March 22nd, 2006

nancy fight

and while we're on the subject

I don't want to alarm anyone--well that's untrue. I am trying to alarm everyone--but in a conversation with my old boss the other night (a visit which was really really nice by the way) she ventured her opinion that the Republicans will run McCain for president in 08.

just think about this for a minute and think how much work it will take the democratic party to find and then package someone who would stand a chance against McCain.

depressing, isn't it?

I say start writing your democratic congresspeople and tell them to get off their asses and act like the oppositional party we need. tell john kerry the same thing next time he sends you an email talking about how we are just about to round the corner in the fight against republican hegemony. if you don't have congresspeople, just write to howard dean at the democratic national headquarters and tell them to get their shit together now.

I'd like it lots if we had some alternative to the democratic party but until a third party puts down roots in state legislatures and governor's seats and in congress itself no third party candidate stands a snowball's chance in hell of doing anything but throwing the goddamned election. so write to the democrats and ask them where in the gods' green earth is our leadership? where's the person/people who will take on the machine currently running the country and dare to call it on its criminal acts rather than to sit quietly so as not to make too big of a fuss?

you can of course get in touch with the democrats from their website. I'm not sure how much good it will do, but you can also yell at john kerry at his website. we can keep giving support to and people for the american way, but to get the presidency and congress back into the right hands its the democrats themselves that need shaking up.

get going.
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yeah I can't stay away from this one

mactavish alerts us to Pat Robertson's tirade as reported on the pfaw site, regarding David Horowitz’s “101 Most Dangerous Academics in America”:

Rev. Robertson launched an attack on “radical” liberal professors saying; “They are racists, murderers, sexual deviants and supporters of Al-Qaeda – and they could be teaching your kids!” Later in the program he told his viewers, “These guys are out and out communists, they are radicals, they are, you know, some of them killers, and they are propagandists of the first order…you don’t want your child to be brainwashed by these radicals, you just don’t want it to happen. Not only brainwashed but beat up, they beat these people up, cower them into submission. AGGGHHH!!!!’

Let me get this straight. Regularly on university campuses nationwide, young people are subjected to the usual techniques of brainwashing: being run ragged every day to the point of utter exhaustion; being deprived of sleep, food, and furniture on which to comfortably rest; having simplistic slogans yelled at them repeatedly, and being asked to repeat them back verbatim; being pressured by charismatic leaders to join the group in order not to risk falling into the hands of the greatest evil; threatening them with the loss of their families, their homes, their freedom and their right to think for themselves; threatening them with punishment of the worst kind if they do not get in line with the beliefs of the group majority.

Sounds like fundamentalist church camp to me. Every single bit of it.

I'm not anti-family, and I am not even anti-church, but when I mentioned the indoctrinated and brainwashed nuclear family a couple of posts back I was referring to exactly the sort of families that the Pat Robertsons of the nation envision raising the next generation: threatening young children with eternal torment if they do not toe the conservative christian line, painting the world in black and white terms, casting "us" as a persecuted minority within an inherently evil majority, about whom no realistic information is ever allowed to pass into childrens' hands, and painting higher education, which tries to assist these children in thinking for themselves and learning not to suspend their (god-given?) reason when evaluating ideas for probable truth-value, as a bastion of propagandistic brainwashing where self-determination is forbidden in favor of brutal conditioning to accept universal principles as given without any sort of inquiry into their validity--um, I'm sorry, but can you say projection?

I don't know of a single university student who has been beaten by anyone on campus, besides, perhaps, his frat brothers. Just what kind of crack is Pat smoking? On the other hand I do know of fundamentalist indoctrination programs where queer and questioning adolescents are regularly sent to be physically and mentally brutalized into repressing their (god-given?) capacity to love and/or realize their (god-given?) identity. The stories that come out of these places, which have dismal "success" rates, are well known and if you really want me to dig some up I will.

All I can report with all confidence, however, is my experience with fundamentalist christianity as a child, when I was subjected at the age of six to a "realistic" church play wherein adults were thrown screaming into a hell consisting of a doorway wrapped in aluminum foil with "flames" fluttering around the edges in red and orange swirling lights; I attended a number of youth retreats where we were marched up and down mountain sides during the day, disturbed from our sleep by fake fire drills that were supposed to be amusing, and given at most six hours in which to actually sleep every night and all this was peppered by pathos-riven sermons in which we were begged tearfully to commit ourselves to a God who otherwise would be likely to cast us into a pit of fire come our turn at the judgment day. Before this I spent several years in increasingly obsessive and crazed panic that my family was going to be raptured away and I was going to be left behind to face death squads with portable guillotines which would become the only path to salvation once one was left behind. My only way out of this was to declare my faith in front of the entire church, which as you might guess from my still relentless social anxiety was one of the most traumatic things I could imagine, and the day I was more or less forced to do so was a day that still reeks of betrayal and execution for me. The only joy came from knowing that I was no longer going to burn forever. I was about 13 by the time this finally came about. I had been assured of eternal torment since I was 7 and learned of the rapture and the mobile guillotines from a Jack Chick tract I picked up in 4th grade when I was 8.

I lost my faith about two and a half years later when it began to become clear to me that the circular logic I was being handed made no real sense, but also when it began to become clear to me that my identity and sexuality had no place in this version of god's kingdom. No university professor had to tell me these things. I thought them out for myself. It is true that later I discovered a world of thinkers who had come to similar conclusions, and it is true that reading Nietzsche and Sartre and Kierkegaard showed me that there was a long history of people whose stories were very different from the one I had been told was the only possible one, but I bought those books out of my own curiousity.

I went to school to study them in more detail. I've been in school for some 25 years and I have to say that not a single professor has ever threatened me, kept me from getting enough sleep (well, except for a finals week or two), cast the world as us=good and them=evil, told me that I was going to suffer great tribulation if I did not accept his/her version of history and ideas, or even forced me to open a book, for that matter. The students I teach now are under no obligation to agree with me, and I tell them they are free to argue a different point of view than the one they hear in class as long as they are willing to back it up with solid rhetoric. Some do. Some don't. If they argue their case well, they get a good grade. The only thing that I demand that they do is to be ethical towards the text they are reading: that is, give it a fair hearing, a college try at understanding its argument, and civil conversation if they disagree with its premises.

This, I guess, is what brainwashing consists of. Not that other stuff I was exposed to when I was young. Right?

Incidentally, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick said one of the kindest things any professor has ever said to me. The details lose their poignancy out of context, so I won't bother to tell the whole story. But she came to speak at Berkeley, and I ran the sound, and we spoke afterwards. She didn't hit me.
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