Monday, April 11, 2016
This Week's Gallery of the Absurd
Ideology is a killer -- of flesh-and-blood people, yes, but also of critical thinking, civility, and honesty. Since last Wednesday, proof of this basic truth has accumulated apace.
Let's start first with the reaction to Dragon Con's press release regarding the Dragon Awards. I'm going to be optimistic here and guess that the silent majority is either neutral or positively inclined towards this development -- but it just wouldn't be fandom if there weren't a few obnoxious social justice warriors out there running their mouths and revealing exactly how ill-informed they are about DC and Southeast fandom in general.
I've attended DC annually since 2004 -- and from 2007 to 2015, I was also a member of its staff. Therefore, I'm in a good position to debunk a lot of this nonsense. So guys? DC is enormous. Over the past decade or so, it has expanded from two host hotels to five, and it now offers programming in almost forty different programming tracks, each staffed by its own director and six or more flunkies (on average). Additionally, it runs its own in-house news organ, takes over each host hotel's closed-circuit station for televised programming, and also requires a huge volunteer pool to run registration, Tech Ops, Sec Ops, disability services, VIP services, etc.
The result? DC is incredibly diverse. At one end of the con, you can see a burlesque show; at the other, you can visit a table run by Fans for Christ. At one end of the con, the Skeptics Track is questioning the credibility of supposed UFO sightings; at the other, the X-Track takes UFO sightings seriously. This is a con that accommodates LGBT and Christian groups under the same tent; thus, the very idea that one particular group of fans could dictate to DC what it can and can't do is absolutely ludicrous. Case in point: Last year, my director (a Puppy-leaning neutral) wanted to host a discussion panel about the Hugos and the Puppies -- but was shot down by other staff members, who begged her not to step into that hornet's nest. Nope: DC is studied in its neutrality -- and that's precisely why I enjoy it.
Oh, and for those out there claiming that DC must be a "backwards hillbilly con" because it's held in Georgia: I dare you to experience DC after dark and then say that again. You are letting your anti-Southerner bigotry show, and it's not becoming.
Meanwhile, on Facebook, people are once again claiming that political correctness is all about "politeness." Hah! Don't make me laugh. What's polite about hounding people out of their jobs? What's polite about storming into a school library and disrupting other students' study time? What's polite about blocking traffic at a town's sole entry point and potentially preventing access to a regional hospital? What's polite about rioting and burning down local businesses because a judicial proceeding didn't go your way? If the news stories of the past year - and my own experiences - have taught me anything, it's that the politically correct are perhaps the rudest people in existence.
Speaking of the rudeness of the left, a local story came across my desk this weekend that sadly unearthed a tyrannical SJW here in my own back yard.
Earlier this year, a controversy erupted over the naming of a brand new elementary school. One group was pushing for the school to be named after a local firefighter who died in the line of duty a few years ago; another group was pushing for the school to be named for a local philanthropist. The trouble? The firefighter was white and the philanthropist is black -- and while the neighborhood impacted favored the firefighter, according to the leftist members of our school board, "it's high time we name a school after an African American."
OK -- fair enough. I actually don't object to that idea. Indeed, it should be pretty easy to accommodate both of the factions in play. A number of our schools - particularly out in the western half of our county - are over-crowded and overflowing into makeshift trailers, so the chances that more new schools will be built in the near future approach one. The firefighter and the philanthropist can both get their own schools with minimum fuss.
But nope: This logical solution completely escaped our school board, who decided last month in a zero-hour "compromise" to name the new elementary school for the firefighter and rename an existing decades-old middle school in my district for the philanthropist. The reasoning provided? The middle school's original namesake was a part of the "massive resistance" movement in Virginia that erupted in response to federal orders to desegregate the public schools.
Le sigh. Okay, I'm not going to defend Mills Godwin's early viewpoint on segregation. He was 100% in the wrong, and the damage the "massive resistance" movement wrought was real and heartbreaking. But the man's story doesn't end there. Godwin did not stick with the racist Byrd machine forever; in fact, he redirected his loyalties and ultimately became the Virginia governor who established our community college system, an achievement that has arguably helped low-income and minority students access higher education in the decades since.
I've mentioned this before, but I mislike this new zeal to scrub all the dirt off our history in the name of "racial sensitivity." I mislike it precisely because it ignores nuance and context. Let's be real here: Racism was so overwhelmingly common in Virginia before our current era that just about any Virginian politician who lived before, say, 1960, probably harbored what we would consider to be horribly offensive racial sentiments. So where, exactly, is this crusade going to stop? It may feel oh so good to sandblast these folks off our buildings and monuments, but it is also profoundly ahistorical and, dare I say it, unjust. Historical Virginians did not see the world through our eyes; thus, it's unfair to declare them unpersons because they failed to align with our viewpoints. Recognizing that people like Godwin were disastrously mistaken on one issue does not require that we utterly erase whatever good they did from the narrative. People are just not that simple.
Now let's fast-forward: At last week's school board meeting, the middle school's renaming was challenged by a few sympathetic members of the school board at the request of locals who share my apprehension and teachers at the school in question. The teachers in particular rightly feel that the school board has ignored their true needs, and they stepped forward to question whether money should be spent to change their school's name when the students in their community - many of whom are poor and do not speak English as a native language - desperately need more SPED teachers, more ESL teachers, more classroom space, and fresh curricular materials. All they did, in other words, was advocate for our county's most vulnerable pupils -- but in response, my own school board representative threatened their jobs.
Yes, you heard me correctly: After the period for citizen comment, this supposed "educator" told the aforementioned dissenting teachers that she'd be "watching them" for the next three years because, in her ideologically addled mind, they're clearly not qualified to teach "students of color." What the blue bloody hell? These teachers never said that Godwin was right about segregation -- nor did they opine that a school should not be named for a black man. They were simply trying to point out their difficult day-to-day reality -- and for their trouble, they now have to watch their backs?
This is lunacy. I don't care how you feel about Godwin's name; attempting to intimidate your opponents into silence is neither professional nor right. But it is, of course, what the aspiring fascists of the social justice left want to do to all of us who fail to parrot their radical creed.