Celtic Riverside – The Online Journal of James Keenan

To the Conservatives (An Olive Branch)

Hi there!

Normally you are furious with me, at least that is the way it seems, because my language reflects that of the left. As soon as I begin talking I am a liberal/ Democrat/ socialist/ communist/ leftist/ progressive/ what-have-you and the walls erect. But we are not so different you and I. On most matters, I think you and I actually align except perhaps in the means we use to get there. That is what I want to discuss today.

Let us begin broadly with things like sexism and racism. I do not blame white males for our problems, I do not blame conservatives/Republicans, and I do not believe in equality of outcome. If a person flips burgers at a fast food restaurant, that person should not earn the same as a doctor. What I do believe is that anyone flipping burgers should earn the same as anyone else flipping burgers, and I do believe that person should be able to sustain living on that salary. It should be at a minimum because the task, while demanded by society, requires little skill.

I do not believe that leadership should necessarily reflect the exact demographic makeup of the population is serves. We do not arbitrarily need 53 senators who are women – we need 100 senators with the qualifications to act as legislative leaders and representatives for our populace. If women do not display the necessary characteristics to meet those qualifications, then so be it. The leadership should still make sure to hear their voices and address their concerns, but I do not believe in promoting less qualified individuals to meet arbitrary demographic goals – tokenism.

I do believe that we assert gendered roles on people from birth that promotes those leadership skills in boys. That is the premise with which I have a problem. We should not make assumptions about people based on gender. The idea that a person should be a certain way because of his or her gender is, I believe we agree, ridiculous. Incidentally, ideas promoted on the liberal side of these issues do tend to promote an alternate take on that same problem. We should not trade, “Men should behave this way” for “No, men should behave this way”.

So, yes, I understand the anger at modern feminism for its “man hating” attitudes. I still count myself as a feminist because I do not like identity politics. I do not like the “No True Scotsman” approach to issues that define any group a particular way. When I say I am a feminist, I mean that I want gender equality. No wage gap should exist – some argue staunchly that a severe gap still exists and others claim that their data fails to account for variables that do level the gap. Honestly, at this point the total disregard for logic in order to gain political capital has me distrustful of most data. I am not here to debate the specifics, just to say, “No wage gap should exist”.

Do we live in a rape culture? We hardly promote rape as a virtue, and sexual assault is less an issue in the United States than it is elsewhere. That said, sexual assault and harassment are profuse issues. I don’t want to be flippant about such a serious issue, but I will use the word plethora as “Three Amigos” comes to mind – we can argue about the extent to which these things occur but we should all be able to agree that they occur far too often in modern society. We have entire subcultures (red pills, incels, men’s rights activists, PUAs, etc.) who actively promote physical, sexual, and psychological violence against women. We cannot have that. We need to find a solution.

We need to see accountability for it. Case in point: Brock Turner. Caught in the act and reported by two fellow classmates with additional evidence – this was not even a case of “He said, she said”. Despite all of that, this rare felony sexual assault conviction resulted in a mere six-month sentence (of which he served only three) and a three-year probation. Yes, I would agree that calling for blood in the wake of every harassment accusation may seem excessive, but at the other end of this we see little penalty for those we do convict. We cannot have that. We need to find a solution to protect our citizens against these crimes.

Fellow white Americans – we need to square with our racial history. Yes, white Americans innovated and built this country. Unfortunately, we did that on the backs of slave labour. We had child labour and actual slavery. We imposed horrendous working conditions on all manner of working class people (including other white Americans who were simply in lower economic classes). Human trafficking continues to result in slave labour in the country to this day. That glorious America of yesteryear came at a human cost.

We need to recognise the role that plays in America today. I believe that black lives matter, and I know that many of you are not racist and agree with that. What you disagree with is the actual #BlackLivesMatter movement. Case in point – riots in Ferguson. How does that degree of civil unrest work to fix anything? The shooting of Michael Brown was a tragedy, as is any case where police use brutal or lethal force that is not required. The black community continues to tell us, “This sort of thing is all-too-common in our community” without recourse, and #BlackLivesMatter is the result.

This extended into the NFL arena in the form of Kaepernick and the kneeling protests. We take time at the beginning of the game to show respect to our nation and the soldiers who fight to preserve it, so kneeling during that for any reason is disrespectful to the nation, the anthem, the flag, the veterans. It occurs on company time, and companies reserve the right to regulate what employees can and cannot do while acting as agents of that company (although, the NFL is not the employer – for that argument to be true, the individual teams would need to establish rules).

The flip side to all of this is that, as with the sexual assault issue, regardless of quantity we have a quality problem. Police officers – agents of the government tasked with security in our communities, display brutal and sometimes lethal force in situations that do not warrant it. They have taken a militaristic approach to policing in some situations, such as the use of actual military equipment and tactical gear. We have a real issue with members of our police forces far exceeding what is reasonable that we need to address. Regardless of whether you support or despise #BlackLivesMatter, regardless of your attitude of the anthem kneeling, that is true. We may have multiple issues to address now, but they all have a common source in this need to stop police brutality – against anyone. Forget the racial component if it makes it easier and focus instead on why police officers use excessive force in so many situations that do not warrant it.

Understand the systemic obstacles that people face to overcoming these problems. We struggle with allowing former felons, people who served their time, the right to vote. We place requirements on voting, such as registration, that are perfectly reasonable, but then we have obstacles to registration that impact certain populations more than others. I speak as a former analyst for a homelessness nonprofit – task one for most people was obtaining a valid identification and the system makes that difficult in many cases. The ability to receive welfare, to vote, or to receive other government services intended to get people out of the welfare system becomes complicated by the bureaucracy of the system itself and traps people there.

Just one example: municipal offences. We have millions of Americans living at or below poverty. Consider what happens when that individual receives a fine for a municipal violation like speeding or loitering. If I were to receive one, as I did once for failure to come to a complete stop, I would pay the fine and be done with it. For many Americans, that same fine is prohibitively expensive. It results in additional court fees. Some courts offer payment plans that themselves involve fees. In still other cases, predatory lenders like the payday loan groups help individuals manager the municipal fine but steep them in interest and fees associated with the loan. People who cannot afford the initial fine wind up making payment after payment without touching the principle and fall deeper into poverty. The resulting failure to pay results in further penalties, such as forfeiture of driver’s license (again, stripping identification and ability to get to work) and jail time.

We have to have the compassion to understand how the system includes these inequitable features and correct them. I saw many individuals who became homeless for reasons beyond their control and then became trapped by that system. The only shelter in the area refused to accept them or they had reasons to avoid the shelter, so they stayed on the street. The police would pick them up for loitering (or for warrants related to prior offences). That sent them into the penal system where we, the taxpayers, racked up associated court fees. At the end of the process they would release the person having served their time back to the street with less money and now a record. The process repeated again and again, each time leeching more money from everyone without affecting any positive change.

You might hate these welfare recipients because they strike you as freeloaders sucking on the government teat. I hate the welfare system because it entraps people on the government teat. It doesn’t really matter – the point is that we have a welfare problem that we need to resolve. We have a judicial and penal system problem that we need to resolve.

And here’s the part where one tends to lose a lot of conservatives – those problems disproportionately affect minorities. They do not exclusively affect minorities. No one said that white people are immune to these issues, and I would agree that we can overlook whites stuck in the system as a result. That is a problem that we need to resolve. But we do need to square with that racial history. The problem is not even that we live in a society where people have unequal starting points – after all, America is the land of opportunity and with hard work a person can overcome that setback. Except, as described earlier, people who do not meet a certain minimum requisite are not even playing the same game. They begin in a separate tier where the bureaucracy of the system we designed to accommodate most Americans precludes them from climbing up regardless of how hard they work. That is un-American.

Our solutions must include a means that provides the opportunity for individuals to make that climb. We do not need to grab every person who falls below a certain level and place them back at a starting point; we need to provide a reasonable means to get back to that point. Our current system does not allow that reasonable means. Full stop. That is not a debatable point – anyone can work out with pen and paper that 10 – 5 + 2 means ending up with less than one started.

We need equality of opportunity. We need to allow people the freedom of individuality, not to impose roles or characteristics or expectations on them based on membership in some group. I know, that statement reeks of the identity politics of which conservatives generally accuse the liberal camp. Both sides do it. The only difference is that the conservative side does it ironically as a response to liberal hypocrisy. I would agree with you – replacing one set of roles, characteristics, and expectations of a group for another one is meaningless.

You deciding that my arguments are not worth your time because I am a liberal or a feminist is also wrong.

“Feminists believe….” Stop. I outlined what I believe. I will clarify any point if it seems unclear to you and I will allow you time to speak. I do identify as feminist, but I assign that label according to my understanding of the term as it applies to my beliefs. Plenty of feminists would disagree with positions of mine and, to your credit, might dismiss as “not a feminist” because I do not conform to a rigid definition. No one, on either side of the debate, has a place to tell me how I view the issue based on my identification with a term like “feminist”. Men and women should have equal opportunity, including equal pay for the same work. Gender-based violence of any nature (physical, sexual, psychological) is wrong and we need to work to eliminate that.

And people on both sides of the issue might view that position as too middle-of-the-road. “Those things are self-evident”, one might think. Yes, they ought to be. In some places and situations, perhaps they are. They are not always though, and when I see gender inequality I work to correct it. That is the extent of my feminism. I do not hate men. I do not view them as a collective conspiring to oppress women. I do not go around looking to pick fights about feminism so that everyone knows I’m a “good guy”. I think we learned recently that plenty of those people are full of it (e.g. District Attorney Eric Schneiderman).

Yet, because I am identified as any number of these things and because I take issue with something specific, my apparent opponents immediately attack me. I do not mind the attacks, what I mind is the distraction from the issue itself. When I talk about the incel community, some interpret that as my feminist man-hating or liberal attempt to define masculinity. People have responded to those posts with things like, “What about ISIS? What about the violence of Muslim men?” I…those are problems. I did not say they weren’t. I cannot address every single complex issue in a single post, so I focused on one.

“You know, if police shot black people at the same rate black civilians shot each other, it would take 40 years for the police shooting number to match a single year of civilian violence”. That was a response I received to addressing the matter of police brutality. Look, black civilians shooting one another in places like Chicago and Baltimore is a huge problem that we need to address. What does that have to do with the issue of police brutality? How many police being unreasonably violent, how many black civilians shot by police is enough to say, “We should look into this problem?” Let us also address the issue of civilians shooting one another. As many would indicate, “Guns don’t kill people, people with guns do”. I am focusing on the individuals behind the trigger and their motives rather than the method. How could you and I be more aligned on the problem than that?

Do I hate Trump? Absolutely. Because of his policies? Partially – partially because I personally saw the aftermath of his business acumen in Atlantic City. The man has no business acumen – he has a marketing one. He knows how to market his brand, and in this case his brand is America. I understand that many of you hate establishment politicians and the Democrats in particular. I am not sure why you feel that liberals and Democrats love them (see literally all of the above). The billionaire who makes decisions based on what is best for his core, which is Donald first, (some) kids second, business third, and then eventually party and country, is not the break from the establishment some seem to think.

What about Hillary? What about the witch hunt? I’m not crazy about Hillary, and if she did something illegal, we should absolutely prosecute her. To the best of my knowledge, the Feds investigated Benghazi and found nothing illegal. They found the email issue, but nothing illegal about it that warranted prosecution. The Russia investigation resulted in multiple indictments and guilty pleas already. I do not blame Donald for that. The investigation, of which I am not part and have no quality information, will determine his culpability, if any. I do know that evidence seems to suggest a hostile foreign power attempted to influence our politics through the election and social media. New evidence suggests that something similar happened with Brexit. I would like answers on that. If it turns up nothing, then it turns up nothing. As with Hillary, I reserve all judgement. I am trusting those who are responsible for investigating these things to do it as quickly and fairly as possible.

My bigger concern is, why are you and I fighting? Were you at these meetings? Were any of these television personalities there? People on our electronic screens speculate about what happened and then we fight about it. There is zero logic to it. The liberals live in their echo chamber of CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, and so on – yes, I agree that all of those things have a liberal slant to their commentary. The alternative is not fair and balanced, folks. It is the conservative echo chamber. I am not saying, “You live in a delusional conservative world and we get all the real news out here”. I am saying we all get a biased take on interpretations of what happened that satisfy prejudices we already have. Our fights about these things do not matter in the slightest. Meanwhile, issues that we all would agree are problems remain unsolved.

That extends around the world.

I love the people of Israel, though they have their extreme thinkers who I do not support. I do not care for Netanyahu. I understand the precarious nature of Israel’s existence in the region, but I also disapprove of some of their provocative manoeuvres. I love the people of Russia and do not confuse that with my disapproval of Putin. I love the people of the Philippines and strongly condemn Duterte. I have no problem with the Korean peninsula but I think Kim is a maniac.

I disagree with many aspects of Islam, particularly the attitudes towards women. I will not vilify the Muslim people based on religion alone though. Their individual practices are what matter to me, just as I have no bias against Christians but I hate the more evangelical group who believe that women should remain silent and subservient. Is it the Christian faith I hate? Is it that believe that women should be silent and subservient? Is it even remarks that women should be silent and subservient? No to all – your First Amendment right protects all of that. If you actively attempt to silence or indenture women, yes, I absolutely have a problem with you as an individual.

Do not oppress the liberties of others unless they have themselves oppressed the liberties of others and it becomes a necessary restriction to protect people. That isn’t even an American idea – that is a human idea. You and I may disagree about how to go about solving these problems, and we can discuss those approaches in a civil manner. The tribal, encamped nature of the feuding though…that needs to go.

I do not have apathy towards your views because they are conservative or Republican. I have apathy towards your views when you, as an individual, not as a representative of some group, begin to assume things about me based on how you see my group membership. Talk to me. We want equality of opportunity for people. We do not like to see our family, friends, and neighbours mistreated, especially over something superficial like their gender or race. I know you aren’t racist or sexist just because you don’t tow the liberal narrative. But you and I cannot talk if you immediately start in on me with the assumption that I hate everything you stand for because I’m “on the other side” either.

Let’s get on the same page and fix some shit.

A fellow citizen and human being

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