Monday, February 25, 2008

The best article ever?

The point/counterpoint in the latest edition of Bitch (no. 39) isn't really the best article ever -- but, like the book I wrote three posts on below, it puts its finger on something that bugged me but that I couldn't articulate.

The topic: "Is To Catch a Predator bad for us?" I've never seen the show, but it always struck me as exploitative and sleazy. I couldn't say why -- it's not that I feel any sympathy for the online pedophile predators that they catch. Lindsay Paige Hoffman, though, is able to ferret out why it's exploitative with regard to girls, not just criminals.

>>> Predator, above all else, is contributing to the way an entire culture increasingly sexualizes young girls.<<<

It's like the term "jailbait" -- it implies it's a normal masculine urge to be attracted to a child and this whole system is just set up to trap those who can't help but give in to their lust for the sexy, sexy 13 year olds. The men on the show aren't disordered, just weak. Where oh where is a portrayal of a girl over, say, TEN, that isn't about sexuality? Where is the acknowledgment that by some generally accepted adult standard, children are NOT SEXY??

It's disgusting enough that adult women are sex objects first and people second, or, if we are unattractive, failed sex objects first and people second. (Something, by the way, that I realized only recently. With a high IQ, a law degree, ten years of bylines, a penchant for NPR, a tendency to be judgmental and serious and a moderately conservative wardrobe, wouldn't you think I'd be a weirdo braniac first and a sex object at least, you know, second? But women are defined first and foremost by hot-or-not and everything else flows from that.) It's even more appalling that girls as young as 11 are beguiling, deliciously forbidden sex objects first and people second.

I'm pretty sure that the moral of the story in Lolita wasn't "It could happen to any man if he let his guard down." For heaven's sake, people. I'm not always the biggest fan of men, or masculinity anyway, but I give men more credit than that.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Tolerance is a virtue, but tolerance coupled with passivity is a vice."

That's the way Hedges concludes American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. I don't disagree, but I do think the turn of current events since the book was written less than two years ago means we have less to be worried about, at least in the short term. Events like the death of Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson endorsing Giuliani and in general the failure of the Christian right to coalesce behind any particular presidential candidate shows, in my mind, that they're losing cohesion and influence.

In the final chapter of American Fascists, Hedges says that if there's another terrorist attack, or a wide-scale environmental disaster, that's when we should really be concerned, and that's hard to argue with considering what happened in 2001 and 2002 in this country. It's pretty much the sole reason I voted for Barack Obama and not Hillary Rodham Clinton -- when dissent was unpatriotic and the Democrats went along with Bush's, to put it kindly, highly questionable agenda, she did the easy thing, not the right thing. Obama was not in the Senate then, true, but he spoke out against the war and he certainly had aspirations to seek higher office, so it's not like he didn't have to be concerned about his viewpoint being used against him.

Anyway, the American electorate seems to be drifting a bit leftward and, bar some sort of disaster, the influence of the Christian Right is fading. I think that this quote from Vasily Grossman, a Russian novelist, that Hedges uses sums up my viewpoint pretty well:
"Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer."

When it comes to women's rights, civil rights, gay rights or any other cause, the forces of intolerance can and have won some of the battles. But ultimately, they never prevent progress. They just slow it down, and sooner or later, they always lose and history marches forward.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

"The Crusade"

I've been out of town a lot lately, which means less time for posting, but a little time to read on the Greyhound at least.

More from Hedges:
"When people come to believe that they are immune from evil, that there is no resemblance between themselves and those the define as the enemy, they will inevitably grow to embody the evil they claim to fight. It is only by grasping our own capacity for evil, our own darkness, that we hold our own capacity for evil at bay. When evil is purely external, then moral purification always entrails the eradication of others."

Emphasis mine.

Here, Hedges again revisits the themes of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Us versus them, They are oppressing us, and because They are the oppressors, we can do no wrong. I'm not sure what to take away from the need to grasp our own capacity for evil -- unless by "our" he just means "people who are generally in our camp about things." If someone who I respected intellectually was revealed to be a pedophile, or an embezzler, or who knows what, it wouldn't shake my foundation in their ideas. But if their ideas were more like "We are morally superior to Them" -- I can see how that would be a different story. I don't have this epic good v. evil world view in my day-to-day life, so when people go bad within the movement (feminism, the Democratic party, whatever) it's no great surprise.

This healthy skepticism may also have a lot to do with why there's not much of an atheist movement. Eradicate the believers? Ehn.