Beginning the Nano Month

For the past few years, November has meant writing projects. They could be blogging projects or, like last year, an attempt at novel writing. The point is to get people used to the schedule of writing, with the end product being either a blog or a manuscript.

I have no idea if I have time to be an official participant this year, but I’m doing Nano regardless. Towards that end, this month will have the theme of Balance. I’m going to blog about bring the various parts of my life (husband, civil servant, nerd, grad student, brother, nephew and curmudgeon) into balance.

I’ll also probably write a lot about politics and my frustrations as a liberal.

A Simple Guide to Political Categorization

Given that human beings have a tendency to categorize, it should come as no surprise that this peculiar human trait is also used when discussing particular beliefs systems. People fuss over the definition–and label–of terms like progressive, liberal, conservative, big D Democrat, big R Repulican, Blue Dog and fascist. I could spend all of NaBloPoMo trying to suss this out; however, I think that in order to do it properly, I’d get far too involved with blogging to get any other work done. Instead of trying to define and label all of these terms, I’m going to focus on particular event that can cut across a number of these categories; furthermore, this event can be used heuristically to help identify what labels are appropriate.

In short–and this is a continuation of yesterday’s quick thought–I am proposing this simple test: If you blame a victim of sexual assault and bandy about terms like “personal responsibility” and “boys will be boys” you are disqualified from being considered liberal, progressive and a feminist.

I recognize that it is difficult to define certain philosophies. I also realize that “moral absolutes” and universal statements are dangerous places to go philosophically. In addition to these realizations, I’m pretty sure that this this kind of a statement will make some of my readers–new, old or established–upset because I’m being too harsh.

When one blames a victim for a crime, one is saying that (at best) their poor judgement is the moral equivalent of the pain that has been inflicted on them. Minimizing, Justifying and rationalizing a crime with the statement of, “well she should have known better” is a distortion displayed by the people perpetrating the crime. When the larger community blames a victim, it continues to traumatize the victim.

In short, if you blame a victim, you are traumatizing the victim. You are showing a callous disregard for their experience. In my experience of talking with victims and victim advocates, victims of crimes–especially victims of a sexual assault–already have an inordinate amount of guilt and shame. Victims feel as if other people are holding them responsible for their victimization. These feelings, for some victims, continue inward to the point where a victim blames oneself for their pain. As a result of this emotional trauma, they begin to feel that they have this pain coming, that they have somehow deserved this because they are bad, stupid or “slutty.”

Blaming a victim is one step away from abusing the victim.

I honestly do not care if this is considered too harsh. I have seen multiple generations of families suffering from victim blaming. I have read far too many victim statements and talk to far too many State’s Attorneys who have told me far too much about how the victim “is spiraling out of control and no one is able to help her.”

When a person is victimized, the offender is the one that is responsible for their trauma. They are the ones who chose to cross boundaries. They are the ones who decided to violate societal norms for their own needs. If you want to blame society for sexualizing young women and having conflicting sexual mores, feel free to do so. But if you are going to blame a victim, recognize that you have far too much in common with an offender than I am comfortable with.

If you’re uncomfortable with the dissonance you might feel, then change your mind about victim blaming. Don’t rationalize it. Do not justify it. Change it.

I don’t hate America. I Don’t hate….

I just really dislike you.  The you, in this case, being the ignorant and divisive people who continue to put on this notion that Liberal’s hate America.  People described here:

The comments came at a McCain rally in Concord, North Carolina Saturday before the Arizona senator or members of his staff had arrived at the event. As first reported by the New York Observer, Hayes said, “Liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God.”


Hayes’ comments echo those of other Republicans in recent days that have drawn fire from Democratic circles. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said late last week she’s concerned Barack Obama “may have anti-American views,” and suggested other liberal members of Congress also may be anti-American.

“The news media should do a penetrating exposé and take a look,” she said. “I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?”


“Country First”

Look, Hayes, Bachmann and McCain have the same rights of free speech as everyone else.  I just wish they would actually think about what they were saying before they said it. Two of the three individuals flat out say that the left doesn’t care about America. This is news to me. As a student of history, I can readily point out a number of instances where Liberals did something GOOD for the country: 40-hour work week, Child Labor Laws, Miranda Protections, The New Deal, Juvenile Justice Courts, the FDA and Food Saftey inspections. Can we please move on from the idea that Liberals, or Democrats, hate America?

One does not need to believe in God to do good things for the country. One does not need to vote for McCain to be County Firs. Hell Kennedy said it better, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” McCain’s statement is not just a less-poetic version of Kennedy’s vision, it is a completely different statement.

McCain, and by extension, the Republican Party, are saying that they have always put their Country First. The implication is that “those other guys” haven’t. So, when Obama turned down Wall Street to work on the South Side, and Joe Biden kept his senate seat AFTER the tragic loss of his wife, they were putting themselves first? Please. This type of rhetoric only serves to divide. Then again, it’s the only rhetoric McCain and his cronies have left. If they stick to the issues–the economy, education, defense, health care–they lose. So to ensure their victory, they put their ambitions first and the state of the Country second. They use divisive, cynical rhetoric and then say that Liberals “hate America.”

I am not blindly loyal to this country, but I do not hate it. I love my country: And I am, by far, more Liberal than Obama. I am disgusted to see our leaders throw everything we stood for, and strived for, away. I would hate to see my country vote against itself this year, based on the wrong-headed idea that people like me hate our country.

You keep using those words…

…and I’m not sure what you mean. In fact, if the debate on the Panic post is any indication of the matter, we appear to be differing over the nature of the terms.

In his fantastic book, The Conscience of a Liberal, Senator Paul Wellstone discuss the nature of our country’s politics. Are we “left, right or center?” Wellstone cited all sorts of data on the issue, ending with his belief that our country is “Center-Left.” In effect, when asked about the issues, American’s lean Center Left.

When asked to self-identify, American’s appear to have interesting answers. Lewis cited the poll where in 60% of American’s identify as conservatives (page 16). Yet Fifty Five years ago, President Eisenhower was identified with so-called Liberal Causes. What happened?

In fifty-five years, Liberals got a bad rap. Even Saul Alinsky mocks them. What does liberal even mean anymore?

For that matter, what does Conservative even mean anymore? Frequent readers (and friends) have identified them as fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and straight up conservatives. Even I’ve said I have a fiscally conservative approach–and I don’t think anyone would confuse me for a potential Republican voter. (That being said I have voted for one big ticket republican before. It was a local election, and I voted against my union endorsed candidate for president because he was a tool. So is his son…but that’s a post for a different time.)

I have heard various pundits (and read a number of op/ed pieces) that suggests that the main difference between the Left and Right is a question of basic human character: Leftists believe that people have a tendency towards benevolent/generous behaviors while Rightwingers believe that people tend towards selfish/greedy behavior. Therefore, leftists don’t have an issue with “big government” because, with the right (leftist) people in power, government will work for the betterment of society. Rightwingers will want to limit government because they only have their own interests at heart. Thomas Frank discuss this on Bob Edwards Weekend.

What’s your take on this idea?

On like the Belief article, I’m going to post my first thoughts here. As an aside, I am still working on the belief post…Flickr ate it.

I’m not sure about this. I first this heard Thom Hartmann and David Horowitz debate this on Air America, and it appeared that they agreed on the issue. Hell, they were more explicit, using terms as “good” and “bad.” Then on Bob Edward’s show, Thomas Frank made the argument that because conservatives think that people are inherently selfish, they wreck government agencies so that the private sector can fix it. Agencies have too much power, so the concentrated power inherent in the private sector somehow limits bad people being in control. At least, I think that was the argument.

Obviously, political philosophies are significantly more sophisticated than, “people are good/people are bad.” However, I do think that there may be some merit in this idea. I do believe that provided a level playing field and all the information, most people will do the right thing. The less level the playing field, the harder it is to be altruistic; however, I have seen families living in abject poverty reaching out to their neighbors to help them.

And yet, at my job I have seen horrible things that people have done to each other. I have met kids who have been failed so thoroughly by society that they never had a chance to be anything but “bad.” I have also seen a few kids, given all the opportunity in the world, turn out to rotten to the core. Some would even use the term evil to talk about these kids…

All in all, I think that how people see others–inherently good, bad, smart, stupid, selfish, whatever–helps form the basis of their political ideology. It doesn’t explain all of why I believe what I believe, but it is a good start to it.