Charlottesville, American Fascism, & White Supremacy

While I generally try to avoid political or real world cultural issues posts here, the events of last weekend in Charlottesville, VA deserve, I think, some commentary. I waited on writing this, and posting it, to fully gather my thoughts and response to the situation. Even so, this may ramble a bit, my apologies in advance. First, despite a certain “world leader’s” claim, there were no “many sides” and the situation was clear cut. The situation is always clear cut when neo-Nazis and white supremacists are involved and there are always only two sides: neo-Nazis/Supremacists & everyone else. There really is no middle ground here. I’m the first to argue against oversimplifying and dichotomies, but, in this case, there are only the two and it really is that simple. Claims of equivalency between the neo-Nazis/Supremacists and the antifa/BLM movement are false; the former use violence against people simply because of their skin color or for being Jewish in order to kill or intimidate, the latter use violence less often, but do so to protect people of all races & creeds from being beaten or killed. Regardless, the default state should always be Nazis = bad, no “buts”, no “what abouts”, no excuses. Nazis always = bad.

A little semi-digression.

My paternal grandfather was the child of Polish immigrants. He was an irreverent Catholic. He was not, to my knowledge, especially political. He was known to occasionally indulge in what can euphemistically be called “ethnic humor”. I never heard him raise his voice in anger (it probably happened, but I don’t ever recall it). He was also an NCO in the U.S. Army MPs during the occupation of Germany after WWII. In this role, he sometimes escorted Nazi officers, particularly SS officers, to their trials. Occasionally, in the process, he shot at, or ordered others to shoot at, Nazis. Keep in mind, the second largest ethnic population sent to the concentration camps was the Poles, possibly some of his relatives. I can only imagine what he’d think of the events in Charlottesville and those on the American Right who stood up for Neo-Nazis.

(To Head off Objections: No, people who fought in the Korean War did not fight communists or Marxists. They fought fascist oligarchs. The same holds for the entire Cold War. Cuba? Military dictatorship. Yes, they called themselves communists, but they weren’t any more than I’m a Catholic, no matter what I may choose to call myself.)

Back to the main point.

The central element of white supremacy, and really the neo-Nazis, is this idea that they are somehow “defending White Culture”. However, “White Culture” (or “White European Culture”) is a myth. There is no such thing. There are many white, European cultures, not a single unified one. A culture involves traditions and tangibles, ex. food & attire. “White Culture” lacks both. Rather, there is Irish culture, German culture, Romanian culture, Canadian culture, etc. The argument that says, “If White Culture is racist, then so is Black Culture” is another false equivalency. In the U.S., if you ask a white person (or Asian or Latinx) what country (or countries) their family originated in, they can probably tell you. Ask the same question of a black individual and the majority are unable to say, because it’s impossible to tell unless their families immigrated in the 20th century or later. Thus, “Black Culture” or “African-American Culture” is not equivalent to “White Culture”, it is equivalent to saying Irish culture or Vietnamese culture or Puerto Rican culture.

That brings to mind another thing I keep hearing: “Let’s get rid of the prefixes, we’re all Americans.” I have two problems with this. First, no one ever says this when a white guy identifies as Irish-American or German-American. The prefixes only seem to be a problem for certain people when they’re used by someone who is black (African-American) or brown (Mexican-American, etc.). Second, those prefixes are an important part of our American culture, a reminder that we are a hybrid culture, a multicultural society, Frankensteinian if you will. In the States, it’s difficult to find anyone, except a recent immigrant, whose lineage is entirely from one country. Virtually all of us are mixed something, e.g. multicultural. For example, I’m a mix of Polish (paternal) and Anglo-Scots-Irish (maternal). This also goes to cultural festivals. There are those who complain about “black pride” festivals or black history month, of course they say nothing about the country’s numerous Irish cultural festivals, celebration of Oktoberfest, etc.

On the whole, the States are an experiment on a number of levels. We’re not the first multicultural society in existence—Rome, China, India, Russia, and others beat us there—nor are we the oldest multicultural society is existence—again, see China, India, Russia. To think otherwise is sheer ignorance. But, we’re, most of us, trying very hard to make it successful despite elements of our society that wish to sabotage society.

Stereotypes & Assumptions

I’m not a deep thinker or writer, despite my background, education, and training.  This may seem odd from someone with a PhD in an arts/humanities field given the reputations of said fields.  We’re expected to be thinking and writing deep, meaningful, philosophical things.

That’s not me.

Maybe that comes from being the grandkid of working class families.  Maybe it comes from my Polish lineage (though we have Copernicus and John Paul II, so maybe not entirely).

I think this is the big reason I rejected doing literary theory in grad school.  Most of the things we read and discussed were doing pure theory, theory for the sake of theory.  People like Roland Barthes, Toril Moi, and Stanley Fish who were totally divorced from texts, just developing theory to further theory drove me crazy.  Meanwhile, I embraced, halfheartedly because theory was required, New Historicism, in short studying a text’s historical context or the historical context in which it was and is received.  It seemed, and still does, the most practical of the theories out there.

I remember being in a graduate level Shakespeare course, during my MA.  We were reading Othello and a fellow student asked, “Why is Othello so obsessed with his reputation?”  As I recall, a few theories were posited, some “I don’t knows” floated around.  Then I spoke up (and I usually didn’t talk much in class), saying, “Othello’s a mercenary, the commander of a company of mercenaries.  His reputation is literally his life.  It’s how he gets jobs for himself and his men.  That would be important enough, but he’s also a Moor, a Black Muslim, working in Catholic Italy.  That makes his reputation at least twice as important as it is for other mercenary captains.”  To me, this seemed obvious.  From the looks I got, it seemed to be a revelation to many others in the class.  It’s not a deep, philosophical interpretation, but a practical, historically important one, I think.

During a decade as a student in higher ed, I concluded that  students sometimes forget about the practical side of critical thinking and get too caught up in some skewed sense of how they think they should be responding and thinking, trying to “sound college”.  The problem is that “sounding college” is built on a stereotype, maybe an idealization, possibly fueled by pop culture (especially movies), in which the faculty are almost invariably the enemy who need to be appeased and outwitted (often by presenting convoluted responses, answers, and thoughts that really make no sense in the light of day).  Often, we just want a straight response that seems likely (at least I do).

Was Shakespeare using Othello as a commentary on hyper-masculinity?  I don’t know.  Possibly.  It’s perfectly valid for modern audiences to read the character that way.  But, I think, for an audience that was being reminded of the War of the Roses, had survived the Spanish Armada, was dealing with the Succession Question, and had the Vatican & Papists fomenting insurrection . . . I suspect they’d understand Othello’s obsession with reputation as part and parcel of being a mercenary captain and an outsider by faith and appearance.

Maybe that all means I’m not a deep enough or philosophical enough thinker for this field or academia.  I don’t know.  Maybe the stereotype & expectation are just false.

Testing

Just testing.

I updated to WordPress app on the 12th.  The last post it’s showing for blogs I follow is the 13th.  If I log in via a browser, I see 19+ posts since then, but not in the app.

So, testing to see if my own post appears.

Until Next Week . . . U2

No update last week due to our 17th anniversary & some craziness.

No writing update this week because we spent the week planning and dealing with logistics to see the last show of the first North American leg of U2’s The Joshua Tree 2017 Tour (along with approximately 70,000 other people).

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(About 90 minutes before the opening act)
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(U2 starting off, “New Year’s Day”)

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(Moving to the main stage to start the Joshua Tree portion of the show)

I Don’t Accommodate Uncontrolled Men

“I think ‘normal’ is a guy being able to interact with a woman comfortably, regardless of what she’s wearing, without waging a battle for his soul.”

This, this, so many times this.

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It’s summer! Time for all the the ladies to start posting articles about why it’s not a woman’s responsibility to prevent a man from lusting and all the gentlemen to start posting comments about why it’s not a woman’s responsibility, but she sure can help.

I’ve been encouraged to see the pushback, by women, even women in more conservative circles, against the toxic idea that a woman’s clothing choices can cause men to stumble.

But this pushback gets halted when a guy stands up and comfortably announces that while this personal responsibility thing all sounds great, the reality is that normal, healthy guys like him struggle, so women should still cover up. And the ladies go a little silent, unable to argue with this universal battle against sexual temptation that women never face.

The pushback against purity culture dies right then and there, because no woman wants to challenge…

View original post 762 more words

Origins Game Fair 2017

This past week was the Origins Game Fair, which I spent several hours attending.  Over the course of six hours Friday and a couple hours Saturday, I ended up demo-ing or otherwise playing about a dozen board games, most with my son.  I also wandered around the Exhibitor Hall Saturday, checking out artists and game companies, seeing Timothy Zahn & Jean Rabe, and chatting a bit with Sheryl Nantus, Donald J. Bingle, and Margaret Weis’s table minion.  Also talked a bit with wonderful artist, David Lee Pancake.

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So, without further ado . . .

Menu Masters (Calliope)

A fun game in which each player is a chef with a number of kitchen minions.  The goal is to complete three menus (when one player completes three, the others have one turn to finish with the ingredients they have on hand).  Each player has two secret menus and all players can work from three public menus.  The goal is to combine the most high quality ingredients (as noted by stars on each ingredient).  Minions can be sent to the stores—produce, butcher, bakery—to purchase ingredients or to “own” the store for the round (to get more money).  Had a blast playing and trying to balance the elements and strategies of the game.

Wordoku (Calliope)

Combination Boggle and Sudoku with a few tweaks.  Neither of us enjoyed this one as much as the others.  Personally, I’d rather stick to Scrabble or Upwords.

Running with the Bulls (Calliope)

Described by the company as board game plinko, that’s a pretty apt description.  Players all start with a number of dice randomly assigned to five starting points where they are chased by randomly placed “bull” dice.  Each player has a number of cards they can use to affect the outcome of the run, remove runners, change directions, and modify bulls.  The locations at the end of the run also affect points.  More enjoyable now than when we played last year in the pre-production version since they seem to have ironed out the kinks.

Ugh (Calliope)

Simple, fun card game in which the goal is to build sets of three—person, home, pet—with a caveman theme while avoiding the, truly evil, “Ugh” cards.  Artwork on the cards is done by John Kovalic, of Dork Tower & Munchkin fame, with his typical sense of humor.  The difference in scoring is what sets this one apart.  The point scores for each card in a set are multiplied, then the sets are added.  So, a set of Person 3, Home 4, and Pet 2 = 24 points (3 x 4 x 2).

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Captain Silver (Queen Games)

A bag draw game that went well with a young child.  Each player has a ship and a bag of pirate items.  Most of the board is four rows with pirate item icons.  Items are drawn from the bag and placed on the board, if they fit the next space on a row.  If not, they go on the island at the end.  Once one row is complete, the play shifts.  Players either get to move their ships or are given gold based on which item spaces they managed to cover in each row.  Moving the ship gives additional treasure and points.  Items left on the island remove points.

Wendigo (Iello)

Somewhat fun game for kids.  The tokens represent campers with one player chosen as the wendigo and the others as scout masters.  During the night phase, the scout masters close their eyes while the wendigo replaces a camper.  During the day phase, the scout masters try to find the wendigo (one guess per player per day phase).  The next night phase, the wendigo gets to remove a camper from the board and play continues until either the wendigo is caught or six rounds have passed.

Sheriff of Nottingham (Arcane Wonders)

Fun deception style game in which players take turns as the titular Sheriff.  The non-Sheriff players then try to smuggle legal and illegal goods into town, potentially bribing the Sheriff not to search their cart or to ignore them and search another player.  Each player places a stated number of cards in a pouch (cannot lie about the number) and states what goods they are, ex. 3 chickens (can lie about this part).  Penalties apply for being caught lying, and for falsely accusing a player of lying.  Reminds me of a board game version of the old card game BS (aka Cheat or “I Doubt It”).

Barenpark (Mayfair)

Rather fun spacial awareness game in which players attempt to construct the best bear park.  The best description I came up with is a board game version of Tetris because the goal is to fill four cards with different shaped pieces.  The game rewards fast building, as most of the pieces and the bear statues that one acquires for finishing a board, are awarded in decreasing point values (e.g. first player to get a bear statue gets 16 points, second gets 15, third 14, etc.).

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Costa Rica (Mayfair)

Tile flipping game in which players send out six expeditions each from different starting points (all players start at the same six points).  Most of the strategy depends on willingness to weigh benefit-risk ratios of continuing the expedition versus taking tiles versus passing in the hopes of taking more tiles.  Enjoyed by both myself and a six year old, the game play mechanics are straightforward and the game is fairly quick to play.

Saboteurs (Mayfair)

Another fun deception game in which most of the players are constructing a mine to find the gold (one of three cards, the other two are useless).  Players cooperate to get from the mine entrance to the gold.  However, there are players who secretly want to gold to remain where it is and the other players to fail.  These saboteurs can break mining equipment, redirect tunnels, cause cave ins to remove tunnel sections, and look at the target cards to lie to the other players about which is the gold.

Oh My Goods (Mayfair)

Played this resource building game last year, but played it again this year to give it another chance.  Unfortunately, I still think it is needlessly complex and clunky in its mechanics.  Most of the players I demo-ed with (all veteran board gamers) became quickly confused about turn segments and resource counting as well as card data.

Ciúb (AMIGO via Mayfair)

Another that seemed to be an interesting concept, but needlessly convoluted.  A dice gathering game with the intent to finding the right dice combination to cast a given spell card (and collect the card for points).  The over-complexity could have been on the end of the demo-instructor and the fact that we were checking it out right before lunch.  If Mayfair’s still demoing it next year, I may try it out on my own again, to give it a second chance.

Craziness

Sorry about the lack of posts this week.

The last couple weeks have been crazy between work (end of semester panic brings lots of people to tutoring and we got swamped) and family stuff (grandparent died & other things).

Things should be settled down enough to get something back this Sunday.