Postcards from the culture wars

Postcards from the culture wars December 3, 2013

You seem successful and delightful!

It took everything we had so that our son would not suffer.”

“The woman at the crisis pregnancy center said my college would be free if I had a child.”

“In preaching a message of punishment, the hellfire and brimstone preachers of Judgement House like to think they are going against the grain of dominant cultural values. As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth.”

“Republicans are slightly more likely than Democrats to say that the Constitution does not permit state religions. They just think that on this one, the framers of the Constitution got it wrong.”

“Ken Starr, a retired federal judge and former Solicitor General who single-mindedly pursued a criminal investigation into President Bill Clinton sparked by Clinton’s sexual behavior with an adult, signed a letter to Kloman’s sentencing judge arguing that ‘community service’ would be a more appropriate punishment for someone who repeatedly sexually assaulted children entrusted to him by their parents.”

“It was another link in the chain from Stieve to Mecklenburg to Willke to today’s anti-abortion Republicans.”

“The Church knows no one is listening to its sexual strictures, and many clergy don’t even believe they should. But everyone goes on pretending — at least in the West.”

“Lord, save me from men who don’t understand the biology of women’s bodies and think that they have the right to legislate or adjudicate from that point of ignorance.”

“In this case, a young woman in a crisis situation was put at risk because religious directives were allowed to interfere with her medical care.”

“The suit claims that the hospital knew that the fetus was not viable, and withheld medically indicated care due to restrictions placed upon them by the Conference, and that further those restrictions also prevented the hospital from telling her the truth about her condition or the restrictions themselves that prevented appropriate care.”

“This is some room-temperature faux-macho alpha-pansy nonsense, and I am here to beat it bloody and leave it on the ground.”

“It now appears his phony ‘transformation’ has moved on to recruiting an innocent victim as a prop to give credence to his lie.”

“Catholic principles of justice, equality, human dignity, protection and support of all families are what are motivating them to support marriage for lesbian and gay couples.”

“At an expensive summer camp, ‘boys will be boys.’ On the streets of Washington, boys will be part of a trend piece.”

“The totally non-racist Republican Party is made up of conventional people who are nauseated by inter-racial marriage.”

He doesn’t celebrate Christmas with his own family.”

“While the My Lai Massacre is widely recognized as a military atrocity and an act of mass murder committed on civilians and non-combatants, true appreciation of the event as an act of mass rape and sexual abuse has never clearly materialized in the American consciousness.” (Trigger warning, big time.)

“All we have left is Jewish Mother. Someday, Jeff Goldstein, G_d willing, you will regret this.”

“More important, however, is that Vision Forum promotes a vision not just of male leadership in the family and the nation, but more specifically a vision rooted in an ideology of white male mastery.”

“The idea that racism ended permanently when a few heroic individuals who conservatives can now support decades after the fact in highly sanitized versions — so that the only remaining racism is liberal opposition to racism — is a fundamental principle of the contemporary Republican Party.”

“But since the days of slavery, into the days of super-predators, and now the time of the Knockout Game, there has always been a strong need to believe that hordes of young black men will overrun the country in a fit of raping and pillaging. It’s how we justify ourselves.”

“God is not in the habit of talking — because we are not in the habit of listening.”

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  • Michael Pullmann

    That Ken Starr piece is a trigger, too. Yeesh. What the heck is wrong with people?

  • Lauren

    Fred, I have such mixed feelings about your Postcards series. On the one hand, I appreciate the attention you bring to these issues (I’m no fan of sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring what’s happening around us), and grouping all these articles together makes them easier for me to find. On the other hand, I don’t know that I’ve ever actually gotten through an entire list of articles without feeling sick to my stomach and hating humanity.

    I pray for the day when these postcards are relics of the past, and we have no new postcards to replace them.

  • GeniusLemur

    Ken Starr specifically? He used Republican morality: Clinton was a Democrat, so he was in the wrong. Kloman is my buddy, so he’s in the right.

  • LL

    Why am I not surprised that Republicans will defend a child molester but punish women who want the right to (as adults) request a medical procedure?

    Oh, right: because they are terrible people.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Because the child molester wasn’t harming ~precious baybees.~ Republicans only care about you until you’re born. (You might earn a second glance if you vote for them or die in their wars, though.)

    Also, because the child molester was male, so obviously those kids were tempting him and he just couldn’t resist because penis.

    *walks off to shower after typing that*

  • Hth

    From now on I’m going to respond to all douchebaggery with “You seem successful and delightful!” How brilliant is that?

  • Carstonio

    Jonathan Wilson’s dissection of the Vision Forum has only one real flaw. He talks about racism as though it were nothing more than individual prejudice, and is too quick to refute any argument that the Forum wants to bring back slavery. Whether the Forum folks want to be racist is irrelevant. An authoritarian social structure with white men at the top is just as much racist as it is sexist. No one is arguing that folks like Vision Forum want a right to own slaves. They simply want to rank above non-whites.

    To me, most adherents of the Lost Cause myth seem defensive, and at its core the myth may be about shame stemming from an honor culture mentality. Partly the perception that the military defeat stripped their ancestors of their honor. But mostly, perhaps, from the nagging feeling that their ancestors were really dishonorable in keeping fellow humans in bondage. If they were to readily admit that slavery was wrong, instead of rationalizing it or treating the wrongness as beside the point, any argument for the authoritarian social structure they extol would collapse.

  • G.G.

    Regarding My Lai, if you want to really lose your last shreds of faith in humanity than listen to this: somebody wrote a song defending William Calley, and it was a big hit (certified gold in 1971) (as always, don’t read the youtube comments, they are horrible)

  • Lori

    Dying in their wars gets you, at most, empty platitudes. Mostly it gets you jack, with a side order of nada in zip sauce, with some zilch for dessert. The only people they’re interested in are the ones who can actually start their wars.

  • Jeff

    “The totally non-racist Republican Party is made up of conventional people who are nauseated by inter-racial marriage.”

    Nope, this is just a case of poor reading comprehension on the part of Feministing, and sloppy thinking and fact-checking on your part. Cohen isn’t saying “inter-racial marriage makes me, a Republican, nauseous.” He is saying, “I, a liberal, assume that inter-racial marriage makes Republicans nauseous.” Don’t take my word for it, take Cohen’s:

    “I didn’t write one line, I wrote a column,” Cohen said. “The column is about Tea Party extremism and I was not expressing my views, I was expressing the views of what I think some people in the Tea Party held.”

  • Rakka

    Can you swap zilch for bupkis? Or does it cost extra?

  • AnonaMiss

    …And he called interracial marriage inducing nausea conventional. As in normal, common, mainstream, a matter of course.

  • That defense means little when in the SAME EXACT PIECE he tried the same tactic about DeBlasio’s wife’s lesbian history.

  • Cuniraya, Antichrist

    You know, I was willing to give Cohen the benefit of the doubt at first too, but let’s think about it this way. He’s reporting on the attitudes of a group of people (Tea Party conservatives), and in describing this group he says that they probably find interracial marriage is nausea inducing. He feels that’s a normal response. Ok, maybe there is still that value, fine. He also argues that the Tea Party isn’t racist, even if it should hold interracial marriage as a sticking point. So, he is saying that it’s ok to be opposed to two people getting married if their skin tones clash; that’s not racist. It is, and he’s tacitly supporting opposition to interracial marriage by saying that it’s not racist when it totally is.

  • Cohen is to liberal as Liberace is to subdued, restrained performance. He’s also a terrible writer.
    I do believe he meant to say, “It’s the conventional belief of the Tea Party, and a considerable number of Republicans that mixed marriage is nauseating.” Regrettably, this is not what he, in fact, said.

  • stardreamer42

    I’ve seen it hypothesized that a large part of Confederacy-worship, and the fact that so many of its adherents are complete asshats, has to do with them feeling feminized because their side lost the war. So they feel that they have to keep re-fighting it until they can WIN.

  • Hth

    But I’d echo Cuniraya above: he also said that the Tea Party isn’t racist. You don’t get to have that both ways: either it is “conventional” within the Tea Party to be nauseated by interracial marriage, or accusations of racism against them are false. Both cannot be true at the same time.

    Excusing other people’s obvious racism by saying “oh, they’re not *racist* racist, that’s just their way,” is utter. racist. bullshit. Which is why people are ticked at Cohen, not because we misunderstood him to be saying he personally is repulsed by the DeBlasio family.

  • FullMetalMarmotte

    36% of british catholics say church is a positive force in society… I find that really disturbing. Does that means that more than half of them think of the churvh as something negative ? If yes there is definitely a big problem

  • Thanks for the ‘Time for Burning’ clip Fred. The barber there, Ernie Chambers, has been north Omaha’s rep in the state unicameral for 38 years. In that time he has been a godsend in stifling hurdles to abortion access, draconian prison sentences, and other such ritual displays of right-wing tribal dominance that have so tyrannized Kansas, Oklahoma and other neighbors of ours..

    Chambers May well be the bravest son Nebraska has ever spawned. My hero, in as much as I’d ever own to having such a thing.

  • Carstonio

    I remember a Cohen column about rape more than 20 years ago that focused on how women dressed or where they walked. The classic myth that rapists are usually evil strangers hiding in alleys, instead of men known to their victims. I don’t have Cohen’s language handy, but the overall tone was “I’m not blaming the victim, but…” followed by victim-blaming.

    Here and with the interracial marriage column, Cohen’s approach to “moderate” politics is to act like these issues have two reasonable positions, essentially enabling the hatred in one position. I think this reflects far worse on Cohen’s character than if he were personally repulsed by interracial marriage, because he’s refusing to label hatred for what it is.

  • P J Evans

    The name of the record company is bad enough.

  • Carstonio

    That fits well with my theory. Both equate to a loss of status.

  • “Which is why people are ticked at Cohen, not because we misunderstood him to be saying he personally is repulsed by the DeBlasio family.”
    While that’s certainly a legitimate reason to be ticked, it’s not the only one. His terrible, terrible writing is quite enough on its own, at least for me. Your point is well taken, though. He does do an awful lot of, “I’m not a racist, but [says something racist.]”

  • Well, between covering up pedophilia, committing financial fraud, supporting hospitals that kill pregnant women in the name of liturgy and their various other offenses, yeah, I’d say it is a big problem.

  • LL

    That “A Time for Burning” segment could have been filmed today. And it came out the year I was born. Sad, that everything the barber says is just as relevant today.

    One of the many things current “Christians” have to answer for, along with the Republican party.

    But nice to hear (read) that that barber is now a state senator. Too bad he’s not in Congress.

  • arghous

    Link #2 after the clip: [Oklahoma State] Rep. [Mike] Ritze agreed. “Maybe as we see more Republicans, there will
    be fewer and fewer liberal judges appointed,” he said hopefully. “More
    of what we call the original intent-type of judge. Your Anton [sic]
    Scalias and your judge – the black judge, the Supreme Court judge.”

    This maroon is a state representative?

  • smrnda

    A defense I hear sometimes is that the average Johnny Reb had no idea what the war was about, hadn’t thought much about the slavery issue, but simply knew his region was being attacked and invaded and chose to fight. This seems consistent with an attempt to make the Lost Cause into being about honor, but it only could work if you decide that history should be viewed through the perspective of people who are ignorant of what’s going on. It seems easier to look at these people as unfortunate dupes, but I think again, it’s probably not easy for many people to say ‘my ancestors were ignorant and were duped into fighting a war because they happened to live south of a line.’ And admitting that your average Johnny Reb had nothing at stake in the conflict upsets the idea of hierarchy, since those at the top would then be cynical manipulators.

  • tricksterson

    I think Gov. Fallin is on firm biblical ground her for does it not say in Proverbs:

    “‘Tis better that ten straight families be deprived than one gay family benefit”

  • Matri

    Sure you can. It’s made from the same ingredients, takes just as long to make, costs just as much to produce, but will be priced six times higher.

  • mattmcirvin

    Some of the people who answered “not sure” on the question about whether states were permitted to establish religions may have figured it was a trick question. The literal text of the First Amendment only restricts Congress, whereas the extension to the states comes from the majority interpretation of it (and, I suppose, of the 14th Amendment as well) in Everson v. Board of Education in 1947, so I suppose it could be a matter of interpretation whether you consider that as the Constitution forbidding it or the court system forbidding it.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I couldn’t get past “As we see more Republicans.”

    Where is this whackadoodle getting the idea that his side is *growing*?

  • Baby_Raptor

    So more than half of them see it correctly, and this is a problem?

  • Regarding Ken Starr: It’s funny watching them talk about rehabilitation when these same people oppose it whenever it’s a black guy who was in jail for possessing drugs… and deeply disturbing.

  • Lori

    There’s a charge for changes to the combo platter.

  • Lorehead

    There’s nothing partisan about it. In Portland, Oregon, former mayor and governor Neil Goldschmidt molested a fourteen-year-old and covered it up for decades with the help of his friends in the press (who, even after it was revealed, called the relationship “an affair.”) More recently, former mayor Sam Adams dated a seventeen-year-old boy, grooming him to have sex on his eighteenth birthday. Even though they kissed before then, the attorney general decided not to press charges. And my former congressman, David Wu, did not deny in 2004 the date-rape of his girlfriend in college in 1978, yet was re-elected and endorsed by the entire Democratic establishment, including Barack Obama in 2008. They only cut Wu loose after another alleged sexual assault against a teenage girl in 2011, by which time his strange behavior had already gotten completely out of hand and made him a liability.

  • Lori

    Unfortunately this is true. I think a very wide swath of the population has the same basic thought process about sexual assault as they do about racism.

    Sexual assault/racism is bad

    Bad people do bad things

    Good people are not friends with bad people

    I’m a good person

    I can’t be friends with a rapist/racist

    I’m friends with X

    X can’t be a rapist/racist

    How dare you besmirch my honor by suggesting that X committed rape/did or said something racist? You’re obviously just spreading lies in order to hurt X or the cause X represents.

  • Jonathan Wilson

    Thanks, Carstonio. I tried to be especially careful about discussing personal motives only to the extent that they were really evident in the public record. And unfortunately, it’s hard to talk about racism without having people (and just not people on one side) assume you’re talking about conscious motives.

    I do believe there is such a thing as structural racism, but I didn’t want a debate about that to derail the main discussion. So I tried to hint at it in the comments: “I think it’s entirely fair to point out that any defense or extenuation of slavery has racist *implications* as soon as you apply it to American history. But that’s not necessarily the same thing as accusing someone of racism.”

  • Lori

    Even assuming that a significant portion of Johnny Rebs fought purely for regional loyalty and not out of a desire to see slavery continue*, there’s still massive racism at work. I’d have more respect for this brand of excuse making (not a lot, but more) if people were willing to acknowledge that instead of trying to make greatgreatgreat grandpappy some poor innocent rube who never done nobody any harm or had a bad thought about anyone based on their skin color, but just didn’t want to take orders from uppity Yankees.

    *This is a huge, and very convenient, assumption and AFAICT not actually true.

  • Lorehead

    I don’t think the latter relates much to partisanship. (Clearly he was determined to bring Bill Clinton down for partisan reasons, but that’s not why he’s wrong this time.)

    There’s a very common pseudo-moral attitude that child molestation isn’t actually wrong, but rather male pedophiles are subhuman monsters. In that view, the victims don’t matter, or even whether there were any victims at all: someone sexually attracted to someone who looks too young (and it’s all about appearance, not ability to consent), even if he never harmed anyone or acted on those feelings, is more evil than someone who rapes college students. It ties in with the excuses people make for rapists: to be morally consistent, they would have to make the same excuses for everyone, including child molesters, which they realize would be wrong, or for no one. So instead they deny the humanity of the people they hold to the double standard.

    This is another example of the kind of travesty this pseudo-moralism leads to. Remember, it’s all about finding and punishing subhumans, whose thoughts and not actions are what make them subhuman, and what happened to the victims didn’t matter at all. No punishment is too severe for the subhumans! But since your friend isn’t subhuman, he doesn’t deserve to be punished.

  • Also: ““The totally non-racist Republican Party is made up of conventional people who are nauseated by inter-racial marriage.””

    Why haven’t these people caught on yet that “I’m not racist, but” never, EVER works?

  • Which really pisses me off, because it insinuates failure and defeat with being female, and FUCK. THAT. SHIT.

  • Perhaps we need to get Fred to have a monthly thing that’s more uplifting?

  • Excluded middle. If a third think it’s a positive force, a third think it’s negative, and a third think that their charitible activities and their abominable ones more-or-less balance out, that’s basically neutral.

  • P J Evans

    Considering that the average Union soldier was hungry for news, and newspapers – all newspapers – were passed around and read avidly, I’d be surprised if the average Confederate soldier was much different.

  • P J Evans

    Because everyone they associate with thinks it’s fine.

  • Yeah. typical of those people, always jumping to conclusions and accusing people of racism, which is the real racism ever since Rosa Parks ended racism sixty years ago.

  • Kirala

    I discovered Margaret Fuller for the first time last month and was absolutely delighted to find, in a critique by a mid-19th-century woman on “Woman in the Nineteenth Century”, a scathing criticism of the term “manly” being used as a compliment for a woman, as if being “womanly” would be somehow less, or as if intellect and fortitude were “manly” traits to which only the most exceptional women might aspire. Bless her.

  • Kirala

    I think Ta-Nehisi Coates nailed it in his reaction editorial (entitled “Richard Cohen in Context):

    “The problem here isn’t that we think Richard Cohen gags at the sight of an interracial couple and their children. The problem is that Richard Cohen thinks being repulsed isn’t actually racist, but “conventional” or “culturally conservative.””

    Cohen’s Overton window wants alignment. Badly.

  • Kirala

    Nationwide, I believe and pray you’re right.

    Regionally, I live in North Carolina, a state whose legislature & governor were, until approximately four years ago, pretty solidly in the hands of the Democrats, forever and aye. Unfortunately, apparently four years ago the reactionaries finally all got word that the Dixiecrats were supposed to defect to the Republican side and, well, you’ve seen the State of Concern result.

    I think local centers of Republican control will definitely be “growing” as the party is forced to retrench. If this is the state of Oklahoma today, I would be entirely unsurprised to see Republican influence continue to grow there for a while.

  • smrnda

    I recall a book I read in the psychology library a few years back (I have to go and have them help me find it – the library has been reorganized and I remembered it not by title, but by where I physically found it) which pointed out with quite a few studies that sexual responses towards underage persons was not that uncommon, and that most people experiencing these feelings do not act on them.

    The whole ‘subhuman’ idea makes it very difficult for people who don’t *look or seem* subhuman (who are, for example, white and not poor!) to be punished for these offenses, and I suspect the rationalization of a ‘good guy having a bad day’ or something gets pulled out, whereas it’s easier to call people you’ve never met or who don’t look like you subhuman monsters.

    I myself am kind of surprised by this thinking. You’d think the lesson that everybody would learn is that sexual predators are unlikely to stand out or appear worse than average, or else they would have gotten caught (and not be trusted by their victims) but there are lots of inaccurate and harmful myths at work there.