David Roberts @drvox Seattleite transplanted from Tennessee; now blogging for t.co/5gESirnht7 about energy politics. Climate hawk, deficit dove. Not a doctor. Nov. 03, 2018 6 min read

1. OK, a number of people have deemed this tweet Problematic -- have said it "fat shames" and that it unfairly generalizes about suburbanites. So let's talk about it.

2. First, note that I chose my words carefully. Being sedentary, eating fast food, and driving everywhere are lifestyle choices -- emphasis on *choice*. They are behaviors, NOT features or conditions people are born with. I deliberately did not mention size or body types.

3. The point is, the suburban & small-town Trump voters raging about lazy, handout-seeking immigrants are living in a country that provides them lives of absurd luxury & overindulgence -- relative to history & relative to other countries (certainly relative to, say, Honduras!).

4. Quick side note: let's remember that Trump voters are not, contra popular mythology, "working-class whites." The poorest whites voted Dem. The bulk of Trump's support came from small town/suburban middle-class & affluent whites - people doing well.

5. Indeed, these folks are doing so well that most of their health problems are "diseases of civilization," as they say. They sit around, drive everywhere, watch too much TV, and eat too much fast food -- & so they get clogged arteries & heart disease. (And, yes, obesity.)

6. We can debate how much blame/shame they deserve for that -- most were born into social/economic systems that strongly pushed them toward those behaviors, so their agency is limited -- but (my point) it is a rich position indeed from which to cast judgment ...

7. ... on families facing such misery & hardship that they are willing to uproot their families & walk thousands of miles into near-total uncertainty for the chance of a better life. To sit eating your Dominoes, drinking your 2-liter Coke, watching your high-def TV ...

8. ... and casually deem those families lazy criminals because that's what the galactic shitheads on Fox told you ... well, it is repugnant. And thinking about it makes me mad. Thus the tweet.

Now. With all that said: that's not the end of the story.

9. My male instinct in a situation like this is to be defensive, to say: "They're my words, not yours, I get to decide what they mean, not you." But part of the journey of getting woke (yes, let's all roll our eyes at the term) is coming to realize that ...

10. ... while the words may be mine, *meaning* is the result of a communal, social process. We make meaning together, authors & readers, speakers & listeners. As the writer, I do not get to entirely dictate the process. I am not the boss of it.

11. My words go out into a noosphere (look it up!) that is filled with pre-existing meanings, archetypes, historical resonances, etc. My words take on a life there that is *informed* by my private intentions, but not *determined* by it.

12. The defensive-guy response is to say, "I'm not responsible for any of that stuff, all those pre-existing stereotypes & resonances. I'm only responsible for my words & what I mean by them." But that is an asocial, even anti-social, perspective. Selfish basically.

13. If I'm being honest, that's still my first instinct. It's what my gut says. But if getting more woke means anything, it just means becoming more aware of, and sensitive to, all that cultural baggage -- all that meaning-making that preceded you.

14. It means acknowledging that your words go out & live in public & take on public meaning -- in interplay with all that existing cultural meaning, all those stereotypes & resonances -- and that you have some responsibility to be sensitive to how that will play out.

15. You are responsible for more, in other words, than just the literal meaning of the words, in some narrow legalistic sense. You cannot *control* what meaning they take in the full social context, but you should be aware of it, take some care, make an effort.

16. This is an extremely long-winded way (the only way I know) to say: if people who suffer from fat-shaming, who live in a culture where it is ubiquitous, felt that my tweet invoked & strengthened the attitudes that give rise to fat-shaming, then: I am sorry.

17. Fat-shaming is real, it's everywhere, its unjust & unkind, and I want no part of it. If people more sensitive to it than I am say my tweet invoked it, despite my intentions, then I believe them & apologize. (Probably shouldn't have saved this until 17, but you know how I am.)

18. One more point before I finish. Social media (media generally, really) tends to be dominated by extremes. Battles over "political correctness" tend to be waged by the Professionally Woke (who know what "cis" means) vs. the Defiantly Unwoke (who say "cuck' a lot).

19. In between, there is a vast sea of people like me -- the Half Woke, people who still have some ugly instincts & attitudes buried deep inside as a result of their upbringing, who are struggling to be better, to figure out what decency requires of them in 2018.

20. The Half Woke see that the Defiantly Unwoke are hopelessly wrong here. Making the world more just & egalitarian WILL require changing language & attitudes, in ways that are often uncomfortable for socially dominant groups. Tough shit. The work must be done.

21. But many Half Woke also contemplate the Professionally Woke -- their constantly changing vocabulary, the utter lack of charity they extend to the subjects of their "call outs," their relentless determination to Take Offense to something every day, their moral arrogance ...

22. ... and think, "well shit, I don't have to become THAT, do I?" It seems both exhausting & highly conducive to annoying online behavior. So ... what's the right balance? What does wokeness demand of us? To what extent are we allowed to trust our own instincts? Who decides?

23. I feel like there are a *lot* of Half Woke people out there struggling with these questions. And like I said, media tends to be dominated by extremes, so there's virtually no one speaking to these people w/ sympathy & charity, modeling how to evolve w/ some measure of grace.

24. That's what we need, culturally: models for how to work through these questions & help others work through them, with some forgiveness, some charity, some patience, without the constant danger of f'ing up & being "called out" & demonized. (Or being called a cuck.)

25. That is part of why I'm doing this thread, despite the near-certainty that the comments will be filled with willful misunderstandings & nasty accusations & other familiar varieties of Twitter unpleasantness. Because I'm working through this shit, like lots of other folks ...

26. ... and the only way for us to figure it out is to start talking about it, despite the unpleasantness. People need to see that other people are working through the same things, asking the same questions, struggling w/ the same uncertainties. We can help one another.

27. Well, I have no idea how to wrap this up. So I'll just say: thanks to those who flagged the unpleasant connotations of my tweet; I did not intend them, but I own them, and I apologize for them. Let's all try to do better & be kind to one another in the process. ✌️ </fin>


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