I enthusiastically welcome anything that challenges the both-sides-do-it orthodoxy that lots of Americans seem to glom onto as an excuse for tuning out politics.
It’s very frustrating to see issues where the correct outcome is agreed upon but not achieved, and many of these situations could be fixed were it not for the paralysis gripping so many otherwise progressive people.
In an 1822 letter to Kentucky Lt. Governor W.T. Barry, James Madison wrote that “a popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both.” Madison’s letter, originally espousing a robust public education system for Kentucky, has since been used as an appeal for open government. “A people who mean to be their own governors,” Madison wrote, “must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” Today, the people appear utterly unarmed against the National Security Agency, which holds a incredible amount of knowledge about citizens while withholding essential facts about how it spies on them. That secret knowledge is secret power, which is anathema to democracy when in the hands of an unaccountable elite.
Henry Rollins has some musings about the Steubenville verdict.
It’s a lot of musing and thinking-out-loud, and Rollins hits on a lot of interesting points while he works through his reactions to the case. There’s no one real answer to a lot of the questions he finds himself asking because, as he puts it, there’s failure on so many levels here it’s hard to know where to start. From my own perspective as an educator, though, I think there’s one really, really important lesson we can impart to kids at just about all levels, and it’s this:
YES MEANS YES.
I know, I know; no points for originality. Fuck originality. I was talking to some dude about the verdict yesterday and the kid started going on about how you can just never be sure when someone’s consenting when they’re intoxicated. I thought he was going to take it somewhere profound, but instead he wound up shrugging it all off by suggesting that, well, you just never know, so sometimes people are gonna get raped. He phrased it a little differently–“You just never know.” “It’s hard.” Dude, it ain’t that fuckin’ hard. Did she say yes? Awesome! Go for it! Did she say no? Hands the fuck off. Did she say maybe? Well, that’s not yes, no hands the fuck off. Did she hint yes? Be sure, and make sure it’s an unequivocal yes, or you’re an unequivocal shitbag.
If kids can internalize that, you’d reduce the chances of dudes making the terrible decision to rape another human being, and you’d reduce the shitshow of people making excusing for rapists.