Friday, July 8, 2016

Clickbait headlines are undermining democracy

Because the only way I can function today is to focus on something other than the Dallas shootings and the seemingly unwarranted killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I thought to comment on something else. Our inability to get anything DONE about the problems we're seeing.

But today I really want to focus on the media's role in public perception through their use of headlines and how that influences those in power.

Every time I see a clickbait headline on what might be an excellent article, I want to cringe. In fact, I have stopped sharing these articles on social media, even if the article is wonderful and full of facts instead of journalistic integrity, as I believe that they encourage divisiveness rather than cohesion. Titillation rather than decency.

Clickbaiting has had a detrimental effect on our democracy. Yes, practicing your 1st amendment rights as a free press is sometimes not good for our democracy.

You know the articles I'm talking about. The articles with the headlines in all caps - "Congress CAVES..." "Obama EXCORIATES..." (also, ewww), "So-and-so OBLITERATES...". Do a google search for "congress caves" or "gop caves to obama" and you'll see what I mean.

If every time that Congress decides to actually get something done, they are accused of "caving" to another position, nothing will ever get done. If they are worried that they won't ever get re-elected because their headlines all talk about them giving up everything they believe in to the evil empire, why would they ever want to partake? And that is pretty much where we find ourselves.

I'm resolving to create better headlines for my own tiny piece of the internet. Granted, nobody reads my silly little blog, and very few ever actually see my headlines, but I'm going to try to make my headlines a little less riot-inducing and more explanatory.

As it relates to our gun problem, I had a few thoughts.

We need to be able to have discussions and compromise without being SLAUGHTERED in the media headlines. Because America is far too lazy to click through and actually READ the articles. And far too uneducated to actually understand the nuance in many articles.

Compromise is not "CAVING" to demands. It is what our country was founded on. Nobody gets everything they want.

For instance, I would love to see the 2nd amendment repealed. I believe it's completely irrelevant in today's society. Will that actually ever happen? Nope. I'll have to compromise and be happy if and when we get progress that includes restrictions on military-grade weaponry. Restrictions on who can own a weapon (ie, convicted dangerous felons, who aren't even allowed to vote in some states, but can purchase firearms in those same states). Background checks for every purchaser on every purchase of weapons and high-grade ammo.

These things don't mean I have "CAVED" on my original position. They mean that I am an adult who can see that a better solution that is not perhaps the best solution is better than no solution at all.

Congress refusing to hold a vote on a gun legislation because they want to punish Democrats for their "bad behavior" in protesting that there is no vote on gun legislation is idiotic and infuriating. It's retaliation for exercising 1st amendment rights (the GOP loves their constitution - what's up with the retaliation?). It's freaking childish, and we should expect more from our elected leaders.

Congress refusing to discuss how we can make policing more effective for both the police and the communities they serve because they don't want to reward the BLM movement's "bad behavior" is ridiculous. We would never have a Civil Rights Act if someone wasn't willing to listen to reason and learn and act. Educating someone on issues is not bad behavior. Learning about issues and being able to change your view on them is not CAVING. Fixing problems is not CAVING. Fixing problems means finding solutions. Finding good solutions is never caving.

The media highlighting all of this in titillating ALLCAPS is not journalism. It's impeding our democracy. Do I wish our elected officials were above letting it influence them? Of course I do. But do I understand that headlines will always influence them? Of course I do.

Additionally, you are only cementing public opinion, not educating the public. Each side clings to their ALLCAP headlines like lifeboats in an unstable sea, and they provide the opportunity less for learning and more for childish retorts. "SEE? I TOLD you my way was the best! They CAVED!" You are not educating, or changing any minds here. You are cementing often-ignorant opinions with headlines that incite rather than educate.

So media, please stop EXCORIATING people when they CAVE to DEMANDS. Because you're making the problem worse. You're encouraging it. You're not reporting the news. You're reporting style is as childish as Congress is. I understand that in this world of rolling twitter timelines you want to stand out. I get it. Really. But you do a total disservice to your profession.

Write responsible headlines that indicate what the article is TRULY about, not what will rile the most people. Write articles that are insightful, not inciteful. Educate us. Help us form our opinions - don't simply cement our existing ones.

So just stop it with the clickbait. I beg of you.

In the meantime, I continue to pray for peace and for those injured and for the families and loved ones of those killed - both in Dallas and in cities around America every day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Anger and/or compassion after Orlando - is one right or wrong?

A conversation on Facebook, as well as two perfect monologues last night in the wake of the Orlando mass murder has me thinking. As we all should be.

Which is the appropriate response? Anger? Compassion?

I contend that either is fine. As an initial response. (see yesterday's post on thoughts and prayers). But what about those of us with the power to create change?

Everyone grieves in their own way. There is no right or wrong way to express honest grief. Last night, Jimmy Fallon perfectly expressed my sorrow in his opening comments on The Tonight Show. Sam Bee perfectly expressed my anger in her opening of the perfectly brilliant Full Frontal. (see both below)

Are either of them right or wrong? Nope. Everyone grieves in their own way.

I have grieved and cried in private over the loss of 50 beautiful young lives and for the horror and pain that the 53 injured and all those who were there will live with the rest of their days. And the shock and sorrow their families and loved ones must feel. If there was anything that I could personally do to ease their pain, I would do it in a heartbeat.

But I also believe we are at a point where in addition to being loving and caring to those families, and offering our thoughts and prayers, if we don't take decisive action this will never stop. Action that says what kind of a people we are. What kind of a society we choose to live in. One where we value inanimate objects over children? Or one where we value the lives of our citizens?

We should value our people more than a document written by imperfect people who had the best intentions and declared how things should be in a perfect world in 1788. The framers of the constitution also thought slavery was hunky dory and that blacks were worth only 3/5 of a human being. So we know they were wrong on some things.

The constitution is not absolute.

We cry "Freedom!" when anyone talks about "taking our guns away." But none of us are truly free when we live in fear every day of our lives. That is not freedom. That is tyranny. A tyranny of our own making.

So yes, I am angry. Furious. That we as a nation have so little compassion. That we allow words written 240 years ago to be more important than human life today. That we are so enamored of money and power and politics over human life and dignity.

So yes. I grieve. Every single time this happens. Which is more than once a day, if you only  count those with 4 or more victims. Add in those with 3 or fewer and I would spend 24 hours a day grieving for the unnecessary loss of human life. As a human being, I simply cannot do that and still survive.

I can only grieve so many times before I have to speak out.

And try to DO something to stop it.

All I have is my voice, my vote, and my dollars.

Sam Bee on Full Frontal

Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show

Monday, June 13, 2016

The power of prayer on public policy (hint: none)

Prayer is great for introspection, but it does not get anything practical done. It's the only option many of us have in horrible situations, other than our vote. But make no mistake. It doesn't accomplish anything concrete other than to make us feel better and let others know we're thinking of them. Sometimes, that's all we have and all we can do. But other times, it needs to be used in conjunction with other things - like meaningful public policy.

Prayer doesn't stop people from buying assault weapons. It doesn't create rain in a drought. It doesn't fix floods. It doesn't stop the decay of our atmosphere from overuse of fossil fuels.  Do you know what fixes these things? Policy. Money. Governments. Commitment. People.

In the wake of another mass murder using assault weapons legally purchased (even though the murderer was on the terror watch list at one point, was a domestic abuser, and had been interviewed by the FBI 3 times for terror) all politicians had to offer up was their thoughts and prayers.

Igor Volsky called them out as hypocrites on twitter for their thoughts and prayers. It's not that thoughts and prayers aren't important on a personal level. For many of us, they are. But incessant thoughts and prayers when you are in a position to change outcomes eventually become meaningless.

Do you know what would have kept Volsky from calling those politicians out? Had those hypocritical politicians said "Sending thoughts and prayers for the victims. This is unacceptable and I will work to fix our flawed gun legislation."

When you are in a position of power to make meaningful change, thoughts and prayers only go so far before they become meaningless.


If you want those thoughts and prayers offered up by politicians to mean something, then we as a nation need to do a few things.

1. Speak with your vote. Elect representation that supports curbing gun violence with assault weapons bans, universal background checks, putting terrorists and felons and domestic abusers on a no buy list, and a constitutional amendment regarding campaign finance reform that takes special interests (like the NRA) out of the equation (thanks for Citizen's United, SCOTUS).

2. Demand that your representatives do their jobs. Call. Email. Write old fashioned letters. @ them on social media. Tell them that you expect more than thoughts and prayers. You expect them to ACT.

3. Get involved. Join a legitimate organization, volunteer. Make your voice heard and help others to make their voices heard.

4. Elevate the discourse in this country. Ensure that we don't allow super-nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia, racism, and religious zealotry to have a legitimate voice in public policy.

5. Speak with your wallet. If organizations promote hatred, don't shop there. If you don't agree with an organization's political position, it's ok to not give them your hard earned dollars. Here's some examples: I don't agree with Chick-Fil-A's homophobic position. I have never eaten there. I haven't bought food from Domino's since I discovered in the early 90s that they gave $0.10 of every dollar to the Right to Life foundation. It may not mean anything to those organizations individually, but if many people do it, then it has the chance to work. Even if it doesn't, it makes me feel better to know that I am not personally funding hatred.

6. Promote public education. Insist your states & localities fund it. We had a wonderful public education system until ignorance and religion, as well as budget crises, underfunded it. This is why our government collects taxes.

Speaking of taxes... government does not exist to be run as a business. It's not a for-profit entity - no matter how much some people think it is. It exists to take care of its citizens. Tax dollars are important and are the primary way the government takes care of its people. Among other things, they keep our roads drivable and our bridges crossable, our people healthy and sheltered, our children educated, and provide disaster relief.

From the Preamble to the Constitution (bolding mine):
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
From Article 1, Section 8:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States
If you feel like your government isn't taking care of you, then insist that it does. First and foremost, with your vote. Then by being a vocal advocate.

One other note: we have freedom of speech in this country. However, freedom of speech in public does not free you (or me) from the consequences of that speech, especially when it comes to your employment or your reputation. Example: Using your employment platform to spout your personal beliefs.

So continue your thoughts and prayers. I'm sure that they make you feel like you are doing something to fight back in a violent and uncertain world.

But if you are in a position to do effect meaningful change, your thoughts and prayers are not enough.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Guns... guns... guns... and more guns

AP Photo / Brennan Linsley

As of the writing of this post, there are still no final conclusions as to the motive or group affiliations of the terrorist that killed 50 people and injured 53 more at a nightclub in Orlando. Some things are known:
  • He had a history of domestic violence.
  • He hated gays.
  • He was Muslim.
  • ISIS claimed responsibility.
  • Politicians who have actively and openly hated on the LGBTQ community are now sending "thoughts & prayers".
  • Except asshat Lt. Gov Dan Patrick of TX

    (who then put out this press release after a shitton of backlash)
  • Also except asshat Donald Drumpf.

    (who then did not put out a statement after a shitton of backlash)

  • POTUS likes Rush
  • None of this is due to the easy availability of guns. Of course it's not! How could you even think that?! That's blasphemous!

And once again, the requisite Facebook replies:
  • Guns didn't kill people, people killed people. - Yes, WITH GUNS.
  • Bad guys don't follow laws. - It's usually these people who are quick to want laws surrounding so many other things (regulating my uterus being at the top of the list). Also, they have no answer for the "why have laws at all, then"? Other than "RIGHT! We shouldn't have laws - we should be able to whatever the hell we want, because Murica! Freedom!" 
  • Even without guns they will find a way to kill people. - Sure, but it's pretty tough to kill 50 people in a few seconds with a knife.
  • But... the gun was bought illegally. I'm a LAW-ABIDING gun owner. - See above ^. Also, if we didn't have > 1 gun for every human being in America, maybe illegal weapons wouldn't be so damned easy to get.
  • 2nd Amendment, yo! - The 2nd amendment argument is pretty null and void in my mind at this point - muskets couldn't kill 50 people in seconds. Also, the founding fathers definitely meant the Constitution to be a living, breathing document that changed with the times.
click to enlarge

PS: President Obama didn't add this quote to the Jefferson Memorial to justify his treasonous, Muslim, Kenyan activities. It was there long before he even became a glimmer in his daddy's eye. President Roosevelt dedicated it in 1943.

I've talked about guns millions of times before. Frankly, I'd like to repeal the 2nd amendment altogether. I'm past the whole "responsible gun owner" shit. I'm past "let's regulate guns like cars - with forced registration, insurance, written & proficiency tests every 4 years, safety regulations, etc". I don't frankly know what else the answer could be. Other countries have figured this out and don't have the number of mass murders we do. In our nationalistic zeal, we refuse to admit that another country might do something better than us.

That this happened during gay pride and was an attack on LGBTQ people in one of their safe spaces is getting lost in the shuffle, and I don't intend that at all. It's huge. And awful. And needs to stop now. There are so many others more qualified to talk about the impact on the LGBTQ community than I am. I just hope they know they have an ally in me.

What happened in the early morning hours in Orlando is horrifying. I'm beyond shocked and have moved directly into anger. I storified my tweets & RTs from this morning about this.

Our President is right. Thoughts and prayers mean nothing if we don't take action. There is an election coming up. Please get involved. If this amount of gun violence is unacceptable to you, vote out your gun-loving congress-idiot.

Not sure who's taking money from the NRA or other gun-lobby groups to vote down gun control legislation? After the San Bernardino shooting, Igor Volsky of Think Progress put together a series of tweets calling those folks out. He did it again this morning.

Enough is enough.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The patriarchal society that perpetuates rape, AKA Idiots on social media

This is one of those times where I would say, "Cover your eyes, Mom - there's going to be a lot of swearing." Sadly, my mom passed away last week. But I know that she is cringing wherever she is, so I'll say it anyway. Cover your eyes, Mom. There's going to be a lot of swearing.

Rape has been back in the spotlight this past week, with the offensive sentence given to yet another athlete student convicted rapist who would have his whole life ruined if he went to jail for a long time. *wrings hands* Think of his future!

Who cares what the victim went through. That poor boy. SMH. His life ruined over 20 minutes of action. His father is despondent (see below). Such a shame.

So... as seems to happen every time a rapist goes essentially free, there is a chart floating around social media, declaring (accurately) that the only cause of rape is rapists. My husband (oh, how I love him) posted it on his Facebook page.

Of course, this always seems to bring out the misogynist nut cases who insist that if only a woman would act like a lady, they wouldn't get violated.

I usually try to stay out of these because it makes my blood pressure go through the roof, but I was seething last night. SEETHING.

First, this comment by a former student of the hub, in response to the "rediculous chart":
"All of the rape victims I know share a few common threads....flirtatious nature, inappropriate attire, drinks to excess. How many conservatively dressed, well-behaved, sober women out there are getting raped? Just saying."
First off, if "all of the rape victims you know" incorporates that many women, I wonder why you aren't more sympathetic. Or are they all sluts who are asking for it? Also, if you generalize in such a way, I'm guessing that all the rape victims you know don't really want to know you.

Second, there are millions of women each year that are raped, who were wearing jeans, t-shirts, stone cold sober, sleeping in their own beds minding their own business. Also, it doesn't matter if the victim was stark naked and drunk as a skunk. You don't stick your dick (or anything else) into someone without permission. The end. Her clothes, or her drink, or her smile do not imply "Please stick your dick or some other object into my body."

Let me repeat that:
You don't stick your dick (or anything else) into someone without permission. The end.

Third, it doesn't matter to these people how the woman acted.

If she was smiling, she invited it.
If she wasn't smiling, she's a bitch who deserves what she got.
If she was drinking, she deserves what she got.
If she wasn't drinking, she's an antisocial bitch who deserves what she got.
If she wore a short skirt, she invited it.
If she wore jeans, she's an uppity feminist who deserves what she got.

See how this works with those folks?

So I posted a link about rape myths, complete with citations, to try to educate this idiot, because that's how I (try to) roll.

His response?
"I saw nothing in that article to dispell my claim. Let me be clear. I'm not condoning rape. I'm just saying that it can be avoided. Just the same, it can be encouraged."
No. NO. Rape is NOT encouraged. Not by what a woman wears, not by what she drinks, not by smiling and laughing with another person. Just NO. Comments like that try to turn rape into just a sexual encounter. Rape is a crime of violent power. It is not about sex - it's about exerting your power over another human being through violent sexual assault.

To which I got the stock answer about teaching your daughter to be a lady. Fucktard.
"If you had a daughter, would you condone her drinking, dressing provocatively, being flirtatious, and hanging out at wild parties and bars or would you encourage her to dress conservatively, choose her friends wisely, and conduct herself like a lady?"
Here's the thing. I did many of those things in college and during the years after, and interestingly, not one single solitary man decided it was his right to rape me because I wasn't living up to his definition of "a lady". Shocking, I know.

Instead of the offensive suggestion that I should make my daughter conform to patriarchal definitions of what should define a woman (or as he so condescendingly put it, a "lady"), my husband and I decided to teach our sons to respect all people, to never take advantage of people, and to help people when they need it. What a concept, I know.

I had my son (and his friend - heh) read the letter from the survivor in the Stanford rape case. It is powerful stuff. I also had them read the statements from the 2 men who stepped up and did something. Who stopped Turner and caught him, and held him until police arrived. Because that is what I would expect of my sons. Of anyone who witnessed such a crime.

Until we stop this idiotic centuries-old notion that women are asking for it, that if they would just act or dress or behave like a lady, well golly gee - men would protect and defend them, rapists like Brock Turner will continue to get 6 months.

And don't even get me started on the privilege and entitlement that Turner and his family exuded. What do you suppose the sentence would have been if he was black? Pretty sure we can all agree that it wouldn't be 6 months.

Women are not complicit in their rape.

Rape is a violent crime, an abuse of power, perpetrated by a criminal onto a victim.

Get that into your big fat head and shut the everloving fuck up.

PS: Learn how to spell.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I have feelings about the Democratic primary and Bernie Sanders

I have feelings about a man who has admirably spent his entire political career as an Independent coming in as a Democrat, bitching about the Democratic party, and then criticizing the policies of the Democratic Party when they don't support his agenda. For that, Bernie Sanders wins today's You've Got Balls award.

Don't get me wrong, I like many of Bernie Sanders' positions. I disagree with many of his positions as well. But he'll never get anything done in Washington as President. Congress is a real thing in our world. The President doesn't get to make all the laws. We have a Constitution. And a really stupid Congress. And if Sanders really thinks he can get an obstructionist, stupid Congress to even do anything but laugh at his agenda, well.....

I've said this about the Republicans, and I'll say it about the Democrats as well (and the pretend Independent Democrats). This country was founded on compromise. None of the Founding Fathers got everything they wanted. They had to give a little to get a little. Bernie Sanders has drawn a line in the sand. That's not going to get him anywhere. Hillary Clinton is willing to work for the best deal that works for the majority of Americans. And that's what will chip away at the impasse in Washington. President Obama has accomplished a tremendous amount by doing just that. I'd like to continue progress and work our way toward your vision. I believe in your end-vision - I just don't believe that it can be done all in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, it's got to be a process. And you aren't willing to let it be a process.

My point really is this simple, though. You come into the Democratic Party to run for President, which really isn't your party, but is the party that provides you the best chance to get yourself elected. That's pretty opportunistic, if you ask me. Kind of like the manipulation of the system you're railing about in your campaign.

Anyway, you opportunistically decide to run as a Democrat, even though you're an Independent. Then you complain because the Democratic party rules don't suit your purposes. No. It just doesn't work that way.

And then, if you don't get the nomination, you might just go back to your old party, because then you can really disrupt the system and get your supporters to ensure that Trump is elected president. So basically, you're pulling the little kid practice of - "You're being mean to me. Boohoo. I don't wanna come to your stupid birthday party anyway. And I'm gonna tell all my friends not to come to your birthday party either! I'm gonna have a party of my own so nobody comes to your dumb old party. So there!". Thus, ruining all the parties for everyone.

So here's a thought. Then don't hijack a political party for your own gain and then complain about that political party when it doesn't work for you. Time to learn how to play nice with the other kids on the yard.

Monday, June 6, 2016

More on guns and school violence

When I mentioned to my kids that there had been a shooting at UCLA, the following words actually came out of my mouth:

"It was just a murder-suicide."


That's what we've been reduced to, courtesy of Wayne LaCrazysauce and the NRA.

I once again began thinking about the WHY.

Why have school shootings become an epidemic?

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, “Since 2013, there have been at least 186 school shootings in America — an average of nearly one a week.” The rate of mass shootings has tripled since 2011, according to Harvard School of Public Health.

In the past 10 years, there has been an increased narrative on a few fronts.

First: teachers are the worst. They are lazy, work part time, and are solely responsible for this generation of uneducated young adults and children.

Forget the fact that it's state legislatures and the idiotic House of Representatives that have put a decreased emphasis on education - increasing funding in many instances for "school of choice", for vouchers, for charter schools, and for parochial school and homeschooling - where frequently there is no monitoring of standards, and religious beliefs are given more weight and importance than actual facts.

We not only need to excel in math and science - we need to give students a well-rounded education in all areas. Expose them to art, and music, and history (god yes, please! teach history for chrissake). They need PE - something which is all but disappearing in the elementary and middle schools. And teach them that facts are important! Teach them to question the world around them and to develop their own world view. Not to just accept as gospel the world view of their parents and teachers.

Second, and this is mostly since President Obama has come to take our guns away -  the idea that simply being a US citizen allows you to carry a weapon, concealed or not, anywhere you want. And to use it any time you want. Well, President Obama hasn't taken our guns away (much to my sadness). And yet, the idea that guns are an anger management tool seems ingrained in not just a new generation, but in their parents as well.

You're mad at your teacher? That lazy, do-nothing who didn't give you the grade you want deserves to be shot. Because we haven't told kids that it's wrong. We've taught them through the laws being passed for Stand Your Ground, and no-permit concealed carry on campus, in bars, and in churches is how we can settle arguments. How we defend ourselves from all evil.

We've forgotten to teach a new generation and their parents that we start with words. And that the pen is mightier than the sword. In our immediate gratification society, I want you gone, so I make you gone immediately. Each month, Parents Against Gun Violence posts a list on their Facebook page containing the reasons people were shot in the previous month. They are all idiotic and stupidly selfish anger management tools.

We've taught people that it's ok to kill to get what you want. Don't like my constitutional right to have an abortion? Fine. Blow up the clinic. If you die, you deserved it.  Don't like kids playing their loud music? Fine, shoot them. Don't like your grades? Fine, kill your teacher.

Of course, these only apply to white students, or more specifically, white men. Because if a black woman were to use a gun to stand her ground, she gets sentenced to jail for 20 years. When a white man does it, he gets off scott free with a huge outpouring of donations and a big dose of asshole.

Anywhooo... my original point is this: stop devaluing education in the name of the 1st & 2nd amendments. The more we educate our society (REAL education, people) the less this crap will be tolerated. And the fewer uneducated idiots will get elected to Congress.

Because my hope is to never have to say again, "It was just a murder-suicide."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The truth about women's restrooms

In the wake of so many anti-LGBT bills sweeping across the country, there are a few that have made national and even international news. Looking at you, Tennessee, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Indiana.

The latest controversy is about allowing transgender individuals to use the restrooms of the gender with which they identify. The argument for these anti-trans laws is that "Oh my stars! *fans self* Men will be sharing a bathroom with mah little girl!"

Former baseball great and now sad shell of a human being Curt Schilling was fired from ESPN for unapologetically posting a meme showing a dude playing girly dress-up and derisively talking about him sharing the bathroom with your daughters.
Seriously? Just shut up Curt Schilling and everyone else.

The truth is that trans women don't consider themselves men. They consider themselves women. So men are not sharing a restroom with your precious daughter. Women are.

I will say this, however. I could give two shits even if men were to share public restrooms with women. Hey - do you want to know what goes on in women's public restrooms, men? I'll let you in on the truth of the ladies' room.

First off, women are disgusting. They seem to forget every bit of manners they ever learned when they hit a women's restroom. I'd be more worried about a trans woman's sensibilities as they entered this disgusting place than any cis woman or girl in the place.  So... here's how the women's restroom experience goes:

  • Take a deep breath (trust me on this one)
  • Enter the restroom
  • Find a stall (hey - they all have doors! That lock!)
  • Pray there's one where the disgusting woman who would never behave like this in her own home actually flushed.
  • Avoid all the puddles (I DON'T want to know!) and the toilet paper all over the floor that's sure to stick to your shoes.
  • Sit down and pray you don't get any gross diseases because the disgusting woman before you didn't actually hit the bowl.
  • Do your business.
  • Flush (if you're lucky, people do this. If not, well...)
  • Unlock your locking stall door that gave you privacy to do your business.
  • Look in the mirror and primp.
  • Judge yourself in the mirror.
  • Look judgmentally at all the other women in the mirror.
  • Leave.

That's it. That is everything that happens in a women's public restroom.

In all of my years on this planet using public restrooms, I have never encountered anyone - female or male - that felt the need to flash their bits at me, touch me, or make unnecessary sexual comments at me.

On the way in and out? Sure. Because men are pigs. But once I'm in the restroom? Nada.

Frankly, women's restrooms are so gross that we all are just trying to get in and out as fast as humanly possible while touching as few surfaces as possible and taking as few breaths as possible.

So when you worry about your precious daughter sharing a bathroom with some horrible monster that you probably never even knew had a penis because they look like a woman, act like a woman, and ARE women, and are using the restroom IN A LOCKED STALL so that you can't see their bits as much as you don't want them to see yours, I suggest that you suck up your bigotry (but not with too deep a breath because ewwww, public restroom) and shut the fuck up about something you know nothing about.

Trans women and men are far more likely to be assaulted than to assault. And guess who assaults them? YOU, BIGOTS. The same bigots who force these "anti-everyone but cis white male" laws down our throats (hey, you dudes LOVE that analogy).

So stop all this rhetoric and learn facts (I know that goes against everything you stand for, but seriously). Live and let live. Stop with the I hate government until I want to discriminate then we neeeeed government shit.

Grow up.

Be a human being. Kind, compassionate, caring. All those things your Jesus tells you to do. And you luuurrrve the Jesus.

Stop using your religion as a weapon of hate.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Quote of the day and how our presidential politics are out of control

"We've just seen Hillary Clinton go through 11 hours of questioning, and these guys can't go a couple minutes of questioning?"
~ former Reagan advisor Bruce Bartlett on the GOP complaints that debates are haaarrrdddd.

I've been pretty quiet as the crazy shit that is the GOP primary has swirled around us. I've been watching the train wreck of American politics with my jaw on the ground and a large bottle of alcohol, wondering how we have allowed stupid to become the norm. (thanks W!)

It seems that having to answer questions about policy, their campaign tactics, the truth of their statements and so on is really hard for the GOP presidential candidates. So they basically delivered a list of demands to the networks that wrap up to letting them have an infomercial without any questioning in a nice cool room with potty breaks for all. And if the network doesn't like it, they'll pick up their ball and go home.

Even Fox's Megyn Kelly asked if they'd like a foot massage to go with that. (Shhhhh, little lady. She must be bleeding from somewhere again today.)

They have pulled out of the NBC debate because CNBC was mean to them. I say good riddance.

If the GOP candidates can't handle a few unwelcome questions from the media in a controlled setting, how the hell do they expect to handle the media post-election? Because, hello. The media (and fellow politicians) have not exactly been kind to President Obama. In fact, here was Pres Obama's reaction, and it is spot on (re the debates, it starts at 5:00 in, but watch the whole thing):

"Every one of these candidates says, 'Obama's weak, Putin's kicking sand in his face. When I talk to Putin, he's going to straighten out.' And then it turns out, they can't handle a bunch of CNBC moderators. If you can't handle those guys, I don't think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you."


I love that he is starting to fight back. I just wish he had done it 7 years ago. But now that he has literally zero fucks left to give, he's starting to tell it like it is.

He is spot on. If the GOP candidates can't handle the tough questions now, how will they like it when they are treated like they treat President Obama? I'm thinking they won't like it much.

Back to Bartlett's quote. The GOP candidates love seeing Hillary Clinton put on the spot for 11+ hours. In fact - the GOP loves it so much, they're gonna do it all over again (because if the outcome of 7 investigations that didn't turn out the way they wanted, maybe the 8th time's the charm). It's the "Repeal Obamacare" rule of politics. If at first you don't succeed, try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try try again. For 60+ times. Maybe the 61st Benghazi committee will find something!

Love the party of "fiscal responsibility". Yeah, not really pleased about them wasting my tax dollars this way.

Moving on... what the hell is the matter with America that we think "I like his attitude" makes a person qualified to be president of the United States? How is it that we blindly accept "I'm gonna build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, because WINNING!" and that is "good enough for me!".

Journalists also bear a large burden of the blame. They refuse to question and call out candidates' blatant lies. Their corporate owners are so afraid of losing GOP money and appearing left-leaning that they allow these folks to get away with anything. They report "Donald Trump said xyz", but they don't go on to say "and xyz is flat out bullshit and here's why."

Yet they seem to have no issue reporting negatively about Hillary Clinton (who has a last name, BTW). Interesting how she seems to be the main competition, she's a woman, and we have no issue making her look bad, and calling her only by her first name - minimizing her to the "little woman" role. Stop it. She is an amazingly accomplished woman. She is a gifted attorney, a former first lady, a former senator, a former Secretary of State. Treat her with respect. Or don't expect us to do the same for you.

And we have a nation of ignoramuses that thinks this is just grand. Because we don't want to educate our children. It might interfere with them being raptured. It might make them think for themselves, instead of blindly accepting what we tell them. I've spoken about this before - we are a nation that doesn't value critical thinking. We don't want anyone questioning our world view or forming a world view of their own. We are threatened by education.

And nothing makes that clearer than the field of GOP presidential candidates.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Why #AllLivesMatter is not all or nothing

I've seen this making the social media rounds. It's actually what prompted yesterday's post.

We are very black & white in this country (heh - excuse the pun).

Understanding the #BlackLivesMatter movement is not the equivalent of an anti-law enforcement agenda. Understanding that there is an institutional pattern of applying the law inequitably does not negate the good that law enforcement does. Is this the time when I use the cliched phrase "I have friends that are police officers, firefighters, etc"?  Well, it's true. I do. The woman I consider a daughter is in the Army. And I firmly stand behind their exemplary service.

But standing behind good law enforcement doesn't negate those who let their personal prejudices or fears infringe on their ability to perform their public service job effectively and fairly.

Yes, some things are black & white - no middle ground. However most things in this world are not. Because I support a woman's right to choose to have an abortion, or use birth control, or get equal pay for equal work, or breastfeed in public, or not be raped, or any number of other things - it does not mean I hate men. In fact, I love men! I'm actually married to one, and have chosen to spend the rest of my life with him. I've given birth to two men. I'm even willing to put up with those grey areas - like having to listen to them fart, or scratch their genitals, or watch my husband pull his own finger because it amuses him, or courtesy laugh at his silly jokes because it makes him happy. And because I love my husband and sons, I can actually find these traits amusing and endearing and lovable. Wow. Men are actually pretty freaking awesome!

See? I can support one cause without being against the other.

I fully support providing the tools to our law enforcement officials to allow them to do their jobs effectively. But by virtue of the fact that they are publicly funded by my tax dollars, it also means that they must comply with the law at all times. Actually, even though I'm not publicly funded, I am held to the same standards. Huh. Can we hold them to an even higher standard? I say yes. Those entrusted with public safety and security must be held to a higher standard in their professional lives. That also includes not just law enforcement, but policy makers, and other publicly funded professionals.

Every person carries their life experiences into their job. It's what you do with that experience and how you control its hold over your actions that makes you a better (or worse) human being and makes you accountable for your actions on the job.

Just because you have a difficult job and times right now are making that job even more difficult, doesn't mean that you get a pass on accountability. Swearing an oath to uphold the law means something. And if we can't hold you accountable for that, then we have a lawless society. We've done this before. The wild west was a crazy place, filled with vigilante justice. As a society, we decided that didn't work for us, and so we began to develop laws to deal with how justice should be served. Equally. Through the courts. Nobody gets to determine guilt or innocence, or prounounce and carry out sentence without due process.

And what many law enforcement officials have chosen to so is exactly that. They have made themselves judge and jury for people of color and pronounced and carried out a death sentence on people of color in this country.

Yes, you may be an asshole and an idiot if you talk back to law enforcement, or run from them, or don't comply with their orders. But that is not a crime punishable by death in this country. And guess what? Neither is approaching a home after an accident for help, or playing music loudly in your car punishable by death in this country. It's what makes us better than terrorists or dictatorships. It's what makes us American.

So yes, I will continue to support law enforcement - those who are doing it right. And I will also continue to call out injustices where they exist, including supporting the root cause of #BlackLivesMatter. Because it's not black and white. We need to call out the injustices against specific groups in order to wipe out those injustices.

Black people and women did not win the vote by  claiming "All Votes Matter", even though, hey - that was true. They won the vote by calling out the injustices against them and working to fix them. Sometimes loudly. Sometimes by being rude. Sometimes with violence. Usually legally. Sometimes not. But the bottom line is by calling out the injustice, they proved that all votes do matter.

And so, if that's what you really want, I'll be happy to unfriend you. It might make our holidays a little uncomfortable. It might make band gigs equally uncomfortable. It might cause a rift in the core values of our country - that we all have a right to be heard and that laws apply to everyone.

It also means I have 1 less person to suck my time up on social media. Well, ok then.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Guns, and the killing of police officers

I mourn the loss of the officers who have been murdered this past week (and ever). It's deplorable, and awful, and horrific. My heart aches for their families and loved ones, and the people who killed them should be swiftly apprehended, tried, convicted, and punished.

Guns can not only be used in the hands of Good Guys With Guns to protect Good Guys, but hey - people also use them to commit violent, disgusting crimes. These would be the Bad Guys With Guns doing Bad Guy things. Who'da ever thunk it? This applies whether the victim is a law enforcement officer hunted down because of their uniform, or a group in a church hunted down for the color of their skin. Bottom line is that we need to change how easy it is for anyone to get a gun in this country so that we can begin to discern who is the Good Guys With A Gun and who is the Bad Guys With A Gun. (More coming up in a different post on all the "gun laws don't work so we should just get rid of them all" bullshit.)

I find it interesting, though, that there is no "lone wolf" narrative associated when the gun violence is against law enforcement. No, this is obviously the work of an organized effort, probably the (whispers) black people in the Black Lives Matter group. It couldn't possibly be a single individual breaking the law. But all the other "isolated", "lone wolf" incidents against citizens couldn't possibly be the organized efforts of a single group (ahem, NRA) or groups (ahem, skinheads, racists, etc).

We all agree (supposedly) that All Lives Matter. But by highlighting injustice against a single group, all other groups don't automatically become null and void. Just like when extending the right to get married to homosexual couples in this country, we didn't automatically render the right to heterosexual marriages null and void - no matter how much certain Kentucky county clerks and Congressional idiots would like to think it actually did.

There is a growing desire to pin the premeditated murders of police officers on the Black Lives Matter movement. The bottom line is that law enforcement deaths in the line of duty are not on the rise. It's been a shitty couple of weeks for the law enforcement community, and by extension, the country. And that needs to stop. Immediately. But this year overall is no different than any other year, except that the number of on-duty law enforcement deaths by gunfire is actually down, not up.

According to Daily Kos (and their stats are all linked in the article):
Often, people who are sympathetic to police will quote that 83 police have died in the line of duty in 2015. And that is true, but what they aren't telling you is that 13 of those officers had heart attacks or that 19 died in car accidents or that three died because of 9/11-related illnesses.
A total of 26 police officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty this year. Each of those is tragic and a reflection of the violence in our country. This, though, is not some race-based dramatic uptick in police shooting deaths. Forty-seven officers were shot and killed in 2014 and we are on pace to have fewer than that this year. Comparatively, 662 people have been shot and killed by police in America as of September 1 and a total of 792 people have been killed by police altogether this year.
Not only that, but as the media attempts to blame black activists for these deaths, the truth they aren't telling you is that half of all police who've been shot and killed this year were actually African Americans. That, though, is inconvenient for their narrative.
I have no doubt that many, many of the people killed by police had been actively attacking police and that the use of force bby police was completely justified. I also don't doubt that many, many of those killed by police were simply standing with their hands in the air, being transported from one place to another, or smoking a cigarette in the car.

The argument that you get what's coming to you if you don't automatically obey the police goes against every law relating to due process we have. In this country, the fine for mouthing off to a police officer is not death. This is one thing that differentiates us from those terrorist nations we like to rail against. When we give law enforcement the keys to be judge and jury in the field, we violate everything this country was founded on.

Do I think you're an idiot (and probably a bit of an asshole) if you mouth off to the police? Indeed I do. Does that mean you're breaking the law? Nope, it does not.

To those of you in my social streams telling me that you don't want to be my friend anymore if I don't believe ALL LIVES MATTER, I say of course they matter. But I also say that calling out injustice is what this country was founded on. So I will continue to say that Black Lives Matter. Because that is the area where we sadly seem to disagree. So if you don't want to be my friend anymore, I will suffer through the loss like a good little martyr. The fact that we refuse to understand that we can have conversations and agree to disagree escapes so many of us. There is ALWAYS common ground (ok, almost always - pretty sure I don't agree with Ted Cruz on anything. Even if it's just that today is Wednesday). Our country is founded on the right to disagree with each other, but it' also founded on common sense. No, seriously.

However, if you allow disagreements to completely define who you associate with, then you will live a pretty lonely, unexciting, homogeneous life. And that makes me sad for you. *sadface* I will miss you if you unfriend or unfollow me (probably not, actually), but that is your choice. I hope that you eventually learn that it's ok to disagree. It's how you handle those disagreements that makes you the person you are.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Today in "Who's Hitlering"... the quote of the day and why Mike Huckabee is today's biggest asshole

"He will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven"
President wannabe and all-around gold-medal winning dick Mike Huckabee, on the Iran nuclear deal

So... presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee wins the choots-pah (TM Michele Bachmann) award for the day. Look Mike, I get that you all think that negotiating with Iran was the END OF THE WORLD. I get that you think we are DOOMED. Just like the US would cease to be the US if we elected that (black) dude. However dickish you want to be about it, feel free. Because you are indeed, a dick. But here's the thing.

Mike Huckabee, you don't get to appropriate my history for your own political gain. What you said... equating a peace deal with the death marches that led Jews to their deaths in the gas chambers and ovens of Nazi Germany's concentration camps? Well that puts you an a whole different plane of dick.

Especially given that I consider you to be one of the worst anti-semites out there. You Hitler all day long in the name of the Jews. But when push comes to shove, you advocate for the US to be a Christian nation. At its heart, that is the ultimate in antisemitism. So stop pretending you are so holy and righteous and just shut up.

Here's what your hypocritical self said in 2008 about Iran, Mike:
The US has "[not] had diplomatic relations with Iran in almost 30 years, and a lot of good it's done. We cannot live with al Qaeda, but we might be able to live with a contained Iran. Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons on my watch. But before I look parents in the eye to explain why I put their son's or daughter's life at risk, I want to do everything possible to avoid conflict. We have substantive issues to discuss with Tehran.

But since a deal happened on the (black dude) "Obama presidency which must never be acknowledged as legitimate", you have to denounce it. I get it. Like I said before, dick move.

Could the deal be better? Sure, it could be. Was it likely that we were going to get anything else? Probably not right now.

Here's the thing. We now have the time to work with Iran to make things better. To foster good will. To make them want to be part of the world community. At one point, Iran was a very westernized nation. At least it was until the US fucked with it.

So yes, it's not the ultimate in everything we wanted. But for the next 10-15 years, your dickish party has a choice: do we work toward making an even better deal for the very long term, or do we say fuck you to not only Iran, but the entirety of the international community and ruin any credibility that Pres Obama has gained back for us in his time in office? If we decide we won't honor the obligations that our President has made, then good luck in your term in office. Nobody in the international community will ever speak to you. And, fyi, Netanyahu won't be in office forever. At some point, Israel's love affair with far right-wing politicians in the US will end. Then you (and Israel) will be fucked, because you burned all your bridges.

I love Israel. That doesn't mean I have to love its political leadership. Because I don't. Just like I love the US. And don't always love its political leadership (looking at YOU, GOP).

Compromise has become such a dirty word. If we don't get our way - our WHOLE way EVERY TIME, we want to pick up our ball and go home. Thank goodness none of you asswipes are actually the actual president of the actual US, because Pres Obama realizes that a good deal that isn't perfect is better than no deal at all. For all of those idiots *TedCruzMikeHuckabeeEveryRepublicanPolitician* who have said "I would have turned this deal down and gone back for a better deal..."

Gee, I bet it never even occurred to John Kerry to try for a better deal! It sure is a sad thing you weren't at the negotiating table. Or running actual Murica. We would OWN the world!

Once the Camp David Accords were signed between Israel and Egypt, President Carter had this to say:
"We must not minimize the obstacles that still lie ahead," Mr. Carter said. "Differences still separate the signatories to this treaty from each other and also from some of their neighbors who fear what they have just done.

"To overcome these differences, to dispel those fears, we must rededicate ourselves to the goal of a broader peace with justice for all who have lived in a state of conflict in the Middle East.

"We have no illusions - we have hopes, dreams, and prayers, yes - but no illusions."
Thank goodness those 3 men were willing to compromise for the bigger vision. That deal wasn't even close to perfect for Israel or for Egypt. In fact, Sadat was assassinated in large part because of it. However, history has proven these men to all be heroes when it comes to the peace agreement. And they were right. Israel and Egypt have been at peace since then. Imagine if none of them were willing to compromise.

I found this, from the Association for Dilomatic Studies and Training, interesting, and a valuable lesson we can learn:
My problem with Camp David is two-fold: one that we gave away too much.... (Ed note: sound familiar?)

My second is this: that then we did not, either under Carter and certainly not under Reagan, take what we had obtained in Camp David and try to develop it into something more meaningful.

Now we can learn from the past (but will we?). We have the luxury of additional time to work on our relationship with Iran and make it into something "more meaningful". We can work to strengthen the deal over time.

But equating a decent deal that we think could have been better, that gives us time to get more conversation going, with deliberate mass extermination of the Jews makes you a real asshole.

And it needs to stop.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Wolves travel in packs, not alone... and other thoughts on hate vs terrorism

Yes, it's been a while. For my sanity, I backed off my blog. But holy hell people, what is happening to us?

I was thinking about posting something about the shootings in S Carolina, then Chatanooga happened. Then I was getting ready to post about that, when Lafayette happened. What the everloving fuck, America?

Also, how many black people have to die in police custody before we are ready to do something about it? When a hashtag #IfIDieInPoliceCustody has to be a thing, we have a very serious problem. And a heartbreaking one. And when the media doesn't even report on it? Yeah, crushing and a very big statement on how we value (or not) certain lives over others in this country.

Speaking of valuing lives, we obviously don't. We obviously place guns above lives. I am sick to fucking death of hearing about the "crazy, mentally ill lone wolves" out there. That pack of wolves is getting really freaking big. Wolves are by nature social, not solitary. They thrive on being with their pack - those that are like them. So by even calling these terrorists "lone wolves" we are already perverting the natural order. (Yeah, I went there. Just for you, Rick Santorum. And Mike Huckabee. And Ted Cruz. And Scott Walker.)

The killer in Louisiana bought the gun legally in a pawn shop. He was a far right wing ideologist who loved the Tea Party and Hitler. He didn't have a restraining order request against him because he was mentally ill. He had a restraining order request against him because he was violent with his family. Something all too familiar.

The conversation shouldn't be around "crazies" because any rational person would consider it "crazy" to commit mass murder. We all look at that and think, "That's fucking crazy!" The media throws out phrases like "obviously had 'mental problems'" like they're the fucking DSM. Armchair diagnoses do not help drive an educated conversation. So stop it, ok media? Just cut it out.

Also, people with mental health disorders are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, so that argument doesn't hold water and I'm so sick of hearing it. It both devalues the conversation that should happen in this country around mental illness as well as devaluing human lives taken by gun violence.

The conversation instead needs to center around why we value guns more than lives in America. If we weren't willing to make changes after all those little precious kids killed at Sandy Hook, we just need to admit we value guns more than lives and find a way to move on. But I don't ever want to hear anyone who values guns more than children's lives call themselves pro-life, because that's a flat out bullshit of a lie.

So anyway... AG Loretta Lynch has announced that Dylann Roof (of S Carolina racist bullshit mass murder fame) will be tried on federal hate crime charges. Not on terrorism charges.

The FBI defines Domestic Terrorism thus:
"Domestic terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:
  • Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  • Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
  • Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

18 U.S.C. § 2332b defines the term "federal crime of terrorism" as an offense that:
  • Is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct; and
  • Is a violation of one of several listed statutes, including § 930(c) (relating to killing or attempted killing during an attack on a federal facility with a dangerous weapon); and § 1114 (relating to killing or attempted killing of officers and employees of the U.S.).
When asked why the hate crime charge instead of the terrorism charge, the AG said, "As you know, there is no specific domestic terrorism statute," and that Roof's act of racially motivated violence was "the original type of domestic terrorism."

Then call it that.

It matters.

It matters that we are trying Roof for hate crimes instead of terrorism.

Hate is an acceptable thing, especially for white men. Especially in America.

Terrorism is not.

Let’s recap. Hate = White and AOK. Terrorism = Brown and Bad.

So trying Roof on hate crimes makes him completely unexceptional in America today. In America, everybody hates. By definition, hate isn't illegal. It'seems a protected (and highly coveted) 1st amendment right.  By making Roof so unexceptional, we tacitly condone his crimes and make them completely acceptable; no different than any other crime.

Trying these people as the terrorists they are would take the conversation to a different place. Trying these people on terrorism charges would make it unacceptable to kill others who don't share your political views. It would put them on the same level as "RADICAL ISLAM" and "THOSE THAT WOULD DESTROY OUR WAY OF LIFE". Ask anyone who lost a loved one inside that church in S Carolina if that day destroyed their way of life. I’d bet the answer would be a resounding yes.

But we are unwilling to put white "lone wolf" men on the same playing field as "THOSE WHO WOULD DESTROY OUR WAY OF LIFE". So, unwilling to identify them as "THOSE WHO WOULD DESTROY OUR WAY OF LIFE", we try them on hate crime charges, and as a result we continue to see the same terrorist activity.

Over & over. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Because it's no big deal to hate in America. In fact, for these people, it’s a fucking badge of honor.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Anti-semitism and our kids

Given the tremendous rise of anti-semitism worldwide, I thought I'd start a series here to talk about it. It weighs heavily on my mind, especially as I envision the world my children and grandchildren will encounter in the future.

Jewish kids encounter anti-semitism at different times in their lives, but I've found that middle school is often when it first rears its ugly head. Both of my boys first encountered antisemitism at that age. It breaks my heart that they had to learn about such an awful thing personally, rather than in their history books.

I begin with a reprint of a post from my personal blog (intentionally not linked, for privacy). This is from June 7, 2010.

Helen Thomas can't beat us down. A 13 year old proves it. (originally published 6-7-2010)

I have been totally out of the news loop all weekend because of the bar mitzvah. I logged in today, and what did I find? Helen Thomas, a woman I've admired in the past for her tenacity, for leading the way for women journalists, for what I thought was her journalistic integrity, making incredibly anti-semitic remarks.

Given that we just dealt with anti-semitism at home (look to the bottom of this article for the reference), this not only appalls me, but just makes me incredibly sad and deflates me. She took the glow off of a wonderful weekend celebrating my family's Judaism.

In light of this, I thought I'd post my Youngest's bar mitzvah speech in its entirety (as written, not as ad-libbed for those of you that were there, although it's close *g*). It addresses how the Jews came to the Promised Land, after being freed from slavery in Egypt. I hope that Thomas realizes that the Jews have been in Israel (Canaan, actually, long before it was ever called Palestine) for much longer than they've been in Germany or Poland.

[The only edits I have made are to delete specific names and our town's name.]

Shabbat Shalom. Welcome to Everyone. Thank you for coming to celebrate my bar mitzvah with me. This morning's torah portion is called Shelach L'cha from the book of Numbers. It is about what happened to the Jews after they got out of Egypt. Picture this: The Israelites were standing on the edge of the Jordan River, looking over at the land of Canaan. Moses sent in twelve spies to find out if the Jewish people could live in the Promised Land. After searching Canaan thoroughly, the spies came back and had interesting news for Moses. Ten of the twelve spies thought that it was impossible and that even with help from God the Israelites would be crushed. Two of them thought just the opposite. They said that they could take them and that with help from God there was no way they could possibly be defeated. So, as most people do, they went by majority vote and didn't go into the land of Canaan. This story carries over into the haftarah portion. This portion is about when Joshua, one of the original spies who thought positively, sent two spies to the land of Jericho. The reason he sent in only two was because only two of the spies Moses sent in said that they could win. These spies were different from the spies that Moses sent because they had two things that most of the other spies didn't. 1. They had help from a woman named Rachab. 2. They had faith in God. After staying on Rachab's roof for a while and watching, they came back to Joshua and thought like Joshua did. They said that the Israelites could win and conquer the land of Jericho. So, according to majority, the Israelites went in and they won. They were now living in the Promised Land after wandering in the desert for forty years.

From this we learn that faith in God and in yourself can make a HUGE difference in the way we think, act, and feel. A great example of this is the children's book "The Little Engine That Could". This story is about a small train that wanted to go up a hill. All of the other trains said "you can’t do it" but the little train engine kept saying "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can" because he believed in himself. Another great example of this concept is what you’ve all just witnessed. I had to have faith in myself to believe that I could learn all this Hebrew, plus an additional torah portion, PLUS the Ashrei, which Mrs. xxxx gave me only two weeks before my bar mitzvah.

Being Jewish is important to me and my family because I would like the people who have survived for almost 4,000 years to live on for thousands and thousands of years to come. Also, I would like to teach my children and my children's children to read and study torah, and to hopefully live long enough to see them give a speech just like this one at their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Plus, it's just fun to come to temple and to see all of the congregation, and friends and family.

To me becoming a bar mitzvah means diving into the world as a Jewish adult and to finally be considered one. Also this is one of the only times I can look my brother in the eye and say "I did something that you did! And I probably did it better!" I really hope that becoming an adult means that people will treat me with more respect.

As a Jewish adult I will continue to come to temple, read and study torah and try and find ways to improve myself as a Jew. Also I will continue on and go to Judaica High to greatly widen my Jewish knowledge.

For my mitzvah project, I chose to feed the hungry of [our town]. I chose to do this because Food and I, we just go together great! I wanted everyone to feel the awesomeness of a good meal. With help from some friends, we gave an amazing meal of turkey, yams, mashed potatoes, and much more to those who couldn't afford a Thanksgiving meal. Don't worry, if I’m making you hungry, the reception is almost here so don't hassle me for food! Also, during the High Holidays, I asked the congregation to bring in bags of canned food for the group, SOVA. SOVA is a food cabinet that supplies food for Los Angeles and [our town]. [ed. note: SOVA is a food pantry operated by Jewish Family Services. They do NOT discriminate as to whom they give their food]

In Hebrew, the words Todah Rabbah mean thank you. I would like to say Todah Rabbah to the Rabbi for not only helping me learn Hebrew for 6 or 7 years, but for being positive and for always encouraging me to do my best. And you know what? It really helped, Thank you. I would also like to thank the Cantor for all of his Jewlarious jokes and for his beautiful music. I would like to thank Mrs. xxxxx for all of her help and support, and for pretty much being my teacher and guidance counselor since kindergarten. And thanks to M for tutoring me and making me repeat every line of every prayer a bunch of times, because that really helped me get them down. I would also like to thank E, J, and the rest of their Girl Scout troop for helping me serve the homeless at the Thanksgiving dinner. Next I would like to thank my friends for always being there and supporting me. And for making me laugh when I bring my Hebrew stuff to school and you try to read it! Next, I would like to thank my father for helping me prepare my nerves for this occasion and for helping me with my Hebrew. Or at least pretending to. I would also like to thank my mother for pushing me to do things even if I'm scared because most of the time, I tend to like what I'm doing. Last and most, I would like to thank my brother. Dude, I know we fight and call each other names, and throw stuff at each other, and are mean to each other and so on and so forth, but you're my brother and I love you. You are probably the biggest inspiration of my life and are a hell of a friend. Thank you for being the brother that you are. I love you, man.

Thank you all and Shabbat shalom!

Take THAT, Helen Thomas. You can't beat down a people who refuse to be beaten down.


The "anti-semitism at home" remark above refers to the following from a post in May 2010, as we were sending out invitations for the above bar mitzvah.

My son is having his bar mitzvah next month. He invited loads of friends. He came home today and told me that the father of one of his friends ripped up the invitation and won't let her come. Because Youngest is Jewish. This is a girl whose house he has been to numerous times, who has been to our home tons of times, who he has hung out with since 5th grade. She's his good friend. I think this is likely Youngest's first real, personal brush with anti-semitism. I want to be able to tell him that we don't accept this kind of behavior in general in the US, but now I'd be a liar.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A silly but apparently necessary clarification: I don’t hate Christians

Though why this requires clarification astounds me.

I’ve been very critical recently of the far right conservative Christian movement. I believe with good reason.

Before we get into this, I should note: *tongue in cheek* Some of my best friends are Christians.

Seriously, though, several of my good friends (and even family) are very conservative Christians – they would have to be, where I live. The thing about it, though, is that they don’t try to force their religious beliefs on me, just like I don’t try to force my religious beliefs on them. We each go about our own business in our religious and daily lives.

For myself, I appreciate that these folks have faith of any sort, just as I like to think they appreciate the same about me. I also understand and appreciate those folks who do not believe in a particular religion, or who identify as atheists. Frequently, these people are very spritual. And even if they aren't, what business of it is mine? There is nothing wrong with that. Yay! We are all free to do what we want in our own lives. I am a very live and let live person, and it really irks my shit when others aren't.

I also have many Muslim friends. The one thing they don’t do is to try to force their religious beliefs on me. And I return the favor.

I have some Hindi friends. The one thing they don’t do is to try to force their religious beliefs on me. And I return the favor.

I have Buddhist friends. And Orthodox Jewish friends. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

What I object to about the very vocal conservative Christian movement in the media and politics, is their desire to force their religious beliefs onto me. Our country was founded by many different religions, and many different factions of Christianity – Quakers, Puritans, Protestants, Catholics, Church of England, as well as other religions (though few and far between in the Americas at the time). The idea is that none of them wanted to be beholden to the Church of England. They didn't appreciate being forced to practice what others told them (except when it came time to convert the Native Americans). They did their own thing. Each different religion.

The founding fathers and Constitution that our right-wing media and politicians and supreme court seem to revere so much made it very clear. So clear, in fact, that it is the very first amendment they made to the Constitution our modern day right-wingers love so much. The first clause in the first amendment. The first in the Bill of Rights. The first right afforded to our citizens.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

In other words, you are free to exercise your religion, just as I am free to exercise my religion. But the government cannot tell us what that religion should be. This really isn't so difficult a concept, is it? Really?

Yet, the idea that I must, by law, be free to be able to practice my religion seems to threaten some people. It translates to persecution in their minds. I should repeat my previous paragraph.

You are free to exercise your religion, just as I am free to exercise my religion.

Nowhere does it say that you are not free to practice your religion. However, almost 250 years of precedent in US law have said that you can’t cram your religion down my throat - to use a phrase that the right seems to love so much. Not sure what the fascination is with cramming things down throats is to them, but to each his own…

Until we educate our people about different religions, societies, histories, we will be "scared" of that which is different. But we are actively legislating the de-education of our society. So that we can spout our own beliefs and nobody will think or know to dissent. This is exactly what we claim to hate about the Middle East and the Muslim countries that reside there. Hypocrisy much?

What we fail to recognize or admit is that we are acting exactly as the radicals in the Middle East who claim to be acting in the name of Allah. Only we are doing it in the name of the one and only real deity - the "Christian G-d". Hypocrisy much?

I posted this as my Facebook status yesterday and I realized that I do post quite a bit about Christians acting very un-Christian-like.
Today in Who's Holocausting:

According to Fox Fake News, we are having a holocaust against Christians. When 6 million Christians are murdered and the world stands by and does nothing, we can talk. Until then, shut up with your ideas of Christian persecution. Having to allow other religions into your society and not being allowed to force your beliefs on them does not equal persecution.

In the words of Inigo Montoya: I don't think that word means what you think it means.

First off, FFS, stop with the Holocausting & Nazi-ing of everyone who thinks differently than you or doesn't agree with you. It's really getting old, and you are actively and deliberately undermining the importance of what happened to so many in the actual Holocaust.

I've said this before. Because we are failing as a nation to educate our children about history and world cultures, we are actively denying that anything bad has ever happened to any people. Except all the wrongs done to us, of course.

Back to my original point.

To me, people of faith live the faith that they say so heartily they believe. They try to do good in the world. They try to help those less fortunate. They try to be kind.

What they don’t do, is publicly brag about how amazingly religious they are, how superior they are because of it, and how they follow all the teachings of Christ while at the same time:
  • Legislating discrimination as a G-d given right
  • Actively pursuing and advocating policy that hurts and penalizes those less fortunate
  • Actively undermining those that do look for ways to help the less fortunate
  • Attempting to legislate unconstitutional laws (ie, America’s national religion is Christianity)
  • Saying that we must follow the laws in the Bible, while actively not following the laws in the Bible
  • Getting all judgy and forgetting the whole "Judge not, lest you be judged" thingy. 
  • Picking and choosing which laws to follow (at that point, you are not a fundamentalist Christian – you are a reform Jew, lol). FYI, you don't get to say that "the gays" are breaking biblical law when you are a tattoo-riddled, hair-cutting, shrimp & pork-eating adulterer.
  • Actively trying to outlaw a specific religion
  • Actively pursuing religious war
  • Actively pursuing treason by attempting to undermine our President
  • Actively trying to undermine the success of our country simply because they don’t like the fact we have a Black dude in the White house
  • Actively trying to take away the autonomy of our women citizens
  • Claiming their right to kill other people with a firearm is what G-d wants
  • Claiming they lurrrve the "Jewish state" so very much, while attempting to outlaw Judaism in their own country (again with the Christianity as a national religion). 
  • Pursuing hypocrisy as a life legacy

The difference in my mind is between “Religion” and “Faith”. Real people of faith manage to live their lives according to their faith without feeling the need to brag about what a good [insert religion here] they are. And they accept the fact that others’ faith is as important to that person as their own religion is to themselves.

You don’t get to claim that you are persecuted simply because I don’t like you "cramming your religion down my throat". You are free to practice your Christianity. I am free to practice my Judaism. My other friends are free to practice Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Satanism, Pastafarianism… whatever.

Just because the law says I am free to practice my Judaism (or Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Satanism, Pastafarianism… whatever) doesn't mean that you are being persecuted for being a Christian (and vice versa). Just because the law says you can't force your Christianity on me (and vice-versa) doesn't mean you are being persecuted.

That is the rhetoric that bothers me so very much. When Christians (or any religion) are no longer free to practice their religion as a group, then I will agree that they are being persecuted.

Until then, STFU.