Weekend Coffee Share: Welcome, Newcomers!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I don’t have a whole lot of time to talk. I am on my way to NOLA (that’s how we say “New Orleans” on the internet) for Little Jedi’s birthday. If you don’t know who Little Jedi is, he is Diana’s youngling. My grandson is a year older, and he is also a Jedi, but since internet handles must be unique, we just call mine The Kid.

weekendcoffeeshare

These two have their birthdays in the same month. One at the beginning, one at the end. And they always celebrate at least one or the other in company with one another.

I’d tell you I was so pleased the Weekend Coffee Share was featured on the WordPress Daily post this week. It generated so much interest I had to stay up way too late answering comments on the thread. Also: Sharing the link all over Facebook and writing this post.

And I’d tell you I have plans. I’ve got a post coming on children and gaming at Comparative Geeks as soon as I can finish it. Another one on cultural literacy outlined for Part Time Monster. You’ll just have to wonder about until I get it figured out.

Oh yeah. Me and Hannah are still scheming big-time. And eventually, when things settle down, the Feminist Friday Project is coming back. So lots to look forward to as we get later in the year.

Here, and on Facebook if you pay attention to me there, you can expect the political chatter to get hot again soon. I’ve taken a break to let things settle and do other stuff this week, but I haven’t forgotten the politics. Wisconsin votes Tuesday.mlk_justice

I’m gonna rip the Mississippi Legislature a new one soon over a boneheaded “religious freedom” bill which will accomplish nothing except cost our state millions of dollars in federal court.

I am not done with Donald Trump, either. I’m just getting started on him.

You coffee share regulars need to be mindful of new faces on the scene for the next couple of weeks and welcome them. I did my best on that Daily Post thread to give everyone who expressed interest a personal response and encourage them to join in. Me and Diana can’t hover over the linkup this weekend, because we’re both out doing the same thing with the same kids.

So take a minute to encourage a blogger you’ve never met, if they happen to pop up on the linky list or on the hashtag.

Have a fabulous weekend, and a piece of NOLA history.

Advertisements

Thank You, Oregon, for Taking Down the Mississippi Flag

Image

Argue with me about this on the thread if you want, but fair warning: I have a zero tolerance policy for bigotry and meanness. And my threshold for that bullshit is even lower today than normal.

Oregon has removed the Mississippi flag from a public area of their capitol where they display state and tribal flags. The Oregon legislature agreed to take the flag down last year during the outcry after a shooting at a Charleston, SC church was linked to the Confederate Flag.

The objectionable symbol everyone is angry about appears in the top left corner.

The objectionable symbol everyone is angry about appears in the top left corner.

Oregon held off removing the flag to see if maybe we’d change our state flag, but after 12 different bills to change the flag were all allowed to die in committees last month, protests were renewed and Oregon pulled it down. (There are actually 19 different bills listed in this Jackson Free Press article; not sure what the discrepancy in the numbers over at Think Progress is about.)

I’ve written about this before, but your guess is as good as mine as to whether I posted it on a blog or on Facebook. Here’s my position on the issue, and keep in mind that lots of Mississippians want this symbol gone for various reasons. Several public bodies here refuse to fly it above municipal buildings, including the city government of our own state capitol.

People have the right to tattoo Confederate symbols on their own bodies, wear it on clothing, fly it in their yards, and otherwise display it on private property. The fact that so many of us find that an ignorant or hateful thing to do is beside the point.

We don’t ban the use of political symbols as personal expression in this country. Not even the swastika. Regulating the symbols we use to represent government institutions is another matter, and we have every right to object to government symbols when we find their use as such to be hateful and ignorant.

I want a better state flag. I’m glad Oregon took it down, and I hope more government entities, both in Mississippi and across the country, refuse to display it. I don’t think of this move as Oregonians thumbing their noses at Mississippi and looking down on us. I choose to see it as an expression of solidarity with Mississippians who want Confederate symbols relegated to museums and history books where they belong. So thank you, Oregon, for your support.

State flags don’t just fly in front of public buildings. They also find their way onto uniforms and into official documents. They get incorporated into the service marks of government agencies. And Mississippi has a long history of racist public policies we still haven’t shaken entirely.

Given the racial composition of our prison system, sending law enforcement officers out to do their jobs with a Confederate symbol on their uniforms is a terrible idea because that symbol has to inspire resentment and ramp up the tension any time a police officer interacts with a Mississippian who has strong feelings about the way we’ve historically oppressed people of color. (Note the careful wording there — there are plenty of white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Indian, and people of many other races or ethnicities living in this state who are angry about racial oppression, too.)

All that does is increase the already-way-too-high probability that whomever is being questioned will lose their temper and get arrested. It also makes the officers’ jobs more difficult and more dangerous. We already don’t pay them enough. At this point, given where we are with everything, sending a law enforcement officer out with a Confederate symbol on his or her shoulder is adding insult to injury.

It’s also stupid branding. Mississippi has an even worse image among the general population and around the world than it deserves. Mississippians are not inbred, barefoot, illiterate subsistence farmers. We even have people here who work for racial reconciliation every day of the damn week.

ms_great_seal

We have a pretty awesome great seal. Maybe we should incorporate it into our new flag. We can talk about that “In God We Trust” thing another day 😉

Once upon a time, my wife and several other family members  went to New York to sit in the hospital with one of her siblings. The New Yorkers in the waiting room loved, loved, loved her accent, but they assumed she was from Texas. When she told them she was from Mississippi, their jaws dropped and they said “But we’ve seen you reading! . . .?”

I have a cousin who went to college in the Midwest. She once told a new acquaintance she was from Mississippi and the first question that person asked was “What crops does your family grow?” This was in the last 10 or 15 years. Our flag isn’t helping that image one little bit.

I acknowledge my insurrectionist ancestors. Hell, I’ll even go so far as to admire their grit and their military prowess. If they’d had a more diverse economy, or a larger white population, or had managed to convince the great powers of Europe to recognize them as a state, they might have won that war.

I know all about the Civil War and I will tell you this. The Old South wasn’t fighting for the right to display symbols or properly acknowledge cultural heritage. Some number of southerners who fought in that war, mostly the elites, were fighting for the right to trade people like livestock. A few were supporting their states and taking a stand for (an unworkable) vision of federated government in a principled way. The rest were fighting a rich man’s war because their legislators and their employers and their preachers convinced them they were being oppressed by the federal government.

I think if we’re going to acknowledge our Confederate heritage, we need start by owning up to that last paragraph in its entirety with no arguments. We need to accept every single word of it.

I’m glad my ancestors lost that war. If they’d won, even if they had eventually abandoned slavery and re-joined the U.S., I would have inherited a meaner and more impoverished culture. So would the rest of us, including all you Yankees. The world would be a very different place.

I say working to preserve this symbol as an emblem of state power is a poor way to acknowledge my Confederate ancestors. At this point, it’s not just hateful and disrespectful to people of color. I’d be interested to see a question about the Confederate flag added to the General Social Survey because I suspect it’s actively offending better than 60% of the population by now.

If we could hold a seance right now and call up my Confederate ancestors, they’d be appalled at what we’ve become. And they’d be more appalled at the fact that we seem to be running downhill as fast as we can to a situation where we’re divided into two camps and willing to fight than they would be about all the diversity and civil rights.

The rich ones who understood such things would tell us to get over ourselves, to fix our shit at home, and to make every effort to help our government preserve our power in the international arena. And all of them would tell us we don’t want our descendants — including the ones so far removed into the future that we can’t see them as an actual possibility — to even contemplate another civil war.

If I know anything about my Confederate ancestors I know this: They did not take war lightly, and they suffered mightily for their decisions, as did the rest of the country.

I want the Confederate imagery gone from the official symbols of my state. Keeping it can only divide us even more than we already are. And we very much need to be finding ways to bring people together right now.

Mississippi Legislature: You are not the center of the goddamned universe. Oregon is telling you is this is not about you. It’s about the rest of the country too. They’ve been extremely polite about it, so please snap the fuck out of whatever haze you are in and do them the courtesy of listening.

Ed. – I’ve got a couple of substantial posts coming. One’s about how the meanness we’re seeing in these elections got into our public conversation. The other is a reaction/response/elaboration to Luther’s post on Michigan at Infinite Free Time. I hope to get both of those out before voting starts on Tuesday, and if you like this one, you’ll want to tune in for those. Also: Follow the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation on Facebook as a personal favor to me.

Weekend Coffee Share: In Which I Reboot and Get All Political

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I hope you’ve been well since the last time we chatted. Unless you are one of those folks who chatter with me on Facebook that means it’s been almost a month.

weekendcoffeeshare

And I’d tell you I’ve been doing some thinking — soul searching really — about what it’s going to take to get my blogging life back on track. My output isn’t where I’d like it to be. I doubt I’ll ever get it back to where it was in 2014 and ’15, but I’d like to be publishing a post per week somewhere. I don’t see why I can’t find a way to swing that.

My problem lately has been figuring out what to blog about. Coffee posts are definitely still on my agenda, but they can be about literally anything as long as they’re structured correctly. I feel as though my pop culture blogging has pretty much run its course for now. That was always about collaboration with other bloggers — my pop culture posts were consistently less popular than other contributors’ for the entire life of my collaborative blogging project, and in any case, I don’t have the time to write high-quality reviews nor to consume the amount of entertainment required to be a pop culture blogger.

The only other thing I’m absolutely committed to keeping up at this point is my feminism project, and I’m really wanting to do some other politically-oriented blogging as well. During 2014, when Diana and I were more or less throwing as many different types of posts against the wall and seeing what stuck, I wrote quite a few political posts at our blogs. Those posts didn’t do poorly, but as our contributor base grew and I moved into pop culture, I stopped with the political chatter. Here’s why I made that decision.

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

  • The audience I saw developing, such as it was, was an audience of creative types and pop culture geeks with highly diverse views. I felt as though my political writing — which is always strongly opinionated — had the potential to create unnecessary divisions among contributors and alienate readers who were just looking for cool photos and smart t.v. reviews.
  • The socio-political commentary market is thoroughly saturated, and political blogging is a competitive game. Since I didn’t have a foundation of readers who were interested in reading what I have to say about politics, I thought I’d probably just ending up screaming into space.
  • My original audience included many, many conservative southerners. Since I was trying to start up a pop culture blog and a writing blog and I was only generating 20 to 50 views per day, I didn’t think it was wise to continually antagonize 30 to 50 percent of my audience.
  • In short, I didn’t see enough benefit to warrant the effort, because I don’t blog for solely for emotional gratification. I blog because I want to be read.

My social media life has changed drastically since I started. The southern conservatives I depended on during the first few months of my blogging startup have mostly moved on, or have at least learned that when I start spouting off as an opinionated liberal in my own media space, discretion is the better part of valor. Many of the bloggers I met during the past two years who have an affinity for my political opinions are now Facebook friends. Sourcerer’s silent, but a lot of the people who contributed to that blog and kept the threads busy are still in contact and are contributing for one another now.

So the community-building part of the Sourcerer project was a success, even though I’m not able to get that blog running again right now. All of which leaves me in the position most bloggers find themselves in at some point in their careers. My output has dwindled and if I’m gonna ever get going again, I’ve got to start as a solo blogger and get to the point where I’m producing enough content to keep my own blog busy and give posts away from time to time.

This is me.

This is me.

And the only way I’ve ever been able to be consistent as a solo blogger is to write about things I care about and that I find not-terribly-taxing to write. Until I set up Sourcerer in 2013, all the blogging I’d ever done had been political blogging. I learned almost everything I know about how information spreads on the internet from studying the development of the early blogosphere in the first decade of this century. And I’m also good at turning personal experiences into entertaining stories.

So, for the next little while — until I find something that works bettter — what you’re getting from me on the blog is a combination of personal experiences and political opinions. Even during the months when I was mostly keeping politics off my social media, I never disengaged completely and I never stopped keeping up. One of the reasons I don’t have time to consume the quantity of entertainment media required to do pop culture blogging is that I consume a TON of information about domestic politics, international affairs, and social trends. So the only way I can realistically get back to blogging frequently is to leverage that information and hope to find readers who appreciate it.

So, just to get this reboot rolling, here are a couple of things I have on my radar at the moment.

The U.S. Presidential election, especially Donald Trump’s candidacy.

My Facebook feed is awash with Trump chatter. The smart money says it’s demographically impossible for him to win the general election, but his candidacy has unsettled me practically from the moment he announced. Just the other night I had a long and somewhat heated exchange with a person who claimed that Trump is a victim of a big media smear campaign, and who was also characterizing one of the Dem candidates as a “shameless felon,” despite the fact that the candidate in question has never been convicted — nor even indicted — for a felony.fblike

Now, of course election season in the U.S. always causes some people to say bizarro things. But I don’t see it that way. I think if anyone’s trying to smear Trump, it’s the GOP establishment, and they’re doing a terrible job of it. What I see the professional media doing is uncritically pumping Trump into the homes of potential voters 24/7 to sell ads and generate internet traffic. And I will never stand by and let another person jump into the middle of a conversation I’m having and call a public figure a felon just because they dislike that person. I’d call that out even if I saw someone whose politics I agree with characterizing a hard-right Republican that way.

I know anecdotes don’t count for much, but I find this trend in the U.S. political discourse disconcerting. And while I HOPE the people who say demographics preclude a Trump Presidency are correct, this poll worries me. Tl; dr:

What I found is a trend that has been widely overlooked. A voter’s gender, education, age, ideology, party identification, income, and race simply had no statistical bearing on whether someone supported Trump. Neither, despite predictions to the contrary, did evangelicalism.

Authoritarianism and a hybrid variable that links authoritarianism with a personal fear of terrorism were the only two variables that predicted, with statistical significance, support for Trump.

Now, to be clear. I don’t think the U.S. is about to slide into outright dictatorship on the fascist model. But if you think of “authoritarianism” as a set of attitudes which includes things like conformity, resistance to changes in traditional social norms, and fear of outsiders, maybe you can see the problem. There’s a deep and persistent strain of that type of authoritarian thought which runs through American political history all the way back to colonial times.

The sample size for the poll is small, but the fact that age and race weren’t statistically significant predictors of support for Trump worries the hell out of me. So does the general tone and attitude of the crowds from the Trump rallies that I’ve seen footage of.

Mississippi has Declared April Confederate Heritage Month

This one’s closer to home, and I may have more to say about it later. But I don’t like this. And I especially don’t like the potential for it to turn into a month-long aggrandizement of the Confederate government and military with no serious acknowledgement that the Civil War was fought to preserve chattel slavery as a legal institution.

The State of Mississippi made this clear in its Declaration of Secession:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

mlk_justiceI think any discussion of the Civil War as an exercise in remembrance needs to start by acknowledging that it was about slavery in the first instance. “States’ rights” is an abstract concept and it is a justification, or a best an explanation of the underlying philosophical differences between the factions of elites who drove the country to war. It is not a causus belli in and of itself.

That’s all I’m saying about it for now. I’m still deciding how to handle this one, and what I’ve said today may very well be my last word on it. Then again, I may use the A to Z Challenge to talk about my heritage in a real, honest way every day during April.

I’m over 1600 words, so I’ll thank you for reading and wish you a fine week. I hope to see you again next weekend, if not before.