Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Political Tuesdays: In Detention - No Yarn for You!

(Elementary school bus song, to the tune of Frere Jacques)
Marijuana, marijuana
Mr. Murray makes it.
All the teachers take it.
Why can't we? Why can't we?

This piece of absolute ridiculous drivel has stayed alive in my brain for 40-some years, thanks to my phenomenal auditory memory that is both a gift and a curse. I never sang it, I was subjected to it in the echo chamber of Bus 19. Mr. Murray, the kindest and most tolerant of elementary school principals, to my knowledge never required the students who composed or sang it to serve detention, or perhaps he remained blissfully unaware of their disrespect. It was pretty rare for students to go to the principal's office; the girl who punched me in 4th grade did, but I always felt vaguely guilty about reporting her -- the unwritten culture code of the 70's in Northwest Ohio seemed to be that you just had to learn to be tough. I wasn't tough. I mostly liked school and wanted to please my teachers. I was always careful to follow the rules and was only really moved to anger when something seemed terribly unfair. Maybe this was why my parents moved me to Christian schools starting in 6th grade, for which I am forever grateful. 

Though I went to a small Christian college, the prevailing culture code in the late 80's was libertarian and quite tolerant of rebellion and dissent of all kinds, particularly in the English Literature faculty. I had two profs who were aging hippies, who specialized in saying edgy and suggestive things that would be guaranteed to make 18-year-old girls uncomfortable... what they call "triggering" today. One was Dr. Donnelly. One of the first things I ever learned about him was that he had a daughter who was in a lesbian motorcycle gang. I did not know what to make of him, but I owe a great deal of my writing ability to his classes.

Really, I was a good, shy, very mild-mannered person all through my schooling, and I was terrified of falling afoul of the Powers that Be by breaking any rule, so I had to really push myself to take risks.

Fast-forward to age 51, and I am now serving out my very first detention.

The knitting social network Ravelry has enacted a policy of zero toleration of support for Donald Trump. Ravelry's new policy, announced with no forewarning whatsoever Sunday, states "We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support for the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy."

I reject that premise categorically. Political affiliation is far too complex an issue to boil down to such a childish standard. Calling anyone who supports the legally elected President of the U.S a white supremacist is deeply hateful and antithetical to the fundamental American value of fair play and free speech. 

I am no white supremacist. The suggestion that I am is a hateful slur. Nor am I a Trump supporter. You may, if you are inclined do some actual reading, trace my thoughts on the matter through several posts from 2016:

Since the election I have been slightly reconciled to the fact that the political process is largely out of my hands, that Trump has not been the complete disaster he was predicted to be, and against all expectations I have even been pleased with his stance on the pro-life issue, which is the non-negotiable one for me. And it is my duty as a Christian and a citizen to support him in the sense that it is a sin and a crime to agitate for the violent overthrow of a legitimate head of state, and it is just plain bad manners and self-destructive to constantly be engaging in negative speech about anyone. 

I posted only once after Sunday's announcement, in the "Inclusive for all..." thread in the heretofore very quiet Conservative Knitters group. Conservative groups on Ravelry are quiet because there has been a purge at least once before, after the election of 2008. My post, objecting to the one-sided application of a policy restricting free speech, was deleted along with a large batch of other posts in one thread a few hours later, and I was notified that my account was "restricted" for thirty days for violating TOS or community standards. That means I can read forums, but at the bottom of every page "you are restricted from posting in this thread" appears and I can't even vote with the "disagree" or "agree" buttons. I can still access my queue, add patterns to it, and I can still buy and download patterns if I am so inclined. So all the essential features of Ravelry are still there... as long as I behave myself according to the standards of whoever decided to restrict me in the first place. I am not materially injured, but I am spitting mad. What worse insult is there to a writer than to delete her words and slander her with the "white supremacist" label with no ability to defend herself? 

But what did I say to deserve this? My best at reconstructing my post, since it was deleted without my consent, and in a sweep that indicated no one was really reading carefully - This will make an interesting SCOTUS case. (probably this was the trigger, if anything, but I don't see how it's outside of the TOS) I don't see how they can be inclusive by being exclusive. It's exactly the kind of thing that will help T* in 2020... not that I'm supporting that or anything! I may also have asked a hypothetical about whether Ravelry is a place of public accommodation... because any legal case would probably turn on it. And what I didn't say then, but wish I had, was "It's like algebra. Whatever you do to one side of the equals sign, you must do to the other side of the equals sign, or they aren't equal." 

It has been a depressing montage of groupthink and echo chambers in the knitting world, as one after another, people in the knitting and yarn industry announce their support of Ravelry "against hate." Ravelry has "othered" me. Where do I go to get my reputation back? 

"Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice and rage... They would shut down your free speech, use the power of the law to punish their opponents..." I would mock this campaign speech by President Trump as overblown rhetoric, but now I'm not so sure. 

I understand that in managing a big platform like Ravelry, there are provocative and downright offensive projects and posts that need to be moderated. That is not the issue here, and I have to wonder if the unilateral actions taken in the last two days were really thought through in advance. Open invitation to Casey, owner of Ravelry: give me my voice and equality back, and I will have a civil discussion with you in the forum of your choice. I am always civil and usually pretty patient. I have four children and taught middle school for 16 years. I also helped build and promote Ravelry in the early days and would like to be able to enjoy and promote it many years from now.

Raveler since October 5, 2007
Raveler #19244

I do not stand with Ravelry if it means suppression of the free expression of any of its members.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty, than those attending too small a degree of it. - Thomas Jefferson


Carol said...

Hi, I just came to your blog through Ravelry! Ha!
I was very curious as to what got you banned for a month.
I agree with you! And I can not believe your comment got you banned. That is absolutely ridiculous!
But just so you know the link to your blog is working and I will be following it!


Kathy said...

Thanks, Carol!