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Weekly Rant: Why “Bernie or Bust” is Complete and Utter Political Suicide

Once upon a time, way back in 2003/2004, I was a devout and fanatical devotee of the Cult of Howard Dean. Here was a man, I thought, that represented the true liberal wing of the Democrat Party. This in contrast to the eventual nominee John Kerry, who I felt was far too moderate for my tastes (particularly when it came to the rights of the LGBT community).

Well, we all know how the Dean campaign ended up. The media managed to exploit all of his weaknesses, and his meteoric rise to frontrunner was matched by his equally precipitous fall from favour. As a young and fiery liberal, I was pretty heartbroken, and I considered not voting at all. Yet, in the end, I recognized that a John Kerry, no matter how moderate, was infinitely better than another 4 years of George W. Bush.

Fast forward to 2016, and the chorus of “Bernie or Bust” and its associated hashtag. I can’t shake the feeling that we’ve been here before. This time, though, it seems like there is a very real possibility that the legions of folks who support Bernie Sanders will not come out to vote should he lose the nomination (which seems increasingly likely to happen). Or, worse yet, that they will decide to cast their vote for Trump, in the hope that he will shake up the system to such an extent that the revolution is sure to come (Susan Sarandon suggested as much in an interview with Chris Hayes, though she subsequently attempted to walk that comment back).

You know what? I get it. I really do. I know how intensely frustrating it can be when your candidate, the one who fired you up and inspired you to get into politics, gets taken down by someone else. You can blame the system of course–and with some good reason–but at some point you also have to accept that there are others that didn’t agree with your choice and that you have to compromise with them. And if that means accepting a candidate you don’t necessarily like, it’s worth remembering that that candidate that wins (in this case, Hillary Clinton) is still miles away more progressive than anything produced by the GOP, no matter how iconoclastic they appear.

And you want to know something else? If you, dear voter, decide to either sit out this election or vote for Trump in the hopes that it will lead to a Democratic sweep in 2020, I would remind you of how well that strategy worked in 2000. The parallels aren’t exact, of course, but the fact remains that we ended up with a disastrous 8 years of George W. Bush because of dissatisfaction with Al Gore (among other reasons).

So, while you may be frustrated that Bernie Sanders may in fact lose the nomination, please don’t buy into the Bernie or Bust mythology. Frankly, it appears childish and more than a little petulant, and that is hardly the attitude the Democratic Party wants to take right now, in the age of Trump and others like him.

Instead, let’s gather around the eventual progressive nominee and march forward into what will hopefully be a brighter future.

Machiavelli’s “Small Volume”: The Legacy of the Stage Machiavel (29 April 2016)

Metathesis

“Bearing in mind all the matters previously discussed, I ask myself whether the present time is appropriate for welcoming a new ruler in Italy, and whether there is matter that provides an opportunity for a few-seeing and able man to mold it into a form that will bring honour to him and its inhabitants.”

-Machiavelli

As we’ve been considering the seemingly timeless quality of the figure of the stage Machiavel, it is worth remembering that the archetype is drawn from a series of highly specific moments in history.   The quote at the top of the page reminds us that Machiavelli is writing during a period of intense civil unrest in Italy, following a major foreign invasion and the dissolution of a number of seemingly stable governments and it was written as a gift for a single man—Lorenzo de’ Medici.[1]  Even so, while English audiences found themselves largely disinterested…

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The Great Golden Girls Marathon: “The Competition”

In this episode, three of the girls (Blanche, Dorothy, and Rose) decide to enter a bowling tournament, while Sophia reconnects with one of her former paramours from back in Sicily. In the process, it becomes increasingly clear that Rose is even more competitive than anyone had imagined, causing quite a few tensions in the household.

For me, this is the episode of the first season where the comedy really begins to click. I’m not sure if it was filmed in the order in which it appears (since several of the episodes that followed still seem a bit stilted), but something about this episode feels chemically, organically different than the ones that preceded it. In that sense, it seems to have more in common with the episodes that came up in the second season. Truly, this episode has some of the best (and most iconic) moments in the series’ history, including Blanche’s “I’m devastated” line, which remains for me one of the most quotable moments.

There is also a very heartwarming element to this episode. Certainly, the relationship between Sophia and Augustine is one of the most poignant and ouching in the first season, in no small part because it shows that both of these elderly people are capable of deep affection. It’s important to remember that Sophia is well into her 80s, and for her to still feel such physical and emotional passion is a testament to the sensitivity and depth with which the series consistently treats even its most elderly character.

Furthermore, it also shows the strength of the relationship between Dorothy and Sophia. Of course, it can’t be easy for Dorothy to accept the fact that her mother is at last moving on from her deceased father, and it also can’t be easy to see her other moving outside of her care. Again, this is a dynamic that will  continue to shape the way in which Dorothy and Sophia interact with one another as the seasons progress.

On a somewhat more ironic note (on my part), I’m still left wondering why and how it is that a substitute teacher can somehow afford to pay for her mother’s trip to Sicily, but that’s a question that will come up repeatedly when it comes to the women’s financial abilities. Of course, we’re not really supposed to think about these things too critically, but it is worth mentioning at least in passing.

All in all, this goes down in my estimation as one of the strongest episodes of the first season in terms of its comedy writing. And it’s also a strong episode in that it reveals that beneath her prudish, naive exterior, Rose has a heart of iron that can manifest in some very ugly behavior. But then, that complexity is part of what makes the series so endlessly fascinating and entertaining.

Next up, the girls find out that they have been robbed, forcing Rose to contend with a deep-rooted fear and raising questions about just how safe they can remain in their own home.

Privileged Positions: House of Cards and Frank Underwood’s Machiavellian Monologues (22 April 2016)

Metathesis

“Since a ruler, then, must know how to act like a beast, he should imitate both the fox and the lion, for the lion is liable to be trapped, whereas the fox cannot ward off wolves…[b]ut foxiness should be well concealed: one must be a great feigner and dissembler.  And men are so naïve…that a skillful deceiver always finds plenty of people who will let themselves be deceived.”

-Machiavelli

At the conclusion of Act 4, Scene 3 of Hamlet, after convincing Hamlet to sail to England, the stage is cleared for Claudius to address the audience.  Though not marked as an aside, Claudius uses these 11 lines to announce that he has sealed letters “conjuring to that effect/The present death of Hamlet” (4.3.62-63).  By this point in the play, audiences have little reason to trust the words of Claudius, but at this moment, he utilizes the empty stage as…

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“You win or You Die”: Game of Thrones and Machiavellian Amorality (15 April 2016)

Metathesis

“However, how men live is so different from how they should live that a ruler who does not do what is generally done, but persists in doing what ought to be done, will undermine his power rather than maintain it.”

-Machiavelli

Note:  Spoilers for the first four seasons of Game of Thrones and for Richard III

One of the major reasons that early modern audiences reacted so negatively to Machiavelli’s political philosophy stemmed from the idea that he advocated for amorality in both politics and in life.  Treating politics as a science, Machiavelli urged rulers to focus their attention on preserving themselves and their state, even if this meant doing things that were traditionally understood to be immoral.  This was not an altogether unfair reading, as Machiavelli did suggest that rulers should be more concerned with appearing noble and moral than with actually being noble and moral.[1] However, this…

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Weekly Rant: Misogyny Rears Its Ugly Head in the Democratic Primary

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the last 48 hours, you’ve probably heard that a Sanders surrogate, by Dr. Paul Song, referred in his opening remarks to “corporate Democratic whores.” Of course, such a comment would be problematic in the best of times, but it is especially so during a campaign in which one of the two leading candidates in the Democratic race has the very real possibility of becoming the first female President of the United States. Fortunately, Sanders did disavow the remark, but it took a rather long time to do it, and that strikes me as especially troubling and, dare I say it, problematic.

I guess I’m not entirely surprised by this course of events. I’ve long suspected that there is a strong edge of misogyny lurking underneath many of those who support Bernie Sanders. This is not to say that everyone who supports him is a misogynist, only that there is a great deal of woman-hating animus motivating the opposition to Hillary. There is something deeply threatening about the idea of a woman, especially this woman, ascending to the nation’s top executive position, so it makes sense that many would leap to the use of words like “whore” to disparage her.

And make no mistake, the use of the word “whore” was deliberate. For all that some might like to make the argument that assuming the word is gendered feminine is the sexist act, we cannot escape the fact that, like so many words in our cultural lexicon, this word carries cultural baggage along with it. To pretend otherwise, or to somehow argue that pointing out that words matter is somehow disingenuous or making a mountain out of a molehill, is a betrayal of the very progressive politics that we all claim to espouse. Progressives, of all people, should know the importance of words and how they carry with them implications and connotations that are deeply embedded in structures of power.

Even more discouraging was the fact that the hashtag #DemocraticWhores began trending on Twitter, unironically. How is it possible that the Democratic Party, the party that has long taken the lead for the rights and dignity of women, would give birth to the use of the word “whore” in the public sphere? Did I somehow blink and miss our conversion to the Donald Trump method of politics? Somehow, legions of Bernie supporters were using the word “whore” as if it were suddenly a word that hadn’t been used to viciously and poisonously denigrate women’s sexuality for centuries. Whatever candidate you support, you should be concerned. This is not acceptable, and you should spread that message as far as possible.

So, what’s to be done? Well, for one thing, both campaigns should begin demanding more accountability from their followers. That’s not likely to come from either of the two candidates, not least because the stakes are so very high for both of them, and they have both gone too far to come back. Perhaps just as importantly, the followers for each candidate are unlikely to be allow them to make too many concessions to the other. The splintering of the Democratic Party has well and truly begun (I think), and we have only ourselves to blame.

The worst thing about this is that people will excuse it all as just another aspect of the dark vortex of American politics. For me, however, that excuse just isn’t good enough. We’re Democrats, progressives, and radicals. We’re the Left, damn it, and I continue to insist that we are better than this. If we are truly invested in a better future for everyone, we can, we must, do better.

QSA #2: How Not to Be a Tool on Grindr (Part 1?)

Hello, darlings. As is my wont, I am here to share some thoughts on Grindr, that app that is at once so repugnant and yet so utterly compelling. In the spirit of my last musing on this subject, I want to offer a few words of advice on how to behave appropriately on Grindr. Here, then, are a few rules to keep in mind as you venture into the world of one of the most popular hookup apps.

Rule #1–Don’t be Needy. I get it; you’re probably on Grindr because you’re lonely and want to reach out to another human body. That’s totally okay. However, if someone doesn’t respond right away, or if they don’t agree to a date right away, DON’T CONTINUE TO HARASS THEM ABOUT IT. I understand the temptation, believe me I do, but it’s because I understand it that I can say without equivocation that it is the surest thing to drive other guys away. (By the way, this whole thing about being needy also applies if you happen to get into a relationship. Learn the boundaries that are acceptable. Your life will be a lot happier. Trust me).

Rule #2–Don’t be Desperate. This may seem like the same thing as Rule #1, but it’s slightly different. Again, if the presumed aim of being on Grindr is to get laid, or at least to attract someone, you definitely don’t want to appear desperate. You may be in the digital world, but that doesn’t mean that people can’t sense that desperation in the ways in which you comport yourself. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to be an ice queen; it does, however, mean that you have to learn the balance between showing interest and not leaping at every guy that messages you. It’s a hard skill to master (and even I am still working on it), but it’s well worth mastering. I guarantee it will help you to be more desirable, and it will give you more confidence in yourself and your self-worth as well.

Rule #3–Don’t be a Nuisance. Again, this is somewhat similar to the preceding two rules, but there is a certain point at which your persistence becomes irritating. If someone doesn’t respond to you, even if you’ve been messaging for a while, be patient. And if they still don’t respond, then maybe you should take a hint. There’s something to be said for the long-lost arts of patience and subtlety, and I really do think that men respond much better to those than they do pestering and badgering. Remember that not everyone is glued to their phone 24/7 (I know that’s hard to believe), so be patient. Sometimes a good thing really is worth waiting for and even if that one guy you really like doesn’t respond, just remember that there are many other fish in the sea.

So, there you have it. More words of advice for Grindr. It’s a hard world out there (<<see what I did?), but if you really think about what you’re doing on Grindr (and other hookup apps), the experience can be genuinely pleasurable for all the parties.

Happy grinding!

Hated, Feared and Loved: Popular Representations of Nicollò Machiavelli (8 April 2016)

Metathesis

“A controversy has risen about this: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or vice versa.  My view is that it is desirable to be both loved and feared; but it is difficult to achieve both and, if one of them has to be lacking, it is much safer to be feared than loved.”

-Nicollò Machiavelli

The word Machiavellian, denoting a duplicitous schemer or an unscrupulous politician entered into the English language in 1566,[1] decades before a formal English translation of Machiavelli’s most famous work, The Prince, would be legally available for the general population.

evan1 Picured: An unscrupulous politician

In England, Machiavelli’s reputation proceeded him and this led to a tremendous interest in the early modern consciousness concerning exactly how his more controversial ideas should be handled.  He became the era’s go-to reference point for political duplicity, amoral scheming and atheism.  Historical villains were rechristened as…

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Part II: Wicked Women and the Negotiation of Female (Dis)empowerment (1 April 2016)

Metathesis

“Not only did she dupe me into believing she still loved me, she actually forced me to implicate myself. Wicked, wicked girl. I almost laughed. Good Lord, I hated her, but you had to admire the bitch.” – Nick Dunne

Gone Girl, (Flynn 345)[1]

The majority of Gone Girl’s masterful storytelling depends on Flynn’s fascinating, journalistic style of characterization and description, a thriller’s requisite plot twists and explosive reveals, and the unreliability of the two narrators, Nick and Amy Elliott Dunne.[2] Throughout the majority of the novel’s first part, “Boy Loses Girl,” while Nick narrates the present-day events concerning the disappearance of his wife, readers learn about Amy through various diary entries, the first of which details the night she and Nick met at a writer’s party – a charming, witty, and thoroughly romantic meet-cute scenario that plays perfectly into the image of a happy…

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The Great Golden Girls Marathon: “On Golden Girls”

In this episode, we meet yet another member of the women’s family, Blanche’s grandson David, who comes to visit as his parents attempt to work through their marital difficulties. Of course, his deviance does not mesh well, but eventually the four women realize that they can offer David the stability and security that he so clearly lacks in his home life. While he does eventually return home to his mother and father, he knows that he can come back any time.

There’s no doubt that David is one of the most obnoxious of the many progeny that appear in the show, but the episode takes great pains to show that David’s deviance and troubled behavior is as much a product of his parents’ failing marriage as it is his own faults. It is because his parents spend so much time fighting and focused on their own personal interests that he feels he needs to act out, to express his own crisis of identity in the face of their obvious lack of love for him.

This is one of those moments when the series renders visible the tensions and political currents of the period in which it was produced. David clearly stands in for the deviant youth that seem to haunt the 1980s imagination, the product of a broken home and parents. Alienated from his family, he acts out in the only way that he knows how, in a desperate attempt to get attention, even if it is the negative kind he inevitably receives.

What also stands out to me about this episode is that it brings to the surface an issue that will recur many times throughout the series:  Blanche’s vexed relationship with her children. As anyone who has seen the series knows, Blanche is the quintessential narcissist, and while she clearly loves her children, it’s equally clear that she was not the best mother. Indeed, the episode suggests that it is because of her self-centered behavior during her own years of raising young children that has led to their future misbehaviour. It is, perhaps, not the most progressive moment in the show, but it does nevertheless at least attempt to understand the often fraught relationships that occur even within families that love one another.

What also interests me in this episode is the extent to which the primary conflict is not actually between David and Blanche, but between David and the Sophia/Dorothy dyad. These two have a much firmer (which is to say stricter) view of parenting. While Blanche does not agree with this approach, the episode makes it clear that she is in the wrong, and that a firmer, more disciplined hand is exactly what David needs in order to become the appropriate adult he needs to be (according to the series’ logic, anyway).

Of course, given that we’re dealing with a sitcom in its mostly classic form, and given that The Golden Girls especially seems to prefer narrative and ideological closure, the ending isn’t all that surprising. While it’s a little disappointing that David doesn’t make any return appearances on the show, worry not, there are plenty more obnoxious offspring where he came from!