First let me state clearly what long-time followers of this blog should already know: I am a passionate defender of the right to free speech. I believe in the First Amendment, and have often said that while I may not agree with what you have to say, I will fully defend your right to say it.
There are lines. Some ideologies, some belief systems are not only inherently hateful, they are inherently violent and intent on doing violence toward others. There is a point at which even allowing these viewpoints to be aired is an act of violence, as those who espouse these beliefs have shown time and again they will not stop with speech but will follow it up with action.
I am writing about those who espouse Nazi ideology, the KKK, white supremacists, and anyone who would stand with them.
In order for a civilized society to function, let alone thrive, we must all agree to live by at least the most basic rules. Those rules must also be reciprocal; “one set of rules for you, another set of rules for me” is a relic of a bygone age. It pains me to suggest that any viewpoint, no matter how odious, should not be allowed in the public sphere. But “I just want to have my say in peace” are words that have never been uttered in sincerity by anyone affiliated with any of these groups, and to labor under the delusion that they will ever be willing to participate in civil society by the same rules as the rest of us is a fantasy.
Rights are not absolute; “your right to punch ends where my nose begins,” as the oft-quoted aphorism goes. These groups and others like them have made it clear through word and deed that they will not be satisfied to live in a society that encompasses any noses other than their own, and they will gladly throw the first punch. That being the case, they have surrendered the right to voice those views or to demonstrate in the public space.
This is not a radical notion. If I threaten to harm someone by name (“I’m going to kill John Smith”), that is a crime. If I threaten to harm someone by description (“I’m going to kill that guy in the blue shirt”), that is a crime. If I threaten to harm a group of people (“I’m going to kill everyone I see in a blue shirt”), that is a crime. None of this is “protected speech”. Simply changing it to “should” rather than “will” is not a magic formula, especially when there is a history of violent action among a particular group, and that action is motivated by that same speech. Likewise, solicitation and incitement to riot are not covered as “protected speech”, and yet that is exactly what is happening again and again at these “rallies”.
This has to stop. We claim to be a civilized nation. It is time we stop letting evil use our own ideals against us.
Just because it will color everyone’s perception of everything I say on the subject, I’m going to get it out of the way right now: yes, I voted. No, I am not going to say how I voted or what I voted on. That’s none of your damn business, but if you’re a regular reader or do a dive through the archives there shouldn’t be much doubt.
Now that I have that out of the way, let me get something else off my chest: I really don’t care if you vote. If you choose not to vote, that only increases the value of my vote by some small, practically imperceptible amount. But I’ll take it. Pennies add up. The fewer people who vote, the more each vote is worth, and I want my vote to be worth as much as possible.
If I were going to encourage you to vote, I would point out that if you don’t vote, you can’t vote “no”. I am a big fan of “no”. It’s something our government doesn’t hear nearly often enough. Vote “no” on as many things as you want, even if you have to vote “yes” in order to vote “no” to government (D.C., I’m looking in your direction, and I’ve got two ounces in my hand as we speak.)
I would also like to call for a moratorium on the oft-used and completely fallacious “if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.” You may as well say “if you don’t pay taxes you don’t get to complain about the debt,” or any number of equally irrelevant couplings. The sad fact is we all live under the same roof and obey the same laws made by the same government, and whether or not someone chooses to participate in the process of selecting that government does not remove their right to complain about it. Complaining is one of the few things we all get to enjoy equally, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or social standing. Putting a price on that is ridiculous.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has made it possible for us to have the chance to decide whether or not to participate in deciding the course of our democracy. Certainly that includes the soldiers that have defended our democracy throughout its history, but I want to also acknowledge the others who don’t usually get mentioned.
Thank you to the teachers who have explained the process for generations. Thank you to the philosophers and thinkers who created and sustained a system that has endured. Thank you to the businessmen who have helped our country continue to grow and prosper so that we can continue to have a democracy. Thank you to the artists who have broadened our minds and given us a culture worth exploring and defending. Thank you to the workers who participate every day, not just once every couple years. Thank you to everyone who makes America a place worth voting for.
The politicians? They should be thanking us.
Once again the voting season has snuck up on me, like a thief in the night, which is not surprising considering that we’re voting for congresspersons. I feel it is my civic duty to once again throw my hat in the ring as a non-party candidate for all elections in all districts, to give you, the people, a chance to vote for the candidate you truly deserve.
My opponents will accuse me of being a misanthrope. Well as Dan Quayle once said, I wear their scorn as a badge of honor. I don’t deny being a misanthrope; I proudly proclaim it. I believe that is what makes me the ideal candidate for the office to which you will be writing in my name.
Consider: I am the only candidate you never have to worry about having any sort of prejudice. Racism? Sexism? Homophobia? Religious intolerance? Why bother? I disdain each and every one of you equally, regardless of color, gender, or creed. Let’s face it, folks: you’re so far beneath me that to single out any one of you individually or as a group is pretty much a waste of my time. And you never need to be worried about being embarrassed, because the only person worth sending naked pictures to is myself.
You also don’t have to worry about corruption; I promise you here and now that as soon as I get elected there’s going to be plenty of it. While you’re in the voting booth just assume I agree with whatever you believe, because once I’m elected I’ll follow the cash or the polls, whichever one is more politically expedient.
This may sound awful to you, but I’m just giving you the kind of honesty my opponents are afraid to show you. That’s the same kind of honesty I’ll bring to floor debates, where I’ll simply announce how much I really don’t care about the topic at hand when I can be bothered to show up at all. Most times I’ll be back in my home district, ignoring your complaints and dodging your calls, just like the guy you have now, only I make it look good.
So when you go into that voting booth, don’t think about yourself, think about your family, your friends, your neighbors, your community. (One of us has to.) Do the right thing this time, and give them the candidate they deserve.
In case you haven’t heard, David Koch “is donating a record $35 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History”. The Hall of Dinosaurs will be closed for seven years for renovations.
Here are my predictions for headlines seven years from now:
From the right: “Patriot David Koch Saves Smithsonian Museum From Corrupt and Incompetent Federal Government”
From the left: “Koch Brothers Attempt to Buy Smithsonian Museum; ‘Hall of Dinosaurs’ Renamed ‘Koch Brothers Explain How God Created Oil’ “
Folks of a certain age or background will all be familiar with a certain phrase: “There are three ways to do things – the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way.” This reflects the fact that the armed forces have their own specific rules and regulations for every situation, and deviation is simply not allowed. This is intended to reinforce unity and cohesion, but is well known for creating localized situations that are the exact opposite (and gave birth to the also well known “snafu”; if you’re not familiar with that one look it up, I’ll wait).
The reason I bring this up is because of the Army’s new regulations on dress and appearance. According to a recent report on NPR, these regulations “clamp down on tattoos, mohawks, long fingernails, [and] dental ornamentation.”
The report also notes that “[t]he Army is also banning some hairstyles popular among African-American women. The stated goal here is professionalism, but some soldiers and even members of the Congressional Black Caucus are upset, and they are urging the Obama administration to take a second look at the rules.”
Before I go off on a rant about this, let’s take a look at each sides arguments as expressed in the report, and let me also note that I have done no deep investigation of this issue, simply listened to this one report and am offering a completely and (clearly) uninformed opinion. Also I am sure I will be receiving more than a few comments regarding a white man weighing in on matters of African American female hairstyles, so I would like to go on the record as stating that I will completely ignore any such racist and sexist attacks.
So what is the argument against these regulations? According to Lori Tharps, who teaches journalism at Temple University and co-wrote “”Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America”, the issues are essentially that “the policy itself does not take into consideration the history and culture, as well as the simple, you know, biological makeup of black hair and what it requires. They have effectively deemed inappropriate some of the most effective and popular hairstyles that many of these women wear.”
Have to say, straight out the gate I’m less than impressed. Most of these arguments seem at best irrelevant and at worst hyperbolically pointless. To the best of my knowledge, the Army doesn’t take into account anyone’s history or culture, outside of the bare minimum for religious observation, when making regulations. That’s kind of the point. Everyone is supposed to be brutally equal, as close as possible, both for fairness and unit cohesion. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they just stopped using the terms “mick” and “hymie” just last week. The issue of biological makeup is relevant and salient, and worth exploring in more depth, however.
Unfortunately(and this may be the fault of the restricted medium of the radio interview) it seems that the question of biology only comes in as a matter of convenience. For example, when discussing the new regulations regarding corn rows, Ms. Tharps states that:
I think the problem is it takes a little more technique and talent to produce really neat, tight corn rows as described here, whereas almost anybody could make the same kind of look with a two-strand twist. Most black women really understand what those subtle differences are.
I mean, some of the styles they’re suggesting aren’t efficient at all, for example, doing corn rows is very time consuming. Weaves and wigs are extremely expensive and this two-styles that they outright ban, dreadlocks and twists, are the most efficient and economical styles that a black woman with natural hair can wear. And again, we go back to that idea of uniformity. That is kind of both the burden and the blessing of black hair in the United States of America.
Aaaand again I take issue. I personally have very curly hair (see above. Now imagine that all over my head.) Other guys I know have very straight hair. Believe it or not, a high and tight looks like crap on me, but it’s regulation. A cue ball doesn’t look a lot better, but it’s regulation. I’m not suggesting I have the same issues as an African American woman might, but again, this isn’t about convenience, it’s about whether or not the regulations can be met without being an undue burden. Joining the Army comes at significant costs, and personal expression is one of them.
Finally there’s the issue of the words the Army has used to describe the banned hairstyles, specifically “words like unkempt [and] matted”. Ms. Tharps describes these as “culturally insensitive words” due to the “backstory of black people and their relationship with their hair in this country”. Having not read the regulations I don’t know if they only and specifically address the hairstyles most common to African Americans or if they are referring to my beloved mohawk as well, but again this seems a case of “the Army way”. Even Ms. Thaps admits “at the end of the day, you cannot say that they are racist”, and this seems to me a case of oversensitivity and taking offense where none is intended or justified. But honestly? If this were the entirety of the issue I’d say just change the wording and be done with it. It’s not important to the core issue for the Army, and it is important to the people it affects.
And speaking of the Army, let’s take a look at their reply. According to Renee Montagne, “We reached an Army spokeswoman for comment. She pointed out the regulations apply to all female soldiers regardless of race.” Well la-de-da. That’s the moral equivalent of saying they’ve established a regulation tampon for use by all soldiers, regardless of gender. I wanted to take the Army’s side, if for no other reason than because I saw little to no merit in the opposition’s case, but this? This is a case of being your own worst enemy. Which is, after all, the Army way.