Once upon a time, in a land across the country, there existed a woman. This woman was mother to a 10-month-old. One day, the two of them set out on a journey to the house of the mouse in Anaheim, California. While they were there, her child became hungry, and the woman found herself facing a critical decision: “do I feed my child like any loving parent would, regardless of when and where” or “do I say screw it kid. You can starve” ? In short time, she made her decision and boy was it shocking: she chose to breastfeed her 10-month-old. Right then and there,
From a socio-political perspective, this past year has been a cosmic-level trashfire. Hell, one could make the argument that this quagmire we’re all trying our best to cope with began the day Cheeto Hitler declared his intent to run for president. Following his win, it has been a never-ending battle to minimize the harm he has sought to cause. In many cases, that harm has centered around attempting to eliminate the achievements of his predecessor, President Obama. He pulled the United States out of the Paris Accords (with Nicaragua and Syria having signed the Accords, the United States is the only major country in the world to refuse the deal), rejected the Iran Nuclear Deal, and he has pushed over and over again for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (not caring that such a move would lead to roughly 32 million people–on top of the millions without coverage already–without healthcare coverage by 2026).
When he’s not trying to undo President Obama’s legacy, the bigoted bumblefuck has been aggressively working on his grand plan to Make America Great Again For Those Poor Persecuted and Aggrieved White Men, The Last Demographic Deemed Socially Acceptable To Discriminate Against (this, despite the fact that white men experience no measurable discrimination based on their race or gender). More a back of the beverage napkin drunken bucket list than a meticulously composed, well thought out, evidence based course of action, this grand plan (which honestly can’t really be called a plan) has included:
pardoning the guilty and virulently racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio who really should have been imprisoned for the rest of his life (which is probably 10 years at best, given his age)
attacking the Mayor of Puerto Rico (on more than one level, as the Petulant Pissant never wastes an opportunity to “put women in their place ” by indulging his sexist side) and blaming Puerto Ricans for not doing enough to repair their own island in the wake of Hurricane Maria (and don’t forget his declaration about the great job he has done, and throwing fucking paper towels at Puerto Ricans)
rejecting any influence on the the 2016 presidential election by Russia and claiming (without a shred of evidence to support his position) that widespread voter fraud led to Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote instead of him
undermining faith in and credibility of the Presidency with his inability to inform his statements with facts and evidence
taking aim at Freedom of the Press by openly speculating on how he could censor media outlets that do not kiss his ass
referring to NFL players protesting over police brutality and systemic racism in the United States as “sons of bitches” and calling for them to be fired
disrespecting the family of a fallen U.S. soldier *and* the soldier himself (that he can bring himself to chastise anti-racist advocates for disrespecting U.S. soldiers, while he does that very thing is maddening)
ending workplace protections for transgender people
granting white supremacist fuckhead Steve Bannon a role in his administration, as well as nominating the Racist Ratfucker himself, Jeff “the Confederate loving, should have been born 150 years ago “Sessions, to Attorney General
seeking to punish ‘Sanctuary Cities’ for not participating in or supporting the federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants
That Fucking Wall
Refusing to 100% condemn white supremacist violence in Charlottesville “but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides”, “I think there’s blame on both sides […]
threatening federal funding for UC-Berkeley for shutting down one of his staunchest supporters, a speaker well known for ginning up hatred against women, gays, Blacks, Muslims, immigrants, and transgender people and who thinks of himself as a “provocateur” who is spreading truths that others are too fearful to speak (I refer to that wretched waste of space, Milo Yiannopoulous), and who has–on more than one occasion–referred to the Orange Menace as “Daddy”***
That’s not a comprehensive list, by the way. With the exception of maybe three items, those incidents were off the top of my head. Being an authoritarian bully and a fascist-leaning, racist rapist, who speaks without any care or concern for what he says or how he says it pretty much guarantees that anything he says or does during his tenure is going to, at the very least, piss people the fuck off. I really don’t want to imagine what his list of “accomplishments” will look like come the end of his term (which will hopefully be the only one).
Making matters worse for those of us who realize that “Make America Great Again” is a dog whistle is that the GOP controls so much of the federal government. You’d think that if one of the two major political parties in this country gained as much power as the GOP currently has, they might be able to get significant legislation through. Heck, they might even do something wild and totally unheard of like, oh, I don’t know…GOVERN. Alas, all they seem capable of doing is introducing legislation to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (they’ve backed away from that for now, but I am confident think they’ll be back at it in the spring of 2018).
You know, that’s not fair. Sure the Bigoted Blowhard is so incompetent that brokering a peace deal between kindergartners (let alone war-torn nations embroiled in combat whose origins reach back centuries) is far outside his wheelhouse and sure his party has tried (and largely failed) to keep out immigrants and MuslimsAnd never mind that he and his administration (and by extension, the Republican Party) have had success in one area: the advancement of progressive social or political agendas that benefit people other than rich, white men have been stifled. With these people in power, the best we’ve been able to hope for all year is that we’ll be able to minimize the damage he and the GOP want to cause. There certainly wasn’t any hope on the horizon that things would get better.
50-year-old Patrick Harmon (an African-American male) was executed by Salt Lake City police officers on August 13. Harmon, who was riding his bicycle when at the time, was pulled over by a police officer who claimed Harmon crossed six lanes and was missing his required red tail light. He wasn’t killed for the infraction, which surprises me, given the trigger happy, racist cops we have in this country. Initially calm, Harmon became increasingly agitated, especially when backup arrived and his record was pulled. It was pretty much all over at that point, bc the officers discovered Harmon had felony warrants out in his name (for aggravated assault), and proceeded to arrest him. Upset, Harmon turned away from the three police officers and bolted. Unfortunately for Harmon, one of our country’s finest (Clinton Fox, who decided to wear his Judge-Jury-Executioner hat) can be heard saying “I’ll fucking shoot you!” Three shots later, he does just that. If you’re a reasonable person looking for a justification for this extrajudicial murder by cop, you aren’t likely to find it. There is nothing in the video that offers a justification for him opening fire. Take a look:
Best I can figure, the thought of shooting a fleeing Black man in the back was too intoxicating for Officer Clinton Fox to pass up. In his defense, he (and the other officers) did say ::yawn:: he felt his life was in danger, bc a Black man who runs fast is deadly (someone ought to warn Usain Bolt). I mean, I guess its possible. You just need to get hit by a bolt of lightning and a bunch of unknown chemicals and develop super speed (instead of dying). That should enable you to run several hundred mph and leave a cloud of dust in the faces of people that look at Black people and think “target practice”. Their eyes might get cloudy and itchy. Maybe even start to water (which would be more tears than they show when they kill Black people). Heck, they might even begin coughing heavily. Under those somewhat…unlikely circumstances…I can see how that might be a potential threat to their lives.
That’s not how it went down though. Officer Happy-Go-Murder claimed that Harmon threatened one of them with a knife, which–HEY, maybe he did have superpowers, bc the video shows that he was running away from them and didn’t have a knife. It will surprise no one to know that the D.A.’s office sided with the murderous cop and released a photo of a knife supposedly found at the scene (which, even if he had a knife, the video shows him doing…what again? Oh–running, not stabbing). In a revelation that is sure to shock people, the D.A. dropped the charges against Officer Shooty McKill-A-Negro. Then, mysteriously, the above video of the incident was released. Said video does not corroborate their version of events. But why let something pesky like the truth get in the way of letting yet another cop get away with killing a Black person? Not when “I feared for my life” can be used once again to excuse the lynching of another Black body.
Sometimes, however, police cam footage comes in handy, and the victims of police brutality are exonerated, rather than executed. Of course to survive such an encounter, they have to have certain ::ahem:: privileges. Privileges like whiteness.
The last thing I remember reading about before I went to sleep Sunday night (early Monday, technically) was the headline of a USA Today article about police officers responding to reports of an active shooter in Las Vegas. I hoped then that the shooter would either kill himself (in the United States, mass shooters are invariablymen) or be killed before wounding anyone. I awoke Monday morning to find that the shooter–Stephen Paddock–had killed over 50 people and injured more than 400 (before killing himself) in the greatest mass shooting in modern United States history. Throughout the course of my workday, I was able to keep an eye on the news (we had it on one tv and it was slow for a while) and saw the number of casualties rise to 59 dead and 527 injured. Country music artist Jason Aldean had just taken the stage for day 3 of the Route 91 music festival when the shooting began. An estimated 22,000 concertgoers were in the crowd when the shooting began, which maximized the number of people Paddock could kill.
As with the 272 previous mass shootings this year, there are many questions about the killer and his motives. In the days, weeks, and months ahead, authorities will likely uncover some answers (though not all, since Paddock killed himself). For many people, one of the most important questions–“Why did this happen?”–has an easy answer. One that is apparent even before the dust has settled. It will surprise few people to learn that once again, mental illness is blamed for gun violence.
A murderer is in the news again (one I’ll not mention the name of–he’ll be ‘murderous racist’ for this post). The white supremacist piece of shit who shot up the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015 wants to replace his two court appointed attorneys. Why? MR apparently cannot trust them bc they are his “political and biological enemies“. It’s no surprise that said scumbag doesn’t want Alexandra Yates and Sapna Mirchandani (who are Jewish and Indian, respectively) to represent him. Hell, I’m going to hazard a guess that some part of both attorneys loathes the idea of representing him. Absent legal requirements, it’s difficult for me to believe that anyone–aside from people who share in MR’s bigoted beliefs (a list that includes the likes of the right-wing extremists speaking at the upcoming horribly misnamed “Free Speech Week” at Berkeley)–would want to work with, for, or in the defense of the man who killed Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, and Susie Jackson.
Hs plea for new representation was denied by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals:
“The court denies the motion for substitution of counsel on appeal.”
I found I was surprised by two things after reading his request:
1. I thought “did this asswipe on death row really just make a request for new lawyers? Seriously? Dude is lucky to have any representation at this point!” But as I thought about it, “white guy riding the conveyor belt to death row makes request” in a society that routinely and unfairly grants advantages and privileges to people based on their whiteness really isn’t that surprising. Since the dawn of our country, white folks (even before whiteness was created) have been catered to and coddled, with their hopes, dreams, and desires prioritized above all others.
2. For similar reasons, I was also surprised that the judges didn’t grant his request. We live in a country where a drunk driving, “affluenza” suffering kid can kill four people and get no jail time, where a judge can rule in favor of re-segregating a town in Alabama (even with the caveat, that shit is rage-inducing), and where a rapist who was caught in the middle of sexually assaulting a woman gets a six-month sentence in jail (which was reduced to three months bc he was on “good behavior”) bc the judge “weighed both sides” and decided rehabilitation was the best option (Rehab? In jail? In a country whose prison system is about punishment, not rehabilitation?.
Affluenza kid? That Alabama town? The rapist (and the judge presiding over the case)? Guess what race they all are. So yeah, i was a little surprised that MR’s request was denied.
One thing I wasn’t surprised about though?
Some of the comments I read from people reacting to the denial of MR’s plea. As happens so often in stories that involve extreme violence or behavior that is beyond the social norm, many people were quick to assert that mental illness was to blame for MR’s repugnant actions and beliefs.
I wish people would stop doing this. To get there, I invite people to consider what these words mean and what message they convey to others.
He’s mental” is the same as saying “there is something wrong with his cognitive abilities and that’s why he is a murderous racist”. Once you’ve intimated that mental illness or impairment is behind the actions and beliefs of a racist killer, you’ve opened the door to the notion that cognitive impairment is the root cause of racism and murder. Leaving aside the fact that playing armchair psychiatrist over the Internet is most definitely NOT the way a mental health diagnosis is determined, claiming that cognitive impairments cause racism (or lead to murderous acts) is deeply, massively fucked up.
It’s also factually incorrect.
First of all, there’s the splash damage done to people who suffer from cognitive impairments or whose cognitive abilities differ from the perceived societal norm. Drawing a direct link between cognitive ability and racism signals to others that “racism is caused by mental illness”. Likewise, drawing a direct link between cognitive ability and acts of murder tells others that cognitive impairment is the reason people murder others. We live in a society in which people with mental illness or disabilities face a high degree of social stigma and pervasive discrimination. The last thing that they need is for armchair psychiatrists to pile on prejudice by perpetuating harmful ideas. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens not only in discussions of MR, but in the comment section of every article I’ve read about mass shootings (curiously though, I’ve yet to see anyone claim that those who kill others in self-defense, in a time of war, or as a military combatant are mentally ill), and most pieces on racism that I’ve read.
Secondly, there are plenty of people who have cognitive impairments or mental illnesses who are not racists and not only have not committed a murder, but have had no desire to. Conversely, many people who are neither mentally impaired or ill have been racist (imagine someone trying to make a defense of the Confederate army with the claim “they couldn’t help but be white supremacist supporters of slavery. They were mentally ill.”) Some non-mentally ill, non-mentally impaired people have had murder in their heart and blood on their hands. Despite evidence that shows:
Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness
the belief that people with mental illnesses are violent is widespread.
As for racism…racism at the individual level (not structural or systemic racism) is learned. Murderous Racist not only grew up in the United States, a country that is driven by white supremacist ideology, he grew up in an area where that ideology was openly discussed. Celebrated, even. He was radicalized by spending time in areas that white supremacist rhetoric abounded. He soaked that shit up like a sponge. The harmful (and biologically incorrect) beliefs he holds about Blacks and Non-Black PoC are the result of him acquiring and retaining the wrong information. Not the result of something “wrong with his brain”.
Another way to think of it–you can unlearn racism. You cannot unlearn a cognitive impairment or deficiency.
I hope those making such comments can understand how incredibly wrong they are. Not just from a factual standpoint, but also in terms of the splash damage done to people who suffer from cognitive impairments or whose cognitive abilities differ from the perceived societal norm. Ableism is one of the many forms of bigotry that permeates society. It also cuts across political lines. It has become almost reflexive to associate the Right with every form of bigotry under the sun. It’s expected of social regressives to defend and uphold harmful beliefs about gender, race, sexuality, et al. Unfortunately, where left-leaning or progressive people can (in general) be counted upon to resist racism, sexism, or homophobia, far too many on the left side of the aisle are comfortable with ableism. We’re the side that is supposed to be more enlightened, more concerned with social issues, and focused on reducing inequities in society, so come on people, get with it: having a mental illness does not lead someone to commit murder and bigotry is not caused by cognitive impairment.
Does someone you know–a family member, a co-worker, or your seventh-grade history teacher–suffer from profound ignorance about the Civil War?
Maybe you know That Guy. You know who he is. He’s the guy who, upon hearing “the Civil War was fought over slavery“, quickly ducks into a phone booth (good luck finding one) and transforms from Chad Splain (that annoying relative at the holiday dinner table who thinks Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group bc they don’t protest in the “proper” way and who doesn’t realize his white supremacy informed-advice to Blacks on how best to achieve racial justice is neither wanted nor needed) to his alter-ego, the confederate cape wearing, totally not racist White Savior Man:
he who can change the course of mighty comment threads by crying “Reverse Racism” bc a Black person called him a cracker
he who thinks neither POTUS45, the Muslim ban, or the border wall are racist. And he knows what racism is bc “It’s right there in the dictionary!”
and he who engages in a never-ending battle to “educate” people about the true reason the Civil War was fought.
Heck, even if you don’t personally know a supporter/apologist for the Confederacy, you’ve likely bumped into them online (if you’ve not met one of these, be thankful bc the stench of white supremacy lingers) and marveled at how distraught they are about symbols of the Confederacy being removed from public property. These are the people who look at statues of Confederate soldiers and claim on the one hand that the soldiers were heroes fighting against a tyrannical federal government that sought to infringe upon states rights and on the other hand claim that removing the monuments is an attempt to rewrite history (with neither hand even realizing the irony).
If you know someone like those described above, don’t fret. There is hope for correcting the mountain of misconceptions about the Civil War. They can still be saved. The gaps in their knowledge, their misconceptions, and even the lies they believe need only be exposed to the light of truth:
It’s 2014. After 23 years serving on the Latta, South Carolina Police Department, Crystal Moore found herself fired from her job. She had managed to work her way up to police chief and was the first woman police chief of Latta. During her time as Chief of Latta Police, she received numerous compliments and by all indications, performed her duties quite well. None of that mattered in the eyes of the CIty Council. Nope. She was fired for being a lesbian.
Earlier this year, Jameka Evans was forced to leave her job as a security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital bc, in addition to her refusal to dress in manner that conformed with stereotypical gender roles, she is a lesbian. She tried to sue her former employer. Both a lower court and the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against her.
More recently, Hollis Bulleit, daughter of Tom Bulleit–founder of Bulleit Bourbon–opened up about the circumstances that led to her departure from Diageo, one of the largest alcoholic beverage producers in the world, and owner of Bulleit Bourbon. In a series of Facebook posts, Hollis Bulleit, who is far from a stranger in the alcoholic beverage industry, revealed that she was pushed out of her job bc, drumroll…she’s gay (that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the homophobia she experienced over the 10 years since she came out to her family).
If you’re queer and you live in the United States, your job is not as secure as you think (here are 5 more people fired for their sexuality). Hell, not just your job–your home is not as secure as you think. Neither is your ability to partake of public services like restaurants or hotels. As of 2017, only 21 states (and D.C.) have statewide non-discrimination protections in place for LGB people (of that number, only 19 offer protections based on sexuality and gender identity). Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is very real and collectively, queer people suffer bc of that.
The discrimination we face begins at a young age. The social stigma faced by queer youth is enormous. Familial rejection. Rejection by religious organizations. Bullying in schools. Homelessness. Alone, any one of those challenges can be damn near insurmountable for many queer youth, but to have to face more than one? It can seem virtually impossible. And the stress such discrimination places upon queer youth can adversely affect their mental and physical health.
To my surprise (and probably many readers), we are not alone in our struggles. The stress we face. The oppression we endure. The discrimination dealt with. It’s not just we who have problems. There’s one group that seems to think they suffer as much as we do…that they face discrimination on par with the shit we have to put up with. Watch the following video, Not Alone (if you can stomach it without throwing anything at your computer or wailing so loudly that you shatter your screen and torment your pets), and see for yourself just how rough these people have it:
Religion did not play a significant role in my life growing up. My parents did not force me (or, later, my sister) to attend church on Sundays or Wednesdays, or Christmas or Easter. I’m sure my parents had a BIble or two in the house, but I don’t recall seeing a copy (my memory becomes hazier the further back I try to recollect, so they might have had one and I don’t remember). We said grace before big holiday meals like Easter, Turkey Day, and Christmas. Mom and dad would occasionally pray to god for one thing or another and mentioned that they didn’t want to belong to any one church, so they were non-denominational believers. Aside from that, religion was not a presence in my life growing up. No Bible was ever put in front of me, nor was I told I had to read verses before bed or other stuff many kids have to do. In fact, to this day I’ve not read the Bible cover to cover*. Church was such a non-presence in my life that by age 21 I had only been inside three churches. The first time was for a funeral. Second time was for a wedding. The other was a trip to New Orleans with friends and we walked around a cathedral (can’t recall the name of it, but I think it had some really nice stained glass windows).
For all that we weren’t a church-going family, we did consider ourselves believers, even if nominally. My parents used to say “we don’t believe in organized religion, but we do believe something is out there” (I’ve occasionally thought about discussing this with them bc the statement “we don’t believe in organized religion”–taken on its face–is nonsense, given that organized religion *does* exist and here in the Southern United States, we have evidence of it on what seems like every other damn street). I don’t ever recall asking my sister her thoughts on religion, though with the eight year difference (she’s younger) she may not have given it much thought until her teen years bc our parents did not foist religion upon us. For my part, I remember as a teen holding beliefs about a vague universal guiding force that created everything. I didn’t worship him (and yeah, of course he was a him, thanks patriarchy), but I believed he existed. When I finally started coming out of the closet, my views shifted a bit, bc I wasn’t seeing any evidence there was a god. So I became an agnostic. And when I went to college and took some philosophy courses and an intro to logic course, I ditched agnosticism and chose atheism (though technically I’m an agnostic atheist, as I don’t know for sure there is or isn’t a god, but either way, I don’t *believe* in a the god of the Bible any more than I believe in any of the other thousands of gods humanity has created).
One thing I noticed as I got older was how much in the dark I was about religious issues. My lack of religious background as a child left me incredibly ignorant on many things that others find mundane. When I first heard about PZ Myers’ Communion Wafer incident, I had no clue what a Communion Wafer was or what Communion was (now that I do? what a weird belief). I knew nothing about the Establishment Clause and how important it is to our secular society, nor had I heard any of the cognitive fallacies that theists engage in when trying to demonstrate their deity exists. I also knew virtually nothing about Judaism or Islam.
Then there’s the harmful stuff I knew nothing about. The morally repulsive stuff. The stuff that leads to an increase i suffering. Among the deeply disturbing information I discovered about christianity was the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church to the use of birth control, the Religious RIght’s war on queers, the use of the Bible to support slavery, and the history of child sexual abuse cases from the Roman Catholic Church.
Speaking of the child sexual abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Church, another example came to light today: Cardinal George Pell, the third highest ranking Vatican official has been accused of multiple sexual offenses: