Saturday, March 25, 2023

America Sees Florida Man, Is Creeped Out

It looks like the Ron DeSantis bubble might have already burst. After a brief period where he looked like a viable GOP challenger to Supreme Overlord Donald Trump, his poll numbers even amongst Republicans are cratering.

There's something about this which is just tickling, and it's not only that it couldn't happen to a more deserving autocrat. The media enthusiasm for DeSantis was based on his big reelection win in Florida -- if he can win by that margin in a "swing" state, surely he's a force to be reckoned with on a national level! That logic was always a bit faulty, and instead of DeSantis' Florida-appeal translating nationwide, what  actually happened was that America saw what apparently appeals to Florida voters and was reminded again that Floridians have weird, creepy tastes and can't be trusted. 

Turns out a regime based on government-period monitoring, assaulting Mickey Mouse, banning books on Roberto Clemente, outlawing Black history, and censoring Michelangelo isn't a recipe for national success! Who knew?

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Michigan Republicans To Michigan Jews: Get Lost

The opening to JTA's story about Michigan Republicans comparing the state's new gun control laws to the Holocaust reads as follows:

 The official Twitter account of Michigan’s Republican Party posted an image comparing gun control to the Holocaust on Wednesday. Then, following condemnations of the post by Jewish groups, the party doubled down on its message.

It’s the latest example of Holocaust imagery being utilized to deliver a partisan political message.

It is the latest example of Holocaust imagery being utilized to deliver a partisan political message. It's also the latest example of Republican politicians responding to Jewish concerns by saying "get bent".

Of course, saying "F U to the Jews" isn't surprising coming from the Michigan GOP, which is now led by election-denying conspiracy theorist Kristina Karamo:

Karamo, a Trump-backed election denier, has in the past been accused by the Anti-Defamation League’s regional director of invoking antisemitic tropes about Jewish power. During her campaign for secretary of state last year, Karamo accused the Democratic incumbent, Jocelyn Benson, of being a “puppet” controlled by Jewish billionaire George Soros. She also has claimed Benson, who is Jewish, and the state’s Jewish attorney general, Dana Nessel, are “all part of the Soros minion club.” 

Still, it's worth noting that those condemning the Michigan GOP statement include not just mainstream Jewish bodies and organizations, but also prominent Jewish Republicans including the Republican Jewish Coalition. This, of course, only accentuates how the Michigan Republican Party and Karamo are making a conscious choice to extend a big ol' middle finger to all the Jews, even their nominal friends.

I'll reiterate once again that one of the biggest points of differentiation between the status of Jews in the Democratic Party and the status of Jews in the Republican Party is that Democratic Jews, when we have inward-facing concerns, still can get a hearing from people who care about what we think. It's not always smooth or frictionless, but that fundamental bondedness that stems from decades of relationship-building and solidaristic organizing is still present. By contrast, when Jews face antisemitism from the Republican Party, the institutional GOP's immediate, reflexive, and typically solitary response is to close ranks and lash out against the messenger. We've seen it before, and we're seeing it again here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

When The Worst Person You Know is the Victim of Unjustifiable Cruelty

There's a lot of making fun of Bethany Mandel right now. On the whole, it is entirely deserved. I've partaken myself. I have no particular sympathy for the idea that she deserves kid-glove treatment when she bombs on live television. She's a public figure who made a high-profile screw up in her effort to promote greater histrionic racist fearmongering. She can take her lumps.

That said, in all such matters there are things that should be out-of-bounds. Attacking her for being an observant Jew would seemingly be one. Attacking her for being the victim of sexual abuse is an obvious second. And yet. In the course of a larger bid to give Mandel "some more of that sweet sweet publicity she so craves," Paul Campos includes a passage that I think is clearly one of horrific, unjustifiable cruelty no matter who the target is.

.... Bethany has been pumping out lots of Orthodox babies at an impressive rate: six is the current count I believe (Her father was Jewish, her mother was Catholic, and she converted to Orthodox Judaism when she married Seth. During the conversion process, her rabbi used a hidden camera to film her while she prepared for the ritual baths Orthodox women are required to take to wash away all those cooties).

I thought about just ignoring this -- it's not my blog, I have no connection to Campos, and I certainly have no interest in white knighting for Bethany Mandel. But really, this is gross, and it needs to be called out as gross without letting it pass. In context of an entire blog post dedicated to making fun of Mandel, bringing in the fact that she was the victim of terrible abuse by a trusted spiritual advisor is entirely gratuitous and cruel. It is not presented in any way that suggests this fact is different from all the other facts Campos musters regarding why Mandel is worthy of contempt.  To the contrary, it is presented as yet another reason to mock and look down on Mandel, as part of a broader (and also appalling) narrative of contempt geared at Orthodox Jews. We should never treat sexual abuse that way. Never. No matter who the victim is. Nor should we tolerate this sort of antipathy at any religious community -- again, no matter who the target is.

So yeah. There are so many great reasons to look poorly on Bethany Mandel. She offers new ones virtually everyday. Given that bounty of options, if you decide to pick out that she was the victim of sexual exploitation as part of your bouquet, that says some truly shocking things about your character far more than hers. Don't do this.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Sorry Because You Got Caught

Often times, when a public figure is revealed to have engaged in some misconduct and is in the process of apologizing, you will hear dismissal of that apology via some variation of "he's only sorry because he got caught."

I've been reflecting on this for the past few days, because I think it is a more interesting problem than often given credit for. What are the conditions for which we might think sorrow is genuine notwithstanding the fact that it follows after "getting caught"?

After all, temporally-speaking I suspect it is the case that most public gestures towards repentance only follow getting "caught" or called out. It's not impossible to repent for wrongdoing without ever being caught -- one can turn oneself in -- but most of the time the former follows the latter. And I actually suspect it is true that most people who are not caught doing X wrong are unlikely to unilaterally engage in public actions of repentance. At most, they'll feel ashamed and bad in private. Which is not nothing, and can yield genuine changes in behavior. But it's also typically not viewed as sufficient expressions of remorse for the person who is "caught".

So if most public figures are, in some sense, "only sorry because they got caught", does that mean that most public figures are insincere in their apologies? Or that their apologies are inherently unreliable and insufficient?

I don't think that can be right. The very fact that the vast majority of repentance work occurs after being caught should make us leery about saying that such work is inherently suspect when it follows being caught. For most people, "getting caught" is a triggering event in a process that one hopes will lead to genuine repentance, remorse, and repair. It strikes me as implausible to dismiss any gestures of remorse that follow getting caught, unless we think most human beings are basically incapable of true remorse but are low little sociopaths.

This doesn't mean that any individual person -- observer or (especially victim) is obliged to "forgive" a public wrongdoer upon the first gesture of apology. Your relationships are your business, and if you decide that you need to write someone off temporarily or permanently due to something they've done, that's up to you. I think we vastly overweight obliging forgiveness. Himpathy and all that. And more over, "being sorry" doesn't liquidate one's obligations to try and make right what one has done wrong. Repentance should come at cost.

But on the flip side, there's a version of the "we're too quick to forgive" politic that acts as if people are at best suckers, at worst complicit, if they don't view essentially all efforts at remediation and reparation as so much manipulation -- being taken in by someone who is "only sorry that they got caught." And to that, I'd also say "your relationships are your business," you're allowed to believe that someone is actually remorseful and wants to go through the steps to make a repair. If you're the victim, it can be doubly traumatizing to hear that you're a dupe or a sellout for trying to work with the wrongdoer to mend the break. If you're an observer, you can't forgive on behalf of the victim, but you're allowed to come to your own judgment about what the wrongdoer is trying to do and assist them on a journey towards repentance.