“So Help Me…”

As I waited in line at the local Town Hall
(They do cars; they do dogs; I had both)
The woman ahead of me, newly elected,
Was given her swearing-in oath

“Do you swear or affirm to this long list of stuff?”
It began, though it seemed a bit odd:
With “affirm” in the text, as a secular nod,
It still ended with “so help me God

The woman assented; she signed all the forms,
And got herself ready to go
Then paused for a moment, and said to the clerk
“I’m an atheist, though, you should know.”

The state makes assumptions about our beliefs
Which are wrong, as this incident proved
That phrase has been haunting us quite long enough
And it’s high time we had it removed. [Read more...]

“Under God” Suits In MA, NJ

Public schools are, it seems, now alleging that pledging
Allegiance to flags, and to gods, is the rule;
“Under God” makes the word “indivisible” risible—
Laughable, really, for kids in their school—
Of course there are children abstaining, explaining
Their worldview prevents them from going along;
They’d say “under god”, but it’s blather; they’d rather
Say nothing at all, than to say something wrong

These kids will all face brutal mocking—it’s shocking,
That good Christian children would treat them this way
But kids know, the way to defeat them, is beat them
Till, bleeding and bruised, they have learned to obey
The truth is, the pledge that they’re saying is praying—
It separates children, by form of belief…
Just read Seuss’s tale of the Sneetches, which teaches
That such segregation leads surely to grief. [Read more...]

On Realizing That Corporations Are People Too… And That You’ve Fallen In Love With One.

My darling corporate entity
I’ve loved you from the start
One hundred ten percentity,
With more than just my heart
I told you what I meantity
In poetry and prose
You showed your discontentity
And that’s the way it goes.

My sweetheart business enterprise
I tried to win you back
I told you my intenterprise—
You told me what I lack
My capital I’d spenterprise
But you would not invest
My future’s in descenterprise—
My value is depressed.

My love, my all, my syndicate—
Forever and beyond!
I note, to my chagrindicate,
My word’s my only bond
I’d fight through thick and thindicate
To have you as my bride
I know I cannot windicate;
You know, at least, I tried

My darling corporate entity
I’ve loved you from the start
One hundred ten percentity,
With more than just my heart
I told you what I meantity
In poetry and prose
You showed your discontentity
And that’s the way it goes.

Yeah… put “loving you back” as another difference between the kind of people known as “corporations” and the kind of people known as “people”. “Going to jail” is another thing corporations can’t do. We’ll find out pretty soon whether “discrimination” is yet another.

“An Abortion, But Not A Tan”

“A young women if this bill passes can get an abortion, but not a tan, an abortion would be legal but a tan would not, think of it.” Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester)

She’s much too young for cigarettes,
And way too young for booze
Too young by far for voting;
There’s no telling who she’d choose!
She’s still too young for driving—
She could wipe out in a skid
But she’s old enough, or so they say,
To bear and raise a kid.

Too young for getting married
And too young to get tattoos
Too young to buy a handgun
Or to gamble (win or lose)
Too young to do a lot of things,
No ifs, no buts, no maybes…
But magically, she’s old enough
To be put in charge of babies!

I thought about it, Steve. There are, as you can see, quite a few things the state has decided are in its best interest, and the best interest of its citizens, to regulate. We don’t allow 14-yr-olds to vote, with or without their parents’ permission–that is the state’s choice. We don’t allow the parents to decide that their 12-year-old is responsible enough to drive. Mind you, parents can be idiots sometimes, so it is quite often the case that they will be the source of the kid’s cigarettes or beer well before it is legal; in such cases, we hold the parents liable for contributing to the delinquency of a minor!

Yup, kids make stupid decisions at times. They do things before they are mature enough to make good decisions (and of course, many adults simply make bad decisions, but the state has decided they can be responsible for themselves at a certain point). Forcing a teenaged girl to go through with a pregnancy is actually a fairly horrible thing to do; she is not mature enough, physically or emotionally, for childbirth, let alone for parenthood. One could make a strong case that it is in the state’s (and certainly the girls’) best interest to mandate abortion in cases of young teen pregnancy… but of course, such a law would never pass. Allowing choice, though, is not at all an extreme position–rather, it is a middle ground between mandating birth and mandating termination. And it is the only one that recognizes the bodily autonomy of the girl herself.

So, yeah, Steve, if the Tanning Safety bill had passed, a girl could have an abortion legally before she could go to a tanning bed legally (given the presence of the sun, the bill would not prohibit her from actually getting a tan); and this position is perfectly consistent with being concerned for the best interest of the girl. Your pro-skin-cancer, pro-forced-birth position is also consistent, if being cruel to girls is your aim.

(Of course, “A Good Cartoon” had this covered a while back.)

On Bodily Autonomy

There are accidents and incidents
And surgeries and wars—
There’s a constant need for blood, and so,
We’d like to borrow yours.

You can spare a pint or so a month—
We’ll take it from your arm—
And to make the process easier,
I’m setting up a farm:

We’ll keep you while you serve your term,
Three-quarters of a year,
And harvest blood and marrow—
For the greater good, it’s clear

You’ll be saving lives by dozens
So you’ll gladly do your part
Sure, we’re forcing your donation
Still, it’s coming from your heart

You’re in servitude to others
It’s a slavery of sorts
But you’re saving lives, and so we know
You’re good and willing sports

You can put your wishes second
You can put your life on hold
You can meet your obligations
You can do what you are told

You claim rights we cannot trample
Or shout “Freedom!” till you’re hoarse
You have life inside your bloodstream…
If we have to, we’ll use force

To complain’s unpatriotic—
But extremists raise their voice
And they’ll blather “it’s my body”
And the foolish “it’s my choice”

If the state controls your body
Then that argument’s a dud;
For the sake of someone else, then,
We’ll be harvesting your blood.

***

I doubt I need to put this in context.

A Humanist Prayer In The Arizona House Of Reps

Ok, this is really beautiful. Via Matthew Hendley writing for the Phoenix New Times blogs, we read that a second humanist representative, Juan Mendez, has had the chance to deliver the opening prayer for the Arizona House (the first was last May). Monday’s prayer wonderfully combines William Cleary’s “Grace to Shout” with Audre Lorde’s “Litany for Survival”, and it is, to my ear, a far more appropriate opening message for a legislative body than any supplication to a deity could possibly be:

In keeping with the spirit of the Opening Prayer during which we make a petition honoring our most sacred beliefs, I share with you a poem I adapted after hearing it from someone I respect — a prayer from my Humanist worldview that appeals to all our common humanness.

Today I ask for us all
the grace to shout
the grace to shout when it hurts,
even though silence is expected of us,

and the grace to listen when others shout
though it be painful to hear,

the grace to object, to protest, when we feel, taste or observe injustice
believing that even the unjust and arrogant
are human nonetheless
and therefore are worthy of strong efforts to reach them.

Do not choose a path that leads to the heart of despair
but choose to fill yourself with courage and understanding,

Choose to be that person who knows very well
when the moment has come to protest

I ask for us all the grace to be angry
when the weakest are the first to be exploited
and the trapped are squeezed for their meager resources,
when the most deserving are the last to thrive,
and the privileged demand more privilege.

I ask that we seek the inspiration we find inside each other to make our voices heard
when we have something that needs to be said,
something that rises to our lips despite the fear that was created in hopes to silence us,
to make us feel unwelcome

Audre Lorde, writer and civil rights activist asked us,
To remember that when we are silent we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive.

And so in closing I ask for us all to have the grace to listen when the many finally rise to speak and their words are an agony for us.

Beautiful and appropriate.

We can’t have that. Cue the obligatory commenter, reminding us that we are guaranteed freedom of, not from, religion, and suggesting that representative Mendez…, well, let’s let the commenter speak for himself:

This idiot athiest must be put shown the door and put on the next bus back to Mexico where he came from. His kind is not welcome here.

The good news is, the other commenters are not agreeing. The bad news is, you don’t have to look far to find scores who do.

Conservative? Check. Republican? Check. Atheist? Hang On There, Missy…

My mother-in-law is an atheist
And conservative, too, to the core
She’s a staunch and a lifelong Republican
But lately, I wonder, “what for?”

They claim that she ought to be Christian
That her outlook on life is all wrong
She’s in love with the party of Reagan
But feels, now, she doesn’t belong

Could conservatives really accept her?
And embrace her as one of their own?
All her life, she’s been growing more godless
But that’s not how her party has grown.

It’s a Christian Conservative Party
So atheists need not apply
They’re kicking her out of their playhouse…
They’re losing… and wondering why.

So, yeah, by now you’ve heard all about the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) clusterfuck kerfuffle (on FTB here and here) initially accepting, then at the last moment rejecting, the American Atheists’ presence at the conference.

Clearly, they reacted exactly perfectly, because there are people complaining on both sides. That is, in the same sense that an oval-world compromise between flat-earthers and round-earthers would be exactly perfect. That is, the flat-earth contingent is currently offended that the atheist group was even considered, let alone accepted, to begin with, whereas the real world notes that there are, in fact, atheist conservatives, though it strains credulity to think they feel they belong. (The links go to various hair-pulling, self-flagellating examinations of where conservatives went wrong….in even considering the possibility of atheist conservatives. Well, mostly. I left some of the worst sites alone.)

It is absolutely true, my mother in law is a conservative republican atheist. She once approved of prayer in schools because Reagan wanted it. Since then, she has read Hitchens, and Dawkins, and more; she is a card-carrying Bright (myself, not a fan of the Bright idea). I am looking forward to the possibility that she will actually vote for a Democrat next time, for the first time in her life, simply because she is fed up with the religious right.

I know she is not the only one.

The Biblical Justification For Arizona’s Proposed Law

Jesus hated homos, which he says in [find this verse]
Yes, he also hated hypocrites, but really, gays are worse
So as Arizonans ask themselves just “What would Jesus do?”
He’d engage in homophobia, like [look this verse up, too]
See, Jesus always made it clear [um, look this up as well]
Baking cakes or taking photographs could send you straight to hell
The Arizona bigots simply want the bible heeded…
They follow all the bible’s rules [citation clearly needed]

“Life Begins At Conception” Bill Proposed In NH

In lawmakers’ fevered perception, conception
Is God’s definition of “when life begins”
If mothers-to-be raise their voices, their choices
By God’s perfect standards, are nothing but sins
Since God can’t be named, a reliance on “science”
Is lawmakers’ choice as they justify votes
Though putative “facts” they parade up are made-up
And not what you’d see in biology notes.

But science, they’re not even trying—they’re lying—
They’re claiming biology backs up their view
Designed to exacerbate friction, this fiction
Pits out-and-out liars against me and you
This ploy is a public-relations sensation;
It looks so objective; it seems so precise
They’re betting against their deception’s detection—
If that’s what they’re thinking, they need to think twice

New Hampshire is an interesting case study–conservatives in NH come in two flavors (not mutually incompatible): social conservatives and libertarian (small “l”, usually) conservatives. Social conservatives tend to lean pro-life, and libertarian conservatives tend to lean pro-choice (you will have no problems pointing to counter-examples in both camps). To get the libertarian conservatives on board with a social conservative anti-abortion agenda, you need something more than “god says it’s wrong”. Defining embryos and fetuses as persons would place them under the umbrella of libertarian human rights, so that is one of many possible end-around tactics.

But of course, you can’t draw a defining line due to religious belief–the first amendment prohibits that–so you dress it in science. You say that science supports your definition, and you do your best to say it convincingly enough that nobody asks any actual scientists.

Thing is, it doesn’t matter what the scientists think. When someone acquires rights is not a scientific question. We know this when it comes to driving, drinking, voting, and other actions that personhood alone does not confer rights to. In a world where I can take another adult’s life if they threaten me, and I cannot take their kidney without their permission, even after they die, the rights of a woman to bodily autonomy are paramount. What the proposed legislation attempts to do is to lay the groundwork for treating women as second-class citizens, as bipedal incubators subject to the wishes of the religious right.

When does life begin? Some three and a half billion years ago. Since then, it has not begun, it has continued. That is a scientific view–but not one that particularly advances a pro-life agenda. If you ask biologists (seriously, on this question, who better?) when life begins… you will find they disagree.

Sorry, politicians. You’ll need a different argument if you want to create an incubator class. In a state that equates freedom with life itself (“Live Free Or Die”), you cannot make women slaves to the state, bearing children they did not choose. You want to set “everyone on an equal playing field”? Then women need the same independence from the constraints of pregnancy that men have.

What, that wasn’t what you meant?