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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Racism on parade



NBC ran a story early Tuesday morning entitled "Businesses Burn as Unrest Erupts over Michael Brown Case in Ferguson." While not coming right out and saying "Ferguson residents burn businesses," the implication was clear. Residents of Ferguson, Missouri were torching their town. The only people who know what actually happened last night are the ones who were there, the folks who live in Ferguson. I know, we're all armchair quarterbacks about everything, and we know what really happened, right?

During the Ferguson protests in August, many residents told media outlets people from other towns were participating in, and sometimes instigating, the looting and vandalism that took place. For example, this article from the St. Louis Riverfront Times features a conversation with Craig Ruffin and Lindsey Johnson:
Others nodded in agreement, but they also suspect that people from outside the neighborhood are responsible for the looting -- not Ferguson residents. A pickup truck with several young people inside was parked across the street, down from the Dellwood Market. 
"See? They're waiting for the police to leave the store," Ruffin said. "They're not from here." 
"There are a lot of opportunists running around trying to take advantage of what's been happening in Ferguson, but it's not people in Ferguson doing it," Johnson added. "Why would you ruin a store where you live and need to go shop at?"
NBC shared a link to their article on Facebook, and as of the writing of this piece, there are over 2,000 comments underneath the link. I scrolled through them, and found some of the most racist, hateful, and ignorant statements I've ever read. People posted racist memes, and called for violence against the residents of Ferguson, Missouri.  Here are some of the more horrifying comments. I am publishing names because I think hate should always be dragged into the light.  

Mel Gilmore: 
These thugs want to cry about a cop not being arrested for DEFENDING HIMSELF (rightfully so) against a violent bully who attacked him ONLY BECAUSE HE IS WHITE. Had this been a white boy, they would've say quietly on the sideline and thought nothing of it. Yet they vandalize, burn down innocent people's businesses and cars, steal, shoot at cops...these freaking morons are exactly why we are a divided country. These people make me sick. I'm hoping one business owner is in their building and takes a rifle to these thugs' butts so they can join their friend Mr. Brown.
Tyler Knezevich:
But yeah as the spooks would tell ya, all whites are racist. Weird, how did a chimpanzee get into office then? Some whites must have voted for him. Oh well, when his term is up he'll go back to the gorilla exhibit at the Chicago zoo
Debbie Vaughn:
 If they were thought any better but they were not raised right this how all the thugs live trouble makers, all over America
Brenda Floyd:
 As far as I'm concerned it's the so called parents fault for not setting or teaching a better example. Too busy thinking up more ways to scam more money from welfare jmo
Susan Serrill:
 ANIMALS I HAVE COMPASSION FOR.THESE NEGROS...HELL NO
Kyle Shaver:
Take away their welfare then they will change their tune. Make them work for something.
David Martinez:
If Michael Brown hadn't been killed, he would have been right down their with the rest of them, burning buildings, robbing and looting. He was a young punk thug just like the rest of them.
Fred Curry:
 I noticed they didn't burn walmart or welfare building s
Lisa Hoadley Madison:
Let them burn down their "Hood" and kill each other. Not like they are great assets to society anyway! Save the police sometime and troubles! 
Susan R Higgs:
The rioting proves these thugs are leaches. It would have helped if Obama had gotten on TV and said, "How dare you destroy your town, we are on foreign soil trying to stop what you are doing in your own country." He should have had Medea speak from the Oval Office. My son is white and there is a very good educational program at a local black university, I try to tell myself he would be fine. I am seriously having way past second thoughts.
Here are a few of the memes that were posted in the comments. 

This one was shared by Nico ElRey Kelly:




 This meme comes to us thanks to Jim Meiser:



And Teresa Green shared this:



One of Teresa's Facebook friends, Andrea Watkins, wrote in response to that meme, "That's exactly the mentality they have!!"

This is our post-racial society. An article implies black residents of a town torn apart by oligarchy and racism are destroying said town, and hundreds, if not over a thousand, flaming racists post hateful screeds and memes. 

Bet all those racist hatemongers voted a few weeks ago. Did you?

Friday, November 21, 2014

The New Colossus

Image from NPS.org

Inscribed on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty is a poem written by Emma Lazarus. Lazarus was asked to submit a poem to be auctioned off as a fundraiser for the construction of the base for the statue. She declined at first, but later agreed, using the opportunity to highlight the plight of refugee immigrants. The poem is entitled "The New Colossus."

If you ask an average American citizen to recite the words that adorn the Statue of Liberty, they most likely will remember "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." There is so much more to "The New Colossus," and while watching President Obama's speech Thursday evening, I was reminded of my own interpretation of Emma Lazarus's powerful sonnet.



    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
             With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
   Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
   A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
   Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
   Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
   Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
   The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
  “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
   With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
   Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
   The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
   Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
   I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The first phrase, "Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land," is extraordinary. From the first time I read that sentence, the image in my head was one of Ares, the god of war. Conquering those who are different, or from another land, limbs "astride," a vision of power gained through dominance. Compare that with "Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name is Mother of Exiles." That brings forth Hestia, goddess of the hearth. A strong woman, a maternal figure, a woman with open arms, who welcomes exiles rather than conquering them.


"Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" The Mother of Exiles-the Statue of Liberty-cares for those the world would throw away, and we are called to do the same. As the president stated Thursday evening, we are a nation of immigrants. The majority of us are here because someone long ago, or not so long ago, crossed an ocean to make a better life. We are the land of opportunity; we are, as Ronald Reagan said, a shining city on a hill.


And yet, even with the message of "The New Colossus," even with leaders from both parties calling for acceptance for decades, xenophobia runs rampant through this nation. My heritage is Irish and German, two groups who were despised when they first began immigrating to the United States. The hatred of the Irish was so prevalent, Mel Brooks included a joke about it in "Blazing Saddles."


When my great-great grandparents braved the Atlantic to come here from Ireland, they did so in order that their descendants could have a better life. When my husband's ancestors came to this country from Hungary, it was for the same reason. They saw the lamp lit beside the golden door, and they followed that light to a place they believed would allow them a chance at a more fruitful life. A safe place to call home, to raise children, to live the American dream.


Emma Lazarus's poem calls us to welcome the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, yearning to be free. We are not to be the brazen giant, we are to be the Mother of Exiles. If we refuse our task, if we turn our backs on everything this nation is supposed to be, we do not deserve that lady in the harbor. 


I want to end this with a quote. These words echo what President Obama said last night, and what many citizens of this great nation believe. In November of 1986, Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act. These words were part of his signing statement.

We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Sanctity of Marriage

Image from Rolling Stone

The definition of "sanctity" is:

1: holiness of life and character

2 a: the quality of being holy or sacred
   b: plural: sacred objects, obligations, or rights

One of the phrases people who do not support marriage equality like to throw around is "The sanctity of marriage." Marriage is holy, sacred. Synonyms for sanctity include saintliness, godliness, holiness, virtue, purity, and blessedness. Marriage, according to many right wing fundamentalist Christians, is a blessed, holy, godly event, filled with virtue and purity.

Charles Manson is getting married. For those unsure of Manson's history, CNN put together a pretty good timeline of events in his life. And this has raised some rather interesting questions, both in my head, and in the heads of some of my friends.

Is this marriage "sanctified" in the eyes of conservative Christians who oppose marriage equality? After all, their only measurement for holiness seems to be genitalia. It doesn't matter if we're talking about a 55-hour marriage (Britney Spears), or a 72-day marriage for money (Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries)-those are "sanctified" because a man and a woman were married.

What if the wedding coordinator contacts a right wing Christian bakery for the Manson wedding cake? Will the bakers gleefully make a 3-tiered cake, festooned with buttercream roses? Well, if they hold themselves to the standards trumpeted by anti-equality groups, yes. Since Manson is marrying a woman, the marriage is "sanctified."

My marriage is not blessed, or sanctified, because I married a man. My marriage is those things, and so much more, because I married my best friend. I married a person who loves me, who respects me, who would never hurt me, and who is a fantastic influence for my son. But if I were gay, and the person who was my best friend, my inspiration, and my soul mate was another woman, my marriage would be seen as something horrible, something destructive, something less than blessed and sanctified.

How does that make sense? How are Charles Manson's upcoming nuptials blessed? Holy? Steeped in virtue and purity? If Joe and Bob, who have been in a committed relationship for 15 years want to get married, why is that wrong, while the marriage of a psychopath is deemed holy and sacred?

The other phrase that gets tossed around incessantly is "traditional marriage." What does that even mean? Is this a reference to biblical marriage? If so, you only have to look at Solomon to realize biblical marriage is a pretty disturbing thing. Hundreds of wives, concubines, slave girls, you name it, but since those were all women, Solomon is A-Okay.

I know what a right wing Christian would say about my Solomon reference, because they've said it to me in the past. The story of Solomon happened a very long time ago, the "rules" were different then, obviously we can't do that sort of thing now. Except many right wing Christians take at least one ancient rule, and use it to defend their position against marriage equality. This has always befuddled me, and until a right wing fundamentalist Christian explains it to me-how they can eat shrimp and wear polyester and get tattoos while trumpeting Leviticus 18:22-I will remain befuddled.

In Alabama, you can marry your first cousin, as long as said cousin is of the opposite sex. In North Carolina, first cousin marriage is permitted, but double cousin marriage is not. I don't even want to know what "double cousin marriage" is. We have 17 states where two people of the same sex cannot get married, because allowing that would somehow ruin the "sanctity of marriage."

I think most of us can agree that the "sanctity of marriage" is ruined more by divorce, domestic violence, and adultery than letting two adults who love each other, and happen to have the same parts, get married. And I think quite a few people would say Charles Manson getting married (for the third time) doesn't exactly scream holy or virtuous.


But you can bet he won't have any trouble getting a cake.






Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Charles Manson is getting married


Charles Manson is getting married. To a 26-year old woman named Star. Who left home at 19 to be closer to him. Thank you, good night.

No, seriously, Charles Manson is getting married. There are so many things wrong and weird and just plain what the eff about this, I don't know where to begin. Obviously the first thing is the age difference NO THAT'S NOT IT the first thing is it's Charles Freaking Manson. The guy with a swastika carved in his own forehead, whose eyes still look like he's on 5 different kinds of speed, and who masterminded a mass murder. 

The second thing might be the age difference. Creepy, you betcha, but not as creepy as the fact that Charles Manson is getting married. But for me, this isn't the worst part. Obviously, the worst worst part is that Charles Manson is getting married. The weirdest thing, again for me, is this tidbit, from ABC News:

"No date has been set, but a wedding coordinator has been assigned by the prison to handle the nuptials..."

A wedding coordinator. Right. 

As a former concierge, and owner of my own concierge company, I've coordinated a few weddings. And I think if I got that phone call, I would hang up so fast, my phone would catch on fire. Can you imagine it? I can, so allow me to share with you what I think that call would have been like. The name of the wedding coordinator is fictitious, the name of the warden of California State Prison, Corcoran, is not.

"Good morning, Kate's Weddings! How may I help you?"

"Ms. Johnson?"

"Yes, this is Kate Johnson."

"Ms. Johnson, this is Warden Dave Davey of California State Prison, Corcoran. How are you today?"

"Uh..."

"Ms. Johnson, the reason for my call this morning is to offer you a job, planning the wedding of one of our more famous inmates. Well, infamous would be a better term, ha ha ha."

"Uh..."

"I realize this is a unique request, okay to be completely honest, it's not a request exactly, you've been assigned this job."

"What? What do you mean, assigned? No one asked me, I have no idea why you're calling me, what in the world..."

"Ms. Johnson, you have over $5,600 in unpaid parking tickets."

"-------------------"

"We would be willing to get rid of all those in exchange for your services."

"You're BRIBING ME?"

"Of course not, that's illegal. We are proposing a trade, a barter, if you will."

"Oh for...look, my last wedding was for the daughter of a United States senator. If you think I am going to plan some prison wedding, you're out of your goddamn mind."

"Ms. Johnson, that senator is currently serving 3 years in a minimum security prison, and I believe his daughter left her husband for a Las Vegas magician."

"-------------------"

"My point is, you're not exactly in demand, and frankly, this wedding would put your name back out there. You'd be featured in every major newspaper in the country, if not the world."

"Whoa there, Sparky. Who the hell's getting married?

"Charles Manson."

"THE Charles Manson? The swastika guy? Sharon Tate? That Charles Manson? Who the hell would marry him?!"

"Her name is Afton Elaine Burton, but she prefers to be called Star."

"Of course she does."

"She's a lovely young woman..."

"What do you mean, young? Isn't he like 100 or something?"

"Mr. Manson is 80, while Ms. Burton is 26."

"------------------------"

"Ms. Johnson, I have a list of ideas that Mr. Manson and Ms. Burton have put together. Now these aren't definite, of course, and we can change them if we need to. The first item...let me get my reading glasses here...okay, the first item is invitations. I'm not sure if they mean who to invite, or what style of invitations they want, but perhaps that's a good place to start."

"Do you have a printer there in the the prison?"

"We have copiers."

"No, what I mean is, do you an artist or a calligrapher who can work with WHAT AM I SAYING? You can take your Manson prison wedding and shove it where the soap won't go. I'll send a check for the parking tickets, and if you ever call me again, I will sue you."

"Ms. Johnson, the story of Mr. Manson's upcoming nuptials is featured at ABC News's website, and currently has 60,000 Facebook likes, a little over 1,000 shares on Twitter, and almost 800 comments." 

"----------------------"

"Ms. Johnson?"

"Am I allowed to bring an Ipad into the prison?"

Thanks to Gretl Riedel (and Some Ecards) for the meme.






Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why I believe in Evolution


I was raised Catholic, by a Catholic mother and a Protestant-turned-Catholic father. I attended Catholic schools until I was a sophomore. I was taught by nuns, read my Catechism, and received A's in religion every year I took it. And at no time during any of my schooling, or in my family, did one person ever say "The Earth is only 10,000 years old." No nun, no priest, neither of my parents ever told me that creationism was real.

It's a fable. How do I know this? Because in the book of Genesis, there are two completely different versions of how the world came to be. The sequence of events is different, the name for God is different, even the settings vary: water versus desert. The story of creationism reminds me of "The Little Mermaid."

In the original story, the mermaid is never named, she suffers excruciating pain in order to try and win the love of the prince, and in the end, she throws herself into the sea, becoming a daughter of the air. In the Disney version, the mermaid is named Ariel, she suffers no pain, and in the end, she wins the prince thanks in no small part to a singing crab.

Creationism is the Disney version of how the world began. It's six days (or seven, depending on which version you believe) of magical weaving, a bearded white man in the sky, and things just appearing. No Big Bang, no science, no violent upheaval.

Evolution makes sense. Primordial ooze, tetrapods, prehistoric art, dinosaur tracks, the La Brea Tar Pits-all these amazing things point overwhelmingly to evolution. My favorite book on evolution is "The Beak of the Finch" by Jonathan Weiner. Weiner writes about two biologists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, whose work showed that among Darwin's Finches, natural selection occurs so quickly, one can witness it.

When Charles Darwin first encountered these birds, the species were so distinct, he thought they were different birds. The finches had adapted to their food supplies; in other words, each species of finch had evolved a unique beak. And they had done so in a very short period of time. Darwin's finches are living proof of evolution.

Why then do so many flock to the Creation Museum? Why do so many of our conservative politicians want creationism taught in school as science? Why did Paul Broun, a Republican representative from Georgia, call evolution, the Big Bang theory, and embryology "lies straight from the pit of hell?"

All I have is an opinion, based on speaking with creationists, and based on our son's experiences with creationists at school. No, it's not taught there, we just have a lot of fundamentalist Christians in town, and their children learn early that the Bible is "it." I believe it's fear. One of the things creationists often cite as "proof" that evolution is evil, or wrong, is the belief that if we evolved from apes, this means we are no better than apes, and this leads to violence, suicide, abuse, addiction, all sorts of awful behaviors. A less serious argument I have heard is "If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" We won't even get into that...

Creationism is an easy way to cling to morality, fake or otherwise. If God made us, then we are automatically moral. If we evolved, we have to work at being better people. Many of the fundamentalist Christian creationists I have met are extremely sanctimonious and judgmental. They believe they have the moral high ground, simply by virtue of their beliefs. Evolution means their act, their facade, is not quite as protected as it might be if creationism was real. And that scares creationists to their very core.

Science is wonderful. Think about it: billions and billions and billions of years ago, in the depths of space, particles collided. Dust became stars, black holes formed, super novas, planets, and on this planet, this blue speck in the darkness of the universe, life began. Slowly, awkwardly, painfully, violently, life began.

I believe in evolution because it makes perfect sense. But is there room for God in evolution? Of course there is, and I am not referring to "intelligent design." The men who wrote the Bible were trying to describe things they did not understand. This is why, in the story of creationism, the moon is a light, not a reflective rock. A lack of scientific comprehension doesn't necessarily mean God didn't have a hand in all this. My own kind of goofy theory is this:

First, there was nothing but darkness, an ethereal being, and a lawn chair. The ethereal being was bored, and tired of all the nothing. It plopped down in the lawn chair, and taking two minuscule shiny things, flicked them together. Then it sat back to watch the show.

I told you it was goofy. Do I believe that? I don't know-it makes about as much sense as some white dude yanking out a guy's rib, and making a woman. But the difference is creationists have the hubris to try and convince other people what God did, what God meant. How do they know what six days is to God? Maybe six days is six hundred million years. But to admit their hubris, to admit they really haven't a clue, is to admit their "morality" is not a divine gift.

I want to end this with three links, links to two parks and a cave. Places to experience the wonder and beauty of evolution, places to experience the majesty of history, and to teach the next generation about our amazing planet.

The Cave of Chauvet

Dinosaur Valley State Park

The La Brea Tar Pits




Saturday, November 15, 2014

Observations on November 4th



I voted on November 4th, as I have every election since I turned 18. As I drove to the Knights of Columbus building, I pondered my choices. Our local state rep, a blue dog Democrat who came out in favor of marriage equality, and gets an 'A' rating from the NRA. Our state senator, who on the one hand, crafted anti-bullying legislation, and champions women's causes. On the other hand, he voted to remove our wolves from the endangered species list, and is hugely supportive of agribusiness. An entire party who, in our state, chose to keep secret how much of an increase consumers using the state healthcare plan would see, until after the election.

My other choices were far right wing extremists, who support "Biblical" marriage (concubines? incest? adultery? polygamy?), are rabidly pro-fetus, hate the poor, and think President Obama was born in Kenya. Guess what little circles I filled in with my black pen. Yep-Democrats.

There were a few Green Party folks running, bless their hearts, including one guy who's sole platform was legalizing pot. He wanted to be governor. Not really sure what other things he supports, because truly, the focus was marijuana. I did vote Green Party for attorney general, because that person actually seemed like a decent candidate. How fun would that be: middle-of-the-road Democratic administration meets far left, pacifist Green Party attorney general.

When I arrived at the KOC, I had to park on the street; the lot was full. I would say 80% of the people there were white, over the age of 70, and in this town, you can bet $10,000 of Mitt Romney's money they weren't voting blue. These are the same people who, a few times a year, drag their patio chairs onto the side of the main road through town, and wave "pro-life" signs at passing cars. There's no way in Hades those folks are voting for a Democrat, even one as non-liberal as our state rep.

The non-liberal was reelected, as was our sort-of liberal governor and our wolf-hating liberal senator. This is a win, I guess, given the people running against them were scary. I remember after Mitt Romney lost, there was some poor schmuck here in town who had covered his Dodge Dart front to back with pro-Romney stickers. He drove around in that car after the election, head held high. My guess is, he realized Obama won, but he would have to destroy the paint job on his nun car (seriously, nuns drove Dodge Darts when I was a kid) removing them.

During the fight for marriage equality here, signs against outnumbered signs for probably 20:1. Cars here have bumper stickers that range from ragingly fundamentalist to full-on Info Wars crap. I've even seen a few of those "Where's The Birth Certificate?" stickers Jerome Corsi was hocking on his website.

This is where we live, where we are raising our son, where we are in the minority. So much in the minority that we never talk about politics or religion in public. I've never been kicked out of a Perkins, and I don't want to start now. "Oh, you're pro-choice? Sorry; you can't have our French Silk pie. GET OUT COMMIE!"

Everyone and their mother has written about why Democrats lost the senate. I've read a lot of things shaming the left for not voting. Well, I voted, and I can tell you what I saw. Terrified old white people, lapping up the propaganda milk doled out by the GOP and Fox "news," pissed off at everything liberal, because the liars tell them it's all our fault. People manipulated so well, and so brilliantly, that they vote against their own best interest time and time again. Should more liberals have voted? Probably. But until the Democratic party learns how to combat the fetid bullshit that flows like water out of the far right, we'll never win anything.

Oh, and you want people at whom to lob shame? How about every Democratic candidate who ran from President Obama? Balked at the idea of openly supporting any of his accomplishments? Toss some shame their way. The DNC needs to support candidates who are truly liberal, who champion liberal causes, who aren't warhawks, or in bed with Wall Street. We need candidates who walk the walk, who don't cave to special interests. We desperately need people to run for office who care about the 98%, or the 47%, or really anyone other than the 1%.

Those people, with a few exceptions, were not on the ballot November 4th. Our choices were blue dog, or flaming conservative for the most part. And if I were an idealistic 20-something liberal, I probably would have stayed home, too. Now I'm a grownup, and I understand nuance and the nitty-grittiness of politics. It doesn't make me happy, choosing between the lesser of two evils; I just understand that with our current system, that's sometimes the only option.

So, there you have my observations on November 4th. I can't wait to see who the DNC trots out for 2016. Hopefully, it's someone who represents all Americans, not just the ones who can afford to buy their own politicians.