“We set aside today in order to acknowledge those who did their duty to the best of their ability. Raise a glass and honor those who served their country in peace and in conflict, those who came when called – both those who came against their will and those who came of their own volition – all of those who came to stand between home and war’s desolation.
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“I don’t think Grover’s saying that you should start putting cartoons of black guys or Jews on baseball caps..That would be as bad as what they’re doing to us. Those folks have had plenty of suffering. We understand that. Hell, we understand suffering better than anybody. Indian people aren’t about dragging other people down.
“But here’s what you’ve got to understand. When you look at black people, you see ghosts of all the slavery and the rapes and the hangings and the chains. When you look at Jews, you see ghosts of all those bodies piled up in the death camps. And those ghosts keep you trying to do the right thing.
“But when you look at us you don’t see the ghosts of the little babies with their heads smashed in by rifle butts at the Big Hole, or the old folks dying by the side of the trail on the way to Oklahoma while their families cried and tried to make them comfortable, or the dead mothers at Wounded Knee or the little kids at Sand Creek who were shot for target practice. You don’t see any ghosts at all.
“Well, we see those ghosts. And they make our hearts sad and they hurt our little children. And when we try to say something, you tell us, ‘Get over it. This is America. Look at the American dream.’ But as long as you’re calling us Redskins and doing tomahawk chops, we can’t look at the American dream, because those things remind us that we’re not real human beings to you. And when people aren’t humans, you can turn them into slaves or kill six million of them or shoot them down with Hotchkiss guns and throw them into mass graves at Wounded Knee.
– Kent Nerburn, The Wolf At Twilight
“Businesses just want to increase their profits; it’s up to the government to make sure they distribute enough of those profits so workers have the money to buy the goods they produce. It’s no mystery — the less poverty, the more commerce. The most important investment we can make is in human resources.” – President José Mujica of Uruguay
Bronner’s basic point is simple: Bigotry has always existed, and though its techniques may change, its goal is always largely the same. The bigot, Bronner writes, “directs his hatred against those who threaten (or might threaten) his privileges, his existential self-worth” by challenging the prevailing prejudices of the day. His beliefs are unquestionably the right ones; he “hears the Lord’s voice and he condemns those who don’t, or interpret it otherwise.” But if you criticize the bigot for his antediluvian views, he’ll scurry behind the shield of “traditions” and “established habits.” – Mark Joseph Stern’s review of Stephen Eric Bronner’s book The Bigot: Why Prejudice Persists
“Fourteen years later, thanks a heap, Osama bin Laden. With a small number of supporters, $400,000-$500,000, and 19 suicidal hijackers, most of them Saudis, you pulled off a geopolitical magic trick of the first order. Think of it as wizardry from the theater of darkness. In the process, you did ‘change everything’ or at least enough of everything to matter. Or rather, you goaded us into doing what you had neither the resources nor the ability to do. So let’s give credit where it’s due. Psychologically speaking, the 9/11 attacks represented precision targeting of a kind American leaders would only dream of in the years to follow. I have no idea how, but you clearly understood us so much better than we understood you or, for that matter, ourselves. You knew just which buttons of ours to push so that we would essentially carry out the rest of your plan for you. While you sat back and waited in Abbottabad, we followed the blueprints for your dreams and desires as if you had planned it and, in the process, made the world a significantly different (and significantly grimmer) place.
“Billion dollar corporations paying to organize people so they’ll complain about taxes also isn’t a revolution. It’s what billion dollar corporations do. They only pray they’ll find customers gullible enough to not realize they’re being used as pawns. But then, that’s why God created marketing departments…” — Robert J. Elisberg, The “Tea Party” Is Not Revolting
We’re going to discuss some hot topics, but we are not going to be discussing the hot topics themselves but rather the reasons why certain tactics succeed and other tactics fail. Anyone attempting to steer the debate into discussion of yea-or-nay / pro-or-con ethics / morality will be ignored.
Go post your own blog.
It has been asked, “Why does the dentist who killed a lion receive more outrage than a video showing Planned Parenthood discussing what they do with aborted fetuses?”
The short answer is that in the case of the lion killer, we have not one but two names: Cecil, the grandfather patriarch of his pride, and Dr. X, the guy who thinks it’s big fun to use his human intellectual and technological advantage to track and kill animals for sport.
In short, we have a story with two characters in it, and it’s pretty easy for the average person to grasp the principles involved: Lion, minding own business, killed for fun by guy with money who has to cross an ocean to do it.
The story would gain no traction if
Cecil didn’t have a name and a backstory.
There have been dozens of photos posted on the Internet of people proudly smiling over their trophy kills (and we define a trophy kill as a kill where the prey will not be eaten by the hunter’s family, or a demonstrably dangerous animal stopped to keep it from harming others, but simply an animal death used as bragging rights). There have been attempts to gin up outrage against them, often identifying the hunters by name and in some cases causing no small amount of discomfort to them (there have been the occasional apologies and one or two examples of C-list celebrities losing a gig because of it).
But in those cases the animals were anonymous and therefore generic; there was no identity that people could glom onto.
Cecil, by mere fact of having a name,
immediately became a character.
That’s the short answer, but the longer answer builds off that: The case against Dr. X worked because it was possible to bring direct pressure to bear against a specific individual, and only because that individual depended on public good will to be able to afford his lethal hobby.
If Dr. X wasn’t a dentist but instead was a safari outfitter / hunting guide, no amount of public outrage would affect him directly for the simple reason that his business is based on customers who have already demonstrated a desire for his services.
to a professional hunting guide
does them no harm;
their client base will
keep coming back
regardless of your
Convincing the client base that there’s no honor
in big game trophy hunting, however…
There is where you have your leverage.
The case of Dr. X is going to impact big game trophy hunting to this degree: It’s going to dissuade more people who are on the fence regarding this issue than it will persuade.
Yeah, there will be some contrarians who had never given serious thought to big game trophy hunting before who will now support / participate in the sport, but they will be small in number to the group that thinks, “Y’know, it is kind of a punk thing to do…”
And again, let us draw a sharp distinction between those who hunt and fish to provide food for their family and those who do so just to brag they’ve done it.
Eventually, the anti-big game trophy hunting sentiment will succeed: As trophy hunting becomes less and less of a publicly admirable activity, fewer and fewer people will take up the sport. The fewer people who take it up, the less resources will be available to support it. The less resources available to support it, the fewer people will be able to enjoy it, etc., etc., and of course, etc.
Why then does the anti-big game trophy hunting sentiment gain traction while the anti-police brutality and anti-abortion sentiments apparently fail to do so?
In both cases the main factor is that it is extremely difficult to bring direct pressure to bear on those police who brutalize civilians and those people who provide abortions for the simple reason that they are providing a service to a client base that wants exactly those things.
Despite their motto, the police are not there to protect and serve citizens as a whole: They are there to protect and serve property owners.
When the property owners perceive
a particular group or individual to be
a threat to them and their property,
they have the police act against them.
Look at the history of unionization in this country, the brutal suppression of freedom of speech and assembly, the blatant murder of many and legal lynchings of others, the destruction of workers’ homes and families for the heinous crime of demanding fair working conditions.
Rarely are police held accountable for brutality today, and when they are it’s almost always the result of them being caught on video in a blatant misuse of authority, and even then the system that permits such things is protected while the individual officer is thrown to the wolves.
Look how the narratives are acted out: If it is at all possible for the brutalized citizen to be presented as in the wrong, they are. When it becomes impossible to hide the officer’s illegal brutality, their personnel records are leaked with emphasis drawn to all previous infractions.
Basically, it’s a race to see which story gains traction first: The “they were a thug so they deserved it” story or the “he was a rogue cop” story, and generally the thug story is given a lengthy head start.
If anything is to be done about police brutality, it has to be through indirect pressure: The property owners must become aware there are far greater risks to authorizing excessive force than in reducing use of excessive force.
Same thing with the failed coup
against Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood is in the business of providing health services to women; abortion procedures accounts for only 3% of their case load. They don’t promote the procedure, but they do make it available to a client base that is actively seeking it.
Now, the great irony is that Planned Parenthood and other providers of comprehensive sex education have done far more to reduce the number of abortions that the anti-abortionists.
By providing comprehensive sex education and making safe and reliable forms of birth control easily available, they have greatly reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies and as a result have greatly reduced the number of abortions.
They’ve also greatly reduced STD rates, infant mortality rates, domestic and child abuse rates, and divorce in those states where comprehensive sex education and family planning are available, all of which also contribute to the overall drop in abortions by removing or lessening the factors that contribute to people seeing abortion as a viable alternative.
Trying to bring direct pressure to bear
on Planned Parenthood is futile.
First off, there is no narrative involving “characters” as we used the term above re Cecil the lion and Dr. X.
Without names, without specific backstories, it becomes extremely difficult for people to identify with either the fetuses or the mothers seeking to terminate their pregnancies.
It’s like outrage over photos of anonymous big game hunters posing over dead zebras and giraffes: Yeah, the majority of people aren’t impressed by that and may even find it petty and distasteful, but they’re not going to be moved to action because of it.
Attach a name and the narrative now becomes a story about a character, and the unfortunate truth for the anti-abortionists is that while their opponents can point to real living / breathing / thinking / feeling women with names who have made a desperate choice, the anti-abortion side cannot do the same regarding fetuses without their narrative looking ridiculous.
The only way to reduce the number of abortions
is to convince those people who are on the fence
about the issue not to do it.
But the big difference between women seeking to terminate their pregnancies and big game trophy hunters who spend a lot of time and money engaging in their lethal hobby as often as possible, is that it’s the rare case where a woman seeks multiple abortions.
And most multiple abortion cases are the result of medical complications that threaten the life of both mother and fetus unless the pregnancy is terminated to save the mother.
So Planned Parenthood’s client base for abortion is not a group of people who think it’s a really cool thing to do and are happy to brag about it, but desperate once-in-a-lifetime cases who would just as soon not have their decision broadcast to the world.
You see the difference in motivations? You see why the big game hunters, many of who need public approval in order to fund their hobby, are much more susceptible to shaming than women who are in a desperate personal situation?
Do you see why pressure against Planned Parenthood directly will always fail, and attempts to shame women seeking abortions will ultimately backfire?
As stated above, this post is not to debate the right or wrong of any particular situation but rather to examine what strategies and tactics work (i.e., produce the desired stated result) and which do not work (i.e., either fail to produce the desired result or create blowback).
Choose your path accordingly.
Calvin And Hobbes © Bill Watterson
“In recent years and elections one would have thought that homosexuality and abortion were the new litmus tests of authentic Christianity. Where did this come from? They never were the criteria of proper membership for the first 2000 years, but reflect very recent culture wars instead. And largely from people who think of themselves as ‘traditionalists’! (The fundamentals were already resolved in the early Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. Note that none of the core beliefs are about morality at all. The Creeds are more mystical, cosmological, and about aligning our lives inside of a huge sacred story.) When you lose the great mystical level of religion, you always become moralistic about this or that as a cheap substitute. It gives you a false sense of being on higher spiritual ground than others.
“Jesus is clearly much more concerned about issues of pride, injustice, hypocrisy, blindness, and what I have often called ‘The Three Ps’ of power, prestige, and possessions, which are probably 95 percent of Jesus’ written teaching. We conveniently ignore this 95 percent to concentrate on a morality that usually has to do with human embodiment. That’s where people get righteous, judgmental, and upset, for some reason. The body seems to be where we carry our sense of shame and inferiority, and early-stage religion has never gotten much beyond these ‘pelvic’ issues. As Jesus put it, ‘You ignore the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and good faith . . . and instead you strain out gnats and swallow camels’. We worry about what people are doing in bed much more than making sure everybody has a bed to begin with. There certainly is a need for a life-giving sexual morality, and true pro-life morality, but one could sincerely question whether Christian nations and people have found it yet.” — Fr. Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations (Sunday, June 16, 2013): “New Fundamentals” Are a Contradiction in Terms
No individual action in and of itself is either moral or immoral, ethical or unethical. They are moral and ethical only in context.
In the latter part of the twentieth century, a woman was pinned down in the rubble of her home following a devastating earthquake. A fire started, and not only was there no water flowing in the broken water mains, but the fire departments and paramedics were all swamped with horrendous casualties in their immediate vicinity.
Though neighbors were able to rescue the woman’s husband and children from the rubble, they could not save her. As the fire grew closer and closer it became obvious the woman would die a slow and horribly agonizing death.
The husband stayed with her as long as he could, comforting her as best as possible, reassuring her that he loved her and would take care of the children…
…then as the flames grew too intense
for him to stay he shot her in the head.
If you do not see that as a kind and just and moral and ethical and loving act, you are a monster incapable of differentiating between good and evil.
A woman who willingly submits to invading soldiers to spare her child from being raped has committed no sin, has done nothing dishonorable, has not betrayed her husband, has not committed adultery. She sacrificed herself to save an innocent: She did a just and moral and ethical act; if you cannot see that, you are a monster incapable of differentiating between good and evil.
While millions were being marched off to gas chambers during WWII, some were saved by the khassidey umot ha-olam who looked the Nazis in the face and flat out lied, “No, no Jewish people here” while hiding them in their own homes.
Had their lie been discovered, they would have suffered for protecting Jews, up to and including going to the gas chambers with them.
If you think they committed a sin by lying to murderous anti-Semites in order to save innocent lives, you are a monster incapable of differentiating between good and evil.
Earlier this year I paid one last visit to a friend dying from cancer.
He was heavily sedated; I’m not at all certain he was even aware we were there.
But his wife was by his side, and though she was wracked with anguish she was determined to be as uplifting as possible for her husband even as he lay dying.
She tended to him and talked cheerfully to him and made sure his breathing tube was clear and did everything she could to look after him as he slowly slipped away.
She loved him, and if there is one joy any of us could take away from his passing, it’s that he went with his good and loving mate by his side, staying with him and supporting him as best she could under the most adverse conditions.
Do you think God smiles on their relationship
while condemning another of
equal strength and integrity and compassion
just because it’s between
two members of the same gender?
“Equality always wins. And when it does, the victory is in a very real sense a triumph for the moral teachings of Jesus Christ, whether or not the reformers view their efforts in religious terms. No institution — not even a church founded in Christ’s name— can withstand the subversive power of his message.” — Damon Linker, How Ireland’s gay marriage vote exposes the catch-22 of modern Christianity