Essay Prompt: Sexual Harrassment and Women in the Workplace

I’ve said it many times: some of my best essay prompts come from my Conservative friends on FB. Just this morning, in response to the firing of Matt Lauer, I saw the following in a comment conversation chain:

Poster 1: I actually believe this will work the opposite way: if you so much as look crosseyed at a woman at work – no harassment of any kind by any stretch of the imagination, she’ll claim it anyway and you’re still gone. There was a round of this kind of stuff going on in the late 80s and early 90s. Guys need to be squeaky clean and need to be prepared to lawyer up against false accusations.

Poster 2:  As for women. I am growing to want little to do with any of them outside my wife and family, it’s too risky. Too many false accusations and everything is assault now. Even just having good manners. Women’s libbers are truly setting the female gender back decades. Who is going to want to hire a potential lawsuit knowing it’s now “guilty until proven innocent” in this matter?

Just think about this for a minute, and you’ll see why this is an essay prompt. Follow this down the path, and where do you end up? We must keep the women separate to protect us. They must dress modestly (thank you Angela Lansbury). “It’s not my fault, I just looked at her wrong.”

Guys (I was going to say “Folks”, but perhaps “Guys” is better): You need to listen to those Sexual Harrassment training courses. The issue isn’t looking at them crosseyed (although pervasive stares could be a problem). The issue isn’t opening the door for someone or being polite. The issue isn’t women in the workplace.

Here’s what the key issues are: (1) Harassment. (2) Power. (3) Respect. In many ways, it boils down to the Golden Rule. Not Trump’s Golden Rule, which is “He who has the gold makes the rules.”, but the biblical one, which for those unaware goes back to the Talmud:

Once there was a gentile who came before Shammai, and said to him: “Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot. Shammai pushed him aside with the measuring stick he was holding. The same fellow came before Hillel, and Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”  – Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a

How do these points relate?

  1. Harassment. Don’t harass anyone, in any way. That’s being a bully. That can range from offensive looks, artwork you know will incite, statements you know will incite. Don’t push people’s buttons. Wikipedia notes that harassment  is commonly understood as behavior that disturbs or upsets, and it is characteristically repetitive. In the legal sense, it is behavior that appears to be disturbing or threatening. Sexual harassment refers to persistent and unwanted sexual advances, typically in the workplace, where the consequences of refusing are potentially very disadvantageous to the victim. Key aspects there: Persistent and unwanted. In other words: the first time you do it, it is a mistake. Do it again, your ass is grass. I said so in an earlier post. Whether sexual or just bullying. This isn’t a “female” thing. If you wouldn’t behave that way to someone you like and respect, don’t do it.
  2. Power. Often these relationships are an abuse of power. They are attempts to show that you have the power, or you are taking advantage of that power to get something of benefit. Be it money, sex, or some other favor. Don’t do it. Again: Using your power against someone is just being a bully.
  3. Respect. Hillel said it best: “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow.” Perhaps you know this as the line from Matthew: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Same thing. Treat people with respect, they way you would want them to treat you. This goes to word, deed, and what you do in your workplace at home. It is an attitude to teach your children.

The problem is not women in the workplace. The problem is not looking at them crosseyed. The problem is not avoiding all women. [And, to be fair, not that this isn’t just a man to woman problem — ask Kevin Spacey]. The problem is treating people as sexual objects, not people. The problem, even broader, is treating people as objects, not people. Treat people with respect, as you would want to be treated, and you’ll be just fine.

 

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Let Them No More

Reading about today’s shooting in Texas got me thinking — a dangerous thing.

For the longest time, what has been our answer as to why some man (and, yes, they are typically almost always all men — and often white men) has done something that has injured or killed one or more people?

Because they can.

Why did this shooter shoot up that place? Because he can.

Why did this man sexually harass that woman? Because he can.

Why did this man rape, that man abuse, that other man cheat, that still other man steal? Because he can.

But you know, that’s the wrong answer. The correct answer is: Because we let them.

We let weapons of destruction get into the hands of people that abuse them (be they guns or cars — they were in the hands of a man who used them for bad). We look the other way when that off-color joke or remark is made. We look the other way when women and minorities are paid less and treated badly. We let our leaders not pass laws or create restrictions or programs that might stop these actions.

Because we let them.

But you know what? That must change. We must say: Let them no more.

People with mental illness buying and owning guns? Let them no more.

People using positions of power to abuse and harass people? Let them no more.

People treating others as inferior? Let them no more.

It’s a simple movement: Let them no more.

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The Worst Programming Language

Yesterday, while reading my RSS feeds, a post came across titled, “Perl is the most hated programming language“.  The article was referencing a Stack Overflow report that was characterized as saying: “Perl, the Old Spice of programming languages, is the most disliked by a significant margin, reports Stack Overflow. Delphi, used by children to write viruses for adults, and Visual Basic, used by adults to write games for children, are running neck-and-neck for second place. Trailing far behind are PHP, for people who still don’t care about security, and Objective-C, for people who still don’t realize they work for Apple. Coffeescript, a language designed to make Javascript more annoying, takes sixth spot; Ruby, very briefly popular among people who wanted to write web apps without actually doing any work, lurks in seventh.”

Now them’s fighting words.

I also took a look at a discussion on the subject over on Slashdot, where the comments were equally derogatory towards Perl, as well as a number of other languages. It is a amazing the hatred cluelessness out there. This is a discussion that has been going on forever about what is the most hated, the worst, the ugliest, the … programming language. I know. I’m a Compusaur — I’ve been programming since the mid-1970s, cutting my teeth on languages like BASIC, FORTRAN IV, and APL, and I’ve used even older language. I’m also — and I can say this with absolute confidence — the person who has been programming in Perl the longest with the exception of Larry, it’s author. I’m Perl’s Paternal Godparent; Larry, Mark, Jon, and I were carpooling to SDC when he wrote the first version of Perl, and I’m the person who was doing combo Perl-QMenu scripts to support the BLACKER program. I’m the one who knows that Perl would not exist without the TCSEC (Orange Book), so don’t say the NSA hasn’t given you anything.  I wrote the first version of the history section in the Camel book, fuggahdsake.

But back to the question at hand: Whenever anyone tells you that something is the worst or the most hated, you must learn context. You think Perl is bad for readability? Try reading APL or LISP, and remember that COBOL was designed to be readable.  Different languages and different editors are good for different things. Almost everything has strengths and weaknesses.

Perl is best at what it was originally designed to do: Text manipulation and report generation. It is great for easy text parsing scripts thanks to regular expressions and associative arrays, and implementing state machine parsing tools isn’t complicated. I have a large tool that at its heart is perl; it is perl that helps me generate the California Highway pages. But is perl the best language for system administration (which is what the Stack Overflow folks do)? No.

I’ve worked with loads and loads of languages, from Algol to Zed (well, I’ve looked at a little Zed — it is a formal methods language like Ina-Jo or Gypsy). I’ve written large programs in Algol 68C and PL/I (actually, both PL/C and PL/I (X)). I’ve worked in BASIC (especially RSTS/E Basic, which was a model for some Perl syntax), Fortran IV and 77 and WATFIV, COBOL, C, Ada, and APL. I’ve even done some LISP and SNOBOL, as well as MINITAB. To me, the language I had the most is Excel Spreadsheet Macro Languages, for I’ve seen difficult to find errors in that language to devastate organizations.

But most of the “kids” responding to that poll grew up in a different era. They learn Java and C++ and drink the Object Oriented Kool-Aide. They deal with PHP and Python and hosts of other new scripting languages, and complain about the old — without realizing that the newer languages are building upon the foundations of the previous ones, correcting the mistakes for a new generation.

In reality, the programming language you hate the most is the one that you’re unfamiliar with, that someone wrote bad code in, with no comments, that you have to maintain. Just as you can write easy to maintain code in any language (including APL — but in APL you can write it in one line), you can write garbage in any language.

All it takes is talent.

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A Hostile World

Hostility. It seems to be growing in our society, from the hostility we see from our leaders towards the lower and middle classes, from the hostility we see from “the other party” to our party, from the hostility and name calling that seems to commonplace on social media. The amount of hatred and hostility in society is growing, and we seem to be doing little to stop it. It’s hidden and unacknowledged, almost like climate change.

What got me thinking about this was an interesting article in LAist about Hostile Architecture. I’d heard the term before — 99% Invisible did a piece on the subject back in July 2016. What is Hostile Architecture? The LAist article summed it up well: “You know those pigeon spikes to stop pigeons from congregating? Imagine that, but for humans.” To put it another way, Amber Hawkes, Co-Director of Here LA, defines hostile architecture as “any streetscaping element or design move in the public realm that is unfriendly to the human being.”

[ETA: This article from CityLab highlights more hostile architecture: The MTA in NYC rehabbed some stations in Brooklyn, removing benches and replacing them hostile architecture: “the leaning bar. A slanted wooden slab set against the wall at about the height of a person’s rear end, the bar was meant to give passengers a way to take some weight off their feet as they waited for the next train. What it was not, however, was a bench.” As that article notes: “Despite the MTA’s protestations, some New Yorkers saw the bar as the latest salvo in what could be called the War on Sitting. As cities around the world tear out benches in an effort to deter homeless people from sleeping and drug dealers from hovering, or to force loiterers to move along, pedestrians and transit users may find fewer and fewer places to sit down and take a load off, or hang out and watch the world go by—and that’s bad news not only for tired feet, but for city life itself.”]

Essentially, hostile architecture are those bumps and arms in the middle of benches that make it hard for the homeless to sleep, the bumps on the walls that stop skateboarders. There are spikes, pig ears, bollards, grates and other elements (like bolted vents making it impossible to sleep near a heating vent in winter in colder climates, for example) to dissuade homeless individuals from resting or sleeping in alleys, near store fronts, or in parks.  Some are less obvious. The 99% Invisible piece notes the following examples: Some businesses play classical music as a deterrent, on the theory that kids don’t want to hang out or talk over it. Other sound-based strategies include the use of high-frequency sonic buzz generators meant to be audible only to young people. Housing estates in the UK have also put up pink lighting, aimed to highlight teenage blemishes.

99PI notes: “Unpleasant designs take many shapes, but they share a common goal of exerting some kind of social control in public or in publicly-accessible private spaces. They are intended to target, frustrate and deter people, particularly those who fall within unwanted demographics.” The LAist pieces commented: “The idea seems to be that if an exterior space becomes anything more than a place to walk or commute through, it’s a problem.”

That last line really brought the concern home to today. We have leaders that are creating a hostile society — a society where those not of the social or economic strata they want get pushed away, our of their spaces. The proposal yesterday about raising the fees for popular public parks is an example of that. The changes being made to our refugee policy. The changes to the tax code are hostile architecture. Our media has conditioned us to believe that hostility is the answer to problems, and as we’re all passive-aggressive, we’re letting our benches and laws do it for us.

That’s wrong (and if you disagree, I think you’re stupid 🙂 ). We have to make the choice to turn away from hostility, and move towards acceptance.

P.S.: I’m surprised no one commented on my previous post, asking what was in common between the recent incidents at Telsa and Solar City, when compared to past SpaceX. Another example of passive-aggressive hostility?

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Essay Prompts: Weekend Edition

As I read Facebook this breezy Saturday morning, I kept running into posts from my conservative friends that so, so, so made me want to respond. But were I to respond on their forums, I know what would happen: arguments, with no changing of minds. So instead, they become essay prompts on my forum:

 📖🖋️📖 Prompt #1: Privilege 📖🖋️📖

One friend of mine shared the following, ostensibly from “American News”:

“PRIVILEGE is what Stupid People call the CONSEQUENCE of other people WORKING HARDER and MAKING BETTER CHOICES than them” — Kurt Schlichter.

If you’re not familiar with Schlichter, he is a conservative columnist recruited by Breitbart, which says quite a bit.

So where do I start with this statement? First, I’ll note the “Stupid” part. There are so many of these memes that bully and call people names, and the folks posting them think it is funny. It’s a mindset that is just wrong in this day and age, but bullying is often perceived to be the answer if you can’t make a real argument and convince people with facts. In fact, following this post, this person posted another meme that said, “If you need an answer, just find yourself a drink, sit back, and post the wrong answer on Facebook. Some asshole will correct you.”. Well, I’m just that asshole — and remember that without your asshole, you’d be even fuller of ….

But I digress. Let’s get to this assertion that privilege is really just people working harder and making better choices? Is that true?

I did a quick search to find some examples of White Privilege and Male Privilege (as those are the usual privileges of concern). Let’s see if this statement is true.

The following is from “Everyday Feminism”: 10 Examples of White Privilege:

  1. I Have the Privilege of (Generally) Having a Positive Relationship with the Police. So, white people being treated differently than black people by law enforcement. Walking through an affluent neighborhood: the scruffy black guy gets harassed more than the white guy. The whole “driving while black”. The whole issue of who goes to jail more, and who gets guns drawn at them more, and who get longer sentences. Is this just that the white folks worked harder and made better choices? Nah. Not when there are instances of well educated black people being hassled, and poor white folks being ignored. Working harder and making choices doesn’t help.
  2. I Have the Privilege of Being Favored by School Authorities. Here minority students are more likely to get suspended for offenses that for white students get a warning. Islamic students bringing in science projects that are viewed as terrorism; the same project from white folks getting a pass. Is that “working harder and making better choices”. Things being equal? Nope.
  3. I Have the Privilege of Attending Segregated Schools of Affluence. This is a lot of economic privilege, which could be viewed as parents making better choices — or growing up in an environment where white folks get better jobs and higher paying jobs. But certainly white segregated schools have greater resources than black segregated school. That’s not the product of the students working harder or making better choices.
  4. I Have the Privilege of Learning about My Race in School. History courses in America typically teach the White Christian view of history. Except for perhaps one week, the contributions of minorities are not discussed. How is what we teach an example of working harder and making better choices?
  5. I Have the Privilege of Finding Children’s Books that Overwhelmingly Represent My Race. Take a look at school books and much of popular literature. What is the color of the people in the stories? Look at our media, and the complexion of broadcast TV? How is this an example of working harder and making better choices?
  6. I Have the Privilege of Soaking in Media Blatantly Biased Toward My Race. I addressed this in the last item, but our media is predominately white. There is nothing about working harder and making better choices here. Even if you were to somehow argue that for news anchors, it doesn’t explain why scripted drama doesn’t reflect the complexion of the country. Further, think about this: look at the crime drama you see. What is the typical complexion of the criminal, and what is the complexion of law enforcement? Working harder and making better choices?
  7. I Have the Privilege of Escaping Violent Stereotypes Associated with My Race. Simple question: What makes you more nervous? A black guy with a visible gun or a white guy with a visible gun? How is your reaction “working harder and making better choices”? Same thing for the middle eastern guy buying the fertilizer and nails at the hardware store, vs. the white guy buying the same.
  8. I Have the Privilege of Playing the Colorblind Card, Wiping the Slate Clean of Centuries of Racism. This is attempting to ignore racism by not seeing color. In fact, the statement we’re examining is an attempt to be colorblind — to argue the issue isn’t racism, but something else. How is the ability to attempt to do that “working harder and making better choices”?
  9. I Have the Privilege of Being Insulated from the Daily Toll of Racism. Every day, minorities suffer little indignities: the nervous look, the lower pay, and so forth. How is that “working harder and making better choices”?
  10. I Have the Privilege of Living Ignorant of the Dire State of Racism Today. As a white person, you can easily go through your life not worrying about being hassled by law enforcement, confident that you can get in a door for an interview, that you’ll have the ability to get a loan and go to a college of your choice. All this because you’re the majority skin color, not because you work harder or make better choices.

When we look at male privilege, we can easily see differences. How does “working harder and make better choices” influence the fact that it costs more to dry-clean a woman’s shirt than a man’s shirt. That a woman doing the same job with the same education gets paid less. That opinions from a woman of equal training and knowledge to a man get discounted?

Privilege is not the result of working harder and making better choices. Privilege is having an easier life for no reason other than your pigment or gender.

 📖🖋️📖 Prompt #2: Racism 📖🖋️📖 

In the last day or two, I saw two statements that invoked the same reaction. Both were in response to pictures of the congresswoman who had been with the war widow when the President called. One shared a quote from @RealJamesWoods that said: “When #Democrats start wheeling out clowns dressed as saloon hookers, they are trying desperately to swerve away from the news.” The other said “How anyone takes seriously a person wearing a plastic cowboy hat is beyond me…”

As Steve Martin once said, “Excuuuuse me.”

Since when did we start judging the value of a person based on what they look like or what they are wearing?

Isn’t that just racism dressed up? Isn’t that just sexism? I judge Donald Trump not because of his ill fitting suits, how he looks on the golf course, his odd hair, or his ill-fitting tie. I judge him based on what he says or does.

Disagree with this congresswomen based on what she said, fine (even though her story has been verified). But don’t go down the path of discounting her because she wears a silly hat. Hell, you’d need to write off most of Texas if you were going to do that.

 

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Essay Prompt: How Old are You?

A meme is going around Facebook highlighting a draft HHS Standard that supposedly defines life as beginning at conception. As Snopes notes: “Conservatives and pro-life organizations have welcomed the change as a much-needed corrective to Obama-era policies, but women’s health and pro-choice advocates see it as a harbinger of future federal efforts to restrict access to medical services such as contraceptives and abortion.” As an example, Snopes quotes the document’s second paragraph: “HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of 61 activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.

I was thinking about this proposed definition this morning. In many ways, it struck me as lip-service to the notion of life beginning at conception, just as the whole abortion debate is lip-service concern about life (for, after all, if there was real concern about life, then that concern would continue after the child is born — ensuring health care and minimal living standards).

Just like we know that a concert isn’t over until the instruments stay off the stage and the house lights come up, “life begins at conception” won’t be the real until there is elimination of the birthday. After all, why celebrate the day you were born if that isn’t when your life began. Being born becomes just another milestone, like starting kindergarten or going to college. Get rid of the birthday entirely. Put the date of conception on the drivers license. All those age based limits — those are based on birthday, not conception day. You should be able to vote at 18¾. Drink at 21¾. Collect social security at 65¾.

But as long as our society remains centered around the birthday, the whole notion of “life begins at conception” is bullshit. In society, life begins when you are born or able to live independently from your parent’s body. Earlier than that, and you are theirs to do with. You are, pure and simple, a body part. You are like a fingernail, or a finger, or excess belly fat. It sounds crass, but that’s what it is. If you are unable to get a government ID card or a social security number, are you alive?

 

I’m not saying this all to be silly. There is a reason that the Supreme Court decided as they did in Rowe v. Wade. If the foetus cannot live independently, the mother must have the right to treat it as any other part of their body. Once it can live outside their body, it can apply for a social security number and get a birthdate. Conception date is not a birthday.

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Essay Prompt: ‘We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values’

userpic=trumpA friend of mine from our synagogue brought to my attention a wonderful article that serves as an essay prompt. This article is about Trump (heh heh, I first typed Tramp) attending the Voters Values conference — an evangelical voting group — and wading into the culture wars. Some relevant quotes from the article:

“We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values,” Trump said to applause, before slamming people who don’t say “Merry Christmas.”

“They don’t use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct,” Trump said, complaining that department stores will use red and Christmas decorations but say “Happy New Year.” “We’re saying Merry Christmas again.”

I’m sorry, but what Trump is promoting is NOT Judeo-Christian values. If it was, it wouldn’t be shaming Jews who say “Happy Chanukkah” or “Happy Holidays”. In fact, it isn’t even Christian values, which are much more accepting of people and socially forward. It is specifically Evangelical Christian values, which promote the idea that you are not saved by Jesus unless you have accepted him and all the tenets of their version of Christianity — and to many extents, it goes beyond that to White Evangelical values, which view Jesus as a white man, and view every other religion and skin color as not worthy of being saved, and hence inferior and of no value.

This is a view that was related last night on the new Fox series The Orville, with a storyline about an alien race who believed that its religious doctrine gave it the right of superiority of other races and species. It was the only species with a soul, and that gave it the right to destroy anything it deemed inferior, and to devalue anything developed by a soul-less people. The skin of these people was pale white, and what destroys them is transparency.

I’m sorry, Mr. Trump, but the values you and your core followers are trying to protect are not Judeo-Christian, and are barely even Christian, based on my understanding of Christianity.

  • Judaism teaches the value of human life, and putting the life of the mother (who can go on to have more children) over the life of an unborn child. Abortion is permitted, and birth control is permitted. Your actions to limit both are against Jewish thought.
  • Judaism teaches the value of human life, and thus, the value of healthcare. If it is within your power to provide such care, you do. Your policies are actually making health care less available and of lower quality, injuring life.
  • Judaism constantly reminds us that we should always remember that we were once slaves, and watch out for the poor among us. It also teaches that the greatest charity is that which comes when you don’t know the giver. Thus, Judaism supports all the social programs that provide safety nets without guilt or shaming. You want to dismantle those programs.
  • Judaism emphasizes the importance of Justice. You work against that when you mistreat minorities and others with pre-existing conditions (race, sex, orientation, religion, gender).
  • Judaism understand the importance of the separation of Church and State, and that the State should not be imposing any particular set of religious values. Whenever that has happened, it has been bad for the Jews. Yet what you have been proposing and encouraging is just that: enforcing values that are not Judaism on Jews.

Further, your administration has been tacitly encouraging white supremacists,  neo-Nazis, and antisemites. Instead of harshly condemning them, you equivocate and indicate that both sides are at fault. Since when are Jews worshipping at a synagogue in Charlottesville at fault for their worship, worthy of having antisemites with swastikas pointing weaponry at them. Is that a Judeo-Christian value that you uphold?

Would you stand against mistreatment of Jews by law enforcement — if it came to that — just as we’ve seen you standing up against law enforcement’s mistreatment of blacks and hispanics and people from the Middle East? Oh, right, you haven’t done that.

Would we see you speaking out against any double standard for serial sexual abuse and harassment? You’re quick to condemn Harvey Weinstein — a white Jew and a liberal. But where is the acceptance of your own sordid history of equivalent or worse behavior? If it disqualifies men like Weinstein and Weiner, why isn’t it disqualifying people like Newt Gingrich and you? It is acceptable if it is done by a White Christian, because we know they are superior and thus have the right to do so? Is that the Judeo-Christian value that you defend?

You constantly speak out wanting to muzzle the media, but what media do you want to muzzle, and what is that code for? It is a coincidence that the organizations you want to muzzle are the ones not espousing a strictly evangelical-supportive view? When you listen to the hateful rhetoric of antisemites, who are they saying controls the media organizations you hate, vs. the media organizations they love. Is that a Judeo-Christian value?

In truth, Mr. Trump, the only value you respect is the value that lines your pocket or massages your ego. But the gospel of prosperity — and especially Trump prosperity — is not a Judeo-Christian value. It is worship of the self, without any regard for your place in the Kingdom to Come. It is living for what you can get now, not the value you would have in the afterlife by living as Jesus taught, caring about others and going out of your way to life up the whores in the street. For someone who purports to be a Christian, where is your demonstration of Christian values (as opposed to your pandering for Christian votes).

Mr. Trump, there is no “war on Christmas” (except by those commercial entities who have made the focus profit, instead of the birth of Jesus). I won’t get upset if you wish me a Merry Christmas. But I’ll get really upset if you shame me for wishing you a Happy Chanukkah back. I’ll get really upset if you push your evangelical values on me claiming they are Jewish or even real Christian values.

In the episode of The Orville last night, the Krill were destroyed by sunlight. In political parlance, sunlight laws open up what is being done for all to see — no secret meetings, no secret agendas, no countries behind the scenes working on other agendas. Mr. Trump — you are Krill — and continued sunlight by the media and investigations will be your downfall, especially as people learn the truth about what you are doing.

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Essay Prompts and Culture Wars

userpic=divided-nationI love my strongly Conservative friends. They are such a reliable source of essay prompts and blog material. Today’s catalyst was the following:

What’s the end game, lefties? What’s your desired outcome in this cultural war you’ve waging? Is it to take over everything in America, run every institution in your own image, whatever that is? Or is it to destroy them all, as is now happening with the BSA and the NFL?

There is so much I could unpack in this comment, such as the fact that the BSA is actually keeping boys and girls in separate Cub Scout dens, or that one would think that the values of the Boy Scouts would be values they would want girls to have as well, or the fact that what is happening with the NFL is not an attack on the anthem, but rather kneeling for the freedoms that we pay lip service to in the anthem, but that we don’t see on the streets.

But that’s not what caught my attention. It was the phrase “culture war.”

We have so many wars in this country: culture wars, a war on Christmas, a war on values, a war on women, a war on drugs — one might forget what war is. It is not a heated political discussion. It is a dirty battle in which people not only may die, but do die, from the actions of the enemy. It was World War II and the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War and the War in Afghanistan. It is people coming back mangled and in pieces, or in coffins. I know war. The culture war is not a war, and you have no right to trivialize war and its horrors by equating the two.

But if this is to be a “war”, exactly what is at stake here? You notice that they never quite say. A recent This American Life touched upon the issue quite well, however.  What is being attacked is the traditional “American” culture of the early 20th Century: a culture where whites had unquestioned privilege, where women were second class citizens, where blacks and minorities were less than third-class citizens. It is a culture where sex was binary, relationships were normative, society was clearly Christian if not Protestant, and other religions were second-class or at least subject to prejudice. This was Jim Crow and Antisemitism. But of course, one cannot say that one longs for such things — there is the belief that the “thought police” (otherwise known as the dreaded Liberal) will come for you. So what you long for — what you say is under attack — is American Culture and American Values.

Look at the examples in the essay prompt. The kneeling football players are “insulting the anthem” by standing up for the rights of blacks to walk and drive in our cities without harrassment. In their eyes, the anthem stands for the values above, and standing up for the rights of minorities goes against those values.

The BSA? Well it is those pesky girls invading our boys only spaces. The Boy Scouts — in their eyes, mind you, not the eyes of the BSA — is where boys can be boys, and learn the right values such as how to treat women. I wonder if Harvey Weinstein or even our humble President was a Boy Scout. After all, we all remember what he tried to teach the Boy Scouts.

The folks who are up in arms about a culture war appear to want the culture as it was in the days of Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens. Workhouses for the poor. Women either put up on a pedestal for modesty and virtue, or treated as sluts and whores. White men as the unquestioned Gods of society, unquestioned pillars of virtue. Society as a Christian one, with Christian values and feigned charity towards all, but all the wealth for the upper crust. That is the fictional movie image. For most of those living it, life was shit.

We are not dealing with culture wars. We’re dealing with cultural shift. We’re dealing with a world that has come to realize that all people have worth and value. We’re dealing with a world that has slowly, begrudgingly, come to realize that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and with respect, irrespective of those aspects they can’t control, such as skin color, sex, gender, orientation, social strata, religion, genetic predispositions — otherwise known as pre-existing conditions. We aspire for healthcare independent of pre-existing conditions. Why can’t we aspire for a society that does the same.

It is especially significant to see such an essay prompt on today, National Coming Out Day, when we should feel free to say what we are without fear of recrimination or reaction. Coming out is more than just stating your orientations or attractions — it is announcing to the world a public acknowledgement of who and what you are.

So, in that spirit, and in the spirit of making clear what side of the “culture war” I’m on: I’m a clear and present Liberal. I’m a Humphrey-ite Democrat. I believe in those progressive values that all are valued, that your right to practice your religion and beliefs ends where my right to practice mine begins. I believe that my body is my body, and your body is your body, and her body is her body, and none of us should be telling or legislating what we can be doing with it.  I believe we all have to stand up for what we believe in.

So is there a culture war? Yes, but not in the way you think. It is not the white patriarchal culture that is dying however. It is women who can’t get abortions. People that can’t afford healthcare or housing. LGBTQ…. who are being beaten in the streets or blown up in the clubs. It is blacks dying in the streets at the hands of law enforcement, or minorities dying at the hands of immigration officials. It is those who are defending the “traditional” culture who are perpetrating the war: they are bringing physically lethal weaponry to battle that most dangerous weapon of all: the idea of equality and justice.

So, how did I do on the essay, teach?

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