Yes, he could, I thought as I read it. And then I thought of something else: Was any of his other, more familiar, writing this good? Or was he even better than usual when trying to be ingratiating to Marilyn Monroe?
First, I admit that I haven’t read a whole lot of Steinbeck. I hate to admit that, seeing he was, as Wikipedia asserts, “a giant of American letters.” I never quite finished his masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath.
The only two books of his I know I’ve read all the way through are Of Mice and Men (more than once, I think) and the somewhat less celebrated The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights. So, you know, I’m not even qualified to draft a Steinbeck Top Five List.
Those were good books (even though, let’s face it, Mice and Men was a downer). But did it have passages that grabbed you as insistently as this does: “He has his foot in the door of puberty, but that is only one of his problems. You are the other.” (And you know he’s not exaggerating, because this is, you know, Marilyn Monroe.)
Poor kid. It would be a rough obsession to have, being that age at that point in her career. I was only 8 when she died, so the effect was different.
Anyway, yeah, I know, I need to finish Grapes of Wrath. I truly feel obligated to do so, sort of the way I feel about Moby Dick. But the thing is, I’m already fully convinced of its greatness, and it’s import as a slice of American life at a critical moment in a critical place. But come on, despite all these years of not letting myself see the movie until I’d read the book, I already know how it ends. And not to give anything away, but it’s kind of a bummer, too.
Anyone else getting tired of news out of Portland? I am. I’m also concerned about it, frankly. I think this might be the place where Trump hopes to provoke a confrontation that could help him in promoting division ahead of the election (and hoping this time it works out better than the Lafayette Square fiasco). He keeps sending in federal officers girded for war, and more protesters keep gathering to confront them, and it’s hard to say what’s going to happen.
What better place to awaken paranoia about the left — in Portlandia, in the land of the 9th Circuit, a place that his base doesn’t consider to be “real America?”
So I worry. I don’t want to see Trump get his way by having a greater conflagration develop.
But it’s interesting to see the tactics the protesters adopt. Like the Moms. And, of course, like “Naked Athena,” who seems to have upstaged the Moms with the oldest trick in the book for grabbing attention. Men’s attention, anyway.
Here’s the thing, though: All the news stories I see about her keep referring to Athena as the “goddess of war.”
Well, OK, she wore a helmet and all, and war is listed among the concepts with which she is associated. But I always though of her as primarily representing wisdom. I mean, I thought that was the point of the way she came into being, springing fully-formed from Zeus’s brow. It suggested she was a cerebral being. It associated her more with the intellectual than the physical.
Which, I’ll admit, is not what “Naked Athena” was doing, so maybe that’s why those reporting looked for another way to describe her.
But I’m not wrong about Athena, or about her Roman wannabe, Minerva. Wikipedia plainly states that she was the “goddess associated with wisdom, handicraft, and warfare.” I had forgotten the handicraft part, but in any case it’s wisdom first, warfare last. Perhaps because the Greeks had Ares and were therefore covered on the belligerence front.
That’s one of many nice things about the Interwebs — I don’t have to remember back to my two years of Latin in high school. I can look it up. So can — ahem — others who write about the ancients.
Anyway, I wonder a bit at this insistence on the war thing. Is seizing upon that third attribute a feminist thing, insisting that women are warriors, too? Or… and this is the thing that worries me… is it more akin to Elizabeth Warren rattling on all the time about “fighting?” In other words, is it about buying into the attitude that the confrontations in Portland (of all places) — or engaging in politics in general — constitute “war?”
I hope not, because that means siding with the guy who’s sending in forces dressed and equipped for war.
Anyway, that’s the kind of stuff I thought about when I read about “Naked Athena.” I probably would have had other thoughts had there been pictures, but fortunately, there were not…
It seems that “High Fidelity” is being rebooted for Hulu. And in this version, Rob is female.
Why do I love High Fidelity? Well, for one thing, it’s hilarious. And the pop culture stuff is fun, especially the Top Five lists. But those aren’t the reasons why I think it’s one of the most profound books written by a living author.
My reverence for the work stems from the fact that no one else has ever come close to expressing something essential about the relationships between men and women in the slice of history in which I have lived and had my being. In other words, it is to my time what Jane Austen’s work was to hers.
Rob’s problem — an inability to see that what is truly important in life is our relationships with other human beings — takes a form that is particular to young (and, perhaps, old) males in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Rob cares about, and devotes most of his mental and spiritual energy to, pop culture. Specifically pop music, but movies and other manifestations as well.
That’s the problem he has in his relationship with his typically far more emotionally mature girlfriend Laura.
SPOILER ALERT: One incident in the book illustrates the dichotomy beautifully. After their spectacular breakup (which finally was so painful that finally makes Rob’s Top Five list of worst splits), Rob and Laura are trying to make a go of it again, and whether they will succeed remains very much in doubt — on account of, you know, Rob.
They go to have dinner with some friends of Laura’s, a couple Rob doesn’t know. During the initial stages of the evening, Rob is really impressed. He likes these people. Laura observes this.
Then, when the couple is out of the room, Laura urges Rob to indulge his habit of inspecting his hosts’ record collection. And he is appalled. Their taste, in his exquisitely refined opinion, is horrible.
Laura knew this would be his reaction. And she watches to see if there will be an epiphany.
There sort of is, as Rob admits, but only to himself:
… that maybe, given the right set of peculiar, freakish, probably unrepeatable circumstances, it’s not what you like but what you’re like that’s important. I’m not going to be the one who explains to Barry how this might happen, though.
And feckless Rob, who is feckless in a particularly male sort of way, takes a tiny step toward maturity. But grumbles about it, accusing Laura: “You did that deliberately,” he says on the way home. “You knew all along I’d like them. It was a trick.”
It’s not that every male is like Rob, and every female like Laura. But the conflict between them, the gap between them, was colored by an essential difference that stated impressively true things about the relationships and differences between men and women.
Listen, sometimes it’s OK to change the gender of a character. It worked in the TV adaptation of The Night Manager, when Jonathan Pine’s case officer — who was a man in the book — is played by Olivia Colman. There were other changes that didn’t work, but that one was a great move. It gave the case officer/agent relationship an extra something that it didn’t have in the book.
But that book wasn’t trying to say something deep and true about the relations between men and women, and ways in which they are different.
High Fidelity was. (Actually, I don’t know that Hornby was trying to do all that, but he did. When I recommend the book to friends, I always describe it in those terms. That’s what’s impressive about it.)
I’ll try watching it, if it’s on the level of Hulu that I can get. (Some things, including some things I’d really like to see, aren’t.) But I suspect I’m not going to like it. It was a big enough leap that the original movie made the characters American instead of English. But it still worked because American males can be just as stunted as British ones, and in the same ways.
Good thing I’m not qualified, on a couple of grounds, for membership in the American Association of University Women. In addition to the obvious, I don’t think I have the oomph for it.
I got an email about the “AAUW’s 2020 Lobby Day” coming up later this month at the State House. First thing on the schedule is to “Enthusiastically Arrive in Columbia!!!” Apparently, one is expected to remain in this overexcited state for a full half hour.
Sorry. No can do. Were I a member, I’d have to reply, “Best I can manage is grim determination. That will have to suffice…”
All of that said, I’ve learned this week about one Democratic woman in particular whom I would be excited to have a chance to vote for. Not because she’s a woman, but because she’s a rational human being. And in today’s political environment, that really stands out.
An outspoken progressive wing in the House has seized the country’s attention. But the path to power for Democrats may depend on moderates, who have a very different vision for the party. Meet one of them.
I don’t know where they get that “may” in “may depend on moderates.” It does depend on moderates, period. What’s more, the fate of the country depends on them, not the members of the “look at me” crowd who get all the coverage normally.
From the Democratic perspective, the moderates are the reason, and the only reason, that the party currently holds power in the House. AOC replaced a Democrat. AOC’s district will continue to be Democratic, but Mikie Sherrill replaced a Republican, and she will only continue to hold her seat if she serves the way both Democrats and Republicans in her district want her to do. And if she and others like her don’t hold onto their seats, not only will the Dems lose their majority, but the country will spin ever faster out into partisan extremes.
Rep. Sherrill may only be a freshman, but she was already an accomplished person before she was elected — unlike some other people who get more attention. She’s a former United States Navy helicopter pilot, and a former federal prosecutor. She’s been places and done things, worthwhile things, things to serve her country.
On the day that Barr was releasing the Mueller report and other Dems were in Washington polishing their reactions, Rep. Sherrill was in her New Jersey district meeting about something her constituents all care about: traffic. A lot of them commute into New York, you see, and the trains are in bad enough shape that a lot of them are forced to drive.
She is almost completely focused on issues that all her constituents care about, regardless of their political affiliation. She concentrates on what unites us rather than dividing us. Which, you know, is what all officeholders should do.
I’m not going to recite all the sensible things she has to say — I want you to go listen to the podcast yourself. And what I want you to listen for is what I heard throughout the episode: The voice of a grownup. Of a grownup saying rational things.
It’s refreshing. I wish I could vote for her. In any case, everyone should hear this voice, and what it says, and realize that there are people like this out there serving their country, and that you don’t have to choose between Trumpism and “democratic socialism.”
Maybe it’s because of my involvement with the campaign last year — a great experience that I wouldn’t trade for almost anything — that I keep getting these emails.
There are lots of them.
And they all make assumptions: First, that I am a Democrat. Well, I’m not. James and Mandy knew that. So do the subset of Democrats who are still ticked that they hired me. But the people who send these emails seem to be in the dark.
I try to be frank with them, occasionally filling out one of the “polls” that they invite to participate in. (I enjoy all the opportunities they offer to tell them that I do have a preference in the primaries, that’s it’s Joe Biden, and that no, I don’t have a second choice.)
Nothing I say, however, dims their enthusiasm for sending me emails that assume I’m a yellow dog.
Some of them assume I’m a feminist. Well, I don’t think I am, although as I’ve noted before, a friend once said I was a “difference feminist,” and there could be traces of truth in that, here and there.
But there’s one kind I am definitely not — I’m not someone who is going to be “excited” about voting for a woman. If I vote for a woman, something I’ve done plenty of times before, it’s not going to be some kind of cheap thrill. If I decide that a woman happens to be the better candidate, then I’m not going to feel any emotion about it that’s different from voting for a man if he happens to be the better candidate. (And isn’t that kind of the way you’d want it to be, if you’re a feminist?)
It’s hard for me to imagine it being otherwise. And it seems odd to me that it would be otherwise, for anyone. (And yes, it’s been explained to me that perhaps I lack the necessary personal plumbing to get it. But that still seems to me an odd basis for a political philosophy.)
I felt no emotion when I voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. It was cold calculation. First, she satisfied the qualification of not being Donald Trump, and had the added attraction of being the only person on the planet in position to prevent him from becoming president.
She had some other positives. She represented in some ways the Third Way form of politics that I had liked so much back in the ’90s. And I thought she was the closest thing in the party to a Joe Lieberman on national security.
This is a recent shot from an event in Mandy’s home town. I think it was called “That ’70s Gala”…
No, it’s not me saying it. I would never say such a… I mean, not that I disagree!… I mean… well, I don’t quite know what to make of an article that describes my former boss in those terms.
But Mandy wants it to go viral, so I’m happy to help. Here’s the piece, in a publication called News Growl, and here’s an excerpt:
When it came time for South Carolina gubernatorial candidate James Smith to pick a running mate in May 2018, he chose fellow Democrat and South Carolina House member Mandy Powers Norrell.
“I have found a woman who has the experience and strength of character that we need, a woman who shares our core values as South Carolinians, a woman who is ready now to serve and to lead South Carolina,” he said at the announcement.
What Smith did not say (but could have) is that he had found a running mate who also had an unusually keen sense of fashion and enough glamour to make a Kennedy blush….
It goes on in that vein.
For her part, Mandy was a bit bemused that her attire caused such a stir:
Okay I need some help making this go viral! I never imagined anyone would accuse me of being “glamorous,” but that’s a reputation I want to have! Of the outfits discussed in the article, two were hand-me-downs and two were Goodwill finds! https://t.co/W9XmwS6vPZ
Of course, Republicans get terribly envious when Democrats get such positive press, which is what I suppose stirred my own representative to respond:
I mean, it pretty much writes itself: “Caskey’s sartorial tastes range from bureaucratic gray to politiciany navy. Whatever the season, his off-the-shelf suits almost flatter his unflattering frame. In today’s world, where words don’t mean things, Caskey is redefining glamorous.” pic.twitter.com/RYv96ZQTbY
The jockeying for partisan advantage just never ceases, does it?
So I suppose that, as the communications director, I missed a major opportunity not making Mandy’s appearance a talking point in the campaign. No doubt if I had, it would have put her and James over the top. Well, it’s their fault, not mine — for hiring a campaign novice for such a crucial position. As I keep telling Doug: Experience counts!
Top South Carolina candidate refuses to quit congressional race after abuse discovery
Archie Parnell, a Democratic congressional hopeful who earned national attention after nearly winning in deep red South Carolina last year, is resisting pleas to withdraw after his campaign staff discovered that he physically abused his ex-wife in the 1970s.
In divorce records obtained by The Post and Courier, Kathleen Parnell said the marriage deteriorated after two years in 1973 because of “unwarranted accusations” from her husband.
In October 1973, Archie Parnell, then a University of South Carolina student, was locked out of some friends’ apartment to protect Kathleen Parnell, who was staying there. At 2 a.m., Archie Parnell used a tire iron to break a glass door, the complaint said. He made more unspecified accusations to Kathleen Parnell before striking her several times. She said she was beaten again later that evening.
After the “acts of physical cruelty,” Kathleen Parnell said she feared for her life and did not want to stay married. She obtained a restraining order against Archie Parnell after seeking the divorce, according to court documents. The divorce was finalized in early 1974….
When this came out his campaign manager immediately quit, saying “He has no business running for Congress and he never did.”
But Parnell himself won’t quit.
I feel ridiculous for having to say this, but he should. A man doesn’t hit a woman. Ever. Even when it was a long, long time ago.
Oh, and by the way — his party agrees with me:
SCDP CHAIR STATEMENT ON ARCHIE PARNELL
Columbia, SC –South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson released the following statement on Monday after the Post & Courier reported that he physically abused his then-wife in 1973:
““In light of this sad revelation, Archie Parnell has no choice but to withdraw from the race for the 5th Congressional District. His actions, though long ago, directly contradict the values of the Democratic Party.”
The girl in the famous photograph became an old woman, and died this week at the age of 90.
I just thought I’d post the picture and see if y’all wanted to discuss it. I hope this will be seen within the bounds of Fair Use, because I can’t afford to buy rights to photos.
It should stir all sorts of reactions based in all sorts of worldviews. At one end of the spectrum is the attitude of the woman herself, who “said the image represented nothing more than admiration and curiosity and was ‘a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time.'” She elaborated:
“Women look at that picture and feel indignant, angry,” she told the Times. “They say, ‘That poor woman. We should be able to walk wherever we want to and not be threatened.’ As gently as I can, I explain I was not feeling fear. There was no danger because it was a far different time.”
On the other end of the spectrum is the whole #metoo movement, and the notion that what the photo depicts is barely distinguishable from sexual assault.
As for me, I’m somewhere in between. I personally would never behave like the men in the picture, and yes, some of that is a matter of character — a gentleman does not act that way. But maybe I’m just less honest than those guys. Also, I’m not Italian and I wasn’t alive in 1951.
My wife backpacked around Europe with another girl the summer before we met, and in Italy she experienced worse than what is depicted here. Which, needless to say, displeases me and makes me feel protective. But it happened before I knew her, and she came through it OK, and, generally, seems to have done OK taking care of herself without me.
My reaction to that picture lies somewhere between a wry smile at human nature and a contemptuous “look at those a__holes….”
Sex, and the way people are about sex, are complicated things. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully understand it with regard to myself, much less other people. This picture remains iconic because it depicts the power of sex both as a creative and destructive force.
As part of my daily walking regimen, I had probably passed by it scores of times over the last few months, but never turned my head at the right moment to notice it — which is weird, because once you notice it, it’s hugely imposing.
I’d missed it because if you’re walking up the concrete incline from Pendleton toward the State House, you can’t see it until your eyes are at the right level, and if you don’t look more than 90 degrees to your left at that precise instant, it’s behind you. (When I took the shot above, only my head was higher than the base of the statue.)
Yesterday, the freshly-planted (I think) flowers caught my eye first, and as my eye rose above them, I saw the monument.
It’s so huge and elaborate, it’s kind of startling when you first see it, so close by.
I looked it up when I got back to the office, and found this page, which told me:
The Monument to Confederate Women, called Angels of the Confederacy, was erected in 1912. The sculptor was Frederick W. Ruckstull. The inscription on the northwest side reads: “In this monument, generations unborn shall hear the voice of a grateful people testifying to the sublime devotion of the women of South Carolina in their country’s need. Their unconquerable spirit strengthened the thin lines of gray, their tender care was solace to the stricken. Reverence for God and unfaltering faith in a righteous cause inspired heroism that survived the immolation of sons, and courage that bore the agony of suspense and the shock of disaster. The tragedy of the Confederacy may be forgotten, but the fruits of the noble service of the daughters of the South are our perpetual heritage.”
The cult of the Lost Cause ran to flowery exaggeration, didn’t it? But of course, that was the style of the time. And what was being described was something that stirred strong emotions.
The really sad thing about it, though, is that the real tragedy escaped the practitioners of this faith. It escaped them, and in some cases yet escapes some among us, that all of that suffering, which was entirely real and even awe-inspiring, was in the service not of a “righteous cause” but of its opposite. The ultimate tragedy is that South Carolina and the other states started the whole thing, causing so many to suffer, to defend the institution that was the central evil of our history.
In other words, it would have been extremely helpful if that “faith” had been less “unfaltering.”
But it wasn’t, and our collective psyche as a people was further scarred by what happened as a result…
Another angle so you can see the base, and know how massive this thing is.
Because if it were just me confusing the two young blonde women with the same given name who ran DHEC back-to-back, I’m sure I’d be accused of sexism or ageism blondeism or just being an all-around idiot. I’d be immediately ordered to show my papers and ‘check my privilege.’
Henry McMaster does, too — in a conditional sort of way. He says: “Unless Mr. Moore can somehow disprove these allegations, he needs to go.” So there’s an “if” in there, but it’s something. You might even say the “if” is moot, since we all know there’s no way Moore’s going to disprove all of this.
“I think the people of Alabama will make a decision on Roy Moore,” Templeton told The Post and Courier following a Charleston County Republican Party meeting, where she was the keynote speaker. “We’ve got enough to deal with in South Carolina for me to be keeping up with that.”
Now, some of you will say, Well, she’s just saying what you say, Brad! And indeed, I do go on about how it’s none of my business whom people in other states choose to send to Congress. And I mean it.
She’s just too darned busy, you see…
But here’s the thing: Catherine Templeton isn’t me. She doesn’t embrace my nonpartisan, federalist ethos. Not so’s you’d notice, anyway.
In fact, she’s been nationalizing her own race like crazy, embracing Steve Bannon in a frenetic effort to out-Trump Henry.
You don’t wrap yourself in Steve Bannon and his effort to remake the nation in his scruffy image and at the same time refuse to have an opinion on his boy in Alabama.
Or maybe you do. But nobody should let you get away with it, even for a minute…
The incident was one of many that went unreported in a S.C. State House dotted with instances of sexism. There, for three days a week, lawmakers — most of them men — leave their families behind in their home towns, and are feted in Columbia by lobbyists and special interest groups in an often alcohol-infused atmosphere….
So, as I read that, it seems to suggest that these things wouldn’t happen if lawmakers had their wives with them when they attend these events where alcohol is served.
That’s from the former spokesman for House Democrats, by the way. If Govan is found innocent of the charge, I’ll take that back. But the case for him doesn’t look good. I trust Gilda. She’s not a person to make a fuss about something that didn’t happen.
But you know, I’m old school. Remember last month when John Kelly said that when he was young, “a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore, as we’ve seen from recent cases (which I took to mean a reference to the behavior of Harvey Weinstein and others — such as Kelly’s boss).”
When I saw the above story, and especially the picture with it, I had to smile.
Look at that young woman! She has worked hard, and achieved a milestone toward a lifelong goal. She deserves the joy I see in her face. God bless her. I’d like to meet her and shake her hand, and thank her for her service, and her drive to excel in that service. For the rest of the day, I’d probably feel much better about Life, the Universe and Everything — and especially the human race, which as we know can be disappointing at times.
But when I read stories like this, this tiny, cynical voice tries to ruin it by saying something like “Another ‘first’ story. It’s 2017, and ‘first’ stories still get big play in The New York Times.”
Don’t blame me. On this point, I was warped early on. In high school, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. And a lot of things about that book have stuck with me. Here’s one of them…
X tells this colorful sort of comic-opera story about himself that is much like the one Arlo Guthrie tells in “Alice’s Restaurant,” about how he got his draft notice, and upon arrival at the intake station went into an elaborate, over-the-top act to get a psychiatrist to rule him unfit for service.
This was 1943. X acts as crazy as he can while standing in line with the other draftees during the physical, and marvels at how long it takes them to pull him out of the queue. But eventually they do, and when he gets to the shrink’s office, he describes this scene:
Ignore the “not bad to look at” part. This was 1943, and even 20 years later when the book was written, we guys got to say stuff like that without being condemned for it.
Malcolm X in 1964
No, my point is what X is saying about “first” stories. Reading this at 17, and rereading it today, I get the strong impression he held such stories in contempt. Part of this arises from the attitudes he would embrace through the Nation of Islam (views he would just be in the process of turning away from as the book was being written). He apparently held all involved in contempt — the white man for so grudgingly allowing black people such small achievements, and black folks for being so thrilled at such crumbs from the white man’s table.
I have never been a bitter cynic in the league of Malcolm X, and hope to God I never will be. I’m pleased for people who accomplish anything that improves their lives and inspires other people. But that anecdote has stuck with me over the years. And every time I see a story like this one today, that memory looms up.
About the time X was working with Alex Haley on that book, the white press joined the “Negro press” in celebrating such firsts. Which in and of itself was a fine thing, a form of progress, of the nation forming a consensus around its highest ideals.
But here it is 2017, and we’re still reading these stories? Almost a decade after the election of our “first black president,” this is still news?
To go back to where I started: I liked reading this story. I like reading about the achievement of a fellow human being named Simone Askew. This world needs more like her! But that part of me that was influenced by that book when I was younger (and far less accomplished) than she is makes me wonder whether it doesn’t take something away from her personal achievement to couch it in terms that Malcolm X scoffed at in 1943…
The most powerful man in the world feels so picked on by these people that he lashes out like a middle-schooler writing in a slam book.
A guy is up at 3 a.m. spewing out Tweets that are nearly or completely incoherent (covfefe!), filled with offensive vitriol, lashing out at everyone who has ever — in his surly, dim perception — done him wrong. Especially if they’re women. The next day, everyone who knows him is in an uproar. The whole world, including some of his friends, says this must stop! The next night, he does it again.
This is a classic pattern, right? So how is it possible that there’s not alcohol, or some other intoxicant, involved?
And yet, we are so often reassured, the man who Tweeted that gross effusion about Mika Brzezinski — just the latest in a sickening, unending series (it still blows my mind that a president of the United States finds time to tweet more than I do) — does not touch strong drink. There’s a compelling, tragic backstory to this — Trumps older brother, an alcoholic, died at 42.
And I continue to believe it.
But how, then, do we explain the Tweets? Or the rest of his behavior, for that matter? But the Tweets seem the perfect distillation of all this other unhinged behavior, set down in writing and shared with all…
What grown man who is sober would write about a woman, “She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” (Especially when there’s no truth in it.) A sober 12-year-old might. But not a sober grownup, under any circumstances.
Oh, and by the way — I cited above the pattern of middle-of-the-night Tweets. This wasn’t even that. The two Tweets leading to the latest uproar went out at 8:52 a.m. and six minutes later. You know, at a time you’d expect a POTUS to be getting his morning intelligence briefing, or making calls to Congress to try to pass his agenda, or meeting with foreign dignitaries, or something other than watching a TV show and obsessing about how much he hates the hosts, and publishing rude, crude comments about them — the sort of childish, mindless insults that kids wrote in “slam books” when I was in middle school.
If Trump were a guy who started drinking at breakfast, like Winston Churchill, this would make some kind of sense.
But once you take alcohol out of the mix, how do you explain it?
That gross effort to defame a woman based on her appearance was not, apparently, even loosely based in fact. As a post at CNN dryly noted, “For the record, photos from Mar-a-Lago do not show any blood or bandages on Brzezinski’s face.”
But what if it had been accurate? Seriously, can anyone even begin to imagine a previous president of the United States of America publicly making such a crude observation?
And so it goes, as Donald J. Trump continues to go far, far out of his way to define the presidency downward…
I admit I don’t pay a lot of attention to Mike Pence, so maybe I’ve missed something indicative of his supposed hostility toward women.
He’s not terribly interesting. I think Trump deliberately chose him for that reason. I think his rationale went, Solid, unremarkable conservative (which I’m not). Won’t distract attention from Yours Truly. Central Casting would immediately peg Pence as the guy to stand in the background and applaud during bill signings. Look at his face. No, look at it — see, you’ve lost interest and looked away already, so never mind.
Anyway, it seems that Pence is in trouble with some for having said, years ago, that he makes it a personal rule not to have a meal or drinks with a woman without his wife being present. It started with this modest aside in a Washington Post story about Mrs. Pence:
In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either….
A lot of people have freaked out over this, to a sufficiently absurd degree that it can cause people who don’t hold with Pence’s rule to be converted to it, just in reaction to the madness:
My response to the Pence rule two days ago would’ve been “I dunno, seems overly strict.” After reading its critics I’m basically all for it.
The thing that really set me off on this was a column in The Guardian that called Pence a “misogynist” because he’s a guy who takes the “lead us not into temptation” part of the Our Father (or Lord’s Prayer, since I think he’s switched from Catholic to evangelical) really, really, really seriously.
When you Google that word, the first definition you get is “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.” Yeah, that’s the definition I’d use. And I don’t see how this practice, or perhaps former practice, of the veep qualifies him for that epithet. But to a certain sort of ideologue, if you don’t agree with certain propositions (such as, women are exactly the same as men and no one should ever evince in any way an atavistic belief in la différence), then you’re a hater.
Yeah, I get all the reasons why people object to Pence’s view. No need to explain it; I read the piece in The Atlantic, written by a young person named Olga, who looks (yes, I had to go see what a person named “Olga” looked like, so sue me) just like lots of other very young persons who are often to be found online ‘splaining such things to the likes of me, as though I hadn’t heard that stuff before they were born. (I had pictured someone different.)
But back to the Guardian piece. It includes an argument that the writer, because of her ideological inclinations, considers to be a real slam-dunk:
As the Black List founder Franklin Leonard noted, if Keith Ellison – who is Muslim – “refused to dine one on one with women and used his religion to justify it, the political right would lose their minds”.
Which seems rather doubtful to me, as do most such “if x were substituted for y, then z would go ballistic” arguments, which are usually based in an excessive faith that one knows one’s adversaries’ minds better than they do.
I have no doubt that there are plenty of people on the right who would indeed have a fit when someone on the left says it looks like we’re going to have a nice day. And vice versa: “Nice for whom: dead white male oppressors?!?!”
Of course, I can only speak for myself. I’m not of the “political right,” but I suspect this Franklin Leonard would beg to differ. Anyway, while I don’t hold with the Muslim notion of restricting interaction between the sexes, I respect the intention, and the willingness to submit to the will of Allah in avoiding compromising situations.
Similarly, like Ross Douthat, I consider Pence’s rule to be a bit much, but I respect his decision not to let himself enjoy even the limited intimacy of a shared meal with any woman but his wife. (And if that’s too much of a temptation for him, I especially applaud his decision to keep alcohol out of the equation.)
It’s like the way I feel about, again, Muslims — and for that matter Baptists — who strictly avoid alcohol. I respect the motivation and admire the discipline, even though I’m, you know… Catholic, and therefore not inclined to follow such precepts myself.
And I’m not going to call them names for taking a different approach.
Of course she condemns the actions of the Marines, as anyone should, and links it to our tawdry, “narcissistic, show-and-tell-all culture,” to which neither male nor female Marines are immune.
But she also brings to bear a couple of themes of her past work, such as her dim view of sending women into combat, and our society’s recent failure to value males qua males.
You won’t see many leading columnists make such points, especially the male ones; they wouldn’t dare:
Must men be treated as women? That is, should they be trained to be more “sensitive”? If so, can you simultaneously create sensitivity in the desensitizing, killing culture that breaks down an 18-year-old’s humanity and instills in him an instinct for extreme brutality?
Put another way, how stupid are we?
There’s a reason we say in times of great peril, “Send in the Marines,” and it’s not because of the few brave, committed women among them. But try to find someone in today’s military willing to say so….
Then at the end, she quotes a retired Methodist minister who counsels veterans navigating post-traumatic stress disorder:
“Marines embrace the warrior archetype more than other branches. The shadow of this is patriarchy, misogyny and brutality. We are trained to be killing machines, deadening all emotion except anger. We’re told we don’t have the luxury of sensitivity, so we objectify everything, including women.”
Still, he’s optimistic, saying that we need to return to “the embodiment of the hero archetype in the medieval knight. Aggressiveness can be coupled with honor, nobility and compassion.”
Maybe so. But knights typically didn’t joust with women, which may be the most salient inference. That said, chivalry has a place here. An apology to the women who exposed themselves to the few, not the proud, would be appropriate — both as gesture and punishment.
I’m not talking about the thing; I’m talking about the wording.
How does that make sense?
I could see “A day without women.” We’re assuming more than one woman is taking part, and even though it’s only some women, and not all women, “a day without women” would still be a true description. (Despite the fact that, you know, the women still exist; they’re just not at their usual jobs.)
But “a day without A woman” expresses one of two unlikely extremes. Either it means one particular woman — say, Mary Smith of Anytown, USA — is staying home today, or it means a day without a single woman anywhere.
Setting the wording aside and dealing with the thing itself — how’s it going out there? So far today, I haven’t encountered a single situation in which a woman wasn’t at work. Every woman I would normally encounter is on deck, attending to duty. Nor have I noticed them wearing red. (Although I did overhear a man on an elevator jokingly asking a woman why she wasn’t wearing red. I missed her response.) So it seems like a bit of a bust.
This might be because personally, I hadn’t heard about it until last night on NPR as I was driving home. But maybe there’s some sort of lady grapevine out there to which I am not privy (which would not be a shock), and it has been organizing this thing with relentless precision for some time. I just can’t tell.