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Boston Kimono Alarms Culture Crusaders (and A Note to Whom It Alarmed)

Post #1753 • July 10, 2015, 5:23 PM

First, this came out today. I regret that The Federalist didn't go with my suggested title, Kimono Causes Consternation to Crusaders for Cultural Control; Curators Cave; Kerfuffle Continues, but I'm pleased they published it.

On a metapolitical note, I have an additional message for the protesters and their supporters.

Everyone thinks that oppression is evil, but not everyone thinks that it is the ultimate evil, that it explains or causes all other evils, or that it validates or justifies any responses to it. That core evil is different from person to person, which doesn't make them bad people, but people of different political temperaments. They're not completely wrong, just as you aren't. They're not completely right, just as you aren't.

I watched you make your arguments against Kimono Wednesdays and the opportunity to try on the kimono. You said it was racist. You said that the museum was advancing white supremacy. You called it a disgrace. You complained of offense at the idea as if you were in physical pain. You expressed sadness at the fact that you had to argue for the validity of your views. You in turn dismissed the validity of counterpoints, even those expressed by people with Japanese ancestry. The people who disagreed with you? You called them ignorant, you accused them of not getting it, you claimed that they were telling people of color how to feel. You advised them to shut their mouths for once, pick up a book for once, and of course, check their privilege. Wherever there were white men speaking in opposition to you, you pointed it out. You hashtagged everything you could #whitesupremacykills.

This isn't rhetoric, it's cultural expression, in particular the culture of people who hold oppression as the ultimate evil. It serves a purpose, that of bonding and reinforcing tribal affiliation. For all the talk of identities at the link, this is itself the identity that you share with your fellows.

My idea of ultimate evil is coercion. And if you plug that into the spot where you keep oppression, and run the events at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston through it, you get my article in The Federalist.

You probably agree with none of it. You probably think it missed the point, mischaracterized your intentions, spoke of you rudely, painted the author and his supporters in too good a light, quoted your words outside of context that would have lent them nuance and thus caused you to appear unreasonable, argued from a place of anger and vengeance, and generally just didn't get it. You might even say that it didn't bother to make a case.

Now you know how the rest of us feel about your arguments.

There is a possiblity that these guys, whose politics would likely make you apoplectic—I don't completely agree with them either, so what—are on to something with the idea that

Culture wars are at their best when both sides have to rely on persuasion to win people’s hearts and minds. Culture wars are at their worst when they turn into an excuse for censorship and conformity. So maybe it’s time to divert less of our energy into outrage at the backward values of the other guy and more of it into making the case for our own values, competing over who can provide the most appealing, inspirational, and profound cultural vision—who can best serve humanity’s deepest spiritual needs. Instead of having a culture war, let’s turn it into a culture competition. At the very least, we might produce some enduring cultural achievements, and this era might be remembered for more than just the acrimony of its divisions.

If so, they are much, much closer to victory than you are. And—this matters—I'd rather have a drink with them.

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