Faced with the tragic events of the Holocaust and the Gulag, we can no longer go back to traditional concepts and values, so as to explain the unprecedented by means of precedents, or to understand the monstrous by means of the familiar. The burden of our time must be faced without the aid of tradition, or as Arendt once put it, “without a bannister ” From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
After recently watching Margarethe Von Trotta’s film Hannah Arendt, which I enjoyed immensely, I began to do some further reading about Ms. Arendt, and came across the Bard College Hannah Arendt Center. The entire site is a fascinating reveal of one of the foremost philosophers, political thinkers and activists of the century. Hannah Arendt was brilliant, brash and brave, and lucky. In 1940, she narrowly escaped with her life from a concentration camp in the southwest of France, Camp Gurs. She left Nazi Europe and came to the United States where she had a long and successful career as a professor of political philosophy. According to the Bard site, “In 1961 Arendt covered the trial of Nazi official Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker, the installments of which became the 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The book caused great consternation and controversy within the Jewish, Zionist, Israeli and Academic worlds and was banned in Israel for many years. I continue my study of Arendt, and I urge readers to visit the Bard’s Hannah Arendt Center site for the sheer volume of the woman’s output as well as that of the philosophers and scholars who came before and after her.
However…a post on the Home Page of the Hannah Arendt Center stopped me dead short. It was from April 7, 2014 about the Mozilla/Brendan Eich problems.
It was signed: “—RB h/t Josh Kopin.” The initials ‘RB’ appear to refer to Roger Berkowitz, Academic Director of the Hannah Arendt Center, and Associate Professor of Politics, Philosophy, and Human Rights at Bard College. In defense of Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish piece on the Mozilla/Eich problems, the author of the Hannah Arendt Center post seemed to feel that Sullivan was one Gay man who had the correct response to the problem. The author said:
“Sullivan makes a passionate and necessary plea for both moral uncertainty and, equally important, a willingness to live with and amongst those whose opinions we find both wrong and hurtful. What makes American democracy special is not that we have the right answers, but that we are committed to the conversation, not that we employ mandarins blessed with the right answers but that we trust everyday citizens to figure it out as we go along. Sullivan makes his case that Eich was honorable, open, and willing to engage in meaningful dialogue with those he disagreed with.”
Really? Passionate and necessary? Even if I could extend the definition of “passionate” to include hysterical, I fail to see the “necessary” part. I disagree that Sullivan made his case; in fact, I think he made the opposite case! Sullivan seems to feel Eich was shown “no mercy.” Mercy? Sullivan can’t be serious! But he was. Eich was not honorable, open, or willing to engage in meaningful dialog with those he disagreed with. Mozilla’s Board of Directors, or at least the ones who hadn’t resigned in protest at his appointment, secured his resignation. In other words, they ousted him. Just hours before that move? Sure, THEN he was willing, and that’s what wasn’t meaningful enough to reverse his own personal history of not being willing…in 1998.
In 1998 Eich was willing to put his meaningful money and meaningful political allegiances where his mouth was; in 2014, he wanted to run a company that suddenly realized what came out of Eich’s mouth was not what they wanted to be associated with. So suddenly, the decision-makers in Eich’s case are mandarins and not everyday citizens who can figure it out as they go along? By the way, at the risk of bringing up an inconvenient fact, the GLBT individuals and communities of objectors to Eich being named CEO didn’t fire him; his fast departure was between him and Mozilla. The “market,” as some Libertarians and Practicing Contrarians might put it, took care of the rest. Don’t you just get so annoyed when the
Karma Market bites you!
I rather like the way John Becker, Editor in Chief of the Bilerico Project put it on April 7th in an article on HUFFPO:
“If a CEO publicly held the belief that women, African-Americans, or Jews were inferior, would the Andrew Sullivans of the world be lining up to defend him? If that person had donated to sexist, racist, or anti-Semitic groups, would we even be having this discussion? Of course not — he or she would be roundly condemned and immediately fired, because those prejudicial views are rightfully regarded with revulsion and scorn by civil society. “So, Mr. Sullivan, why on earth should patently discriminatory, homophobic views like those held by Eich be granted any further “tolerance”? Implicit in that line of thinking is that anti-gay bigotry is somehow nobler or more acceptable than racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism, and quite frankly, that’s appalling. “Responding to prejudice with outrage and action doesn’t harm the LGBT civil rights movement. Accommodating bigotry, on the other hand, harms us a great deal — it reinforces the lie that some forms of hatred are worse than others, and tacitly concedes that homophobia is a legitimate worldview that deserves deference and respect.”
I continue my study and reading of Hannah Arendt, but something she said a long time ago is shockingly relevant:
“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”
Eich or….anyone…(if Arendt’s statement holds true for one on the spectrum of evil, then it holds true for all, regardless of where they have put themselves on that spectrum and regardless of however “accidental” their choices led to a position on that spectrum), has no real claim to mercy, and Sullivan may have done him a disservice by suggesting we give it to him. The last hundred or thousand times I extended my arm across that aisle, I very nearly lost a limb. And worse? Some of my brothers and sisters have lost their lives to the evilness of homophobia. Did you think we hadn’t noticed the connection? The battle over Proposition 8 is over; Eich’s side won. We heard the dialog of that campaign in the months and weeks leading up to the vote. I believe we’ve already proven we can live quite successfully with and amongst people whose opinions we find both wrong and hurtful. We’ve done it for a long, long time.
Michelangelo Signorile, Editor-at-large of Huffington Post Gay Voices, is an author, journalist and commentator, and the host of “The Michelangelo Signorile Show,” which airs each weekday on SiriusXM Progress. His take on this is a clarion call. As Signorile stated in his HuffPo piece entitled: Dear Andrew Sullivan, ‘Left-Liberal Intolerance’ Did Not Bring Down Mozilla’s CEO :
“Eich only announced he was stepping down after it was revealed late Wednesday that he’d given money to Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign in 1992, and later to Ron Paul’s campaign. Suddenly, in addition to defending a CEO who gave money to homophobic efforts, Mozilla would have to defend a CEO who supported Buchanan, a far-right extremist and isolationist who’s been accused of racist and anti-Semitic attacks, and who also was, rightly, driven off MSNBC — though that took years longer to accomplish than the few weeks it took to purge Alec Baldwin.”
So, tell me the reason, again, why we should happily continue to discuss the concept of equal protections under the law, civility and the bonhomie of a democracy that only gives it to some of its citizens? No. Just no. Never again. I wonder, would this be an appropriate place to recall what Hannah Arendt said?
“Even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination…Such illumination may well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time-span that was given them on earth.”
The moral uncertainty theorists among us may not be quite ready to say she was, in essence, speaking precisely of all the little GLBT beacons of light that shone on the Mozilla/Eich problem…but I am.
Am I a member of what Bill Maher called “the Gay Mafia”? LOL…I like the HuffPo comment today (4/25/14) on what Dan Savage thinks.
If a gay mafia did exist, Savage joked, it would be “the slowest mafia on Earth to move, when you look at all the enemies of LGBT equality.”
But that’s Dan Savage–oh yeah, head of one of the Five Families–of we GLBTQs. He’s running the numbers in the Pacific Northwest, and it looks likes he could muscle that Sullivan guy right outta sight, if he wanted to…I mean, not that he would, of course. We’ve got our Five Family Code of Honor. And y’all know we have better sex and more of it, so…listen to Bill Maher and just don’t whacked by one of us.
And then there’s Matt Barber head of the Barbwire family. When he heard what Bill Maher had said, he nearly blew a gasket of glee. He said: “When even a radical, anti-Christian, God-hating atheist like Bill Maher has begun calling the “LGBT” movement the “Gay Mafia,” we know that America is finally starting to get it. Those who have been lulled to sleep by all the nonsensical and euphemistic rhetoric of “tolerance” and “diversity” are waking up to the stark reality that the “gay rights” movement has nothing to do with “tolerance” or “diversity.” Homofascism is the leftist order of the day. America can take heart in the fact that sexual anarchists have finally begun crossing that bridge too far in their desperate attempt to force universal affirmation of a sad, self-destructive and disordered sexual lifestyle.”
Mr. Barber is SO obsessed with our Gay sexual lives that he’s sputtering literary and film titles that, as irony and ignorance would have it, relate to a concept of possibly taking on a military campaign that might be more than one could handle but which is a necessary act of self-determination in the concept of what it means to be a human. Sullivan would have us extend a socio-political kind of unwarranted mercy when the only appropriate gesture would be forgiveness. We can probably arrange that. But who gets to say when an “‘Eich-like’ person (as opposed to the person Brendan Eich) becomes an ‘Eichmann-like’ person? (Do you think I exaggerate—then please read forward to the World War II historical part of this post.) I’m sure there have been and will be missteps in the GLBT efforts to gain equality and equal protection under the law, but I don’t think this is one of those times. When Barber refers to us as “sexual anarchists,” who practice “homofascism,” it’s the kind of over-arching character assassination that makes “sexual anarchists” feel all warm and fuzzy. Here, in one revealing incident, we actually have Matt Barber congratulating Andrew Sullivan for helping to blow up the bridges that Sullivan and many of us spent a long time building. Oh, with a little help from Bill Maher. And if that’s not so, then whose foot were you aiming at, Mr. Sullivan?
Funny thing about Operation Market Garden…my father was a glider pilot in that campaign delivering Jeeps and other heavy equipment and troops to the theater of conflict.
His glider tumbled out of the sky, in thick fog, with limited communications and the usual chaos of war, and surrounded by Nazis, but he lived to tell about it. A lot of his friends didn’t. They were all there to try to stop the real Fascists from continuing to annihilate millions of people based on their ethnicity, their religion, their sexuality. Operation Market Garden was one battle in a big war…and we all know how that war ended.
Perhaps Mr. Barber needs to remember how Fascism informed this bit of history:
Paragraph 175, German Penal Code, June 28th, 1935
175. A male who commits lewd and lascivious acts with another male or permits himself to be so abused for lewd and lascivious acts, shall be punished by imprisonment. In a case of a participant under 21 years of age at the time of the commission of the act, the court may, in especially slight cases, refrain from punishment.
Or maybe Mr. Barber needs to remember how Fascism informed this other bit of history: Among the many horrors of the Nazi (Fascist) government, Action T4, was especially heinous as it provided Hitler with a way to exterminate other classes of “Unwanteds” (besides Jews and Homosexuals), such as the Roma (Gypsies), the handicapped, the severely ill, and people of minority religions.
“Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr. Brandt are charged with the responsibility for expanding the authority of physicians, to be designated by name, to the end that patients considered incurable according to the best available human judgment of their state of health, can be granted a mercy death.”
Be careful, Mr. Barber: One never knows from whence the next bit of history will come. In other news, The LGBTQ Nation, reported:
Taj Patterson, 23, a fashion student at the New York City College of Technology was attacked in the early hours of December 1,2013 by more than a dozen ultra-Orthodox men shouting anti-gay epithets.
Authorities say the suspects were part of the Williamsburg Safety Patrol Unit, a local civilian watch group in the heavily Jewish Orthodox section of the neighborhood, and stopped Patterson while he was walking home.
Patterson said he was told to “stay down, faggot, stay the fuck down” during the beating. Five of the men were charged with gang assault and other counts, but NOT with any hate crimes. They are free on bail and could face 25 years in prison.
The attack left Mr. Patterson blind in one eye.