Today’s blog post is an experiment in randomizing writing prompts. I took to Facebook and asked my friends to pick a major and minor subject of this post.
I was inspired to do this by a category of contest in formal speech & debate called Extemporaneous Debate. I’ve only done it once or twice, but it’s a lot of fun. The way it works is like this: random topics have to be synthesized into a coherent speech by the speaker, no research is allowed and the speech must be given on the spot.
Prompts are usually yelled out by the audience. Wilder prompts make for better speeches. The trick is to just go for whatever is obvious from the jump and try to be funny. I’ve never seen anyone do well with this game by playing it straight or being serious.
The always-witty Dr. Sarah Headland contributed, “the rise in popularity of crunch”, which I am free to interpret as I wish. San Francisco’s best personal trainer, Matt Trip, offered the timely and trollish, “no one is discussing Israel and Palestine in the presidential election.”
The subject to this post is something like: Does the rise of (political) crunchiness account for the perceived lack of discussion of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict in the 2016 presidential race?
NOTE: in keeping with the spirit of the debate rules, I’m writing this without any research, in one go. Any inaccuracies are due to this being a stream-of-consciousness first draft, not the usual laziness. Here it goes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about speech and debate lately, one of my favorite classes. While I was cranking through junior college I didn’t have any real sort of political orientation. I vaguely identified as a libertarian (and in some ways still do), but my environmental concerns were always a wedge between orthodox conservatism and me.
While preparing for an in-class debate, I read a book called Crunchy Cons: The New Conservative Counterculture and Its Return to Roots by Rod Dreher. Despite being a pretty corny book, it had a major impact on me. It follows a familiar formula for contrarian political biographies, one where the author advocates for a left or right position, while trotting out an unusual twist. Some examples might be “I’m a gun loving gay socialist” or “I’m an Evangelical Christian businessman and I love Obamacare.” This is a great strategy for book sales because it lets you biangulate between audiences, appealing to more people.
In Crunchy Cons, Dreher tries to square his mainstream conservative values with his tendency to shop at farmers markets and enjoy all the crunchy granola goodness one would expect the average Bernie Sanders devotee to traffic in.
When I came across this book in 2006 I had already begun working farmers markets and I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the people who ranched and farmed held to some of the conservative values that appeal to me: a passion for smaller, more localized government, a basic belief in personal responsibility, optimism about free markets, suspicion of leftist controlled Federal agencies, a desire to keep hard earned money out of the hands of the Military Industrial Complex and other social loafers, and a passion for firearms.
Some of these farmers market folks were hard line GOP types, but most line up with a demographic I heard a friend of mine call “Rainbow Rednecks.” They’re into all the normal conservative stuff, but add an a la carte support for things like gay marriage, cannabis legalization, and even hold some relatively progressive views on immigration, owed to their reliance on immigrant farm labor.
Mainstream Libertarians believe the free market solves everything, but I’m not sure it does. Companies that externalize the costs of environmental damage probably need some sort of mechanism in place to check them against being total dicks. If you’ve ever seen the giant pools of feces and blood near pig slaughtering or watched interviews with fishermen near any of the major oil spills, you know there are industries that count the destruction of wild places as part of the cost of doing business.
The court system occasionally holds people responsible for malicious or accidental destruction of natural resources, but in most cases no one sees any jail time. Whatever government oversees the damaged land typically levies a fine, which often ends up settled. I respect the legal process, but I don’t understand how you can honestly calculate the financial cost of destroying a beautiful place. If there’s sin, it can be found in the decision to eradicate our magnificent land in favor of profit.
Conservation used to be a conservative cause. Teddy Roosevelt, my favorite president, killed an awful lot of God’s creatures, but he also laid the foundation of a robust parks system and inculcated the nation with ideas about what we ought to do with our wild places. Roosevelt was pragmatic about maintaining a fecund economy, but he knew the wild was priceless.
More than anything, I wish we had something like a Bull Moose Party candidate for 2016. After a dustup with the Republicans, Roosevelt split the party and ran a third party dedicated to a fairly sensible mix of Republicanism and Progressivism.
Around the time Dreher’s book came out people were still figuring out what it meant to be Libertarian. Celebrities like Bill Maher and Doug Stanhope said they were Libertarian. At the same time, Rand Paul was flying the flag. For a long time it was imply short hand for, “I don’t give a fuck what you do as long as it doesn’t raise my taxes or keep weed and guns from being legal.”
Then 2008 happened. After the economy went south, we saw the rise of the Tea Party in 2009. For every educated Constitutional scholar in that crowd, there are fifty mouth breathing sweat pants aficionados. Libertarianism quickly became the party of tri-corner hats and Call of Duty cosplayers with border control fetishes.
Recently there’s a funnier, Internet based brand of conservatism called Cultural Libertarianism. It combines a passion for free speech at any cost with an impish urge to reenact Michael P. Keaton style Reaganism. Most of these folks busy themselves with arguing about social justice virtue signaling and the radical left’s wholesale indoctrination of the young and gullible college students who will doubtlessly fail our country at war making and business building.
Thankfully, this mutation of the movement seems to be smarter and much funnier than the old cousin fuckers who came out in force to support Sarah Palin’s cretinism. Unfortunately they seem completely comfortable doubling down on the stuff Republicans have been falling on their swords over for years.
Leftists saw their own version of this in the Occupy movement and in the political alignments of philosopher Slavoj Zizek. In a speech worth listening to (if you can tolerate the creepy People’s Microphone), Zizek advises the left to be careful not to fall in love with itself, because doing so will prevent the activist from coming up with whatever ought to come after Capitalism.
Zizek fails at anything even close to prescription. He essentially threw up his hands and reverted back to advocating of the kind of Communism he grew up under in what is now called Slovenia. With everything Zizek, you have to consider that you might be listening to theory, but you’re probably listening to a comedy routine. This is more or less what the Cultural Libertarians are up to (at least the funny ones on Twitter and YouTube).
Presidential politics have been an absolute gold mine for comedians and pundits this year. Trump and Sanders have made this one of the most fun to watch elections in history and they’ve done it by concentrating on what the American people really care about, which brings me to the other half of the writing prompt: Israel and Palestine.
We’re not likely to hear much about the Middle East outside of who will do a better job of teabagging ISIS with our great-feathered American bald eagle balls.
People don’t seem to have raised any concerns about the conflict between Israel and Palestine in this election cycle. Partly I think that has to do with a basically pro-Israel stance from all candidates. Even if they were’ already on board, I imagine no one wants to put himself or herself in the difficult position of defending Palestine, whose government has long suspected ties to Islamic terror, which is kind of a problem right now. It makes sense that our candidates have effectively tabled this issue.
The whole idea of needing to choose a side between Israel and Palestine sucks. I know the Israeli government is the one I’d prefer to live under if I moved to the Middle East, but I’ve met Jews and Arabs and they’re both pretty cool people. Hell, they each make falafels and hummus, which are absolutely delicious.
I remember a couple of years ago Joe Rogan and comedian Duncan Trussell were talking about a pair of emails they received. One was from a Jew and the other was from an Arab. They were both listening to the Joe Rogan podcast while hiding from rockets and mortars sent from the other side. Each expressed how the show was helping them deal with the fighting. Neither was aware of the other’s existence, but they were having the same experience at nearly the same time.
That is remarkable. Two men from enemy nations were enjoying the ramblings of a stoner cage fighting commentator and his hippy buddy while the politicians in charge of the dirt they hang out on top of sent young people to kill each other over some Bronze age gods.
The politicians in Israel and Palestine are cock faces just like the ones representing us and they should be ashamed of every word they utter that causes discord and death. But that’s not how these reptilian fucks play the game. They divide us up over dumb shit and keep us blind to how similar each other’s falafels are.
No matter which angry desert god is the true god, the people of the Middle East should be allowed to make peace without their asshole leaders getting in the way. Hopefully whichever evil clown we choose as quarterback will help chill those dorks out.