Monday, October 29, 2012

Clarifying Mud Soup

Hey, kids! So, Uncle Jere has been on a major tear here lately. After that last blog, I noticed the enraged spittle that flew from my face during my manly roars of wrath had more than a touch of foam in it. I've had a mad-on about women's rights abuses, and it shows. This is the part where Uncle Jeremy knows he's going to start crossing the moral event horizon soon, and it's time to step back and take a break from this topic.  So, I'm going to clarify a few things, then move on to different things that piss me off.

First, it seems throughout my ranting that I've strayed into muddy territory. So, to be absolutely clear: I'm pro-life, actually. I'm not a fan of abortion at all. Somewhere, someone's brain just crashed to a halt. I know, because I heard the screech of mental tires. Sorry about that.

Seriously, though. I believe we should step up adoption, and open it up to all fit parents. I believe we should institute a national sexual health education program targeted to young teens and at-risk youth to begin lowering teen pregnancy. 

I believe we should stop making young people ashamed to ask about sex and sex health, because that's how we get little Suzy staring through tears at a pregnancy test after just one night in Billy's F-150 out at Lover's Lane. 

I believe we should get off our high horses and acknowledge this country has a problem with STD's. They can happen to anyone, people, and getting tested and wrapping it up are the best ways to fight back. 

I think we should fight to bring more funding and better programs to the national child services system, and instate global reforms throughout the system to stop children from being taken from good parents, keep them from being given to bad ones, and make their stay in the system a thing of worth instead of the kind of horror that movie and TV heroes rise above in their backstories.

I'd like for parents to take mandatory classes on what is and is not sane parenting, but I'm not sure who I'd trust to teach that.

I believe being a GLBT individual or couple is not a good reason to be disallowed from adopting kids. I think parents with children who are caught with minor possession of controlled substances should be evaluated for rehab and community service programs instead of being tossed in lockup because "hey, drugs."

But I do not believe in abortion, morning after pills, etc. I think in the cosmic gamble, that's the equivalent of handing the dealer a few of your cards back without asking for more and hoping to hell you can win with an incomplete hand. I know several people that might not be here today in other circumstances, and a few who nearly weren't. And every one of them is a great person.

However. I have plumbing that does not include a womb. So it's not my decision. 

That's my point. Abortion can be a heart-wrenching, painful, extremely personal decision and that's not the kind of thing politicians need to be mucking with. It's not my job to tell people what they can and cannot do. It is Congress' job, of course; but they're trying to do what makes them feel good, instead of what's needed to ensure the freedoms and personal rights of those they represent. 

I may not believe in abortion. But it's not my choice. I will never be in a position to make that choice. And at any time that someone says "I believe X is wrong, so I'm taking that option away from you" there's a moment where a conflict needs to be examined.

If the person making the decision isn't affected, something's wrong. If the person making the decision is only making it because of a strong personal belief, something's wrong. And if the person making the decision doesn't care about or recognize harm done in the making of that decision, something's very wrong.

I will fight for the right of others to make the decision that's best for them, and that's all I can do. 

Now then. Enough about women's rights for a bit, children. Am I done with the topic? Not a chance in hell. But after re-reading my last few posts, that moral event horizon is mighty close. And I think I'll stay back here from it, ok?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rape: Endorsed by God?!

I'm starting to hate Facebook. I'm trying not to blog every day, mostly because I have a life I have to keep up with, but damnit if I don't sign in and find some horrific thing laying around like dark chocolate laced with arsenic. Just…sitting there, coyly. "Come…enjoy the lethally tasty chocolate…"

What were we talking about? Right, right, Facebook and what I found that's pissing me off today. Welp, there's this Republican Senate candidate named Richard Murdock. On a side note, I'd appreciate it if a Dem would screw up where I can see them, ok? I hate all politicians and I'm feeling the need to scream at the other side. Dems? Get on that. 

Anywho, Richard Mourdock decided within his tiny, tiny brain that making the following statement in a public debate would somehow win him votes:

I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is a gift from god and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that god intended to happen.

So, we open up with a fair opinion ('life begins at conception, ') head for something approaching the sanity horizon (he'd opt to allow abortion in situations where a mother's life was threatened,) and then take a sharp left into "I hope rabid chipmunks devour your body starting with your genitals while Nyarlathotep shreds and gnaws on your living eternal soul" territory.

What the bloody unholy monstrous hell?

Now, to attempt to be somewhat evenhanded, Murdock is using the classic political fallback of "That's not what I meant!" His attempt to clarify, unfortunately, make things worse:

Mourdock said what he meant to say was that god does not intend rape, but is the only one who can create life.
“Anyone who would suggest that is just sick and twisted. No, that's not even close to what I said," Mourdock said.

So … God doesn't mean for anyone to get raped … but he did intend babies. Quick! To the Analogy Cave!

This is the equivalent of saying you didn't mean to break that egg, but the resulting omelette was your goal all along. That's logically inconsistent. If you intend an omelette, then barring the equivalent of divine conception (teleporting the egg shell's contents into a pan, let's say) you kind of have to break the freaking egg. 

In order for a woman to get pregnant, there really kind of has to be man-juice involved somewhere in the process. Biological necessity, you know. So how do you justify claiming that God totally meant for that kid to happen with that woman, but the rape was not in the plan?

Was there somewhere else that man-juice was intended to come from? Does God sit up there on his throne and use some absurd version of Quicken to figure out where all the juice is and where it's going to be? This much makes kids, this much in sperm banks, this much in Kleenex…

So, are we saying that the woman was supposed to meet the man of her dreams and make babies, and this damn rapist came along and hijacked God's plan?!

Well…no, because that would be inconsistent with the fundamentalist description of God as an entity

I am not, nor can I, make the argument that God knows all and should stop bad things from happening. We're free agents, given license to be good or bad as we see fit. Rape happens because we are, by and large, a horrible species and certain portions of our species slip over into the "absolute monster" category. 

What I can say is that there is no sane, human reason to bring rape up as anything other than a horrible act that is antithetical to moral sanity in any belief system. Further, there is no reason to start picking at rape and trying to classify, sanitize, or justify it, or worse to declare that it's aftereffects are anything but traumatic and terrible.

Rape is rape is rape is rape is rape, damnit. It's one of the few words associated with painful trauma in our language that has no publicly acceptable euphemisms. None! Freaking suicide has euphemisms. We can't even conceive of a word or set of words for rape that is, as Merriam-Webster puts it: 

the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.

That's how unfathomably horrible rape is to sane people: we can't think of anyway to make even talking about it less horrific.

And yet, we have individuals bringing it up as a talking point in the course of discussing the application of their religious opinion to legislation. And then they defend each other! Here's Rep. Steve King (R-IA) on Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO):

"Todd Akin is a strong Christian man, with a wonderful family.”

In his statement, King distanced himself from Akin’s statement.

“I have never heard of and categorically reject the so-called medical theory that launched this controversy,” he said. “The people who promote these vicious attacks are paid to create lies and to assassinate the character of elected officials.”

First off, let's take a second to point out that while King's comments might (conceivably) have been misquoted out of context, Akin's were made on the radio. There's not that many ways to misquote a recording of a statement taken directly from a person's own lips. He said it, he meant it, he thought he had documentation to back it up. But King's "character assassination" refers specifically to Akin, not himself.

So that's fairly ridiculous in itself. But then note that he doesn't make the distinction that Akin is a "good" man; he says "strong Christian." I've noted again and again that religious or miraculous thinking used in lieu of critical thinking leads to some fairly horrible places. And here it is again. The gist is that Todd Akin is an ok guy not because he gives two rat farts about the well being of half of his constituents, but because he believes strongly in Christianity.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: if your religious beliefs don't include "live and let the fuck alone" stay the hell out of politics. We are not a theocracy. We have specific constitutional amendments that allow us to live here without practicing your religion for you. And any legislation passed on the grounds that "the Bible says" 

So, again, shut up. Sit down. Take a some night courses at a local college so you can brush up on modern science. And then quit dicking around with human rights while claiming moral imperative. 

There has never been, and will never be, a unified moral imperative. And if you believe it is moral to force suffering on others for no reason other than personal righteousness? 

Then you are as much a monster as, or worse than, any rapist.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

El Shaddai Fhtagn*

Fair warning, darlings. Uncle Jeremy is feeling facetious today. This, naturally, is the worst mood for a vindictive opinionated writer to be in when, say, going off on the faults in religion. Three guesses what we're talking about today, and the first two don't count…

For those that are just tuning in: I like religion and spirituality, I hate the use of religion in place of critical thinking, and I especially hate it when a deity is used to justify bad things done in the name of religion. Got all that? Sweet. Now, let's tuck into this right quick. For the first time, I am unashamedly going to fire all cannons at Christian fanatics. Note that last word, before the lynch mob forms: fanatics.

There are those Christians who have the seeming unshakeable belief that their God is the final end of all things. Nothing done in his name can be wrong, for these people. From them, we get the current assault on women's rights. We get an entire faction of political and social life that revolves around creating a theocracy. We have the suppression of rights for LGBT individuals. We have theological discussion championed as science. I can't turn on my radio or TV without finding some way that Christian fanaticism is hurting the world somewhere, someway, however small.

This is not to say that I dislike Christianity. Let's be very clear on that: I like the ideals espoused by the various branches of Christianity that I'm aware of. It's the extremes that some of the religion's practitioners will and can go to, in the name of the religion, that offend me. 

So far, this is all par for the course for me, right? Like the religion, wish people practiced it, blah-blah-blah. But here's the thing: in pure function the Christian God, as defined by the fanatics closely resembles a Lovecraftian horror.

Oh, yes. I now postulate that if all the various positions on God are true, he's the entire Cthulhu mythos in a box. With ribbons.

How do I get there from pretty paintings by Michelangelo? Well, let's look at this: first up, the power level postulated. 

The Christian god is defined as omnipotent. That means nothing is impossible, there is no force more powerful, that's it, the end. But! An omnipotent being could still be beneficent. After all, the phrase "absolute power corrupts absolutely" refers to humans

We flawed creatures, given the power to do absolutely anything at will, would make a massive mess of things. No living being can even imagine having that much power, much less what could be done with it. We'd have to apply that insane amount of juice within our scope of experience. And that would be horrible.

A deity with absolute power, on the other hand, would have a much wider scope of experience, and would technically be born/created with or have always had that sort of power. So it would not necessarily corrupt such a being, and would allow for a sphere of responsibility that could make a decent god.

But then we slide a little closer to H.P.'s ol' fish. The Christian god is also omniscient. On the one hand, this makes for an infinite scope of experience. On the other hand, this being literally knows everything all at once. There's no concept of time because everything is now. There's no concept of individualism beyond what that being chooses to perceive. 

And while yes, this being could know and perhaps understand human emotion, the problem is that this being also knows what it feels like to be a sun. Or a planet. Or a black hole. Or a worm, an ant, a speck of dirt, a dinosaur, a flame, a drop of water, a deluge, a hurricane, the Coriolis spiral in a bathtub drain…

And without a sense of time, if all of existence is one moment of pure knowledge for this being, then it is all those at once. Oh, and it's also all powerful. That's so far beyond human understanding as to be outside the realm of analogy. We quite frankly don't have words to describe this being's existence. But this is still within the realms of the loving being described by Christians. Such a being could, conceivably, use its awesome power and knowledge in ways unknown and unknowable to show love for creatures it created.

But wait. There's more. 

See, this god is also omnipresent. Everywhere, in all places and things, at all times. So, to recap: this god has the power to do anything; it knows all things in existence at all times simultaneously; and it inhabits reality perfectly, permeating it entirely from the moments when all the universe was an infinitely dense point, to the final moments when it will be a frozen wasteland.

It could still be beneficent, however. This is not a total loss. Such a being could have perfect understanding, could love its creations. After all, such a being would know us perfectly, inhabit us totally, and have absolute power in our lives. 

Yeah…problem is, once we get outside pure theory, there's supposedly this one book and an assload of historical precedent for what this being is supposed to be all about. A God-o-pedia, if you will. 

S'called the BIble. Heard of it?

Sweet! So when this absolutely infallible rulebook is interpreted to give the foundations for modern Christianity, it gets ugly.

If the Bible is absolutely correct, if the dogma of the Catholic Church (it's the oldest Christian denomination standing. Bite me.) is true, everything that ever happened, is happening, and could happen is all one eternal moment of existence for this being, right? 

Including, I don't know, the War of Heaven and the Fall of Mankind? 

And there it is. There's the problem right on the nose. If God's word is infallible, if the Bible is a solid source of information about what God wants and the actions taken, if it can be interpreted correctly to allow for man to judge man and to make causing harm in the name of righteousness acceptable…then we have a seriously malicious bastard on our hands.

Think about it: That war kicked off because an angel didn't want mankind put ahead of his kind. Mankind's fall was possible because that angel was deliberately given the explicit power to go on day-trips out of his maximum security prison. A fall that was only possible for that creature to bring about because an omnipotent being told a pair of brand new creatures that they weren't to do something just because.

What? They were warned? No, not really.

Here's the Douay-Rhiems on the subject:

But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.
Genesis 2:17

Anyone that wants to complain about my textual choices: the Douay is the (chronologically and linguistically) closest translation to the original Aramaic without speaking Latin or Greek. So I neither know nor care what you KJV says. This is the closest to the freaking source, so it's what I'm using.

So, quick point then: when did the subject of death come up? I mean, we've got one guy that was brought to life from a pile of dirt, and a chick that was formed from one of his bones. They don't have any knowledge whatsoever of reality beyond the extremely limited perceptions of their existence. Children in all but form.

Children don't understand death. 

That warning was as meaningless as saying: "if you eat that, you'll flibberty-wob." The only way to know why they shouldn't have eaten it in the first place was to eat it. Worse, the idea of consequences wasn't present either. If that tree was the only way in the whole world to learn the distinction between good and evil, that means those two suckers didn't have a concept of "bad." Everything that had ever happened to them was pleasant. Every other being and creature they met was pleasant. How the hell are they supposed to know that something bad can happen if they do something stupid if they have no idea what bad and stupid are?

Ahh, some would nod meaningfully, but it's a test of obedience. And if there's a stick, you can't decide if someone is obeying because they want to or because they're afraid of the stick.

Couple problems: a stick was provided, they just had no way to know it was a stick. Two, you've met one intelligent being. You have no concepts for anything beyond love and pleasant outcomes. Obedience is guaranteed, because if you have no idea what bad is, no concepts of greed or envy, or lust, or power, then there's no reason to do what the nice Deity asked you not to do.

Unless, of course, you meet the second ever intelligent being in your whole existence. And that being actually gives you a somewhat intelligible reason why you should.

Remember the bit where the first poor sap to tell this all powerful being "no" got to go live in a festering hole of a maximum security prison? Remember the bit where he gets day-trips?

Now, also hold in your mind that these people have no reason to distrust a talking snake. They don't know what betrayal is, can't fathom lies, and think of God as an awesome big bro type guy that gives them good things all the time because he can.

For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as  Gods, knowing good and evil.
Genesis 3:5

So…basically, we eat this, and we become like that awesome person that we love so much? And we could maybe, I don't know, give him some great stuff like he gives us?

Yeah. That's pretty much what that looks like. The only being in existence that knows what's going on, knows how to lie, and has the freedom to get to the brand new species that has no concept of anything bad or wrong, "somehow" gets to them and casually mentions they could be like their big brother, and all they have to do is the only thing he asked them not to. Which they don't have a reason for not doing anymore at that point, since they don't know what "betrayal" or "disobedience" mean.

Ah, but sure, this is all free will, right? Stepping back, letting people choose their own path…sure.

In this vein, please feel free to let your toddlers play with lit candles, or out on the highway, because they're free to choose. Why wouldn't we do that? Ohhh, right, because we know that the only way to exercise free will is to know what the choices are. 

So…where does this leave us? Well…basically, God punished an entire race, for doing something they couldn't understand, at the behest of the only evil creature in the universe, who can only leave his prison because God lets him. And who, by the way, rebelled in the first place because of those beings he helped destroy.

That would seem to be a fairly high benchmark for malice. All the horrible things that happen to humans, according to Christians, goes back to there. 

All the times the Bible has been applied absolutely, all the times that a fanatic Christian says, "X is wrong, and should never happen, no matter who gets hurt, because God loves us"? 

Those all stem from the basic principle that the original sin stained us somehow, and therefore inclines us to sin. 

Sounds at this point like I'm taking on the whole religion, no? Here's the catch: Jesus showed up. And spent three years telling everyone he could get to listen to him that the key to life, the universe, and everything was to love everyone, judge no-one, get through life being nice to people and doing the best you can to obey the basic rules. 

And then knowing it was going to happen was betrayed by a close friend to a bunch of royal bastards that tortured him, and then killed him in the most painful means available to them. Which he took on the chin because he was the only sacrifice big enough to appease God for the bullshit scenario that put mankind in the hole in the first place. 

That's it. That's the whole sum total of what it means to be Christ-like. Love, peace, helping others by any means available, and acceptance of everyone, knowing that if anything goes wonky the all powerful deity will catch things up on the backswing.

All this other stuff? Protecting the world from sinners, stamping out sinful things through legislation, protecting your fellow man from even the ability to sin by voting to have his free will curtailed? Choosing to interpret the Bible to say that you can hate gays and hold women to unreasonable ancient laws, but still watch football on Sundays and not be killed if you want to have an affair?

That's where God becomes Cthulhu. Because even if all of this is some strange attempt to just allow a race to determine their own course, none of that crap is in the playbook. None of that applies. We're supposed to follow precepts of love, to live in the image of a God claiming to be loving.

So, the question to take away here is: which is it? 

Is God a malicious eldritch abomination that is essentially toying with beings that are suffering because it amuses it?

Is God a being of love just trying to let his kids grow up, and the entirety of human history is one long "this is why you don't play with matches;" and if that's true, how can you justify hurting and judging others in the name of a being that explicitly told you to do neither?

Is God a chessmaster, playing out the moves all at once to reach an unknowable "perfect" outcome? And again, if so, why choose to interpret what is claimed to be his rulebook to say that you should do things the namesake of your religion told you not to? Wouldn't playing outside the rules sort of invalidate the game?

And finally, the one that most will both agree and disagree with, is God everything he's claimed to be, and you're right in interpreting his word to allow you to simultaneously claim the salvation offered by his Son, while emulating the behavior of the Father in the old testament?

That last? That's the scariest. Because if that's correct, then the statement "made in his image" is absolutely correct in every particular. And this world we've built? This is heaven. After all, if God is just like us, only more powerful in every respect…then there's nothing but more of this on a larger scale waiting when we kick it. 

It would mean that this horrible little world we're trying to make better is heaven in miniature, with fewer special effects and dead people. And frankly, the thought that God is a really big human and "perfection" simply means "encompassing all that it is to be human" is the worst possible outcome to me. 

I'd honestly sleep better at night knowing Cthulhu's more powerful twin was watching me and dreaming of how my soul will taste than knowing that the most powerful force in all reality…

…is just like us in every way.


*Rough translation: God Almighty Dreams

Monday, October 22, 2012

Guerilla Tactics of The Human Rights War

Howdy, everyone! Sorry for the delay. Fall break, the flu, and a deluge of tests collaborated to prevent me from getting regular posts up. But I am once again wroth with the Facebooks, so here we go.

Take a look at this. 

Now, nobody start screaming yet. The individual who posted this is a devout Catholic with a paramilitary background, and a good man. I want to be clear on that, because I'm addressing the problems associated with posting this shit, not the man himself.

Let's also be clear on one more thing: I don't agree that women's reproductive health care is an issue that should be politicized. Decisions made regarding personal health are hard enough without around 600 politicians standing over your shoulder. So, for the record, women's health is (to me) an individual choice, and politicians should butt out.

The corollary here is that: the other side of this argument must be acknowledged as  a valid point of view for discourse to occur

For those that aren't sure, the other side of this argument is (very generally) that certain options related to women's reproductive health are morally reprehensible and should be legislated against. 

No, I don't agree. Does that mean that the other side has no right to hold that opinion? Nope. An opinion is an opinion is an opinion. 

I can't call bullshit on someone else for no reason other than "because bullshit." While it may not be, to me, a moral or ethical behavioral/belief system, it is to that person and I must respect that they hold that belief to have any discussion whatsoever. 

Ok, disclaimers aside: here we go.

There's obviously a few things wrong with this. Straight up, no lie. Here's a short list, because a long list would have us here all day:

1. The comparison is horrible. 

2. There are severe generalizations on both sides, to the point of making what almost looks like a "straw man" argument.

3. The wording obscures the point, so that it seems at first glance as if there is a 1-1 comparison being made and that both sides are being equally decried.

4. Even if all of the above were overlooked, there is still a contention made that fighting for rights/beliefs is not a valid course  of action without the presence of violence. 

5. Finally, there's the fact that this follows the "first world problems" meme model. The comparison belittles half of an argument that is polarizing the entire nation, by pointing out that since it could be worse, the other side's argument is invalid.

Holy troll logic, Batman!

Point the first: comparing non-analogous incidents to make a point is always bad. While in both cases, gender war is being waged, in the case on the left, the woman has been physically attacked and brutalized. In the case on the right, the argument is for equal rights and is being waged as a legal and social battle against selective discrimination in healthcare. This is not an equal comparison. 

The analogy (cause y'all know I love me an analogy) is comparing the movement for equal LGBT rights to the fight against laws that make it legal to kill gay people. Same general group of people being attacked, both are serious concerns, but these are two very different types of attack. Comparing physical violence to a denial of rights is not an equal comparison. Both are serious, but it's two different spheres.

To jump off a deep end, there is a similar argument made to create a false fear: that if abortion remains legal without any of the tweaky little caveats, women will use elective abortion as late in the day birth control. I will not argue this one out, because sanity

But the principle is the same. Any time an argument, however valid or invalid, is compared to a broad assumption or to a non-analogous but similar argument, you are failing to make a reasoned comparison.

This leads neatly into point two: generalization. On the left, and I'm going to try for once to handle this with kid gloves, is an extreme example used for maximum shock. Women are abused, maimed, and killed for trying to exercise equal rights in situations where severe rights abuse and retaliation for attempts to exercise those rights are tolerated or the norm.

This is a serious issue. Acid throwing is a horrible practice that is widespread in certain parts of the world. But let's step back for a moment. On the one hand, holy shit women are being horribly abused! On the other hand, if we're going to use this as an example, could we focus for a moment on the bit about acid throwing?!

This is a woman. Who's been attacked with acid. For an unknown "infraction" presumably to do with modesty, but potentially because her husband felt like it. Or her neighbor. Or the psycho down the street. So yeah as examples go, this is a pretty strong and attention grabbing one. But as a goddamn human being, my first response isn't "women are being tortured." 

My first response is "oh my gods, people are being assaulted with acid! Someone get Chuck Norris a nuclear flamethrower and a C130, stat!"

Does it happen to men? No clue. Couldn't say, didn't find anything. But at the end of the day, that's a horror unto itself and should be treated as such, not thrown out as an umbrella argument for abuses of women. 

I mean, seriously. If we're going to have a talk about women's rights, let's talk about the abuses of women's rights and cover the ground that needs to be covered, damn it. This is part of the picture, but to claim it as a whole is both horrific in it's ethnocentric arrogance and degrading to reduce it to a shock tactic to make other rights concerns seem less pressing.

Women in cultures where this is acceptable can face grinding, horrific lives involving casual brutality, lack of education, and slavery. So should this issue be addressed? Hell yes. Should you slap it on a meme a shock tactic to represent the brutality against women that is rampant worldwide? Hell no.

On the right, we have the claim that this woman, Sandra Fluke, "believes there's a war on women in America because she can't get enough condoms to get her through law school."

Full stop. What?

The left side panel's generalizations are sneaky, hard to address, and basically the kind of argument sane (not sane, if you missed that bit) people won't touch with a ten-foot pole. Because calling it out can make you look like an ass. 

The right side, on the other hand, is rife with juicy bits to call out. First off, the bit about condoms to get through lawyer school implies: Sandra Fluke is only obtaining a law degree through sexual liaisons, Fluke is sexually promiscuous, the only reason a woman would want birth control must be to allow her to be sexually promiscuous, Fluke is an entitlement junkie that wants the government to sponsor a multi-year consequences free sex junket…I could go on. For pages. 

So we'll address these first because there's really only one response: you misogynistic, chauvinistic, morally reprehensible, ethically challenged boor. I personally know several young ladies that rely on birth control to regulate and temper their menstrual cycles to keep said cycles from a) rendering them immobile for half the month every month due to excruciating agony; or b) keep their cycles from straight up killing them or destroying their bodies.

And let's not beat around the bush, here, guys: ever been kicked in the nads?  Not a love tap. Full on assault to the babymakers. Saying it hurts is like saying oxygen is somewhat conducive to civilization, right?

Now imagine being kicked in your tenders twice a second. For a minimum of one week, up to two weeks, at a stretch. Starting roughly at age 10. While having people tell you that this is now a part of your normal day to day existence, and will occur monthly for the next twenty to thirty years. Oh, and there's a medication that can lessen the suffering, but God says it's a sin. Have a nice day!

Boys, if this was happening to men, there'd be automatic birth control dispensers  on every street corner. You'd hit the ATM, walk two steps, and hit the AHD, or "Automatic HALLE-FREAKIN-LUJAH Dispensary." 

And that's when considering it as a quality of life mechanism. As in, bestowing some, not adding to some that already exists. One woman I know locked herself in her room for a minimum of a week out of every month for close to a decade before she got the meds she needed. Because she couldn't walk for the pain.

Let's then turn to the consideration that this can kill women. How? Allow me to introduce endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome. Read through those. See where it says that treatment involves "hormone regulation"? The most common form of non-invasive, affordable hormone regulation is birth control medication. And yes, there's shots and such. But guess what? Those shots are dangerous. Oh and, strangely, they have the exact same freaking effects as birth control. 

Because that's what hormones do, you nitwits. They regulate bodily functions. There's a reason endocrinologists get called in when shit gets real and other doctors are scratching their heads. It's because they're damn near voodoo magicians due to the sheer number of bodily systems hormones control, and the myriad of ways hormones interact. 

How can this kill women? Welp, looky there at treatment courses one and two: pain meds, which are addictive and only a palliative remedy, and surgery. Yeah. Options a, b, and c here are "use birth control," "pop pills that may hamper your ability to function and will only mask the massive damage being done to your body," and "go into surgery and allow invasive damage to be done to your body, which will in no way prevent the problem from reoccurring but may provide temporary relief."

No, really. Surgery is a temporary solution for these disorders. And there are always chances of death in surgery, due to complications resulting from surgery, or when multiple surgeries become necessary. 

Now, there is some element out there that will now commence to say: "Oh, well, for medical use, sure. But let's not be using it as birth control. And while we're at it, condoms have no medical purpose and are evil!"

We're hitting on core belief systems here. The belief that condoms are only necessary because sex happens outside monogamous, committed, long-term, married relationships is absolutely factual. 

My response here is that as soon as you find a way to eliminate STD's and enforce a 100% effective abstinence rate for all individuals that fall outside that very narrow range, I'll be sure to stop yelling at you for trying to ban condoms. People have sex. Sex causes both the spread of STD's and the spread of people. Condoms keep the one in check, and in the case of the latter it's between them and the Deity of their choice. Nope, that's it, point made, closing argument now, not carrying into it any further.

Going waaaay back to the part where I said there were two major generalizations on the right side of that meme: I should think the second would be obvious by now. The idea is to make it seem ridiculous to think that there's a war on women because ladies can't get Uncle Sam to spring for Trojans. 

Given the fact that this is a health issue, with pain, suffering, and illness in the balance and given that the most strongly affected individuals in this argument are women, I would have to say that's a pretty fine case for a freaking war on women!

But, as with the left side, it's a generalization. We have wage inequality, we have education inequality, we've got glass ceilings, we have discriminatory practices in hiring, we have large segments of half of our population as the most widespread targets of some of our most heinous crimes. All these things make up the war on women as a whole, and should be taken into consideration before dismissing an entire cultural battle on the grounds that a woman's right to reproductive healthcare conflicts with your religious beliefs.

Onwards to point three! Finally, a short point. Basically, this is what might be called "dead baby" humor. But without humor. So what happens is, at first and even second glance, it appears as though both women in the meme are being called out for mistakenly believing that their situations constitute a war on women. 

That one, I will admit, might just be me. But it took me a couple of seconds of blind fury to realize this was a "first world problems" meme, and that the woman on the left was not being decried for taking a jar of acid to the face

On that note, point four: the contention that direct violence must be present for human rights concern to be valid. 


If someone robs you, that's a crime and they get punished. Even if no-one got "hurt" as in physically harmed, there's still "hurt" involved in being deprived of goods, services, and certain intangibles like security, privacy, and peace of mind. 

Leaving the worst of the health concerns aside, a loss of health care creates a loss of: services, health, quality of life, and the right to exercise personal beliefs in the pursuit of individual medical care. 

As to that last? At the risk of throwing a red herring here, a person who gives their power of attorney to someone else is giving them a tangible legal power. If it's a real enough right that you can legally stick it on paper and transfer it to someone else, then yes it's entirely possible to deprive someone of it. And declaring that one class of individuals does not have the choice to exercise that right in the area of healthcare that is exclusive to them is indeed discriminatory and a denial of rights. 

There aren't any truly victimless crimes, people. If you really can declare it to be a victimless crime, it might be time to go look at that legality again. Because if it ain't hurting anyone at all, why the hell are we wasting jail space on it?

But to get to the fifth and final point. It was covered a little in point four, but there's enough of a distinction to justify more extended ranty goodness.

Contending that because things are worse elsewhere, anyone who has a similar problem in a given situation is a whiny whiner who should STFU and GTFO.

This…pisses me off on so many levels. Ever tried to tell someone about a problem you're having? Sometimes the response is a strong slap, usually verbal, to the ego to remind you that your problem isn't and you really need to stop whining. That's fine, we all need reality checks occasionally.

Doing this is the other side of that. This is the verbal slap when the problem is real. This is that time you sit down to tell someone your problems or concerns, and they spend the next hour telling you how much worse their problems are. The point is to belittle your problems so they can justify not addressing them. In other words, they want you to shut up.

How do I know this? Welp, growing up this was a fairly common tactic for my extended family and certain parts of my immediate family. Problems were buried under a deluge of "well, look at how my life is going. How do you think I feel?"

It's a misdirection tactic, and a vicious one at that. Using it in this context? Wrong on every level, disrespectful to both women pictured, and arrogant as hell. Because in this case, the person using this tactic isn't even involved. Unless someone can show me proof that a woman built that image, I'm going to assume it was a guy. 

And then I'm going to want to kick him in the nads, because there's no reason in any sane universe that he can claim the "problems could be worse, STFU" argument and have it mean anything. Because a man would be making that claim for a total stranger undergoing travails and horrors he can't imagine in his darkest nightmares. 

To be clear: a woman could make the argument meaningfully. But it would still be a red herring, smoke and mirrors thrown out because smoke and mirrors. No one on earth can use this argument in this way and make a useful argument.

Bottom line, then: the argument for/against women's reproductive rights is not soluble by one guy sitting in an office chair writing an angry blog. But it certainly won't be solved by using horrible, sick, twisted memes to express points of view. 

So for the love of all that's holy: argue for your freaking side if you must. But don't use misleading dead baby humor to try and invalidate the other side of the argument entirely. It's sickening and only showcases ignorance and cruelty. 

You want to be taken on as making an actual argument? Then make one, damnit.

Or else shut up, sit down, and get your sexist ass out of the way so women can get to the healthcare that is their right as human beings. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Something Pleasant This Way Comes

And now, for a bit of positivity. Which is rare for me when blogging, because there's so very much crap on this earth that has me reaching for the handgun I won't allow myself to carry. Y'all have no idea how often my right hand spends clenching and unclenching just over my right hip/thigh, where the holster would sit. No freaking idea.

But the other day, I was zipping along on my way to work, when I heard an NPR story that nearly made me pull over to applaud better. For some reason, I can't find the actual radio story, but here's the Associated Press version.

NEW YORK (AP) — Advertisements preaching religious tolerance and an end to bigotry are going up in Manhattan subway stations.

A court decision forced the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to accept ads implying that enemies of Israel are "savages" and urging subway riders to "support the civilized man" and "Defeat Jihad."

Now the MTA has sold additional space to groups that disagree with the message of those ads.

Ads by a rabbis' group were to go up Monday. They proclaim: "Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors."

The Christian group Sojourners is paying for ads, also going up Monday, that say: "Love your Muslim neighbors."

Critics say the anti-jihad ads equate all Muslims or Palestinians with savages. But ad sponsor Pamela Geller has insisted the term applies only to people who support violence against Israel.

Whooo! Now that's what I'm freaking talking about! That's how religion is supposed to work, damnit. A faith system is supposed to be about caring for your fellow man, supporting those in need, working for the betterment of mankind regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc,. That's the freaking point. No one gets left out in the cold.

I get so worn out reading about religion as an excuse for bigotry. I read stories every day about religion being used as an excuse to ignore women's rights; how religious leaders use spiritual threats and bullying to force their congregations into line politically.

Religion should not be an argument for anything but religion. Faith should not be a temporal weapon, wielded to force victory for your "side." And if only by saying "it's God's will" can you support your stance, then keep your stance away from my politicians. Because I have enough trouble knowing some of them are bigots without watching spiritual leaders climb up on the stump with them.

It's nice to see that some spiritual leaders actually understand what "spiritual leadership" means. So for you, awesome rabbis and Christian activists, here's 20 or so seconds of celebratory Tiny Dance:

You've freaking earned it. Keep up the good work!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Handbasket Riders On Rollercoaster Lifts

Today, there isn't anything pissing me off, for a wonder. Not that there aren't things happening that would normally piss me off. I'm simply too tired to give a fart. 

For those that don't know me personally, I'm a college student. This semester, I'm also a part time lab assistant. I'm a professional journalist working part time, a full time husband, and a volunteer board member for a local BDSM group. I get four to five hours of sleep a night, the homework is backing up, the housework is glaring at me like a hall monitor that's caught you without a pass, and we just finally got our fuzzy child home a month after moving into the new apartment. She's an old little girl, and takes a bit of caring for.

My sister-in-law is currently in legal proceedings that I will not discuss, beyond saying that she's in no trouble and I have to drive up to the Oklahoma panhandle at least once a month. This month, it'll be twice due to the comedy of errors.

As recently noted, I've lost one of my anchors in life. I'm switching degree tracks after I finish my associates this semester. My husband and I are adjusting to living on completely our own for the first time in our relationship, and while it's wonderful it is an adjustment.

What? A point? Right, I had one somewhere.

I have no clue what I'm doing anymore. I write to write because writing helps me think. I write erotic work to keep the creativity flowing, I write near dadaist fiction filled with non-sequiturs because that's how my mind works. I write news because I'm paid to. 

I haven't painted anything in over a year, haven't composed anything in two. I haven't been out in a dress in…dang, two, almost three years. That last is going to be rectified on Hallowe'en, but still. 

My degree is nearly useless in my field, and my field is changing so much I have to go get a different degree because I no longer recognize my first love. I don't want to be in this anymore, but the English track I'll be switching to feels…well, like change. I've been working towards this for three years, and at the end of this semester, not so much anymore.

I'm so tired of being tired. I'm tired of fighting all you fuckers that have stories because you're afraid I'm out to get you. I'm grateful to those who work with me, but more often than not news sources run screaming from the mere suggestion of an interview.

I'm tired of homework, tired of class work, tired of spending hours and hours of my week listening and taking notes, only to panic and fight to get everything in on deadline and keep my grades up. I love my professors, don't get me wrong, but it's been a while since I've taken a day just to have a day, talked to a professor for the joy of talking, without a need for information or one eye on the clock. 

For those that know me really well, let me reassure you: no this is not a lead-in to a hemp fandango, or anything similar. I got over that years ago, and I'd have led with that if it was the problem. 

No, I look forward and I see a future there. I see my husband, and any boyfriends we may have, and babies, and publishing at least a little of my work, and all my zany family (both chosen and blood) hanging out as best they can. 

I just haven't the foggiest idea how to get there anymore. But damn it if i'm not going to keep grinding on. 

Because my point here is this: I may not know where I'm going or how I'm going to get there. I may be headed down in a hand-basket at warp 6. But I can't stop moving. I'm exhausted, and feel like beaten bird crap, and my mind is filled with mothballs, but I'm still going.

I'm damn well not going to stop. Ever. Sleep when you're dead, and maybe not even then. So for anyone out there that's looking at me and going, "slow down. You're so tired, you need a break, you need to take care of yourself."

Nope, slowing down is never going to happen.

I may be tired, but I'm still going. Being tired just means I have to watch more carefully that I don't hit the guard rails on life's highway.

I've taken breaks, and nearly gone mad. For me, it's better to run in the dark and pray I get somewhere good than wait for the dawn, and try to make up lost time.

My body is a rental. I've got maybe 60-80 years in it, and then it's repossessed. I'm going to get as much mileage out of it as possible. I've maintain it as I go the best I can, but if it can't keep up, that's a design flaw. And since the only time I'll get to take  that up with the manufacturer is after the repossession, I'm not overly worried about it.

I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I'm not Superman. I have no idea where I'm going, but I'm making marvelous time getting there.

And I'm not stopping, slowing down, deviating, or flinching. I'll catch a nap if I have to and come back roaring. 

So for everyone in my life: this acceleration? The way I've been moving faster and faster, getting more and more exhausted? That's the ramp on the rollercoaster. We're going to go a hell of a lot faster before we're done. Try and keep up. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

In Childhood Dreamings Unimagined

You know that feeling you have as a small child? That once you grow up, the world will make sense. The you will find a rhyme and reason, a pattern to things. That whatever your childhood dumps on you, it'll be ok someday, because someday you'll be an adult. Gods, I hate that feeling now.

Why? Because every time I turn around, I realize a) I still have a bit of it, and b) the cosmos has an infinite number of way to beat me over the head with it. We're going to talk about my mother today, Herr Dr. Internets. I'll just stretch out on this virtual couch, shall I?

My mother is, as all persons are, complex. I can't make unqualified statements about her, except that I love her. She's a sometime saint and frequent bigot; a fundamentalist doomsday Roman Catholic, and a mother raising her children to survive an ongoing world; she's a true genius, but also a Renaissance woman who prefers the methods of pre-Industrial America.

This woman has both pulled me through and put me through more hell than I can describe in one place comfortably. On the one hand, when I pulled crazy bullshit as a teen, she was standing there to keep me from losing everything. On the other hand, she drove me back into the closet three times and raised me knowing I was gay but still punishing any behavior that smacked of gender nonconformity.

For the good she's done, I've spent years as an apologist for the "quirks" she has. I tell stories on my mom a lot and though I try to balance them between accomplishments and quirks, the end result is often "geez, dude, your mom is nuckin' futs."

So I explain. I clarify her point of view. I clarify the point of view of the church she belongs to. I have spent more time in theological debate over why my mother thinks the way she does than I have actually talking to my mother. And that's over a period of five years. Turns out, this was a huge mistake.

Yesterday I sat down with my mom to finish a discussion we'd started over the phone. Quick back story: she'd said, through text, she wanted me to come back to the church. I called her and explained what's going on with the Catholic church right now. Since mom was in the middle of dinner, we decided to postpone since I was visiting my grandmother (who lives with my parents) and we could have the talk in person. Which brings us to yesterday.

Coffee was made and poured, I hunted down an ashtray, and we began. I'm a very humanist thinker, given to logical trains of thought and clarity of wording. If you say it to me in a debate, damn well know that what you say and how you say it aren't the same thing to me. If you mean one thing, but say something that doesn't quite mean what you intended I will call you on it.

My mother is the exact opposite style of debate. She interrupts a lot to restate her positions, or to demand clarification. My mother is, to date, the only person on the planet that causes me to consistently want to scream "what do you mean, what do I mean?" as a matter of course. She is also the only person I know who can inject enough ambiguity into a statement to allow her to completely change its meaning anywhere from 2 minutes to 10 years later...and leave you wondering if that's what she meant all along.

Long story short, it's a headache talking about anything more complex than the weather, especially if it's something we both have strong views about.

Consequently, the discussion lasted four hours. I won't detail all the arguments and counterarguments made. Just know it would have gone on longer, but for one thing: we hit an ideological impasse.

After hearing the dozens of arguments and tricks of rhetoric and sophistry that allow her to make sweeping statements and then argue the opposite on a detail level without opposing said sweeping statement, I finally made the argument I've wanted to make for years.

"But Mom, 'love the sinner, hate the sin' hurts people. It's dehumanizing, it assumes an entire group of people will be willing to give up a major part of the pursuit of happiness to satisfy an abstract being for the promise of getting to be with that being! It assumes that you are willing to hurt yourself in the name of a being, and the reward is spending eternity in that being's presence!"

Well, she nods and starts to congratulate me for getting it, and explain why it's so. I interrupted her.

"But mom, can't you see that's a horrific argument? It only works because you use God to prop it up!"

Her response?

"Well, of course I can see that if God wasn't part of the equation, it would be a rotten argument. But He is part of the equation, so this is how it has to be."

Yes. My mother holds the same ideological fervor that powers fanatics. For her, the beliefs, the dogma, are simply extensions of faith and following them is an act of faith. There is no question in her mind that though it would be horrible to inflict this on someone without a God to back her up, her God does back her up. And because God says so, the horror simply disappears and is no longer part of the equation.

I am...sickened beyond any means to describe. I've defended her point of view for years, to my shame, without realizing how perfectly fundamental it was. Simply saying "it's God's will" makes a horror not only acceptable, but righteous.

No more. I will never willingly have this conversation with my mother again. I will neither broach it to her, nor bring up her point of view except tangentially to anyone else. I will not defend her point of view, though I will defend her right to hold it. And I will not even mention, after this point, that she holds these views excepting that it is necessary to explain the foundations of my own.

What has this to do with childish thinking? Well, I had always thought that when I grew up and learned more, I'd be able to have an intelligent dialogue with my mother that didn't end with "Because I said so" or "Because God." And come to find out, that's her entire operating principle. For everything. Ever.

Godsdamnit, I'm tired of being hit over the head with childhood naivete.