09 February 2017

Civility

I've occasionally been criticized for what some people consider a lack of civility -- for rejecting the enemy's position as invalid or illegitimate or unworthy of serious discussion, and for doing so in blunt terms.  I've been accused of intolerance of differing viewpoints, taking a "my way or the highway" approach.  In fairness, I don't get accused of these things at all often, but I think it's still worth addressing.

To take the easiest point first, I've actually gone out of my way to avoid purism and intolerance of differing viewpoints among those I consider basically allies, even when the difference is on an issue I consider very important.  The drive to "purge" one's own side of those who are so impure as to agree with you only 80% of the time instead of 100% can lead only to infighting and weakness, which is why I've always felt cheered to see such purism at work among Republicans and right-wingers generally, while abhorring it among ourselves.

But where the enemy is concerned, there is a difference.  The Republican party and the US right wing in general have for years been dominated by a theocratic element which regards non-Christians and any substantial deviation from the Christian taboo system as intolerable or even evil and demonic.  The fact that Trump is obviously not religious in this sense has been taken by some as a sign that the right's theocratic tendency is on the wane, but in fact it merely shows that the theocrats are smart enough to support a candidate they consider personally imperfect for the sake of the larger goal of forcing their taboo system on the rest of society.  If Trump will sign laws enabling anti-gay discrimination and appoint judges opposed to Roe v. Wade, that's more important to them than his personal lifestyle.

Moreover, the current minority-rule regime headed by Trump is far from clean of the theocratic stench.  Stephen Bannon, a major (perhaps the major) power behind the throne, explicitly supports restoring the dominance of "Judeo-Christian values" over the Western world, and views secularism as an enemy to be defeated.  As for Mike Pence, another influential figure, his record speaks for itself -- and remember, once enough Republicans overcome their cowardice in the face of the Trumpanzees to help Democrats impeach Trump, it's Pence who will occupy the Presidency.

This is not a mere difference about policy.  These people want to impose a totalitarian religious ideology on the entire nation, enforcing its taboos on everybody.  They want to make me a second-class citizen in my own country.  And this is not something I can just politely disagree about.  This is not something I can engage in civil debate about.  This is all-out war.  I am personally under attack here, and if you're an atheist, or gay, or a woman who values reproductive freedom, or even a religious person of any stripe other than Christian fundamentalist, then you too are under attack.  I am not going to treat the people waging or supporting this onslaught as if they were honorable opponents in a normal political contest.  One does not respond to blitzkrieg with parliamentary points of order.

"With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost." -- William Lloyd Garrison

12 Comments:

Blogger Ahab said...

What happened? Did this accusation of incivility occur during a recent conversation about politics, either in-person or online?

09 February, 2017 05:11  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ahab: This isn't referring to any one specific incident. But over the years a few people on the net have reacted with those accusations to things I posted. I've been meaning to write a response like this for quite a while.

09 February, 2017 05:25  
Blogger One Fly said...

It's amazing how people on the Left can attack one and another when they disagree.

There is no being nice to people in power now and those who support and voted for them.

Had a good conversation with a fellow in Vallarta yesterday and when we parted I said that if he had been a Trumper it would not have happened.

These are serious times and may turn out to be the worst I've seen in my life.

No I don't want to interact with the Right unless absolutely necessary.

09 February, 2017 07:00  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

"it merely shows that the theocrats are smart enough to support a candidate they consider personally imperfect for the sake of the larger goal"...or, as I believe, it shows that their entire pretense of religion is nothing but a battering ram to use against their opponents, and what they actually believe is that they have a right to do anything if it benefits them personally, regardless of the harm to others.

09 February, 2017 11:39  
Anonymous Marc McKenzie said...

This is all-out war. I am personally under attack here, and if you're an atheist, or gay, or a woman who values reproductive freedom, or even a religious person of any stripe other than Christian fundamentalist, then you too are under attack.

This.

The GOP is not intent on playing fair or helping all. It is only interested in forcing a stunted, backwards mentality on the rest of us. They have not--or they refuse--to realize that we are in the 21st Century and that no, this ain't the 1950s anymore.

And yet, this was clearly on display for years--but sadly, some on our side of the fence chose to attack only Democrats for not being pure enough. And they still continue to do so--see Jill Stein's idiotic tweet after the DeVos confirmation. Your point about religious people of any stripe other than Christian fundamentalist is also important.

The time for being civil, for being nice, is over. I am glad to see Democrats fight back in the best way they can, and to see the protests increase. Of course, we should also expect to see more whining from the GOP and the Right wing about how unfair it is that they are being resisted--because remember, a bully will always hate it when their victim turns and gives them a punch right in a sensitive spot.

09 February, 2017 13:07  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

One Fly: Some people just seem, for whatever reason, to be most comfortable attacking their allies instead of the enemy. Maybe it feels less dangerous. The only positive is that we seem to have relatively few people like that.

Green: For some it's a pretense, for some it's not. I think the amount of effort they've put into anti-abortion and "religious freedom" (anti-gay, anti-birth-control) legislation on the state level shows that.

Marc: I'm glad you understand. This is really a threat to anyone who isn't a fundamentalist, not only to us atheists. Muslims, obviously, but I've heard of cases of harassment against gay-friendly churches, and some really vicious verbal attacks on less-narrow-minded forms of Christianity.

As I said over at Ahab's place, I suspect what's really going on is that, when Trump "won", the fundies thought their long national nightmare of uppity women and rampant gays was over, and things would soon get back to what they think of as "normal". But their targeted groups, especially women, have refused to knuckle under and have instead become more activist, visible, and determined than ever, threatening to push back hard against any moves toward the fundie agenda (to attack abortion, gay rights, and separation of church and state). This must be extremely frustrating for them, to the point that they're starting to have public meltdowns about it.

Now we just have to hammer home the message to Democratic politicians that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by truly representing their voters and fighting back against the Republicans.

09 February, 2017 18:03  
Anonymous Zosimus the Heathen said...

Good post. Sadly, the main point you raise in it is one I really need to keep drilling into myself, as I often feel I'm civil to a fault when dealing with political and religious extremists myself. I have an annoying tendency to feel stupidly guilty whenever I tell these sorts of people where they can get off, even if, really, they need to hear it. It doesn't help that a lot of them can be surprisingly charming and amicable in person; as a result, telling them to "Fuck off" can feel like punching someone in the face when they've simply said, "Hello" to you.

I fear it's becoming more important than ever that I get over my aforementioned aversion to fighting "dirty" against reactionary arseholes, though, as (perhaps as a result of Trump's victory) such folk seem to have become a lot bolder here of late too. While most of our right wing fringe remain people who just want to leave the poor, working class and middle class at the (non-existent) mercy of the Almighty Market (though they seem to have been getting increasingly vicious in pushing that particular ideology), we've seen the emergence here of some politicians pushing really disturbing religious and social viewpoints as well. For example, we had a politician by the name of George Christensen recently sing the praises of Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, for deciding that the best way of dealing with illegal drug use in his country was to simply send out death squads to murder anyone suspected of selling or using such drugs (he seemed to think we should emulate that approach here, as clearly we're not being "tough" enough on drugs). We also, only this week, had another notorious conservative politician, Cory Bernardi, break away from our version of the Republican Party to form his own political party because his former party clearly isn't being right wing enough. This last individual has been notorious for likening homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, and is rumoured to be getting a lot of support in his new political endeavour from some odious mining magnate called Gina Reinhart, who thinks Australians should all be happy to work for $2 a day. Not the sort of people you want to try and resist with polite arguments or attempts at compromise!

10 February, 2017 00:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Zosimus: There are times when it's necessary in order to get through a specific situation, and I don't begrudge people that. But I won't be browbeaten into an overall stance of treating the kind thuggery we see on the right here as equivalent to normal politics. The same goes for "both-siderism", the hypocritical position that "extremism on both sides" is the problem, as if the left held anything significant which is comparable to the gibbering rabid insanity which now dominates the right (and did so long before Trump started running for President).

It's disquieting that you have the same kind of bigoted troglodytes in Australia. But if they are losing here -- and they are, despite the ascendance of Trump -- they will lose there, too.

10 February, 2017 04:37  
Blogger Frank Wilhoit said...

Always remember that religion is never more than a misdirection, a pseudophilosophical pretext.

11 February, 2017 05:56  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Frank: That's probably the most flat-out wrong comment that's ever been posted here.

11 February, 2017 08:38  
Anonymous NickM said...

I guess it is a bit different in the UK. Quite simply there is no percentage in being the Republic of Gilead over here. We just don't - by and large - believe in God(s). Let's call a spade a spade here... I am not even an atheist. God(s) never entered my life so God(s) are a complete and utter irrelevance to me.

11 February, 2017 12:07  
Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Being civil with Trumpists who lack basic human decency is futile and self-defeating.

The radical Right has enacted a decades long propaganda campaign against public education, journalism, social safety nets and voter rights. They have smeared liberals continuously in efforts to demonize us, and frame us falsely in their distorted image of who we are.

I will be civil as long as it is returned in kind. But soon enough, and often enough, dialogue degrades into their indoctrinated programming. They inevitably fall back on their distortions, lies, accusations, and canned stereotyping of those not in their camp.

They will not, and cannot, change. As we learned from John Dean's excellent book, "Conservatives Without Conscience", the Right Wing Authoritarian Personality pervades a quarter of any given population. Their influence is disproportional due to their being more organized in their lock-step ideology. This "con-servatism", as I call it, is what has taken over our government. While theocrats flock to this power structure, their goal is always to facilitate advantages for corporate and economic elite interests. Having more wealth behind their cause is not insignificant.

Their service to their infallible de-regulated "free market god", as well as theocratic inclinations, stand in stark opposition to our historic separation of church and state and Constitutional provisions for taxation, the general welfare, and regulation of commerce.

Ironically, these "Constitutional conservatives" are nothing of the sort.

Modern American conservatism has abandoned not only constitutional democracy, but rejects truth itself, and has transformed us into Trumpistan.




12 February, 2017 10:30  

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