Friday, December 01, 2006

National Friday League, week thirteen

Defending my view of "The South"
Let me explain my position on "the South." I am not bigoted against southerners; in the statement that gave offense, I said "some racist southerners," which was in no way intended to imply that I think all southerners are racist (the adjectives "some" and "racist" make clear I am referring to a subset of southerners), though certainly the statement reveals a bias I have about the South.

Now, unless you're a judge or a journalist, bias is not a dirty word; we all have biases, and that's OK.

I have a difference in values from what is generally associated with "Southern values." Having a value system and thinking negatively about another value system is not bigoted. If it is, every thinking human being is bigoted, since every thinking human being has opinions (or, if you prefer, biases) about particular values. We don't all share the same values. I don't need to get into the specifics about what I mean by "Southern values" or what it is that I dislike or disagree with. Let it be enough to say that I have a values difference (if anybody actually wants to know about these values differences, I'd consider writing it on another blog and linking to it here).

Do I have negative assumptions about "the South"? Absolutely. But I am self-aware and honest, and I admit that these are biased assumptions, not objective truth. Having awareness of our biases is a much better approach than pretending we have no biases. Do my biases about Southern values mean that I hate all southerners? Of course not. I try as hard as anybody to be tolerant, to be nonjudgmental, and to assess individuals as individuals. If I'm a generally misanthropic person, that has nothing to do with the particulars of the people. In general, the only thing I have intolerance for is intolerance.

If you still think I'm a douche, fine. I probably am. I resent being called bigoted, but I recognize the statement I made showed my biases. I don't care if I offended anybody and I don't feel the need to be objective on my BLOG.

Why did the Lions sign Josh McCown?

I have no idea. They signed Jon Kitna and made him the starter, and they signed McCown and made him the backup. Was McCown worth it? Did they have the idea that he would ever be the starter? And now, when their 2006 season is clearly going nowhere and they must know Kitna is not their QB of the future, why aren't they playing McCown to see what he can do? Peter King thinks the Lions should have drafted Matt Leinart last year, and thinks they should draft Brady Quinn for next year. Is Josh McCown even a real person, or did I imagine one of the worst moments of my football fan life (Viking fans, you know what I'm talking about)?

Pat Williams is doubtful, and so are my chances for a happy Sunday
"What was that bang?" should have a good game preview; he hates the Bears more than I do so I'll leave the vitriol to him. But I'm worried that Pat Williams is doubtful. Williams is the most important player on the defense; he's the reason they have an historically good run defense. Without him, the Bears might not become one-dimensional, and Sexy Rexy might not throw to Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith, Fred Smoot, Antoine Winfield, and Cedric Griffin. I am sad about this. I will do my best to enjoy Friday and Saturday (read: gin) because Sunday might be a rather unhappy day.

The Bengals, eh?
I didn't really have faith in Cincinnati going into the season. I usually have high regard for teams that feature toughness and defense, and that didn't seem to be Cincinnati. I didn't know how Carson Palmer would return, and given that they've had one successful season in...well, in a long damn time...I didn't really know whether they could follow up an 11-5 year with another playoff year. Now they're 7-5, still two games behind 9-3 Baltimore in the AFC North, but with a legitimate shot to win out. And we all know what can happen to teams that finish the year playing their best football. I'd like to see the Bengals playing some games in January.

Enjoy the weekend, everybody. Except Packer and Bear fans.

6 comments:

  1. PV, I generally enjoy your work. Furthermore, I recognize that this is a personal site where you write in an informal and often jocular manner, but this post is bordering on total rhetorical carelessness. I can't imagine that you'd pass one of your literature students for the argument you've made in this post even if they presented evidence, which you do not.

    Select complaints and observations follow:

    1. "I am not bigoted against southerners; in the statement that gave offense, I said 'some racist southerners,' which was in no way intended to imply that I think all southerners are racist." No, but it does imply that the only people likely to be offended by a black man on television are some subset (notably, the "racist" subset) of all "southerners." You could say "some racists" without singling out the American South as the only clime in which such virulent hatred might thrive. However, the whole sentence in your original piece is a canard: the sort of racism that stains and shackles our country today does not manifest itself in outrage at the celebrity status of a person of color. The "some racist southerners" who need chicken-wire in front of their televisions whenever Irvin appears because of the color of his skin sound like they exist only in over-credulous fantasy.

    2. "I don't need to get into the specifics about what I mean by 'Southern values' or what it is that I dislike or disagree with." On the contrary, since you opened this paragraph by saying "I have a difference in values from what is generally associated with 'Southern values,'" I think you do. I am a reasonably well-educated person who has lived all over the US and I have no idea what you are trying to say by "what is generally associated with 'Southern values.'" Who, generally, holds this putative association? Americans? Bloggers? Pacifists? Gin enthusiasts?

    You can't make such a sweeping generalization without any evidence, and you certainly can't make one without even providing a frame of reference. Reading your "generally associated with...." sentence feels like hearing an ethnic joke premised upon an unfamiliar stereotype -- perhaps the bigots in the audience find it amusing, but I am left confused. Indeed, it seems to me that your assertion is merely part of a Rortian "final vocabulary" -- anyone who shares your opinion of "the South" (which, by the way, is wholly unclear to me beyond the fact that you don't like it for reasons that you feel deserve no elaboration) will know what you mean, and anyone who does not will be left out of the discussion.

    3. I do appreciate your use of scare quotes around "the South." Is this an ironic gesture to make the Othering more explicit?

    4. "In general, the only thing I have intolerance for is intolerance." PV, I am saddened that you resort to this, the Russell's Paradox of empty platitudes. I believe that, by writing this, you've surrendered your license to criticize Peter King for his cliché addiction. Honestly, would you accept such tiresome, content-free treacle from a student?

    I don't think you're a "douche," but it's clear from your original statement and subsequent explanation that you hold an enormous constellation of assumptions about "the South," and I'd be willing to bet that these exist largely independent of statistically significant empirical reality. That state of affairs sounds like bigotry to me -- admit it, embrace it, and move on!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous2:49 PM

    I think he is a douche.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A partial explanation of what I mean by values differences is now up at another blog: http://costanzabookclub.blogspot.com/

    The reason I did not want to get into it here is because in general, I try to keep this blog focused on sports (at least tangentally), and did not want to get into more general values here.

    The original "offensive" comment I made was a sort of passing note in the point I was trying to make. It is completely open to criticism, but I in no way meant it to be a strongly defended statement.

    I did put "the South" in quotation marks to emphasis the conceptual nature I'm discussing--I'm talking about "the South" to the extent that "the South" exists. It is a concept more than a place that I am referring to, and that may be at the heart of where I've come off as a hater of southerners.

    I see a major difference between values differences and bigotry. I have negative associations with "the South"; that does not imply any hatred of southerners as southerners.

    As far as use of cliches, I've frequently admitted that though I am on an Orwell-inspired crusade (cliche!) against worn-out metaphors, it is hard in language to avoid such things (Orwell admits as much in "Politics and the English Language"). Here's what I mean by saying I'm "intolerant of intolerance." To quote myself, "I think nearly any position is tenable, AS LONG AS one recognizes it as a position and not THE truth." I accept and am willing to discuss almost any position an individual holds. However, I cannot stand arrogant or intolerant viewpoints that assume a monopoly on truth. I cannot stand viewpoints that are outright intolerant of others. I deserve to be called on my vapid use of language, but the words I chose are not without meaning.

    Again, my attitudes about "the South" are more about a conception than a geographical location. I have negative biases and assumptions about this conception. But I think that's a long way from being bigoted against a particular group of people. Bigotry means irrational hatred of a group of people AS a group of people. That doesn't describe my feelings whatsoever. To suggest that my values difference amounts to bigotry waters down the word bigotry.

    We all hold a "constellation of assumptions" about all sorts of things. As long as we recognize these are assumptions, that we have personal biases and not a grasp of "the truth" that we can use to generalize all, we are at least having an open dialogue.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  5. One further point: I recognize what you mean when you say "the sort of racism that stains and shackles our country today does not manifest itself in outrage at the celebrity status of a person of color." I wholly agree.

    However, I think you're wrong here: "The "some racist southerners" who need chicken-wire in front of their televisions whenever Irvin appears because of the color of his skin sound like they exist only in over-credulous fantasy."

    I've done extensive research on censorship, and in my research I've found a lot of racist material out there. There are Holocaust denial websites all over the web. There are also "white power" advocates all over that really do subscribe to the most extreme racial hatred and intolerance. They are not the biggest problem in America because they've been marginalized. However, the extreme racists do exist and do still show up. The KKK is still around, and there are numerous other "white pride" organizations out there that explicitly hate black people.

    ReplyDelete
  6. My continual defensiveness should show you I'm a bit shaken up about being called a bigot. So I've been thinking about this. My ideas about "southern values" (expanded on at the site I noted--you can get to it through my profile) are based on every poll I've ever seen and every news story I've ever heard or read. They're not made up, and I don't think they're based on stereotypes--they're based on the data I've been presented with in several places. Polls about beliefs, studies about trends, etc.

    Trent Lott said that the country wouldn't have the problems it has if we would have elected Strom Thurmond, a segregationist presidential candidate, to the White House. In November, 64% of Mississippi voters elected Lott back to the Senate. Now--are my ideas about the South based on irrational bigotry? Or are my ideas based on the evidence that I see?

    ReplyDelete