This is disappointing. More than that, it’s a clear message.
Days after Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards decided against firing two liberal bloggers with a history of inflammatory writing, one resigned last night with a blast at “right wing shills” for driving her out of the campaign.
Amanda Marcotte, whose writings were assailed as anti-Catholic, wrote yesterday on her blog that the Edwards camp had accepted her resignation. She blamed her most vocal critic, Bill Donohoe, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, writing that he “and his calvacade of right wing shills don’t respect that a mere woman like me could be hired for my skills, and pretended that John Edwards had to be held accountable for some of my personal, non-mainstream views on religious influence on politics,” which Marcotte described as being “anti-theocracy.”
The message is that the discourse belongs to the Michelle Malkins and Bill Donohues of the world. After all, they got their trophy head. One, anyway. And with that success, I can’t imagine they’ll give up on make life any easier for Melissa either, or Edwards while he has her on board.
Suffice it to say, I’ll never work for a political campaign. That’s partially because I don’t bring nearly enough traffic with me for most campaigns to care. But, after some of the things I’ve written on my blog regarding religion, there’s little chance any campaign could hire me — or any other blogger less than defferential to religion, and less than resigned to the mingling of religion and politics — without risking the kind of criticism that makes strange that ends up putting religious progressives and people like the aforementioned duo on the same side.
I’ll say it again. Any progressive blogger who has ever said anything that might be considered offensive to religious persons of any political stripe can kiss their chances of working with Democrats good-bye. If you’re hired, you’ll be fired if conscientiously googling conservatives find so much as a single post they can fix upon as “anti-religious bigotry.” To be safe, it wouldn’t surprise me if most candidates just steered clear of bloggers who even said anything controversial about religion. Maybe even steer clear of bloggers who support the separation of church and state, since the party itself has started to distance itself from the idea. Nevermind bloggers who are “openly non-religious,” or even members of non-Christian faiths. (Imagine the fuss if a Democratic candidate hired, say, a Muslim blogger.
The problem is, there are some progressive who have issues with religion — both politically and personally. Some of those issues have roots in personal pain inflicted by or in the name of religion. I’m one of them. I’ve written, or tried to write, honestly about my personal issues with religion here, here, here, and here. I’ve tried to write thoughtfully about it, but at the same time I’ve written posts on religion laced with more than a little anger, which has its roots in the issues I mentioned in those other posts; anger that I think is at least somewhat justified.
When pain is inflicted upon you, especially unnecessary and gratuitously, anger is part of the natural reaction, just as much as raising your arm to ward off a blow; especially if the body bears memories of previous blows. It’s an extension of believing that you do not deserve that pain or the mistreatment that caused it, and trying to avoid experiencing it again. Activism, then, is a way of extending that natural reaction beyond oneself, believing that others are no more deserving of that pain than you were, at moving to spare others what you experienced.
It’s not the only way, but it’s one way of dealing with it. The anger may not always be constructive, but at least some of it is justified, and I think to some degree it fuels the reading and writing I’ve done regarding religion and politics, some of which has been inflammatory at times, but some of which I think has also been useful and thoughtful. And in both cases I think its due to personal experience and a passion belief that what I experienced shouldn’t be inflicted on anyone else if I can do anything to prevent it. I’m a writer. So at least one thing I can do is write; whether it’s to reach others who’ve had the same experience, or persuade those who haven’t but are open to understanding it.
But when you are in the minority, and history bears this out, anger is a luxury you are not allowed no matter is inflicted upon you. You endure and absorbed the anger of others directed at you, but you many not give back as good as you get. That is, you are not allowed to express that anger. In fact, for various groups in history, repressing anger has been a survival skill. Not long ago, African Americans — particularly men — grew up knowing that a defiant act, word, or even a look could earn them a violent end.
Some of us who are old enough have seen it reflected in our parents and grandparents when they talked about their experiences during segregation. I’ve seen memories collide in the oddest places, like a retirement home where an elderly woman sees a younger African American woman walk by and barks, “Hey you, girl! Get me a glass of water.” And I’ve seen that African American woman’s face darken as she muttered under her breath, “I got your ‘girl’ right here,” and kept walking. She remembered. They both remembered.
I’ve seen it described in interviews like this one.
The kind of segregation, for example, that meant you could go downtown to buy a suit of clothes but you couldn’t try that suit of clothes on. That was a kind of segregation which was hard to miss for even the most successful blacks. I would argue that that led to a kind of a repressed anger in the black community, repressed because you had very few opportunities and it was downright dangerous to express your anger in the white public. But certainly if you can imagine the doctor, the lawyer…The college professor who was black with degrees behind his name and all kinds of money in the bank, even a good place to live, but cannot try on a suit of clothes at his local department store. That’s got to be anger producing. And the people who come out of that environment have to deal with that anger in some way.
Now I wouldn’t argue that there aren’t frustrating situations in northern cities as well, there certainly were. But often they weren’t as readily confrontational. They weren’t as blatant as you’d find in southern cities at the height of Jim Crow. In the height of Jim Crow it was a tough thing to be a black person in the south.
And if it was tough to be a black adult, think about how tough it was to be a black kid. Or to socialize a black kid in the south. How does one tell his son or his daughter that he is a person of worth, yet at the same time you’ve got to be deferent to certain other kinds of people who in reality may be people of lesser worth than you are. Now that’s a hard thing to do.
Expression of anger was reserved for private gathering of others in your group, and even then was often expressed as shared jokes and derision at the expense of the dominant group; or it bled through in subversive, but carefully hidden acts of aggression towards the dominant group. Outwardly, you must display the expected and appropriate degree of respect the dominant group — the majority — is due, and accept that you are not due to receive the same from them.
I think that non-religious people are pretty much in the same position today. And in the case of non-religious people critiquing religion, anger is almost inevitable, and is almost always taken as a sign of some flaw in the person expressing it. It’s inevitable because we live in a society where the overwhelming majority of people are religious, and that’s at least party due to the fact that the overwhelming majority receive some kind of religious upbringing. Chances are that at least some of those who depart from the religious belief of their upbringing do so after some kind of painful experience related to and/or directly inflicted by or because of that religious belief. But the inevitable anger resulting from that experience is taken as a sign that their grievances regarding religion are less than legitimate.
There is a price to pay for expression of anger where religion is concerned, even when the reasons for that anger are legitimate. And while the non-religious may expect to the targets of anger and abuse, without being given so much as a voice in the discussion, they are to respect the people who heap abuse upon them.
Or face the consequences.