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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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24 Responses

  1. Katherine says:

    I don’t believe that “the stakes are so low” – in my view at least, the stakes in the abortion debate are extremely high, affecting as they do the lives or deaths of tens of thousands of people. It’s just that there’s so little hope of change, and absolutely no willingness on the part of liberals to hear alternative opinions or even entertain the idea – issues of law aside – that abortion might be a bad thing or a decision of moral consequence.

    Nonetheless, this is an exceptional passage of writing:

    Between the right’s hurt feelings about elite condescension and the left’s yearning for widespread tolerance and celebration of diversity, one would think Americans are united in that insipid bourgeois dream of being liked by people that one doesn’t know. To dream the uninteresting dream…Report

    • North in reply to Katherine says:

      @Katherine, Well yeah, there’s no room for trust on abortion in America it seems Katherine. Neither side will stop. Pro-choicers won’t compromise on abortion because any ground they give up will just be used as a launching pad for assaulting the rest (it’s the cultural version of if we don’t fight them we’ll just have to fight them over here) and of course pro-lifers won’t stop at anything short of a blanket ban. So around and around the wheel turns.Report

      • Simon K in reply to North says:

        @North, The thing is that it simply won’t happen. Even if the entire Supreme Court were wiped out in a freak gas main explosion under a Palin presidency and she appointed the 9 most conservative original-application jurists she could get through congress, the chances are they still wouldn’t do more than nibble away at the edges of Roe v Wade. And even if they did, in an unprecedented fit of defiance of precedent, complete abolish privacy jurisprudunce and overturn the decision, it only returns the issue to the states, all of which would quickly figure out that the stakes have changed and they suddenly had better things to do than piss off 50% of the electorate.Report

        • North in reply to Simon K says:

          @Simon K, If you say so Simon, I’m no expert on the courts but I’m deeply skeptical about your interpretation.
          Either way, though, it’s besides the point. Regardless as to whether outlawing abortion is practically possible the pro-life advocates in America wishes to accomplish just that. So what would be the reason for pro-choice advocates to conceed any point? A concession, say on partial birth abortion or waiting times or any other topic would produce no easing of the pro-life drive towards that goal. So why would it be made?
          That said, I do believe that complacency about the ensconced nature of abortion rights in the US is a factor in the rise of pro-life sentiments in the country. It’d be interesting to see what would happen if policy started moving in a substantial restrictionist direction how the opinions would change.Report

          • Simon K in reply to North says:

            @North, I have a little pet theory here, which fits with Rufus tag line.

            The incredibly robust nature of US institutions, especially the courts, allows politicians to take positions that they don’t really want to have implemented if they happen to be popular, knowing full-well that instutional inertia makes it pretty much a certainty that they can appear to try and nonetheless be defeated. Its pretty much win-win for them, its just public discourse that suffers,

            If the British Prime Minister were to come downstairs one morning and decide to fire every gay teacher in the country, there’s essentially nothing to stop him, and he’s surrounded by people whose job it is to implement his decisions and nothing more. No politician in the US has that much power, and every single one of them is surrounded by people whose main job it is to explain to them why they don’t have the power to make that decision, won’t be able to get that past their colleagues etc.

            I think this partially explains firstly why British politicians don’t do culture war rhetoric (although believe me there is a constituency for it) and even when they have tried, the public pretty rapidly picks up on the basic irresponsibility of it.Report

            • Trumwill in reply to Simon K says:

              @Simon K, The incredibly robust nature of US institutions, especially the courts, allows politicians to take positions that they don’t really want to have implemented if they happen to be popular, knowing full-well that instutional inertia makes it pretty much a certainty that they can appear to try and nonetheless be defeated.

              You took the words right out of my mouth. My new dog is very courageous… so long as the dog she is barking at is on the other side of a fence. It’s the same with politicians. As long as abortion cannot be outlawed, pro-lifers are free to speak at thrice the volume than they would if there were any ability to back up their words with actions.

              They don’t lose the moderately pro-choice vote because they know that Roe v Wade is a firewall to ever losing choice. It riles up the troops.

              To me, that’s one of the downsides of these things being decided by the courts and thus being out-of-reach. It makes unrealistic cage-rattling a great political strategy. I mean, the hard core pro-lifers will be screaming bloody murder until the “murder” stops, but you would see a lot more reticence on the part of actual politicians.

              Of course, it’s not just limited to things decided by the courts. I am convinced that a lot of black leaders have latched on to reparations precisely because it will never, ever happen. They’ve won what they can on affirmative action. Stopping racism and repairing communities is hard work. Advocating a politically impossible goal, on the other hand, is easy. It’s noteworthy, though, that few mainstream politicians are on board. They might be expected to actually follow through.Report

  2. Jason Kuznicki says:

    “The stakes are so low,” said the straight white male.

    I hate to get all identity-politics on you, but you know what? The stakes are low for you.

    If you win the culture war? Nothing changes. If you lose? You sometimes have to be civil to people you otherwise might not have been civil to.

    Know what happens when gays and lesbians lose the culture war? This.

    As a cultural liberal, I don’t love to fight the culture wars. But we mama grizzlies have to look out for our young.Report

    • Rufus in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      @Jason Kuznicki, Okay, well, it’s more that I can pass for straight. I’m pretty actively bisexual, as is the little wifey. Actually, she’s currently on holiday in British Columbia with her girlfriend, while I’m blogging and dissertation writing. At least one of us is getting laid.

      So, what I always hear from gay friends is that we can pass. And, indeed, provided I keep lying to the neighbours (who have no compunction about asking why sometimes one of us isn’t sleeping here and the other is!)- and make sure the details of our marriage don’t become known where I work, I should be fine. Or, I suppose I could take the Ted Haggard route.

      Anyway, my actual point here is that I think you’ve fingered what’s been bugging me about that post, and why I didn’t put it here- “the stakes are so low” isn’t really what I’m trying to say. It’s not about the stakes as much as the objectives. Maybe the goals are too limited. Obviously keeping teenagers from killing themselves isn’t a trivial matter, and I’m not really trying to say that it is. What I’m getting at is that, with these issues, it’s impossible not to épater la bourgeoisie, so I’d rather we all aimed for more distant goalposts and made it something to really debate. Instead of just aiming for gays not killing themselves, which is a baseline given, why not encourage all teenagers to try a “gay phase”? It certainly worked for everyone I know.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Rufus says:


        That was brave of you. My apologies for assuming. The truth is that I can often pass, too. I am very, very gender-conforming, I wear a wedding ring, and I can easily talk about my daughter. As I become more well-known as a public intellectual, I find that that’s changing, but it still often happens that people assume I’m straight.

        I’d rather we all aimed for more distant goalposts and made it something to really debate. Instead of just aiming for gays not killing themselves, which is a baseline given, why not encourage all teenagers to try a “gay phase”? It certainly worked for everyone I know.

        I do see what you’re saying here, and I may have unfairly latched onto a catchphrase.

        I agree that there was a radicalism to the 1960s and 1970s that’s been lost over time. (Just ask Andrew Sullivan, who did a lot to bring about that change!)

        Much of that era’s sexual revolution now looks contrived. “Why would anyone strive for that?” one might ask. But then I think of Stranger in a Strange Land, and I realize that back then, even the libertarian right was staking out some truly revolutionary sexual terrain. Possibilities were indeed lost.

        If I had to put on my “farsighted culture warrior” hat, here’s what I’d suggest: more gender fluidity.

        Kids are killing themselves, but not necessarily because they’re gay. They’re doing it because they are perceived to be gay. Often the perception is correct, but in the final analysis it doesn’t matter. A kid is dead because of something no one should ever have to die for, something no one should ever kill themselves for.

        Half the world is effeminate. It’s just not always the half with vaginas. Get over yourselves.

        Of course, the cultural conservatives won’t find this acceptable at all. They’ve staked out a position of compulsory masculinity — boys must be boys, act like boys, dress like boys, and perpetuate the masculine stereotypes. Otherwise, they are beaten.

        Girls get a bit more of a pass nowadays, which is great. But watch the comment firestorm when I offer my remedy: It might be a good thing if, rather than a gay phase, we encouraged an effeminate phase. Boys will be encouraged to play with dolls, to wear makeup, to cook, and to do otherwise “girly” things.

        How ’bout that for experimentation?

        (And, after kicking the hornet’s nest, he quickly ran away.)Report

        • North in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          @Jason Kuznicki , areligious gender subversionist! *lights a torch* Get him!Report

        • @Jason Kuznicki, Oh, I wasn’t offended. My wife and I have privilege that gays simply do not. We won’t get beat up for walking down the street together late at night, although we have been out with “secondaries” before and gotten the glares. But, of course, on some level, we’re tourists. We can retreat to our socially-acceptable public image.

          As for the radicalism, I definitely understand the terribleness of someone committing suicide over bullying and wouldn’t want anyone to abandon the goal of ending that. However, the thing about most societies with a modicum of physical comfort is that a lot more people kill themselves without ever actually committing suicide, if you know what I mean. 60s/70s radicalism had serious problems, but I’m also amazed at the horizons people were once willing to aim for. For instance, I recently read an old radical feminist text from the mid 70s which argued for artificial reproduction as a means to escape the oppression of heterosexual relationships. Do I agree? No, but man, that’s not an argument you can be neutral about. It feels like most contemporary arguments from the left amount to, “Please don’t hit me! I’m wearing glasses!”

          Admittedly the right seems more comfortable with radicalism now, but I think the same still goes for them. Christianity is a truly radical philosophy that is, so often, expressed as another lifestyle option guiding where one shops at the mall. The banality of most public displays of religion in the country frankly staggers belief.Report

  3. North says:

    I’m sure it’s Leaguey enough, what subject isn’t worthy of the estimable League?
    That said, I’m with Jason.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to North says:

      @North, I was thinking the same thing. I’m wondering if there isn’t a quintessentially Gentlemanly topic.

      “Responding to Ross Douthat’s response to Andrew Sullivan’s take on Hebraic Gay Marriage Song Covers.”Report

  4. Will says:

    Damnit, Rufus – we need that content. The site has been absolutely dead lately.Report

  5. Plinko says:

    The stakes really aren’t low so much as they seem out of reach and therefore it’s valid to ask why are we fighting at all?

    Forgive a football analogy, but all most of us can envision is eternal struggle between the 40s with no chance of anyone even getting in a position to score. Of course, no one can relent because they fear (correctly or not) that not playing it to the hilt will give the other team the chance to score – and then the stakes are quite high.Report