My beloved readers, I must confess that I was, just a little, intentionally provoking you with my “Peaceable Assembly” post just to kind of test-run some shit I’d been thinking about before I actually put it on screen. (Does that qualify as a “covert liberal agenda?” I’m not sure.)
Let’s ask ourselves a question. Why the fuck can’t someone–gay or straight–contemplate whether Jesus masturbated? It’s just a penis, boys, not the source of every dirty, shameful, evil thing in the world* and thinking about or talking about the things y’all do with it isn’t necessarily proof that you are a deviant or going to hell or shamefully reinforcing stereotypes about various ‘perversions’. Christ, if sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, sometimes a penis is just a penis**.
No, let’s ask ourselves another question. Why should liberal women learn how to shoot large guns? No, not just as a big ‘fuck you’ to the Democratic party–with its continued consideration of ‘women’s issues’ to be side issues to be dealt with only as an afterthought–, though that’s a good reason.
Okay, fine, let’s ask ourselves a third question. How closely linked is your every day understanding of what a good person is with that person’s willingness to refuse to act? Let’s go back to the neo-Nazi discussion and consider the way that Sarcastro links freedom, peace, and safety.
Kleinheider says “just because someone does something meant to instill fear and intimidation doesn’t give you a right to attack them nor do they forfit their right to protection by doing so.” Peg, I think, comes at this from another angle, saying “I remember wondering at the time why they just didn’t let the assholes do it, and why their strategy wasn’t just to have everybody stay home and let them do their march on a deserted street.”
And it seems to me that what A.C. and Peg are both trying to get at is that there are cases in which non-action is the best response, that it diffuses an activity of its power. If no one shows up to oppose them, can the neo-Nazis be said to be having an effective protest? One side being willing to keep the peace insures the safety (and maybe by extension, the freedom) of both sides.
Still, I think one of the reasons that the neo-Nazis make such an interesting illustration is that they intentionally invoke history. They, themselves, have little or no power, but they mean to refer back to a very powerful regime.
And in that context, asking people to do nothing in the face of them also has historical resonance.
I’m not saying that throwing rocks or rioting or robbing bars is an appropriate response. I’m not sure I know what an appropriate response is. I’m just saying that when you ask groups who have been, historically, unable to effectively respond to deadly violence against them, to refrain from responding when they can against the echoes of that violence, you have to see how the finer points of non-action as appropriate response versus non-action as an inability to respond might be lost.
Which brings me back to Sarcastro’s trinity of societal values***: freedom, peace, and safety.
Do they really sit together so easily?
I actually think that they don’t. At least not often. Peace and safety definitely go together in interesting ways. But what goes better with freedom than audacity? How else is freedom achieved than through audacious behavior?
No one with any power in America is sitting around handing it out willingly to people who don’t have it. No, instead, racial minorities, women, and gays have been told to just sit tight and leave it to the straight white men to take care of things. Don’t worry, as John Adams said, “We have only the name of masters.”**** Keep the peace, in other words.
But it’s only outrageous and audacious behavior that gets anything done. It’s only because we had the audacity to demand the vote that we got it. Our freedom depends on audacious behavior. Being free practically demands a “bold departure from the conventional form” as the OED puts it. There’s no other way to be free.
You have to upset the peace and you have to put yourself in harm’s way if you want to be free.
You have to have the audacity to upset things.
[Shoot, this deserves a better conclusion, but I'm out of lunch time...]
*And the fact that your host, a self-avowed feminist, has to remind you of this… Well, it just shows you how weird the world is.
** Though the fact that there’s such heated discussion on a site called “Hard Right” has not been lost on me.
*** Yes, I’m well aware that he linked those together on the fly and I’m now holding them together as if he was taking some well-thought-out position instead of just making a comment, but that’s just how things are.
****And only the vote and laws written in his favor… but still, reading the correspondence between him and Abigail, you can’t help but be charmed.