19 November 2016

Fertilizing the Rosebush

We're in for an interesting time. As an acquaintance of mine noted recently (quoted with permission, reparagraphing and ellipsis mine):

I can't quite shake off a sense of cowardice. The idea that when things get truly terrible I'll fall in line and trade self-care for selfishness.…

I don't despair, though. There is much good to do, now and over the next four years, even if one single person cannot possibly do enough. Donating money and calling Congressional representatives and protesting in the streets and subscribing to newspapers and answering calls to action all help. Making art and taking it in. Reading books and writing, too. None of those things may detract from the innate, awful, creeping cowardice, but at least they distract for a while. And then, in struggle and by sheer force of will, that cowering fear can be turned into something more meaningful. Because heroes don't set out to be heroic. They do what needs to be done.

This is precisely what democracy is supposed to do: promote nonviolent protest and working for change, and taking personal responsibility for both the actions and the consequences. It is, after all, exactly how the Founders attempted to conduct themselves prior to the First War of American Secession (from 1774 to 1783; the second one, from 1861 to 1865, was much less honorable in all respects). At least to date this time, there has not been insurrection even rising to the level of that expected after an "undeserved" loss at a college football game.

Especially, perhaps, when it is done nondisruptively — and respectfully — along with entertainment. Contrary to the bloviation I'm seeing from certain nutcase media sources, the cast of Hamilton did not insult, or even call out, the Vice President elect by stating the following after the end of the performance (and requesting that the audience refrain from booing, which was just about as successful as it would be at a Yankees game):

Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton: An American Musical. We really do. We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for (sharing) this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.

(typography corrected) It's far more "polite" than three Republican appointees were to Mr Pence on a related issue quite recently… Perhaps you should just allow some smooth piano music to accompany your protest; it's almost exactly as threatening (until, that is, you listen to the lyrics). And it's well-groomed white guys (ok, well-groomed allowing for the '80s hair).

It could, of course, be worse. We could continue to call centrists "liberals" just because they're not the right variety of arch-conservatives, very much as seventeenth-century Catholics denied that Calvinists were Christians... and vice versa. Or, in the present, like many Shi'a deny that Sufis are Muslim, and like even fully observant American Orthodox Jews are too secular to earn a hearing from perhaps 20% of the Knesset. We need not limit ourselves to religion, however; the echoes of the Army-McCarthy hearings, 1920s-40s Germany, and Edwardian/Georgian England in what passes for political discourse have become deafening to the point that nuance is no longer tolerated. There just isn't a lot of space between excoriating a position as "politically correct," "pinko," and "objectively fascist" — all too often, even in the positions themselves.

"Nuance" is acceptable only when subverting national politics for personal benefit. It is class-and-ancestry-selecting, for example, that "depletion allowances" are available only to owners of large tracts of real property, but not to owners or creators of intellectual property. Explaining why requires both nuance and math (not particularly complex math — just complex enough that it can't be represented in HTML very easily), and also connects back to the non-depletion-allowance-claiming authorship of Hamilton. That's just one example, but note the linguistic bias in calling land (particularly in light of how land ownership has evolved/devolved) the only kind of property that is "real."

And so I look forward to four years of minority government desperately proclaiming that it has a mandate, while simultaneously suppressing the hell out of opposing points of view. The best fertilizer for roses is ground-up bones, which sounds about right; those flowers have thorns for more than one reason.