Sunday, September 02, 2012

Nobody's Perfect- but some folks try harder

A recent comment on Dovbear from SJ perked my interest. SJ was trying to fight the perception that the GOP is anti-women or anti-gay. Rather than point to the increased visibility of minorities and women in GOP leadership roles, though, SJ decided instead to go on the attack by posting a couple of links to op-eds bashing Democrats for not being as inclusive as they claim to be. Compare this to an op-ed from some Montana paper taking liberal pundits to task for demeaning the presence of black, Latino and female speakers at the Republican convention:


The parade of accomplished minority and women speakers at the Republican National Convention truly stood out, particularly because of the  alleged Republican “war on women” theme and relentless accusations of Republican racism. 
But sure enough, there was no shortage of critics showing dismissive regard toward GOP speakers...
...Proof is in what people do, and it was Republicans who put these people in office and at the convention podium. People should believe what they see, yet they continue to hear things like this from Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “I think we believe that women can see through that nice shiny packaging that the Republicans have been putting out there, through to what’s inside, which is really a disaster for women’s future, extreme policies.” 
OK. Republican policies are fair game. But diminishing the women who were featured at the convention as “shiny packaging”? With language like that, just who is waging the “war on women”? 
... The prize for insulting, obnoxious temerity goes to Los Angeles Times columnist David Horsey, who essentially accused Republicans of resorting to tokenism — and worse — at the convention. 
“It would be easy to dismiss this as tokenism and window dressing — which, of course, it is — but there is something bigger behind it,” he writes. “Republicans truly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that the best thing a poor Latino or an unemployed African American can do to better his or her condition is to vote for a party that intends to let rich people keep more of their money. Showing off all those non-Caucasian officeholders is a way of saying to skeptical minority voters, “These guys have chosen the Republican path and just look where it has gotten them!”
Tokenism, it seems, suggests unworthy people who were plucked off the street and put at the podium as props. But that simply wasn’t the case. Many of the minority and women speakers named above are accomplished leaders, and in some cases, rock stars in the Republican Party. They deserve to be featured, rather than dismissed as being somehow illegitimate or unworthy.

Here's my take: The difference between the parties on sexism and homophobia is that the Democrats rhetoric/ideology aspires towards an ideal (gender and orientation equality) that their actions fall short of. The GOP's actions, by contrast, seem to be more or less aligned with their general philosophies on those issues: some Republicans accept gays on pragmatic/libertarian grounds (though many don't), and women, while valued, seem to be seen by many in the party as supporters, not leaders.

This is borne out by statistics: In this Congress, female Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. In the last Congress, it was closer to 3 to 1. Of course, numbers aren't everything, but they seem to show that in the GOP, women are either not encouraged to seek political leadership roles, or not seen as having the same abilities/qualifications as men (Remember that Pat Boone article that said any time women were elected to office it was because there were no competent men around to do the job?)

This doesn't mean Republicans necessarily "hate" women, minorities or gays or that Democrats are incapable of being sexist, homophobic or prejudiced. However, the disparity does suggest that there are some real limiting factors keeping women from being as successful in party leadership-- and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this is true by, let's say a hundred-fold, for gays.

That doesn't mean that the speakers at the convention are deficient or unqualified-- but you'd have to be living under a rock to claim that tokenism-- or window dressing, or pandering, take your pick-- isn't at work here. It's at work with the Democrats, too, of course-- I'd say it's become a ubiquitous element of American politics these days. At conventions, on political ads, at debates, you always hear about these random people whose stories and faces are meant to exemplify an entire class of constituents to convince women, minorities, hunters, military supporters, teachers, small business owners, whoever, that this candidate, this party, really understand and care about you, YES, YOU! It's unabashed showmanship, and the fact that minorities were being paraded around to be seen and counted at the convention exemplifies the exact issue the GOP is trying to fight: the perception that it's the party of old white men. The existence of minorities within the party is a good thing, but until they become unremarkable, until their race or gender clearly isn't a major factor in picking them to speak at conventions, the GOP still has a lot of work to do. That's not the speakers' fault-- it's the party's.

17 comments:

Antigonos said...

I frankly regret the American propensity to get sidetracked from what is truly important. For example, I belong to the first generation of "affirmative action". Noble idea, and yes, it was quite true AT THE TIME that there were fewer blacks and minority students in higher education. Where Jews were concerned, it was discrimination. Where blacks were concerned it was also because the educational system shortchanged them from first grade onwards, as schools in poor inner city neighborhoods didn't benefit from the high property taxes levied on white middle class neighborhoods. Lots of blacks were shoveled into universities but were completely unprepared for them. The solution wasn't to put X blacks in college; it was to raise the overall black educational level so they could compete with white entrants on a level playing field.

I frankly don't care whether there are more blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals, or what-not in the GOP or in the Democratic party; it is what the party stands for and how it fulfills its campaign promises vis-a-vis restoring America to domestic economic health, being respected worldwide, etc. that matters. The rest is window dressing.
Here in Israel there are very few women in politics--largely because we are too smart. When we look at the jerks in the Knesset, we don't WANT to join that crowd!

Friar Yid said...

I was reading someone a few months back on World Net Daily (can't recall who now) who claimed that the problem with the Left is that it assumes that "fairness" equal proportionality when it comes to political representation. I don't think that's what I'm saying here: I think most of this comes down to fluff.

However I do think that there are some ingrained attitudes within the GOP in terms of what constitutes a "real Republican/conservative" that have ripple effects that can be seen in the membership and leadership of the party, and this seems to be in contrast with the makeup of the Democrats, which is more diverse. I don't think that ethnicity should be the primary reason to vote for one party over another, though there may be some legitimate questions over whether a party that doesn't seem to understand or embrace people of your "group" will be able to represent your interests. While I acknowledge that this is relatively minor in the big picture, I think it's interesting and worth noting, especially as the GOP is working so hard to rebrand itself as hip and non-judgmental to appeal to young apathetic would-be voters. If they're opening up the can of worms, it seems fair to point out that only half of them are still wiggling.

SJ said...

I think you have to be intellectually consistent and call God a homophobe for calling gay sex an abomination.

Burn your chumash!

Friar Yid said...

SJ-

call God a homophobe for calling gay sex an abomination

Since I don't consider the Torah a literally dictated document, I have no problem putting the blame at the feet of whichever anonymous shmoe wrote that verse and gave God the credit.

Burn your chumash!

If I burned every book that contained something I disagreed with, I'd have a very tiny library.

SJ said...

Soooooooo, how exactly can you believe in the god of the jews if you consider the book of the jews to not be divine? O.o

Friar Yid said...

I haven't decided exactly what I believe about God, per se (it tends to change depending on my mood). But I'm not letting my lack of definition about what God is keep me from learning more about Judaism or being part of a Jewish community.

SJ said...

So, if you can arbitrarily leave out the part of gay sex being an abomination isn't it true that you can subjectively leave in and delete lines in the Torah from your belief system at will?

Friar Yid said...

You caught me, SJ: I have a modern belief system. I read read the Torah through a historical perspective and try to take what's useful and productively challenging and apply it to my own life and beliefs.

How many lashes can I expect for such vile heresy?

SJ said...

I'm just saying, you don't seem to believe in the god of the jews as a literary character in the Tanach but rather either a modified, personalized god (notice the important semantic difference from personal god) or some universalist hippie god.

Now, let's continue.

See, some christians don't affirm the story of jesus stopping ppl from stoning the hooker with he who is perfect cast the first stone; because it does not seem to appear in some early manuscripts.

Maybe you know more than I do on this topic, is there a similar basis for rejecting the label of gay sex as an abomination in the Torah?

Friar Yid said...

you don't seem to believe in the god of the jews as a literary character in the Tanach

I've read enough of the Tanach to know that the God of the Torah is often contradictory and that any "complete" view of him by necessity involves a hybridization of different narratives-- and that any attempt to connect that/those view(s) of God with one's own experience would require an additional filter/prism of interpretation.

So in my view I'm just skipping the step of claiming to be "authentic" to the God of the Torah and admitting that my conception of God is my own biased take on what I think God cares about (which, not surprisingly, matches up with my own views), keeping in mind the whole time that others may have a completely different take.

Call mine a post-modern Judaism.

is there a similar basis for rejecting the label of gay sex as an abomination in the Torah?

Before I say anything, I need to mention the important caveat that I haven't spent a lot of time examining this issue, since the liberal Jewish circles I run in don't see being gay as a problem.

That said, I know of a few Torah-based arguments off the top of my head (one focuses on the fact that there were major sins happening at Sodom and Gomorrah besides gay sex). However my impression is that most of the quasi-halachic responses which determine that it isn't a clear-cut sin follow practical rather than scriptural approaches. To paraphrase R. Steven Greenberg, it is inconceivable that a loving God would be so cruel as to create people who would be required to live "an externally imposed lifelong exclusion from love and intimacy," and compares it with putting a stumbling block before the blind. When I heard him speak, he responded to the notion that being gay is no different from not wanting to keep kosher by noting that no one is committing suicide because they can't stand not eating a cheeseburger.

SJ said...

I'm having trouble understanding what you mean by "different narratives" of God in OT is it that God treats people differently? Well yeah, people do different things. Maybe if you can give a few quick examples of different contradictory narratives so I can understand what the heck u mean? XD


Wouldn't it be more precise if unfortunately more offensive to call your judaism a semi-judaism since you only agree with parts of the tanach but not the whole thing? how do you separate a religion from its holy book?

judaism is the tanach, christianity is the christian bible, islam is the quran. that kind of thing.

let me try to understand you. you are a cultural jew but yet also a believing jew but you don't believe everything in the book that judaism claims to be revealed from so you are a cultural jew who believes and don't believe at the same time? O.o makes perfect sense.

Being attracted to the same gender that your body wasn't built to copulate with is clearly anywhere from an emotional problem, or a mechanical problem, chemical problem, or genetic problem.

Being straight is the non-problem state since duuuuuh an oragnism is supposed to copulate with the opposite gender. Being gay is a problem.

Religiously, the bible doesn't say be fruitful and multiply except if you are gay. "practical" pro-gay arguments aren't gonna get a gay believer in God out of this one.

Ultimately being politically correct and pretending that homosexuality isn't a problem will not help gay people. Scientific research into making gays straight will help gay people.

Friar Yid said...

SJ- By different narratives I mean God acts inconsistently. The text is full of contradictory narratives, both about God as well as other things-- for instance, the two or three different descriptions of creation in Genesis.

Wouldn't it be more precise if unfortunately more offensive to call your judaism a semi-judaism since you only agree with parts of the tanach but not the whole thing? how do you separate a religion from its holy book?

What's the difference between that and every other Jewish philosophy? The Sadducees said there was no afterlife. The Pharisees added on tons of extra interpretation beyond the pshat of the text. Maimonides denied all the physical descriptions of God to remake him into a totally bodiless entity. Everyone picks and chooses what they emphasize, and since the Torah is not uniformly consistent, that invariably requires focusing on some aspects and not on others.

judaism is the tanach, christianity is the christian bible, islam is the quran. that kind of thing.

If living religious systems were like college term papers, you'd be absolutely right. Once you involve human interpretation, it stops being remotely as linear.

let me try to understand you. you are a cultural jew but yet also a believing jew but you don't believe everything in the book that judaism claims to be revealed from so you are a cultural jew who believes and don't believe at the same time?

I'm a cultural Jew who believes being Jewish is personally important. I'm working on deciding how much of the practice I'm interested in taking on. I'm not terribly interested in the "true" nature of God as I believe it's an unanswerable question.

Being gay is a problem.

If it is, then it's GLBT folks' problem to deal with, not the klal's.

Religiously, the bible doesn't say be fruitful and multiply except if you are gay.

BS on two grounds. First, I've never heard of religious Jews railing against people who either can't or choose not to have children. It just doesn't happen. So that's a cop-out. Second, through the magic of science, gay people in fact are quite capable of multiplying, in a number of ways. How they get there is no more your business than how your straight neighbors do it.

"practical" pro-gay arguments aren't gonna get a gay believer in God out of this one.

Except gay folks are also B'tselem Elohim. What implications does that say about God? And I don't think Greenberg's compassion point can be so easily overlooked. If people are being "created" with such powerful emotions and are in all other ways totally righteous individuals, what sense does it make to treat them as lepers? Why would God want that?

Ultimately being politically correct and pretending that homosexuality isn't a problem will not help gay people.

It's not politically correct, it's my reality. I have close friends and family members across the GLBT spectrum. They are good people. There is nothing wrong with them. They are "helped" when people see and acknowledge them for the real, three-dimensional individuals that they are and not mere gender or sexual categories. If there are communities that can't or aren't willing to do that, I have no interest in being a part of those communities. Period.

Scientific research into making gays straight will help gay people.

Only if your sole definition of "help" is "stop being gay."

SJ said...

it seems to me gen 1 is the design phase of creation and gen 2 is the action phase of creation. no contradiction.

I didn't say there's something morally wrong with gays, just that something inside their bodies i don't presume to know what it is i'm not a doctor or a scientist, is clearly not working properly.

Friar Yid said...

I didn't say there's something morally wrong with gays, just that something inside their bodies i don't presume to know what it is i'm not a doctor or a scientist, is clearly not working properly.

Assume you're right and being GLBT is actually some sort of physical abnormality (though that doesn't explain why tons of animals exhibit the same behaviors). If the only issue you have with GLBT folks is your "sense" that there's "something" wrong with their bodies, shouldn't you leave leave that to them to sort out, just like you'd leave obesity to the obese and blindness to the blind?

My sense is that this is not the direction that most social conservatives actually take when addressing this issue.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

A few decades ago a major car company in Canada appointed a woman as president. When people started talking about how this finally broke the glass ceiling, etc. most leftist feminist groups replied that it didn't because she was a right wing, uber-capitalist.
In other words, you're only a successful woman if you're a successful leftist woman. So the Republicans could have a Black secretary of defence, a Black and female secretary of state, etc. and it doesn't count because these Blacks aren't leftists.

Friar Yid said...

Garnel- I encounter these attitudes a lot from my parents' generation- the idea that "how can a black/Jew/woman etc be a Republican? Don't they know they're voting against their values?"

I have no problem with the existence of conservative or independent minorities/women/Jews. I don't think they lose their status just because of their political opinions. I may not agree with their reasoning (and presumably not their politics) but they're entitled to it. When I say the Republicans are less diverse, it's not because they don't have "real" blacks or Latinos or women, it's because they simply have significantly less minorities and women than the Democrats. I'm not in the position of arguing people's racial or gender cred-- though I think part of the underlying emotions behind those conversations are due to the GOP's image being so overwhelmingly white, male and rich.

To your example- I don't think that the fact that a woman or a minority obtain a position of power means that suddenly that organization becomes immune from criticism (for instance, the fact that the Democrats nominated a man of partial-black heritage does not mean there is no racism in the Democratic party). The mere fact that a company gets a female CEO does not necessarily constitute a feminist victory (or Obama a universal "black" victory). Quite honestly, a lot depends on the context.

mary lau said...

Playground equipment has evolved to make things more fun for kids. Wilkins Solutions provides playground equipment in Orlando for schools, hotels, apartments and more. playgorund equipment Orlando.