Flash Mob: Homophobia Kills Die-In

Act on Principles is a group promoting “Full LGBT civil rights now. No delay. No excuses.” The group is currently attempting to get the American Equality Bill (AEB) filed in the Senate.  The AEB would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as federally protected statuses. 

Queer SOS is an activist project of the Act on Principles group that is focusing their attention on Senator Gillibrand of New York.  Queer SOS wants Sen. Gillibrand to file the proposed American Equality Bill.  Last Friday Queer SOS hosted “Flash Mob: Homophobia Kills Die-In” in Grand Central Station:

Aside from hosting energizing flash mob art-performances-with-a-message, Queer SOS is demonstrating daily outside of Sen. Gillibrand’s offices.  This is part of the the communication that the AEB Project sent to Sen. Gillibrand on 9/17/10 (bolding is original):

Dear Senator Gillibrand,

I’m writing to request again that you commit to and file a Civil Rights bill for our community immediately.

As you know, it is the prime duty of Government to protect its citizens from discrimination and Congress has failed over 30 million LGBTQ people in this regard.

We can not wait any longer for action to redress this.

To press this issue, activists will be launching a daily, friendly vigil outside your campaign offices starting Sept. 27th until the American Equality Bill (AEB) is filed.   If no bill is filed as of October 11th we plan to go 24/7, and then on Nov. 2nd to begin group fasting. 

This is a very serious matter as people will be risking their health standing outside and fasting for basic human justice.  We should not have to take these steps, but talking about this has failed and there is no other option.

We will broadcast our work daily, seek as much media attention as possible, and try to join you at other public campaign appearances.

Please know that this is not an opposition action in any way and that we are very happy your campaign is doing so well! But we NEED YOUR HELP now! We need this bill to organize around and there is no excuse for not filing it immediately.

rest of letter omitted

I support public demonstrations that do not harm or unduly inconvenience the audience to the point where they are coerced into taking action.  Get out there, make your message known, go first amendment-protected speech! 

But group fasting?

It appears to me that threatening a fast is a coercive action – Hey Senator, I’m going to hurt myself unless you do what I want you to do.  I support the goals of this group and I want to support the group itself, but I have reservations about fasting as a political statement.  I know that hunger strikes aren’t new, but why are they okay?  Why is holding one’s health hostage an acceptable means of political pressure?  Can anyone tell me why hunger strikes are appropriate, or give me arguments about why they are not?

Flash Mob: Homophobia Kills Die-In

Restoring Sanity Rally

Do want! I must check cheapflights.com for flights to D.C. immediately!

Everything below is copy-pasted from CNN – click the link for the full article at CNN.com

Via CNN:

[cnnvideo url=’http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2010/09/17/am.stewart.colbert.rally.cnn’ inline=’true’]

Two Comedy Central funnymen are apparently entering into the partisan political fray with rallies of their own in the nation’s capital.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have set October 30 as the date for their respective rallies.

On Thursday night’s airing of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” the comedian announced plans for a “Rally to Restore Sanity.”

“See you October 30 on the National Mall to spread the timeless message, ‘Take it down a notch for America,’ ” he said.

Stewart dubbed the event a “clarion call for rationality.”

“A million moderate march, where we take to the streets to send a message to our leaders and our national media that says, ‘We are here! We … are only here until 6 though, because we have a sitter,'” he said.

On “The Colbert Report,” which airs immediately after Stewart’s show, Colbert fired back with plans for his “March to Keep Fear Alive.”

“Now is not the time to take it down a notch. Now is the time for all good men to freak out for freedom,” Colbert said.

Stewart said on his Thursday show that he had reserved a spot on the National Mall.

“The forms have been filled out, the checks have been written,” he said.

[portion of original article omitted]

The announcements come less than three weeks after conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck hosted a much-publicized “Restoring Honor” rally on the National Mall, urging large crowds to “turn back to God” and return America to the values on which it was founded.

That event drew criticism for its timing and location — on the 47th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in the same place.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson told CNN at the time that Beck was mimicking King and “humiliating the tradition.” And other civil rights activists gathered nearby with the Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network in a “Reclaim the Dream” rally.

Stewart first publicly floated the idea of a counter-rally in a profile in the September 12 edition of New York magazine.

“Maybe we would do a ‘March of the Reasonable,’ on a date of no particular significance,” Stewart says in the article.

The website logos and icons created for the Colbert and Stewart rallies mimic Beck’s, using identical typography and similar stylized images.

“We’re looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard,” the website for the “Rally to Restore Sanity” says.

The “March to Keep Fear Alive” site takes a more alarmist approach: “Never forget — ‘Reason’ is just one letter away from ‘Treason.’ Coincidence? Reasonable people would say it is, but America can’t afford to take that chance.”

Restoring Sanity Rally

Thank you, Ladies.

This is making its way around the interwebs right now.  I thought it would make a nice addition to today’s Minnesota primary races.  Did you vote?  Thanks to Mary B for sending this my way.

Admin Notes: There is definitely an appeal to emotion in the writing below, but the history appears solid from the little bit of fact-checking I’ve done this evening.  Also, with all the references to HBO’s Iron-Jawed Angels, I’m not promising that this isn’t a cleverly disguised advert.  And knowing all this, you should give it a read.

Aside from a little formatting to fit the blog, everything below this point is unedited and not my words.


This is the story of our Mothers and Grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.  And by the end of the night, they were barely alive.  Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of ‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’

(Lucy Burns)

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

(Dora Lewis)

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.  Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the ‘Night of Terror’ on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote.  For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms.

(Alice Paul)

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won’t vote this year because…why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work?  Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?

(Mrs. Pauline Adams in the prison garb she wore while serving a sixty-day sentence.)

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s new movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels.’ It is a graphic depiction of the battle
these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

(Miss Edith Ainge, of Jamestown , New York )

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote.  Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege.  Sometimes it was inconvenient.

(Berthe Arnold, CSU graduate)

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women’s history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was–with herself. ‘One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,’ she said.  ‘What would those women think of the way I use, or don’t use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.’ The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her ‘all over again.’

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn’t our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

(Conferring over ratification [of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution] at [National Woman’s Party] headquarters, Jackson Pl [ace] [ Washington , D.C. ]. L-R Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer, Alice Paul, Florence Boeckel, Mabel Vernon (standing, right))

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know.  We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party – remember to vote.

(‘Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.’)


Hey, I’m back.  I also found this related “Ken Burns-esque” video on youtube.  There are a several pictures in this video that aren’t in the story above.

Thank you, Ladies.

Atheism: Brutal Truth vs. Getting Along

One of the things that is hard for me to get my head around as a burgeoning skeptic is the the internally divisive nature of atheism.  Some atheists are hardliners in their rejection of religion and theism, and others are personally atheistic while tolerating religious belief and practice in others.  At first it appeared to me to be an atheist vs. humanist philosophy: both rely on secular reasoning and believe that religion is a divisive force, but atheists are much more anti-theist whereas humanists focus less on critiquing religion and more on “getting along”. 

But it ain’t that simple, is it?  Atheism and Humanism are not exclusive philosophies, and one is not better, or more good, or more focused on helping our fellow human beings than the other.  Austin Cline has written a little about this in his blog entry Humanism vs. Atheism, and he criticizes those who would identify humanists as tolerant and atheists as roundly intolerant. 

But the New Atheists are intolerant of religion.  From Wikipedia: “What the New Atheists share is a belief that religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.”  New Atheists believe that religions and theism are the source of much that is wrong in life, and that the world would be a better place if religion were to disappear from our cultures.  They believe that together we can make the world a less religious place, that through visibility of the issues we can get religion out of our governments, our legal arenas, our law enforcement.  They’re often loud, unapologetic and thus they become the target of mockery and even threats from religious extremists.  But they are not intolerant human beings, they are intolerant of  this one thing – religion – in our world.

Then there are atheists who, I suppose like myself as I currently am, say go on, go ahead, do your thing.  Atheists who regard their atheism as a private “belief”, not really anyone else’s business, just as others’ religious beliefs aren’t theirs. For a while I rather liked the term apatheist – one who regards the existence of a deity as a relatively meaningless and irrelevant question.  But I’ve come to think that with all of the crappy crap associated with religion and religious belief, and the majority of people who participate in religion, apatheism is also too simple of a road (just as apathy itself is too simple of a road for most of life).

From a 2006 WIRED magazine article, The Church of the Non-Believers, by Gary Wolf, in which he describes the attitudes of some of his friends:

Most of these people call themselves agnostic, but they don’t harbor much suspicion that God is real. They tell me they reject atheism not out of piety but out of politeness. As one said, “Atheism is like telling somebody, ‘The very thing you hinge your life on, I totally dismiss.'”

I’ve spoken with atheists who think this type of soft-spoken, private atheism is naive.  One woman told me that we haven’t earned private atheism yet, that it’s a luxury that we can’t afford, that we need to raise our voices up to decry the persecution of non-believers.  I had one jerk tell me that by being a “private atheist” I was like “one of those” silent dissenting Germans during the Holocaust and then he quoted the First They Came For… poem to me.  He actually quoted four verses of the poem to me.  Really?  REALLY?

I thought Gary Wolf’s WIRED magazine article was very informational, and a thought out, sincere exploration of the type of atheistic activism proposed by the New Atheists.  The article opens with this:

My friends, I must ask you an important question today: Where do you stand on God?

It’s a question you may prefer not to be asked. But I’m afraid I have no choice. We find ourselves, this very autumn, three and a half centuries after the intellectual martyrdom of Galileo, caught up in a struggle of ultimate importance, when each one of us must make a commitment. It is time to declare our position.

This is the challenge posed by the New Atheists. We are called upon, we lax agnostics, we noncommittal nonbelievers, we vague deists who would be embarrassed to defend antique absurdities like the Virgin Birth or the notion that Mary rose into heaven without dying, or any other blatant myth; we are called out, we fence-sitters, and told to help exorcise this debilitating curse: the curse of faith.

The New Atheists will not let us off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; it’s evil. Now that the battle has been joined, there’s no excuse for shirking.

I think New Atheists see the bigger picture, they see the possibility of a world without religion and they’re willing to fight for it.  Perhaps less active “private” atheists see the world and their neighbors that are in front of them now and they want to get along in daily life, not be part of a revolution.

I participated in Boobquake (an activist response), but I also don’t take my neighbor to task for sending her kids to bible camp (a getting along in daily life response).  As with most things in life, there is no one instruction book or recipe that you can use across all situations.

The following writing from PZ Myers (Pharyngula) is what inspired my post today.  It is an excerpt from his post “Sunday Sacrilege: The Joke“.

Unfortunately, right now, I see the atheist community needlessly split between two poles. There are the softies who complain that believers don’t deserve ridicule, that hard truths and blunt speech and laughing at fervently held beliefs simply hardens hearts and drives people away, so we have to be sensitive and avoid confrontation; logic and gentle persuasion will win the day. Then there are the hard-edged ones (the current favored term for these is “dicks”) who point out that you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into, and that those fond beliefs are being used to hurt people, and must be strongly criticized and mocked. And that, really, religion is a clown circus, and asking us not to point and laugh is unnatural and dishonest.

Both sides are wrong, and both sides are right, and there sure aren’t many people standing at either extreme. You can reason some people out of indoctrination, and slow and patient instruction can win people over to atheism. I know some of them; they write to me and tell me that something I said actually led them to think through their position. But shock also works. Ultimately, people hold their religious beliefs for emotional reasons; deep down, fear and comfort, disgust and empathy are the tools religion uses to manipulate natural human desires. We would be idiots to shun emotional appeals, and it would also play into the ridiculous Spock stereotype of atheists as cold dead soulless people who substitute math for passion.

Sometimes you can reason people out of deeply held beliefs. But it helps if first you stir their discontent with those beliefs, if you wake them up to the fact that they look ridiculous…and that yes, there is a whole group of people who are laughing at them.

It’s another form of sacrilege, to make believers and belief the butt of the joke — and oh, they do hate that. It’s an entirely human response…so use it.

I appreciate PZ’s viewpoint.  It helps me get a better grip on the “why” behind the New Atheists’ “brutal truth” approach to their intolerance of religion.  PZ makes an argument for ridicule, but he also points out that ridicule won’t win ’em all.  I think he’s saying that ridicule has a time and place, and in certain situations can be an effective tool.  But then again, with great tools comes great responsibility to not be a tool.

Tough balance…


Six Days ’til Italy!

A sunflower field in Spoleto, Perugia, Umbria, Italy

Atheism: Brutal Truth vs. Getting Along