Category: 2021

Mormons, homophobia, needles and Trump: Part One, Meet the Mormons

I’m going to try and draw a comparison which might seem stretched to some, but go with me on this weird little journey and let’s see if I can convince you about my grand theory.

Let’s lay some groundwork. This piece comes with some homework but if you’re at all interested in politics, piety, echo chambers, LGBT rights and community wellbeing, the role of education, the pandemic, and why leadership matters… let’s just say there’s bound to be something for everyone in this, even if I use a couple fairly niche case studies to make my argument.

Any reader who has been around for more than a hot minute knows that I was raised Mormon and while I’m no longer practicing and often highly critical of the organization and community, it’s still MY people in there. I still have emotional investment in the health and happiness of way too many people still in the faith to simply not care about what the community does as a collective. I often include Mormon community updates in links roundups and (occasionally) their own posts when I had strong enough feelings on a given topic.

Well, buckle up.

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (which I don’t actually recommend unless you have a high tolerance for memes and hyperbole) you might have seen my reaction to some news in Mormon world this week. Here’s what has been living rent-free in my head for two days straight: “Apostle Jeffrey Holland to BYU: Stop aiming ‘friendly fire’ at LDS teachings.” [text of the speech available here]

And of course, the Mormon and Mormon-adjacent internet spaces LIT UP with reaction. I include myself in that tally. While you may scoff or sneer at the use of social media as some sort of echo chamber (and we will get to echo chambers, just you sit tight!), there’s a reason why it is useful to see how specific incidents and statements are landing in real time to different audiences. I saw a wide range of reactions from rage to visceral pain to hopelessness, and I expressed my own disappointment. But also my bafflement.

Because my professional work and personal interests lie very much in the realm of audience-targeting and practical or cultural creation of those audiences – and let’s be blunt, a specific political edge – a few things struck me all at once.

First, some priors

The Mormon faith is small – it claims about 15m members worldwide according to their own public reporting and regularly advise on their numbers. Growth is important to the church, hence its active and well known missionary force. Demographic analysis done by public researchers (like the Cumorah Project, an ongoing research project by active, faithful members compiling organizational updates as they become available) academic researchers, and journalists do a good job at showing rates of growth and change.

There is a key element of activity within the faith that’s worth highlighting. There might be 15ish million people on the rolls, but the rates of participation in the faith (defined by the church itself through specific activities) is much lower than that. A decent estimate would be about 20% of members are regular worshipers, tithe payers, and so on. An even smaller number are “endowed,” which means participate in regular worship in LDS temples, access to which is tightly controlled.

Put a pin in all of these.

The other thing you need to know is that Brigham Young University (BYU) has been something of the flagship institution of the church in the 20th century. It invests heavily in its funding to make it affordable to students, can boast a library collection worthy of academic envy, and has taken great pains to achieve respect for its research, its law and business schools, and its performing arts.

It is famous/infamous for its Honor Code which in addition to academic expectation also enforces personal activities and behavior to conform with the moral standards of the church. No smoking, drinking, drugs, or sexual activity of any kind outside of heterosexual marriage. Modest dress standards for women and specific grooming standards for men. Notwithstanding its magnificently bearded namesake, whiskers for men were prohibited as a counter-counter-culture measure in the mid-20th century and remain to this day. Yeah, it’s strict.

Alongside the usual courses, students are expected to take religious studies classes which, in terms of course credit, amount to Minor degree’s worth of hours and work. These include classes on Mormon history and scripture, as might be expected, but also the King James Bible and religious literature. At least when I was there, the professors of various religious traditions were highly respected and their classes sought after, and interfaith dialog was active. For instance, due to the lifestyle elements compatible with their own, we had a decent minority of Muslim students as well as other faiths.

And then of course, that necessary thing, college sports! BYU fields 21 teams in NCAA varsity sports, often progresses well in championships, and even boasts a national football championship which looms large in the college lore.

What I’m saying is, the church has poured money and time for over a century to build a religious academic institution that can command respect across a number of fields.

Which is why I found this speech as bonkers as I did.

The Lord’s University”

First of all, this speech was delivered alongside an announcement of the creation of the BYU Office of Belonging (or…BOOB…this could have been thought through better), with a specific mission of combatting prejudice at the university. The juxtaposition is whiplash inducing.

Now, I was not shocked to see an apostle of a church which has spent the last thirty years defining itself in the public eye through primarily gender and sexuality based positions and teachings say something I consider pretty bigoted and homophobic. Dressing it up in the language of love doesn’t make it less morally repugnant, but it’s frankly right in line with the church’s long established stances. Some of its greatest hits include:

  • Objecting to and mobilizing against the ERA, in “defense” of women
  • Opposing LGBT rights generally and mobilizing against gay marriage specifically; Prop 8 and its fallout casts a long shadow
  • Published proclamations supporting “divinely designed” gender roles and functions that – in my opinion – go far beyond anything to be found in the foundational scriptures or teachings of the faith but instead reflect the cultural expectations and norms of the leadership and cultural panics of the time. Said leader is, of course, revered as a prophet with a direct line to the infinite
  • The infamous period of racist doctrine and practice which excluded Black members from full participation in the faith and men from ordination – which while it has been withdrawn, has never been apologized for, denounced, or refuted. Because to do that would expose the leadership who imposed and maintained these doctrines and actions to accusations of being, shall we say, less than prophetic. Which is kind of awkward given the point above
  • Half-hearted attempts at “loving outreach” to the LGBT community including the now defunct “Mormon and Gays” platform which attempted to express the doctrines of the church in a way that made them sound less exclusionary than they are. The fact that these efforts have all be shuttered quietly in recent years is important.

But I WAS shocked to hear this man state it was the duty of the faculty and staff of the university to uphold the doctrines of the church, AND that the institution was prepared to lose “professional association and certifications” if necessary to do so. In other words, that the true role of this ostensibly academic institution is not, in fact, academics or education for academia or a profession, but the enforcement of religious orthodoxy.

Anyone who can’t see the potential risk to the value of a diploma, the attractiveness of grad school candidates, or even workforce implications is fooling themselves or willfully blind. It also seems to me to be fundamentally at odds with the sheer amount of money and work that has gone into building the university’s reputation far outside its own religious community.

When is a cigar just a cigar and when is it an existential call to arms?

There was much chatter about the use of the phrase “musket fire” in the speech. There’s a distinctly American tone to this, which deliberately harkens back to the American Revolution and is a well-used metaphor.

But unless you’ve been living under a rock, a lot of American symbols, metaphors and rhetorical devices have taken on some additional layers of meaning in recent years. Think of the flag being co-opted in the culture wars, from Trump physically embracing it and specifically attempting to flip the discourse about anti-police-brutality protests as “disrespecting flag and/or troops, to the “thin blue line” redesign of police officers and their political supporters. On the other side we have flag burning or rejection by activist groups who claim it doesn’t represent them or other left-wing manipulations.

As the meme goes, “WORDS MEAN THINGS.” So of course do symbols and metaphors. Memes are the language of our world in many ways and serve the useful function of being a way to convey large and even multiple concepts in visual shorthand. They are collectively created, shared, agreed upon, and layered with meaning to the point that large groups of people can see a visual cue and all draw roughly the same conclusion from it: the same punchline to an unspoken joke, a shared experience, or a shared fandom.

Or all of the above.

It’s time to introduce a subculture within a subculture: DezNat. Like so much in our times, this is an online community hoping (and in some cases) acting to bring about their preferred utopia. And they are radical in their beliefs. Not everyone ticks every box, of course,

Some of the symbols or language they have created or co-opted include the Bowie knife (a combined reference to historical figure Porter Rockwell and to the concept preached by Brigham Young of blood atonement – which I’m not even going to attempt to unpack! Just read the links)…and guns, including muskets.

Remember, layers. Musket metaphors are a meme that combines specific interpretations of patriotism, equally specific interpretations of resistance, and yet further equally specific interpretations of rights and values. Free speech, religion, etc.. In this context you also have to appreciate that Mormonism is a millennialist faith – it’s in the name: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They believe that the US is a divinely chosen land that enjoys specific freedoms which enabled its revelations to come forth and enjoy certain legal and cultural protections in the “last days” before the judgements of God are poured out on the earth.

The militancy referred to in religious speech is often best understood as symbolic; but not exclusively. This is just as true in Mormonism as it is in Christianity, Islam and other sects. And just like other sects there is almost always a minority who see the holy war in real and stark terms and are prepared to posture…or act…accordingly.

So, who was this speech for?

Setting aside the highly relevant subject of coded language, let’s look once more at the explicit text.

In his speech, Holland cites and quotes a letter that bemoans the apparent secularization the writer perceives happening at the university.

“You should know,” the writer says, “that some people in the extended community are feeling abandoned and betrayed by BYU…”

Who, I can’t help but wonder, are these people who feel that BYU is not religious or orthodox ENOUGH? I’ve already gone into some detail about the behavioral standards and education elements, and plenty more writers who are far more eloquent than me can share even more about the curriculum and culture to make thee point, but let me just state unequivocally that BYU IS NOT A SECULAR ENVIRONMENT. Many classes begin with prayer, a religious and even pro-American-quasi-religious ethos is centered in its coursework (including a required course called American Heritage) to say nothing in the faith itself. Religious observance is required, and even hints of unorthdoxy can get you punished or expelled. Believe me, I know; even if that’s a story for another time.

I’m not saying this speech was for DezNat exactly, though the inclusion of the metaphors and language is already doing the work of making plenty of that community sure think it is. You see what you want to see, and plenty of extremists want to see their leaders endorsing, winking at, or even explicitly embracing what they already believe to be true.

But I absolutely do believe that Holland should know enough about his own flock to anticipate how this rhetoric will be taken and used. Not for the “soft” bigotry and “gentle” exclusion he outright states he and the institution should practice, and damn the consequences, but by the militant minority. The zealots.

Okay but what the hell does Trump have to do with this?

Good question, kittens, and that’s why there’s going to have to be a Part Two.

Weekend Links

My role throughout the pandemic (at least at work and friend circle) has been to be the croaking Cassandra of doom…and frankly I’m all too often proved right. On Monday we’re supposed to get some sort of sign as to what our summer could look like if we continue to ease out of lockdown, but between variants and the still skyhigh infection rates across the world, I feel like too much hope will be a bad idea.

We’re in an arms race with Mother Nature and the virus’ biological goal is different than ours. It just wants to replicate and spread. But us, we want to LIVE.

One of my brother’s wedding reception is next month and we have no idea if we’re going to be able to go. Jeff hasn’t seen his family in nearly three years. My best friend is getting married this fall. And I feel like I’m losing the ability to visualize the future after a year on restrictions. It’s brain melting.

ANYWAY. Onto the links.

Convince me I’m wrong:

I look forward to the war!

This story is tragic but gripping.

Ditto.

I’M SO EXCITED:

More good Netflix news, thank goodness.

The previous Leader of the Free World…is now…a blogger. I feel like I should retire. (Charlie Warzel has an interesting take.)

The US census reports the lowest birthrates in nearly a century. This seems to have prompting handwringing amongst the elders, the conservatives (and their problematic adjacent ideologies), and demographers alike. Meanwhile, every thirty-something I know chorused in a huge mob, YA THINK? However it’s not as straightforward as it may seem and lots of the downward trends are due to things we should objectively cheer (fewer teen and unplanned pregnancies’ are objectively good). The moral panic won’t dwindle of course.

Seems relevant.

I put on an actual outfit the other day and it was the most surreal set of sensations!

On the flip side…everything is selling to us now and that’s A Bad Thing.

NOT NOW, CHERNOBYL.

Apropos of nothing, Rep. Gaetz has a lot of loud opinions about how anyone on government existence should have mandatory drug testing. Thinking maybe we need to start with our so-called public servants first. Who guards the guardians, and all that? (Seriously, how does this failson still have his job?)

This this, a thousand times this: there is no such thing as a “low skill job.”

I don’t feel at all qualified to inform on the Israeli/Palestinian situation, even though I have a lot of opinions. But I’ll leave the explaniners to Vox.

Does this mean we’ve officially moved from 90s to early 2000s nostalgia? The cicadas and portmanteaued celebrities have risen again. The circle of life.

Weekend Links: Female Rage, Activated

We have a LOT to unpack, kittens.

General mood.

Today I learned

The first giant beauty brand has fallen under the axe of COVID. Or is there more to the story?

Amazon disrupted paid books, and it’s now disrupting the lending medium.

Feminism is a fractured movement. After all, what does a single mother in a favela have in common with a Manhattan socialite? Yet the pandemic—or more accurately, the economic shutdowns imposed to contain it—has affected women and girls around the world in remarkably similar ways.”

Our longest war never had much of a consistent (or legal, to my mind) justification. I remember arguing this point my freshman year of uni in a freshman writing class and I have never wavered in my thoughts on the matter. But it’s beyond clear at this point that so many people are unable to quit it, and unfortunately for us a lot of those people work at the Pentagon.

Gripping mystery.

I found this piece indescribably comforting because my brain has felt so broken for months now. Long COVID, “brain fog,” and other descriptions don’t come close to explaining it, even though both are accurate. My ability to focus is shot to hell right now.

Ouch. Right in the feels!

Nope, but I’m willing to bet the Catholic church gets there before the Mormon one does.

Nicely done, Guam. ‘Bout time.

HOOOOO BOY. Let’s talk about that Oprah + Sussex interview. There is literally no one better at interviewing than Oprah, no one.

A comprehensive take on the wider context.

For two generations, women who marry into the Royal Family have been expected to be thin, fertile—and silent. Meghan embodies all the negative stereotypes Britons have about our distant cousins across the Atlantic: too loud, too brash, too much. It will be beautifully ironic if this American can, by speaking out, change the tone of royal coverage in Britain.”

Much like No 10, the Palace has an undoable PR and comms job most days…but still, it took two days to come up with this hilariously inadequate response?

Couple complain about perceived abuses of media, media figures displays the exact same behavior in question, media figure loses job. IT’S THE WOMAN’S FAULT, SURELY. Full disclosure, I hate Piers Morgan and his particular brand of offensive oppinutainment and provocation. I like to think this sort of approach is on the decline but there are holdouts.

Misogyny is flying fast and thick this week, between the Sussex vitriol, the horrible murder of a woman here in the UK sparking discourse on women’s safety, and Tucker Carlson getting his ass handed to him by the Pentagon after he decided to turn his provocateur gaze on women in the military…and separate to his sustained and targeted attacks on a female journalist. Like Morgan, I can’t wait for this noxious brand of personality media to die.

And finally, our political system is WHOLLY INADEQUATE for this, but far from soundbites, we need actual deep philosophical discussions and substantive challenges on a number of political and policies. For example, what do we actually want out of a justice system? Because whether your ambition is “deter crime” or “rehabilitation” or ” appropriately retribute…” our political and social status quos aren’t necessarily aligned with our stated aims. Anyway, Abby puts it a lot better and more creatively than me:

Year of Intention: February

A spacetime paradox: the shortest month of any year is, in the year of Our Lady Beyoncé 2021, the 13th month or 350-something’th day of March 2020. Trying to mark the passage of time feels like a futile effort these days, but I’m trying to really bring back the accountability and favorites posts as they sort of help fill that void for me.

Wins

Depression made life rough this month and took a toll on my physical health as much as my mental. But physiotherapy is helping to improve my bad knee and hip, this month in spite of myself. Shoutout to Six Physio, their team has been fantastic to work with at every single stage thus far.

Speaking of depression, it’s amazing how much it messes with your head and rationality. It’s been on my To Do list since the start of the year to build my credit history more in the UK as part of the buy-a-house-someday goal, and for no good reason whatsoever, I’ve been putting off things like a credit card application (I’ve used my international/US cards and mostly bank or shop in a cash-based way here in the UK ever since we moved here). Well this month I girded my metaphoric loins and started the process… And of course the inevitable conclusion is that it took me less than 15 minutes to do something that I’ve been failing to do for two months and I’m sure there is a great life lesson in that which I will refuse to learn.

Continued weekly meal prep this month, and layered on a mini goal to do more vegetarian meals. I mean, that just means I exchanged meat for cheese in absurd qualities, but sure, let’s call it healthier.

Continued reading massive amounts of books, including a few classics in and amongst the pure, satisfying trash. I had a very senior director in my company casually drop into conversation when we doing a project catch up that her weekend plans included Wandavision and a “stack of trashy novels” and I have honestly never felt more SEEN in my life.

This was month two of paying off credit cards in full and putting 1,000 into savings. Next month looking at opening some longer term savings or investment accounts.

Fails

It’s self-centered to write, but I’m continuing to struggle with my weight and my intentions in this space. There is a definite dearth of willpower and I don’t know how best to develop it.

Household upkeep generally was another willpower problem are this month. Mustering the energy to finish chores sometimes felt like too much work, which is probably another symptom of depression. But the practical upshot was that unfolded laundry languished on the sofa for days and dishes stayed in the dishwasher longer than they should have. Not ideal, but oh well. There’s a pandemic on. Be kind to yourself, kittens.

Weekend Links

We’re two months into the year, a full sixth. Sigh.

Why yes, let’s talk about Ken Burns’ hair, what a pleasant break from reality!

Goodness, whomever could have seen this coming? What a shock. /s

Someone turn this saga into a movie, right away. Part 1 and Part 2.

Climate change models have been predicting this for literal decades and speaking collectively, we have avoided doing anything meaningful to prevent it. It is now going to be catastrophically costly, but in terms money and human life and capital, to respond to.

At a time when the majority of Americans support gay rights, more than half a decade after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, it’s clear that a growing percentage of the U.S. population identifies as LGBT, Gallup’s researchers said. What’s less clear is why. Is it because of a real shift in sexual orientation and gender identity? Or is it because of a greater willingness among young people to identify as LGBT?Great piece from the WaPo about changing gender and sexual identity, a complicated topic.

What IS non-binary identity, you ask? Here you go.

And while we’re at it, your notions of non-heteronormative identity (specifically trans and non-binary) may have some toxic prejudices lurking in your psyche…which you may not even be aware of! That’s okay, most of us have implicit biases of which we’re not even aware, much less aware of how they got there. If you’re interested in how the most common assumptions about trans identities wended their way through pop culture and possibly into your brain…media critic Lindsey Ellis is here to blow your mind:

Seen some of these blighters in our rubbish bin area and they scare the life out of me.

No heroes, only (temporary) allies.

Excellent nerd lead here, but also a genuinely interesting piece on how the Kardashians have changed beauty and self-image. Whether you want to care or not, they’ve been hugely influential.

EXCUSE ME, they never “left.”

If you’re not watching Wandavision, what’s wrong with you?

Weekend Links – the Cataline Conspiracy, only stupid

Hi kittens, still depressed but getting better slowly.

Also, since I seem to be something of a statistic…are we all hitting a wall, or are we all just coming to grips with a series of crippling failures on top of one another? Strongly starting to suspect it may the latter.

First and foremost: how to help people in Texas right now.

Another crowdsourced masterdoc on how to help.

Long live Larry.

The best description I have for my ovearching feeling about Trump is contempt, he’s so pathetic and unworthy as both a person and a leader that I’m loathe to give him more credit than he’s due (even though I believe he’s responsible for so much damage). But I have no hesitation in saying that I hate Minority Leader McConnell. He’s very good at wielding power, and is a savvy politician, for which even I can admit to having a bizarre sort of grudging respect for sheer Machiavellian instinct. Years ago I told my brother that I thought he was the most important politician in DC and I stand by that…which is why I hate him so much. I hate him for choosing power over principle and if not embracing then condoning the very worst in our society if it kept him in power. More than anyone else in the Trump years, he could have chosen and steered a different path for our institutions, and every single time he didn’t. And even now, he tries to thread this needle as though the timing of the Senate trial wasn’t dictated by himself and I hate him for it.

Tl;dr: McConnell is clearly pulling a Ceasar as told by Sallust…and yeah, how did that go in the long run, Julius?

If they think they can just pretend he’ll go away, they’re delusional. And anyone who has ever known a malignant narcissist in a bad relationship will tell you, he will need to reassert control over you to protect his own self image (brand, if you will). And like a malignant narcissist in a bad relationship, he will compel you to do a lot of horrible things that in the long term are utterly against your own and everyone else’s wellbeing to keep you tied to him and in line.

Yeah…this is straight up eugenics.

Grim indictment of leadership.

PROTECT ELIZABTH ANN AT ALL COSTS.

More important Black History Month journalism, this time first person slavery accounts. I find it jarring but vitally important to see images of former slaves taken in the 20th century, similar to Civil War vets driving around in Model Ts. We are not nearly as far away from this history as people find comfort in thinking we are.

Pinning the blame for political violence on the lunatic fringe, rather than ordinary members of society, is a comforting lie folks tell themselves to avoid the reality of our political situation, how we’ve gotten to this point, and the possible futures leading forward from here.”

Yay, science!

Photo of the day.

Brava to FKA Twigs for confronting domestic abuse and violence as it should be done.

Control over our own bodies and reproductivity is foundational and fundamental to almost every other autonomous right women claim. It is the historical difference between our ability to be free individuals and citizens (it’s not a mistake that suffrage and reliable birth control came along at roughly the same time) and actual legal property. Anytime women lose this control, demand how, who did it, and why they did it or allowed it to happen. Wherever it happens.

Look, let’s be blunt. Ted Cruz, an anti-immigrationist, climate change denying, healthcare legislation enemy and bad faith blowhard needing to just “get a little break” from the ravages of huge weather catastrophe battering the area of the country it is quite literally his job to protect and represent, and so fleeing to a country he routinely derides for a luxury vacation…all against the BACKDROP of a once-in-a-generation public health crisis is almost too perfect an example of irony. Like, this was cooked up in the cosmic writers’ room in the ninth circle of hell, it’s that spot on. It’s objectively hilarious alongside being grim.

Much like Rush Limbaugh in passing, he deserves the derision he’s getting NOT because it’s fun to whale on people. Even if Senator Cruz seems to have made himself so unpleasant that even his allies have very little to say that’s positive about him. It’s because when you make it your entire lifelong career and personality to take public and powerful positions, and use actual power to back those positions ups, your actions and behavior can and should be judged against that body of work. And if the lens of attention is harsh, that’s truly on you to examine why that may be and make choices accordingly. Either do better, or double down into your own villainy; repent or commit. But for god’s sake stop whining to us all about cancel culture in bad faith.

Speaking of media literacy, journalist specializing in the topic of misinformation Charlie Warzel has a fascinating piece on the subject that made me think this week:

Weekend Links

Hi darlings, your internet aunty is deep in the throws of a depression spiral over here, so this note won’t be as perky or as snappy as usual. Like everyone else, I seem to have hit some kind of horrible wall recently. Must be the upcoming one year anniversary of our LATEST bout of existential threat or something. Seasonal depression, meets pandemic depression, meets normal depression.

In between multiple bouts of crying every day, I’ve slapped together a surprisingly good bunch of links for your reading pleasure. Seriously, there is a lot of great and fun stuff for you this week, just in case like me you are completely unable to summon any serotonin.

The Senate of the United States, having a normal one over here…

Our building has seemed suspiciously quiet for a while now

My long term thirst for Henry Cavill over most of the competition was and remains solid evident of my good taste. And is there any more petty but thrilling pleasure than when your aesthetic preference is also acknowledged to have been The Correct Choice? It’ so satisfying. The Man From UNCLE is still a great and underappreciated movie, though.

REDWALLLLLLL!

Oh good, only a year and change too late.

Friend of the Blog Caitlin Kelly strikes again, on how Bridgerton’s influence is only beginning, and how it’s giving whole communities of experts and enthusiasts their due.

Speaking of costuming, let me recommend a couple of channels and creators to truly send you down a rabbit hole this weekend:
Abby Cox, a dress historian specializing in the 18th century and not afraid to Go There when it comes to stuff you really want to know about boobs, periods, corsetry, and more. She’s also hilarious, historically rigorous, and just an overall feminist delight. Bernadette Banner, an Edwardian expert and former Broadway costumer who uses her personal experience with scoliosis to delve into dismantling myths about shapewear, highlights traditional craftsman and houses, and roasts fast fashion using medieval tailoring. She’s a babe. I particularly recommend her latest vid about the effects of Bridgerton on athleticwear. Yes, really.

Overdue but still very welcome for Black History Month. We would not have almost any genre of American music, much less global dittos, without the unique heritage of Black culture and pioneers.

Well well well, if it isn’t the consequences of our actions

What a badass.

Likewise, what a gent–even when no longer with us.

As per usual, Ronan Farrow (speaking to Amanour and Company) breaks down the differences in the insurrectionist mob of January 6th, what separates them, and what unites them in thoughtful and accessible ways. Worth a watch:

My honest to goodness reaction at seeing this story was, “OMG look at the itty bitty dinosaur!”

Anti-Asian racism and racist incidents are on the rise, including for Pacific Islanders and many ethnic and racial groups that come under that broad category. Don’t forget that we can and must advocate for several communities individually as well as under broad umbrellas such as “immigration” and “people of color.” If your privilege protects you against certain bigotries, stand up for individual communities as well as broad groups. These are not mutually exclusive.

Ignoring the headline, which I expect will put some people off, this is an excellent discussion on the role of conservatism can play in preserving democracy or breaking it. Ardent and die-hard leftist that I am, I actually agree with the thesis that it’s the behaviors of the right that really determine the path of governments because they are often the institutional guardians of what we retain and why, while the left’s role is (broadly speaking) to push for change. Both of the institutional tensions need to exist in healthy ways for democracy to work.

Good. Because I have no faith that the Senate will impose any consequences. Literally none.

This week I learned a fascinating piece of history for the first time, and one that showcases the complexities of racial privilege in America. Mixed race families, slavery and sexual consent, “passing,” and class differences all rolled into one, and a Second Lady you have never heard of.

I AM NOT A CAT. The 2021 battlecry of everyone who has utterly lost the Zoom plot.

Congresswoman Greene, or Please Learn How to Walk and Chew Gum

Gather round, pumpkins, it’s controversial opinion time. I look forward to the thoughtful discourse/vicious attacks in the comments.

There’s Something about Marjorie

Let’s set some important priors to this before we continue.

First and foremost, I think Marjorie Taylor Greene’s views are repugnant and dangerous, have no place in public life, and being stripped of her roles on budgetary and education committees (which she was appointed to by Republican leadership, please remember) is wholly adequate following scrutiny of those views. I want her nowhere near my money or the education of my nieces, nephews, and godchildren, to say anyone else’s small fry. She is, as my British friends would say, bonkers.

Second, it is correct that she is being scrutinized and held accountable for these views. Her QAnon social media vids are a significant part of how she rose to prominence enough to run for Congress in the first place – and those videos and many of her social media posts are still available if you want to track them down and view what she has said and when. It is therefore appropriate to consider these opinions with her current political power and influence since they are key contributing factors to how she achieved both.

Third, she is not being cancelled and this discourse is getting old. The far right has had a good run getting prime time news slots, media specials, bestselling book deals, entire social media channels, and the podiums of the actual seats of our government to yell about how silenced they are. It’s bad faith and I can’t wait for the term to go back to referring to loss of popularity or attention – which is not the same thing as hard power.

So…with those priors…

I’m getting kind of pissed that she has become the QAnon boogeyman. Really. Let me explain.

We Need to Talk About Kevin. And Josh. And Rafael–I mean, Ted.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is a newly elected congresswoman, her first position in government at any level. By all means let’s hold her to account…

But do you know who also needs the spotlight kept on them right now? Senator Josh Hawley, a longtime political operative at state level and since 2019 an established sitting senator, who is also known to be positioning himself for a White House run in the mold of a successor to Donald Trump and Trumpist populism albeit a more methodically minded one. This includes up to and including carrying water for the lie that the 2016 election result was suspect and announcing his intention to vote against certifying it. Which you may remember as the conspiracy theory that led to the American Capitol building being stormed by extremists last month.

While we’re at it, he has use dogwhistle language which is typically used by the far right to avoid outright statements of antisemitism, called the Mueller investigation a hoax (sidenote, do any of these people know what a hoax means? The Lock Ness Monster is a hoax, the Mueller investigation definitely happened), and claimed that human trafficking is a result of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Which again, is coded language around traditional gender and racial expectations, but do your own research into this; there is excellent academic and media literacy tools around this and I’m getting tired of having to explain it to bad faith debaters. He’s also on record in writing stating that, “Government serves Christ’s kingdom rule; this is its purpose.” Cool. Theocracy. At least he’s being honest about it.

Now since the Capitol Riot he has a book deal and complained (loudly and multiple times on international media platforms) that this is more evidence of cancel culture. And again, I’m tired of saying this but a sitting senator, serving on the Committees of Armed Services, Security, and the Judiciary is…um… not cancelled at all. He’s in fact incredibly powerful with a lot of equally powerful and influential people required to pay attention to him (which is why it took a literal act of insurrection to get a sitting US President kicked off his platforms). Hawley isn’t being silenced, he can’t be. He’s just getting less popular as more people outside his supportive echo chamber become aware of his tracker record, which I think is a great thing.

And in the same corner, we have his colleague Senator Ted Cruz who also has White House ambitions, who also kowtowed to Trump/Trumpism (even when he was the victim of some of their earlier conspiracy theories and bullshit), who also refused to certify the election results,

He has also been a sitting senator since 2013, sits on the Committees of the Judiciary, Foreign Relations, and Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Beating a dead horse here but, in spite of an almost mythologically bad feelings from anyone who has had the misfortune to work with him in government over the years, this guy is pretty powerful. He’s a regular on the right wing media circuit and like many of his part has swung further and further into the wingnut areas over the last few years.

And in the House, since we’re listing people who outrank and outweigh Congresswoman Greene, let’s not forget Kevin McCarthy whose ostensible job it is to promote or reign in his subbordinates.

All of which leads me to ask…

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Marjorie?

The honest answer to that is to hold the people above her and enabled her rise, who decided to empower her with committee assignments, who have shielded her and other QAnon believes in Congress (more than you might think, fam), who have made the decision to harness radical and repugnant beliefs (whether or not they truly hold them) to solidify power.

Congresswoman Greene deserves the attention she’s getting. She does not deserve to act as a shield for others who deserve as much or even more attention for their views and machinations. You don’t get a Congresswoman Greene without institutional guardians winking at or outright courting what they should be defending against.

I look at this situation and honestly, in spite of my very real and probably ugly disdain for her beliefs, I can’t help but see all the old problems rearing their head.

She’s a woman.

She’s more powerful than you and me maybe, but she is a lot less powerful and historically less influential than others in government who hold or harbor the same views.

She has become the face of QAnon in power, serving to push scrutiny of the Capitol attacks into the background which helps to minimize what it was: a dinky and dumb, but very real sedition attempt. There are other QAnon believers in congress who also need scrutiny, and behind each of them are a shedload of people for whom QAnon and extremism was not a deal breaker.

Attention solely on her is benefitting more entrenched and more powerful men, who have much longer and more effective track records of bad political faith/actions, and who frankly probably represent the likelier threat of extremism becoming embedded permanently in the party via the next presidential election and beyond.

And do you know what? I have no qualms about saying attention and focus on one person – one woman – feels awfully misogynistic in that all too American-hatred-of-women-in-power way. There are a lot of dudes who deserve to lose their committee seats or elected positions right now, but she seems to be the chosen scapegoat. It’s easier to mock, deride, and evict a solitary, relatively defenseless (usually) woman compared to taking on the more entrenched, more powerful, and more threatening in reality (usually) men.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

It goes all the way back to Eve, or at least Salem, but we really seem to need a single villain to focus on these days and when presented with unequal power options and especially male and female versions, we seem to choose the less powerful woman. Every time.

Witch hunts are satisfying to the subconscious, but they don’t actual stop spreading plague or whatever societal ill is causing your current anxiety. Scapegoating feels good because it tricks you into thinking you’ve achieved a victory, when usually nothing systemic has changed.

We need to learn to hold more than one thought in our heads as a society, even when confronting groups as damaging and horrible as I genuinely believe QAnon to be. We have to look complexly at the systems of power and disaffection that surround us. We can have more than one fight at a time, and can share proportion attention where it’s most deserved. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

So, what’s the real goal here? Flog and humiliate a single, relatively less important woman, or make it truly unviable for a person to hold or harbor this views to hold office? Because if it’s the latter…making an example of Congresswoman Greene isn’t the victory a lot of people seem to think it is.

When the media cycle moves on, Kevin McCarthy (who managed to go from sorta-kinda speaking badly of QAnon a couple of months ago to pretending he doesn’t even know what QAnon is just a couple of days ago), will still be the Minority Leader. Cruz and Hawley will still be plotting their White House runs. And extremism will still be acceptable if not a key tool in the right wing power strategy.

Spend your attention and political capital accordingly.

Weekend Links

After a series of bizarre and bad decisions which has made the per capita infection rate in the UK the worst in the world there for a while, the nation does actually seem to have a grip on the vaccination efforts. LONG LIVE THE NHS.

We’re still likely to be stuck inside until the end of summer. …Hooray?

I’m still amazed no one was removed from office or public life because of this. We live in the upside down.

If you’ve been paying attention to the, uh, utterly ugly and bonkers “Rothschild space lasers” discourse, you may be asking, “Why is antisemitism present in practically every conspiracy theory?”

Extremism, [Mark] Pitcavage said, “is a perennial problem and needs to be dealt with institutionally.”

Grim. Jobs need to be lost over this.

RIP, Sir Tom Captain Moore.

One ecological disaster a time, please?!

If this is the future of influencers, I’ll take it.

If I never hear the screeching retort of, “What about ANTIFA?!” again, it will be too soon. It’s not an organized movement, it’s mostly a few whack job anarchists (opposed to organization by…design?), no leader, no comprehensive agenda, no common cause besides the superficial, and a hilarious amount of discordant ideas amongst the various factions who get slapped with the lable. They are NOT the equivalent of organized, hierarchied, and known fascist or extremist groups.

See above: left and right protests are not managed or policed in the same ways. I’m pretty sure I shared some links to reporting on research on this in a previous links post.

So, we can’t trust our elected government to ensure consequences? Thank goodness we have the…ridiculous US legal system – which has become one of the few ways to enforce personal and now corporate responsibility? Love that for us… (Hope it was worth it all, Fox News.) (ETA: hoo boy, trying HARD to avoid that lawsuit now, aren’t they?)

This post from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on how we must use the current moment to really reconsider our thinking about global health – often a euphemism for rich, western, white countries benevolently giving to poorer, non-European-descended ones to avoid having to think about the discrepancies in the first place – is worth your time. Globally and locally, public health is something that affects us all, it requires collaboration and participation – and for the love of god, adherence to science and research and not the feelings of a few people who are lucky enough to not have to worry about most communicable diseases and therefore think that means they aren’t really, or something.

The Year of Intention: January

So, I know I JUST talked about this publicly, but in reality I’ve been working on this month’s goals since New Year’s Day. Admittedly with mixed results. But with intention, we’re also practicing generosity this year, kittens because in case you hadn’t notice…times are rough!

Wins:

Fully paid off my credit cards. Holy shit, that feels good to type.

Put an extra 1,000 in savings this month.

Did a month-long break from takeaway food orders – with two exceptions; one listed below and one moment of weakness when the depression hit too hard to cook.

Did a meal prep project every weekend, which definitely contributed to achieving the first two weeks. Also, I am slowly mastering the art of French Onion Soup.

Started physiotherapy for longstanding knee injury and hip joint problems. Twice a week sessions are unmaking years of damage in noticeable time. It’s honestly a bit shaming to think how long I just didn’t get around to getting help for this stuff.

Read a book a day – because I can finish romance novels or classic murder mysteries in a single sitting, and because I listen to audiobooks on a least double time walking to and from my physio appointments twice a week. Health hedonism at its best.

Fails:

I was doing Dry January…but then extremists stormed my seat of government and Jeff and I spent nearly 24-hours glued to the news. So we decided pizza and red wine was an acceptable coping mechanism. And – because I’m an unhealth all-or-nothing kind of person, I decided prosecco was also acceptable and continued to indulge. Oops.