Monday, April 11, 2005

Worth the price of admission

Today's Tom Tomorrow is worth the annoying little promo (if you are cheap like me, lazy like me, and haven't renewed that ol' Salon premium subscription). The current administration's ongoing and unspoken distinction between the lives worth saving (white comatose folks who want to die, fetuses) and those that aren't (anyone brown-skinned, Muslim, or who has used drugs) bears constant scrutiny and repetition.

Horrifyingly enough, the actual promo (which I watched without sound and without paying attention) is for something called "Revelations"--which appears to be a "moral values" crowd pleaser along the lines of "The Day After" and the other current end-of-the-world dramas, but here with an overtly Christian tie-in. If I were a responsible blogger, I'd watch it again and provide more accurate info., but I'm not and I won't. Instead, allow me to merely blather on about my assumptions, which are that the presence of the film and the ad confirm that secular culture is rolling over and playing dead before the inflated assumption that the vast majority of Americans have, in the years since 2000, when Gore actually won the popular vote, become screaming and bigoted fundamentalists. I just don't buy it.

I am fascinated by the re-emergence of personal faith as a public topic--and by this, I mean not a topic for cultural debate, but as an acceptable early topic among colleagues or acquaintances. It was just not that long ago when I could go semesters on end without having the faintest idea of my students' religious affiliation OR the degree of their fervency. Now it's suddenly okay for two or three per class to show up in my office, dragging their Faith like a deflating balloon, and flaunting their (to me) all but unrecognizable claims about Christianity as a mark of their moral superiority. Again, they seem to be buttressed by the commerical media's (I hate to use the collective, but here I think it fits) eager embrace of the idea that a fundamentalist Christian revolution has taken place. Again, I don't think it has. But I am surprised at how many of my peers in the business of secular knowledge and morality (yes, there is such a thing), have rolled over and played dead at these arrogant intrusions. My point is not that they have less right to say what they say, but that so many of "us" (secularly trained academics, well-versed in the development of the nation's political principles and its religious history) respond immediately by retreating. If there is to be a debate, why is their position any more sacrosanct than another religious or philosophical viewpoint? We wouldn't hesitate to challenge a student's simplistically Marxist interpretation. And I count myself among the wimps...

What I was really going to say, however, had nothing to do with fundamentalism. I note, (via Dr. B the passing of Andrea Dworkin. (Dr. B, being a Better Blogger than I, provides link to her own sources, and places to find more info. And frankly, if you're not reading her, you should be, so I'm gonna piggyback on her links rather than redoing them here). I'm amazed that most of these current defenders of feminism in its muliplicity still feel compelled to distance themselves from her version of feminism. It reminds me of the time I taught Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, during the discussion of which, every single student felt the need to preface his or her remarks with the statement that he or she "didn't condone homosexuality" or that he or she "had no way to really relate to homosexuality." It saddens me that even among the outspoken feminist blogosphere, we still believe (and probably accurately) a) that to acknowledge someone's passing is to express endorsement of her views; b) that most of our readers still assume that feminism is unilateral unless we remind them otherwise, and c) that Dworkin's views require us to distance ourselves from them because they are insupportable. I guess it's the grown-up blogwoman version of what my female students say: "Well, I'm not a feminist [because, presumably, feminists are man-hating, emasculating bull-dykes] but I still think women and men should be paid the same."

Dworkin was an outspoken woman who participated in the public discussion of feminism and raised questions worthy of attention. She pissed a lot of people off, as a feminist should. She's dead. 'Nuff said.


At 12:02 PM , Blogger bitchphd said...

Better blogger, link-wise, maybe. Worse essayist. And, in this instance, worse feminist. Brava.

At 1:52 PM , Blogger timna said...

i just keep reading. i grade enough elsewhere.
thanks for the information and thoughtful analysis.

At 2:07 PM , Blogger admin said...

Can't give this justice b/c I'm in class...but it's been my experience that many Christians (not all, there are some good ones) are willing to take anything as postiviely moving the Christian agenda...regardless of whether it accurately does. There's also a lot of people out there how are just looking to make money off of the type of Christians that this appeals to--the Left Behind readers. It's popular and cool to say you're into this stuff.

At 2:42 PM , Anonymous Andi said...

I probably can't get across the experience of reading the radical feminists in the early 70's. It was like someone had reached in and yanked my brain out so I could finally get a good look at what was going on inside my head. I was especially enthralled by Robin Morgan and I didn't care if I fully agreed with her or not; I was just reveling in the words. If being a lesbian was a religion, I would have converted for Robin Morgan.

At 3:25 PM , Blogger B2 said...

What I like seeing is the majority's use of diversity to get allowance to flaunt the white male Christian viewpoint -- "it's just as valid," they say, "and we're so maligned and hated! We need equal time! Affirmative action for Christian white men!"

At 1:14 AM , Anonymous bittergradstuent said...


I don't have any problem with flaunting any view. Stringently and honestly held beliefs are just as valid, and discussion is impossible if people can't express their deepest beliefs. The pseudo-Christian nutbars should have their voice, if only so that it can be refuted.

It's when the lunatics live in an "I'm persecuted" fantasy world that I get pissed off, and when they ask for a reserved spot to express their nutbar beliefs. I don't see how anyone can believe that evangelical christians are persecuted in this country.

So I guess shout out, and a caveat

At 2:20 AM , Anonymous Mitch said...

So you're saying people should call-and-response "witness" their beliefs?
For example, in some conversation, X starts prefacing every remark with "As a Christian, I believe...", or "As the Bhagavad Gita says...". Should Y respond in kind: "As someone who doesn't follow a load of horsesh!t, ..." or "The nuns really used to beat that one into me!" ?

Or will it turn out that not saying anything is a tacit affirmation that one is a (practically satanic) non-believer or Quaker?

With an obvious mixed message, is tolerance becoming non-virtuous?

At 7:39 AM , Blogger jenniebee said...

Frank Rich had a column in the times yesterday that mentioned 'Revelations' - it's a dramatized version of the Left Behind crap.

I'm not surprised that you're retreating in the face of militant Christians - it's probably the wise thing to do. The ones who are behaving that way have been taught to have martyr complexes, when they're thwarted in any of their demands they behave like petulant two-year-olds, and unfortunately they're being used as a political wedge by people with money and far-right economic agendas - a sort of Bitch&Bankroll division of labor. You look at the young woman in your office and you see a student, but she sees herself as a footsoldier in a Culture War.

The media's saying that the evangelical revolution has already happened - and I agree with you that it hasn't - I think because they have to try to explain why it is that these people have such an enormous amount of political leverage. It's a choice you have to make about this story - either a large proportion of the country has gone Wingnut, our representation is distributed accordingly, democracy works and we lefties need to get in touch with the Real America we've forgotten; or else a barely significant minority of religious zealots has hijacked the system with the aid of hi-powered capitalists, and they're using their joint power to coerce non-believers into 'moral' behavior and rob the public blind. You're a reporter, you've got to decide: which of those narratives is 'responsible' and which of them is 'shrill?'

At 8:22 AM , Blogger ptw said...

Nicely stated. 'Nuff said.

At 9:32 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the definition of a good blog is its ability to provoke responses, then this gets an A+, so I don’t know who the better blogger is. There must be a dozen different issues I want to respond to because of this post. Here's just one, only because it was first -- I teach history, and being in the Deep South, I get a lot of uber-Christians in my classroom. Funny thing though, many of them have no clue about basic Christian history, like, say, who Paul was. Several times I've used as an essay question a comparison of the rise of Christianity with the rise of Islam. Is it a surprise to anyone that I've gotten several responses that include a line something like this: "Christianity began to spread when Moses left Egypt..."? Sigh.

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