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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Right Wing Round-Up!

The past week or so has been a veritable treasure trove of right-wing horror. From the conservative reaction to Pope Francis, to a Fox pundit calling for public lists of people receiving government assistance, to George Zimmerman's sociopathic Twitter-fest, to John Lott blaming a victim of gun violence for being shot, the right-wing has had an interesting time. Rather than search high and low for information on this cluster**** of epic proportions, please enjoy the Right-Wing Round Up.

Pope Francis visited the U.S. last week, and from all accounts, he had a very nice time. He kissed a baby wearing a pope costume, he said Mass to hundreds of thousands of people, and he drove around in a Fiat. The pope also spoke to Congress, and that's where, at least for conservatives, the wheels fell off. Pope Francis eloquently defended the environment, called for us to care for those less fortunate, pondered gun violence, and said this about the death penalty:
Every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation. (source)
Many conservatives support the death penalty, even as they call themselves "pro-life." Many conservatives deny the science behind climate change, and most of them refuse to support any gun laws. And of course, there is the shaming of the poor, which leads us to our second entry in the Right Wing Round-Up.

Seton Motley and Steve Doocy were having a little chat over on Fox about publishing the names of people who receive government assistance. Obviously not caring that doing this would be illegal, Mr. Motley stated:
If the American taxpayers, who are paying the freight, know who is getting welfare they can keep a better eye on who is abusing the system et cetera and perhaps we can do some real serious welfare reform.
Doocy weighed in, throwing a question to Rebecca Vallas of the Center for American Progress:
Okay, Rebecca, the key to what he just said were the people who are abusing the system. There are some people, you know, we all know abuse the system, they go on it for years. But there are others, you know, who run into a tough spot and they might have to go on public assistance for a while. What's the matter with putting the list out there of the people who are winding up with money out of the taxpayers' pocket?
Sadly, Ms. Vallas didn't simply shout "IT'S ILLEGAL YOU TROGLODYTES," instead opting for a more nuanced response, explaining why we need to raise the minimum wage. Mr. Motley sneered at her, and barked:
Yeah, once again let's shame the people who are creating jobs rather than, you know, shaming the people who are sitting on welfare. And of course she's got half the table right on raising the minimum wage. Of course, the number of people on assistance will explode because of all the jobs that will be killed by a resulting, as a result of the raising of the minimum wage. The problem is, a family of three is not supposed to be living on a minimum wage. If you are making minimum wage you shouldn't be having children and being on, and trying to raise a family on it.
It's the last sentence. See it? If you're poor, you shouldn't have children. Seton Motley has a website, where you can find many articles written about abortion. From the tone of those articles, it seems Mr. Motley is most likely pro-fetus, which makes his comment on poor people having kids incredibly hypocritical.

Next, let's briefly visit what murderer, batterer, and all-around sociopath George Zimmerman has been up to. On Sunday, Zimmerman retweeted a photo of Trayvon Martin's corpse. The teenager he murdered. Zimmerman's brother confirmed to Huffington Post George Zimmerman's account, @TherealGeorgeZ, is authentic. Zimmerman also called President Obama an "Ignorant Baboon" in August, and wrote "Cops lives matter, black slime doesnt [sic]". Thank goodness for social media, or we'd never know what kind of monster George Zimmerman is. Other than the murder of Trayvon Martin, and the domestic violence, and the gun charges, and the partnering with an Islamophobic gun dealer to sell crappy art.

Finally, we have John Lott. For those of you lucky enough not to know who he is, John Lott is a more paranoid, more conservative, and more dishonest version of Wayne LaPierre. Lott lies about practically everything having to do with gun violence, including studies, research, facts, and crime statistics. And a few days ago, John Lott wrote this on his website in response to a shooting:
Passive behavior probably leaves robbery victim paralyzed
That is the title of an aggregated blog post. The original article is from St. Louis Today, and details the shooting of Christopher Sanna. Mr. Sanna and a woman were robbed at gunpoint, and, as they turned to flee, one of the gunmen fired, hitting Mr. Sanna in the back. And according to John Lott, that is Mr. Sanna's fault. 

Well, that's enough awfulness for today. Unfortunately, with the presidential campaign, and Boehner's forced retirement, and the Planned Parenthood hearings/waste of our tax dollars, I'm sure there will be many more occasions for Right Wing Round-Ups. Until then, let's think happy thoughts. Here's a photo of Yo-Yo Ma, on the floor with a wombat.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

We Need More Kids Like Ahmed Mohammed

Image of Ahmed Mohammed from The Guardian

Ahmed Mohammed is a 14-year old high school freshman in Texas. Ahmed loves to build things, he loves technology and engineering. And on Sunday, Ahmed built a clock to show to his new engineering teacher.

He took it it school, and showed it to his teacher. Who told Ahmed not to show it to anyone else. Ahmed put the clock away, but during English class, it "beeped." His annoyed English teacher asked him to bring the clock up, and when she saw it, she told Ahmed it "looks like a bomb." Ahmed responded, "It doesn't look like a bomb to me." The English teacher kept the clock.

Later in the day, Ahmed was pulled out of class by the principal, taken to a room with five police officers who took his tablet and his clock, interrogated him, handcuffed and fingerprinted him, and during questioning, repeatedly brought up Ahmed's last name. (source)

We need more kids like Ahmed. We need kids who question things, who want to solve problems, build things, invent, think outside the box, hell, build a new box. We need kids who look at a pile of wire and diodes, and say "I can make something out of this." We need kids who see the future and want to make it better.

What we don't need are paranoid xenophobes who see a Muslim teenager, and automatically think terrorist. What we don't need are Donald Trump and Peter King and Pamela Geller and the rest of the anti-other crowd spewing their filth and hate all over the country. What we don't need are "leaders" who believe the Earth is only 10,000 years old, and fossils were placed here by Satan to confuse us.

In the interview below, Ahmed says this experience made him feel "like I wasn't human." This is bright, inquisitive young man, who tried to impress a new teacher with an invention. If Ahmed's name was Jimmy, and he was a white Protestant, do you honestly believe that teacher would have told him to put the clock away? Or the English teacher would have said it "looks like a bomb?" Odds are, Jimmy would have had a glowing note sent home, instead of the letter the Irving Independent School District sent home about Ahmed's clock. That letter blames Ahmed, and calls his clock a "suspicious-looking device."

It would have more honest if the Irving Independent School District had called Ahmed Mohammed a "suspicious-looking student," because in the end, that's what this whole thing was about. Ahmed is the other, even if he's not. He's a teenager with a creative mind. But his last name is Mohammed, his skin is brown, and therefore, a clock is a bomb.

A 14-year old kid built a clock. His reward to be made to feel as if he wasn't human.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A response to Chrissie Hynde from a survivor of rape

It's taken me a few days to compose this piece. When I first read what Chrissie Hynde said during an interview about women who are raped, I was livid. How dare she. How dare a woman who survived her own sexual assault blame victims. The comments are horrible, and may contain triggers, and here they are.

From The Guardian:
She told the Sunday Times magazine that when she was 21 an Ohio motorcycle gang member promised to take her to a party but instead took her to an empty house, yet she claimed to take “full responsibility” for what happened.
She said: “Technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing and I take full responsibility. You can’t f*** about with people, especially people who wear ‘I Heart Rape’ and ‘On Your Knees’ badges ... those motorcycle gangs, that’s what they do.
“You can’t paint yourself into a corner and then say whose brush is this? You have to take responsibility. I mean, I was naive.”When asked whether the gang took advantage of her vulnerability, she replied: “If you play with fire you get burnt. It’s not any secret, is it?”
Hynde went on to say that women who dress provocatively while walking down the street drunk were also to blame if they were attacked. “If I’m walking around in my underwear and I’m drunk? Who else’s fault can it be?” she said.
“If I’m walking around and I’m very modestly dressed and I’m keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I’d say that’s his fault. But if I’m being very lairy and putting it about and being provocative, then you are enticing someone who’s already unhinged – don’t do that. Come on! That’s just common sense. You know, if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him.
“If you’re wearing something that says ‘Come and f*** me’, you’d better be good on your feet ... I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial am I?”
Personal note: The first time I was raped, I was drugged. The second time, yes, I'd been drinking, and I was wearing surfer shorts and a tee shirt. According to Chrissie Hynde, both those rapes were my fault.

My first read of her comments made me so angry, I couldn't breathe. The second time, I cried, remembering moments I hate remembering. The third time, I dug deep and found my empathy. Chrissie Hynde blames herself for her own rape, and projects her blame onto the rest of us. But that's her problem, not ours. It's terribly sad to realize such a talented and powerful woman believes in her heart that she deserved what happened to her all those years ago. 

Rape is not about sex, as much as people like Ms. Hynde may think it is. Rape, whether used against women or men, is about power. Wearing running shoes and no makeup isn't going to keep someone intent on rape from raping. Statistics show every 107 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. That means, according to Ms. Hynde, almost 300,000 people a year in America are to blame for their own rape.

Chrissie Hynde may blame herself for being sexually assaulted, and she's wrong to do so. No one deserves to be raped, no matter the circumstance. However, it seems she has blamed herself for a very long time, and most likely won't change her mind. But that doesn't mean we have to listen to her. She's a musician, not a rape counselor or a therapist. We have the power to stand up to victim blaming, we have the power to tell Chrissie Hynde we will not accept her narrative. 

As easy as it is to rage against Ms. Hynde, or any survivor who casts blame upon victims, it's very important to at least try and understand why they might do it. In Ms. Hynde's case, as I wrote above, she has wrongly taken on the blame for her own rape, and is projecting her lack of self-awareness onto other survivors. Don't let her. Stand strong, use your voice, tell Chrissie Hynde, and others who blame us for our own rapes, it was not our fault. 

We may not be able to help Chrissie Hynde, but we can help one another. We must help one another. And frankly, if men and/or women want to stroll down the street buck naked, that doesn't give anyone the right to rape them. Period.

If you are a survivor in need of support, please visit RAINN