Empty Rhetoric

It’s been surreal watching people excuse the words of Republican presidential candidates–most prominently but nothing like exclusively Donald Trump–as empty rhetoric we don’t really have to worry about. I wrote this on Facebook yesterday, in the aftermath of the murders at Planned Parenthood. Someone asked for it to be sharable as a blog post as well.

Once upon a time, a politician telling you he (mostly “he” then) was pro-life meant that you knew who contributed to his campaign. He wasn’t going to actually do much of anything about it. He could get elected talking about it, but action risked re-election in most places. Besides, the courts weren’t terribly friendly to the idea. He could point to them if his constituents wanted to know why he wasn’t getting anywhere.

As a country, we got comfortable electing these people. It didn’t do any harm, you see. [Read more…]

The Problem Is That I’m Not in an Institution

Well, well. This is something new. I’m used to people blaming mass shootings on mental illness because “Obviously there’s something wrong with those people.” I’m used to gross, proud ignorance of what constitutes mental illness and indignation over being asked to get it right before classing a large group as a menace to society.

What I’m not used to is a bunch of gun nuts telling us we can’t talk about gun control because we liberals were all in favor of deinstitutionalization. That’s the problem, you see. We no longer take away people’s freedom because their brains don’t work right all the time, so of course people are dying.

Nothing to do with the proliferation of guns and entitled attitudes toward them and incorrect beliefs about how they end up used. Nah, it’s because we don’t lock up all those crazies.

[Read more…]

Protecting a Patient’s Right to Know

If you’ve seen me talk about Catholic health care in the U.S. before, you know that there are a number of things that piss me off. You also know that one of the top items on this list is that Catholic health services prevent patients from making informed choices about their health or giving informed consent to their health care providers.

Not only do these facilities maintain a list of directives where they will substitute their “moral” judgment for evidence-based standards of care, but they won’t tell you that they do so. They won’t disclose all your treatment options, and they won’t tell you when a safer option than the one they’re recommending exists. They have decided in all their heavenly wisdom that it is better to keep you in the dark than run the risk that you’ll seek these treatments elsewhere.

American Atheists has just made me very happy by announcing a plan to change that. [Read more…]

Can Inclusive Language Exclude Women?

Well, it’s come to this. A pro-choice feminist has hounded an abortion doctor and advocate on Twitter for using the phrase “pregnant person” instead of “woman” when arguing with people who are against abortion–and with people who thanked Dr. Torres for being inclusive in her language.

There were a couple of reasons given for this hounding. The first being that inclusive language erases women as being the primary recipients of abortions a la “All lives matter”. As Jason points out, that argument has problems.

The second argument given is that using inclusive language when talking about abortion obscures the sexism and misogyny that have pushed the political fight against abortion rights. This is also wrong, but I’ve seen it cropping up more frequently lately. That makes it time to deal with it. [Read more…]

Copyright and Keeping a Tune

Do you know how to sing, “Happy Birthday to You”? Are you sure? I’m a bit uncertain myself, and I’ve had a few years of choral training.

This morning, I tweeted this:

This has led to some interesting discussion on Facebook that’s worth repeating for a broader crowd, because the reasons behind this particular bit of bad singing are interesting. [Read more…]

But How Will You Unite Us?

David Koepsell has a post up on his blog at Center for Inquiry that looks familiar.

It is natural for us to dissent from one another. We are freethinkers. We have our own ideas, our own visions, and at our best we encourage open debate. At our worst, we attack our allies, demonize those who disagree with us, and splinter our forces and efforts needlessly. It seems that every minor ideological or procedural disagreement we have with one another becomes an opportunity to attack, to lambast, to shun, or worse – purge our ranks. This is a tremendous strategic mistake. The culture wars are not over, and the bastion we have begun to build is always capable of being undermined.

If it rings bells for you too, that is probably because it hearkens back to Ron Lindsay’s post from nearly three years ago.

Shunning and boycotting may be gaining acceptance in the atheist and skeptic communities.   In particular, it appears they are being adopted as tactics against fellow atheists and skeptics.  This is regrettable.

Unfortunately, I think Koepsell’s post has as much chance of changing the situation as Lindsay’s did. [Read more…]

The Easy Targets

I miss having Hiba as a colleague here at FtB. I fully support her taking her writing in the direction she wants, and I have no doubt she’ll continue to be successful at it, but I miss her blogging. I miss the nuance she brought. I miss the confrontational truths. I miss the challenge to break down our behaviors and really understand them.

I miss this sort of thing.

Side-by-side photos of Hiba Krisht, one with hijab, one with bare hair and shoulders. Text in post.

Feminism is defending Muslim women who wear the hijab for whatever reason against shaming or attack.

Feminism is not categorically denying that the hijab can be coercive, body-shaming, slut-shaming, restrictive, or psychologically crippling.
– Hiba Krisht

Ex-Muslims of North America posted this to their public Facebook group a couple of days ago. Some of their readers had a problem with the statements. Actually, they mostly had one of three problems. [Read more…]

A Useful Definition of Identity Politics

“Identity politics” has never been more than a dogwhistle in my experience. It’s been a way to tell people facing discrimination in activist spaces that they should shut up for the cause. It’s used to suggest that certain identities are inherently divisive when asserted, while others are still merely default. In other words, it’s made certain identities unwelcome in organizing simply through its use.

This is why it was refreshing and illuminating to see an activist lay out a definition that’s useful for planning effective activism and that doesn’t define the behavior of only a marginalized group as political. Interestingly enough, it came out of discussions about Rachel Dolezal a couple of months ago. From Elizabeth Wood at Woodhull Alliance: [Read more…]

Democrats Can’t Win on the White Vote

Like most progressives, I’ve seen far too many people I otherwise respect talking about how terrible it was that Black Lives Matter protestors have interrupted Bernie Sanders campaign events. “Why make this harder for Bernie? Don’t they want a progressive elected?”

Dana did a good job rounding up perspectives from POC activists and cultural critics that folks should really go read on this. I mean, why ask, “Why?”, when people have been trying to tell you for days? There are plenty of answers if you really want to know.

I’m not in a position to add to any of that analysis, but I can give you some numbers to back up what they’re saying. [Read more…]

She Called Abortion a “Blessing”

The Freedom from Religion Foundation has announced that co-founder Anne Nicol Gaylor died last night at age 88. She ran the foundation for two and a half decades. She was “out to destroy Christianity”. She was a polemicist in the very best sense of that word. She wrote thousands of checks to fund abortions through her Women’s Medical Fund and made sure there was always someone to answer the phone when someone found themselves pregnant and desperate.

She is also, as a female atheist activist of a prior generation, always in danger of being written out of history. Yes, even having done all that.

Don’t let her be forgotten. Take a moment to celebrate a life devoted to making a difference. Read an appreciation of her life, and recognize the quotes that are used so often and attributed to her so rarely. Read her writing (including her book Abortion Is a Blessing) and share it with others.

This kind of legacy is the only form of immortality we’re offered. If anyone has earned it, Anne Nicol Gaylor certainly did.