of your wife, Rev. Garlow, but I what I grieve for more is your loss of a sense of humanity.”

“From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness.”

The middle spot is unsustainable on this issue. Gravity will win and one side will crash.”

“To suggest in the 21st century that a woman could be prevented from having access to birth control, even as far to the right as I am, that’s going off the cliff.”

I’m still waiting for someone — anyone — to present an argument against same-sex marriage that doesn’t boil down to, ‘My religion doesn’t approve’ or ‘I think it’s icky.'”

“A state’s right to discriminate should not trump an individual’s right to love.”

“If my happiness somehow demeans or diminishes your marriage, you need to work on your marriage.”

“Surprisingly, there have been no reports of random violence against other Christians in the wake of this news, and no outraged calls for closing Christian churches as potential dens of child molestation, because when Christians do terrible things, they are an anomaly to that religion’s message of peace.”

“They think government should be there to give orders and solve their problems and give them a handout when they need it.”

“I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.”

“Many of our Christians … want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. … As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

“Combine a ‘right to revolution’ with the belief that most people voting for Barack Obama are baby-killing looters who are revolting against God’s very specific plan for America as laid right out there in the Declaration of Independence and the original Constitution, and you could get some unfortunate consequences.”

“It’s going to be interesting to watch religious right groups such as the Family Research Council spin false portents of doom about gays wanting to imprison Christians and how ENDA will lead to this happening. Of course it’s not as if they haven’t done this before.”

“If only men could take a leaf out of women’s book and express hostility to the opposite sex by wearing clothes women find unattractive, instead of insulting us, harassing us, raping us, beating us or killing us.”

“My daughter wasn’t bullied to death, she was disappointed to death. Disappointed in people she thought she could trust, her school, and the police.”

“Apparently the idea of girls being sold off into early marriage and women being pushed into prostitution is fucking hilarious.”

“If a woman in Virginia has a miscarriage without a doctor present, they must report it within 24 hours to the police or risk going to jail for a full year.”

“Doctors and health advocates testified against HB 693 on Tuesday, pointing out that imposing obstacles to health services could ultimately dissuade youth from seeking the medical care they need.”

“Believe it or not, getting rid of contraception and abortion isn’t going to lead to improved women’s health.”

“The bill, Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women’s Services Act (H.R. 2030), would make it Not Okay to advertise come-to-Jesus centers as health care clinics, because they are not actually health care clinics.”

“Conservatives are supposed to stand for truth against relativism. But that seems not to be the play in this case.”

“Alex Jones is a long line of tradition going back to the John Birch Society, people who are always predicting impending doom. And the fact that they’re almost never right doesn’t seem to bother their followers in the least.”

“When you go full antiscience, logic goes out the window.”

“When normal people think of the Enlightenment, they think of Newton, Locke, Voltaire, Spinoza, Montesquieu, Goethe, Paine, Jefferson — and the ideas that helped launch the American Revolution. When crazy right-wing Christians think of the Enlightenment, they apparently think of … Nazis.”

“If this isn’t Nazism, Communism, Marxism and all the ‘ism’s,’ I don’t know what is.”


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  • Carstonio

    And I’m still waiting for a valid reason why anyone should even care what gender others choose for prospective spouses. One shouldn’t “oppose” homosexuality for anyone but one’s self.

  • Foelhe

    People like feeling good about themselves by looking down on other people. If they couldn’t do that, they might have to, ugh, accomplish something.

  • Charity Brighton

    It’s basically one of the few Biblical proscriptions that they can live up to. They wear their hair however they want (Leviticus 19:27), they listen to Lou Dobbs (Leviticus 19:33), they crack jokes about elderly drivers (Leviticus 19:32), and of course they probably wear polyester and eat animals/plants that have been crossbred or even genetically modified ((Leviticus 19:19).

    Frankly, the proscription against homosexuality is probably the only teaching from that book that they can live up to, so by golly they are going to live up to it as hard as they can. They might not be willing to give up any of their other sins, but they are going to be the New York Giants of not being gay. It’s literally the only thing they will do that will get them into heaven.

  • Carstonio

    I question the wisdom of the “you’re not following your own book” argument. It amounts to a concession that one should treat the book as authoritative.

  • Foelhe

    Really? I’ve always seen it as saying, “Please, I’m not going to follow your book. You don’t even follow your book.”

  • Charity Brighton

    I’m not criticizing them for not following the book.

    I’m criticizing them for picking one rule out of many and enforcing it like the second coming of Draco, while they themselves break almost all of the others.

    I’m criticizing them for the rank hypocrisy of insisting that millions of people obey their religious laws while they themselves do not.

    I’m criticizing them for pretending that they are so holy and mighty because they manage to not be born homosexual, as if that was an achievement or something that reflects on their character.

    If you don’t want to even attempt to follow the teachings of Leviticus, that’s fine with me. Just don’t tell me I’m a bad person because I don’t either.

  • Thank you for coming out in the name of truth, John Paulk.

  • Carstonio

    While that’s a viewpoint I share, I don’t want to make the argument that personal. Obviously their theological stance is inconsistent and hypocritical. I’m saying they should leave the theology out of it entirely when claiming to present a universal morality. They should either make a secular argument for homosexuality being immoral, or stop wasting our time.

  • GDwarf

    The Rehtaeh Parsons article is deeply moving, but it also makes me fear. The response to tragedies like this is always that we need tougher laws, harsher punishments, and no mercy for the accused. That’s not the problem, we have those laws, they just aren’t enforced. What we need is officers of the law who actually treat rape as the crime it is. Unfortunately, I’d give even odds that what we’ll get is tougher laws that are just as unenforced as the ones currently on the books.

  • FearlessSon

    Quoth the Altemeyer:

    Chronically frightened authoritarian followers, looking for someone to attack because fighting is one of the things people do when they are afraid, are particularly likely to do so when they can find a moral justification for their hostility. Despite all the things in scriptures about loving others, forgiving others, leaving punishment to God, and so on, authoritarian followers feel empowered to isolate and segregate, to humiliate, to persecute, to beat, and to kill in the middle of the night, because in their heads they can almost hear the loudspeakers announcing, “Now batting for God’s team, his designated hitter, (their name).”

    It is pretty much motivated by fear. Illogical, irrational fear, which has little connection to the issues they hawk, but fear none the less. Reducing this fear is part and parcel of encouraging acceptance. You see them do it with homosexuals, you see them do it with Muslims, hell you even see them do it with birth control. Someone got them all spooked, told them that their righteousness is under threat, and they want to bite the hands that reach out to them. Sooth the fear, turn the unknown into the familiar, and the indignation deflates.

  • general_apathy

    “If a woman in Virginia has a miscarriage without a doctor present, they must report it within 24 hours to the police or risk going to jail for a full year.”

    Nicolae would’ve approved. The other one, anyway.

  • The argument is personal. They’re trying to tell adults what they can do sexually with other enthusiastically consenting adults. That’s about as personal at it gets, when someone else thinks they can shove themselves into a person’s sex life without being invited. Calling someone who does that only a hypocrite is extraordinarily mild, I think.

  • Foelhe

    *sigh* Every time I get into an argument about gay rights, someone acts like I should be walking around on eggshells. Y’know what, I don’t care if we’re discussing sexuality, religion, politics or what color car you drive, if someone’s using blatant hypocrisy to attack another person, they deserve to be called on it.

  • Foelhe

    That does make a lot of sense, though I do still think cheap moral superiority is the carrot to authoritarian fear’s stick.

  • Baby_Raptor

    If they demand that the book be treated as an authority, you can reasonably point out their hypocrisy in failing to treat it as the authority they demand it be without needing to see it as an authority yourself.

    Its just holding them to their own standards. What you think of the material in question doesn’t come into this particular conversation.

  • Baby_Raptor

    That bill will never pass. There’s already precedent for a “right to lie”…Remember Fox News getting sued for their constant falsehoods, and winning because First Amendment?

    Further, people will just cry “Persecution!” and the Republicans will promptly start passing laws against requiring accurate reporting of services in the name of “religious freedom.”

    The fact that actual women are getting hurt doesn’t matter. Lying for Jesus is happening, and the end goal of women being controlled is happening. That’s what this is about, and anything that tries to stop it is going to face the epitomy of Uphill Battle.

  • stardreamer42

    To me, it’s more like saying that since THEY obviously consider the book authoritative, they shouldn’t pick and choose which parts they follow. I can argue that someone is being a hypocrite by their own standards without personally endorsing those standards.

  • FearlessSon

    That is vitally important too, according to Altemeyer:

    When I say authoritarian followers are aggressive I don’t mean they stride into bars and start fights. First of all, high RWAs go to church enormously more often than they go to bars. Secondly, they usually avoid anything approaching a fair fight. Instead they aggress when they believe right and might are on their side. “Right” for them means, more than anything else, that their hostility is (in their minds) endorsed by established authority, or supports such authority. “Might” means they have a huge physical advantage over their target, in weaponry say, or in numbers, as in a lynch mob. It’s striking how often authoritarian aggression happens in dark and cowardly ways, in the dark, by cowards who later will do everything they possibly can to avoid responsibility for what they did. Women, children, and others unable to defend themselves are typical victims. Even more striking, the attackers typically feel morally superior to the people they are assaulting in an unfair fight. We shall see research evidence in the next chapter that this self-righteousness plays a huge role in high RWAs’ hostility.

    In his findings, the aggression and hate-on is a two-part reaction. The fear provides a certain emotional pressure to do harm, the self-righteousness provides a release for that pressure and a channel for it toward particular targets. Those in position to help others define who those targets are tend to have enormous influence over such people (see any personality on Fox News.)

  • arcseconds

    Surely both arguments are cogent and can be argued for?

  • Carstonio

    Don’t get me wrong – of course we should call these folks on their hypocrisy. I think most of our focus should be on challenging them on their larger agenda, which is shared by folks who don’t engage in that selective reading of the Bible. It’s not just about telling consenting adults what they can do sexually, as Lliira said. It’s about telling others how to live. They don’t believe in a right of the individual to hold whatever beliefs he or she chooses regarding religion. Even if they were thoroughly consistent in their reading of scripture, they would still be wrong in insisting that its rules apply to everyone. I’m reminded of the 1980s when the media focused on the Swaggerts and the Bakkers and their petty personal scandals, ignoring Falwell and Robertson’s plans to gut the First Amendment.

  • and all the ‘ism’s,

    Oh My God! It’s capitalism! Run and hide!

    It’s conservatism!

    It’s altruism!

    And all of the other ‘ism’s.

  • People who are all up about revolution need to look at what’s happening in Turkey right now(that our wonderful media is ignoring).

    Now that kind of unarmed revolution is the only kind that will work, in my mind. Eventually soldiers and police will step back from massacring their own unarmed people, IMO, whereas an armed revolution just gives them the impetus necessary to classify those armed as Other.

  • Andy M-S

    I first encountered Phyllis Schlalfly and Eagle Forum in 1976, when I had just graduated from high school and they (the Forum) were operating a booth at the Minnesota State Fair. They had pamphlets explaining how the Nazis weren’t so bad, that “Nazi” meant “National” and that the Nazis were nationalists, which was a good thing. They were Holocaust deniers, explaining how the Jews had duped the US government into fighting the Nazis!

    These people are BAT. SHIT. CRAZY. The fact that they are taken seriously anywhere in this country should be a warning light and siren.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “Alex Jones is a long line of tradition going back to the John Birch Society, people who are always predicting impending doom. And the fact that they’re almost never right doesn’t seem to bother their followers in the least.”

    You know, the Second Russian Revolution screwed up more than Tom Clancy’s career. The Birchers found themselves without their number-one enemy, the World Communist Conspiracy. (“Communists! Communists! Communists!” in a funhouse-mirror reflection of the Communists’ own “Imperialists! Imperialists! Imperialists!”) And they’ve been flailing around for a substitute ever since.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “They think government should be there to give orders and solve their problems and give them a handout when they need it.”

    Sorry, Phyllis Schafely, but the Dems are carrying on an old, old tradition of their party by building a base among new immigrants. In the 19th Century, big East Coast Dem political machines like Tammany Hall built their base among the new immigrants getting citizenship in huge numbers. Granted, they exploited these immigrants to stay in office with “handouts when they needed it” — crumbs from the piles of goodies they took in through “honest graft”. And nothing changed in NYC until LaGuardia broke Tammany back in the 1930s. This was just East Coast Political Machine business-as-usual. And the Dems are just repeating the process with a new group of immigrants.
    And in a way, the Big City Dem Machines repeated another tradition — New York vs Chicago — in their 2008 primaries. The New York Machine (successors of Tammany) backed Hillary while the Chicago Machine (Daley) backed Obama. Nothing that would have seemed out of place in 19th Century politics.
    I refer you to a book from that period titled “Plunkett of Tammany Hall”, a series of as-told-to essays by a 19th Century NYC Machine insider.

  • Christina Nordlander

    FOWLER: I’m sick of this talk of “-isms”. Has an “-ism” ever robbed a bank? Has an “-ism” ever hijacked a plane?
    BOYD: Terrorism?
    FOWLER: Has an “-ism” ever overthrown the government?
    BOYD: Communism?
    FOWLER: Has an “-ism” ever hurt anyone?
    BOYD: Sadism?

    – “The Thin Blue Line”

  • MaryKaye

    You know, if someone said, “Here’s a list of laws I want changed/passed/not passed, and if I don’t get what I want, I’m going to kill a bunch of random people until you capitulate”–I think that the vast majority of people would be horrified, and would say that under no conditions should we give in to this awful act of terrorism.

    If the terrorist proved to be so superhumanly powerful that we were completely unable to stop him, we might reluctantly give in and acceed to his demands as the best way to save innocent lives. But we would hate him, and that hate would be entirely justified. We’d look constantly for ways to oppose him. And people who worked for or with the terrorist in any way would be treated with utter contempt.

    And yet this is exactly the scenario that the Pat Robertsons of this world are describing when they say that natural disasters are punishments for sin. One can certainly imagine a world (gods forbid) in which this was *true* but my moral sense, at least, refuses to even consider a situation in which it was *right*. If you believe this is true, I think you ought to be apologizing for your God, and/or praying night and day for his redemption; because it doesn’t live up to even very basic standards of morality.

  • Well, I think telling people what to do sexually is telling them how to live, and on the most basic and intrusive level possible. Some people don’t seem to care much about sex. But other people do. If I, for some reason, had been constantly told that being attracted to men was evil and I must never act on it, my life would be completely wrecked. And wrecked through other people thinking they had rights over my body, my imagination, my life.

  • This is one reason “be nice to them” doesn’t work for the RWAs’ targets. When has being nice to a bully ever stopped the bully? Bullies read niceness as weakness.

    It’s all very well and good to talk about long-term strategies, but there are people trying not to be pounded into the dirt here.

  • No no no see, it’s not an ism if it’s my ism. Only the obvious truth that all Those Other People are in willing and evil rebellion against.

    Freedom cannot survive unless they are forced to believe The Truth.

  • FearlessSon

    Oh, I would never suggest that RWA’s targets be nice to the RWAs. That accomplishes nothing, not directly anyway.

    What I think works is when other people be nice to the RWA’s targets, people the RWA’s do not want to be on the bad side of. If the RWAs are attacking gay people, it is important that straight people show support and solidarity with the gays. Heck, back during the civil rights movement, white people showing support and solidarity with black people was a big part of why the movement succeeded.

    The aggression of RWA is craven, they pick on the little guy because they see themselves as having an overwhelming advantage compared to them. But when you show them that said little guy has a lot of big friends on their side, suddenly the bullies find themselves very meek and on the losing side of dictating what is “moral”.

  • Foelhe

    You’re not wrong, and if we had to pick one argument to focus on this obviously wouldn’t be the right one. But we don’t have to make that choice. And while there are a lot of stronger arguments on a legal and logical level, emotionally this one packs quite a punch.

    Also, this argument isn’t just about tearing down opposition to LGBTQ rights, it’s also about holding the opposition responsible for their choices and their actions. We’ve been having this argument in another thread, about Christians saying their fellows shouldn’t be held culpable because, hey, they were just following orders. Pointing at all the rules they chose to ignore just underlines their selfishness and hypocrisy. In this argument, that’s something that needs to be put on the table.

  • P J Evans

    That was required reading in my freshman American History class. It was interesting enough that I may still have my copy.

  • FearlessSon

    I have said before, the only reason one should ever negotiate with terrorists is to give the SWAT team (or the SEAL team, or the SAS team, etc.) time to get in position. To do otherwise only encourages further acts of terror.

  • smrnda

    I think bashing ‘isms’ is just an avoidance of addressing the pros or cons of any policy. If someone proposes that the government increase the capital gains tax, someone simply denounces it as ‘socialism’ rather than addressing the possible consequences and why they might be good or bad. Or you say your opponents are ‘anti-freedom, anti-individual and anti-reason.’

  • That creates a chicken-vs-egg problem: terrorism is usually the last resort of people trying to enact change. Terrorism is often used when the existing methods of achieving one’s goals are ineffective.

    In other words, the people who become terrorists usually do so only after attempts to peacefully engage and negotiate prove ineffective. If you swear never to negotiate with entities that resort to terrorism, you’re marginalizing them even more, and eliminating non-terrorist options in future dealings.

    A lot of people were critical of England for entering into talks with the IRA because of the ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists’ rhetoric, but in the long run, it was a choice that paid off well. When was the last time you read about a bombing in Norther Ireland?

  • Lori

    Putting the “war” in “culture war”, that sound you heard earlier was heads exploding all over Rightwingnutistan.

    In every Navy SEAL is a memoir, it seems lately. Retired SEAL Kristin Beck’s new memoir, published on Tuesday and titled Warrior Princess,
    is a bit different, though. In it, Beck describes how, over the course
    of her 20 year military career, including thirteen deployments over the
    globe, she slowly became more and more aware that was she meant to live
    life as a woman — a vexing and often tormenting realization for a
    long-time member of an elite all-male unit that went on to capture and kill Osama bin Laden. Beck, who identified as a man (and went by the name Chris) while in the Navy, explains that she decided to undergo hormonal therapy some time after retiring in early 2011, and eventually came out to colleagues by
    posting a picture of herself dressed as a woman on LinkedIn earlier this year:

    How much do I love the title Beck chose? This much.

    Beck was prepared for negative reaction from her former comrades, but apparently they were mostly supportive, including the ones who freely admit they don’t really understand Kristin’s situation or decision. The world moves on, and I appreciated the reminder today in light of the failure of Illinois to get its shit together and join the 21st century.

    ETA: I bought a copy, both to be supportive & because I’m interested. It will probably be a couple weeks until I get to it, but if anyone is interested I can try to remember to pass on a review.

  • banancat

    It’s actually fairly obvious once you know what to look for. These people are terrified of not having strict gender roles. They force women (and to a lesser extent, men) into toxic, stifling little boxes by insisting that it is necessary for the good of family/society/god/nature/whatever. If the oppressed women see a same-sex couple living normally and the world doesn’t end, they will have much more leverage to demand equality in their own marriages. If they see a family with two women, at least one of them must be in control of the money or having the “final say”. If they see a family of two men and a child, at least one of them is doing much more childcare work than the average patriarchal father. And if those families turn out all right, then conservatives wives and future wives (daughters) won’t be as easily convinced that their gender roles are so necessary. Misogyny and homophobia go hand-in-hand, hence the importance of intersectionality within feminism.

  • banancat

    But Pat Robertson is a white Christian male, therefore he can’t possibly be a terrorist by definition.

  • Carstonio

    While your theory is probably correct, fear of elastic gender roles isn’t a valid reason for opposing homosexuality or same-sex marriage.

  • To be fair, I suspect there aren’t many here who think there are any valid reasons for opposing homosexuality or same-sex marriage.

  • Carstonio

    I know of no such reasons. If someone doesn’t like homosexuality, fine. No one is making the person be gay. But that dislike shouldn’t have anything to do with anyone else.

  • Carstonio

    You’re right that the two arguments aren’t mutually exclusive. I suppose my true interest is in destroying the entire worldview behind homophobia and misogyny. While we should call the hypocrites on their hypocrisy regarding scripture, there are plenty of folks who promote the same hatred without twisting themselves into theological knots. Some of the latter aren’t even religious. They also deserve to held accountable for their choices and actions.

  • I’ve tried to open dialogue with SSM opponents and I’ve never succeeded in getting more than a few lines in before it breaks down to howls of outrage and promises that when I have AIDS and am in Hell and the human race has died out, I’ll feel sorry. Apparently they react to logic the way Pacman frogs react to just about anything. Very rare to talk to one who doesn’t seem to be filled with incoherent rage bubbling beneath the surface.

  • Excellent! Mr. ShifterCat has been vocally supportive of Fallon Fox on the UFC forums, despite a lot of opposition from macho idiots. I’ll point him at this.

  • dpolicar

    Well, FWIW I think there are valid reasons for opposing same-sex marriage, though I think they are overwhelmed by the valid reasons to support it.

    That said, they are also reasons for opposing opposite-sex marriage.

  • The only ones I’ve heard which even approach reasonable logic have been from libertarians saying that the government should have no role whatsoever in marriage and everyone should either just have civil unions or make their own marital contracts.

    Unfortunately, doing things like that hasn’t stopped the worst from happening.

  • Foelhe

    “You’re right that the two arguments aren’t mutually exclusive. I suppose my true interest is in destroying the entire worldview behind homophobia and misogyny. While we should call the hypocrites on their hypocrisy regarding scripture, there are plenty of folks who promote the same hatred without twisting themselves into theological knots. Some of the latter aren’t even religious. They also deserve to held accountable for their choices and actions.”

    I like to think humiliating some of the people involved helps. Make some homophobes look foolish and people look askance at anyone who agrees with them. Maybe that’s not entirely fair, but I’m kind of okay with that.

    (Responding to this in a new post, because goddammit Disqus. EDIT: Oh, now. Now they fix the problem.)

  • dpolicar

    I also can respect feminists who take the position that marriage is such a historically sexist institution that participating in it at all is a net anti-woman thing to do (since it strengthens the power of the institution, and the institution is on net harmful to women). I don’t really agree, but I don’t consider the position invalid.

  • FearlessSon

    Put it this way, I am thinking of the “We will execute one hostage every hour until our demands are met,” kind of situations.

    You know, like Congress was doing with the budget ceiling a few years back.

    If someone has moved onto that stage, you take them down as quickly and efficiently as possible. You only give them enough leverage to let them walk into the sniper team’s crossfire.