In a Strange Land

There’s an old joke  told among petty criminals in Manila, where suspects are routinely intimidated by the cops till they confess. The story goes that a suspect had his head repeatedly dunked into a toilet bowl. The cop, not contented, produced a plastic spoon and ordered the suspect to slurp up the foul liquid. This the suspect did, until nearing the bottom he suddenly threw away the plastic spoon.


“This has gone too far,” the petty criminal said.

“What do you mean?” the Manila cop asked.

“Look, there’s a fly in it,” the suspect said. “How can I drink that?”

I got the same feeling in reading about the saga of UC professor Mireille Miller-Young, who has been charged by the Santa Barbara District Attorney for theft, assault, and vandalism against a group of pro-life protesters whose sign she snatched and one of whose members she slightly injured in a minor scuffle. Miller-Young claims she was “triggered” by the sight of the pro-life signs and her emotions took it from there.

Stephanie Gilmore at The Feminist Wire lost no time in supporting Miller-Young, describing what happened to the professor as “domestic terrorism is intended ‘to intimidate or coerce a civilian population'” — meaning Miller-Young —  from feeling safe at her workplace. It went on to say: “a court of law will determine the outcome of any legal actions that result from the situation. Legal agencies will also determine whether or not the actions of groups like LA Survivors are terroristic. But I stand [emphasis mine] with Mireille Miller-Young because she stands with women – ALL women – in the face of political intimidation and harassment. She is a warrior who deserves our support and praise.”

So far it was the same old license to feel indignation, the same old screeds. But a comment by an admirer of the Feminist Wire, Heidi Cautrell, who discovered a unnoticed thought crime had been committed, made it interesting.


Cautrell noted traces of  ableism in Gilmore’s article. Ableism is a vile and heathen practice in certain parts of the UC system, deserving of the fear and opprobrium once accorded voodoo and Satan-worship, both now thankfully perfectly respectable points of view.  The comment goes:

Heidi Cautrell on March 20, 2014 at 9:12 am

Just a suggestion, “stand with” is abelist toward those who are unable to stand. Other alternatives would be: support, solidarity, back, advocate.

Otherwise, the article is great and I fully support Professor Miller-Young and all she’s gone through.

“Stand with” is objectionable. Why did Gilmore use the phrase “stand with?” She risks being seen as an abelist or ableist, depending on your spelling preferences, a practitioner of ableism:

a form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities. It may also be referred to as disability discrimination, physicalism, handicapism, and disability oppression. It is also sometimes known as disablism, although there is some dispute as to whether ableism and disablism are synonymous, and some people within disability rights circles find the latter term’s use inaccurate. Discrimination faced by those who have or are perceived to have a mental disorder is sometimes called mentalism rather than ableism.

“Abelist” is a word from the world of Mireille Miller-Young, Stephanie Gilmore and Heidi Cautrell. If you don’t recognize the word, you might be forgiven. The Left is another country. They do things differently there. Even the words are different. The inhabitants of that strange country routinely refer to objects you might not recognize. They talk about Whiteness Theory, Phallogocentrism, Gynocriticism, and the Écriture féminine as you would WD-40, grass, spare tires or doorknobs.  They are everyday objects of their world though you may never have heard of them.


If it has never occurred to you that to use the phrase “to stand with” is a mortal insult then you’re not with it.

The reaction against “ableism” is strange in the way that a Manila vagrant found it objectionable to suck up a fly when he’s already slurped a gallon full of ordure. You can’t see the point, but he could.  The inhabitants of the strange country take umbrage for reasons known only to themselves and it’s all that matters. It’s a clash of cultures, a collision between one part of America and another.

The pro-life demonstrators holding up their poster can be forgiven for thinking they were still in America. After all they had crossed no marked boundaries. So they thought it was alright to peaceably assemble. But in reality they had wandered into the precincts of some strange tribe where such things are not tolerated; a kind of Twilight Zone; a place governed by mysterious customs, prey to obscure taboos and worshipping some monstrous, unnamed  idol. Everything was different there. Thus what followed was predictable.

When Mireille Miller-Young snatched away the banner from Joan and Thrin Short, she was doing no more than fulfilling her tribal duty, defending her “workplace” against some interloper from Flyover Country, rumored to exist somewhere beyond the borders of the University of California, a place imbued with strange ideas about the First Amendment and the Constitution.

Communities on the left have built for themselves internal cities; some quite extensive and which are spreading all the time. These are gated communities where only initiates can pass unnoticed. In these strange inbred towns the signs mean something different and the whispers something more different still. Outsiders arriving in this world would find everything inverted. It was as HP Lovecraft once described his nightmare town:


he spoke of the city; for instead of describing any definite structure or building, he dwells only on broad impressions of vast angles and stone surfaces—surfaces too great to belong to any thing right or proper for this earth, and impious with horrible images and hieroglyphs. I mention his talk about angles because it suggests something Wilcox had told me of his awful dreams. He had said that the geometry of the dream-place he saw was abnormal, non-Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours.

When Mireille saw Joan, she saw an invasion.

Neither Mireille Miller-Young nor the Short sisters are bad people judged by the standards of their own cultures. But they are different cultures.  Mireille Miller-Young has a simple desire: not to stop until her tribe conquers all the rest. And in that she is just as ordinary; just as commonplace, just as unimaginative as any tribesperson who ever lived in the long and doleful history of the world.

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