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When Your Body Violates Their Rights

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"Basically people that don't live like I think they should live are violating my rights." - Bishop William E. Lori, paraphrased.

“Religious leaders told a House panel Thursday the Obama administration was violating basic rights to religious freedom with its policies for requiring that employees of religion-affiliated institutions have access to birth control coverage.”

Ladies and gentlemen, but mostly ladies, I give you… the CULTURE WARS.

So President Obama pushed a policy a few weeks ago that would require religious institutions (schools, hospitals, etc, that are linked to a particular religious group, not churches) to offer female employees insurance coverage for contraception. It was an ill-conceived idea in today’s hyper-reactive climate where everyone wants to feel like their rights are being violated by everything, and was immediately met by a firestorm of complaints from religious leaders (note: not the religious masses, who support the effort), on the grounds that it violated their religious freedom.

So naturally, our president who has been said to be at war with religion pressed on undeterred, right? He jammed his ideological agenda right down their throats like the mindless Socialist he is? Is that what he did?

No, he made a compromise, and took all the responsibility out of the religious institutions’ hands, and put the onus on insurance companies to offer preventative care, including birth control, to women. Pretty anti-climactic for a battle in the CULTURE WARS, but at least something got done to protect women’s health and we can all go back to living our lives. Right?

Wrong.

The Republican party, in a gross miscalculation of the American public’s values, decided to keep browbeating the issue, and today held a committee before Congress to talk about the ramifications of this policy, complete with various “witnesses”. Who were these witnesses? Well, every one of them was a religious leader. Every one of them opposed the policy. And every one of them was a man.

Said former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “The Republican leadership of this Congress thinks its appropriate to have a hearing on women’s health and purposely exclude women from the panel. I may at some point be moved to explain biology to my colleagues.”

"I don't know... I heard something about ovaries and whatnot. I wasn't listening because I assumed it didn't make sense."

Differences between boys and girls aside, what did the Republican-called witnesses have to say to the panel? Bishop William E. Lori, from US Conference of Catholic Bishops, compared the ruling to a law that would force all food providers, including kosher delicatessens, to serve pork. A powerful comparison… if the president were still asking religious institutions to provide the coverage. But, since he’s not, and insurance companies are the ones responsible for the coverage, a more apt comparison would be that all OTHER food providers would be required to allow their customers access to pork, even if those customers sometimes visit kosher delicatessens. Which, as it turns out, happens.

Lori went on, continuing to impress with his ability to dance around the issue at hand without ever actually stepping on it, “Does the fact that large majorities in society, even large majorities within the protesting religious community, reject a particular religious belief make it permissible for the government to weigh in on one side of that dispute?”

When the issue at hand is completely removed from the grounds of any religious institution? Absolutely. Some sects in Islam say women shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Our government disputes that. Some Jewish sects ban women from gathering together to pray on religious holidays, going so far as to call it illegal. Our government disputes that. It has over time become pretty standard practice for the laws of the land, laws for everyone of any religion, to disregard the archaic stance of any one religion.

Remember, nobody is forcing them to do anything against their religion. They’re just requiring that people be given -access- to certain health measures that they don’t even have to take advantage of if they don’t want to. But, nonetheless, there’s more to argue.

“… it is ironic that the religious organizations should have their rights crushed in the name of health care,” said Dr. Craig Mitchell, Baptist minister and head of the ethics department at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Because, to him, allowing women the right to preventative healthcare is crushing religious organizations rights to… what? Crush women’s rights?

Maybe it’s just showing my ignorance as a part of the unwashed masses, but I don’t see how anyone is being hurt by this policy. Women that don’t want to use birth control because of their religious beliefs don’t have to. Religious organizations can continue to rail against birth control in their services, and encourage their followers to stay away from it, as they’ve always done. The new policy does nothing to shift religious beliefs or practices, just makes sure women can have a certain kind of coverage if they want it.

Calling that a violation of religious freedom is confusing your own personal religious freedom with allowing your religion to infringe on the rights of others. Even if that’s what your religion claims you are capable of, I’m afraid the Constitution of the Unites States says otherwise.

"And, I say, won't it be fun to see how badly they misinterpret this one hundreds of years down the line!"

Written by oobiedoo

February 16, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Land of the Free, Home of the… What Now?

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If the law doesn't fit, you must circumvent.

GOP presidential hopeful (stretching the definition of the word there, based on recent polls) Herman Cain recently joined the chorus on the right denouncing Islam as a whole, using the issue of a community in Tennessee that wants to stop an Islamic group from building a mosque to support their growing congregation. Cain agreed the community had the “right to do that” and “That’s not discriminating based on religion.” (Which begs the question of what -is- considered discrimination based on religion if stopping one particular religion from building their places of worship isn’t it.)

Cain went on to differentiate Islam from other religions, saying that it’s the only religion that comes with a set of laws, showcasing that he apparently has never read a Bible, Torah, or any other holy book for that matter, since they all come with laws; the other religions just ignore them more readily. On that point, he made the rather cryptic assertion that “there’s an aspect of them building that mosque that doesn’t get talked about, and the people in the community know what it is, and they’re talking about it.” Am the only one that gets Lovecraftian images of evil cults and human sacrifice out of that? Are the people in Tennessee the only ones aware that this portends the coming of The Great Old Ones, and they’re just trying to convince the doubtful world that could actually help them if we only believed? No, actually, he’s just keeping up with the boneheaded (and much more boring) argument that muslims are trying to secretly install Sharia Law in the United States. And this mosque in a Tennessee community I’m not even going to bother naming, because you’ve never heard of it, was apparently a key cog in that diabolical wheel.

So, let’s recap:

– Stopping a particular religion from building their places of worship solely because of what religion they practice is, in fact, not discriminating based on religion. (Please see the definition of “discriminate” and try again.)

– Islam is different from other religions because they actually take the backwards laws their religion preaches seriously, rather than sweeping them under the rug to sell their religion as a great place for peace and hugs. (Which is a massive generalization, since I’m sure plenty of followers of Islam ignore that shit just as well as any christian.)

– And finally, Dreaming Cthulhu is woken in his sleeping city, R’lyeh, and will soon be upon us. The luckiest among us will be the first to die. Ia! Ia! (Wgah’nagl fhtagn!)

Now, I feel like telling a little story to make my point here. It’s a little bedtime story I remember as a kid, and it might have a little bearing on this story. Let’s see if you guys remember it too, and can pick out the really subtle way it tells us about this issue:
Once, a long, long time ago, in a country far, far away, there was a great big empire that new it was a great big empire and wanted everyone else to know it too, so they went around planting flags in everybody’s back yards and called it their’s. Now, most people didn’t really like having their backyard taken by a great big empire, but what were they going to do about it? They were small and not so great, so they just had to follow along.

But one thing this great big empire couldn’t control was what the people in it thought. No matter how hard it tried, no matter how badly it punished people when it found out they were thinking these things it didn’t want them to think, people kept right on thinking them. Because that’s the way the human spirit is: if some outside force wants to control it, to hold it down, it becomes that much more devoted to its own freedom.

So, eventually, the king of this great big empire got tired of punishing those people whose minds he couldn’t control, and he sent them away, to a faraway land where he would only barely ever have to deal with them. But when all of those people were together, so far from the king’s eyes, they were able to think all kinds of other thoughts he wouldn’t want them to think. And they were able to plan things, and organize things, and pretty soon they decided they were greater than they’d believed all along, and that maybe the great big empire they’d been held down by wasn’t too big to stand against afterall.

In the end, they rose up and fought against the king’s army, and they won, and they made a home for themselves. And the people who started it all vowed their new home would be a place where people would be free, where they could believe whatever they wanted to believe, and that nobody would try to stop them from believing that, because the most basic freedom anyone can have is the freedom to think what you want to think. And they knew that if one group of people thought one thing, and the people in charge didn’t mind it, but another group that believed something different was fought against, then that would mean the people in charge were really favoring one belief over another, and that was just the same thing that the king had done to them.

It’s a nice little story, isn’t it? A real crowd pleaser.

It was Thomas Jefferson that first wrote of the separation of church and state, so that the laws of religion would never dictate the laws of the land, and that the state would not interfere with the free practice of religion. Herman Cain bastardized that belief as his defense for standing against the people of one religion, and completely inverted it. Sharia Law among the people that go to a particular mosque has no effect on the country at large. It would be the same as banning a Catholic church’s construction because they have ten rules people are supposed to follow. Until those rules find their way into the law of the land, there is no basis to cite the separation of church and state in your opposition. In fact, it is Herman Cain’s belief that the state has every right to intercede in this religious matter, where no laws of land have been broken.

In this instance, it is Herman Cain and the people that support his twisted belief that stand against the words of Thomas Jefferson and the Constitution of the United States. Last I heard, the star spangled banner waved over the land of the free and the home of the brave, not for the cowardice of men who would limit the freedom of people based solely on a belief that has been perverted by a few.

And, just because I’ve always wanted to say it: If you don’t like it, you can get out!

Written by oobiedoo

July 18, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Together We Rise

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We are today at one of the countless crossroads our young nation has faced. It is this moment that future generations will remember us for, and forever laud our foresight, despise our cowardice, or curse our indecision. The choices of the past, fair and foul, have brought us here, to this time and this place, this now that cannot be wished away through desire alone, but must be met with dedication and a will to sustain the struggle against a world that has for so long idled uncontested to this moment. We are, all of us, here, and only together will we salvage a brighter future for our children, as well as for future generations we will never meet and cannot yet imagine.

One is not afforded the opportunity to choose his own family, the time and place of his birth. We did not choose to be here now, to be brothers and sisters on this earth in hard times. But here we are, together.

Today’s America is a fractured one. It has, throughout its history, always been so. The rivalry between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two of this nation’s most integral founders, is well-chronicled, we fought a war against ourselves because of conflicting ideals, and one man from Atlanta with a dream and a voice that would move mountains inspired in some the greatest hope for the future, and in others brought forth bitter hatred. We have always been divided. It is the nature of any good democracy that we should be, so that we will always hear the dissenting argument, the at-first unpopular opinion that may one day become the imperative, the world-changing ideal that may grant freedom to all the men and women of this earth.

But today’s America is different. It may not be more fractured than it was in days before, but this is the world we have now, the one we can change. We will always be divided, but in order to solve the litany of this nation’s ills, from budgetary problems to healthcare, to truly help each other and ourselves, we must understand the argument we disagree with. We must hear it ourselves, consider it, disseminate its meaning to our own ear, without relying on the pundits who make their living selling controversy, an “us versus them” mentality, to translate those opinions for us. We must resist the urge to wrap ourselves in the comfort of our own opinions, resist the urge to speak of the issues with only those who would agree that our opinion is right. We must seek out the other side, in articles, on television, in good debate that doesn’t resort to two equally simple dogmas clashing over the field of mindless partisanship. We must hear the other side with an open mind, rather than listening only to disagree. We must disavow talking points and political scare tactics.

I believe that is the key to progress. I believe if the people of this nation were to listen to one another with an active interest to learn rather than one vested in strengthening our pre-existing convictions, we would find that there is some merit to both sides of nearly any issue. In a democracy such as ours, compromise between at least two differing opinions is the only way to make any progress. Only through an understanding of the other side can we truly accept the necessary compromises that everyone must make.

There are people in this nation, a great many of them, that know this to be true. But they look at the world as it is now, and they believe there is no use in one person dedicating himself to progress, that we are set in our ways and must follow this path until we reach its ultimate termination point. But only we will decide when that day comes.

The winds of change blow at our command, and so too come the doldrums of our disregard, our indifference, our callous acceptance of that which we wish would change, but dare not act upon ourselves. We are the designers of destiny, the purveyors of our own future, the catalysts through which change will come, yet all we can manage is cynicism as we sit idly by and wonder why the world will not change around us. We wait to be saved by people we believe must be greater than ourselves, but who do not exist. They are gods of our own imagining, and before them we make ourselves small. We are content to complain about the efforts of others as we refuse to make the same effort, or better, ourselves.

Robert Kennedy once said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” President John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Both brothers understood that the power to change the world was not in their hands as politicans, but all of ours.

We don’t have to like each other, we don’t have to agree with each other, but we are the American family, and as family we must make an effort to understand each other, and through that effort we will find that progress is possible, that together we can move mountains, that we can fell the mightiest walls that stand between us, and that we can lift ourselves up to the lofty reaches that have long been imagined, but never attained.

United we stand, and together we rise.

Written by oobiedoo

May 28, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Say WHAT?!? April 14, 2011

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So, today’s crazy-du-jour comes courtesy of the far-right’s ability to manufacture a culture war sort of controversy out of anything, no matter how utterly meaningless it might actually be. First, I’m going to show you a picture. It strikes me as an innocuous little moment between a mother and a son. Then we’re going to examine the hysteria in an article by Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist writing for Fox News, in which he links this moment to “grotesque” sex change operations and claims it will lead to the complete and utter ruin of society. I kid you not.

This is the demon seed some supposed -people- want to plant into your children’s heads. Beware! BEWARE! *insert Boogeyman creepy fingers here*

So, according to the author of that article, because a little eight-year old boy has his toenails painted pink, that clearly means that this photo was staged as part of an organized effort by J. Crew to break down the walls of gender and forever throw our society into chaos.

I’d like to take this moment to remind you that the author of that claim is a psychiatrist.

Now, let’s insert a little reason that doesn’t even require a degree.

1. The kid is eight. He’s not even thinking about girls or how to impress them, or if maybe boys are better than girls afterall. He’s a little kid who doesn’t think about these things yet, and he happens to like pink.

2. The author writes, “This is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity—homogenizing males and females…”, and goes on to describe the feminization of men, but when it comes to women he only says that they are more openly sexual now than before. Remember, he’s using that as evidence to support his claim that men and women are acting more like each other, so he’s essentially claiming that it’s perfectly normal for a man to want to have sex with anything on legs, but that women should be the demure little naysayer in the matter. I’ve never quite understood how women’s sexuality has always been a more taboo thing than men’s.

3. He also writes, “… it may be fun and games now, Jenna, but at least put some money aside for psychotherapy for the kid—and maybe a little for others who’ll be affected by your “innocent” pleasure.” Okay, folks, this is an important one. For the kid, it’s just a little bit of color on his nails. And anyone else in the world that needs psychotherapy because they just saw a kid with pink toenails really probably needed that psychotherapy a long time ago for entirely different reasons. It’s just a color. Calm down. Take a breath. Have some dip.

4. From the article: “If you have no problem with the J. Crew ad, how about one in which a little boy models a sundress? What could possibly be the problem with that?” This is the classic culture warrior strategy, to take something tiny and utterly meaningless and then link it to something that people would more easily object to. Also:

Oh, the times, they are a-changin!

So, to cap it off, I’d like to end with an unedited section of Dr. Ablow’s article to show how quickly he jumps from something meaningless, to something completely objectionable, using only the power of his own delusion. Writes Ablow:

“If you have no problem with the J. Crew ad, how about one in which a little boy models a sundress? What could possibly be the problem with that?

“Well, how about the fact that encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our species into real psychological turmoil—not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts?”

Yes! This is the fundamental argument of the culture warrior, folks. Pink toenails might not strike most people as bad, so you have to very quickly make the link between them and boys wearing dresses! And if people out there still think that might not be so bad (or also have vintage family photographs of young boys wearing what look suspiciously like dresses, and know for a fact those young boys grew up as healthy members of the male populace), then what you should really be afraid of is all those confused young men that are going to be getting their penises lopped off! Brilliant!

It’s toenail polish. On a kid. Who likes pink. And is also eight. He might wind up completely screwed up in the head somewhere down the line, possibly even to an impressive scale like Dr. Ablow and those that are whipped into a frenzy by him and his ilk, but it won’t have anything to do with the existence of a photo in which his toenails are pink.

Dr. Keith Ablow, folks. Disembodied wangs by the truckload won’t be on HIS conscience.

(Bonus, another article by Erin Brown calls the picture “… blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.” I wasn’t aware toenail polish meant someone was transgendered, especially when they’re, ya know, eight.)

The Beliefs of a Non-Believer

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“An Atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An Atheist knows that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth – for all men together to enjoy. An Atheist thinks that he can get no help through prayer but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue, and enjoy it. An Atheist thinks that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment. Therefore, he seeks to know himself and his fellow man rather than to know a god. An Atheist knows that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist knows that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man. He wants an ethical way of life. He knows that we cannot rely on a god nor channel action into prayer nor hope for an end to troubles in the hereafter. He knows that we are our brother’s keeper and keepers of our lives; that we are responsible persons, that the job is here and the time is now.” – Madalyn O’Hair.

I am an atheist, a non-believer. To those more prone to angry terminology, I’m a heretic, a blasphemer. Those terms come not from ordinary people of faith, but from people who use their faith as a means to differentiate themselves from others, to hold themselves in higher regard than others because of their faith. Much in the same way some noted atheists often use their lack of faith  to believe that they are somehow better than the average faithful, who to them are merely delusional, misguided creatures. People are people, and no matter what they believe there are going to be those who are reasonable, and understanding of those that disagree with them, and there are going to be those that think of people that believe something else as somehow lesser beings. The average person of faith and the average atheist are both generally reasonable people, but the public perception of each is tinted by the divisive attitudes of people like Jerry Falwell and the Congressional Prayer Caucus, or Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins.

Faith is not something I often choose to talk about. I have none, and a great many people seem disturbed by that thought, so I mostly avoid it. But, lately I feel my own personal responsibility to clear the air on what being a non-believer means to me.

Religious institutions often try to paint non-believers as lacking in morals at worst, or just sad, pointless beings who think there is no meaning to life but themselves. While I can’t speak for the majority of non-believers, for myself nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe there is all the more meaning in life because of my lack of faith. I don’t believe there is any afterlife waiting for me to treat this life as little more than the entrance-exam. This is the only life I have, and it’s up to me to make the most of it, for myself, for those around me, for the future of the world in general. While people struggle with the immortal question of the purpose of life, I have a pretty good handle on the purpose of mine. I can’t imagine a greater purpose in life than to give just a little effort toward leaving this world better off for the next generation than it was when we came around.

The accusation that non-believers are lacking in morals too is absurd. It’s based in the belief that the Ten Commandments, or whatever any particular religion calls its basis of rules, were passed down from some divine being, and must be adhered to lest you provoke God’s wrath, and that anyone that doesn’t believe that has no fear of breaking those laws and thus nothing to lose by doing so. I find that belief insulting, and frankly, alarming. It suggests in the castigator a desire to do those awful things, that is only quelled by their belief that God will punish them for it.

I don’t have any desire to steal from someone, or to murder them, not because I fear repercussion from a God, or from police, but because the idea of bringing any kind of pain or suffering on someone else turns my stomach. I don’t do good things in the hope of getting a pat on the back come Judgement Day. I do good because it is right, and I stray from ill because to make someone suffer is unthinkable to me. The idea that a person must believe in a God to think that way is foolish.

I hold no animosity toward the vast majority of believers. I very much enjoy talking to my friends of faith about their faith and how they came to it, what it means to them. But those that would use their faith to cast a scornful eye on those that are different from them, in ideology or anything else, I have no patience for. To say more people have been killed in the name of God than anything else would be an understatement.

So, with that in mind, I ask that my readers of faith understand how much it insults me to read a letter several Republican members of Congress wrote to the President of the United States, chastising him for (get this) using “E Pluribus Unum” (English: Out of many, one) as our national motto, rather than “In God we trust” in a speech in India. Let me reiterate: they are angry because the president would rather quote our old motto, one of unity that perfectly encapsulates what the United States of America stands for to much of the world, with all its different types of people coming together for the common goal of their country, rather than the newer one that suggests people should mostly be united in their love for God rather than each other.

They go on to make clear, through their use of quotes by John Adams and Ronald Reagon, that they believe this country will somehow fail if we don’t go around the world professing our love for God, as if to even acknowledge that a sizeable segment of our population doesn’t believe and that it’s not the role of the government to make them is somehow a bad thing, as if to be a person without faith is a moral failing. As a non-believer, I never felt any great slight when members of the US government stood on the steps of the capitol building and sang “God Bless America”, or the litany of speeches from senators, congressmen, and presidents that ends with the same statement, but this group feels it is necessary to get angry simply because the president doesn’t mention God. Not that he doesn’t believe in God, he does, or that he actively campaigns against the teachings of God, he doesn’t, just that he doesn’t feel like he needs to talk about it. With all the things going on in the world today, how is that an issue for anyone?

I don’t do drugs because I believe to do so is a personal weakness. I’ve never cheated on a partner, because I believe to needlessly hurt someone like that is wrong. I don’t steal because I have no desire to have something I didn’t earn or have gifted to me by someone that cares. I don’t resort to violence to solve my problems, because understanding is the only way to truly solve anything, barring when violence is brought upon you. I donate what money I can spare to charities that help those less fortunate than me, and I am not a financially fortunate person. When I am capable of helping a friend or family member in need, I do because I like to. And I don’t believe in God because to do so doesn’t make sense to me, personally.

And yet, it is only that last statement that determines in the eyes of some, Michelle Bachmann, Paul Broun, Louie Gohmert, and the other 39 members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus among them, what sort of person I am.

There once was a day morality was the sole domain of religion. I believe that day is gone. It’s a shame that some are so closed-minded to think so little of people like me for such a trivial reason.

_______________________________________________________

Say WHAT?!?

So I’ve decided to start including a subsection to each piece, with different themes. This weeks subsection, “Say WHAT?!?” focuses on things someone in the media or government said that just defies all reason.

Some people like to do research about an issue before they rail against it. Others like to live on the edge.

And the first ever “Say WHAT?!?” award goes to Mike Huckabee, and it’s a two-fer.

Last month, the Huckster said President Obama likely had anti-British sentiment, which would be bad for a US president to have, because of his upbringing in Kenya, with a Kenyan father and grandfather. The first problem, of course, is that Obama wasn’t brought up in Kenya, and only ever visited the country in his 20’s.

That’s okay, though. Because, according to Huckabee, he only misspoke when he said Kenya, and actually meant Indonesia, where Obama did spend a few years of his childhood, after Kindergarten. That’s understandable. Everyone makes mistakes. I’ll even let it slide that he mentions Kenya multiple times in the interview. We’ll call it a recurring brain fart.

However, to actually believe that he accidentally said Kenya when he meant Indonesia means he also “accidentally” said the president would have anti-British feelings, when he must have actually meant he would have ill-will toward the Dutch, since it was the Dutch that had colonies in Indonesia; the British had them in Kenya. Also, he must have said Obama was raised with his Kenyan father and grandfather by accident, when what he must have actually meant was Obama never even knew his father, and only met the man on a couple of occasions. Unless, of course, he’s just suggesting that things like anti-British sentiment are just passed down through your genes. And, when he suggested the Mau Mau Rebellion, a Kenyan uprising against their British rulers, would have had a major effect on the young Obama, he must have actually meant… Well, he let’s be honest here. He meant the Mau Mau Rebellion, and when faced with his obvious inaccuracies didn’t have the spine to say he was just speaking without knowing the facts, and instead came up with a pathetic, obviously false lie. Because that’s what good leaders do, I guess.

For the second half of Huckabee’s lock on this award, he took a good, hard moral stand against someone whose really had it coming for a long time, if you ask me, and I’m glad someone is finally taking this person to task. So, clearly we’re talking about a whackjob politician, or an irresponsible member of the media, right? Nope. A tyrannical dictator in another country? Not even close. That person?

"No, Mr. Bond... I expect you to -die-!"

Natalie Portman.

That’s right. Natalie Portman, Harvard graduate, Oscar-nominated actress, and activist, is now a bad role-model for women, according to the Huckster. Why? Because she got pregnant without being married, and is apparently sending the message to women that being a single mother is cool, or something, and that’s dangerous because most women don’t have the resources Portman does to take care of a baby themselves.

First, let’s just get the obvious out of the way. Portman is a fantastic role-model for women. If you have a daughter, and she turns out like Natalie Portman, you’re going to be pretty happy, I assure you.

Second, does Huckabee really think that little of young women? What, they’re so caught up in fads and being like celebrities that they’re going to run out and get pregnant because all the cool kids are doing it? Apparently, and I know this comes as a shock to some, women are just as capable of thinking for themselves as men are. Unless, of course, you compare Natalie Portman and Mike Huckabee, in which case the ladies obviously win.

I give you Mike Huckabee, folks, whose mouth has long-since lapped his brain.

The Power in Words

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“I have a dream today.” Martin Luther King spoke and a nation listened, began its slow march to change. His words spoke not of new ideals, new ways to approach life, or anything of the sort. His words merely echoed those that had already been put to paper, in the Constitution of this nation, in such a way that they would be more easily understood, and could absolutely not be denied. The purpose for Dr. King’s speeches could be easily summed up in the words of Thomas Jefferson, speaking to the purpose of the Constitution: “Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent…”

These are two men separated by nearly one-hundred fifty years, and yet they both understood that words had the power to change the world. One crafted the birth of a nation that would go on to be the greatest power in the world, the other charted a course for the liberty of an entire people. Both commanded the attention they needed to achieve their goals through their words.

Robert F. Kennedy was set to give a campaign speech in Indianapolis the night Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis, Tennessee. Instead, it fell to him to announce the tragedy to the gathered crowd. He did, at great personal risk to himself, and went on to speak eloquently about the need for understanding in the United States, the need for everyone to make a greater effort. As riots raged and fires burned throughout most of the major cities of the US that night, as all across the country frustration and bitterness swept up into the dangerous realm of hate, Indianapolis was quiet. The power of Kennedy’s words, beautiful and wise beyond what the moment should have allowed, brought some measure of solace to the aggrieved, and hate could not stand against it.

When Ronald Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate and said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” the world listened, and later a wall that had for so long divided fell. The power in his words, their strength along with the unquestionable right in them, changed the world. And yet, when Reagan spoke at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, of the tragedy of all the lost life there, the words of another penetrated his otherwise impervious demeanor. As the Republican president read the words of Anne Frank, “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe people are good at heart,” his voice faltered, overcome by the profound meaning in the words of a young girl: faced with even the worst hatred, which destroyed millions of lives, hope still lived on. And those simple words moved a man who would dare to topple a great symbol of oppression.

The hatred that claimed the life of Anne Frank and millions of others whose only crime was to exist, was born in the twisted mind of Adolf Hitler. Today, only the most marginalized sections of society would openly embrace Hitler’s doctrine, but in the first half of the twentieth century he’d built an empire that took a great alliance of nations to defeat. He did not do this by hiding his beliefs, by hiding the awful truth of what he wanted to achieve. Instead, he used his great power for words to convince others, a great many others, that their neighbors were inferior to them, and that their very proximity was a threat. The heartless executions of nearly twenty million men, women, and children could never have been carried out by one man alone, no matter the depths of his evil. Instead, powerful words of hatred shaped the hearts and minds of a great many people to believe there was some noble purpose in the most heinous acts.

Words have forever changed the course of the world, for good and ill. They have moved nations toward progress as well as ruin, moved people toward freedom as well as destruction, moved individuals to stand as beacons of hope for order in the world, or as agents of its demise.

It is with this knowledge that I have to question why, in the wake of our latest national tragedy, the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the deaths of several innocent bystanders, those who spread the rhetoric of hate and divisiveness have been given a pass. There is absolutely no way a person can say anyone’s words inspired Jared Loughner to do the horrible thing he did, but for any and all criticism of hateful rhetoric to be shoved aside, for the media to allow such criticism to be branded as nothing more than political attacks just as hateful in their own right, is a travesty. It is acceptance for corporate-sponsored hate speech.

Today, political pundits are available to audiences twenty-four hours a day. They appear on cable news around the clock, they harp on talk radio for several hours a day, and they blog online. They are more readily accessible to the public than our leaders, and their words travel farther, faster. They must be held to the same standard for the consequences of those words as the men and women they decry on a daily basis. If confronted with accusations of bias, any pundit will fall back on the defense that they are not newspeople, and thus are not held to the same standard. As such, they should not be granted the same freedom of the press.

Some would say this is an issue of free speech, rather than press, but I don’t think it applies here. A man is allowed to say whatever he chooses to say, so long as it doesn’t endanger anyone. Nobody is allowed to shout “fire” in a movie theater, because it puts people at risk in a panicked situation. Too, while a man certainly is allowed to voice his beliefs, no matter how twisted and hateful they may be, the first amendment does not grant him corporate-sponsored means to spread his hatred.

When, following the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, Rush Limbaugh said the Democratic Party “… openly wishes for such disaster in order to profit from it,” he made a conscious decision to forego benevolence in favor of belligerence, to continue his ongoing message of divisiveness, the “us versus them” mentality that RFK so eloquently decried as wasteful and beneath us. And the outcry against his message never came.

Glenn Beck has called the President of the United States a fascist, a communist, a socialist, and said that the beginning of his presidency was reminiscent of Adolf Hitler. He’s said that Democrats and liberals want to come into your home and take your guns away from you. He’s said that people have to stand up and resist these efforts. It’s not hard to see how, subjected to these messages five days a week, for the several hours a day Beck is on radio and TV, someone who is even only a little unbalanced could be moved to believe there would be cause for them to do something terrible. And yet, any mention of this in the public discourse is immediately shouted down as politically motivated.

Sarah Palin wrote in an e-mail to Beck, “I hate violence. I hate war. Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence.” Those words are not a condemnation of dirty politics or hateful rhetoric, not a call for people to join together for greater understanding. They’re a political defense. Six people lie dead but she did not call for reason in the political debate, dared not admit that some tactics in the political realm go way over the line and that it may help some already disturbed people justify awful actions. Instead, she looked out for her own political image and future, because that’s how we pay respect to the dead in today’s world of politics.

Words have always had great power, and always will. We must hold ourselves responsible for the consequences of our own words, and too I think, we must hold public figures responsible for theirs, because they will clearly not shine that divining light upon themselves.

I choose not to accept words of hatred, not to allow them into my heart. And, because of that, I choose to end with another passage from Anne Frank’s diary.

“I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness. I hear the ever-approaching thunder which will destroy us, too. I can feel the suffering of millions, and yet if I looked up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty, too, will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

Eight months later, Anne Frank was killed, but in her words lies the dormant hope in us all, waiting to be awakened, that things can be made better, that good can win out over evil, and that understanding can overcome hatred. From words, hopeful or hateful, unifying or divisive, action is born.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Think, Don’t Feel

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“Today is a very sad day. The commandant of the United States Marine Corps says when your life hangs on the line, you don’t want anything distracting.” Words spoken by John McCain, in response to the repeal of the US Military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy toward homosexuals.

I’m sad to say I once respected John McCain.

He continued, “There will be high-fives over all the liberal bastions of America.” And from there, he ranted as though all the most recent polls suggested the American people were opposed to a repeal (they weren’t), or that the studies into the effects of a repeal brought back bad news (they didn’t).

McCain’s opposition is based on the idea that some soldiers will have problems with known homosexuals in their ranks. And some of them will, no question about it. Mostly, I imagine, the same ones that have problems with women in their ranks, or think there’s no problem feeling them up every now and again, no matter their protests.

It is this type of soldier that sort of thinking wants to protect. The bigoted, the hateful, the intolerant. I choose to believe those soldiers aren’t nearly as prevalent in our fighting forces as McCain and his ilk would like us to believe. And if they are, I don’t want to hear our armed forces referred to as “the best and the brightest” ever again, because slaves to any form of bigotry are not the best and brightest anything.

During the Bush years, Democrats were branded as not only opposed to our military, but it was suggested they might actually hate our fighting men and women. Of course, I don’t believe that. But McCain’s statements, and all those who agree with him, show that a wing of the Republican party certainly thinks very little of the moral worth of those same soldiers, and puts the lie to any claim of their own personal morality.

To suggest a man must keep his true self a secret in order to have the privilege to die for his country is to spit in the face of everything our country has accomplished, including its birth.

This nation was originally populated by men and women that didn’t want to hide their religious beliefs in the face of an intolerant ruler. America was born of people that could not pretend they were something they were not. We fought a war to earn that right, and again we fought so that men of any color would forever be men all the same. Women fought their own battle to be considered equals, and while the fronts of sex and race still have their struggles, we’ve come a long way. But, both battles had to begin on a shaky first step.

This is that shaky step for yet another front in a war that must be won, a war of equality for everyone, no matter their race, their sex, their sexual orientation, or their religious beliefs.

Agents of intolerance (a term McCain used for the likes of Falwell and his ilk, before running for president and pandering to them) would have us believe a soldier’s ability to fight will somehow be compromised by his inherent bigotry toward his own brother-in-arms, as if a man can’t trust another man in the heat of battle because he’ll suddenly be worried about whether or not that man is checking out his ass. Or what? That there will be distractions during non-combat times? And who will those distractions come from? From the homosexual who just wants to be comfortable being himself? Or from an intolerant soldier who wants to bring some sort of harm to him?

We don’t ban women from wearing alluring clothes to protect the despicable rapists that might not be able to control themselves. We don’t ban black men and women from white, southern neighborhoods to spare the few racists there the sight of their skin. We don’t ban people from opening stores because it might tempt a thief. Why then, in this case, should we legislate based on the possible actions of the lowest common denominator?

The answer is simple: because the Republican party has resisted every first step toward progress for minorities of every make and model. It’s built into them, the need to protect the intolerant from the ones they hate, rather than the other way around.

Homosexuals are one of the the last bastions of mostly acceptable hatred. Bigots that don’t want to be tabbed bigots aren’t allowed to openly hate women or blacks anymore, but gays have been mostly alright to hate. They can talk about the legalization of gay marriage leading to the destruction of heterosexual marriage with absolutely no evidence of such, and say it would lead to people marrying animals and children, and somehow they don’t become completely marginalized when they say these things. Jerry Falwell can blame the events of 9-11 on gays, among others, and be invited to the White House to council then-President Bush. That is an open acceptance of hate-speech, courtesy of the most powerful Republican in the world at the time.

A person doesn’t have to wrap an arm around his neighbor and sing “We Are the World”, doesn’t have to like any other person at all, doesn’t even have to expunge from their mind all their ridiculous prejudices. But, a person is absolutely never justified to bring pain, be it from actions or words, into the life of another whose only crime is to be true to themselves.

But on this issue, an issue that holds human beings to a higher moral standard, something the conservative movement claims to be in favor of, a man like John McCain mindlessly regurgitates the usual rhetoric about liberals, and deigns to protect those with closed minds and fists. Instead of striving to eliminate open acts of intolerance, John McCain and those opposed to repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, would rather protect those stuck in the past from being brought into the future. Well done.

 

Words from men who didn’t live in the past, but dreamed of a brighter future:

Written by oobiedoo

December 28, 2010 at 1:19 am