Archive for the ‘Racial equality’ Category

Patriotism vs. Nationalism

July 2, 2012

With an eye on the 4th of July, I feel I should honor the revolutionary spirit which created the United States and which drives us to create a more perfect union.

The revolution was not merely a trade of one authority for another, but rather a hostile response to the very concept of an absolute authority.

We did not trade one king for another: we said “Good riddance” to monarchy and created a system of checks and balances which was meant to ensure that no unopposable authority would arise.

We did not trade one state religion for another: we said good riddance to religious authorities having direct governmental power.

If we were Tories, we would not have done these things. We would have questioned the patriotism of those who did, and we would have trumpeted our own patriotism while clinging to the status quo.

But I say that despite becoming rebels, the founders were truer patriots. They strove to do what was best for their country. They tried to appeal to their Parliament and reform before they came to the conclusion that the best thing for their land and people was to become a new nation.

And so, I argue against nationalism which says that our country is perfect as it is. It is a mask which pretends patriotism and tries to reap the benefits of such a reputation. But patriotism is hard: it requires hard work and sacrifice.
It is not replaced by the smug complaisancy of nationalism.

We must keep our eyes open and unclouded. We must see the defects in our system and correct them. We must defeat the control of our country by an oligarchy of corporations and the rich, and we must rid our system of its inequalities. We must commit to the education of our citizenry, for without an educated citizenry our democracy is flawed at its core.

We must do this in order to have government of the People, by the People, for the People. We must do this to make a more perfect union.


‘President Romney’ is a serious possibility

July 1, 2012

Romney has a huge money advantage due to the extraordinary access granted to wealthy donors.

Romney’s campaign plans to send supporters from Utah to go door to door in swing states. So much for Obama’s ground game advantage.

Republican politicians are passing more restrictive voter ID requirements  to reduce liberal voting, as House Majority Leader Mike Turzai of Pennsylvania came perilously close to admitting: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

Our major hope to avoid a Romney victory is to hope people wake up to his vacillating on major issues like immigration as being part of his nature and voting for somebody who actually thinks these things are important enough to have and state an opinion.

Thanks to Political Wire for links galore.

Quiet rooms and Romney

June 26, 2012

I have written a few things here about inequality-social and economic- and between my thinking about that and this article, Mitt Romney and the Quiet Room, I’ve just had it brought home to me why I am so very opposed to Mitt Romney taking the helm of this country.

It is because he doesn’t talk about inequality. He talks about jobs, but not about  how low wages are. He talks about immigration only in the context of xenophobia and “border security,” not about people coming great distances to build a better life. He talks about women’s issues only to the extent of saying that his wife tells him that economic issues are what matter to women.

It is as though not only are matters of inequality not important to him, he doesn’t even conceive how they could be important, since they don’t affect rich white straight men with power.

Article found through Political Irony.

American Atheists’ Code of Conduct for Conferences

June 26, 2012

First, I’m thrilled that the leadership of American Atheists has started to address the concerns of the conference-going-community regarding getting strong policies in place to make conference spaces safe and welcoming.

Maybe you wonder why it is so important for atheist community events especially to be safe and welcoming spaces, and I will tell you: because so few spaces are. If you are an atheist, you have surely noticed that there are few places that you can- without censure- voice even very mild opinions such as: “I don’t see any evidence for that,” or “I don’t think we should enshrine in law faith based beliefs which would impact everyone’s life whether they believe or not.”

Let me tell you a secret. A secret that is almost unnoticed despite the fact that women have been practically shouting it off the rooftops for some time now: there are damn few safe places just to be a woman. Places where you do not need to be constantly mindful of your personal safety or feel that you are being evaluated primarily as a sexual object. So, if you are an atheist woman, wanting a place to relax as an atheist, it must necessarily also be at least a somewhat relaxing place to be as a woman.

As to the Code of Conduct itself, it is extremely both well thought out and well written. The fact that staff for the events are already being trained in dealing with issues of harassment is a relief. The fact that they are responsive and added “gender identity” to their list of protected categories also indicates how seriously they are taking this. (Thanks to Greta Christina for noticing that)

In fact, there are only 8 words in the entire Code that I have any issue with, and it is only on account of vagueness. See, I like atheist events. Part of relaxing as an atheist among other atheists is being able to point out the hypocrisy of religion, or the absurdity of religion, or the damage that religion does. And so, I would hope that any Code of Conduct at an atheist event would distinguish between verbally attacking people, and verbally attacking ideas or collections of ideas known as religions. Here is the vague part:

“Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to… religion.”

If that is intended to mean that people shouldn’t perpetuate stereotypes about people based on religious identity, or that people shouldn’t be insulting people based on religion: fair enough-I think it should be reworded, and maybe with their demonstrated responsiveness they will do so- but I’m down with that.

But the language is loose enough to be understood as meaning that I shouldn’t say “I don’t think that wine turns into blood when Catholics drink it.” because it might offend any Catholics (or accommodationists) who might be in earshot. And I really, really don’t think that we should- at atheist events- be enforcing religion’s privilege of remaining unexamined, unquestioned and unmocked.

Immigration is good for the economy

June 23, 2012

Immigration is good for the economy. This is a historical truism. It is when people leave a country, taking their skills, their labor and their wealth with them that a country suffers.

People immigrating? Send us your hard working, your skilled, your greedy yearning to become wealthy. Because those folks- whether they are working in the fields, doing research or construction- are making our country more wealthy.

Employment is not a zero sum game: If I do yard work for a living, then in addition to what I need to survive, I’m buying rakes and shovels and seed and fertilizer and all of that helps to employ the people selling, transporting, and producing those things, not to mention the people who mined or cut or harvested the raw materials.

If I work in a lab and test the effectiveness of drugs, my analysis either makes the fortune of a great many developers, or opens up the market to many more.

If I am planting seeds and harvesting crops, those crops will profit not just me, but my employer, the truckers bringing the crops to a warehouse, the warehouse attendants, the truckers bringing the food from the warehouse to the grocery store, the grocers, on through to the bag boy and shopping cart collector.

The point is this: until we reach a point where we cannot support any more mouths to feed (and this is a planetary concern, not a regional one) then more people working = more opportunities for other people to work.

Dream ON

The Economics of Immigration Are Not What You Think

Children brought across borders aren’t criminals

June 15, 2012

Obama: We aren’t going to deport kids for their parents decisions.

Sane people: FINALLY!

Republican leaders: *Apoplectic*

Thank you, Politicalwire.

Edited to add:

The policy applies to people who arrived in the United States before the age of 16, who are in school, have earned a high school diploma or who have served in the military. They also must currently be no older than 30 and have no criminal record.

Source of info NY Times, found through wonkwire.

Parody may be a great tool, but it’s not the only one.

December 12, 2011

Here’s another great response to Perry’s ‘Strong’ ad, but this isn’t a parody as are most of the others. Although there is plenty of mockery here, it takes the form of one incisive comment after another. Enjoy:

Thanks to Friendly Atheist for introducing me to this great vlogger. I have to go through all of her videos now.

Stockholm syndrome?

December 10, 2011

I’ve previously posted about mental health issues, but there is one that I think I recovered from without ever knowing I had it.

Stockholm syndrome. Let me tell you about the situation I was in:

I was convinced that I had no chance of escape. I was told that if I didn’t do exactly what my captor required of me, I would be punished without possibility of appeal, but that if I followed all instructions and helped my captor, I would be spared punishment, and even rewarded.

Sometimes the things that my captor asked of me would make things worse for other captives. If I didn’t go along, I would be punished in smaller ways than the way I feared, so that fear never diminished but grew as I imagined it. The captor never intended to let me go, and when I escaped, other captives tried to capture me again, since they too had Stockholm syndrome.

That captor was religion.

Now before I go on, I should point out that Stockholm Syndrome isn’t like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or depression. Stockholm Syndrome, rather than being a disorder, is a survival response to being a hostage or prisoner, or to abusive or controlling relationships.

This comparison occurred to me today while reading statistics about belief. Quick- who in America has suffered the most from religion in the United States?

If you said black people and women- on the one hand because of biblically sanctioned slavery and on the other because of biblically sanctioned male dominance- you’d have also pegged the most religious groups in the United States. Unfortunately the Pew Forum didn’t seem to have a similar break down regarding the beliefs of people by sexuality, or we could pursue that with the same questions.

Just as a caution: the questions differ between graphs, and the statistics are presented differently. The one about gender shows the difference between the views of women and men. The one about race shows the difference between the views of black people and the U.S. population as a whole- which means that the racial chart shows a comparison between the complete group and a subset of that group. With that in mind:

58% of women compared to 45% of men “have absolutely certain belief in a personal God.” When the question is broadened to whether a person has “absolutely certain belief in God or a universal spirit” the numbers are 86% of women and 79% of men.

Let’s think about this: The religions that have the greatest effect on American society have historically placed women in subservient roles. Those who were willing to reinforce the status quo by keeping other women in line either directly or by example got limited power over house and instruction of children and as much respect as women got in such a society. Those who opposed the status quo were branded as ungodly and unfeminine or dismissed as sexually deviant, promiscuous or as bitter old maids. Even though more women have achieved greater autonomy- through much struggle- these trends continue even today.

Could it be that between fighting people trying to fit government into women’s collective uteri and trying to avoid both sides of societal double binds placed on women (Such as avoiding being seen as either ice queen or whore) they -on average- simply don’t have as much energy to spare to resist religion as -on average- men do? Umm… YES. Yes it could.

And, on the question of race, almost 90% of black Americans said they “have absolutely certain belief in God” compared to just over 70% for Americans as a whole.

This one is even easier to analyze. In the early days of this country, Abrahamic religion was used to condone, support and encourage black slavery. The plantation owners were white, as generally were their lead overseers, but the overseers managed to maintain order not just through direct brutality but also through a system where those willing to help keep order were rewarded with more food or better bedding.

They were also given bible lessons, with emphasis placed on verses such as Ephesians 6:5-9 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. ” There was literal textbook Stockholm Syndrome going on there.

Even though slavery is gone, there is still a great deal of prejudice towards black Americans.  They are seen as an angry group- much like feminists and atheists, what a surprise- as well as seen as uneducated, often by the very people who don’t want to spend money on education to level the playing field.

The double bind I will mention here is that of either “being whitewashed or acting black.” My stepmom was talking with one of her relatives from Illinois and was told she was acting white because of how she talks. Now, we lived in California and my stepmom was to my ear just talking like a Californian. But there was almost an accusation of betrayal under the joking. The idea being that if you talk too proper you are betraying blackness. But let’s look at the other side of that- there are grammatical structures that aren’t common between Illinois and California, there are words that have completely different meaning, and differences of pronunciation that would lower your chances of being hired in California if you talk in a way that would be perceived as “acting black” by her family in Illinois. Another aspect of “acting black” in America is being christian. Despite the fact that christianity was inflicted on African-Americans (term used to denote Americans born in Africa, ‘black Americans’ is the term I use when talking about black people born in America) against their will when they were hauled across the sea into slavery, since it was almost universally adopted thereafter it is a point of cultural unity, and is very hard to break free of as a result.

Could it be that this history causes more black Americans to be trapped in christianity than would otherwise be the case? Hell yes.

And what will they think of the children?

December 4, 2011

When I heard that a church was banning “interracial couples” from membership, I had a few reactions, all at once.

One was shock: What the hell? It’s 2011, right? We have a President whose mum was white and whose dad was black. And then I thought: OH. This is a political thing as much as it is a racist idiot thing, isn’t it?

One was Polyannaish: Well, at least now everybody with some decency will know they don’t want to be associated with that church.

And I thought:  My stepmom and my dad are in that part of the country, but they can look after themselves… wait a minute. How would my little sisters be treated in that community?

That’s when the red haze descended. That’s when the big brother protective instincts kicked in. Because if people are against “interracial” couples, they probably aren’t going to be kind to their offspring either. Or anyone who isn’t of the majority skin color for that area. Because yeah, people now know to avoid that church, but that isn’t the whole story. The collection of beliefs that made the church voters think that ban was morally correct… those beliefs are the cause of this problem. And the people that hold them don’t limit them to inside their churches.

If you don't like it, deal with it.

Happy smiling couple.

And that is why I’m glad when stories like this run wild on the internet. Because unless we expose those mean little views for what they are, it will be people who can’t defend themselves- kids, people stuck in their jobs who can’t leave their areas, people just starting out during a recession, or starting over during a recession- people who are blameless who have to put up with this crap.

None of my initial reactions had to do with the institution being a church, but I do have to wonder: how many of the church members believe that the “Mark of Cain” was black skin or that the “Curse of Ham” was servility by one people to another.

GOP candidates: Islamic theocracy would be terrible, try ours instead.

November 22, 2011

Over at slate there is a piece titled Rule of Lord which is about some of the things Republican candidates have said about wanting a marriage between government and religion this primary season. I think Romney and Paul are the only two who haven’t stated such a desire, in Romney’s case possibly because he is Mormon and so other denominations of Christians are suspicious of his religious views. Let’s start with Bachmann, shall we?

Michele Bachmann says that God created government.

Yes, I’m sure he did that after making perfectly designed eyes for humans.

Herman Cain says that “people of faith and strong faith have allowed the nonfaith element to intimidate us into not fighting back. I believe we’ve been too passive. We have maybepushed back, but as people of faith, we have not fought back.”

Yes, because blue laws are passive. Because denying rights to women and homosexuals in the name of religion is you minding your own business.

In the category of distinction without difference, Santorum (of the Google problem) said: “Unlike Islam, where the higher law and the civil law are the same, in our case, we have civil laws. But our civil laws have to comport with the higher law. … As long as abortion is legal—at least according to the Supreme Court—legal in this country, we will never have rest, because that law does not comport with God’s law.”

That… sounded like envy to me. Unlike Islam which is used as a boogeyman… but we should get closer to that system.

Bachmann also said: “American exceptionalism is grounded on the Judeo-Christian ethic, which is really based upon the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments were the foundation for our law. That’s what Blackstone said—the English jurist—and our founders looked to Blackstone for the foundation of our law. That’s our law.”

Our founders looked to a lot of sources when considering our countries laws. That doesn’t mean they stole ideas from Blackstone, the guy who wrote this: “The husband and wife are one person in law; that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs every thing.”

Rick Perry- Eagle Scout, Texas Governor, and uh… oops: “Somebody’s values are going to decide what the Congress votes on or what the president of the United States is going to deal with. And the question is: Whose values? And let me tell you, it needs to be our values—values and virtues that this country was based upon in Judeo-Christian founding fathers.”

Anybody else hearing whistles?

And last, a threat to Roe vs Wade from Newt Gingrich: “I am intrigued with something which Robby George at Princeton has come up with, which is an interpretation of the 14th Amendment, in which it says that Congress shall define personhood. That’s very clearly in the 14th Amendment. And part of what I would like to explore is whether or not you could get the Congress to pass a law which simply says: Personhood begins at conception. And therefore—and you could, in the same law, block the court and just say, ‘This will not be subject to review,’ which we have precedent for. You would therefore not have to have a constitutional amendment, because the Congress would have exercised its authority under the 14th Amendment to define life, and to therefore undo all of Roe vs. Wade, for the entire country, in one legislative action.”

Holy crap. Because the old days when women were forced to abort their rape-induced pregnancies with a coat hanger were better?

I really hope that America is paying attention to these primaries. I really, really do.