Tagged: social justice

George Zimmerman is a victim of gun culture, too

George-Zimmerman

As we continue to struggle to comprehend how a man can shoot an unarmed teenager and not be legally accountable, it’s worth noting the larger players in all of this. George Zimmerman seemed well intentioned, if overly zealous. The problem is, he was sold a fantasy propagated by gun rights activists and the National Rifle Association that sent him, unwittingly, on a collision course with an incident. Unlucky break for George that he picked the absolute worst scenario in which to murder someone. I do believe that he probably didn’t plan on nor want to kill an unarmed teenager on the way back from the store holding nothing but skittles and iced tea. I also believe George Zimmerman wanted something to happen on one of his patrols, if only in that romantic and idealized way all of us fantasize about “what ifs”. In his case though, the “what if” became reality: heartbreaking and tragic.

From this lens, George Zimmerman isn’t a monster – or even overtly racist. Instead, he was manipulated and exploited by a movement that did not care about him further than as a cow to be milked of his money in exchange for guns and the facade of safety and control over imagined (or over-reported) threats. The National Rifle Association doesn’t kill people, but they give killers the tool they need to effectively do the job. If that were the only thing they did they would simply go down as despicable moneygrabbers, but they just can’t seem to leave their true intentions laid bare like that. Buying their product isn’t enough, we have to love them too.

To achieve that goal, they have to control the narrative. In a world where gun violence is increasingly directed at the gun owners themselves, or his or her family members (and disproportionately female), it must be hard to justify wanting more guns on the streets rather than less. To ensure profits, the narrative has to be unhinged from reality in such a way as to somehow convince a large section of society that they need guns in the home to ward off threats from outside the home. It isn’t hard. Especially when you play upon ingrained and deeply held beliefs about “other” groups.

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Source: Wikipedia

Trayvon Martin had the misfortune of being born an “other”. George Zimmerman, while not Caucasian, still grew up in a society in which black men are portrayed on TV, movies and in the media as disproportionately violent, aggressive and troublesome. It’s an image that the NRA has cultivated, with great success, into a selling point. Protect your homes. People not like you are out there. Watching Trayvon slowly walk down a quiet, residential neighborhood must have seemed like something out of “The Wire”. He certainly looked like they said he would: He had a hoodie. He appeared in no hurry. He was black.

As a white male I don’t know what it’s like to be suspicious. Before writing this I walked across the street from my apartment to pick up some cat litter from a convenience store a block away. I took my time. I checked my phone. Stopped to answer a text. Kept moving. If I noticed a man following me in his car I would have been freaked out. Then again, I’ve never been treated with suspicion . I am given the benefit of the doubt. Young black males in our country aren’t given that luxury. In 2013, LaVar Burton (the reading rainbow guy) explains how differently he has to act around police officers than a white person. That should be viewed as unacceptable. That is unacceptable.

In all of this, it’s important to note that Trayvon didn’t “owe” George Zimmerman anything. I’ve heard it asked “why didn’t Travyon just stop and explain to Zimmerman that he was walking home?”, but I can’t believe that this question is what it has come to. A boy shouldn’t have to justify himself to a strange man just for being black while walking down the street. That should be viewed as unacceptable. That is unacceptable.

But again, I don’t believe that George Zimmerman was a racist, intentionally looking for a black boy to kill. I think he was taught by cowards – who hide behind innuendo and plausible deniability – to look for young, black men when patrolling his neighborhood. They don’t say “young, black men”, that would be racist. They call them “thugs”, “urban”, or “gangsta”. They mean young, black men.

The “Stand Your Ground” law, much discussed in this case, is not a form of institutionalized racism on the scale of Jim Crow laws (as some had claimed), instead it is a loophole that allows racism to seep into vigilantism that the George Zimmerman case perfectly illustrated. Essentially, the law says that if a person feels “threatened” then they have the right to kill the aggressor and aren’t required to “retreat”. I’m not being facetious when I say that the “Wild West” that this law is clearly based on wasn’t even as dumb as that. Presumably, even Wyatt Earp would have seen how that has the potential for about a prairie sized amount of interpretation and wiggle room. Again, the NRA and gun rights advocacy groups who were instrumental in passing the idiotic, racist and impractical “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida (and other states) have safeguarded themselves from criticism, but make no mistake, they have blood on their hands. “Stand Your Ground” is nebulous and contrary to the entire reason we have laws. It’s why George Zimmerman can be acquitted of a murder he definitely committed. It has such a “gee shucks” naivete as to be nearly impossible to prosecute against. How do you prove what a “threat” is? Can a racist, who views minorities as inherently threatening, shoot anyone he pleases as long as he thinks they look sufficiently “urban”? But even more absurdly, it gives asymmetrical power to the holder of the gun (the NRA must be thrilled). Because guns kill quickly, and fists often don’t, the “threat” is the man swinging punches.

That is why George Zimmerman is free at its most distilled. The defense was able to successfully argue that because Trayvon was using his fists as weapons and George Zimmerman was clearly losing the fight (the one he instigated) that Trayvon deserved to be shot. Presumably, if Trayvon had a gun and felt threatened by George Zimmerman when he approached him he would have been in his right to kill him. But only one person had a gun that night. Fists take time. Bullets are quick. Trayvon isn’t here any more to defend himself and George walks free. That should be viewed as unacceptable. It is unacceptable.

So, in a weird way, George Zimmerman was wrapped up in something larger than he realized. He had been promised a fantasy that reality didn’t deliver. He had to learn through murdering an innocent boy that the idea that guns are defensive measures against intruders or aggressors is a false one. Unlike the simplistic world view that gun culture perpetuates, we live in a world of gray. Often the aggressors are our friends, or our family. Sometimes they are us. Our children, too. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as watching for the black guy in the hoodie. That lack of predictability may be scarier, it means a loss of control – and guns have always been marketed as tools of control in a scary world – but realizing that means less of this. It can’t bring Trayvon Martin back but it can, hopefully, prevent the next time. That should be viewed as possible. It is possible.

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Alec Baldwin doesn’t seem like a bigot, so why did he say those awful things?

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“Also: An idiot, a blowhard, a bully, and wearing thin”

A few days ago, after attending the funeral for James Gandolfini, Alec Baldwin got home to find that a reporter working for the the UK’s Daily Mail had written a (really dumb) attack piece criticizing Alec’s new wife for allegedly updating her twitter during the funeral. Alec Baldwin is not a man who calmly or rationally handles any thing so he disproportionally reacted in a fashion that Alec Baldwin may well go down in history as making an artform out of.

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Ending there would have been bad but of course he continued:

Buzzfeed has a roundup of the tweets in which Baldwin labels Stark a “toxic little queen” and a “lying little bitch.” And that’s hardly the worst — see tweet #5, the one about where Baldwin would like to stick his foot.

So like a child getting spawn killed in a game of Call of Duty (editor: is this how we get the youth page views?), Alec Baldwin resorted to the worst and most pathetic insults he could think of, and just like the child, he gay bashes. Because when you’re angry at someone and you want to hurt them, they can’t get any worse than being gay, right? It’s getting old, I’m getting sick of it, and we need to be more vigilant in our condemnation of this kind of behavior (especially when its our friends, the ones who value our opinions and want our respect). But I’m sure Alec Baldwin will get tarred and feathered because at this point we’ve been doing it so long and so frequently that we don’t really know how to stop.

But…

Even while the world collectively scrambles to get another hit of pure, uncut outrage – this time targeted at Alec Baldwin – we must admit that Alec Baldwin isn’t really a homophobe. Not in the traditional sense, not in any sense. Unlike Paula Deen whose revelry in “Southern Culture” makes it unsurprising to find that she has a backwards view on what is appropriate and what is racially insensitive, Alec Baldwin is one of the “good guys”. As he correctly points out in his (non)apology letter, he does have a lot of ties to the gay community. As GLAAD correctly points out in their response to his (non)apology, he has been a huge supporter of gay activism and has donated both time, money, and recognition to gay rights issues.

Let’s face it, Alec Baldwin doesn’t hate gay people, not even a little. Which is why it may seem odd that he can so publicly and hurtfully attack a person using shamefully ignorant slurs. But a closer examination makes it a lot more understandable (if not justifiable).

Just like when Paula Deen tried to explain her use of the n-word as being in response to an aggressive act by a black man, making her “not too happy with him”, Alec’s use of gay slurs arose out of a place of anger. In Alec’s case, judging by his tweets, he was beyond the point of rational thought and was seething with a blind anger only felt by Rocky Balboa after Ivan Drago kills Apollo Creed or Alec Baldwin when his wife got attacked by a gossip magazine writer. In that state, the prefrontal cortex that is in charge of impulse control and “better judgment” is suppressed and your reptilian lower brain has the upper hand. It’s in this state, I would argue, that the deeply normalized beliefs are allowed to come out unfiltered. And the n-word and gay slurs that come out of even kind and caring people seems to suggest that what we normalize is kinda nasty.

FC 250 Grand Marshal, Paula Deen

Hey y’all, I’m mere months away from losing it all! (Photo credit: Bristol Motor Speedway & Dragway)

We’ve got work to do as a culture, and that means from the ground up, to reduce the subliminal levels of hate towards the gay community. It’s easy to laugh off an angry bigot crying about marriage being ruined because same sex couples get to share it too, but what about the implicit stuff? What about gay jokes in movies and on TV that aren’t meant to be taken seriously but still lightly suggest that there is something different about gay people? What about “no homo”? And what about the stereotypes that Jason Collins is helping to dispel but still pervades sports that gay people can’t play at the same level as straight players? These are examples, and by no means a complete list, of areas in which we are still struggling with the inclusion of LGBT people into our larger in group. And when Alec Baldwin got mad enough, he went there. That’s not a good sign.

GLAAD was right to accept his apology, even though they are already experiencing intense backlash for their perceived capitulation to a “celebrity”. But with these cases, we have to take the whole scope of the person into consideration before we declare them unredeemable. In Alec’s case, as I’ve already said, I think it’s safe to say he’s done more good in the gay community than bad. Even though this recent outburst was wrong, it should be embarrassing for Alec Baldwin, but not damaging for the gay community. The people who are overtly homophobic (like, for example, owner of Chick-fil-a, Dan Cathy) aren’t really huge fans of Alec Baldwin anyway, and the people who are fans (or at least like him on 30 rock) are probably not going to go around beating up gays.

Anderson Cooper tried to highlight the hypocrisy of the relative pass Alec Baldwin is getting compared when he tweeted:

Yes, I’m sure they would be vilified, but let’s remember that unlike Alec Baldwin, many conservatives are actively pursuing to withhold rights from homosexuals. If they gay bash, it comes from a place of truly hating the idea of gay people. Alec Baldwin is just an angry blowhard with zero impulse control, but one who still thinks gays should be allowed to marry.

Instead, if I were Alec Baldwin and in anger I said something as vile as he has, I would feel like absolute shit. And that’s good. That means you don’t want to think that way. That means you’re truly sorry for what you said. And that means we should forgive him, if not forget his transgressions.

Blinded by the Right: Justice Scalia’s weird dissent on DOMA is unsurprising

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If you know me or read this blog you’ve probably sensed this already, but I’m kind of passionate about gay rights. I’ve always had the philosophy best espoused by the great and talented wizard of Twitter, Rob Delaney:

Today, the Supreme Court took one more step towards that truism and struck down the antiquated and morally bankrupt “Defense of Marriage Act” (or DOMA to those who like their moral bankruptcy in a short vowelly form). Justice Kennedy wrote of the ruling:

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

Well said. Also obvious. Also late. But well said.

What does this mean for the gay couples that are married or want to marry?

The federal Defense of Marriage Act defines “marriage,” for purposes of over a thousand federal laws and programs, as a union between a man and a woman only. Today the Court ruled, by a vote of five to four, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, that the law is unconstitutional. The Court explained that the states have long had the responsibility of regulating and defining marriage, and some states have opted to allow same-sex couples to marry to give them the protection and dignity associated with marriage. By denying recognition to same-sex couples who are legally married, federal law discriminates against them to express disapproval of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. This decision means that same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples. (Source: SCOTUSblog)

But while cheers could be heard from the halls of the Supreme Court to the halls of twitter, not everybody was happy.

English: Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of ...

Antonin Scalia, wiping his glasses on his “fun zone area” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All four justices who opposed it (all conservatives *yawn*) wrote dissenting remarks but by far the unhappiest of the robed ones was Justice Antonin Scalia. In a head scratching dissent, he managed to contradict a ruling he made just yesterday, denigrate his own position, and otherwise flail around searching for a reason to be upset by this ruling. From Business Insider, which wrote a great article summarizing it.

Antonin Scalia dissented from the decision on the grounds that the court did not have standing to take the case.

He wrote:

The Court is eager—hungry—to tell everyone its view of the legal question at the heart of this case… Yet the plaintiff and the Government agree entirely on what should happen in this lawsuit. They agree that the court below got it right; and they agreed in the court below that the court below that one got it right as well. What, then, are wedoing here?

He also speculated that the majority justices are trying to hide their plan to issue a more sweeping ruling in the near future:

My guess is that the majority, while reluctant to suggest that defining the meaning of “marriage” in federal statutes is unsupported by any of the Federal Government’s enumerated powers, nonetheless needs some rhetorical basis to support its pretense that today’s prohibition of laws excluding same-sex marriage is confined to the Federal Government (leaving the second, state-law shoe to be dropped later, maybe next Term). But I am only guessing.

He criticized the majority for not fairly representing the views of Defense of Marriage Act supporters:

I imagine that this is because it is harder to maintain the illusion of the Act’s supporters as unhinged members of a wild-eyed lynch mob when one first describes their views as they see them.

Then he got really angry:

To be sure (as the majority points out), the legislation is called the Defense of Marriage Act. But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.

He ended with a bit of concern-trolling, saying today’s decision on DOMA was bad for both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage:

Some will rejoice in today’s decision, and some will despair at it; that is the nature of a controversy that matters so much to so many. But the Court has cheated both sides, robbing the winners of an honest victory, and the losers of the peace that comes from a fair defeat. We owed both of them better.

But if he were just honest with himself, his anger would make a lot more sense. It’s not that gay marriage is unconstitutional, or the court was wrong to strike down DOMA for this legal reason or that, Justice Scalia is just anti-gay. He just doesn’t like gay people, the gay “lifestyle”, or the idea of gay people marrying. He mistakes his emotional revulsion to gay marriage as rooted in an intangible legal violation (and if he could only find it, he would show them all!), but if he reflected on it, I think he would have to admit – if only to himself – that it is actually his personal homophobia getting in the way. He wouldn’t be the first to mistake intolerance with righteous indignation.

Nobody wants to view themselves as a “hater”, or a bigot, or a homophobe. Intolerance goes down so much easier when there are justifications for it. That’s why the Bible’s (scant) judgments on homosexuality are so convenient. And why the idea that there is a “gay agenda” influencing our culture is so alluring. Both allow Justice Scalia and people like Justice Scalia to feel comfortable holding an uncomfortable moral position.

Let’s not worry too much about Justice Scalia and his rationalizations for opposing this ruling, after all, they probably weren’t meant for us as much as they were meant to quiet his own inner doubts. As gay couples marry and raise children and not destroy the fabric of our society, the fragile positions that homophobia stands on will continue to crack. The voice inside Scalia’s heart will grow louder, and his positions will seem more sad, until – hopefully – one day, he’ll catch a glimpse of himself in a mirror or store window and the voice will be too loud to ignore and he’ll have to listen as it says again and again: you are wrong.

Paula Deen doesn’t think she’s racist, and that matters

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Butter Queen Paula Deen has found herself entangled in a damaging lawsuit involving a former employee of hers, who alleges that the TV personality and “down home cooking” chef and her brother Bubba (seriously) peppered workplace conversations with racist remarks and jokes. This week, the disposition she gave at her trial was released and among the numerous gems that lay bare her inherent racism are these:

Deen testified that she probably used the racial slur when talking to her husband about “when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.”

“I didn’t feel real favorable towards him,” she said, referring to the robber.

Jackson lawyer: “Have you used it since then?”

Deen: “I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.”

Then later she recounted having used, or been around her brother when he used, racial slurs in the context of jokes, saying:

When Jackson’s attorney asked Deen if she had ever used the N-word, Deen reportedly answered, “yes, of course,” and listed specific times she had done so. Regarding racist jokes, Deen allegedly said, “It’s just what they are — they’re jokes…most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. … I can’t determine what offends another person.”

The world reacted with an outrage that lacked the self awareness to realize that these two examples are instances where we have either been guilty of racism ourselves or have been guilty by association as they were said to us and we laughed politely or ignored it.

What Paula Deen has admitted to saying doesn’t make her special or even particularly racist. It just makes her dumb or brave enough to say it to a less than sympathetic audience who was ready to tar and butter her from the second they smelled this week’s outrage machine beginning to churn.

Paula-Deen

What gets lost when we publicly out and shame a celebrity for their racial indiscretion is the deeper, more troubling fact that their views aren’t uncommon. If we really hope to make a positive change towards a less racist society this is the most inefficient way to do it. We can’t simply change people’s minds one by one when they mess up (and they inevitably will since racism tends to pervade a person’s thoughts and speech no matter how hard they try to control it in mixed company). That is, for one, ineffective at curbing racism generally, but even worse it allows the rest of us a cop out as we can point to them and declare “racist” without ever having to turn that microscope back towards ourselves.

I wonder how well any of us would do during a three hour interrogation about our racist jokes, or racist family members, or our racist attitudes. I’m guessing Paula Deen would fall somewhere around the average racist mark. Half of us would be worse. That should scare us.

What’s also important about this Paula Deen story is how unapologetic she seems about the whole thing. She truly feels like she has done nothing wrong. Let’s take a look at how, by pulling apart the examples I quoted at the top of this article.

When Paula was working at a bank in the 1980s, she was robbed at gun point. Obviously, this was a terrifying experience for her and she testified to using the N-word when later describing the assailant to her husband. When asked for a justification for the racial slur she said the most telling line she could have: “I didn’t feel very favorable towards him

That is the deep racism I am talking about. It’s the idea that we should be tolerant and “nice” towards minorities as an act of good will, but the second they cross certain lines or violate a white woman’s sense of safety, she feels justified in using a racial slur in regards to him. If she had just said he was an “uppity black”, people would have lost their minds. But this is no different. Minorities cannot be truly equal when the terms of their equality are tied to acting a certain way, being a certain way, and speaking a certain way. That’s still racism.

The second example I cited was her use of jokes. Paula seems to think that all jokes are in someway or another, jokes targeting a particular group of people. She listed “Jews, rednecks, and blacks” as some of the groups jokes are about. If you get past marveling at her ability to say that out loud with no sense of reservations, you would realize that for a large portion of the country, this is probably dead on true. Jokes are about targeting “others”. You make fun of them, and your friends laugh at how different they are. This is probably one of the most ancient forms of joke telling in existence because of how easy it is. A outside group’s behaviors or beliefs seem weird to us and it’s up to the would be comedian to harvest that sense of weirdness. What Paula doesn’t understand is the damage these jokes cause when we are trying to create a just and equal world. It draws lines between people instead of circling all of humanity. Jokes are kernels of truth surrounded by a meaty shell of the absurd, but if that kernel of truth comes from a place of xenophobia or hate or even merely condescension, the joke itself becomes a vehicle of racism.

None of this should surprise us. This should all sound familiar. And that’s the point, Paula Deen is a victim of her culturally ingrained racism when you remove self awareness and the conscious effort to be less biased. As her sponsors jump ship to swim towards another one that has yet to take on water, maybe Paula Deen will start to wake up or maybe she won’t. When Michael Vick went to jail for dog fighting he was probably my least favorite person on the planet, but I now believe that he somehow had not even known dog fighting was wrong. He grew up so ignorant of the larger abhorrence to dog fights by people who view dogs as cherished members of our society (if only other animals got the same placement) that even questioning what he was doing was beyond him. Since then he has seemed legitimately horrified at his previous behavior and contrite when speaking about it. It reinforces the fact that education and diverse perspectives can have real, meaningful impact in a person’s thinking where Nike voiding their sponsorship cannot.

I just hope Paula Deen takes this opportunity to learn why she is wrong and not just how she got caught up in another celebrity take down scandal.

Hey, down in front!: Heckling doesn’t work

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Another week, another “Obama interrupted by a heckler” story. Only this time it was Michelle who received the honors. At a fundraiser in Washington, Michelle Obama was repeatedly interrupted by Ellen Sturtz, a gay rights activist demanding Michelle make President Obama sign an anti-discrimination executive order. Michelle Obama unceremoniously, but effectively shut her down by saying “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have a choice.” The other people in the crowd chose the First Lady.

While I sympathize with her cause, someone should tell this woman, and, “Get Equal”, the group that put her there, that their tactic is a waste of time and energy (and money).

Heckling has probably been around forever. The inability for people to distinguish appropriate and inappropriate times to speak up are universal to the human condition and there will always be a person who can’t help him or herself. The use of “plants”, people put into a situation where they are specifically meant to cause a ruckus for the advancement of some agenda, is newer but still not unheard of. Presumably it is meant to bring attention to a pet cause or injustice by hijacking the spotlight from a person who already has attention. Ellen Sturtz knew this would be talked about on twitter and in blogs, that’s why she did it. Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell her that her cause isn’t the type to be aided by heckling. Gay Rights has about as much attention as any cause in the country right now. Heckling doesn’t work passed that.

In this way, heckling is like terrorism. It typically doesn’t work, it’s counterproductive to the intended goals of the person employing it, but it is incredibly common. As with terrorism, heckling is a sure way to sever any chance of ever coming to a compromise. It takes the debate away from the “issue” and into the realm of personal violations, vendettas and pride. Terrorism emboldens the victims and makes them dig in their heels because any concession is now viewed as a “win” for the other side, a side that has just violently “wronged” you. Instead of listening to the terrorists’ demands, the victims end up invading Afghanistan. Heckling elicits a similar response. Instead of listening to your concerns, the victim ignores them on principle.

The mock outrage that Ellen Sturtz expressed after the event was really the puzzler. She not only made herself look extremely rude, but if she were taken at face value (she shouldn’t be), she’s also idiotic. What did she expect Obama to do? Tracy Clayton at theroot.com put it best:

Sturtz…stated that she was “taken aback” by Obama’s response, because apparently the idea that she would do anything besides hand Sturtz the microphone and get her husband on the phone is surprising.

But like terrorism, heckling is (relatively) cheap. It doesn’t take much to get a lot of attention. If attention is all you want, whether for recruitment purposes, or simple megalomania, then it is an attractive choice. But to say with a straight face that you did this for gay rights is disingenuous. For one thing, you are heckling Michelle Obama, not her husband. She, presumably, has some sway when it comes to his opinions but probably very little in actual policy outcomes. Second, you are screaming at a President who has done more for gay rights than any other President in history and likely even the rest combined. Let’s face it, even the folk hero, Bill Clinton, presided over a presidential term that saw “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” AND “Defense of Marriage Act” passed. And George W. Bush was worse. You could be frustrated at Obama’s slowness in fully getting behind the gay rights movement (I certainly am), but this isn’t exactly the Iraqi citizen defiantly throwing a shoe at George W. Bush, Obama is a misplaced target.

So on the whole, this act of rudeness accomplished nothing. Fortunately for Ellen Sturtz, her goal of equal rights will most likely succeed anyway (and a new poll shows most people think that it is inevitable), but she will have done nothing to help it come about. If she really wanted to help she would find ways to work with an administration that has shown a willingness to work towards equality rather than grandstanding and alienating the people she needs to help her achieve her goal.

For goodness sake, sit down, shut up, and do something.

El Salvador is what a world without Roe v. Wade looks like

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Yesterday, a Salvadoran woman had to have an emergency caesarian section to deliver a baby that had no chance of survival. Here is the horrible reason why it came to this:

A seriously ill woman denied a medical abortion has had a successful cesarean section to deliver a baby that doctors have given little chance of surviving, El Salvador’s Health Ministry announced late Monday.

The 22-year-old woman, known only as Beatriz for privacy reasons, underwent the operation in the afternoon after 27 weeks of pregnancy, the ministry said. Her baby girl was born without a brain.

“No one can say how long she will live,” Morena Herrera of the Feminist Collective for Local Development told The Associated Press. “It was painful to see the little creature. That’s what the grandmother told us, and the doctors confirmed it.”

The country’s Supreme Court last week prohibited an abortion for Beatriz, who suffers from lupus and kidney failure and whose lawyers said the pregnancy was threatening her life. Her plight drew international attention and a ruling from the Inter-American Court on Human Rights that El Salvador should protect her life and help her end the pregnancy.

That’s right. A baby without a brain was given the right to life over the (very fully brained) mother. Have we all lost our minds?

Of course, El Salvador is known as one of the toughest anti-abortion countries in the world. Abortions are almost never considered, but shouldn’t this be a little nudge to the rational thinkers there that maybe a blanket anti-abortion policy can have pretty awful unintended consequences? You would think.

But before we are quick to judge El Salvador for its backwards and barbaric social policies, let’s take a moment to remember that there are serious presidential candidates in the United States who are praying (literally) that our abortion policy looked like that.

Both Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have, through interviews and legislative pushes, demonstrated that they are firmly committed to outlawing abortion under any circumstances, including when the mother’s life is in danger. A life is a life, they reason – in that simplistic way that only an ideologue can say with a straight face.

, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

“I feel comfortable believing horrible stuff” – Rick Santorum(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michele Bachmann, when not out right lying about Obamacare or on a muslim witch hunt, did her part to propose several bills in the House of Representatives that recognized the “pre-born” (a nonsense term, meant to play to our emotions, just like “pro-life”) as having equal protection under the 14th amendment. What it was really meant to do was get rid of abortion through subterfuge. And if an embryo is protected under the 14th amendment, then suddenly it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that the mother should be made to suffer if the child could conceivably live.

What’s not being discussed is the VAST differences in subjective quality of life for the two concerned parties. An embryo does not feel (at least not in a meaningful way), but the mother does. The fetus does not fear death or experience existential dread at the possibility of nonexistence, but the mother does. The “pre-born” does not have a network of loved ones and family who depend on him or her for emotional and possibly financial support, but the mother’s does. So what’s going on here? Why the obsession with pre-natal people and total disregard for post-natal ones?

It comes down to the soul. That little, indefinable something. The 21 grams of spiritstuff. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are convinced that the soul is imprinted onto the first human cell and that destroying that means destroying a little part of God’s plan. This narrow theological view is then applied to an entire society of people who perhaps don’t share the same idea, but can’t, or won’t, shout as loudly.

It’s time we started thinking about quality of life, and not just quantity. People aren’t content to just exist. We want to live well. Rightfully so. I would rather live in a world that had less people but more happy people. We can also benefit from a great share of resources, and benefit the rest of the planet by our reduced impact. Pro-lifers like to cite some scare statistic like “over 50 million people have been murdered by abortion”, but I bet the animals whose habitats would have been destroyed to make room for them are grateful they never made it past the clump of cells stage. Again, these cells are not people, and while they are “potential people”, that doesn’t entitle them to anything. If that were the case, then we couldn’t even stop there. We would have to give equal consideration to even potential potential people. In that Universe, even having a menstrual cycle would be a tragedy. “There goes your baby brother,” a father would say as his whole family solemnly watches the tampon go down the toilet.

Even though Michele Bachmann shrewdly decided that she can’t win her upcoming election and has decided to pursue her passion of earning millions in the private sector, there will be others out there, waiting, biding their time. And when they stand up, and try, yet again, to chip away at Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood or birth control, we must have the intelligence and commitment to rationality to meet their eyes and remember the lessons of El Salvador.

Republicans hate science, until they need it to make a point

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Recently, a survey came out showing that American women have been gaining huge ground on men when it comes to being the breadwinners in a family (defined as making the principle income). In about 40% of American households, it is now true that it is the women who make the majority of money. While this should be lauded as another step towards true equality in domestic and professional life (after all, the number should be around 50% if gender wasn’t a factor, because in every household SOMEONE has to make more, so it should look like a coin toss), it was received by Fox Business Network as the end of the world.

On Lou Dobbs Tonight, goofball Lou Dobbs brought in a panel of three other men (you know, the experts on women’s issues), and lamented how we “are watching society dissolve around us”. The others somberly agreed to this premise as if it were a foregone conclusion. Let’s strip away the veneer and say what is truly happening: In 2013, a Republican with his own talk show on a widely watched network can essentially say that women earning as much (or working more) than men is going to “dissolve” this country. Oh and then he shoehorns in abortion somehow, because why not?

English: Erick Erickson at the Republican Lead...

Erick Erickson trying to get attention (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The person in the panel who is getting the most attention is Erick Erickson, a guy whose only real goal is to get the most attention (well done, sir). Tired of the typical arguments that many conservatives use when justifying their sexism (the Bible, tradition, the Bible, etc.), he decided to go at it from another direction. The old, tried and true, science argument. Good grief. Here’s what he said:

“I’m so used to liberals telling conservatives that they’re anti-science. But liberals who defend this and say it is not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology — when you look at the natural world — the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it’s not antithesis, or it’s not competing, it’s a complimentary role.”

See liberals? How can you accuse conservatives of being “anti-science” when they won’t hesitate to use science (or at least the word “science”) if they think it will further their point? Unfortunately, that makes him look more anti-science. It makes him look like he doesn’t understand science. And it definitely makes him look sexist.

I’ve always been fascinated that people can feel fine using arguments long after they’ve been debunked. It’s a fallacy to argue from ignorance, but its lunacy to continue to do so after you know it’s wrong. In this case, all it takes is finding women earning the primary income and not destroying the country, which there is ample evidence of, because about 40% of households already have this happening and the country is not eroding away.

English: Television and radio host at CPAC in .

Unless you believe this guy  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They also show an amazing ability to compartmentalize. In the same breath that they are saying women need to be playing a “complementary role” in society, they can applaud Michelle Bachman as if she were the candle in the darkness of Congress. But, of course, they don’t mean Michelle Bachman, they mean minority women, they mean divorcees, they mean families having babies out of wedlock. As a fun game, I suggest sexists like Lou Dobbs and Erick Erickson do something I’d like to call “take Michelle Bachman, and replace her with another woman” and after several exercises you will have a brief glimpse of what it’s like to view the world as a socially aware, intelligent, empathic person rather than a complete scumbag. Trust me, it’s an adrenaline rush, and as a bonus, you don’t always have to feel embarrassed of your own opinions. It’s great.

But what really bugs me is when people who consistently deny some science, choose other bits to believe in. That’s what religion is for, guys. The pesky thing about science is that it’s kind of a whole package. The only thing you have to “believe” is that the scientific method is the best way humans have of getting to knowledge. The rest of the “facts” and “theories” are derived from that assertion. So while you’re googling “ways to deny Climate Change” and you stumble across “Some animals show gender roles” you have to pick one, because they are mutually exclusive. Furthermore, when reading the “some animals show gender roles” article, you’ll notice that scientists are very careful not to stretch their findings past the facts (that’s what television is for). So just because you read an article that pointed out behavioral dimorphism in gorillas doesn’t mean you can extend that to 21st century human beings. In fact, you probably shouldn’t because you’ll probably look like an idiot (and end up pissing off Megyn Kelly)

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Megyn Kelly complimenting, but not dominating, the Fox News logo (Photo credit: glamourmagazine)

So instead of proving some point about the sexes, you’ve only held up a mirror to reflect your own inner beliefs, Erick. And your beliefs have more basis in the Old Testament than they do the science lab. It wasn’t science that said “women should obey their husbands”, that was the Abrahamic God (Colossians 3:18). And it’s not science that says women are ruining our society, that’s you.

It’s sad that we are having this discussion in 2013. We should be ashamed that we’ve given a platform to these men. It’s degrading to the women (also known as these men’s sisters, mothers, wives, friends, coworkers) who have overcome so much to earn a financial place at the table, and it’s disgraceful to the young girls and emerging women in this country who have to listen to their importance trivialized. Despite what Lou Dobbs, Juan Williams, or Erick Erickson think, we need them, and not in the kitchen, but in the office and in the boardroom. Our world is too complex, too important and too precarious to leave 50% of the population out of the discussion.