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Friday, April 13, 2018

Confronting ones own prejudice

I heard a story today- The Moth is a wonderful hour if you can listen now and again. It's refreshingly devoid of political affiliation, so you can take a break from the dumpster fire that is our current political hellscape. It's about people and their stories and the things that shaped them. Better yet, this is people in their own words and voices.

Birth of A Nation - A coming of age story in a new African state as white domination recedes into the past.

The whole story is beautiful, but there was a part that was especially relevant to me as I've been interacting with more people about racism and sexism in the age of our Nectarine Nightmare (not my term). Certain things are ok because it's tradition (a racist school song, see Birth of a Nation above) or that's just the way boys talk (calling girls whores or rating them) or it was a successful cartoon, why should we think critically about this a decade later?

Petina Gappah found herself in a majority white school just after Zimbabwe won its independence. There is a painful irony in that as a kid who liked to sing loved the point in the day when they sang the school song because she wasn't being bullied or teased, she could just belt out this song she loved to sing. It turns out that the subject matter of the song was the colonization of her land, the takeover and theft and subjugation of her people and ends with the hope that they can do this again. So this is not a comfortable situation.

The teacher was confronted about the song and she had a very familiar reaction. She was indignant and adamant that she isn't a racist, she teaches black children after all. The song means nothing, it's only tradition, was her reply. You can use this logic on any racist or sexist statement. I've heard it. When 45 said "grab 'em by the pussy" he was defended because that's just locker room talk. Boys will be boys. It means nothing. Well, now. It means nothing if you're in the group who has the power and you're dishing out hate and not on the receiving end. No one should be the recipient of hate, but it has more sinister implications in furthering inequality when directed against the group who already has no power. 

Just because something's been that way a long time, doesn't mean we can't re-examine it in light of our own growth and understanding and push for change that makes life better for everyone collectively.

Monday, March 26, 2018

March For Our Lives. . .and objections

People had good things to say very creatively. I'm loving the signs. Arms are for hugging! Yes!!

And then there are the detractors who want to compare their right to gun ownership (free of any pesky regulations to defend the rest of our right to life and liberty) with their desire to control/ban the healthcare of women everywhere.

What's actually ironic is that they want zero regulation on guns, the high concentration of which increases the risk of women being killed and yet they want to ban an aspect of women's healthcare that impacts them not one whit and is absolutely none of their business and should only concern a woman and her doctor. Men are often the ones I see demanding abortion bans the most, yet they'll never ever know what pregnancy feels like, none of it, not the discomfort, pain, nausea, vomiting, fear, depression, extreme health risks and potential complications. They can tune out their partner's "complaints" or even just run away. Those are not options for women. Men have no right to make health decisions for women.

So this is a fun link that relates the two concepts there a bit better than those tired conservative memes:

What if Buying A Gun Were Like Getting An Abortion

Here's a satirical bill introduced in the TX legislature to compare obstacles to women's health to something men could possibly understand- being charged $100 for extra vaginal emissions. Well the state would get very rich if that were real!

And a better guide for how to deal with guns is how car crashes were dealt with. Crashes were phenomenally high so something had to be done. The issue was approached as a public health concern and car manufacturers had to be compelled to implement safety features to comply with laws to protect consumers and drivers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Educated by Tara Westover

I finished Educated in just a few days. I was reading two other books, but put them aside for a few days and blew through this one. I couldn't put it down.

It was brilliantly written and it's absolutely amazing to see someone go through everything she did, the violence and physical abuse, bad luck and bad choices of her parents and come out the other side not only just alive but succeeding and creating.

If you had a religious upbringing, as I did, you may find it hard to read for other reasons. It really hits at the core of those beliefs and makes you reexamine. One quote really hit me hard.

She's talking here about one of her brothers' regular abuse, both verbal (calling her names like whore) and physical in contrast to how another of her brothers made her feel:

Suddenly that worth felt conditional, like it could be taken or squandered. It was not inherent; it was bestowed. What was of worth was not me, but the veneer of constraints and observances that obscured me.

But this is really very likely a common feeling for women and maybe women "of faith" as I was. Purity and chastity are drilled into you at every opportunity. Don't wear spaghetti straps, they're immodest. Your skin might cause a brother to stumble (the implication being- and then, well, it's your fault). Don't go to dances, you aren't allowed to move your body that way or let boys touch you (again, your fault is implied). There's no real sex education, just DON'T. Until marriage. Godly men are supposed to marry a virgin, so don't have sex. Do they have to be a virgin? No one really cares, they are preparing to be providers, so any indiscretions we'll sweep under the rug. Girls who have sex though, they are marked, they have a past, they are impure. And you grew up with the story of how Adam and Eve sinned and they got tossed out of the garden and Adam paid by having to work for a living and Eve by pain in childbirth. So there you go, there's your family structure. Created flawed by God so he can punish you your entire earthly life. 

Add to this the doctrine that salvation is conditional (2Peter 2:10). It's a hot topic in the religious world. But I associated salvation and baptism with love an acceptance of my parents, peers and church - basically the sum of my little world. It's supposed to have implications in the next world after death, but it entirely defines your view and interactions on this planet as well. Be saved and enjoy love and acceptance of church family and blood family or don't and be considered a sinner, an object of pity and embarrassment only to be associated with if the mission is to bring you back.

What I learned was that my worth was entirely dependent upon my modesty, virginity and compliance with church beliefs. There's no room for inherent worth there. There's no unconditional love. On the contrary, I grew up hearing every other Sunday that other liberal churches taught TOO MUCH about God's love. We don't talk about the consequences of sin enough. We don't preach about hell enough. We should talk about the hard things, not just love and peace all the time. Too much love??? Who on earth gets too much love or hears too much about love? I wish I'd been brave enough to scream I NEED TO HEAR ABOUT LOVE. Instead, I listened to sermon after sermon about hell and disfellowshipping unbelievers in our midst and faithfulness and the consequences of failing, of false prophets coming to us in sheep's clothing. I worried incessantly about staying home sick, hoping that I wouldn't be accused of forsaking the assembly (Heb 10:25). I nervously read letters from the elders when they ejected a person from the congregation for some sin or another, knowing they could really mount a case against anyone and that person would be gone. How much or how little did one have to do to get one of these? Who knew. The elders are in charge and what they say is law. Don't breathe. 

I grew up knowing for certain that life is a balancing act and I was worth nothing inherently, my value was bestowed, as Westover observed. Bestowed by my creator? Sort of. Conditionally. If I was a faithful servant of God. Who judges that- my dad, the church elders, the church collectively? My worth is bestowed. I am defined by constraints I didn't choose- be "modest", don't dance, don't have sex, don't drink, don't be a liberal. Virginity, attending services three times a week, no instruments in worship- those are the things with value. As long as you value these things, you too can have value.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Tragedy in Parkland, FL


Photos above: School shooting inspired school letters going out around the country this week. How to talk to your kids about senseless violence (brought to you by toxic masculinity and our gun worshiping militarized society).


Another school shooting. I don't want to keep saying that. But here are the details:

The victims:

An action:

There is always a rash of calls for gun control or an assault weapon ban after a mass shooting. Liberals calling Congresspeople to account for their NRA money. All good things. Conservatives always responding with - wait a minute families need time to grieve and don't politicize these children's deaths. Of course we should be beating down the door of elected representatives and calling them to account and voting out those who prize guns over our lives and safety. We need laws. Thoughts and prayers don't make laws. Lawmakers make laws. Sometimes. Gun control is a very good thing, we should absolutely be talking about that after a shooting, but not the only issue. Also, mental health and health care are very good topics to talk about, but not as a convenient excuse for another white male abuser. The gun fetish and misogynistic culture along with white supremacist terrorism in America is a better place to start.

From Facebook:

Why is this happening to us?? 

In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate,” Dan Hodges, a British journalist, wrote in a post on Twitter two years ago, referring to the 2012 attack that killed 20 young students at an elementary school in Connecticut. “Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”
What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer

*****       *****      ***** 

Ultra Violet and others have been pointing this out for some time, that there are some very real correlations between gun violence and toxic masculinity. It's a welcome change from thoughts and prayers and the mental illness cop out. If mental illness were the driving force here, the statistics would look a bit different.

A thought and a prayer from Twitter:

After the Las Vegas shooting four months ago, it became popular to declare that that common condolence, thoughts and prayers, is not enough. This is still true and we need to call Congress again.

Also from Facebook:

But it is good to see a spotlight even if only journalistically on mass killings and domestic violence:

Of Course Florida School Shooter Was A Girl-Hating White Supremacist. Of Course I Am Tired Of Writing This Article.

Control and Fear: What Mass Killings and Domestic Violence Have in Common

My post on Facebook with accompanying links:

Along with guns, white supremacist violence is a problem no one (Congress, White House, FBI and police) wants to identify. Everyone wants to excuse the men who kill this way as a lone wolf or mentally ill, yet there are more telling patterns with these guys (white supremacy, domestic violence, basically toxic masculinity).

And Twitter with another reality check:

Aaand finally, just what are these gun rights that are so important they trump the lives of school fulls of children:

Monday, February 12, 2018

Urgent! This is true!

I am embarrassingly fascinated by these things- how they spread, who passes them on, how long they survive, what tactics they employ to compel a person.

Via messenger in the present, February 12, 2018:

In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked the Lord to spare the city if he could find 50 righteous people. God responded to Abraham's plea "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all ....Genesis 18:16-33The movie "Corpus Christi "is due to be released this June to August. It is a disgusting film set to appear in America later this year which depicts Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals! As a play, this has already been in theaters for a while. It's called "Corpus Christi" which means "The Body of Christ". It's a revolting mockery of our Lord. But we Christians can make a difference.That's why I am sending this e-mail to you. If you do send this around, we just might be able to prevent this film from being shown in Australia, Canada and America etc. Let's stand for what we believe and stop the mockery of Jesus Christ our Savior. Where do we stand as Christians? I am forwarding this to all I think will respect and appreciate being informed. Please help us prevent such offenses against our Lord. There is no petition to sign, no time limit, or minimum number of people to send this to.It will take you less than 2 minutes!If you are not interested and do not have the 2 minutes it will take to do this, please don't complain if God does not seem to have time for you. Imagine what would happen if this film were depicting Mohammad in the same way...the Islamic world would be in flames!!. Apparently, some regions in Europe have already successfully banned the film. All we need is a lot of prayer and a lot of E-mails.JUST GET THE WORD OUT!....Will God be able to find at least 50 righteous people who are willing to express their concern and voice their opinion against this act of blasphemy?

It is true... so please forward to everyone you know

*********     *********     *********

My usual source will give you the history. Conservatives tend not to like this site. OOh- has Snopes rated that - Conservatives don't believe Snopes' research? I should look that up- but for now:

Just on the surface, it's pretty funny. Or you could call them red flags. I love how there was no studio executive's address, no concrete film information or times, no state officials to address complaints to, no specific information really, just an exhortation to get angry or offended and email your friends. The premise is wonky, too- it seems like an odd position to take given that Christians are to show Jesus' attributes to others through actions, not by banning everything and trying to control their perception or trying to protect Jesus' reputation. Does he need that?

Also great is that it says "this is true" which you don't really say unless you know for a fact it's spurious to begin with. Another highlight is how they just moved it from the 90s email to messenger without updating the wording. I'm a little disappointed it didn't promise a wish for each person I forwarded it to - or predict my doom if I fail to act within 10 minutes of receiving it.

Before Googling the thing to see what was what, I started to think of the nature of the hypocritical request and Christianity and wrote this:

Seems like people should be more interested in giving and being kind and campaigning for peace instead of war- all the good things the Bible teaches in order to spread Christianity.. . Banning films and books (among other things, like abortion, alcohol and divorce) is both ineffective and impossible and doesn't teach people any of the good things you want people to know about Christ like peace or love or kindness towards your neighbor. I would think the Bible approach (rather than this urgent message to help ban a film) would be who cares what they think of you, you just live the Bible and the truth will prevail if he wills it. And if the truth doesn't prevail, you ran your race (2 Tim 4:7), turned the other cheek (Matt 5:38-40) and you'll be justified in the end with you eternal reward. The Bible, as I understand it, doesn't teach that you are to control everyone else's actions to be found faithful.

Also, this Christian tendency for knee jerk bans that appear to be a litmus test of faith reminds me of some Muslims trying to ban disrespect of Mohammed (there was a cartoon in Denmark?) or a dictator banning disrespect of himself. Book and film bans are impossible to police and an abysmally ineffective evangelism tool since bans usually give free people a goal or mission to unify around and fight for. If Christians start living the peace and love in the Bible, the Quakers do a pretty good job on that front, that would go farther in demonstrating the respect one needs to have for Jesus than just banning things and demanding respect be given arbitrarily.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Scene On: Seeing White - Episode 8 Skulls and Skin

Seeing White - Episode 8 Skulls and Skin
Several good book references are in this link, books by the authors/ experts he speaks with.

I'm also reading this collection of Steven J. Gould's natural history essays called Bully for Brontosaurus:

One the same day I hear this podcast, Skulls and Skin, I also read the essay Petrus Campers' Angle.

I originally thought they discussed Camper and Gould was somewhat dismissive of much culpability, saying he was a product of his time, so I was thinking- uh oh. But I'm going to sort out who the podcast talked about and where this guy I just read about fits in- and how I should feel about him. 

Petrus Camper- b.1722 in Leiden. Artist who became a professor of anatomy in 1755.

He was bothered that for the one traditionally black Magi in paintings (one of three was always black), they apparently used a European model and just painted them black and he wanted to see a more accurate representation. Skull measuring would help him understand this difference as well as why children weren't painted in their proper proportion either, so he measured young and old too. 

His facial angle is the beginning of craniometry and later became known as the father of scientific racism as his work was used as a springboard for bigots who wanted to use science to justify a conclusion they had already made up. He is problematic in that he assigned beauty to white Nordic types and Greek statues - I say arbitrarily- but of course it's because that's his in group. The image of the progression of beauty in the book is racist in that it has an ape with the lowest angle, then a black man, then a Greek statue as representing perfect beauty. Though his work and question he was answering weren't racist, he left the door open for those who wanted to to make some pretty wild claims. He was a monogenist though and stated that the skin color is not obtained through your genes, so he's got that going for him.


Now for these other guys mentioned in the podcast.

Samuel George Morton collected skulls from the 1830s- 1850s and considered the father of American physical anthropology. This is where I may have become confused. So many fathers. So this is the guy who was trying to prove the superiority of white people. Not to be confused with the guy who started measuring skulls. . .

Linnaeus (Sweden) is the father of taxonomy and he gave us the name homo sapiens in the mid 1700s. He described four types of humans.

Johan Friedrich Blumenbach (Germany) is the father of anthropology and named five types in the late 1700s. He gave us the term Caucasian because he thought people who looked like him were beautiful and also another arbitrary declaration of the supreme beauty of Georgian women, people of the Caucasus.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Oprah 2020? Are we going to do this every single time?

After the Golden Globes, Oprah gave a stirring speech railing against misogyny and we all needed to hear that. It was a great speech. But really? President? I woke up to a sea of calls for her to run for President and petitions like this for her to run. We do NOT want that.

Remember the Zuckerberg hubbub?

He did some philanthropy stuff in Texas and got the rumor mill grinding. I'm not sure if that was exactly the start, but I found an article from January 2017 to that effect. We were all hoping to ring in the new year with female leadership and renewed push for equality in all sectors on the heels of 8 years of our first African American president. When that didn't happen, maybe people were grasping at straws and looking for a person acting more like a leader than what the electoral college gave us- which would have been almost anyone else- but many people all at once, at that time, fixated on Zuckerberg. . .

Now, part of this negativity or so called hyperbolic hate I'm about to unleash on Oprah, she doesn't deserve personally. The idea I'm attacking is that of looking to celebrities to solve our problems and believing they care about you or know about you because you watch them on TV five days a week or heard a great motivational speech they made. We worship celebrities in this country and we need to think bigger and be introspective, especially when it comes to the office of president. Don't limit yourself to entertainers because one is now president. We can reset the bar. This is still a democracy more or less. We know- if we read a little and think- what qualifications a president needs or what level of humanity we would like to see in a world leader.

On Zuckerberg, don't forget the environment he came from, lest we forget- you don't want to bring that to the White House:

Back to Oprah, this week's celebrity prez fantasy. . . and my week of Facebook micro blogging.

No no no no no no no no noooooo.

We can't afford to lower the bar. You do not want a celebrity. Yes, anything is better than the steaming pile of garbage in office now. Don't compare the future president to THAT.

Maybe you do want a celebrity. Maybe we are a nation of vapid idiots incapable of rational thought or any introspection whatsoever.

I give up if we are seduced by every person who gets up and puts words together in a semi coherent fashion without lying every other sentence. Every person who gives a moving speech is now qualified to be president.



The quote here really sums it up.
Oprah Winfrey for President: Have We All Gone Bonkers?

As CNBC’s Christina Wilkie, in a rare dissent on Twitter, put it: “I love to watch Oprah saying inspirational things on television. But also I love to watch people who have political experience being elected to national office.”


And thank you Twitter for reacting to Ivanka Trump, first daughter who sometimes doubles as first lady or advisor. She loved Oprah's speech and people gave her a pretty hard time for not seeing the irony given her dad's treatment of women.

Also good - on her confusing "role" from Trevor Noah -


This headline is quite succinct- people are missing the point of Oprah's speech. Bravo.


I posted this from the angle of really, people, don't promote her for president. Do you see what her advisers and cabinet would look like??? I get that Obama was considered a lightweight, but he lived outside the US, had two years as a US senator and was a constitutional law professor. She wouldn't be prepared, she doesn't have a resume.


And last, from 2015, but she's probably still a great neoliberal thinker and we don't want that--


I wouldn't choose her for president, but congratulations to her of the Lifetime Achievement Award. 
It was a great speech. And here it is.

Scene On- Seeing White

Scene On- Seeing White

Scene On has a fantastic series going on. It's 14 episodes about race, addressing things white people don't see because they don't have to. I think it could promote a lot of good conversation and self examination. The first one or two episodes are kind of in introduction, but it builds, getting exponentially better with each episode. By the 5th, I had to take some notes and write them out. Probably no one reads this, but I want to remember these things.


Episode 35: Little War on the Prairie (conveniently episode 5 of the Seeing White series)

This one is primarily about an episode in the Midwest happening at the time of the Civil War that was happening in the east. There is a monument in Minnesota saying how hundreds of settlers were killed by the Dakota warriors. The process of uncovering the actual history and trying to teach the context and actual facts is detailed. I can't do it justice, but Gwen Westerman does in the episode.

AND she wrote a book! 

Also a point that grabbed me was how in the reteaching of the actual facts of the altercation, there was a terrible disparity in quality. One teacher quoted on the show maintained a familiar ethnocentric narrative that you can hear in the Palestinian Israeli conflict or in the run up to our invasion of Iraq of any number of conflicts which is- THOSE people attacked US because that's the only was they know how to solve conflict. We are superior. We use our words to solve problems. And we had to kill to defend ourselves, not because we were trying to steal others' land. That's not an exact quote; I read between the lines a bit.

Tim Tyson captured this problem of mis-remembering on purpose toward the end of the episode: 

And yet there's no memory that white people opposed the Civil War. There's no memory of General Pickett, of Pickett's Charge. He came to Kinston, North Carolina, in 1864. And the first thing he did was he hanged 22 local white boys on the courthouse lawn because they were loyal to the United States government. And you go down to Kinston now and you go out to King's Barbecue, and you look down the row of cars at all those trucks and all those Confederate flag bumper stickers. And I just want to say, you don't know who you are. They hanged your great granddaddy and you got their flag on your bumper. That's kind of interesting.


This one is about the faux superiority of white northerners over white southerners over the topic of race.

This is a topic I've heard many white southerners complain about, especially when I wanted to talk about how we should take all the Confederate monuments down in the south and how it isn't about history or heritage unless there are memorials also to slaves or black people who were lynched, be they slaves before our time or people like Henry Marrow in 1970. 

There are people who wanted to redirect me to talk about how the North isn't so great either, which is both true and  was a diversion from a necessary confrontation that needs to happen.

Also covered in this episode was some overlooked nuance of the PC and anti-PC camps. I often deride (I'm guilty!) the anti-PC crowd for not acknowledging that it is in fact not good to use racial epithets, but I didn't see what they may have been getting at but never clearly delineating- that PC is sometimes partly a code for educated whites to beat up others, to use that as a class distinction. I mistook it for a primarily party divide before, but it was a class division. I don't agree with that use of PC, I always saw it as essentially the golden rule- don't call people names, be kind, treat people with respect.

Also in the episode, Tim Tyson talks about living in Wisconsin as a southern transplant. He heard the complaint of those people from Chicago coming over to get the welfare, which was code for those black people coming to take something of "ours." This kind of thing isn't acknowledged as racism so much as the memory of the segregation in the south, but is just as present and poisonous.