Take Five (The Anger Games edition)

ONE: Party Scooper?

Sarah Palin has managed to turn feigned anger into a pretty damned lucrative pseudo-career. Now on her second stint with Fox News and coming off a headlining appearance at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual “Road to Majority” shindig, Palin’s newest gambit is to imply that she might cut and run from the Republican Party. The GOP power structure would probably be relieved were this to happen, but only to a point. Palin’s enduring popularity with zero-information conservatives could be the catalyst for a significant number of traditionally reliable Republican voters bolting for weirder pastures.

Asked by a Twitter questioner whether she and rightwing radio loudmouth Mark Levin might “be willing to build a ‘Freedom Party’ if [the] GOP continues to ignore conservatives,” Palin got right down to some of that fancy pageant walkin’ that remains her only true aptitude:

“I love the name of that party — the ‘Freedom Party,’” Palin said. “And if the GOP continues to back away from the planks in our platform, from the principles that built this party of Lincoln and Reagan, then yeah, more and more of us are going to start saying, ‘You know, what’s wrong with being independent,’ kind of with that libertarian streak that much of us have.”

Yes, uh, much of them do. Putting aside the absurdity of her characterization of Republicans as the “party of Lincoln and Reagan” – which is like calling Chicago the “city of Studs Terkel and John Wayne Gacy” – I’m guessing she could no more name a plank in the party platform than she could name a newspaper back in 2008. Palin continued, in commendably fluent Palinese:

“In other words, we want government to back off and not infringe upon our rights. I think there will be a lot of us who start saying ‘GOP, if you abandon us, we have nowhere else to go except to become more independent and not enlisted in a one or the other private majority parties that rule in our nation, either a Democrat or a Republican.’ Remember these are private parties, and you know, no one forces us to be enlisted in either party.”

Darn right they don’t, Governor. I won’t get my hopes up that this is anything more than you pandering to your fans, but if your comments were at all sincere, I look forward to you and your acolytes fancy pageant walkin’ your splinter cell, and the GOP, straight to permanent electoral oblivion.

TWO: Through a Glass Snarkly

Barack Obama’s first term was barely underway when I experienced my first queasy twinges of disappointment. At first, it was nothing overt, nothing readily explicable; a strangely off-kilter statement here, an abrupt about-face there. Soon came the willful misrepresentations, blatant distortions, even bald-faced lies. Almost before I knew it, I found myself feeling more and more burned, betrayed, deceived. The sentiments gradually intensified over months and years, eventually becoming something resembling utter, exasperated disgust.

I’m not referring to the President’s policies and actions (even ones I oppose adamantly, such as Race to the Top, the escalation in Afghanistan, some woeful compromises on energy policy and the environment, and some pretty questionable appointments). I’m referring to the hypertensive squawking that now passes for “criticism” across a broad swath of the cyber-left, and what has devolved into a churlish and counterproductive reaction to this presidency.

The recurring clichés tell a lot of the story. He “lied” about closing Gitmo. He “lied” about ending George Bush’s wars. He “dragged his feet” on DADT and DOMA. He “rolled over” on even trying to implement a universal, single-payer health care system and then “shrugged” at the failure of the public option. He “bailed out” Wall Street and “ignored” Main Street. He “embraced” the use of drones and expanded it to new operational theaters. He “ramped up” persecution of altruistic medical marijuana operations and courageous whistleblowers alike. He brutally “suppressed” the Occupy movement. He “wasted” his “huge” majorities from 2009 to 2011 and got “nothing” accomplished. He eschewed using the “power” of the bully pulpit (while giving “nice” speeches). And now he is “revealed” to have taken the surveillance state to new heights of “intrusive” overreach and “Orwellian” excess.

Throughout the Bush years, I depended on a host of progressive pundits and bloggers to keep me informed, encouraged and emboldened. Some of the very same people now seem more interested in inciting a howling mob to stand in a perpetual downpour outside the gates of the citadel, declaring as one that this presidency and this President have been failures. For some, it seems as if Barack Obama was de-legitimized merely by winning office and actually having to govern.

At the heart of much of the “criticism” is a sense that the “critics” feel jilted somehow, that the duplicitous Barack Obama represented himself as FDR Redux, that he campaigned as a fire-breathing progressive, that he was supposed somehow to govern simply by asking himself what George Bush would have done on any issue and then immediately doing the diametrical opposite. I don’t doubt that some of this is genuine and heartfelt, but it’s still heavily underpinned by the fierce urgency of unreasonable expectations and an unhealthy ignorance of basic civics, not to mention an oddly selective critical faculty that takes nothing the government says at face value but will readily suspend skepticism over the latest inane Paulite bullshit, or worse.

Equally illuminating is the strident name-calling found at the larger nominally progressive discussion sites (one of which purports to exist in part to “elect more Democrats”). Expressing confidence in the Democratic Party and the President, or articulating any degree of comfort with the notion of incremental change and willingness to accept the frustrations of compromise and misstep is simply courting vituperation. The epithets this supposed heresy solicits, some dating all the way back to early 2009, have become more and more meaningless as they have become more and more venomous: DINO, DLCer, Third Wayer, Vichy Dem, sellout, apologist, propagandist, fanboi, Kool-Aid drinker, authoritarian, worshipper. It’s debate by tantrum.

Add to this an astonishing compulsion to play the victim. Rahm Emmanuel called me retarded! I’ve been hippie-punched! The Catfood Commission wants to kill my granny! Robert Gibbs dissed the Professional Left, and I’m a leftist so he obviously meant me! Obama said I’m all wee-weed up! Obama told me to eat my peas!

A lot of this is grandstanding, theatrical ego-tripping; start with, say, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West and you can draw a direct line right to the oh-so-aggrieved message board bloviators who insist in the face of any and all evidence to the contrary that Obama is worse than Bush, to a frenetic chorus of hurrahs. The new frontier of perpetual outrage is limitless; anyone can stake a claim.

And then there’s race. The last thing in the world I want to believe is that any sincere liberal would have a problem with the President’s skin color, but comments from some quarters about his supposed passivity and ineptitude don’t sound very different to me from accusations of shiftlessness. There’s a rank ugliness about some of this that’s hard to fathom if it’s anything other than racism.

These things aren’t universal, of course. There are still rational voices on the left side of the Internet, and I count myself very grateful to be aligned with some of them right here on this site. Those voices don’t shy away from honest criticism where honest criticism is due. As well, only a fool would believe that the Obama Administration hasn’t mishandled and misjudged the progressive cyber-community on more than one occasion. But the potential impact of the digital grassroots has been blunted mostly by the shocking willingness of so many to wallow in disinformation and histrionics. The promise of a synergy between elected power and a vigorous leftosphere leveraging technology for information sharing and activism is lost in a miasma of all-caps paranoia and misdirected anger. A community organizer can’t organize a community that refuses to be organized. Continue reading Take Five (The Anger Games edition)

My scouting experience taught me why Boy Scouts should accept gay members

I loved being in Boy Scouts. Scouting gave me my first experiences with leadership, taught me important practical skills, led to strong bonds with good friends, provided positive adult role models, and helped inspire my life’s focus on environmental advocacy. It also taught me why the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay members is wrong.

Despite not being so good at tying knots, my time in scouting included holding a long list of positions. The last one was Troop Guide. I was older than most of the troop, but I was so close to completing my Eagle Scout badge that I decided to stick with it. The Scout handbook describes the Troop Guide’s duties:

The troop guide is both a leader and a mentor to the members of the new-Scout patrol. He should be an older Scout who holds at least the First Class rank and can work well with younger Scouts. He helps the patrol leader of the new-Scout patrol in much the same way that a Scoutmaster works with a senior patrol leader to provide direction, coaching, and support.

There was a more specific reason for my assignment. The troop had a problem with some of the younger Scouts being teased and treated badly. It was the sort of common behavior you’d expect from boys that age, but it did cause a couple of scouts to leave the troop. The Scoutmaster wanted me to help set the tone for the older Scouts and stick up for the younger kids.

I don’t remember teasing the younger Scouts before then, but I wasn’t paying much attention to them either. I hung out with the older guys. Socializing too much with the newbies wasn’t cool.

I started spending more time talking with the new Scouts after accepting the position and tried making them feel welcome in the troop. Once or twice I gave the older kids a hard time about their teasing. After that, everyone started rethinking their behavior and things got better. I think I did a good job.

It was a church-sponsored troop and I heard about a comment one of the younger Scouts made in Sunday School class. The students were asked to name people who stand up for justice. One of them said my name. He may have been playing teacher’s pet since my mom was giving the Sunday school lesson, but I was very proud to know someone thought of me that way because of how I acted as Troop Guide.

If there were any gay Scouts in our troop they kept it a secret. Back then, I was naively unaware of how much a teenager might go through by coming out of the closet. The killing of Matthew Shepard confronted me with that reality years later. Continue reading My scouting experience taught me why Boy Scouts should accept gay members

Repeated Harassment is Not Bullying, It’s Stalking. Let’s Prosecute It That Way.

When teens, preteens and children harass each other, even when that harassment rises to the level of utter cruelty and violence, we have this desire to give it a cutesy name that suggests the idea that this is “just something that kids do.” There is nothing cutesy about the repeated, willful and malicious following and/or harassing of another person. I use that description for this kind of behavior because it both fits what some people refer to as bullying and also is the most common description for stalking.

What we refer to as bullying is not a one-time act. If it were a one-time act, it would be mere simple assault and/or battery, or perhaps not a crime at all. No, the behavior we are really talking about when we refer to bullying or stalking is repeated and unwanted acts by one person or group against another person or group for the purpose of creating an ongoing climate of fear for the target person or group. There are many reasons a particular person or group can be singled out for harassment. It can be because the target person or group dresses a certain way, acts a certain way, is of a certain economic background, nationality, religion or ethnicity, or is perceived to be a member of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered) community.

Horrific Stalking of the LGBT community

The young members of the LGBT community and those who are perceived to be members of that community have experienced and endured some of the most vicious stalking behaviors of any group. Suicides of LGBT children who have lost hope of their lives ever becoming better have become a nearly weekly occurrence. The stalking of these children needs to be stopped. Ideally, all children and all people should be educated and receive training, much as the military has given to its members, that the members of the LGBT community are human beings, equals, and should be treated as such. Regrettably, the government does not have the right to compel people outside of the military to receive such education and training. The only thing the government can do is prosecute unlawful behavior.

All 50 states as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice have some sort of legislation against stalking. Some call it criminal harassment, some call it criminal menace, and some come right out and call it stalking. All of the laws would easily encompass what has been mistakenly referred to as bullying.

The purpose of rebranding this behavior to call it stalking is twofold. First, whatever the anti-stalking laws are called in each state, they should be used to stop anyone, including teens and even younger children, from making the lives of other people miserable and unbearable. There is no reason for this to be allowed to go on. No one has the right to treat anyone else this way. Second, as I alluded to in the opening paragraph, there is not enough of a negative connotation to the term bullying. Stalking, on the other hand, has a huge creep factor to it. No one wants to be labeled a stalker.

What schools and others should do when they encounter this behavior

The first time a child or group of children or teens are identified as engaging in stalking behavior, they should be sent to the principal or headmaster’s office if the behavior is at school, and their parents or caregivers should be contacted and informed that any additional reports of this behavior will result in a referral to the police. Teachers, administrators, students and parents should be briefed in advance that this is the school’s policy on this behavior. If the behavior is not at school, the police should be called by anyone witnessing the behavior or the victim or victims parents and the perpetrators should be brought to family court to address the illegal acts. Again, first instance is a warning; any future reports should result in prosecution.

Schools, the police and family courts must be trained to treat this behavior as the serious crime that it is. It is time to once and for all protect our children from becoming the victims of this cruel behavior. Continue reading Repeated Harassment is Not Bullying, It’s Stalking. Let’s Prosecute It That Way.