Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Why? I'm just not.
I'm sorry if you were waiting for me to say something about Rick Warren, but I'm not going to. So stop waiting.
Rick Warren's an asshole.
Ok, that's it. That's the only thing I'm going to say about Rick Warren. No more.
So, stop reading whenever you feel like it, because Rick Warren will not be mentioned any further. This blog has reached maximum Rick Warren capacity. There can be no more Rick Warren saturation occurring within this space. If this were an HTML file, the "slash rick" would appear here-ish.
Except to say that he's an asshole.
And that this decision to include him in Obama's inauguration ceremony is not inclusive in any way, because it won't really include people on the right. By this I mean that those on the right will not be jumping for joy at the news that Warren is giving a big ole one-minute speech. This is the same strategy that democrats have been using for the past, oh, twenty years and do you see how much conservatives love democrats? If you don't see, I'll tell you: NOT VERY FUCKING MUCH AT ALL, SONNY JIM. In terms of inclusiveness, this is a stupid move. Who is this including? Protestants? Yeah, that needs to happen. Protestants totally don't get enough play in this country. Not like the Muslims, atheists, Catholics, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews and African witch doctors. I really don't get the whole thing. Pragmatically, it doesn't really do dick. That's important to remember. Obama has a pretty decent record (not perfect, as this event has shown us) for supporting gay rights and I don't think this ONE-MINUTE SPEECH will change his mind. Maybe it will. I hear Pastor Rick's a good speaker. But I doubt it. Symbolically, this hand-reaching-over-the-aisle bullshit won't mean anything to conservatives. Their opinion of Obama probably won't change from this ONE-MINUTE SPEECH he ordered from a neocon fruitcake. So, for the administration and the administration's opponents, this doesn't mean much. For the GBLT community though, it means a lot. Sitting down with a religious leader to chitchat is one thing, asking him to bless you is quite another. Even if it is a ONE-MINUTE SPEECH, it means that Obama will allow this man, this man who is quite hateful, albeit very pleasant, so I hear, to run the inauguration for one minute. That is a minute of time that will not mean much to Obama, Warren, Warren's supporters, the country, Iran, the inauguaration ceremony, or even history, but that one minute will be a stark reminder to the GBLT community that Obama welcomed a bigot, onto his stage, and asked him for a blessing.
But besides that, I'm not talking about Rick Warren.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I'm going to handle this in three parts. First, the background, then recent events and closing with my thoughts on the matter.
If you live in America and have heard anything about Bill O'Reily in the past month or so, you know about the atheist signs in Washington and my hometown of Springfield Illinois. (I wrote about this before.) They read:
At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no angels, no devils, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.
I've stated before that I don't like this message. It is unnecessarily antagonistic. Atheists, especially at this time of year, should be promoting all the great things about atheism, not all the terrible things about everyone else's beliefs. This is, if I may be so bold, a fucking stupid thing to do.
Now, we have national attention for being complete assholes. All of us. Nobody will care to listen if I say, "I'm an atheist, but I disagree with the stance that the Freedom From Religion Foundation (the group that put up the sign) takes and the way they go about spreading that message." Nobody gives a good goddamn. They see atheist #1 and atheist #2 and they will connect the two. Everybody in America now thinks I'm a bad person, but these sign-making, bellicose assholes wanted attention.
And that's all they wanted too. They did this just to be assholes, because that message sure as hell isn't constructive.
So that's the background. FFRF + Sign = Total douchebag.
So, of course, the atheist sign in Springfield was stolen recently (and of course it was, it was a rude sign that purposely insulted a lot of people.) Then the FFRF upgraded themselves from just making signs to actually talking and here's the bullshit they came up with:
Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation said her group wanted to place its sign in the rotunda if religious groups were allowed to place symbols of their religions....
“It had to take an effort (to remove it),” Gaylor said. “Atheists never engage in vandalism. We don’t go around stealing the Baby Jesus. They don’t follow their own commandments.”So there are the recent events. Now, a few thoughts on the matter.
Dear Miss Gaylor, are you a fucking retard? What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you trying to make us all look bad? I need to ask that question twice. Are you trying to get everyone to hate us more?
I can't even begin to tell you how angry this makes me. Not only did you purposely antagonize everyone, but you went out of your way to say two completely ridiculous things. "Atheists never engage in vandalism." ATHEISTS NEVER ENGAGE IN VANDALISM. What the fuck is wrong with you? Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you? How can you say that? That is not logical, and logic is supposed to be on our fucking side. You went out of your way to say something completely ridiculous. You cannot make that claim. And not only is it flat-out wrong, but it, once again makes us look like assholes.
Then, you had to throw out a "they". "They are breaking their own commandments." Now, it's a "they". You have just separated yourself from 80% of the population, fellow Americans, just like you, who are now just a "they" to you. Beside the fact that you naturally assumed it was a Christian that did it, not that I can argue against that, but for fuck's sake, learn a little bit about being politically correct before you brand the entire Christian population as thieves and all atheists as perfect human beings. Better yet, just shut the fuck up.
This all is beside the fact that the FFRF anticipated this. They put up a rude sign meant for people to get angry, then say illogical and hateful things when it gets stolen, like they knew it would. Seriously, Gaylor could not have been caught off guard by the theft. They had to have seen this coming.
I'm just left asking, what the fuck is wrong with you? What the fuck is wrong with you? What the fuck is wrong with you?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I think a lot of people don't really understand why so many African nations are destitute. We have this idea in our American heads about bootstraps and such, so a typical response to the problem is "Well, just work harder, jerks." (Thank you Mr. Reagan, for your brilliant insight into all topics.) Part of the problem is that there's not enough infrastructure in Africa. For example, a complete lack of roads. Even if you grew enough food to sell, you couldn't sell it, because you couldn't get to a place that sells food. Even if you had money, you couldn't buy anything etc., etc. The same issue arises with getting clean water or even water for crops. There are no irrigation ditches, and not enough manpower (re: AIDS and malaria) to build them.
To send American workers to Africa to build irrigation ditches, roads and the like would not solve both areas' problems, but it would certainly be mutually beneficial. They need roads and manpower; we need to spend money and provide jobs. It combines the economic strategy of the New Deal by spending money bottom-up, with the cultural strategy of the Peace Corps. I'm sure there must be somebody out there whose broke and wants to travel, and the blending of cultures wouldn't be too bad either.
If the newspapers die out, we are in big trouble. The biggest of troubles. Do you think CNN will go through your mayor's trash for you? Will Fox News report solid news or the most entertaining? Not enough people care about this and they should. Cable news, local news, network news, blogs...none of these things come close to the level of journalism a newspaper provides. Without our newspapers, we will be a blind and impotent society. That sounds melodramatic, but I couldn't think of a faster way to erode democracy than the death of the newspaper.
So, what I would like to see happen, is for newspapers to start specializing. I realized a short while ago that I don't really rely on one newspaper for 100% of the news, but instead I look to each paper for what they do best. For instance, I'm a much bigger fan of the New York Times columnists than I am of the ones at the Washington Post. When it comes to politics, I look to either the Post, or (much more likely) Politico.com, OR, if I want my news in extra dry form, government executive.com. I never look at the national news at NYT, but I like reading it from the Seattle Times. I can even get more specific news (atheism news, for example) from a blog, as opposed to a newspaper.
My idea is that newspapers cut 90% of their sections and instead, focus on just one. Stop spreading all the money into providing sub-par news and put it all into providing one amazing section. For example, the Washington Post will only cover Washington news, and nothing else (not absolutely nothing else, maybe letters to the editor are necessary in all papers, and I would like to see every paper hire a cartoonist.) This idea will change things in several ways.
1) The news will get better -- That's right. It will not suck anymore. If you buy just one paper, you won't have access to all the sections you normally would, but I don't know a single person that reads every single section of the newspaper. This is doing the readers a favor by eliminating the "junk" that they'll just toss out anyway (looking at you, Food Section).
2) Papers will get smaller -- This means that papers will also become less daunting. One major problem with the state of journalism is that not enough people in my age demographic read them. It's been said (and I invite you to research this yourself if you don't believe me) that not only does my demographic not read enough newspapers, but they probably will never get into that habit if they don't start it soon enough. In a way, this means that the journalism industry must go a-courtin' its target audience, but without dumbing anything down. See this smaller, less intimidating newspaper? You could read this entire thing on the subway and still have time for gameboy.
3) Papers will get cheaper -- This is another way the industry will coax readers back to its folds (ha!). In the age of the internet, it's hard to justify paying even a small amount for what you could easily read online for free. It's hard to get around that, maybe even impossible. The only solid reason I can give for buying a newspaper is that it's just nicer to read something in your hands as opposed to online. That's all. Making the papers cheaper, however, can help this problem, but probably not eliminate it. I'm not a miracle worker, you know.
4) Area will increase -- As one paper closes down its sections to specialize in one, another paper will increase its audience size to compensate. For example, if a paper in Portland doesn't cover politics anymore, a paper in Seattle will have to expand its geographic pool to cover Portland. That means more subscriptions for each individual paper, and THAT means more money for each paper, and THAT means that each paper will get better, and THAT means we won't get duped into another Iraq War.
5)More papers will appear -- If you've been reading along thus far, you've probably wondered what will happen to all the people who work at the newspaper if their sections are cut. I can think of two solutions. Hypothetically, let's say the Seattle Times specializes in national news, the Washington Post specializes in politics, and the New York Times specializes in world news. That means that a lot of people will be out of jobs. The first solution is that the people who worked in politics at the Seattle Times would be transplanted to the now-much-larger politics department at the Post, which can theoretically keep as many employees as it did before. This means that each of the sections will now be three times or three times better, depending on how you choose to look at it.
The second response, and more preferable of the two, is that the sections that used to be a part of a larger paper will go on to form their own papers. If the newspaper industry becomes specialized, papers become smaller, subscription costs decrease, and the area of readership increases the cost of creating a new paper will go down. This means it'll be easier for new papers to appear. It's a recent travesty that so many American cities only have one paper, and even if they have two, there's always one clearly dominant paper (The Tribune versus the Sun-Times, The Seattle Times versus Seattle P-I). Now, we will have several papers in each city, covering different topics. With several papers, there will be different business models. This is a "don't put all your eggs in one basket" strategy. If the newspaper in a city fails today, that city is suddenly without a newspaper. If a newspaper fails in this specialization scenario, its citizens will still get 90% of their news.
6) This will change journalists themselves -- If we continue with the possibility of the Washington Post specializing only in politics, what kind of person would they hire? In today's journalism industry, you hire someone with the most journalism experience, this means both time spent writing for a paper and education in journalism. This also means that your new employee will be forced to fill whatever niche you need filled, regardless of whether or not he or she is knowledgeable in that area. In this new business model, you hire someone with the most time spent writing and the most knowledge about the area your paper specializes in. I can see the ideal candidate for the Washington Post having a BA or BS in journalism, adequate time spent writing, and a MS in politics. (Journalism, being a writing craft, is primarily an art and less of a science, in which case, more schooling is not as beneficial as more practice. This is why a BA in journalism is sufficient.) Because your new employee is more knowledgeable in his or her field, you can be satisfied they will write more intelligent pieces of news. This not only makes the paper better, but will also make the readers better informed and probably raise the pay grade of journalists. Raising the pay grade is an important thing here, as it will help attract the best our society has to offer to the field of journalism.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Lisa Madigan, in a recent interview on Meet the Press, on urging the Supreme Court to declare Blagojevich "disabled":
We're simply recognizing that these are extraordinary, unprecedented circumstances...
Let me make it clear to everyone that this is the line that will most quickly erode government. There is already a procedure in place for when a governor unfaithfully performs his or her office, it's called impeachment. That procedure is universal in constitutions from all fifty states to the federal one. In fact, that procedure was created precisely for situations like these. It was anticipated that things like this would happen. My point is that they are in no way "extraordinary," nor are they "unprecedented". Lisa Madigan is probably aware that our last governor is still in jail.
It's interested to see this happen though, because we're used to seeing this from the opposite end, retrospectively. Remember when Bush told us that the War on Terror was the worst threat we've ever faced as a country, and we believed him? He explained to us that these "extraordinary" times called for extraordinary measures -- wiretapping, dishonesty, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and ignoring several amendments. He told us that we had to do these things, because if we didn't, the terrorists were going to get angry, and pull a nuke out of their asses.
I would like to point out again that the constitution was written explicitly for times like these, to keep presidential power from spinning wildly out of control and to keep one branch of government from lackadaisically removing executives from office.
What Madigan is calling for is, without a doubt, an despicable use of power, and the way she's going to sell it to both the American citizenry and the population of Illinois is that the situation is somehow too extraordinary to abide by the rules. Hopefully, this will be a teachable moment the people of America. When government tries to break the law, they will lie and tell you it's because the situation is "unprecedented."
Friday, December 12, 2008
Impeachment is such a tricky business. I've just heard an estimate that even with no supporters on Blagojevich's side, the impeachment process could still take weeks. That's lowballing it. Declaring him unfit to serve is an extremely tempting shortcut: nobody wants him in this job, nobody doubts his guilt, nobody wants this to go on longer than it should.
The problem is that declaring him unfit to serve seems borderline unconstitutional to me. The purpose of the "unfit to serve" stipulation is that the governor literally can't serve, like he's sick or he lost his thumbs or something. The impeachment process is meant to remove governors that have improperly served. Blagojevich is in office as I write this. Which one do you think is more true?
It's disgusting that the State Attorney General Lisa Madigan should have already known this, and I'm guessing she does (probably more about it than me.) Is she directly ignoring that just to get him out of office? If this goes through, if the Supreme Court of Illinois declares Blagojevich unfit to serve despite the fact that he can, it sets a terrifying precedent. This means that whenever there's an elected official that can be ousted via Judical Branch, they will be as soon as they lose favor, competely ignoring the constitutional procedures and any fair trials.
It'll be nice to see him go (finally), but not like this, never like this.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
This is Monique Davis, an Illinois representative -- a representative from my home state -- speaking to atheist Rob Sherman on the governor's decision to give $1 million to a church.
Here's the highlight clip.
Davis: "What you have to spew and spread is dangerous...It's dangerous for our children to even know your philosophy exists. You have no right to be here...You believe in destroying. You believe in destroying what this state was built upon."
Eric Zorn asks "what the outcry would have been if a lawmaker had launched a similar attack on the beliefs of a religious person." What a completely fair question that I'm sure nobody will ever pay attention to. If a Jew requested that state money not go to a Christian organization, would she say the same thing, and had she did, would the backlash be as prevailant? Even in the wake of 9/11, nobody would dare say this to a Muslim -- "You have no right to be here" -- and if they did, the media would call them out. But high profile situations like these that provoke bigotry and hatred -- not to mention the fact that state funds going to a church acutally does destroy what this state was built upon -- will go unheard of. This event happened in April. April.
Nobody lynches atheists. We're not really in any physical danger. The problem is that statements like these get swept under the rug with this group of people, when I firmly believe that if any other minority were referenced, there would be an outcry beyond compare. Call me paranoid, but I believe that's how lynching starts.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Realizing you're an atheist is scary, for a lot of reasons. Mortality, for me, being the main one; I don't see how it couldn't be. Somewhere in that bed I had to learn that I was mortal, that I was not going to be around forever. It looks so easy as I type it, but I had to earn that knowledge through years of thought and fear. I had known that I couldn't look back, either. Once I opened the door, there was no closing it, no re-dos. If I was scared, I couldn't revert to Christianity and expect my courage to suddenly return.
There were other things, of course. Telling my peers was difficult. I've been called names, of course, and there's no need to go into that. The worst is when I'm expected to be invisible, when I'm not allowed to share my view in the company of others who freely share theirs. Being without a holiday or a credo is difficult, especially when faced with pressing questions and especially around the holiday season. Telling my family was hard. Having to continually remind everybody is too.
Eventually, I got through it. The fear of death became a love of life and of learning, to do everything better and not waste any time. It's beautiful, and it feels me with strength knowing that myself and my peers are the successors of a long line of brilliant humans, able to accomplish things their ancestors couldn't even imagine.
I could go on and on about both the difficulties and joys of atheism, but I'll end here. Everyone has their own hardship story and their own savior story; I won't bore you with mine. The reason I wanted to share that is that I came across these two videos (First and Second) about a young girl coming to terms with her atheism. Even in her youtube videos she looks scared and confused, but determined. I wonder if she understands the burden that's just been put on her, that people will soon hate her for a choice her brain made of its own volition, that her family will try to hide her, that there will not be a place for her in America from now on. My heart goes out to her, and I can only hope she stays strong.
There are things that just make sense to a person, and usually, these are always the hardest to explain to someone else. For instance, the case of Prop 8 being a bad piece of legislation that needs to be done away with is obvious to me. It just makes sense. The same, of course, can be said of someone who feels it's a worthwhile piece of legislation. The problem, as you can plainly see, is what we choose to talk about. A Prop 8 opponent can't tell a Prop 8 supporter that he's obviously wrong, because the supporter wouldn't understand that. Instead, the focus would shift to something different, like the idea of people marrying dogs. We mismatch the arguments and the conclusion.
A Prop 8 opponent would be wise to speak the language of the Prop 8 supporter. Maybe, arguing that Prop 8 is against the church's teachings, or bad for the economy, or bad for schools. A Prop 8 supporter doesn't speak the language of civil rights violation or the conclusion would be as apodictic to everyone involved, and vice versa.
Which is why when "the sign" went up in Olympia, I was angry. Or, disappointed, would be a better word.
You may have heard about "the sign" as part of a larger issue so ignorantly declared a War on Christmas. (I hate that phrase, but I'm unfortunately stuck with it.) It was put on the opposite side of a Nativity Scene on Capitol grounds. It read:
At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no angels, no devils, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.
You would be correct if you think that's harsh. I'm an atheist, and while I agree with everything that says, it's unnecessarily rude. (I'd like to point you to The Atheist Experience for a good view on this.)
I'm certain it was rude on purpose. This is an extremely frustrating time of year for atheists, and it's hard not to get angry. Christmas is such a ubiquitous part of our culture, and it's (I do not exaggerate the word) heart-wrenching not to be a part of that, with anger as well as sadness. The atheists that put it up there were angry. The Capitol building grounds, a place representing government, allowed a nativity scene to be put up. They welcomed their arms to it, and it crushes everyone who feels Church and State should be separate. I'm disappointed that there is even a debate as to whether it should be there.
So they put this up to get a reaction. Protesting doesn't mean anything when you represent 5% of the population. Nobody's going to care about the little guy, so let them the little guy is angry. All we have is words, so use them, right?
In addition to the Atheist Experience's view that the message is productive, I would take it a step further and argue that it's not even the same language. Let's find actual common ground on where we can agree.
This business with nativity scenes and holiday trees is getting ridiculous, isn't it? Can we agree on that? Both sides feel that if one religious or holiday scene can be put up, all can be put up. This opens up a hodgepodge of trouble. This is why we're fighting. My argument is that it's just plain simpler to forget the whole thing. That's it. That's all there is to it.
Can we agree that there will never be a solution to this problem? That's true, whether you've realized it or not. There will always be Christians in this country as well as atheists. Bleakly, I suspect we will always be at odds. But can't we also agree that there are much more important things to worry about than a holiday scene on a stupid lawn? If we dedicated half the energy we dedicate to fighting over dumb shit like this, we could accomplish so much.
So, can't we agree that this isn't worth it anymore? I see your point. Hopefully you see mine. But we can't agree. Perhaps, we never will. Let's call it a stalemate or a draw, or hell, you can even call it a win for your side, but let's keep off the lawn and enjoy our own separate holidays.
Please. I'm so sick of talking about this.
Friday, December 5, 2008
God, where do I even begin with this one? I guess I'll show you the advertisements first.
(There is a third advertisement, not getting as much media attention. You can see that here.)
These ads are appearing on buses in Dallas, and, as you probably already guessed, were produced by a domestic violence organization. I can't say that I like them.
Judging it both as an advertisement and a message, I don't find it very effective. It is meant to shock, and in the worst way possible. The goal is not to shock you via disgusting image or taboo, but just to horrify you. I don't even see how it serves as a PSA very well. The target audience is, I suppose, perpetrators of domestic violence. Will this curb that behavior? I don't see that happening.
You could argue that it's for the victims of domestic violence though, and in that case, the message being sent is the wrong one. What you should be saying is, "Hey, we're here to help if you've been hurt." Not, "Well, you're probably going to be messed up for the rest of your life."
The only logical conclusion left is that the ads are meant for society as a whole, for people to see these ads and realize that domestic violence is a problem. I don't feel that way when I look at these ads though. I consider myself to have a pretty strong stomach regarding cultural taboos, but something about associating children (particularly a strong association with the innocence of childhood) with things like murder and prostitution, it only churns my stomach. But then, I think this was their intent.
Regardless, if you've heard this story lately, you've probably heard about it in context of a certain Glenn Sack's protesting of it. Sacks' argument is that the ads are "anti-father," whatever that means. Claiming that the ads are bigoted against fathers as a group is the most ridiculous thing imaginable to me. I don't think that if you walked up to a person on the street and said, "Hey, I'm a father" they automatically assume you're a wife-beater. He's protesting a problem that simply does not exist.
Yes, there is a distrust of fathers in our society. I won't argue that. But there are good reasons for that, as not all fathers are equal, obviously. Not all mothers are equal either, but I'm happy knowing that some people are at least worried about how fathers treat their children. At least there is a portion of society being watched and held responsible for. In short, saying, "Make sure your husband doesn't beat you," is not necessarily a bad message in my eyes, although "Make sure your husband or wife doesn't beat you," would be arguably better.
I don't know much about Glenn Sacks; this is the first time I've heard his name. He is a "radio commentator" so I can only assume he's a conservative douche. I don't think he's handling the situation poorly though, and I'll even hand this over to his opponent to demonstrate.
The complaint being lodged against Sacks is twofold, as best I can tell. The first is that people called The Family Place (the domestic violence organization behind the ads) and said rude things to them. Of course this is inappropriate, and it's impossible to condone. Sacks claims that his people didn't make those calls. It's also impossible to prove or disprove this (Well, not impossible, but the effort-to-caring ratio is too high for me.)
The second complaint is the one I want to get to, the one Sacks owns up to, that his people called the donors to The Family Place and asked them if they knew what kind of ads the organization was running. This makes Barry Deutsch upset, and I don't know why.
Without getting on a soapbox about free speech, let me say that it's important that everyone be held accountable for their words. I would love for everyone to say what they want but not haphazardly. That is, you can't go around saying whatever you want and not be expected to face the consequences. Censorship is unthinkable, but accountability is necessarily in a democratic society. Why shouldn't the donors to The Family Place know what their money is being used for? Deutsch argues that it would take money away from the domestic violence services. I would argue that running ads designed to shock as opposed to ads providing information on how to get help are already taking money away from domestic violence services.
By running these ads, The Family Place has decided to not just be a service organization, but also one that makes a statement. The people who donate to them have the right to agree or disagree with that statement, while still supporting the service. If I were donating to The Family Place, would I withdraw my money because of these ads? Definitely not, but I would at least want to be informed that they occurred, since I bought them.
Breaking down his argument, Deutsch is apparently claiming that this organization shouldn't be held accountable to its donors, because it provides a good and needed service. Should charities receive a free pass on saying whatever they want just because they're charities?
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
In the interest of full-disclosure, the article put me on edge. It sucks when someone vaguely accuses you of being racist to call someone "black" after they call themselves "black".
And let's clear that air right away, I think this article is offensive. Not to me, but to Obama. His identity, racial or otherwise, belongs to nobody but himself, and for anyone anyone to tell him "You're not black" is a slap in the face. If Obama wants to call himself black, let him. If Obama wants to call himself biracial, whatever. Hell, it's even cool if he wants to call himself white. All three of those identities can suit him, but he chose "black" and I believe he chose it for a reason.
Arana is avoiding, what I think, is a simple fact. The word "black" (along with the words "white" "Asian" "Eskimo" whatever) carries two connotations. The first is an extremely, almost hyperbolically small view of the word, meaning "skin color". It's just like saying "My eyes are blue." or "My hair is gray."
Many people don't see it that way though, and the word "black" has a broader meaning, one of culture. You're saying, "This is not just my skin color, it's who I am." This is something I can't really elaborate on, since I'm white. My skin color has very little to do with my cultural heritage.
Anyway, Obama has chosen "black" and he's chosen it for one of two reasons. He's either saying "This is my skin color, and that's all it is. That's all it ever will be." or "This is my skin color and my identity. People look at me and see black, and that's shaped me into the person I am today."
Obama's election is exciting. I don't know how you can think of it any other way, even if you voted for the other guy, Whats-His-Face. Even if he's half-white or half-black or full oreo, he doesn't look like any other president in history. I'd settle for the title of "Most Different-Looking President" but the man has chosen to call himself black, respect that choice.
Friday, November 28, 2008
"If you paid by credit card, the charge will be listed on your statement as UPPER BRANCH."
The Out Campaign is designed so that people don't have to be embarrassed to be atheist anymore, so they can be proud. Yet, when it comes to credit card statements, everything's hush-hush. You motherfuckers.
Letting them fail doesn't sound like a good idea. Putting millions of people out of their jobs probably won't help the economic crisis any.
I only somewhat like the idea that we're working on now, which is they come up with their own plan for fixing the company before the government gives them anything. What it sounds like people want from this is for the auto companies to say, "Hey, ya know what guys? We've been building SUVs for too long. How about we work on those Hybrid doodads?" The problem with this is that (for reasons lost on me, but seem easy enough to work backwards on) the Hybrid deal isn't good on the money. (Right? If it was, they would have been building those a long time ago.) So if building more financially conservative vehicles wasn't on the books back when they were making money, it seems impossible to ask them to do it now when they're losing money.
At least, that is what my economically limited brain is telling me.
This morning, however, I heard a good idea from cartoonist Keith Knight. He talks about a lot of things in his latest cartoon (notice how he barely draws anything) but one of the ideas he touches upon is a national railway system. A counterargument I can think to that is Americans don't really want to give up driving, not even the littlest of bits. The counter-counterargument to that is that Americans should probably suck it up if we're losing so much money.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Movies are the same way. I want to say that I always judge a movie on its merits alone, but my obsession with Spider-Man will quickly prove me wrong. (Sidenote: I still have not seen Spider-Man 3 out of fear my heart will be broken.)
When I heard about the Harvey Milk movie coming out, I was very pleased, and I wanted it to be good. I wanted it to be so stupid good that it infiltrates every aspect of American culture for a week. I wanted it to be Twilight.
I haven't actually seen it for myself, and I probably won't even get the chance to for a long time, but I was happy to read some positive reviews. Here's Metacritic. And here's Roger Ebert. They don't suggest that this movie will "infiltrate every aspect of American culture for a week"** but they are positive. And I can't explicitly recommend this movie, because like I said, I haven't seen and won't for a while, but doesn't it sound like it's worth seeing just to see?
*I don't remember who said this, but it wasn't me
**I do remember who said this, it was me, two paragraphs ago.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Instead, I'm just depressed. I know this won't go through. It's impossible. They're going to pull a Calvinball on this and nothing will change.
I'm really hoping our next president will finally stop garbage like this from ever happening.
(Update - Glenn Greenwald on this story.)
Monday, November 17, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
You can file this one under Three, and then under One.
I really could not be more confused. How could this possibly happen? How could the UN, of all things, run out of money for food?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Recently, you may recalled I was ruminating on the ethics of this action, overturning a referendum voted in by the people. You may think I'm a hypocrite for cheering on the courts to strike down this vile piece of legislation. Right now, I absolutely do not care. I'm just happy to know that before this turd of the year was less than a week old, it already had an expiration date.
Dear ACLU, thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.
This is a picture of the octopus snack we had at work today. We took about a ten or fifteen minute break to cut up some steamed octopus and chow down.
I'm not sure, but I guess the black stuff is ink. I thought was just squid, but apparently there is something black inside the head of octopus too. I missed getting a shot of the head-eating before it was gone. I guess that's the best part.
For the moment, I just wanted to share a few quotes I've seen lately.
“Lord, we ain’t what we want to be; we ain’t what we ought to be; we ain’t what we gonna be, but, thank God, we ain’t what we was.”
- MLK Jr., found in Nick Kristof's column.
Newsweek has presented a list of short anecdotes that were embargoed prior to Nov 5th. The most interesting one was this, about Obama and the debates:
"As promised by their father nearly two years ago, Malia and Sasha are getting their puppy when they move to the White House. And they will probably contemplate the acquisition of their new pet with more detail and scrutiny than McCain did his own running mate."
-August J. Pollack
"For most of the years of the American experiment, ''we the people'' did not include African Americans. We were not included in ''we.'' We were not even included in ``people.''"
-Leonard Pitts Jr.
More to come later.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Speaking of cynicism, as of right now, this election feels like a failure. The referendums in California, Arizona and Florida have passed. The one in California effects me the most, not only because that proposition effected the most people, but because it repealed a right that was already in place, whereas the other two are denying rights never had.
Think about that for a second. That happened in our country for the first time. We have a long history of halting progress -- slavery, suffrage in multiple forms, miscegenation, segregation, the list goes on long than we'd like to admit. These were all times when people underneath rose, but not in the case of Proposition 8. Instead of preventing people from gaining equality, we stripped them of it.
The symbolism of electing a black president cheers me up. (An understatement, actually. I shed a few tears when I saw Jesse Jackson crying and listening to Senator Lewis talk about the inconceivability of seeing an African-American president.) It is a stop in the right direction, but no matter how proud I felt to be an American seeing this country elect a black man to the highest executive office in the land, there is still a lot of attitudes that need to change before we can declare racism deceased.
Which brings me to the original goal of this post, to discuss the shit that's already cropped it in the form of editorial cartooning. I'll spare you the tiresome and endless images of Abraham Lincoln giving the thumbs up, or any combination of pictures of America and the phrase "Yes We Did", but these below bear mention:
This One is particularly moronic.
Nov 5, 2008
This shit is just ridiculous. Of the billions and billions of "success" analogies you could have made, you went with basketball, which we all know, Obama is very skilled at, what with the whole "being black" and all. Idiots.
Nov 5, 2008
This one rubbed me the wrong way when I first saw it, but I'm having trouble articulating why. I think because although I see what the artist is trying to do here (both Jackie Robinson and Barack Obama have broken racial barriers) I think there could have been a better way to do it. As great as Jackie Robinson was at baseball, let's not forget that politics and intelligence in general is a much more astounding feat. To me, this seems incapable of capturing the gravity of the situation.
Chicago Defender, Madison …
Nov 5, 2008
It's amazing how much context can effect a political cartoon. If you didn't know diddly-squat about the Chicago Defender, you might think that this is a racist, asinine cartoon that has diminished a great man into a stereotypical gesture. If you knew that the Chicago Defender is a "black newspaper", you might think that this is just an asinine cartoon.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
As the title suggests, I have only a short amount of time to heave this burdening contempt from my chest, so I'll allow you to first read the actual news story, and then point you to Glenn Greenwald's take on the matter. Gleen Greenwald, by the way, being a former lawyer of constitutional law.
The phrase he uses to describe the statements made by Dowd and Palin -- "so stupid it hurts" -- doesn't really capture the full extent of what's going on here. Dowd's argument I can at least understand; she is arguing for full transparency in government. What she doesn't understand is that while full transparency in a politician's professional life is required for a democracy, full transparency of their civic lives are at their discretion. Meaning, if they invite you into their home (or all seven of them) or their jet or anything other than their public records, it's because they're doing you a favor. I'm dissappointed in Dowd for getting this confused, considering she has much more journalism experience than I do, but her heart's in the right place.
Palin's thumping organ, however, is someplace I cannot understand. Criticism by the press is, jesus, that's the most first amendmenty you can get.
Look, it's obvious she does not understand what the First Amendment is about. Not even close. (In fact, it's becoming very clear to the country she hasn't even read the constitution, if she can't grasp both the First Amendment and the duties of Vice-President.) She does not seem to understand that the government has not prevented her from saying these things, but by the press somehow saying that she is "negative" this is hindering her right to free speech. Greenwald is right: This does hurt.
What bugs me is that I'm guessing she's going to get away with this shit. She's been playing the "I'm just like you only a governor" schtick since she was introduced to the politcal arena. Your average citizen does not give a damn if a politician's right to free speech has been infringed (moreover, they would most likely applaud a good "shut the hell up" to statesmen they disagree with) but they care, and are angered, when an American citizen is denied his or her First Amendment rights, especially from the evil media.
She has, in my view, invoked the most scared, most beautiful part of this country, to justify stretching the truth and downright lying, and to cower and hide from the backlash. If we gave Palin her way, the media would not be allowed to criticize her statements. Think about that for a second: Palin is stating that the media should not be allowed to criticize her. That is no longer painful, it is dispicable and frightening.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Anyway, in the movie, a long line of people are standing outside the doors of a frat house or some such nonsense, the entering of which they are waiting for impatiently. Towards the end of the line, a black man says he should be at the front, because African-Americans have been persecuted in this country for hundreds of years. In the middle, a woman (a stereotypical and pejorative version of a feminist) says that women have been, to paraphrase, second fiddle since the beginning of time, so she should be at the front of the line. Further up, a homosexual man says that he would gladly give up his spot in line for the other two. Just kidding. He's pissed too.
What the movie is getting at here, in the language of early 90s humor, is that arguments like these are futile. Somebody will always find a way to one-up whatever problems you think you might have had. The goal, or at least, it's effect on me, is to prevent people from acting like this. Actually, the overall message of the movie was no more complex than "chill the fuck out and stop complaining."
Regardless, I would be not at all pleased with myself if I ever became one of those people. Specifically, I really hate getting into the "who has it worst in America" argument, myself being of the position that an atheist is a pretty hard thing to be sometimes. (I could almost hear people disagreeing with me before I even finished typing that sentence.) I'm going to state a case as to why I think that, but keep in mind that I'm doing this grudgingly and I don't even fully believe it myself and that if I were listening to myself I would say, "Kevin shut up." Nevertheless, I can't really vent my anger (what else did you think this blog was for?) without the actual comparison between a few things, so on we go.
The backstory is not too important. The political ad I'm about to reference takes place in North Carolina and was engineered by the Republican party against Democratic candidate for the senate. I'm cynical enough to believe that these facts are irrelevant to the situation, but if you're harboring a hatred for the Republican party, you're welcome for the fuel.
Here's the ad: (Not completely necessary to watch the whole thing)
The first thing I suppose I should address, if only to get it out of the way, is that the statements implied in the ad are, well, spurious to say the least. Kay Hagan herself is actually a Sunday school volunteer.
But the ad's not really chiding her for actually being an atheist is it? It doesn't even make a claim about what Kay Hagan would do if elected office. It says she took money from this organization, and that appears to be the biggest factor in her crime.
This is like debating Obama's religion however. You can argue about the Islamic school when he was a child and show pictures of him in a turban, but in the end, the only response that should elict from any thinking human being is a so what? The same rule should apply here. Sadly, it probably won't.
What gets me though is that while people debate Obama's religion, they wouldn't dare blamingly accuse him of accepting money from a Muslim organization like it was a terrible thing to do. That is the difference I would like to show. The Godless Americans group has opinions that differ from mainstream America, and that's cool. If you ask any Muslim American if they would prefer "Under God" or "Under Allah" in the pledge, they would probably answer the latter. Same goes with a Jewish American, a Buddhist American, a Hindu American and so on and so forth. (Replacing, of course, "Allah" with "Yahweh" "Shakamuni" or "Brahman" respectively.) The point I wish to make here is that they're not really any more radical than other group of this nature. Maybe a bit more honest, but that's about it.
However, you can apparently only associate with this group in the most insignificant of ways to keep yourself out of trouble. Imagine for one second what this ad would look like if you replaced "atheism" with "Hinduism" or any group, really. It's actually pretty hard to take it seriously. The only exception for this that I can think of would be violent groups, such as the KKK or neo-nazis. What we start to see here is that it's pretty ok to paint atheists as terrible people and those that associate with them, or even, god forbid, give them a voice in their own Congress, are just as terrible.
Here's the kicker though. If this ad were substituted with a different group, you would be sure as hell that not only that group would be pissed, but other people would be pissed for that group. You insulted the Jewish community? How dare you sir? But, nobody, nobody really cares about what's going on. I heard about this story on Olbermann, where it ranked 2nd as his worst person in the world section. Just second. There is a group of people out there, insinuating that a whole section of Americans are somehow inherently evil, despite having done no harm and just having a different opinion. That my friends is called bigotry, and you wish to tell me that it only ranks second in your book?
I'm trying really hard to not to say that atheists have it the worst in America, but things like this make it hard for me to avoid making that particular statement. I'll make this one instead: If we can't agree on who has it worst in America, can we at least start by treating all of our insults the same? In other words, if a Christian feels like standing up for me today, I'll stand up for them later (or, substitute the word "Christian" for any other minority you feel like...except vegans. Those guys can rot in hell.)
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
This is your media, America. I hope you're goddamn proud of it.
Take a look around 2:15, when she quotes Karl Marx to Biden and he says, "Is that a real question?"
Monday, October 27, 2008
Here's the super-cool thing about these particular 12 children though. We did it in two different countries. Now we're multitasking our murders! Say what you will about the US of A, but we be efficient.
By the way, I'm talking about here and here.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
In her case, the gas mileage is a combined 6 hours worth of driving, but I think this can apply to other people as well. If you're not voting out of laziness, there's no way I can convince to care about anything. But if you're not voting out of rebellion, futility or even a lack of information, why not take the transportation fee you would have paid to perform your "patriotic duty" and put it towards a good cause, one that is a lying, dirty politician.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Perhaps you've never heard of the referendum. To be honest, I became aware of its existence at the age of 17, a time when I was already taught the minimum age for holding a national public office, how long their term is, campaign finance rules, half of the constitutional amendments and bunch of other junk that I forgot five minutes after the test. The concept of a referendum was unheard of to me. (Maybe it still is to you, friendly reader. A referendum is basically a citizen's chance to act like a congressperson for a day, voting directly on a bill in a "yea/nay" fashion.)
Now, in Callyfornea, there's a referendum of particular interest about to be voted on. The name is "Proposition 8" (referendums have boring names). It's particularly interesting because it repeals the right of gay couples to be married, which, hopefully you know, has been legal in California for about 5 months now. It's like the right to gay marriage was burning a hole in their pocket or something.
A bit of history of the right in question. Que Schoolhouse Rock music please. Gay marriage was banned a while back in another referendum called Proposition 22. The right to gay marriage started out in the state congress and a bicameral passage a few years ago (I am, by the way, not referencing the research I've done about this because I'm lazy, as always. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on anything.) After it got passed, it was vetoed by a Mister Governator. Twice. In May, however, the state Supreme Court of California declared that Proposition 22 was unconstitutional, because it violated that obligatory clause in every state constitution about equal rights for everyone. Go obligatory clause!
And I suppose you can see where this is going, a brand new referendum is going out now, Prop 8, that intends to overturn the overturning of Proposition 22. Got that? It makes dudes marrying dudes illegal again.
There is no doubt in my mind that making gay marriage legal is the best thing we can do as a country. And I did choose the word "best" arbitrarily, either. I get the feeling that twenty, thirty, fifty years in the future, we're going to be really embarrassed at the way we denied homosexuals the right to marry for so long and so ardently. Kinda like how the years that we desegregated schools and gave women the right to vote and abolished slavery aren't as far away from 2008 as we think they should be.
Regardless, that's not the issue at hand. The question that plagues me is what was the most just way of going about this gay marriage thing. By my count, there are four methods of legislation that went into this: the referendums, the congressional bill, the vetoing by the Governor, and the Supreme Court ruling.
Really though, choosing the most democratic method is easy enough; it's the referendums. Dare I say that voting on a referendum is more democratic than voting for president.
But here's the thing though, it was a referendum that institutionalized this atrocious discrimination in the first place. And, the way things are looking now, it is another referendum that will continue it.
When the Governator vetoed the bill passed by the Calif. state congress, he stated something along the lines that the government should not make a ruling on this, and then mumbled something about the constitution in his wacky accent. In case you haven't heard, any political figure on the national level has played this routine innumerable times. They all say that it's not a decision for the national government to make, and it should be left to the states. When left to the states, they say that it's not for the states to decide, but should be left up to...what? I have no idea.
Can we promptly dispell with the theory that legalizing gay marriage is somehow impeded on the rights of the church. Allowing something and mandating it are too completely different things. Churches have refused marriages before on grounds not based on homosexuality, and nobody cried discrimination there. If churches still wish to only perform man-woman marriages, that's their business and their embarrassment. Besides, there is always somebody around who will perform a marriage. It sure as hell doesn't have to be a church.
And, while I'm ranting, don't let any conservative tell you this gay marriage fiasco is somehow the fault of "a handful of activist judges" (I'm looking at you Limbaugh. Yes, you.) The citizens of Calif. elected their representatives and senators to do their job and they did. It was one man who vetoed that voice.
The question then becomes, did the state Supreme Court do the right thing? Let's assume for the sake of argument that Proposition 22 was 100% wrong, and overturning it was 100% good. Has the Supreme Court done the right thing by overturning a referendum, the direct voice of the people for the sake of good? If something is performed in the most democratic way possible, does that make it exempt from any other kind of legislation?
I don't suppose I have an answer to that question. I can actually make a good argument for both. And after dedicated only 15 minutes of thought to the subject, it's easy to see that there will never actually be a good answer for this. Somebody will always get screwed.
There is a good thing though: I, or anybody else, won't have to make the decision of whether the actions of the Calif. state Supreme Court were just or not. The Proposition 8 vote takes place in November and luckily (against the odds) the people of California will do the right thing. And, if we're really lucky, luckier than we ever though we could, we'll never have to deal with this question ever again. This is another reason why it's important to have a well-informed and conscious citizenry.
(Google's thoughts on the matter)
Monday, October 20, 2008
Colin Powell Backs Barack Obama
Shit. I guess this means that I owe Fox News an apology for one, and somehow their racist, derogatory logic actually works.
Shit, again. That means that if Obama becomes president, he really will repaint the white house to match his skin color. We're fucked!
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
When you think about it, it's the only logical conclusion one can reach.
1 - Black people dance
2 - Black people vote for Obama. Always.
3 - Colin Powell dances
4 - Therefore, Colin Powell is black.
5 - Colin Powell is required by law to vote for Obama.
Seriously though, how fucking stupid are these people at Fox? This is the most unapologetically racist news article I've ever seen. "Colin Powell was at an African festival, so he's probably going to vote for Obama." Are you serious? Are you fucking serious?
Nevermind the fact that Powell didn't just recently acquire his blackness. You know, despite the lack of dancing over the past couple decades, he's been black the entire time. That's right, believe it or not, but he was actually born with it. But no, once he busts a move, now he's black enough to vote for Obama.
This, by the way, is a fine example of racial discourse in this country. I can almost picture this coming out of the mouth of Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel from Simpsons. "Lookee here. That dark fella likes the hip-hop sos he must be votin' for that ot'er dark fella."
(From Mr. Bors.)
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
McCain is taking a lot of flak lately, and if you've watched five whole seconds of news or even saw a front page in the past few days, you know what I'm talking about. The guys in the audience of a Palin rally who say "Terrorist" or "Kill him". The inane supporters with their asinine signs who draw links to Obama's middle name. Old ladies who think Obama is an Arab.
To approach this in point-counterpoint fashion, any decent human being should put a stop to this. Yes, this is politics. Yes, the idea behind a campaign trail is to make yourself look like a prince and the other guy an incompetent moron. Yes, McCain is not coming out and saying, "Look, that one, he's a terrorist." I understand all that. But McCain, have you no shame?
Here is my one-two punch. The jab is morals. McCain, when your supporters are in possession of so much misinformation, the kind that makes them want to say, "kill him" or call your opponent a terrorist, you have a responsibility -- do you hear that? a responsibility -- to set the record straight. Your constituency will be pissed when they hear you say, "Fact: Obama is not Muslim. Fact: He is not of Arab decent. Fact: He is not a black radical," but for god's sake you'll be able to sleep at night.
This is hard for you to understand, because there are no lies floating around about you, not serious ones at least. If the Huffington Post reported tomorrow that you were a terrorist, not even the idiots that read the Huffington Post would listen. But if Fox News called Obama a terrorist, well, you can see the difference here.
Your opponent is being branded as the worst thing in the entire world. Do you get that? His reputation amongst your constituency couldn't be worse unless he had the numbers 666 tattooed somewhere on his body. Do you understand, Senator McCain, that people get shot for this? Are you hearing me? People get fucking killed for this. In fact, presidents and presidential candidates have been killed for much, much less.
You have, in your possession, the power to save Obama's life. And yet you do nothing. You don't distance yourself from your crazy fucking vice-president who lets people yell kill him and tries to associate him with terrorists. When you tell your supporters that they shouldn't be scared of Obama, you're on the right track. When they boo you for you, that should be sending warning bells off in your brain.
The right hook here is a political one. Your campaign is floundering, Senator McCain. People think you're playing dirty and they're partly correct. You want to show the world you're a "maverick"? Say these words: "Obama is a decent, Christian man who is not a terrorist or a radical. He won't be a better president than me though." Honestly, Senator McCain, your poll numbers couldn't get any worse. If you're a Republican, you can't get less than 40%, so you might as well ditch your strategy, pull a 180, and you might not lose in shame.
Now, a rebuttal, from...myself.
Dear media, what is your deal? Repeat after me: John McCain is not the internet. John McCain is not the internet.
Do you think that this whole "Obama = black = scary" garbage started with John McCain in the 10th month of the year 2008? No, idiots. This has been happening for a damn long time.
He's dancing around the issue, I know, but he's not outright endorsing it, which might actually boost his numbers. Don't you know that if you're a Republican, you can't get less than 40%? If he were truly as bad a guy as you make him out to be, he wouldn't mind just going ahead and declaring Obama a terrorist. No, instead, he takes the mic away from his voters -- his voters -- and says, "No, Obama is a decent man."
(Short aside here, I'm not going to attack McCain over his very, very embarassing gaffe when speaking to the old lady about how the opposite of "Arab" is apparently "decent person". That was a very stupid thing to say. Most definitely. But we all know why that old lady (does she have a name? I'm too lazy to research that) called him an "Arab". Because to her, in her mind, that represents "bad person". I think we all already knew that.)
Here's the thing, media, if you want to quell this racism and hatred against Obama, you're going after the wrong guy. In fact, you haven't even targeted the right group of guys. You need to start looking at, hm, America perhaps?
I'll say it again: McCain did not start this ridiculous and unfounded Obama hatred. America did. Your country. Our country. We let this happen. Every one of us is responsible for fostering a society and environment where it's ok to let this happen. Every time a vice-president calls someone a terrorist, it's because we did not demand better of them. Every time a citizen declares that we should kill Obama, it's because we allowed it to happen.
We give up too easily don't we? There have been too many times hearing news about this election when I've shrugged my shoulders and said, "Oh, well, that's the bible belt for ya. What a bunch of sillies." When we should have displayed unmitigated outrage. Every slur thrown in Obama's face is a slur that could have been thrown in any black man's face if he got "too uppity" and decided to run for president. What the hell is wrong with us? Could we possibly pretend that these insults and racist remarks could not be applied to any other potential black candidate or any other candidate with a Muslim-originated name? We allowed these people to insult hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens and then shrugged it off.
And that's our fault, not McCain's.
Cynthia Tucker, saying this better than I ever could have.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Or "Obama v. Words"
And I am just so fearful that this is not a man who sees America the way that you and I see America, as the greatest source for good in this world. I'm afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country. (Source)Sarah Palin goes on to say that no, America is not perfect, but evokes phrases such as "shining city on a hill" "collectively together America represents a perfect ideal". There is my full disclosure.
There is a word in that soundbite that always stuck out to me, maybe you heard it too. It's "imperfect." Obama does not see the country like us; he sees it as imperfect.
I've considered before that in regards to the current state of the nation, people born around the same time I was are in a peculiar place. I was sixteen when 9/11 happened, and that's a strange age to be. Far from an adult, but old enough to remember the Clinton and Bush years, old enough to remember something that could qualify as "pre-9/11". Any younger and I think this might not be possible. I would know only the blissful years of childhood, by definition politically ignorant, and post-9/11. Any older and my ideas about the world would already be formed; 9/11 would be something I would be adapting my current philosophies to.
But that's not how it happened. I was sixteen when it happened, just starting to care about the world that I lived in. That's a hell of a way to learn, but alas, the circumstances leave those in my age bracket with little choice. While everyone older than us was adapting, and everyone younger was nearly born into this new world, not knowing any different, my people, my generation, are the ones who grew into this, and we are the ones whose lines are most dramatically drawn.
It's not our fault though. There are really only three choices. The first is complete apathy. Now, I don't want to make apathy sound like these people are too lazy to care. I don't think that's it at all, actually. What I do think is that it's a completely natural response to the overstimulation that 9/11 and the politics surrounding it have created. We are the generation that remembers when the biggest deal, the most important political event in the 90s, was when the president got a blowjob, as though he were immune from receiving them. That was the worst we had to deal with. People in their late twenties and beyond at least had the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Gulf War. Our political atmosphere went from "slightly embarrassing adultery" to "Axis of Evil" in a day. A day. It's no surprise some of my generation wants as little to do with politics as possible.
I'm trying very hard not to pejoratively name the second group, as it is the polar opposite of mine, and the one I understand the least. "Group B" is the best I can do. Every time you hear about the liberal idiot youth, there is a member of Group B you don't hear about it, the members of the generation that grew into the rhetoric of nationalism and wars on terrors, the guys that volunteered for military service. Our political attitudes typically stem from our upbringing, and the conservative environment that fed these people was encouraged by the nature of the Bush Doctrine. What I'm trying to say here is, we don't all watch The Daily Show.
But some of us do, the Group C-ers, the skeptics. When you're so young, how can you not get caught up in the jingoistic fervor that is the early 21st century? Did we question when we invaded Iraq? No, and neither did the country. But somewhere in the back of our brains, or at least in mine, we had the thought, "Maybe it shouldn't be this way."
And the language, oh god the language.
How deep do I need to delve into this? How much reminding do you really need about the way we talk now? It is stifling, and the closer you chronologically approach the year 2001, the deeper it becomes. To give a small, but embarrassing, example, look at the questions about Obama's religion. The word "Muslim" is used as a campaign smear. Attending a Muslim school at the age of six automatically qualifies you for terrorism. In regards to questions about Obama's religion, some of us have asked "so what?" but not enough. Not nearly enough.
"Keep it vague, Sarah," her advisor probably told her. "Keep it vague and they cheer." And it's true. The power of suggestion is always much more useful than cold hard facts. To say that Obama is pallin' around with terrorists is a thousand times more effective at making him out to be dangerous than to say he served on a charity board. To say that Obama thinks the country is perfect is more effective at making him out to hate America than to outline the ways that America could be better.
I beat this message into my friends and unfortunate passerbys: language is powerful. Just the word "terrorist" does so much without any other words attached to it. And it goes straight to your brain; there's no way to shrug it off without actually considering for a nanosecond what the word means to you. And instantly, without you realizing it, you've conjured an image in your head of what you think a terrorist is, and any number of subsequent words and images in your mind. It shoots into your brain. Obama may be a good man, but he can't stop bullets.
But this rhetoric is in danger of losing its power. The whole book of tricks has been thrown at Obama. The name connection with bin Laden and Hussein, the Muslim thing, the terrorist thing, the domestic terrorist thing, saying he hates America, questioning his patriotism, beating out a potential first woman president, militant wife, angry pastor, eating his bread with the butter side down...god, this list goes on and on. Every word, every smear, every insult that we ourselves were terrified of being labeled after 9/11, this man has been called. Literally. Not one of us would want to be called a terrorist in 2002. An act of bravery was (is) required to declare you're a Muslim. Saying you hate America or think that America is not the greatest country in the world has been likened to treason in the past seven years. This man is all the things we've been afraid of for so long.
And here's the thing, there is a very good chance he'll be president.
Can you comprehend how far-fetched that sounds when you add together all the smears against him? If you were to even suggest it in 2004, you would get laughed out of a room. And now, it could happen. Dare I say, for the first time in my adult life, the people of America will care more about a candidate's character than the fact he has a goofy-sounding name. There will be a majority of voices who will say, "So what if he might be Muslim?" People won't be afraid to say, "You know what, this country is imperfect." We don't have to go along with the nationalistic fervor anymore.
Maybe it sounds like I'm endorsing Obama. Maybe I really am endorsing Obama. But moreover, I'm rooting for the possibility that this rhetoric of jingoism, hatred and fear will finally die out. One month from the election, Sarah Palin can publicly and openly declare that Obama is a terrorist that hates America, and it won't matter one bit. That the man who collected every known term that we were too cowardly to attach to ourselves these last seven years might very well end up our president.
And that's how you become stronger than language.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Anyway, the US -- and when I say "US" I mean, "both sides of the congressional aisle" -- is putting the finishing touches on a nuclear deal with India for civilian energy. On the surface, that sounds like a great plan. India's not really a threat or even an enemy to us, so there's very little chance this'll blow up in our faces (pun intended). Further, India is a country that really, really needs something like this, what with its billion people and all.
Here's the thing: We're doing this the wrong way. For some reason, we agreed for the right to inspect their civilian facilities, but not their military ones. And, we're not requiring India to sign the Non-Nuclear Proliferation Act. (India's refusal to sign is the reason we haven't been doing nuke business with them for the past thirty years. We have suddenly changed our stance on the issue.)
To be fair, India has a better track record with nuclear weapons than we do. It would even be wise to say that maybe they should be watching us instead of the other way around. They have "we won't start it but we'll end it" official policy, which is better than us, again. Besides the point that the NPT is really just a piece of paper. If someone really wanted to bomb us, or build up their nuclear aresenal, they will.
This is what gets me though: Bush said this about the transaction, "This agreement sends a signal to the world: Nations that follow the path to democracy and responsible behaviour will find a friend in the United States of America."
This is what I heard: If you are our friend, the rules don't matter.
The NPT is not a small deal worldwide. Countries that don't have nuclear arsenals, countries that couldn't even possibly have nuclear arsenals, have to sign this thing. India has refused on principle, which is cool, but, on principle, that means you shouldn't get any benefits.
We have decided (France too, I shouldn't leave them out) that even though India refuses to play by the rules that we all established long ago, just because they are our friends, we will help them out.
Secretly, I think we want them to bomb Pakistan or China for us, but whatever.
Good christ I'm angry.
The White House then appealed, saying the original ruling - the first of its kind - could set a dangerous precedent.
A "dangerous precedent"? A dangerous precedent for what? Following the Geneva Convention? Not imprisoning people without charges?
Here's your fun history fact for today: The Sedition Act was repealed by Jefferson about 200 years ago.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I am addicted to two things. The news, and being angry.
I think I've just realized, this very morning, that this problem is tearing my life apart. I mean, I have a busy day, I have five classes -- all solo, no Korean teacher -- and a huge presentation I have to prepare by Friday where I attempt to teach Nathanel Hawthorne to 9th Graders. And yet, I find myself compelled to blog. I used to make fun of people who did that all the time, and now, I am one of them...
Anyway, the situation that has me riled up this morning was what I caught on the Washington Post website. I clicked on what I presumed was a news story about the debate (hoping to learn what day it would air) and I was treated to someone's blog.
Now, I don't think I'm stupid, probably. One would assume that the big headlines are news stories, and not someone's blog. I started reading and found out that the big question tonight is whether or not Obama is "ready to lead". And how unscripted moments might ruin Obama's career. But not McCain's? Oh, I get it. This is opinion.
I'm not opposed to blogs on news websites (I'm definitely not in favor of them though. What's the point?) but this is...I feel tricked. I think the responsible thing to do was to make it unambigiously clear that what I was clicking on was a blog, someone's opinion (unfounded or not) on what the debate tonight would be about. (Really? The big question is whether or not Obama's fit to lead? McCain hasn't even asked that in a while.)
This is irresponsible of WaPo, and furthermore, unnecessary. I think the story about releasing prisoners from Gitmo is still more important than the debate. Anyway, here's what the page looked like at the time I saw it:
Some things to notice. First, that ad is huuuuge isn't it? The top of this image represents the absolute top part of the actual newspaper. That is to say, I cut off the links at the top. "Nashville Faceoff" was what I clicked on. Not the absolute top story, but pretty close. Notice the story about the prisoners, ranked third by my count, at the bottom of the page.
I don't want to start accusing people of "pushing agendas" but directing traffic towards a pro-McCain blog as opposed to any number of real news stories is deplorable. I take it seriously because only a small number of Americans choose to read more than one news source, and sometimes one paper is all they get (if that).
The more I think on this, the angrier I get. The blog is unabashedly biased. It belongs somewhere in the back of the newspaper, not the front page.
For comparison, NYTimes:
More or less the same format. Ads are a little smaller. That picture brings you to a link that isn't a blog, by the way. Can I say, on asthetics alone, both those pictures suck?
Annnnd, for funsies, here's Fox News. I didn't find anything about the prisoners in Gitmo, but admittedly it's hard to search through that hodgepodge down there at the bottom (NYTimes has this same problem all over its pages). Pictured: Cheerleaders. Top story: Debate. Next: Economy. Way to go Fox News.