But Voting Is Illegal

I thought we were mostly done with this after 2016. I thought we’d cleaned up the lingering bits of it after the 2018 midterms. But as the push to get people registered to vote in the 2020 primaries and general election ramps up, I’m seeing it again.

“If voting made a difference, it would be illegal.”

There’s just one problem with that. Voting is illegal.

Oh, it might not be illegal for you. If you belong to a population that isn’t over-policed and over-sentenced, if you were born in and have a stable residence in a “nice” (i.e., white and relatively wealthy) neighborhood, if your appearance is unremarkable among the voters at your polling station, then yeah, it’s probably perfectly legal for you to vote.

That doesn’t mean this is true for everyone else. Continue reading “But Voting Is Illegal”

But Voting Is Illegal
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Things I Believe About Impeachment

A short list.

  • Public opinion doesn’t favor impeachment of Trump at this point.
  • If Trump is impeached, there is essentially 0% chance of the Senate voting to remove him from office.
  • Running against Pence in 2020 would be substantially harder than running against Trump.
  • The number one achievable political goal at this point, for the health of the country and the marginalized people within it, has to be Republicans losing control of as many governmental bodies as possible, starting with the executive branch but including Congress.
  • A small number of past Representatives who have voted to impeach have lost their seats at least in part because of these votes.
  • Many of Trump’s most damning crimes from an impeachment perspective involve acts that would be legal if he were a private citizen and live in an area of law few people other than specialists understand.
  • Impeachment proceedings will be viewed by some moderate/independent voters as a partisan act by Democrats.
  • Right-wing media, corporate and independent, would use impeachment proceedings to attack Democrats, often dishonestly, and there is a large segment of the voting population that only trusts these outlets.
  • The administration’s response to impeachment proceedings would provoke multiple constitutional crises of various sizes under an untested, very partisan Supreme Court.
  • Most Democrats in the House who haven’t come out in favor of impeachment are considering some or all of these factors and are right to do so carefully.
  • Even given all this, it’s critical for the survival of our constitutional system and many, many people that we move to impeach.
Things I Believe About Impeachment

“Secular Voices Panel”, Juhem Navarro-Rivera on Atheists Talk

We talk a fair amount in the secular movement about the non-religious as a growing political force. We should. We are. But the problem is that we don’t have a lot of data about how we behave as voters. Truth be told, we don’t even always have a good picture of who we are. We just know there are more of us than there used to be.

Juhem Navarro-Rivera is a political scientist working to shed light on the topic. His latest project is the Secular Voices Panel, which will survey secular voters during the 2020 campaigns. Juhem joins us this Sunday to talk about why this work is important and what he’s already learned.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF Sundays at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation. Or sign up on Patreon for exclusive content.

“Secular Voices Panel”, Juhem Navarro-Rivera on Atheists Talk

“Have You Considered White People?”

This post is brought to you courtesy of Patreon. If you want to support more work like this, you can sign up here. I haven’t been much more active on Patreon over the last couple of years than I have been here, but expect that to change soon.

I first named the phenomenon at the Moving Social Justice Forward conference in Los Angeles in 2014. It wasn’t the first question like this at the conference, by any means. It probably wasn’t the first conference where I’d heard a question like that either. It was, however, a perfect opportunity to notice.

The SSJ conference put activists of color, most of them black, on stage to talk about hands-on organizing and activism. The topics they covered were matters of life and death, though they often aren’t treated that way. In the secular movement, these subjects often aren’t covered at all.

Given all that, it wasn’t surprising for me to find myself part of a proportionally much smaller white audience at the event. I may even have been in the minority, though there were still a large number of white people in the audience. There were points during the Q&As when I wished there were fewer.

Q&As always have problems. No matter how carefully moderators specify their requirements, people will still decide the guidelines don’t apply to them. They ramble. They act as though they’d been invited to be onstage. They treat “Here is my opinion; don’t you agree?” as a question.

Photo: Silhouette of short-haired person with hand raised against a blurred presentation screen.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

I noticed this specific problem for the first time at this conference when a panel of student activists combating the school-to-prison pipeline opened the floor to questions. “Have you tried talking to legislators?” Well, yes, of course they had, and they’d discussed legislation that might help, but they couldn’t wait for it to pass because people needed their help now. And they were achieving success with their methods.

There were other questions like this that weekend. Other activists talked about helping themselves and each other and were greeted with some form of “Have you tried going to the government for help?” It was this question, though, that made me realize I was listening to people ask, “Have you considered white people?”

I saw it again at the Social Justice panel at AHACon in May 2016. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was the one majority-POC panel. The instructions were great. (I’m stealing “The shorter the better. Preferably one sentence ending in a question mark.”) A couple of the questions, however, included “I didn’t hear you say anything about voting” and something about Bernie Sanders.

“Have you considered white people?”

Fellow white people, we need to stop asking questions like these. Continue reading ““Have You Considered White People?””

“Have You Considered White People?”

“The Ethics of Star Trek”, James Croft on Atheists Talk

Sunday’s show promises to be just a little bit geeky. Or maybe a lot geeky. Scott Lohman is joining me to talk with James Croft about the ethics of Star Trek. James presented a workshop on the topic at the Secular Student Alliance conference this summer, and when I heard about it, I knew I had to put the two of them together to talk about it. You may not hear me much on this week’s show, but know I’ll be grinning quietly in the studio.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF Sundays at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

“The Ethics of Star Trek”, James Croft on Atheists Talk

The Plank in the Skeptic’s Eye

I haven’t had much to say about the Atheist Community of Austin voting out a significant chunk of their board and losing multiple volunteers over work with a skeptic YouTuber who decided he needed to weigh in on trans women in sports. By and large, that’s because I haven’t had time to follow it all, and I can’t see how I could be any help by talking about the situation in ignorance.

(If you’re in the same position, you can watch these two interviews with former board members and volunteers. I’m not aware of similar summary explanations from the remaining organization, but I’d be happy to link to those as well. Still, I don’t think any of these are necessary for this post.)

I’ve also been thinking about the situation mostly from an organizational standpoint. One of the boards I’m on is in the middle of revising its bylaws, and the other has that on our to do list, so I’m thinking processes. Plus, last year, I had people say they were going to show up to vote against my election to the board because of my “intolerance” of their position on trans issues. We had to consult the bylaws to figure out how to let them do that, since I was running unopposed. Then they never showed. But I digress.

More recently, I’ve been going through my older posts for a couple of projects. As I did, I realized just how much of load of nonsense “mission creep” really was. Don’t get me wrong. I knew it was nonsense. I argued it was nonsense. I simply missed something important because I let others frame the argument. Continue reading “The Plank in the Skeptic’s Eye”

The Plank in the Skeptic’s Eye

Who Do You Think You Are? Gods?

In 2016, I took part in the Godless Perverts reading at Skepticon. The performance wasn’t recorded, which opened up the possibilities for more than one performer. It also means no one outside that room knows what I said there, until now.

I lucked out on sex education. My house was the place the other kids came to learn how babies were made and whether the things that were happening to their bodies and minds were normal. Me? I didn’t have to wonder. I had the information before I could ever get curious.

Now, of course, we were Minnesotan (fourth generation here), so that means we didn’t actually talk about any of this. It came out of books. That the books were radical says more about the time they were written than anything, about attempts to codify the openness of the Sixties and to prepare new generations to live in that open world. Though who knows? They might be radical again in a year or two.

Photo by wilecany.

That our house was the house for these books also says a lot. It says some things about poverty and education, given how and where I lived, but it also speaks to religion and shame. Strict rules around pleasure and sexuality were one of the reasons my parents abandoned organized religion and promised never to foist it on their children. Apparently eloping before their scheduled wedding just so they could fuck felt ridiculous even to them.

Those books and their place on our public bookshelves were part of their efforts to spare us what they went through. I don’t know whether we were supposed to find the books on the private bookshelves, the erotica and the sex guides. As I said, Minnesotan. But they served the same purpose.

I entered adolescence with a solid sense of sexual possibility. I can’t quite tell you how I reconciled that with being pathologically shy at the time, but I did get over the shyness. Continue reading “Who Do You Think You Are? Gods?”

Who Do You Think You Are? Gods?

Mock the Movie: Less Animated Edition

This post will not be a paean to Ray Harryhausen, but only because Mock the Movie is not about good things. It is about people who look at a good thing and think they can do better just because they have more modern tools. Yes, we’re looking at you, Silicon Valley. We’re also looking at Clash of the Titans, of course.

This one is available on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Less Animated Edition”

Mock the Movie: Less Animated Edition

On the Weakness of Slurs

I was surprised to find I didn’t have a version of this on my blog. I’ve certainly said it often enough elsewhere, though the earliest I’ve found was in response to “critics” of Hillary Clinton.

We don’t use gendered, fat-shaming, homophobic, etc. insults not because they have to be reserved for the worst of bad people but because they say you think there’s something wrong with the everyday people they apply to.

“Ugh, that—I don’t usually say this—bitch!”

I see this or a version of this using another slur remarkably often. It reflects such a strange misunderstanding of how language works that I boggle every time.

If you say this, you’re trying to tell me that only “bitch” works in this context because it’s the only insult that’s strong enough for you. Weaker, lesser insults just won’t convey how terrible this person is. But that isn’t how slurs work.

Contrary to your assumption, slurs are among the weakest insults. That’s why they can be reclaimed. No one stands up with fire in their eye and says, “Yes, I’m a poopyhead.” There are a lot of proud bitches out there though.

The power of a slur doesn’t come from the insult. It comes from the reminder that we exist in a system ready to put bitches back in their place. That’s not an insult but a threat. And the power of reclamation comes from facing that threat and persisting anyway.

Any insult inherent in a slur is merely a statement that the person you’re using a slur on doesn’t know “their place”. That you want them to, because you can’t win whatever conflict you have on equal ground. And that’s just not particularly insulting, at least not to them.

On the Weakness of Slurs

If You Don’t Want Us Speaking Ill of the Dead

If it disturbs you to see people speak ill of the dead, it might be time to examine the apparent compulsion to speak well of them. There will always be those who mean so much to us that we have to eulogize them. Of course. Observances of death are for the living, including the mourners.

After that, well, we always have the option to say nothing. We take it too rarely. Even more rarely do we think about how our words may prompt responses, how our statements invite argument.

You don’t owe it to the dead to speak well of them. They can’t be helped or harmed by it. They’re dead. Your words, if any, are for the living. That includes the people injured by the dead. If you don’t want them to speak of those injuries, consider simply not speaking praise that erases them. It’s easier than you might think.

If You Don’t Want Us Speaking Ill of the Dead