Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Who Is Like The Beast?

Remember when Speaker Pelosi walked arm and arm in a Civil Rights March across Independence Avenue, from the House buildings over to the Capitol. In three years, I have never seen Nancy Pelosi cross the street the way that you saw in that picture. They deliberately went through that crowd, perhaps to try and incite something.

If she was really worried about violence and she thought these people were violent, why would you grab a big hammer and walk into a sea of people?

Did anyone say to Nancy Pelosi, "You're inciting violence. You're slapping them across the face"?

They faked - they were trying to provoke an incident. There's no reason to walk above ground to get to the Capitol building from their offices. There's tunnels underneath with trains, subways, and so forth. They're purpose - send the Congressional Black Caucus to walk over, send Pelosi over there with a big gavel, trying to provoke an incident.
Listen, I know the three people listed above can in no way really be described as serious people in search of an honest debate on the issues. But one of the things I found so interesting in their various statements was how close these come to some classic rape apologia statements - you know, the ones that go, "She shouldn't have been there", "Did you see how she was dressed?" "She obviously wanted it", etc.

I especially find it interesting how the act of crossing the street, whether or not Speaker Pelosi does so often, is deemed indefensible here.

There is something happening in this vision of reality that seems to claim any and all negative actions taken against a person should be that person's responsibility. Even if all she did was cross a street when a bunch of protesters were out there showing their might.

There is something else that I find strange here as well, and that is this idea that not allowing a protest to effect your actions - or to not respond in the manner desired by the protesters - is suddenly a call to incite violence.

If Michelle Bachmann is right and Nancy Pelosi truly never has "cross[ed] the street the way that you saw" before, then what she seems to have been doing is creating a demonstration of her own. Not a show of force, no matter what Limbaugh and Beck think about her big gavel. But a demonstration of determination, a demonstration that she and those with her were not going to be bullied or be shamed for what they saw as a necessary vote for needed legislation - no matter how much they wanted/didn't want that was left out/put in the bill.

In effect, Nancy Pelosi seemed to be giving a clear message to the protesters, and to those people like Beck and Bachmann. That message was that she was proud of her accomplishments and her vote, and she was not going to be scared underground because there were people above ground who didn't like it and who didn't want to see her walk to the Capitol Building.

Frankly, it was a message that she deserved to walk up to that particular building in the light of day just as much as they deserved to demonstrate outside that building in the light of day. That she and her rights weren't dissolved simply because this group didn't like her and her ilk very much.

And if that very action was seen as a provocation, if hanging onto a giant gavel that was first used when Medicare was passed while walking was a horrible indignity those protesting and those commenting favorably on the protests, then the problem lies more with them than with her.

She was just, you know, doing her thing. Walking along. Being proud.

Too often, doing your thing, walking along, being proud, carrying a giant gavel is used as an explanation for someone else's actions.

Hopefully, enough people will see how silly this line of thinking is when it comes to someone like Nancy Pelosi and the passage of healthcare, and think back on that giant gavel. Hopefully, enough people will see how silly this line of thinking is when someone is walking down a street, and recognize that simply the act of living is in no way something that prompts an angry, violent response.

There are the things Nancy Pelosi talks about, when she brought up her experiences in 1970s San Francisco, that could be used, by some, as a balance, a sort of, "You're all hypocrites" and "the Left talks about provocations to violence too, so she shouldn't have walked there".

For the record, Pelosi has said, "I think we all have to take responsibility for our actions and our words. We are a free country and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance... ...But again, our country is great because people can say what they think and believe. But I also think they have to take responsibility for any incitement they may cause."

And a person could claim that Pelosi is simply getting hit from the Right with essentially the same stick she advocates for here. I don't think so, though. Because there is a difference between walking to a place you have to go anyway, and speaking in such a way that could incite violence. There is a difference between carrying a comically large gavel, and, say, a blogger who urges his readership to break DNC office windows in an attempt to avoid a larger - armed - conflict.

I happen to agree with Pelosi's statement. I'm a free speech advocate, but I also believe in a speaker's responsibility - along with the responsibility of the rest of us to call out speech we find to be unsavory. I am a fan of verbal self-restraint, though that may astonish anyone who has heard me babble for any length of time. I'm a fan of recognizing the power your words hold, and realizing the effect those words may have on an audience. I'm not a fan of the government making that line, and forming those distinctions.

I started this out by making allusions between rape apologia and what these three right-wing people said about Speaker Pelosi's march on the Capitol Building. But what I find interesting is that in these cases, it isn't merely that there are more often than not marginalized bodies involved. It is the weirdly fatalistic viewpoint. In rape apologia, a lot of the criticism comes down to Doing Something While Female. And in this, there may be more than a little of Being Speaker While Female.

But there is also this idea that we should beware of waking the foul Beast. Because the Beast cannot be controlled, should not be expected to control the urge compelling violence. All we can hope to do is not anger the Beast, to not draw the Beast's attention to us, to creep around as quietly as we possibly can and make as few waves as possible, lest we attract the Beast's attention. And if you do? If you awaken the Beast, if you are attacked or hurt or raped? It is obviously your fault. Because the Beast is nothing but a force compelled to action. To hold the Beast accountable would be foolhardy, and besides, only those people stupid enough to not follow Teh Rules get attacked. There's never this compulsion that maybe, just maybe, we should do something about the Beast itself. That maybe walking to work, even if there are angry people afoot, shouldn't be something that can be used to scold someone for provoking some sort of negative action, should that negative action arise. But no.


John said...

Ugh. So their argument is essentially, "She started it! She walked in front of them and gave them that look!" At what point did an argument that didn't work when we were kids suddenly start being acceptable in the professional political/media world?

petpluto said...

At what point did an argument that didn't work when we were kids suddenly start being acceptable in the professional political/media world?

I don't know, but for as long as I've been an adult, there have been a vocal strain of it running through the adult population!

So their argument is essentially, "She started it! She walked in front of them and gave them that look!"

What I particularly love is that, aside from the racial and homophobic slurs (and that's a pretty big aside), there was no violent response to this march. So, their basically saying to her, "You got lucky. You should never try to walk to work again, because if you do and something happens, that's totes on your head".