Thinking Movement Mobilization With Brother Jed

Last week, my campus got a visit from Campus Ministries’ own Brother Jed, an elderly traveling preacher who enjoys telling college students that they’re going to hell. He and a couple of his lackeys come our way every spring to spread the Good News in the most inflammatory, sexist, and homophobic way possible. They set up with signs saying things like “You Deserve Hell,” and they deliver fire-and-brimstone sermons, replete with dubious anecdotes about their own personal salvations. Brother Jed in particular likes to recount his days as a drug-abusing tomcat who lived on “a hippie commune,” before he got saved in his early thirties. His story is proof, he maintains, that Jesus can save even the most recalcitrant of sinners. He insists that he’s converted thousands through his missionary work. Continue reading

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Homophobic Counterframing and Liberal Assimilation

The mainstream LGBT movement in the United States has historically advanced modest, legal demands (e.g. anti-discrimination laws, same-sex marriage, inclusion in the military) under a “civil rights” frame. LGBT people are citizens of this country too, the argument goes, and they therefore deserve to be included in all the same institutions as straight and cis people. Any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is a Fourteenth Amendment violation. This civil rights frame has been pretty effective in achieving basic legal concessions. Recognizing this, the homophobic right has responded by adopting a similar civil rights frame to justify the continued institutionalization of their bigotry. Discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender identity isn’t a Fourteenth Amendment violation, but a First Amendment right. The nightmarish Religious Freedom Act recently passed in Indiana provides an excellent example. When a fundamentalist shop owner refuses service to the Lavender Menace, she is simply exercising her right to religious expression, and no one can say boo. Continue reading

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Revisiting Charlie Hebdo: “Afflicting the Afflicted” and “Petty Bourgeois Identity Politics”

The aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks was a good time to watch the left devour itself. Some radicals, myself included, pointed out the magazine’s long history of Islamophobic and antisemitic caricatures, and suggested that, though the attack was tragic and indefensible, lionizing an Orientalist magazine was probably a poor choice. Many other radicals––most of them older, white, European Marxists––responded very harshly to the charges of racism levied at Charlie Hebdo. They accused the magazine’s critics of taking certain cartoons out of context (a fair criticism), of not understanding French politics (also a fair criticism), and of indulging “petty bourgeois identity politics” (a less fair criticism). Continue reading

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Is Raising the Minimum Wage Worth the Effort?

This April, Seattle will begin phasing in a $15/hour minimum wage. The measure requires “Schedule 1 employers” (firms with more than 500 employees) to begin paying a minimum hourly wage of $15 by 2017, and “Schedule 2 employers” (firms with fewer than 500 employees) to begin paying a minimum hourly wage of $15 by 2021. Perhaps most remarkably, the measure actually ties the new minimum wage to inflation, thereby avoiding the most common and most fatal failure of typical minimum wage legislation. Still, the measure is only a partial victory. The Seattle minimum wage was, after all, fought for in large part by a group called “15 Now.” One can imagine the disappointment activists must have felt when “15 Now” became “15 Next Decade.” Considering Seattle’s perpetually skyrocketing cost of living, it’s a shame that the higher minimum wage should only go into effect after its purchasing power has had time to fall significantly. Continue reading

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Why Customers Are Assholes: An Ideological Explanation

Anyone who works or has worked in the service industry is aware that customers are assholes. If you make the slightest mistake with a customer’s order, they will pounce on you. Even a perceived slip-up on the part of a service industry worker can earn said worker anything from a stern lecture to a blustering, histrionic temper tantrum. The pressing question is why. Why should a customer be so upset that you accidentally gave them a cappuccino instead of a latte, that you put too much ice in their soda, or that you put avocado on their sandwich even though they said no goddamn avocado? The customer’s impotent rage must come from somewhere, and it’s far too ubiquitous a phenomenon to be explained by way of each customer’s psychological idiosyncrasies. Continue reading

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A Quick Word on Charlie Hebdo and Martyrdom

I like cartoons. I pored over the comics page as a kid, and I pore over webcomics now. I spent much of my youth drawing poor imitations of Calvin and Hobbes, and much of my adolescence animating poor imitations of South Park. I can state unironically that cartoons are deeply important to me, and so naturally, the Charlie Hebdo shooting hit me hard. My immediate reaction was one of horror––horror over the rashness and brutality of the action, and horror over the idea that anyone could be killed for drawing a cartoon. Any mass execution of this type is utterly dismaying regardless of who the victims are, but when the victims are people I might conceivably identify with, the horror can only be magnified. Continue reading

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“Can’t Shake the Devil’s Hand:” Arguing With Bigots on the Internet

Over the years, I’ve changed some of my personal policies regarding online political arguments. One of the first conscious decisions I made was that I would no longer use personal anecdotes as evidence. They never changed anyone’s mind, and they only made me vulnerable. Another decision was that I would no longer initiate arguments over trivial and mostly harmless posts. I do have to pick my battles, after all. Lately, I’ve come to a much broader conclusion. There are certain ideas, and indeed certain people, with whom it is not worth engaging at all. There are certain fundamental beliefs that I hold as sacrosanct and incontestable, and if someone contests these ideas, I simply will not engage with them. This may sound stubborn and closed-minded, but these beliefs that I hold as sacrosanct are all pretty basic things like “racism is bad” and “trans people deserve rights.” Continue reading

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