Progressive Fundamentalism

I want to talk more about what I see as The Progressive’s Deal With The Devil, but one thing kept coming to mind. It’s a passage from a book review I wrote a couple years ago:

The desire to purge ideas that are different is not monopolized by religion or the Right. One only has to browse liberal blogs—which contain a large number of self-described atheists—to see a similar sentiment. For many on the Left, the movement they pursue cannot tolerate dissent. Politicians who disagree with them on as little as an issue are ridiculed, reviled and plotted against.

The book was My Holy War by Jonathan Raban, for those interested. (I know, shameless self-promotion. But mostly to call people’s attention to Black Ink Review, a pretty cool outfit I had the privilege of working with at their outset.)

One question I have is: has the dangerous fundamentalist mentality driven us to such sharp progressive divisions we have today after so recently being unified? I have more to say about this, but I’m interested in other people’s thoughts. Am I being too dramatic? I have lost more friendships among Obama supporters than Bush supporters for my support of Hillary Clinton. I may be called a glossy eyed, tax and spend liberal by my conservative friends, but I have never been called a racist by any of them. I personally don’t feel uncomfortable around Bush supporters, but I do feel uncomfortable around Obama supporters. Both sides are likely to blame. What do you think?

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18 Responses to Progressive Fundamentalism

  1. Janis says:

    I know that when two people who have done so much to heal the racial wounds in this country and callously and transparently thrown under the bus when it becomes convenient, it makes me think why the hell should I even bother to try to understand what’s behind all of it? Why put out the effort, when the unforgiveable stain of my white face means none of it will matter? Why try, when Alive Walker tells me I can never be innocent of my whiteness, as she put it? Why even try when the walls are so high and so impenetrable that getting over them seems impossible? It also means that the r-bomb lobeed at someone of “racism” now means absolutely nothing if two such staunch supporters of racial understanding can be splattered with it.

    And there is a big part of me that can’t see this as a simple instance of racial pride. The fact — the incontrovertable fact — remains that Obama is grotesquely underqualified compared to Clinton. This is not Hillary Clinton against Colin Powell, where you really can just go on nothing but policy and the nuance of opinions — this is one candidate with a vast and enormous track record up against a paper-thin lightweight.

    That brings to mind the absolutely undeniable truth that he is only being supported by black people because he is black and for absolutely no other reason. And that the whole “we’re powerless so we can be forgiven for it” excuse doesn’t have as much currency with that. Powerless? Your candidate is running a very tight race — considerably better than he should be based on nothing but his curiously wanting resume — based purely on his color, for the position of the most poweful human being in the world. Tell me again how your racism doesn’t count because you can’t put institutional muscle behind it. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on. 🙁

    The old saying that it’s just about qualifications is garbage. There have been and are many, many black politicians or both genders who are vastly more qualified than this one. It seems to me and a lot of us “racist” Clinton supporters that there is no possible reason to pick such a woefully underprepared candidate as Obama unless you are doing it because he is black. Period.

    And it also seems blatantly obviosu to me that the i>only reason his candidacy even exists at this point in time instead of where it belongs, four or eight years in the future, is because of the equally blatant sexism that informed him and the kingmakers behind him that his chances were better this time because he was only up against some old lady. The very existence of his campaign is due to sexism, no matter how unapologetically and dreadfully white Hillary is. The very reason for being of his candidacy is sexism — seeing the girl as the easy target to shove aside, that he could go up against a mere girl with a resume as crappy and incredibly wanting as it is, and still win because, well … everyone knows that some old lady’d be an easy target.

    And that his young, white male supporters can let their rampaging, vicious sexism out for a romp while still maintaining their progressive cred because their candidate is black, so of course they’re still liberal, so shove over, you dried-up old whore.

    Once again, black men and white women are being used as bludgeons by rich white men (and the occasional woman). White men have used their suppoed “concern” for white women’s sexual purity as a weapon with which to lynch black men and stick them in jail — while being perfectly happy to defile said purity themselves with rape and abuse.

    Now, they are using a black man as a weapon against us. Then, we’ll be told to wait our trn behind the first Asian male president, the first Hispanic male president, the first gay male president, until they’re run down the entire list, and in about 800 years, it’ll be our “turn.”

    And of course, black women are dropped into whatever category lets them get crapped on the most, black OR female depending on what the desired outcome is, whichever will set them down on the “not elevated at this time wait your turn” side of the fence.

    And I post this coment with imense trepidation because no matter what I say, somewhere I will be denigrated as either disgusting racist for it or greeted with that “more in sorrow than in anger” attitude of “look at the poor white woman trying to wrestle with something that her white skin prevents her from understanding.”

    And if my white skin permanently bars me from understanding, my question again becomes: why am I even trying?

  2. KB says:

    Gilbert — Have you seen Raban’s article in the London Review of Books declaring his support for Obama? I’d be interested to know what you think. He makes arguments about Obama’s listening ability and ability to think “outside the box” about issues (though he doesn’t use that hackneyed phrase.) But he provides no details at all about when/how he’s witnessed this. I’d be open to considering that true if some details were shown — I’d think an essayist/journalist would understand the need to back up assertion with proof via detail. I AM a Hillary supporter, suspicious of Obama’s lack of experience, but willing to listen to the idea that he may provide new methods, new insights, new leadership. But that can’t simply can’t be asserted — I’d like to SEE it.

    I was also disturbed by his explaining that Obama provides white people the chance to feel what it’s like to be a member of the congregation at an African American church — the unity, the purpose, the fervor, the community. Because of course appeals to unity, purpose, fervor and community can cut in both directions. He labels Obama an empiricist and Clinton the rationalist — and for this reason supports Obama.

    For the life of me, I don’t know what’s progressive about being anti-rationalism.

    And by the way, I was also disturbed me about the article were his words attacking Hillary’s experience, specifically referencing TravelGate and actually bringing that up as a cause of Vince Foster’s suicide. I have to question the liberal and/or Democratic credentials of anyone who would use the words “Vince Foster” in a sentence attacking either of the Clintons.

  3. Janis says:

    The “fervor” and “communication?” Any cult can provide that. What are they communicating is what I want to know? Anything of value? Or just exhortations to sit back and nurse grudges because your entire life is someone else’s fault? I know, preaching to the choir.

    You know one thing that has done for me, though — running up against this with a visceral disgust, and stepping back and seeing Walker’s essay for what it was — a bitter grudge dressed up in flowery language — has made me think about cleaning my own house.

    I went into physics as a young woman, and I was fucking good at it. But if anyone out there wondesr about the vicious, bone-deep hatred and contempt for women in hard science, especially graduate hard science, wonder no more. Go read Absinthe’s blog, and I can tell oyu however bad she says it is, it’s worse in my experience. The entire discipline at the graduate level is filled to the brim with precisely the kind of hateful, straight-A privileged white boys in their 20s as infest DKos nowdays. And I spent most of my youth drowning on them — shoved aside, badmouthed, turned into a goddamned joke even as I passed my qualifiers with flying colors, told by one of my professors who took the time to inform me, that I had finished extremely well in quantum mechanics.

    Well, spending years in that acid fog made it very easy for me to hate men. I’ll admit openly that I never got over that, at such a formative time in my youth — being surrounded by hateful, misogynist young white male assholes. It was like living in DKos land. Most of the professors were somewhere between apathetic and made plainly nervous by my presence.

    And if I can be justifiably angry with Walker’s conclusion that her shitty childhood can be used to excuse her anomisity toward a white woman’s face for no other reason than that it’s white, then I’ve got some mental housecleaning to do as well. I guess we can see how hard Walker tried to clean her own house. for all the flowerly new-age fluffy prose she dresses it up in, that’s what it is. Grudge holding.

    Well, if she can’t do it, then neither can I.

  4. Janis says:

    You know, the nature of “progressive fundamentalism” as you’ve defined it calls to mind something that I’ve been mulling about part of the “progressive” arena: feminism. If nothing else, this whole primary has illustrated to me in glaring technicolor that the word is almost useless as an indicator of anything.

    Anyhow, one of the things that became quite clear after a while was that any disagreement or criticism would be met with shrieks of HOW DARE YOU QUESTION MY FEMINIST CREDENTIALS! followed by crocodile tears over how terribly, terribly divisive it was to say that someone is not a good feminist because they think x, y, or z. As if the worst thing in the world is to button someone down on what they do or say or believe. The attitude seemed to be that any criticism was a personal attack on someone’s self-identification as a feminist, and therefore evil, wrong, and bad.

    It reminded me of the ways that some other fundamentalists respond to statements that they arebeing unfair or unethical or what have you. “How DARE you call me unethical! I’m a Christian!” followed by a long-winded diatribe about how terrible it was that “some people” felt qualified to rip that self-chosen label off of someone. Thought police and “more in sorrow than in anger” statements often followed.

    In both cases, there seemed to be a belief that once you slap the label on yourself, once you’ve had your “conversion” in the Christian case or “ah-ha moment” in the feminist case, the label is bestowed upon you from above, and your every thought and action is above criticism from then on.

    I get a lot of spam e-mail, like the rest of the planet, and one of them that always makes me laugh is the one that promises “christian debt relief.” As opposed to what? WTF does Christianity have to do with that? And feminists pull the same useless nonsense — because they are feminists, their lipstick or whatever’s under discussion at the moment is automatically feminist as well. They buy special feminist cosmetics, just as Christians need special Christian debt relief. Anything and everything they do is immediately elevated and above reproach because they have slapped that label on themselves.

    And if you question that, or if you say, “Yes, you can call yourself whatever you like, but let’s examine your thinking or behavior,” you are calling their Christianity or feminism into question. Everything about the fundamentalist self-identification is brittle as glass; the slightest touch or jostle, and it shatters into pieces. They seem to know it, which is why both sides get so hysterical about defending it.

  5. Gilbert Martinez says:

    KB, haven’t read Raban’s endorsement of Obama, I’ll try to get to it soon. One thing I have noticed in listening to most of Obama’s big endorsements is that they almost always lack objective substance. It’s almost always grandiose comments about how wonderful he is and how he will heal all of our wounds. This is part of the issue with fundamentalism, I think: completely blind faith in an idea to the point where tolerance of others is lost. This intolerance seems to lead to people crossing boundaries they normally wouldn’t (justifying the disenfranchisement of voters in the name of “rules”, for instance.)

    I have no problem with religion or supporting Obama. But I think there is a level that has been crossed. I saw similar things in 2004, but nowhere near what I’m seeing today. Maybe it’s because I’m relatively new to politics (G.W.B. got me started in 2000, when I was 21.)

  6. coldH2Owi says:

    Wow. This has been, unfortunately, more of an education than I wanted today. & of course, no one is supporting Sen. Clinton just because she is a woman? Nobody believes that it’s “her turn.” Obama, well, he is just not “grotesque”. Interesting word choice, Janis. Obama is a black man in America who has seized a moment. A lot of people are excited about that, a lot of people are not excited. I doubt there are very many grotesque folks in either group. Then again, I’m just a DFH who has no right to analyze the current political scene.

  7. Janis says:

    cold, Obama is a black man in America who has had a moment handed to him on a silver platter by the party bigwigs, probably around 2005.

    And what’s the “moment” he seizes but exactly what I said it is? “Since I’ll be running up against some dried-up old bitch, it’ll be a cakewalk!”

    And pray tell — WHY is my word choice of “grotesque” interesting? Just sling that r-bomb at me, child. Go ahead.

  8. coldH2Owi says:

    Janis:
    All of us children just aren’t as angry as you are. Did I call Sen. Clinton a “dried up old bitch”? Please point that out to me, will you? & where did Sen. Obama use the same language? It appears the “bigwigs” of the Democratic Party aren’t particularly big, since we still have two candidates running for the nomination. Words matter, kid, & ‘grotesque” carries a lot of baggage, whether you like it or not. I would also like you to point out where I called, or even referred to you, as a racist. Show me, please, since, as a child, I need guidance & education.

  9. Janis says:

    How does “grotesque” carry baggage, kid? Kindly explain to me where the baggage located in a word meant to describe medieval grotto statues lies.

    You are beyond help.

  10. coldH2Owi and Janis

    PLEASE KEEP THE TONE CIVIL. BOTH OF YOU!

  11. coldH2Owi says:

    Ms. Leavey:
    Please point out to me where I have been “uncivil” to Janis? It would help me understand the rules.

  12. coldH2Owi

    It’s a friendly reminder to both of you. For some reason you two get going and the tone starts getting heated. The Dem Daily tries hard to keep the conversation above the fray and the bickering prevelent on other blogs. Thanks! 🙂

  13. coldH2Owi says:

    OK. Back to the fundamentalism talk. I guess I would ask Mr. Martinez if he has examined why he feels uncomfortable around Sen. Obama’s supporters, but not the Bush supporters? Is it that Sen. Obama is not a “glassy-eyed, tax & spend liberal”? Or, is it some other reason? I’m not uncomfortable around Bush supporters, I’m pissed off. I wonder about their ability to do any sort of thinking. & then there is the whole notion of progressivism. Coming from a state that defined it with Fighting Bob LaFollette, I wonder how progressive it is to vote to confirm Condi Rice (Obama, among others), vote to let Bush start a vanity war, send many folks out of the “welfare” system who have no tools, to constantly bend over for Bush. This may be more to the question – what is a Progressive? Is it a DLC person like Harold Ford? Is it a liberal like Sen. Shumer who gave the new version of Abu Al Gonzales? That’s the question. Full disclosure: I will also note that we gave the world McCarthy & Gein & Dahmer. Oh, & the Dairy Princess who strangled her competition.

  14. I know I have much to learn. What’s “a DFW”? I’ve seen it twice recently. (I know when I was flying alot it was Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport, but that doesn’t seem right.)

  15. wasabi says:

    Are you sure you don’t mean, what is DFH instead of DFW?

    DFH: Dirty F’king Hippie
    DFW: An airport?

  16. Mawm says:

    Being called a racist because I support Hillary was the exact poison I needed not to vote for Obama should he be the nominee.

  17. Avedon says:

    I’m one of those people who never liked Hillary, but even I want to pound Obama and all his supporters after watching the nasty crap they’ve been pulling in this campaign. All he had to do was wait a few years.

    Maybe a lot of it is Axelrod’s fault, but an entire campaign that seems to rest on the idea that Obama’s opposition are just racist old bags, that’s some pretty heavy fingernails-on-the-chalkboard stuff.

    I have a feeling that, 15 years from now, those young women who are rhapsodizing over Obama now will get it, too late.

  18. Avedon

    Thanks for chiming in here. I couldn’t agree more:

    “Maybe a lot of it is Axelrod’s fault, but an entire campaign that seems to rest on the idea that Obama’s opposition are just racist old bags, that’s some pretty heavy fingernails-on-the-chalkboard stuff.”

    It’s pretty sad stuff. The irony for me is that I have never quite fit into the progressive blogosphere (netroots) mode, first as an ardent Kerry supporter and now a Clinton supporter.