Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sex, stupidity and fudamentalist atheists ...

There's too much going on this week while I hunch over my desk typing papers! It's like when news of the ridiculous breaks while The Daily Show is taking a week off! I ... can't ... not ... snark!

Sex: We begin with Eliot Spitzer, at least, we begin there so I can say -- political sex scandals are getting to be a bore. Yes, we feel bad for the wife, but marriage is private so let's not go there. Although I'm waiting for the day when a spouse of a politician caught in a sex scandal takes the mic at the press conference where said sex scandal is announced and says, "I'm divorcing this (insert nasty epithet here) right freakin' now, any divorce attorneys in the room?" Stand by your spouse? Good advice, Tammy Wynette. What I find the coolest thing: David A. Patterson becomes New York's third African American governor and the nation's first blind governor! My moms has a similar type of blindness, she began losing her sight when I was about 10 or so, and it's been a struggle her whole life to just live day to day. This world is not set up for the blind and visually impaired -- for most people with disabilities, for that matter. So I'm super happy that Mr. Patterson is running New York, it's something my moms and I can look at and get more dialogue going on with.

Stupidity: If you did not watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night to see his special comment on the Geraldine Ferraro "I'm not a racist, but ..." comment, go here. Here's a taste:

Senator, if the serpentine logic of your so-called advisors were not bad enough, now, thanks to Geraldine Ferraro, and your campaign's initial refusal to break with her, and your new relationship with her -- now more disturbing still with her claim that she can now "speak for herself" about her vision of Senator Obama as some kind of embodiment of a quota...

If you were to seek Obama as a Vice President, it would be, to Ms. Ferraro, some kind of social engineering gesture, some kind of racial make-good. Do you not see, Senator?

So, was it racist? Mmmmmm, yeah. It was also sexist and classist, but then the three always go together. Is Ms. Ferraro a racist? She seems to be confusing, both in her comment and in her rather ridiculous defense, who people are with what people do. I was rather shocked when I heard her say that her vice-presidential nomination was an affirmative action stunt, which in an of itself is a clear misunderstanding of how affirmative action is supposed to work. Affirmative action is supposed to make us look not at other people, but at ourselves and the preconceived assumptions we make about other people based on race, sex, orientation and ability. Instead we made it a quota, about the person being hired or chosen, confusing who they are with what they do. For her to designate her successes to her gender alone means that she's a profiteer who took advantage of a flawed system in order to get ahead. But hey, at least she's honest about it, right? And if we tend to look at other people the way we look at ourselves, then it's no wonder she would go that way for Sen. Obama. So she's a victim, all right, but she victimized herself.

So is she a racist? What she did/said was racist, no doubt. That doesn't mean she's a racist. People make boneheaded, ignorant mistakes all the time. Mistakes can be fixed. Ignorance can be corrected. This is how we learn. Except that she keeps saying it. So ... what does that say?

If Sen. Clinton doesn't do something about this, other than offer a lame apology for what her former president husband said a few months back, well, if she's the nominee, come November I might just vote for Bill the Cat.

Fundamentalist atheists: Salon has an interesting interview with Chris Hedges -- not to be confused with Chris Hitchens -- about Hedges' new book, I Don't Believe in Atheists. I read Hedges' American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, so I'll probably go hunting down Atheists to read that, too. Hedges rightly points out that fundamentalism of any stripe is bad, bad, bad for humans, but it seems to be something we have a tendency to fall into, no matter who we are or where we come from. The interesting thing about the interview is that it doesn't seem as if the writer understands the difference between secularism and fundamentalist secularism, much like many religious people don't understand the different between religion and the fundamentalist forms of their religions. Fundamentalism invariably leads to legitimization of killing the Other. Check it:

If we're afraid to privilege Enlightenment values, don't we run the risk of sanctioning religious rituals that discriminate against women and minorities?

But I would never argue that! I mean, I think genital mutilation is disgusting. I'm not a cultural relativist. I don't think that if you live in Somalia, it's fine to mutilate little girls. There is nothing wrong with taking a moral stand, but when we take a moral stand and then use it to elevate ourselves to another moral plane above other human beings, then it becomes, in biblical terms, a form of self-worship. That's what the New Atheists have, and that's what the Christian fundamentalists have.

Dude, how is it that we always go to the extreme but we never see it when we're there? Why does someone saying, "We must be careful not to privilege our worldview over and above others" become "We must throw Western Enlightenment values out the window"? Hedges is right on the money with his answer. I'm looking forward to reading his book.

OK, back to papers ...


Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

A long time ago I called them the same thing, and one reader of mine in particular "Harrumphed" quite loudly at my presumption at using the two words together to heighten the intensity of my description. I got mad then; I now just shake my head at the blindness of fundamentalists in general to their own fundamentalism, and the danger such attitudes pose.

Whether it's Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, or whomever - these are seriously flawed individuals, and their arguments are neither new nor particularly interesting. I ignore them rather than take them seriously as interlocutors (Dawkins, in particular, seems to have no idea that Bertrand Russell wrote a much better "atheist manifesto", Why I Am Not A Christian, over a generation ago from which he seems to have cribbed liberally without crediting him).

As for Spitzer's wife - that was the height of tacky, having her stand there while he admitted schtupping high-priced hookers. I so wanted her to dope slap him on national television.

(h)apaThealogy said...

I bought "I Don't Believe in Atheists" this weekend and I'm working my way through it. Chris Hedges is an amazing writer/thinker (but then, good journalists tend to be) and the book really lays it out. He makes the exact same point you're making here, so I guess he's almost as cool as you! :)