This morning, when I first opened my eyes, I found that I had a heaviness in my chest. I started crying. Not a hard sobbing. Just lying there vaguely aware of tears welling up in my eyes. It’s not secret that I’m under treatment for depression, but this didn’t feel like the depression I’ve been experiencing for the past several years.
I’m pretty sure I’m not racist. I say “pretty sure” rather than “absolutely not” because I’m aware enough to know I’ve grown up in a racist society and we don’t ever entirely transcend our own time and place. However, I do believe that there are no significant biological differences among people of different races. In fact, I believe that the concept of race has no grounding in biology. Therefore, differences in social status and behavior are entirely a product of the environment.
Am I xenophobic? That’s almost laughable since I run the risk of being called a xenophile.
Am I culturally biased? That’s a far more complicated question. To start, I would have to have a firm idea of what constitutes a good society. I am tempted to answer that that would be the society that allows for the greatest degree of human flourishing and the least suffering. However, flourishing is an unsatisfactorily vague term. I don’t think there is any culture that is perfect, which has all the answers. In so far as any culture that is in existence today could be said to be a successful culture, no culture is without any value. That said, I am not a cultural relativist. I terms of particulars, I think some ways of organizing human society are better than others.
I think that there are no gods, spirits, or other immaterial beings, great or small. Therefore, the least human suffering based on the supposed desires of non-existent beings can be said to be an unqualified ill.
Last week, I was very quick to put up a post that said, “Je suis Charlie.” It would turn out that I was on the wrong side of the overall consensus. I had read, or more accurately seen, Charlie Hebdo a handful of times in the past. When I put up that statement, I did not mean that I endorsed everything that had ever been printed in that magazine, nor did I think that was what anyone else mean. I recalled that immediately after the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, Le Monde published an editorial that said, “Nous sommes tous américains.” I did not take that to mean that the editors of that paper had endorsed everything the United States had ever done or ever would do, or that they were suddenly enamored of every aspect of American culture. I did not feel at the time that “Je suis Charlie” meant that I personally endorsed every cartoon they had ever published. In my mind, I supported their right to speak their mind without fear of violence.
I have mentioned that I have had nightmares in the wake of the assassinations. The day before, I had drawn a cartoon. It seems so long ago now, but you may remember an incident in which a woman tossed a handbag holding a gun in a shopping cart with her two-year old. The child took out the gun and shot his mother. Her father-in-law objected to the characterization of the woman as irresponsible. He said that she had not simply tossed the gun into any old purse but a purse with a special compartment. I did not know what this meant, so I looked it up. It turns out that these purses are designed for easy access. This made the action of the dead woman seem all the more irresponsible to me. So, I drew this:
The night of the killings of the cartoonists, I went to sleep. I dreamed I was lying in bed. I heard someone at my door trying to get in. However, the chain was on the door and after several attempts the person went away. Then I went downstairs and exited my apartment building. Standing in front of my building was a stocky middle-aged white man in wearing khaki pants and vest and holding a rifle, like someone ready to go on a safari. Somehow, I understood him to be a gun rights activist. As I walked out of my door, he shot me in the chest. I woke up.
Are there such things as universal human rights and is free speech one of them? I won’t accept the word racist, but am I an imperialist for believing that there are and it is? I don’t know anymore, but this much I do know…
I feel lucky to have been born in one of the wealthiest regions of one of the wealthiest countries during an era of widely shared prosperity. I have gone out dancing till dawn, have had lots of good sex with lots of men, I have had plenty of good things to eat, all in all, I think I was damned lucky about when and where I was born. I would not want to have been born into the world the killers would like to create. Am I wrong to feel this way? Am I culturally biased? Maybe, but I do feel this way. No matter how many times people tell me I’m racist, I still feel this way. Am I racist to be glad to have fucked, to be glad to have danced? Is wanting to dance and fuck and draw and paint and sing a reasonable basis for choosing one culture over another?
It is clear that I have never been on the right politically. Within the past week, however, I’ve found myself at odds with people on the left. I feel extremely alone. Politics is not something that can happen alone.
I just feel weary and lonely.
The best way out of this seems to me to be to stop concerning myself with politics. I’ll keep writing if I find something else to write about.
I can remember the first time a teacher said, “I don’t know,” in response to a student’s question. It was a wonderful moment. Suddenly, learning and knowledge was a process. Something we arrive at only with effort and which always exists in a state of flux. While certitude is useful in an argument, it has no place in real knowledge.
Right now, I’m still trying to intellectually process the political assassinations and near massacre that occurred in Paris last week. There are so many threads that go into it, attitudes towards immigrants, racism directed at second and third generation French people, economic stagnation, freedom of speech, whether or not satire should be a form of protected speech, hate speech laws, whether religion should be open to criticism, the low social status of cartooning, the Islamist goal of creating a world-wide caliphate, the encouragement by Islamist groups in Muslim majority countries of “lone wolf” attacks in Muslim minority countries, the role of Saudi Arabia in spreading Salafist Islam, the growth of anti-Semitic attacks and I can go on.
It’s been hard to think with all the cacophony. Everyone is yelling and it’s hard to think.
Yet a minute ago, I saw yet another comment warning against “painting all Muslims with the same brush.” I don’t know what corners of the internet other people go to, but I haven’t seen this. I don’t doubt that it happens, but it doesn’t happen in places I frequent.
I don’t believe in collective guilt. Considering people as individuals first and foremost is a core part of liberalism. It should go without saying blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few is against liberal beliefs. At the same time, I can’t help noticing that in all this hand wringing about the possible backlash against Muslims, no one seems to be talking about the Jews. Where is all your hand wringing for the increasing anti-Semitic attacks against European Jews?
Saying that we can’t talk about Islamic terrorism because it might create a backlash against Muslims is like saying we can’t talk about the current conservative, hawkish government in Israel and its policies towards settlement, the blockade of Gaza and the treatment of non-Jewish citizens because it might create a backlash against Jews. Of course we talk about it. If someone blames all Jews for the actions of the current Israeli government, they are in the wrong because collective guilt is wrong. We don’t stop the conversation, nor should we.
There’s something happening and we don’t know what it is. We’re not going to figure out what it is and how to respond to it by remaining silent. We don’t start every conversation about Israel by saying, “I hope no one blames all Jews.” We don’t start every conversation about racism by saying, “I hope no one blames all whites.” Despite what some people might like, we don’t start every conversation about sexism by saying, “I hope no one blames all men.” So, I am not going to start every conversation about people who kill in the name of Islam by saying, “I hope no one blames all Muslims.”
I wanted to use a different word – but that will get me in trouble with some people and it’s not worth the fight today.
I’ve come across this woman’s blog before, and she has such an annoying air of self-righteousness, I’ve never been able to read more than a few words of any of her posts. However, since she writes about atheism and bisexuality and a few other areas that cross with interests of mine, I’ve landed on her blog enough times, and so I have again. However, now she’s crossed from self-righteousness to downright ignorance, and I’m fucking pissed.
Yeah, I know I’m obsessing. Last night I dreamed I was shot for drawing a cartoon making fun of gun advocates.
Okay, the name of this totally ignorant douchebag is Aoife and she “is located in a small town in Ireland, and she won’t let you forget it.” I’m not even sure what the hell she is trying to say with that. “She won’t let you forget it.” What the fuck does that even mean? Does she like living in Ireland? Does she hate it? What the fuck’s the big deal about living in Ireland? All I can say is that I hope it means that she doesn’t have electricity and can’t read because it’s about the only damned thing that explains her near total ignorance.
Okay, so she wrote:
Here’s a problem with #jesuischarlie: Charlie Hebdo, from what I can gather, was a publication that produced and distributed vile, racist material in the guise of satire. Unlike any satire worth the name, it punched down at already-marginalised minorities in an environment that just encouraged an intensification of preexisting anti-Muslim sentiment.
Well, I guess she is an illiterate living without electricity because, from what I can gather, she’s not capable of gathering very much. This is exactly what I was talking about yesterday when I mentioned that this incident has caused a crisis in my politics. Charlie Hebdo was not, emphatically not, “vile, racist material in the guise of satire.”
According to NPR:
The left-wing magazine is known for its biting takedowns. Its past targets include the political right wing, capitalism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
It was a favorite of a French Socialist boyfriend I had whose family had come to France from Algeria, although he himself would refuse any identity other than French. A few years ago, the satirical weekly took the side of immigrants against politicians on the far right.
She goes on to say:
Muslims in the West are disproportionally targeted for abuse and attacks, as are people perceived to be Muslim- normally due to their names and the colour of their skin. There’s an ugly strain of racism running through so much discourse that puts itself up as “just criticising Islam”, that you can’t ignore. There’s a lack of nuance to how we talk about Islam, as well. People talk about something called the “western world” juxtaposed against the “Islamic world”, as if these are two entirely separate and self-contained things, ignoring the fact that there is and has always been both massive diversity within, and massive mixing between, Islamic and Christian cultures the world over.
It’s all so much lefty fucking twaddle. However, if we return to her bio, we see:
She gets paid to teach, but will default to roller derby and social theory if given half a chance.
Which is exactly what she’s doing now. Rather than actually pausing and learning a couple of new facts she “defaults”, like some damned robot, to “social theory.” It’s ironic that she complains that we can’t talk about Islam with nuance because she typifies the leftist inability to talk about anything with nuance. This is what I was saying in my exchange with Daz in yesterday’s comments. Rather than trying to understand the situation she vomits up some garbage about the oppressed and the oppressors that hasn’t changed since I took a bunch of Women’s Studies and other interdepartmental classes thirty years ago. It’s not that those ideas are entirely wrong, but they become blinders and all new information must be fit into predetermined categories. It is sooooo damned easy to find out that Charlie Hebdo is not usually categorized as racist, I can only assume that Aoife didn’t even bother to think about it before “defaulting” to her predetermined settings.
But the dead were white and the killers are North African, so they must be “punching up.” God, how I fucking hate the “punching up/punching down” meme. As if some actions are okay or not okay depending on your target. Also, it implies that we always know which way is up and which way is down. Maybe you’re punching at a straight white male, but maybe the straight white male just lost his mother, or is mentally ill, or unemployed. Is that up or down? What if you’re unemployed too? Should it even matter? Maybe you just need to pause and think before you run around throwing punches.
Speaking of nuance, it’s also worth noting that many people have said that when the left sides with the reactionaries, it is the progressives within Muslim communities that suffer the most. Is that up or down? The former Muslim that every leftist loves to hate, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, got her start in politics standing up for immigrant women who were abused by their husbands. Is that up or down? So much interesectionality I can’t keep track of it no more.
I deeply value my right to speak more or less as I please. I value the privilege of the platform I have to speak on. I am aware that that right and privilege comes with incredible responsibilities to be thoughtful and accurate, as far as I can to help more than I harm, and to be receptive- within reason, since this is the internet after all- to critique.
Is that rich? Have you ever encountered such a humorless, self-righteous twit in your life? “Thoughtful and accurate.” Really, I’m glad I wasn’t drinking coffee when I read that because only a spit-take is the proper response. She obviously didn’t spend even five minutes checking her facts before pouring out a post full of stale radicalism from yesteryear.
It’s shit like this that just makes me hate the fucking left and the nightmarish totalitarian world they want to create.
You’re not Charlie Hebdo. You bet your sweet bippy you’re not.