Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Political dissonance

Doug at Balloon Juice has perhaps the best take on this whole Wieseltier/Sullivan anti-Semitism controversy, and the fundamental ridiculousness of the TNR style of Israel critic-baiting:
Now, look, maybe anti-Semitism is such a grave threat that it’s necessary for TNR contributors to wade through all of Andrew Sullivan’s ruminations about religion, masturbation, and obesity in search of anti-Semitic rhetoric. Or maybe it’s such a non-issue that it’s fine for presidential candidates to surround themselves with former Jew-counters. But it can’t be both.
Sadly, it can be. This got me thinking a bit along an orthogonal direction. There is a great deal of cognitive dissonance among conservatives. Well, there is among liberals too--just look at who the vaccine "truthers" are, and ask someone who believes that stuff if they believe in science over faith, for example--but I've found it more common among people on the right. I actually know of a person who is sort of a typical conservative on gay issues as far as politics goes--he's virulently anti-equality with respect to marriage, for example, and believes in an insidious "gay agenda"--and yet he is easily able to work with gay people without any problem at all. In fact, some gay friends of mine have recently made plans to get married (if in everything but word), and he was legitimately happy for them. I actually think that this is one of the most difficult nuances of the culture wars to get--it is easy to look at the sorts of politicians that get elected in conservative areas and make summary judgments about such people based on that alone. But the thing is that red staters aren't monsters, and my experience has been that a lot of people who hold repellent views are genuinely good people who are more accepting and nice than you'd give them credit for, even of the people they are supposed to hate more than any other.

Just reminds me of this Jeff Goldberg post from ages ago:
Warmth, civility, hospitality and friendliness are the hallmarks of most Muslim societies I've visited. I have been in many places -- in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq and Iran -- where people absolutely hate Israel, absolutely hate "International Jewry," and hate the Talmud, or what they think is in the Talmud. But people in these places have been almost uniformly kind to me as a visiting Jewish reporter (and they almost always know, right from the outset, that I'm Jewish, because it's not something I ever hide). The people with whom I visit -- and I count the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah in this group -- are raised by their families to be kind to guests. It's very lovely and civilized -- Israelis could learn a thing or two about politeness from Muslims -- but it's irrelevant to their politics, or to their beliefs about what should happen to the Jewish state and its supporters.
Politics can really bring out the worst in people. But the ways in which that plays out in people are invariably complicated and opaque. Fucking thing makes me want to channel Rodney King.

And, by the way, Goldberg has a pretty good post on the Weiseltier thing as well.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.