Month: October 2014

Ebola and the many faces of racism

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There is one feature that defines Ebola above all others. It’s scary. It’s a legitimately frightening virus. The mortality for this particular strain is about 70%. Not great odds if it gets you. There’s no cure and no vaccine. Scary stuff. It’s also illegitimately scary. It’s a disease that makes it into our fiction and our movies as something that is the ultimate fear. Heck, in a telling psychological reveal, Tom Clancy crossed cancer with Ebola in one of his books. Because nothing says, “your deadly virus isn’t scary enough unless we add cancer to it. There are people walking around in space suits for crying out loud. It’s scary stuff. The virus is so scary it’s brought out the worst in people. One politician suggested that anyone associated with the virus should be summarily executed. Proof if proof was needed that fear makes people stupid. It’s also brought out frighteningly ugly bigotry in people.

Racism is usually about fear and control (when it isn’t about hatred and greed, but hey, who said your average person can’t be complex). And a virus epitomizes that fear and loss of control. It’s unsurprising that the bigots on both sides of the racial divide would crawl out of the woodwork on this one. Sad. But unsurprising. The brutal hurtful comments. This is one form of racism.

Overt swastika wearing white sheeted racists are out there but they are not the most common form of it. Next out there are the “but” people. “I’m not racist, but…” “I feel bad but…” Sorry folks, your “black friend” isn’t getting you out of this one. These are the people who are sympathetic to the plight of the rest of the world, but only if it doesn’t cost them anything. We get it. You’re broke. You’re stressed. You don’t have the time or the money to help. In fact, dealing with the Ebola problem is to hard with everything we’ve got going on right now. Better to recall the troops. Close the borders, stick thermometers into travelers where the sun doesn’t shine. This kind of selfishness is a form of racist bigotry because it only exists in an us vs them mindset. And “them” will always be inferior to you. And hey we know you wish things could be different but that’s how the world works.

Finally you’ve got the most common form of racism. Blindness. It’s easy to ignore the problems in the world when they don’t affect you. When the collective “you” is a racial group it’s bigotry. It shows up a lot of places. With Ebola it showed up continuously from about 2010 to now with the nearly constant budget cuts. Ebola wasn’t here yet. Neither was Dengue, Malaria, sleeping sickness, and a host of other diseases that we don’t have in this country. No we did patently and obviously useless things like “walk for the cure” or the “ice bucket challenge”. At the same time we cut real tangible and useful services like science funding. The way we handle government expenditures is writhe with racist ideations. It’s been said that had it not been for the sequestration we might have had a vaccine. This kind of pound foolish short term thinking is lunacy. Not only have we been directly, if mildly harmed, we have failed to help countless millions who now suffer. People’s callous disregard for others is the height of racist bigotry.

We have three forms of racist bigotry. The hateful white supremacist who hates minorities obviously and passionately. You have your “but people” who can help but won’t. And finally we have people who are quietly enriching themselves in subtle ways at the expense of their long term good and others immediate harm.

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Dear Huckabee,

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Gov. Huckabee, I urge you to leave the GOP party as you’ve recently threatened to do for the following reasons.  First, you’re contributing to the GOP being the stupid and ignorant party.  You wish to be stupid and ignorant by all means, start your own party.  The issue of gay marriage is not one of science, and what science there is doesn’t support your positions, just like on evolution, global warming, sex ed and others.  Ignorance pours from you like water from niagara.  This is fine.  Your an American and entitled to your opinions, but those opinions are increasingly at odds mainstream Republicans.  Honestly, we’d rather you join us in our fight for sensible policies rather than this rigamarole.  We want to be the party that isn’t constantly at war with reason and science for the sake of a few social conservatives.  Quite frankly, we don’t need you anymore and you’re hurting more than your helping.  Especially if we want to have a chance of surviving the 2016 elections.

Secondly, As I’ve just alluded, social issues are a major distraction.  Honestly, no one cares what consenting people do.  Let them find what happiness they can in this world.  Goodness! that you care is creepy and weird.  That you would legislate on non-issues take time from solving real problems.  How does vilifying gay people help us solve issues with taxes, foreign policy, oversight of President Obama, and the business of government? There’s a lot of stuff we need to do and fighting this fight just isn’t worth it.

Thirdly, social conservativism is not the victim of judicial activism as you suggest, but against our nation’s laws.  If something is illegal it doesn’t matter how popular it is, it needs to stop.  This is why we have a court system in the first place.  As Republicans we value the constitution.  If there’s a core American value among Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, Democrats, Republicans, Black, White, green and everything in between it’s the value of our Constitution.  Right now your position that we mandate restriction on marriage are blatantly unconstitutional.  How do you know? wave after wave of judges have ruled it unconstitutional.  This issue just got an underhanded bitchslap by the supreme court.  It’s done.  This fight is over.  You and a few conservatives will eventually take it all the way to the Supreme Court.  They’ll rule against you and you know what? We’ll be glad.  This issue will be done.  and we can put it behind us and stop alienating voters with our bigotry.  If you want to overturn this eventual ruling you have a Constitutional option. You can do like the Democrats are doing and start trying to push for a Constitutional amendment, but we’ve got to warn you.  We’re not going to support you on this.  Your on your own.  As you should be.

Fourthly,  What kind of “Small government Conservative” are you?  You want to pass laws that dictate what people can do in their own homes?  No.  Our party, like other parties, is about promoting personal freedoms and responsibilities.  We’re not going to say what people can and can’t do in this area.  You say it hurts children. Your wrong, but even if you were right, it’s not our job.  We’re not going to tell parents how to parent, we’re not going to tell schools how to teach.  We are going to give people the freedoms to live there lives however they see fit.  This is what the GOP stands for, or should stand for.

In short, make good on your threat and please leave the Republican Party.

In a nearly perfect world

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Because we have a 24hour news cycle with no one actually doing any reporting, it’s important to ask, “who’s to blame for ISIS?” Is the President to blame for not moving fast enough with the airstrikes or moving faster with the military aide to “moderate” anti-Syrian forces? A solution to intensify the fighting perhaps but, at this moment, it is doubtful that ANY amount of aide could have resulted in a quick and decisive victory. The “moderate” rebels are divided, disorganized and moderate only in the sense that they’re not quite as bad as everyone else in the region. Yet. However, they just don’t have enough support to take and hold all of Syria which is a necessary step to preventing a group like ISIS from forming. Not only that, the more support they get from outside help, the less legitimate their cause. Any meaningful or decisive help will make it all but impossible to form a government in the aftermath. Few of the Presidents critics seriously blame him for ISIS, just the fanciful notion that he didn’t use a magic wand to fix the problem because he hates America. So if it’s not Obama, who can we blame next?

Well Bush obviously. It was his ill conceived and poorly executed war that destabilized the region and allowed ISIS to gain a foothold. It was Bush that paved the way for Maliki to come to power, it was him that screwed up the rebuilding of Iraq, and it was him that failed to integrate all the various factions.
Without a doubt, Bush is certainly guilty of some of that, as is Maliki, but neither is Bush to blame for the rise of ISIS. For one, ISIS started in Syria not Iraq and has only a tenuous connection to the troubles there. Assad himself destabilized Syria in events that had little to do with our Occupation in Iraq. Once Bush pushed the Sunni and Baathist minority from power, conflict was inevitable. A civil war between Sunni and Shia has been ongoing in that region since the fall of Saddam and has now escalated into ISIS. Perhaps if Bush, Assad, Maliki had been perfect rulers and Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Christians, and other minority groups could have buried the hatchet and forgiven each other for centuries of atrocities and successive repressions, ISIS could have been avoided, but that a bit much to ask for any one president.

Besides, think about it. What would have happened had we done nothing? Imagine that Bush institutes a period of nation building a civic projects to heal the nation after 9/11 instead of going to war. What happens next? We obviously can’t know the details, but we know the rough outline of this story. It’s been repeated so often there is no need to guess. At some point through weakness or incompetence Saddam or his successor falls. There’s a coup, or a revolution. Maybe the Kurds start it or the Shia. Eventually the shit hits the fan and the price for newly minted rubble goes way way down. The various factions can’t get their act together or unite in common cause and regional powers get involved in a complex conflict and chaos is born.

ISIS was inevitable. They were a glass set half off the edge of a table. Sure Bush may have bumped the table and Obama may have failed in his heroic dive to keep it from shattering on the floor but the glass itself had always been doomed. There was no saving it. There’s no cleaning it up or putting it back together. And, unless we wish to remain there forever and ever we can not and should not be involved.

In a perfect world there would be no ISIS or terrorism. But in a nearly perfect world, what do you do? You refused to be terrorized, you stand against the erosion of civil liberties, you build this nation instead of tearing down others.

Friend or foe?

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ISIS, the latest threat to come out of the Middle East, has captured the minds of our politicians and the fleeting attention of our news and media. They are a threat. So we did what we always do. We sent in air strikes in the blind hope that in doing so we will find allies and they will like it. However, it’s causing a backlash. The enemy of our enemies are also the enemy of our friends, who may also be our enemies. And now our friends and enemies are rallying to the banner, though it’s not bat all clear who “they” are and to which banner they are rallying. Now that airstrikes have begun America has put a new face on the conflict. Instead of being distant masters of the globe Syrians have close personal experience with the core values of Americans. Oh wait, you think mindless destructive chaos is not our core value? Fair enough, but how would you presume to explain this to the people cowering in the places we destroy. This is what they have learned from the presumptive greatest nation on earth. Violence and destruction.

So the plan to make friends, arm and train them, and then turn them lose on our enemies not alienate everyone. But it didn’t work did it? Of course it didn’t. You didn’t have a plan. You committed, and even now are committing, horrible acts of violence and you thought what? People would thank you for this? Because it’s easy to tell friend from foe? because alliances are black and white? Because you only kill the “bad guys”? because our motives are clear and comprehensible? Because hundreds of groups don’t have thousands of agendas that may or may not align with ours? Then you have the gaul to ask, “how did no one see this coming?” Everyone saw this coming but you were scared so you waved a magical air strike at the problem and hoped it would go away. Well it didn’t go away and now politicians want to send in ground troops. Why? What are the ground troops going to do that the air strikes can’t? Because nothing brings a community together like a foreign occupation. Oh right. We’re “liberators”. We’ll just explain that to them when we kill their sons and daughters, when we burst through the doors to look for weapons, when neighborhoods get burned to the ground for harboring “terrorists”. Because that what “liberty” will look like to them.

And then what? We’ll stick around long enough to help them form a government. It’ll be a glorious thing, this government. It’ll last throughout the ages, or at least until the first major disagreement breaks out and then it’s bring back the airstrikes.

We’ve got to learn to do better. What we’re doing now isn’t working.

Consent is indeed sexy

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Here’s what I like about the California’s, yes means yes law. I think it’s uncovered and made plain that we have in our culture the belief that coercion and assault are some how ok even romantic. I had someone tell me the other day there’s no such thing as rape culture. Yes there is and it exists every time someone says that consent is unimportant. I want two things to happen. First and foremost I want to codify minimal good behavior. I’m sorry dude, but if your partner isn’t willing and able to communicate there willingness and enthusiasm, it’s assault and you need to know that. Shockingly, not everyone understands this. Even so, it’s still rape. It’s been said over and over again that this law will ruin “good men” here’s a clue Sherlock, if these men (by the way lets not assume that sexual violence is perpetrated exclusively by men) are having sex without obtaining consent they’re not “good men” they’re rapists. And yes, rape is incredibly common. Just ask the millions of women who have been raped.

Secondly there’s a segment of our population that isn’t used to and hasn’t been taught to give positive consent. Let me be really ultra clear here. This does not mean the victims of sexual assault are to blame in any way. There is no excuse for rape ever, under any circumstances. And our culture of victim-blaming is a whole other blog post. But I do want to say, that we want people to experience the fullness and meaning of sex and this can not be had through begrudging passive non-resistance to something that is happening to you. Sex is not an “opt out” experience. It’s an experience to be actively embraced. I think that as a society we need to make that statement.

At the end of the day we’re not going to catalogue all the ways people can be victimized. We’re going to make a single profound statement. That the only way to have sex is if both partners agree enthusiastically. If this is beyond you say no (or nothing at all). Control your drinking and substance use. Even if you find a willing sober partner, you are too impaired to have sex yourself. You can’t give consent if you are drunk or high. This might also cut down on any “miscommunication”. For the record those are sarcastic quotes. We need to have this conversation in America. We need to let people who support rape culture have their say so they can be answered and judged. We need to bring a light to the mountains of disinformation, myths, lies, and cultural relics. Finally, we need to encourage positive pro-social behavior.