[caption id="attachment_18999" align="alignleft" width="300"] “Lafayette Town Hall Meeting” by George Miller is licensed under CC BY 2.0[/caption] KJ Dell'Antonia writes about going to her town meeting in Lyme, New Hampshire.
"I walked in a little late, just in time to vote — aye — on a new road grader ($329,700). Then we turned to the rerouting debate. A piece of what had been a through-road had been washed out in a storm, leaving around 40 families on the wrong side. To get to them, emergency vehicles and the school bus had to take a detour through the next town. The proposal to reroute the road involved a substantial sum of money and the taking, by eminent domain, of land belonging to a farmer who strongly opposed the whole thing.... Many of the people who were surprised by the result of the last national election have invested considerable time in trying to understand the differences in opinion that led up to it. They’ve read, debated and posted about how little Americans understand one another. But you’re far more likely to learn about the ways people who share any community can differ if you leave your laptop at home and go to the equivalent of your local town meeting. New Hampshire’s brand of direct democracy may be rare outside of New England, but there are neighborhood associations, school boards, City Councils and public hearings all across the country. You may think “we’re all pretty much alike here in my part of the bubble.” But you’re not. You don’t all have school-aged children, you don’t all live on a dirt road, some of you are on the wrong side of the washed-out culvert. Those differences force us to ask the small questions that are also the big questions, the ones that help us figure out what connects us together as a town or a state or a country. What do we owe our neighbors? How do we value that which is not of direct value to us? Who gets to decide? The answers aren’t color-coded in red or blue."Dell'Antonia gets something right that so many today are missing, that democracy means realizing that are unity comes amidst real differences. It is not just that we today have contempt for those deplorables and those snowflakes we disagree with, it is that we assume that we are right and that all good and well-informed people agree with us. We are so sure of our rectitude that we forget that our neighbors, colleagues, and fellow students may actually have very different views and opinions. A large part of what it means to live in a democracy is that we must listen to others and take their opinions seriously. We can, and should, try to persuade them of what we think is right. But we also must be open to learn from them and to compromise, in the event that disagreement persists. Hannah Arendt set such value on plurality as the condition for human speech and action because she understood that politics was always to be practiced by unique and plural persons, each with their distinctive point of view. And Arendt valued New England Town Hall meetings, Workers Councils, and debating societies because it was in these local spaces where citizens could appear both in their plurality of differences and their unity of purpose. It is not likely that Town Hall Meetings will suddenly reappear across the country. But as more Americans on both the left and the right engage in politics they will, at some point, have to work together to get things done. In doing so, they will learn that politics means listening to others and respecting them, even when you are convinced they are wrong. And it means, as well, working with those one finds wrong. Our politics would be greatly improved if more Americans actually engaged in the kind of local politics described by Dell'Antonia. —RBForm more information visit: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/02/opinion/democracy-without-politics.html
The Battle Over "Alt-Right"
[caption id="attachment_19000" align="alignright" width="300"] "Alt-Right Demonstrations in DC, 6/25/17" by Susan Melkisethian is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0[/caption] Andrew Marantz looks at the war over the term "alt-right." When Colton Merwin organized a free speech rally in Washington, many of the young conservatives signed on—until Merwin invited Richard Spencer. The reaction, Marantz argues, shows that the simmering battle over the meaning of "alt-right" has been won by Spencer and his white nationalist acolytes.
"On June 16th, nine days before the rally, Merwin announced a surprise addition to his lineup: the white nationalist and anti-Semite Richard Spencer. Spencer believes that white Americans need their own homeland—“a sort of white Zionism,” he calls it. For years, he had been a marginal figure on the far right; last year, when the alt-right became an object of popular fascination, Spencer used the notoriety to his advantage. After the election, he experienced two moments of viral fame: one shortly after Trump’s victory, when Spencer cried “Hail Trump” during a speech and appeared to lead a crowd in a Nazi-esque salute; and the other on Inauguration Day, when a masked stranger punched him in the face. Spencer is a deliberately divisive figure, and, during the past few months, many on the right have worked to distance themselves from him and his views. Lucian Wintrich, of the pro-Trump tabloid the Gateway Pundit, told me that, last year, the term alt-right “was adopted by libertarians, anti-globalists, classical conservatives, and pretty much everyone else who was sick of what had become of establishment conservatism.” Wintrich counted himself among that group. “Then Richard Spencer came along, throwing up Nazi salutes and claiming that he was the leader of the alt-right,” Wintrich went on. “He effectively made the term toxic and then claimed it for himself. We all abandoned using it in droves.” As soon as Spencer was announced as a participant in the Rally for Free Speech, Jack Posobiecand Laura Loomer, two advocate-journalists who were also scheduled to speak, backed out. “It’s pretty simple,” Loomer, who is Jewish, told me at the time. “I’m not sharing the stage with an anti-Semite.” The next day, Posobiec announced that he would host a competing event, the Rally Against Political Violence, in front of the White House. This rally would feature a new slate of speakers, including Wintrich; Cassandra Fairbanks, of the pro-Trump Web site Big League Politics; the political consultant and Periscope pundit Ali Akbar; and the social-media star and InfoWars contributor Mike Cernovich. The events would be held at the same time, to draw a clear distinction between people who would stand with Spencer and those who would not. In effect, the Rally for Free Speech became an alt-right event, and the Rally Against Political Violence became a right-wing event organized in opposition to the alt-right. The two factions spent the intervening week talking trash, on Twitter and YouTube, about which rally would draw a bigger crowd. To the outside world, the schism might have seemed sudden, even inexplicable. In fact, it had been developing for months. The phrase “alternative right” has been critiqued on several grounds: that it’s too vague; that it obscures the extent to which the movement is coterminous with the rest of the Republican base; that it’s a euphemism for white supremacy. The definition has shifted over time, both inside and outside the movement, such that, for a while, it was impossible to tell whether any two people who referred to the alt-right were referring to the same thing. During the Presidential campaign, the term came to denote several intersecting phenomena: anti-feminism, opposition to political correctness, online abuse, belligerent nihilism, conspiracy theories, inflammatory Internet memes. Some pro-Trump activists adopted this big-tent definition, allowing any youthful, “edgy” critique of establishment conservatism to be considered alt-right. But a core within the movement always insisted on a narrower conception of the alt-right, one that was inextricably linked with white separatism, and with Spencer specifically. Now the boundaries are set. Spencer and his allies have won the branding war. They own the alt-right label; their right-wing opponents are aligning themselves against it, working to establish a parallel brand. It has become increasingly clear that this is not a mere rhetorical ploy but a distinction with a difference."Form more information visit: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-alt-right-branding-war-has-torn-the-movement-in-two
Orthodoxy Watch: When The Comics Aren't Funny
Deanna Isaacs relates the case of Michael Bonesteel, an expert on American comics and outsider art and an adjunct at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who recently resigned:
"According to Bonesteel, the first incident occurred on December 12 in his course the Present and Future of Outsider Art. During discussion of a theory that connects the most striking feature of Darger's work—the prevalence in it of little girls with penises—with possible childhood sexual abuse, a transgender student objected. "The student said there was no proof that Darger was sexually abused, and therefore I was wrong in proposing the theory," Bonesteel says, adding that he agreed that there was no proof, but said many scholars thought it likely. After this incident, Bonesteel met with a diversity counselor, and, following the counselor's advice, posted an apology for his "insensitivity" on an SAIC website, along with a research article as background for the theory. Dean Wainwright, subsequently ruling on this student's complaint, found no violation of school policy, but determined that Bonesteel needed training on how to deal with "identity related material" in his curriculum. Two days after the first incident, during a discussion in his other class, Comic Book: Golden Age to Comics Code, a student launched into what Bonesteel describes as "a long diatribe about perceived anti-Semitic attitudes" of the author of an assigned text, the well-regarded Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, by Gerard Jones. Bonesteel says the student also criticized "SAIC's policies toward minorities and transgender students specifically, leveling accusations of racism and homophobia toward me in particular." Bonesteel made a plea for patience "during this time of transition," but the exchange "heated up," and in the same session the student objected about the lack of a trigger warning during a discussion of an implied rape in another book. (Bonesteel says SAIC does not require trigger warnings.) When the student complained, "the dean ultimately 'determined that it is more likely than not that your conduct in relation to this student constituted harassment based on gender-identity in violation of the School's Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation,'?" Bonesteel says. Months later, another student in the comics class filed a complaint on the basis of having been "troubled by the incident." On May 30, Bonesteel says he was told that he wouldn't be teaching any future courses in comics. His outsider art classes were to be revamped, and readings by "scholars in the field of Outsider art were to be discarded in favor of new readings from academic journals." His hours for the 2017-2018 school year were reduced to a level at which he'd lose his health insurance benefits."Form more information visit: https://m.chicagoreader.com/chicago/michael-bonesteel-resignation-saic-henry-darger-comics/Content?oid=27428790