Sunday, January 22, 2012

Joe Paterno is Dead

I’m going to be rather unpopular on Twitter, Facebook, and such for the next day or so because I will not be one of those people idiotically mourning the death of a rape enabler.

Hearing how some people are treating his ‘incident’ - like it was just a big dumb mistake like bribing kids to play for his school, or tacitly endorsing the sale of merchandise for tattoos - demonstrates that they are willing to overlook that Paterno’s involvement in the Sandusky case wasn’t just a momentary ethical lapse, but an extensive silence on the knowledge that someone closely tied into the Nittany Lions’ identity was committing profoundly heinous acts of violence against young boys. Acts of violence that will shadow these kids’ lives well into their adulthood, that will irreparably be a part of their identity forever.

Let’s just be clear. Joe Paterno knew that Jerry Sandusky was raping a child. I don’t care that he in recent weeks pled the ‘I’m just an old jalopy from an era where raping a child was unheard of!” line, because Sandusky didn’t invent child rape, child rape is not some new-fangled Sony technology from the 19 - dickity - 80’s. Joe Paterno more likely than not had heard the pervasive rumors and allegations against Sandusky that had pursued him like the dogs of hell nipping at his heels. There was no way a man who was literally the most powerful person in Happy Valley did not know this.

Crowing that he “fulfilled his legal obligation” - like he was calling the county housing authority on a neighbor he suspected of renovating without proper licensing - ignores that the incident in question was a fundamentally immoral act of violence against another person, a child. For this, Paterno will always be remembered, as he should, because no amount of winning should be able to rinse away the stink of covering up child abuse.

While not a rapist himself, he ceded the responsibility his stature demanded and demurred to bureaucracy and the diffusion of responsibility. He knew there was a wolf among the sheep, and gave that wolf a collar and an “If Found, Please Call” tag. The legacy of Penn State football, by the inaction of himself and the entire chain of command from top to bottom, is now tainted indefinitely. The lives of several young men are forever ruined, and to the victims of sexual abuse who suffer in silence daily, Paterno has set forth the example that it is not always in the best interests of those with power to bring you justice. May the earth where he is buried be laid with salt.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Third Rail

So last night I was called a 'miserable fuck', a 'fascist', and (most insultingly to me) a Ron Paul endorser for having the audacity to suggest that Ron Paul's anti-war, anti-empire, and pro-civil-liberties stances were commendable, especially given the political climate. That climate being one in which the same people decrying George W. Bush for being a friend to plutocratic capitalists, oil interests, a sprawling military-industrial complex, and surveillance fetishists now give Obama passes for those same activities. It's a strange time where people obstensibly to the left of center demand you remain in lockstep with the party, and not criticize the president for fear of showing weakness to the 'other side.'

The other side being the Republican party, who aside from being vocally opposed to social reform is not substantively different from the Democrats. Yes, I recognize it was a Democrat who ended DADT, and passed a reform to Healthcare*, and proposed sweeping changes to student loans. This is also the president who opposed Guantanamo Bay, telecom immunity, indefinite detention legalized via the NDAA, and suggested with great fervor that he would prosecute Wall Street within an inch of their gilded gristle, and we know how all of those went.

I'm not looking forward to this upcoming general election, because it'll be the same tripe as it has been for years. Two goons being financed by literally the same people will make a big show of how different they supposedly are (“close the borders!” “no, let's find another way” etc.) when ignoring that they are in complete agreement on deeply important issues such as unfettered capitalism and how we engage militarily with the world at large. Then the party loyalists will scream for complete fealty on both sides of the aisle, as I learned last night.

There's a strange thing about the social justice blogosphere. For as much as they are willing to be aggressive in confronting the issue of their raison d'etre (Tim Wise, for example, is about as diplomatic as a freight train), when it comes to party politics they fall right into line. “But Mike,” they crow, “by suggesting anything wrong with Obama you're aiding the other side, and that is bad. You are a fascist and ruining the party. Get with the program.” Because what is of the utmost importance is getting our guy (not yet girl, unfortunately) to win, because there is meager flotsam of success in a presidency otherwise teeming with corporate handouts and the curbing of civil rights that these party-line types will shove in your face in an attempt to shame you.

This is why I wish Ron Paul was the Republican nominee. Not because I like him – dear God, no, the man is an Ayn Rand character brought to life, acting out the weird horrorshow of her stilted worldview – but because he would hold up a mirror to the ugly realities of our supposed 'progressive' president. That while he has wound down troop commitments abroad he has ramped up a campaign of drone warfare that targets people who were are told are terrorists. Anwar Al-Awlaki, for example, who I have been told by countless people with no proof or explanation was a “bad guy” and deserved being killed, despite that he was an American citizen and entitled to the due process of the law**. That neo-fascist policies have been put into law with Obama's alleged reluctance (yup the kind of reluctance to sign a bill allowing for the imprisonment without charge of anyone the president says is a bad person, rather than veto it). That a racist and classist drug war continues unchallenged under his watch, which in concert with a massive and unregulated private prison industry is one of the major assaults on the freedom of people of color today?

Paul would raise these issues, and it would make for a more intellectually honest debate. Yet to raise this issue is to be as bad as Paul himself. This fallacy is a great tool of silencing dissent, because it shames the dissenter with associations to the candidate's entire platform, and forces the dissenter to regain their favor and credibility with the party. Ron Paul's views on race, sexuality, women, and the economy are insane and despicable. There is no question to that in my mind. But how does this discredit areas in which he happens to be correct? It doesn't. But it's a convenient strategy of intellectually dishonest people to pretend it does.


The two party system is a titanic failure. It does not accurate represent the amount of social and political diversity in the United States, which is more broad than I assume any of these Democrat loyalists like to accept. The two-party narrative is a false, but attractive notion; that it's US against THEM, and the dreaded OTHER PARTY will destroy everything we have tried so hard to work for. It's a simpler and more immediately gratifying experience, rather than recognizing the plurality of voices in America with their own individual needs and problems.

What it does is simplify ideology and platforms. It ignores the intellectual coherency and voices of the socialists, communists, libertarians, syndicalists, anarchists, social democrats, among others. Embracing the notions of the 'big tent' party only serves to dilute specific ideology into the concerns of game theory and political brouhaha, and allow for a conslidation of money and power into those who espouse myopia and fear. It creates a false set of alternatives, where you could vote for the conservative capitalist or the semi-liberal capitalist.

What gets me is the reluctance with which the social justicers among us take in tackling capitalism as, if not a direct cause of, an enabler of social inequality and oppression as way of dividing those who would otherwise have common interest in working towards economic justice and equality. I hate to be so glib as to suggest that truly is no war but class war, but these times are definitely rallying towards that invective. Economic injustice is the blight in the roots of the tree of human dignity; patriarchy, nativism, racism, and others are the eventual atrophy and death of the leaves.

So that's why it's frustrating to see people like Tim Wise – who has written important works on being a white ally in the struggle against racial oppression – treat any criticism of our entrenched political system and our president who currently presides over it as tantamount to treason against progressive politics. For people who are erstwhile graceful and insightful, this demonstrates a frustrating lack of nuance for political thought and operation in our country. I feel a lot of them has bought into the lie of the two party system, and as a result none of them will ever represent real change. It's alienating and kind of a bummer to be called fascist because I think a Ron Paul nomination would provide for honest examination of our national character vis-à-vis military and homeland security concerns. But my appreciation for areas of Paul's politics where I agree is apparently the same as gassing six million Jews, because god dammit you are undermining Barack Obama and see kid it's an election year and you need to get with the program.***

So I guess this is my final break-up with the Democratic Party, that great lumbering beast of lukewarm social progressivism and economic regulation.

Because to play party politics is to ignore the real diversity of political thought and to reduce yourself to the narrowest of narratives – the Us vs. Them. It ignores that we really have the power to organize and reject the system as it is, as Occupy Wall Street was doing and will hopefully continue to do (as pessimistic as I am getting w/r/t them), and that we as people can agitate for something better if we make the groundswell too large for the plutocrats to drive safely around. It is up to us, not Barack Obama or Mitt or Ron Paul. This is social justice – not voting in Democrats with the blind hope they'll pass the ERA or the DREAM Act, but recognizing that neither party will ever have our interests fully in mind, and that no party worth our salt ever will until the system is plundered and retooled to actually represent the totality of our nation.

*Which, fascinatingly enough, was identical the Republican proposals in the early nineties, and the Massachusetts healthcare program as passed by, yup, Mitt Romney.

**As is anyone accused of terrorism on American soil, a fact that would be bandied about with more enthusiasm if a Republican was president right now.

***Last night on Twitter somebody literally told me to get with the program w/r/t/ supporting Barack Obama. It was bracing.