November 29th, 2013


from each, according to his ability?

Over at I Love You But You’re Going to Hell (a nifty little site on conservative reactions to issues in American education), Adam Laats wrote about an interesting way some conservative pundits talk about the first Thanksgiving. Not only were the Plymouth Bay colonists collectivists in Rush Limbaugh’s words, flat-out Marxists (anachronisms aside) according to libertarian columnist John Stossel, but this was actually a good thing. Check it out:

Thanksgiving Reflection: America was Founded by Communists

From the post:

It would seem that conservatives would hate this conclusion. After all, the notion of the greatness of the American founders has long been a centerpiece of conservative thought.

So why do conservatives insist that the original settlers were communists?

For most conservatives, the communist experiment of early settlers is used to prove the superiority of private property and market principles. In most tellings, early communism proved disastrous. As a corrective, leaders such as William Bradford in Massachusetts introduced radical market-oriented reforms.

From there, Adam goes on to ask whether this is an accurate characterization of the history – whether Plymouth Bay was as Marxist, or at least as collectivist, as the conservative pundits think they were. It’s a fascinating reversal in the way conservative and progressives usually approach academic questions like this.

What really fascinated me about the topic, though, was this: whichever way the history turns out, you still have conservatives taking pride in the fact that America’s founders were wrong about something. One way of thinking about conservatives and progressives (the way I learned in high school civics) is that conservatives think “the way we’ve always done things” is good and so any change from that is less good, whereas progressives think “the way we’ve always done things” is imperfect if not outright bad, but that we’re headed toward (progressing) a future that’s actually going to be good.

If this interpretation of conservatism is true (and to be fair, it’s not the only way of thinking about the distinction), this moment in history puts conservatives in a bit of an awkward spot. I find it fascinating because it’s the same spot that religious fundamentalists so often find themselves in: either argue that everything done by America’s founders was good, or else have to defend your own reasons why any one particular action was paiseworthy. Your favorite amendment (first, second, fifth, whatever) no longer has an almost totem-like goodness, simply because our forefathers did it this way; you must also show why you think this moment in our history and not the later ones are so good.

Personally, I think that’s a first-rate tensions to be living with. It’s exactly the kind of questions we should be asking, progressive or conservative, as we wrestle with our history. But I know it’s not the most comfortable place to occupy at times.

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.


fannish share of the day: everybody lives

Last night, I saw this gem of a scene for the first time, from the end of "The Doctor Dances":

Also, as Ann points out: spoilers. Big, big SPOILERS. I do hope I didn't ruin it for anyone - I'm so used to being the last one into a particular fandom, it honestly doesn't occur to me that others might not have already seen it.

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Sherlock fan-music

I re-discovered a particular fan's riff on the Sherlock soundtrack today.

I'm not entirely sure why it affected me so profoundly. Technically, it's good but not great. That's not intended as a slam; it's just that I'm used to listening to pianists that win international competitions, so my standards in piano technique are impossibly high. But there's so much love for the soundtrack here, and so much creativity, and I wanted to experience whatever inspired it. This was the piece of fan-art that got me past enjoying Sherlock fannish activity and actually watching the show.

It's a bit weird. As I've been both rereading Arthur Conan Doyle and working my way through the fanfic recs at 221b_recs, I've moved a bit past the hero-worshipping stage and seeing the things that I really don't like very much at all about the show. A great example is the way the show-creators turned Doyle's rather asexual Sherlock into someone who's repressed that aspect of his personality rather than lacking it in the first place, combined with some comments by Moffat that the idea of Sherlock-as-asexual just isn't interesting. Alex pointed me to that comment and, while I'm more than a bit offended by its implications, it's not quite driving me away from the show as I suspected it might. I'd forgotten enough about the original Sherlock Holmes when I discovered the show that I fell in love with these characters on their own terms, and while I'm not convinced they're exactly like the other characters I love in Doyle, they're really separate things in my mind. So I can love the BBC Sherlock on his own even as I get increasingly irritated with the changes Moffat made. I think it's because, while I love Doyle's Sherlock and Moffat's Sherlock, I don't love the second because he's an interpretation of the first. The latter's a wonderfully involving character without having to comment on the former.

Anyway, rediscovering this song reminds me of how I felt when I first sat down and watched the series. It's a bit amazing how little of that has changed, even though I'm much more aware of the show's and show creators' faults in many areas.