Thursday, March 03, 2011

Speak Up!

The Supreme Court ruled 8-to-1 that the endlessly fascinating Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, a (very, very ) small family-invented “church,” has a Constitutional right to show up at military funerals carrying signs saying that God hated the dead soldier and wanted him/her dead. They’re free to do this providing they adhere to various local ordinances regarding permits and maintaining the legal distances from the funeral & etc., just like any other group that wishes to picket or protest on public streets.

Judge Alioto dissented on the point that “fighting words” are not protected. Then noted that “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.”

Clearly, he’s wrong about that. Americans LOVE vicious verbal assaults. Always have. And while such assaults used to be held on the looney fringe and ignored by polite society, our present Twittered/Facebooked society has brought vicious out into the open. For better or for worse.

But like all the often dark unconscious matter roiling around inside our poisonous souls, “vicious verbal assaults” can serve to illuminate a great deal. Which is why I find the Westboro crowd (Weirdly Gay-Obsessed Preacher Daddy and his adoring Daughter) absolutely refreshing. Their fascinating obsession with all things homosexual mirrors what many more “reputable” religious organizations also believe but are too polite to say outright . While many mainstream Christian churches are weaseling around with the old “God hates the sin not the sinner” rhetoric, the Westboro Duo get straight to the heart of the matter. God hates fags. Right there in the Bible. Period, end of discussion.

And if you believe in the absolute inerrancy of the Holy Book, (and/or if you’re weirdly gay-obsessed like Preacher Daddy) your lines are clearly drawn. At military funerals, you have a choice: Stand with the Westboro crowd or stand across the street holding a sign saying, “Uh, what’s up with the Gay Obsession thing anyway?”

Doesn’t get any clearer than that. And, thanks to the Supreme Court, the right to decide which side of the street to stand on remains clear as well.

On Wisconsin!

Interesting article in today’s New York Times, “Teachers Wonder, Why the Scorn?” The protests in Wisconsin and elsewhere have certainly highlighted the contempt for “government employees” by non-government folk, among which is a constant leitmotif of the lazy, overpaid, glorified babysitters formerly known as “teachers.”

Not a new article of faith, but a conservative mantra that’s being played again for all its worth: Public schools are a waste of money, teachers are crappy (except for MY kid’s teacher, who is terrific), privatize the schools, de-unionize the teachers and the country will soon be filled with brilliantly educated kids at half the price.

Nice fake dream and useful for whipping up the resentful masses du jour who wonder where their jobs went, where their paychecks went, where their futures went. (Don’t bother pointing them in the direction of Wall Street or advise them to take a peek at tax breaks for Corporate off-shoring.) Nope, kick the teachers because they think they’re better than us laid-off, low-information schnooks who are now sinking out of the middle class and into the hard soup of the working poor. And beyond into the ranks of the “permanently poor.”

While this meme is being dredged up for political purposes, it’s not a new theme. Americans have long had a love/hate relationship to “book larnin’” and “schoolmarms” and “pointy-headed intellectuals” of all stripes. In short, America holds them in low esteem – unless they’re also rich. Then they’re admired, not for their intellectual gifts but for their money, while their intellectual gifts breed nothing but resentment: He thinks he’s smarter ’n me.

All of which keeps America heading for the bottom, our kids poorly schooled and testing near the bottom of the heap on international math and science scores. None of which should come as a surprise: You don’t get good results from things you do not value and/or actively scorn. If being smart isn’t cool and being dumb is, then you’ll aspire to achieving Dumbness.

Thus does American class-resentment meets America’s political “paranoid style” meets Tom Sawyer’s anti-intellectualism. So, kick a teacher today, then wonder where your and your kids future went.


TCG said...

One of the reasons that the teachers' union is fighting so hard to retain their complete spectrum of collective bargaining is that the Governor's bill also contains teacher reforms (i.e. judge and rank the teachers based on their teaching skills, not their seniority or tenure).

The union protesters want to remain as a minority of workers who have say over their government as to how much they are paid, what they contribute, or don't, for employee benefits and what rules pertain to their ranking as instructors. And they want this without regard for the financial condition of their State Government and local districts.

All this while members have their dues used to campaign for legislators who would "negotiate with them in good faith."

About as much good faith bargaining as we saw from Gail Wilcox and the Sheriff's union negotiators.

The governor wants the deck unstacked and the State to pay a reasonable cost for it's labor--a cost that relates to it's economy. Kind of a new paradigm.

Churadogs said...

Uh, think the Gov likely wants to get his hands on that pension money, and balance the budget on the backs of the teachers and others, (he first gave away huge tax breaks to corporations THEN decleared the state broke and in need of cut backs. That's like tje father who blows the family budget buying a Rolls, THEN declares that from now on, it's macaroni and cheese for the kids.)

Do I think he's being honest about what he's up to. Naw. Do I think "education" needs reforming? Yeah, but this is not how you do it. (A hint: take a look at Finland to see what a "decent" society can accomplish)

TCG said...

Easy to have different opinions on this, based on one's background.

Another way to look at this is a father cuts back on his kids' allowance and other household expenditures, and tells them that they are going to be held accountable for doing their chores better. This is necessary because he will no longer be working extra hours and earning overtime pay. He is not working OT anymore because he is going to night school to finish his degree so that he can get a better job and make the family more secure in the long run.

I see the "Rust Belt" states losing thousands of jobs to states where companies are more likely to make a profit. Part of the long term strategy of states like Wisconsin and Ohio is to make legislative changes, including corporate tax reductions, to attract more jobs back to their states. That would make things better for all of their residents in the long run.

I don't see it as simply giving tax breaks to the rich at the expense of the state workers. If this was easy, several states would not be underfunded for the services that they have traditionally provided.

Thanks for "listening."

Sewertoons said...

I saw an article a couple of weeks ago about how the corporations are now monetarily back up to where they were before the crash. They were asked why had they not provided new jobs now that they had recovered their losses. The answer was that they were waiting for people to start spending again before they start hiring again.

Churadogs said...

TCG sez:"Part of the long term strategy of states like Wisconsin"

This would make sense if the Gov had said, "Our budget is now vaguely balanced, but I want to attract jobs, so let's split the difference, I'm gonna give X $ in tax breaks to businesses help long term, if you give up X$ to offset that amount." If he did that, then why continue and remove collective bargaining altogether? But as I understand it, he bought that Rolls Royce FIRST, then told the kids they've have to take a cut in their allowance.

Toonces: What a lot of people also are overlooking is this: Wall St. and Corporate American no longer need or are connected to America any more. They don't need American consumers, they can sell to Indians, Barzilians. And Wall St. is now totally disconnected with much of anything to do with the health of the American economy. it used to be that what was good for GM was good for the country. No longer. Americans are now living in a world where they are no longer relevant at this point. Indeed, vast numbers of them have become uneless, unnecessary and redundant and if they died in vast numbers, it would only help the corporate bottom line.

Sewertoons said...

Yes, true, the multinationals really do not need us in that they both make and sell elsewhere. But we are still important - in that it is we who get their chosen people elected to help them do business here. Corporations are now "people," which makes me wonder if there will be a day when we humans are no longer in that category. We will need to belong to a corporation to be granted the rights of personhood. Maybe I'm reading too much science fiction these days.

Churadogs said...

Toonces sez:"Maybe I'm reading too much science fiction these days.

Naw. Years ago Lewis Lapham, former editor of Harpers, wrote a brilliant essay on how we have two governments: The REAL government (corporations, wall stret, insurance companies, etc.) and the PROVISIONAL government (political parties who throw a party with baloons every 4 years, elect "representatives and presidents" (how quaint) and leave the masses with the illusion that they're running things.

Hahahaha. The REAL government sents the agenda and runs the show while the children play with their baloons.

Nothing has changed since Lapham wrote that essay.

For an update, get a copy of Matt Taibbi's "Griftopia." Funniest damned writer, but teeth grindingly dead on the mark.

Sewertoons said...

Thanks Ann, I will check out this book!