PC, LGBT, 8-tracks, malls and dystopia

7.21.08 Blitt Obama.inddUthaclena, who I know in terrestrial life, asks:

Okay: at what point does Political Correctness become absurd? Do public facilities need to be sanitized of all things religious to insure separation of church and state? On Halloween can you only wear costumes of your own race/ethnicity/religion?

Okay. Here’s the thing; I don’t know what different people’s boiling points are, because I’m not them. For instance, it is the groups of Native Americans who have complained about the name of the Washington Redskins NFL team that makes me believe in the rightness of the complaint.

Dan Van Riper noted: “As Back in the 1990s Dan Clowes predicted the rise of this cultural phenomenon in David Boring (one of the last Eightballs.) If you complain about this kind of racist reference, then ‘you just don’t get it.’ Is it a way of depowering racism by appropriating it for entertainment, or is it providing a new kind of refuge for racist tendencies?” Or it’s framed as “you just don’t have a sense of humor,” and I do, but it’s STILL not funny.

See, e.g., this article about the Minneapolis area theater scene that Dan sent me, which I subsequently saw in BoingBoing. Referring to a purported talk-back session, in which a Native American woman protester was supposedly given an opportunity to speak, but she wasn’t:

“That’s the thing about privilege. It shows itself in many ways. This time, it just happened to pop up as a group of authoritative white people publicly tag-teaming a lone woman of color, and being so oblivious to the prevailing power dynamic that it never occurred to them that this was a problem, or that the reporter in the room might notice.”

And to that end, I thought this was rather entertaining: ‘Columbusing’: When White People Think They Discovered Something They Didn’t.

However, I DID think this July 2008 New Yorker cover was funny, because, I thought, it was making a commentary about how the Obamas were perceived, not as they actually were.

We don’t need to remove the Ten Commandments from the Supreme Court building. But I think those public, mostly Christian, prayers recently allowed by the Supreme Court suggests the establishment of religion. That’s not about being PC; that’s about following the Constitution.

I don’t believe white people should wear blackface for Halloween. But that doesn’t mean that blackface should NEVER happen, in an educational setting explaining why it’s so offensive to some people.

Occasionally, I see these stories about a teacher going “too far” in an educational demonstration showing racism or Antisemitism, e.g. About 2/3 of the time, I think the teachers have it right, and about 1/3 of the time, the proper context is not related, and it becomes a humiliation to those participating.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomburg’s attacks on large sodas annoyed me. But is that a PC argument or a nanny state argument?

I think the elimination of Halloween, in favor of a “fall festival”, is a bit silly, yet I’m good with celebrating “the holidays,” because there several of them (Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa). Still, “Merry Christmas” is pretty innocuous, to me, because Christmas in America is not a particularly Christian holiday.

Did I ever tell you that I wished someone visiting my current church on Christmas Eve “Merry Christmas, and he said, “I don’t celebrate Christmas”? I stifled a laugh.

I’m in the Potter Stewart school; I know the PC line when I see it.

Arthur the AmeriNZ notes:

Yes, I did steal borrow the idea from you, but I do it far less regularly. Here’s a query for you: Tell us about the first time you realised that someone you knew was LGBT, like, how you came to realise that, consequences, that sort of thing. I’m thinking about someone you actually knew, though it could be someone in pop culture or whatever.

Well, the first person I knew to be gay was my late friend Vito Mastrogiovanni, who my sister had a crush on in high school. He was out to his friends, but not everyone at the time, I believe. Frankly, it wasn’t a big deal, and there were no “consequences.” He and I were part of that oddball intellectual, politically aware clique that opposed the Vietnam war, fought racism and the like.

Now that you ask it, maybe I SHOULD have been more reactive, but I just wasn’t.

Now my freshman year in college, the guy next door was hostile, and as I’ve noted, he was possibly being preemptively nasty before I could be nasty to him; I thought it was sad.

But I knew a lot more lesbians, starting at that same time frame. Alice was the roommate of my future wife, the Okie. She fought the war with me, hitchhiked with me. Not sure what consequences I really discovered except this: with straight people, I generally preferred the company of women. With gay people, I generally preferred the company of women. This was informative because I realized that I wasn’t friends with them just so I could hit on them. Did I ever mention I went skinny-dipping with six lesbians back in the late 1970s?

In fact, most of the gay people I knew were women until I got to my current church in this century, which, I believe, has more openly gay men than lesbians, though I haven’t done a formal count.

Amy, with her Sharp Little Pencil, wants to know:

Why did cassette tapes overtake the 8-track market?

Because the eight-track was a stupid technology. I remember exactly when I realized this. I was in a car listening to someone’s Beatles Again/Hey Jude 8-track. The song Rain came on, and IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SONG, it did that weird grinding noise in the middle of it. I should note that Rain is a three-minute song.

I NEVER owned an eight-track machine.

Jaquandor over at Byzantium Shores, wonders:

1. Are there any topics that you’re surprised don’t come up more often during your Ask Me Anything’s?

Yes. Some REALLY embarrassing stuff. But if no one’s gonna bring it up, why should I?

2. I’ve heard your hometown of Binghamton described rather unfavorably at times. Do you LIKE Binghamton, or has it gone downhill?

I like Binghamton, and yes, it’s gone downhill. It had 75,000 in 1960, about 47,000 now. They built Route 17 so one can get through there more quickly. Like a lot of Rust Belt cities, it’s struggling economically; I always want it to do well.

3. I read an article the other day about the death of the shopping mall in America. Did you ever like malls, and if so, do you mourn their passing at all?

There was a place in Binghamton that had what we’d now consider a large strip mall when I was growing up. Had one anchor store, and I liked it well enough.

But, no I would not mourn their passing. I think attention to the malls have starved the downtown areas, which need to grow for a city, and its surroundings, to be socially and economically healthy. Moreover, malls are private property, so their presence had dampened the public square.

For the most part, the stores in a mall are the same, so the homogenization suffocates local personality and culture. If you were beamed down from the USS Enterprise into most malls, you’d be hard pressed to know where you were geographically.

4. I’ve expressed dismay on my own blog and elsewhere about the dominant tropes in popular culture today being dystopian settings and a HUGE focus on anti-heroes — what I call “Awful People At Work And Play”. What are your thoughts on the tone of popular culture right now?

Not only am I uncomfortable with dystopian culture, I’m bored with it. Bored with the word “dystopian.”

Initially, I thought I was just getting older, but I now realize that these antiheroes just don’t interest me, don’t inspire me, but, rather, irritate me. I don’t need to identify with schmucks. I think a lot of people do, and they end up going online, emulating their schmuck heroes’ behavior. Yes, I’m pretty tuned out of most of it.

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