Politics Archive for May, 2011

White is the New Black?

I came across this Gothamist post about a study out of Tufts and Harvard which argues that “whites see racism as a zero-sum game that they are now losing.” In other words, the study indicates a shift in public opinion concerning perception of racial bias, which in turn could have a greater impact on matters of public policy — in spite of clear economic evidence that, as a group, Blacks still fall behind Whites on everything from home ownership and education to employment.

I’ve heard all the reverse racism arguments from my conservative friends and family on trips back to Oklahoma. The arguments from people who say in one breath that they’re “not racist,” while in the next they argue the success of Asian immigrant families as “proof” that problems of poverty and gangs and violence among poor African-American families and Latino families are about race, not about social disparity. Or that the problems of the “welfare class” are about people being lazy, not about people having lack of access to opportunity, or being set up to fail. Or my favorite, the argument that “it’s not about race, it’s about class.” Oy.
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Pardon Me, Your Bias is Showing

I’ve been meaning to jot down some thoughts on gender and media since a luncheon at the Sarasota Film Festival, when Geena Davis, representing her Institute on Gender and Media, gave a speech about the mission of the organization, which was announcing a partnership with the festival to promote the creation of films in which gender roles are portrayed equitably.

A fellow journalist who was at the fest noted that the speech Davis gave was very similar to what she had to say in a speech from Newsweek’s Women in Media Conference held in September, 2010, and when I looked it up, sure enough, she was right. No matter, though … Davis certainly delivered the speech passionately and eloquently, and the points she raises about how kids are exposed to ideas around gender from the time they’re old enough to be plopped in front of television to watch Dora the Explorer are surprising.
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Making Hillary Clinton Invisible: Is Criticism of Hasidism Antisemitism?

So I was reading this post over on Jezebel this morning about Orthodox Hasidic newspaper Der Tzitung editing the images of Hillary Clinton and counter-terrorism expert Audrey Thomason out of the photo of the Osama bin Laden raid Situation Room. Why? Because the paper doesn’t publish photos of women, of course. Pictures of women, apparently, are considered “sexually suggestive.”
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The Other Cost of the War on Terror

My friend Matt Zoller Seitz posted this thoughtful Salon piece by Glenn Greenwald to Facebook the other day, and it made me stop and think. In the piece, Greenwald notes while many of us (myself included in this) have been vocal in expressing our dismay about the public display of jubilation over the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, not as many of us have been questioning the whys and wherefores of how his death happened. And that maybe this is a problem.

Leaving aside for the moment the issue of whether or not Osama bin Laden was a Bad Man, IF there was an order to kill, not capture, do you have a problem with that? IF he was unarmed and not fighting back when his compound was overtaken, IF he was shot and killed while unarmed, do you have a problem with that? Should he have been arrested and tried rather than killed?

Greenwald makes some excellent points in his piece, and I encourage you to read it if you haven’t. He raises issues that really need to be discussed in public and in private, and at the core of these issues is the question of whether we’ve given up so much in the War on Terror that we’ve lost sight of the very freedoms we’ve been supposedly fighting to protect.

Domestic Terror?

These people scare me as much, if not more than, the most fundamentalist of Islamic jihadists. The older I get, the more I become convinced that learning to overcome hate and intolerance is the single biggest lesson we all have to learn in this life. And clearly, it’s not an easy lesson.

(Hat tip to Tori McDonough, via Facebook.)

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Celebrating Osama bin Laden’s Death: What Would Jesus Do?

As I was watching the celebrations and reading reactions on Twitter and on comments sections of news stories into the wee hours, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the people celebrating so joyfully on the death of a terrorist leader consider themselves Christians. So, in all seriousness: What would Jesus do?

Didn’t Jesus teach that we should judge not lest we be judged? That we should first remove the plank from our own eye, so we can see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s? Most importantly, didn’t Jesus teach on the importance of forgiving those who have harmed us? That we should turn the other cheek?

If you’re a born-again Christian, you probably believe that everyone who hasn’t accepted Jesus as their lord and savior is going to hell, right? So shouldn’t a born-again Christian, rather than celebrating the death of a terrorist leader, be instead mourning the loss of an opportunity to save that soul? Because Christianity teaches, does it not, that no matter how many bad things a person does in his life — even if that person was responsible for thousands of deaths — all he has to do is accept Jesus and ask for forgiveness, and forgiveness is given, right? If you are a Christian, and you believe the Bible is God’s word, then didn’t Jesus die for everyone’s sins? Even the sins of Osama bin Laden?

I’m not being snarky here, I’m genuinely curious what my Christian friends’ point of view is on this. Would Jesus have been celebrating Osama bin Laden’s death in front of the White House or in Times Square early this morning? Would he have been there in the crowd chanting “USA! USA! USA!?”

Update: A friend pointed me to this post, which is a response by one Buddhist to bin Laden’s death. For me, this piece sums it up pretty well.


So. We Finally Got Osama bin Laden. Uh, “Rah, Rah, USA?”

If you were sick to death of media coverage of the Royal Wedding and tornadoes in the South and the beautification of Pope John Paul II, are you in luck! Get ready to be pummeled relentlessly with every conceivable angle of coverage over the death of Osama bin Laden.

As a country we will never tolerate our security being threatened or stand idly by when our people have been killed.” So sayeth President Barack Obama.

Am I the only one who finds the spontaneous street celebrations over Osama Bin Laden’s death a little, er … I dunno, disturbing? Primal? Reminiscent, even, of the celebrations in certain corners of the Middle East, when the Twin Towers fell?
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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon