People throw words around and clearly, they don’t really get what they imply, including myself at times. The difference being, I listen, learn and try to correct my errors, while others often misuse words on purpose. Politicians come to mind. I’m going to talk fascism and to make sure I come correct, I asked Google about it. As we all realize, Google knows everything, including how to throw a kick-ass, totally homo-free swinger party.
Google tells me fascism is characterized by strong nationalism, an extreme level of authoritarianism, corporatism, militarization and hostility towards liberalism. Wow. That sounds a lot like the powers that be in our federal government right now.
Some may find our nation’s sudden turn toward a fascist outlook shocking. But fascism has been lurking a long while. We didn’t defeat it with the Nazis in Germany, if anything we ported fascism over to a new platform and gave it a software upgrade. Our current version became glaringly evident a decade ago, with an economic collapse eclipsed only by the Great Depression. We all know who did it. And yet no one was to blame except irresponsible homeowners defaulting on mortgages. Corporate players, greedy loan originators, and derivative sellers behind the cash-grab were guilty only of bad business decisions, nothing more. The evil men that constructed the collapse remain both anonymous to the public and absent of any criminal charges in the matter.
But in fact, the masterminds of the premeditated disaster were well known: they were the men at the top of firms like Goldman Sachs and Bear Sterns, among others. Yet men like Bear CEO Alan Schwartz have never seen a criminal trial, much less the inside of a jail cell. Criminal investigations ended in fines paid by the shareholders of companies, not the men running those fraudulent enterprises.
In place of holding those responsible accountable, the public gets periodic scapegoats.
The Bernie Madoffs and Martha Stewarts of the world are prosecuted for financial crimes in show trials. For the criminals who remain in power (within every industry, not simply finance) it’s unencumbered business as usual. Har har har. Roll out the customary misogyny, bigotry, racism, discrimination and harassment. Of course, this is a simplification. But you get the point, I’m doing a blog post, not a treatise on the top-down decay of Western society.
Enter the New Left. The Gay Pride, Women’s Studies and multiculturalism of the 1990s has grown from the expressions of a new consciouness into a body politic. This body objects to the cultural norms our fascist overlords enforce. (And an unquestioning, mainstream America too-often accepts).
Lately, the left is winning on one front with the #MeToo movement. And yes, it belongs to the left. When the GOP quits endorsing the serial child molester because he's Rebublican then we can call it nonpartisan. The latest king to be dethroned is casino mogul and GOP financier, Steve Wynn. By the time you read this, I’m sure we’ll have another one, an ever-growing list of powerful men (and now one woman) ruined by sexual abuse victims speaking out en masse. Revelations of systematic, predatory behavior is the albatross for a culture that’s committed itself to looking the other way. Any survivor reading this knows this is nothing new. Fortunately, the rest of the country is catching up to the idea. As awareness grows, as the discussion grows, so too grow the definitions of abuse, harassment and inappropriate behavior.
This is a good thing.
Except when it’s not. When a consenting adult implies that she’s suffered a form of sexual abuse because she later regrets an encounter that she willfully undertook, that creates real problems for #MeToo as a movement. That's because it's already very difficult for those affected by sex crimes to be taken seriously.
The police have never taken sex crimes seriously. We’ve learned from stories out of Baylor, Michigan State and Penn State, police and local prosecutors actively suppress these cases. In other instances, they’re too lazy to investigate, citing these cases, often against children, aren't a priority for police resources.
With this fresh and aggressive outing of bad actors it seems like everything’s a potential sex crime, including me changing my mind about how much I like you after I’ve already left. Exploitive, predatory behaviors deserve to be outed. Must be outed. However, in the current climate where anything can be couched as an abusive crime then nothing’s an abusive crime anymore. Let's remember: we’re not completely free and clear of the era where politicians debated what a case of “legitimate rape” was, when the first questions asked about any sexual assault victim included, what was she wearing, why was she so drunk, and how come she was walking alone.
This is why our words have important implications. Social pressure is different from coercion. Quiet misgivings are different from vehement oppositions. We use words to express these differences. A rigid delineation between these things is important to recognize.
Rejecting the dinner date between "Grace" and Ansari as a #MeToo moment isn't for the purpose of euphemizing aggressive behavior. We're not protecting those in the wrong. It’s for the simple sake of clarity. It's so at last, victims can win justice by showing there’s a stark violation that occurred.
We have quite enough rampant and under-investigated rape, assault and abuse taking place without adding another category that criminalizes being a garden variety scumbag.
I'm not excusing manipulative behavior, simply framing a picture that victims and survivors must face in an unsympathetic world. Save for the “shocking” celebrity expose, it’s been hard enough for the #MeToo issue to gain the attention it deserves. I made the mistake of saying as much on Twitter.
Knee-jerk reactions on the left are eerily similar to fascists on the right. Authoritarians in power have historically painted anyone who disagrees as liars, hypocrites, and unpatriotic perverts lacking all morality. (Sounds like a case of projection). Lately, if you’re caught disagreeing with a dogma of the left you’re a gaslighting, misogynist who’s lying to assert his white male control. At least, that’s what I get called. Also, I have no right to call myself an advocate. Public discourse is increasingly one-sided and vitriolic these days. But don’t think this is anything new, either.
People are voluntarily becoming more one-dimensional. Perhaps the trend started with single-issue voters of the Moral Majority. It continues with the identity politics of today. We’re more and more bifurcated in our political ideologies but the two camps have one disturbing feature in common:
I’m certain I am right and I’m right without exception. Anyone disagreeing that I’m totally right is totally wrong and thus an archenemy of every single ideal I stand for.
This position where we make villains out of dissenters doesn’t leave any room for nuance. In fact, if you want nuance, you have zero self-awareness. Hair-trigger certainty exempts us from coming to even a partial agreement on the things we should. Decent people who’re otherwise aligned with each other continually vote against their own interests. They do so because they’re sick of the lectures and the condescension and being made to feel bad about themselves by some blame-happy camp on the left.
The left’s new norm is ugly and intolerant because it resents any interpretation that pokes holes in blanket declarations. What’s being said about injustice is correct, but it’s usually expressed in simplistic, black and white terms. Every topic gets distilled into some kind of perpetrators-versus-victims narrative. Besides robbing individuals of their agency, the narrative foists upon us a one-dimensional viewpoint that exempts further discussion.
There is a tacit ultimatum in the rhetoric. It’s killing our collective ability to combat fascists and those invested in perpetuating a culture of oppression.
I used to volunteer every week at a shelter for homeless teens. The shelter gave trainings where I learned a lot about trans people and how different populations react to homelessness. The trainings were worthwhile and helped me get along. Plus, I already knew what it was like to be homeless. Most of the shelter guests really liked me and I liked them.
Then there was the staff, made of mostly (white) university students studying sociology or some related field. The longer I volunteered there, the more I noticed something. Staffers didn't take it upon themselves to help, so much as point out every possible form of discrimination, oppression or micro-aggression they perceived. Impressions were facts and snap conclusions were not to be questioned. Period. So drink the Kool-Aid or GTFO.
I had to stop serving a population of kids I cared about because paid staff was driving me crazy. Driving me freaking crazy by standing there, nagging me about biases and my oppressiveness as I worked my ass off to serve hungry kids their dinner. And then, when the staff went back home to their beds, I stayed overnight to keep the shelter safe. Welcome to the logic of the New Left. I wasn't in shelter as a victim of homelessness, so I must've been the perp.
I speak out about racism and oppression. I care about discrimination. I work to help the abused. We’re not solving these endemic social problems by micro-managing everybody in a church basement. Or by crushing people on social media who might slightly disagree, then threatening to dox should they stand up to the bullying. To preserve what little sanity I have left, I stop caring so much. I stop helping and I quiet my voice of advocacy. And the powers of fascism celebrate a tiny victory.