Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Labeled Life of NavyBlueWife

The sheer genius of the Gingrich/Delay/Rove Republican party over the past 12 years in coming to and retaining their power has been an age old war strategy: divide and conquer.  However, their weapon in the destruction of the masses has been the perversion of LABELS, also known as Spin the Democrat.


Americans have been carved up into millions of labels, for which I don’t entirely blame the Republicans, but some prominent Republicans are to blame for exploiting this phenomenon of human existence.  For example, look at all the harm that Sarah Palin caused with her “radical” and “terrorist” stump speeches.

Perhaps the worst example of the season was the use of “Hussein” to incite fear and hatred with the label of Muslim.  Colin Powell shined admirably in raising awareness of this label perversion by speaking eloquently of a fallen American soldier, who also happened to be Muslim.

Sadly, however, Democrats, liberals, progressives, and any other label indicating the opposite have embraced this exploitation (in much smaller fashion) by political cannibalism, that is, eating our own.  For those of you around during primary wars, you know the pain of the fast and loose use of the powerful labels of “sexist” and/or “racist” when the label itself would rarely, IF EVER, apply.  Those divide and conquer Republican strategists just eat that crap up, and I believe that Sarah Palin’s only purpose in this election cycle was a very lame attempt to divide and conquer Democrats and other would-be-voting Democrat people with the label wars.

I came to the Moose in late September after stumbling upon an article written by USArmyParatrooper.  I noticed in all my lurking over blogs for the prior two weeks that the vast majority of bloggers use a pseudonym, one that is often a label and seeks to convey something about themselves.  When Chris Blask invited me to join the Moose in a comment on USAP’s diary, I did so choosing a lovely labeled pseudonym for myself: NavyBlueWife.

It’s not too hard to pick out my labels–military, liberal, and married.  But I am hardly those things alone, despite having dedicated myself to military family issues during this election cycle.  But what do those labels convey?

Navy:  Most people think that the Republicans have the military vote all wrapped up in a neat little package.  But that was simply not the case.  I absolutely loved turning that label on its head because it challenged lazy thinking on the part of so many people.  Of course, I was called a traitor, unpatriotic, and un-American, but I can tolerate stupid labels from stupid people because it means that I got under their skin and challenged their preconceived notions.

Blue:  The label blue is synonymous with several other labels, but I most frequently thought of liberal.  Plus, it just sounded cool with Navy.  The liberal label now seems to be the equivalent of “scary monster under the bed” according to the flailing Republican party.  I’ve always embraced it willingly.  After all, as Eleanor Roosevelt said:

The word liberal comes from the word free. We must cherish and honor the word free or it will cease to apply to us.

Wife:  I embraced the label of wife because this label is for a woman, and believe it or not, I’ve always wrapped myself in the label feminist.  I don’t, however, ascribe to a wave of feminism because this further classification is often used to eat our own rather than moving issues forward.  A military wife is typically thought of as filling a more traditional role of homemaker and mother, certainly not very often as a feminist.  I confess that I am really terrible at being a traditional homemaker, and my only kids are my furkids.  My lack of filling this traditional role, yet accepting and embracing the label, was yet another opportunity to challenge lazy thinking and preconceived notions.

To clarify a bit, I take issue with the act of forming a preconceived notion, of engaging in lazy thinking and creating labels haphazardly, particularly if that label creation is to divide and conquer. I do not often take issue with the actual realities, say of being a homemaker or Republican (I would take issue with scary monster under the bed).  

But pigeonholing someone based on a quick label is pure idiocy in my not so humble opinion.  One major defense to that idiocy is to embrace the label as your own, letting your little light shine in the darkness of ignorance.  Another defense is to refuse the label itself with decisive, intelligent responses, such as reframing the debate.  After all, it’s okay to be smart!

In recent days, I have been suffering from Election Exhaustion and fully expect a new diagnosis to be formed in the DSM IV.  But what I have seen among some of our own is certainly not progressive to say the least and has caused me to hide away for a bit of recovery.  

We need to work together to help Barack unite our country.  AND, that doesn’t mean that we have to agree.  It just means that we have to write with discipline while listening and reading with tolerance.  We’re all on the same team, and THANK GOODNESS we are all different.

Barack Obama began his long, slow march to unite this country back in 2004 with words that bring tears to my eyes.  Emphasis all mine.

For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people.

If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child.

If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent.

If there’s an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief — it is that fundamental belief — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper — that makes this country work.

It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: “E pluribus unum,” out of many, one.

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.

There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.

The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states: red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

Think of labels truly as warning labels.  But not in the traditional sense of a label warning us of harm, but a new kind of warning label–one that warns us against the label.

WARNING: Labels may be hazardous to your health.

I like to think of it as an expansion of another beautiful speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr., in which he said:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Race is a label that we progressives have taken back in the name of civil rights.  I seek to examine the content of a person’s character rather than hastily labeling.

I can hardly ask of each of you to use caution with labels if I am not practicing what I preach.  And while I vow to use caution when labeling, I will more willingly label in an affirmative defense in order to challenge lazy thinking and preconceived notions, thus stripping the label of any negativity (i.e., NavyBlueWife).  But the first step for me is casting off my self-ascribed labels, inviting an examination of the content of my character rather than the labels of my blogosphere name.  So here goes nothing…

Hi!  My name is Michelle.  It’s nice to meet all of you and to share in this privilege, dare I say, great responsibility, of creating and shaping a new dialogue, while reframing the old debates, in our steady and progressive march forward.


  1. GrassrootsOrganizer

    I can’t write under my real name because it would limit my ability to publicly critique my “industry”.  (I’ve been burned by that in the past)

    I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know with any certainty what any of the usual labels mean.  I also don’t know that there is an accepted widely shared understanding of the nuances of a “liberal” versus a “progressive” versus a “leftist”.

    As someone old enough to remember “liberal” as a very positive term, I’m glad to see it back and folks using it with pride.  I remember a time when there were both liberal and conservative Democrats and Republicans and a conservative of either party was scarier than a moderate or liberal Republican.  During Vietnam, we also had “hawks” and “doves” of both parties and from both poles. (LBJ defied pigeon-holing)  And I don’t remember the original Roe vs Wade debates breaking along any of those lines.  It’s almost like the country was far more tolerant of free thinking and self-definition back then.

    I wish we could go back to the days when you couldn’t predict a Congressional vote based on party affiliation, where any given issue would create a new set of allies and Whips actually earned their titles.  It seemed like more could get done.

  2. Labels are in fact the most toxic artifacts of human creation.  How do you sum up a person in a single word or phrase?  How on earth could you assume that a single word or phrase could sum up in any meaningful way an entire group of people, whether a handful or hundreds of millions?

    Even Rush Limbaugh is more than just a conservative windbag.  None of us are simple.

  3. Humans love labels. We give everything a name. It’s at the base of language. How can you talk about something if you can’t give it a name. The ‘sky’ is blue. That is a tall ‘tree’. We label things before we even know if they are real – ‘dark matter’. We even make up labels for imaginary things, like ‘unicorn’. Our science is based on classification. Our language(s) are filled with nouns and pronouns.

    Labels make communication easier, which is why we use them. The more specific they are, the better. Unfortunately, simple labels don’t convey as much information as people think. Since it is near Thanksgiving, I’ll use stuffing as an example. To a southerner, stuffing means a cornbread mix. To a northerner, it means a white bread mix. And, to someone from San Francisco, it might mean a sourdough mix. None of those taste the same, yet they are all ‘stuffing’.

    The right-wing (there’s another label) isn’t doing anything new when they use labels to identify their opponents. What they are doing is assigning new definitions to those labels. When they succeed in redefining one, as they did with liberal, then they have changed the debate.

    They tried to do the same thing with socialist during the recent election. Apparently, in Republican new-speak, socialist now means anyone who is in favor of a progressive tax structure. Thankfully, there was enough pushback on this one to keep them from succeeding.

    That’s what we need to do – push back when they use this tactic. Don’t let ‘them’ control the debate.

  4. spacemanspiff

    … it’s great to meet you Michelle (again).

    On the subject of being “anonymous”.

    I’ve been on the fence about this for some time.

    I’ve heard both sides of the issue, and I’m leaning towards blaskyland.

    *[new] For really serious discussions, Anonymity has to go. (2.00 / 4)

    I don’t mean that everyone has to use their real name as their handle, but somebody is going to have to know who you are.  Anonymous handles with no value attached to them will end up being assigned that value by others in serious discussions: “Sorry, we don’t allow sockpuppets into the public forum.”

    Our fears regarding anonymity are highly over stated, anyway.  We wander through life surviving a shocking lack of anonymity  every day, using our names and our faces everywhere we go.  On the Internet no-one may know you are a dog, but with very little effort they can find out where you live.  With just a little bit more they can find out who you are.  In the world of forensics, the Internet is a vast petri dish we tromp around in leaving DNA everywhere we go – IP addresses, real addresses, credit card numbers and names.

    For those willing to lay their honest thoughts out for all to read, there is nothing to fear.  Any fear you have about your identity is misplaced.  Any reputable site will protect your identity – if you chose to mask it – as well or better than the people who already know who you are, and the NSA will always know where you live, anyway.  

    “We are not Clintonistas or Obamabots, nor Democrats, nor Republicans. We are Americans, and we’d like our country back please. We’re coming to take it.” – Travis Stark

    by: chrisblask @ Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 09:53:37 AM EST

    [ Parent | Reply |   ]


    Brit made a great point these last few days which made me rethink my position.

    On the anonymity thing Chris.. (2.00 / 3)

    I raised this at the conference last week about the Internet, Censorship and Politics, and while many agreed that ‘owning up’ to an idea, locating that meme in the specific time and place of your personal identity, helped to give the idea more credibility, there were two important dissents.

    1. The head of PEN, who defends incarcerated writers, pointed out that often the idea or story or political insight was MORE important than whoever espoused it. He often deals with writers who are forced into anonymity in police states, and having done his PhD on the subject, reminded us all that many of the great liberal pamphleteers of the 17th and 18th centuries adopted pseudonyms.

    2. A great philosopher called Jonathan Ree who dealt with the so called inauthenticity of net identities. He stressed that it was important to be able to try on opinions like masks, and that a certain playfulness was important for ideas to develop. When someone pointed out that Kierkegaard believed ideas could only have meaning and flourish within the ambit of an authentic individual voice Jonathan pointed out that Kierkegaard wrote under a pseudonym, and would often criticise his works using other noms de plume (or what we would call sockpuppets).

    So though I love your idea that self identification would solve some of the loose talk and idiotic babble on the internet, it may also remove a crucial element of experimentation and playfulness.

    I think this idea of anonymity is worthy of a diary in its own right. Maybe we should jointly create a ‘socratic dialogue’ taking differing points of view.

    Moose Burgers are the Best!

    by: Brit @ Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 11:24:48 AM EST

    [ Parent | Reply |   ]

    Which makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

    Followed up by the always helpful with the stats little fog.

    Yep. (2.00 / 3)

    …many of the great liberal pamphleteers of the 17th and 18th centuries adopted pseudonyms.

    Publius comes to mind.

    When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon. –Thomas Paine

    by: fogiv @ Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 13:00:48 PM EST

    [ Parent | Reply |   ]

    This last exchange is gold.

    Oh…and oddly enough… (2.00 / 2)

    Publius was sort of a sockpuppet in reverse.  The pseudonym was utilized by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay.

    When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon. –Thomas Paine

    by: fogiv @ Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 13:06:08 PM EST

    [ Parent | | Reply |   ]

    pupsocket? $ (2.00 / 5)

    by: semiquaver @ Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 13:19:58 PM EST

    [ Parent | | Reply |   ]

    So I found a happy medium. If one wants the full blog experience ( as in getting a bit crazy and out there sometimes –or is that just me?) maybe create a pseudonym AND write under your real name on different blogs.

    But then the question is …

    …which one is your sockpuppet?

  5. Neef

    but this one is especially thought-provoking. A quote attributed to Confucius is applicable here:

    On matters beyond his ken a gentleman speaks with caution. If names are not right, words are misused. When words are misused, affairs go wrong. When affairs go wrong, courtesy and music droop, law and justice fail. And when law and justice fail them, a people can move neither hand nor foot. So a gentleman must be ready to put names in speech, to put words into deeds. A gentleman is nowise careless of words.

    Labels, and language surround us like water surrounds a fish. They are the medium through which we communicate, and by which we navigate our world. Most people actually think in words, our innermost selves are shaped by the vagaries and externalities of the language we use.

    We think in words, and so to control the definition of words is, in a very real sense, to control how people think. I completely agree that we must constantly be vigilant on words and framing and labels, because at the end of the day, the pen really is mightier than the sword.

  6. Hollede

    In 1981 I was 17 years old and attended my first meeting of the University of North Dakota Gay/Lesbian Community. I had never met any other gay people before that night. Within days of meeting others like me, I came out to my parents. It was tough at first, as they were very worried about me and my future. My mother had a tougher time, but we worked it out and are quite fine now. That year and into 1982 I was a Sr. in high school as I took a few classes at the University. I was the first to do so in the history of the school and had to argue with the superintendent to get him to release me from campus. I finally had to threaten to drop out before he would agree.

    In that first year I became treasurer and then vice president of UNDGLC. I helped to organize the first dances in the city of Grand Forks and perhaps the entire state of North Dakota. I got involved in Student Government and served as a Student Senator for a couple of years. During my tenure, a group of us passed a clause to prohibit any discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is now policy throughout the entire higher education system in North Dakota.

    When I was a teenager, I learned about the world through Phil Donahue, 60 minutes, Rita Mae Brown and Susan Brownmiller. Later I would discover Alinsky, Dworkin, Daly and Starhawk. I became a radical in the early eighties as Ronald Reagan tried to bring the fifties back.

    I am not sure if it was youth or the times, but I remember taking so much pride in calling myself a radical lesbian feminist from hell (my own invention). I do recall enjoying the shock it would induce in some people. I was so terribly certain of my views and those perspectives were often very black and white. Men sucked. They were the problem. White people sucked. Christians sucked. And so on.

    Sometime in my early twenties I began to see the error of my ways. I realized that the problems of the world are far more complex and greater thinking was required. I also began to understand the fallacy of labels.

    After leaving North Dakota for a couple of years, I returned in the early 90’s. I got together with some old friends from those early days and we were talking and doing the wine and cheese thing. During the conversation one friend said with great passion that “women are better than men”. I looked at her with astonishment and remarked that Hitler thought that way. She was even more surprised and said “Hitler thought women are better than men?” I responded with “no, Hitler thought someone was better than someone else”.

    I am not sure she got it, but I believe that there is an inherent flaw in identity politics. When we base our worldview and values on our identities/labels we risk elevating one over the other. Conversely we also can descend into pointless arguments over who is the most victimized in our society. As far as I am concerned, as long as anyone is devalued or considered inferior, we all are dehumanized.

    I am a lesbian, a partner, progressive,  a Democrat, an American, and a human being. Mostly though, I am just Holli De Groote and I am glad to meet you (again).

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