To the Boston Bomber(s)

You’re a fucking coward, whoever you are.

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know if you’re a domestic or foreign coward, or a single coward or many. Doesn’t matter. I don’t need your name and your back story to know you’re a fucking coward. Only cowards plant bombs where innocent people and children will be out enjoying a race. Only cowards run away so they don’t have to deal with the aftermath of what they’ve done.*

You’re a pathetic little shit. No decent human being thinks bombing civilians is a great way to achieve their agenda.** I don’t give two tugs on a dead dog’s dick what your agenda is. It could be some liberal end-all-wars-and-free-healthcare-for-all agenda, the same one I root for, and I’d still call you a despicable rat-fucking coward. Blowing up people watching a marathon isn’t the way to go about it. It’s what ineffectual, cowardly losers do. It’s what people without the courage of their convictions and lacking the fortitude to stay the course do.

And you know what? I’m willing to stake cash money you’re religious. I don’t care what your religion is. If you think your god approves of what you did, you’ve either got a sadistic shitlord of a god or you’re completely fucking wrong about its agenda. Being as gods are products of our own minds, I’m pretty sure it’s option A. You’ve created something just as bad as you. Congratulations. You’ve proven you don’t belong with the rest of the human race. We’ll find you, and we’ll excise you like a cancer.

I’m anti-death penalty, but I’ll tell you: that stance is hard to hold when it comes to despicable cowardly little shits like you. But I hope you don’t get put to death when we catch you, try you and convict you. I hope you have to rot away in a tiny concrete room. I hope you spend so many years there that most everyone forgets you. I hope you live to understand how little you matter, how much better off the world is without you. I hope you live until your conscience comes calling, and tears you apart from the inside. There are worse things than death, and I’m not a good enough person to prevent myself from wishing them upon you.

I hope the people you ripped apart with your cowardice get justice. I hope every single one of them haunts you, waking and sleeping, until the end of your days.

I’ll cry for your victims later. Right now, I just want to make you this promise, coward: your life is over as of this moment. We’re coming for you. We can never set this right, but there will be a reckoning.

 

*Suicide bombers are twice the coward, because they don’t stay to face any of the consequences, not even seeing their victims on the evening news and risking that stark moment of humanity when they realize they’ve done the worst possible thing, and will have to live with the blood on their hands for the rest of their pathetic lives.

**No, I’m not letting America off the hook for its drone strikes. That’s cowardice, too.

Hey, Richard Dawkins! Women Aren’t Invisible

So stop treating us like we are.

Really, you only seem to notice women when you can use them to conveniently bludgeon religions. You’re super-concerned about how women are treated in the Muslim world because Islam. You call the Judeo-Christian god a “misogynistic…bully,” because hey, great point of attack, amirite? So women might get the idea you’re on their side, but when it counts, when we’re fighting against sexism and misogyny in the atheist community, you “Dear Muslima” us. When it comes to abortion rights, you’re more for pigs and parasites than you are women. You don’t see us, actual human beings with fundamental rights to bodily autonomy and respect. You see a rhetorical device. And you don’t even seem to be aware you’re doing it. I hope you’re not. I hope you’re not the kind of man who would deliberately erase a woman from the picture. But unintententional or no, that’s precisely what you’re doing.

How the religious right (and, later in pregnancy, Richard Dawkins) view pregnant women. All they can see is a fetus.

How the religious right (and, later in pregnancy, people like Richard Dawkins) view pregnant women. All they can see is a fetus.

Do you know who else erases women? The right-wing anti-abortion fanatics. They’re more thorough about it than you are, but you’re no slouch. I mean, look what happened when a woman tried to correct you on the fetuses-feel-pain thing:

You can see the full tweet stream, with awesome commentary, courtesy of Znikki at Storify. I encourage you to read the whole thing, because it is particularly relevant that Znikki sent actual scientific studies to correct Dawkins’ position and he ignored both her and the studies while responding to her husband.

Isn’t that interesting? I wonder why your eyes would edit out a female so easily. Oh, I’m certain you treat the women you know quite well, and you believe in equality and all that. You’re at least willing to grant a woman control over her body up until that mythical point when a fetus comes to feel pain, which is better than the anti-abortion zealots who banish women from the equation from the get-go, but you still have trouble with seeing women as complete, autonomous human beings. Your gaze slides right past them to the fetus parasitizing them, or the male they’re married to. Perhaps you should stop and ask yourself why that is.

You know what? I had to ask myself the same thing. Yeah, really. Even thought I’m a woman, I had a distressing tendency to fall for sexist tropes and erase my own gender from the picture. Good people brought me up short and forced me to reexamine certain of my assumptions. It wasn’t easy, but it’s easier than treating half the population on planet Earth as if they’re no more than incubators and rhetorical devices.

But I get it. I’m not being facetious: I really do get it. It’s hard. You’re a male, you’ve not got the anatomy necessary to ever be at risk for pregnancy. You don’t spend all day every day trying to avoid becoming a rape statistic. It’s hard to walk in other people’s shoes, I grant you that. So here’s a little thought exercise to help you out:

A fanatical Jain sect gains ground. One of their major beliefs is that killing parasites is murder. That sect controls nearly every aspect of the culture you live in. They support political parties and influence the laws of the land. You can’t escape their influence. And some of their ideas regarding parasites are pretty scary for anyone who could become infested.

  • The most radical ones say you can’t take medicine that would kill or evacuate parasite eggs before they implant.
  • Even the milder Jain sects say you must allow the parasite to mature within you, no matter how burdensome. Some make exceptions for life of the host, but in practice, hosts (that’s possibly you!) have died because doctors refuse to remove the parasites – even though not doing so means both the parasite and the person dies.
  • Many Jains think parasites are a consequence of fun activities such as swimming, and you should just accept the risks. If you don’t want to get a parasite, don’t go swimming. Oh, and refrain from eating most food, too. It’s your own fault if you eat food that hasn’t been completely checked for parasites, and end up having to host one.

Would you allow Jains to force you to carry parasites? Or would you fight them for control over your own body with everything you’ve got?

And how would you feel if a member of your secular community, a leading light, stood up and said, effectively, “Well, the Jains are wrong about forcing you to carry a parasite before it reaches a certain stage of development, but after that, parasites should not be removed. They can feel as much pain as an adult farm animal, therefore they should be allowed to grow.” How would you feel if that leader placed a parasite’s pain above your own, never even considered your pain as part of the equation – when that leader is immune to parasites and will never, ever have to face carrying one himself?

I doubt any of this will really get through to you, Richard. For you, it’s a thought experiment. For me and other uterus-bearing humans, it’s a distinct possibility. And we really don’t need men such as yourself coming along and throwing in with the make-pregnant-humans-invisible crowd, even partially. We’re fighting a hard enough battle without your misguided and flat-out wrong input.

I do hope you eventually take a moment to consider the fact that no other human beings are regularly forced to give up their bodily autonomy to have someone attached to and feeding from them for nine months. If you would refuse to have a person coupled with your body for an extended period of time, even to save their life; if you wouldn’t go into surgery today to donate half your liver or a kidney to an utter stranger who doesn’t even have a self-aware brain yet, much less the same hopes, dreams and plans that you do, why do you think you can blithely tell women to suck it up and give birth to a parasite? Pain is a ridiculous measure to go by. You’ll call me an absolutist, and think yourself superior for being otherwise, but I’m drawing the consequential line in a different place than you. I’m drawing it where the parasite is no longer physically attached. Then we can call it a baby. Then we can say that its life has equal worth, and that it must be cared for, if not by the birth mother then by someone else. Before that, all that matters is the person carrying it. That person can no longer be erased. Not by religious fanatics, not by social conservatives, and certainly not by you.

The whole picture is quite different, isn't it?

The whole picture is quite different, isn’t it?

Image badly modified by moi. Original here. Look, I’m no artist, m’kay?

Before you comment, read the policy. Know it. Respect it. Be aware I haven’t any patience with people who can’t see women, so if your comment erases women from the equation, elides important details, or in general annoys me, you won’t get through. There are some things not up for debate. Women’s status as full human beings is one of those.

Interesting Times II

Here’s the news we’ve all been waiting for: the results of the investigation. Huzzah! After running their cherry-picked* interview statements past Legal and HR, the most that management could manage was a counseling notice for insubordination. As far as punishments go, it’s like a slap on the back of the hand and a giggled, “You naughty girl, stahp!” I’m wondering if that’s because Legal said something like, “WTF? Are you trying to get sued for millions?”

I’m vastly amused. Disappointed, but amused.

Where do we go from here? Well, my two ethics complaints (one for my manager’s legally questionable termination, and one for my legally-questionable suspension) are still in play. They have a counseling notice I refused to sign (politely! Wouldn’t want them to think I was being insubordinate or anything!). I have a disciplinary action against me that gets the union’s foot in the door for a grievance. What they seem to be doing to me is trying to stretch a tripwire across my path, since shutting me up has proved to be such a spectacular failure. What I’m doing is hopping right over it with a grin and a whistle. What do they have? A very weak sauce. What do I have? A heaping helping of wasabi – a documented pattern of behavior that looks for all the world like retaliation. Oh, honey.

I have also got a hostile work environment. I feel ganged up on and targeted. I have coworkers who are either terrified or despairing – but after what happened to me and my manager, the terror and despair have begun to turn into a righteous outrage. People are tired of living in fear. They’re uniting to make things better. And it is beautiful.

Still. It should never have come to this.

Under the microscope, I shall continue on my quest to improve working conditions, with my union and my co-workers at my side. We won’t be stopped.

Meanwhile, my manager has only just begun to sue.

Stay tuned.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

*I say this because witnesses who were standing right there who happened to be my peers were, oddly enough, never interviewed. One of them is my friend and a union steward, and lo, she was never called upon. Interesting coinky-dink, that, and leads to the strong impression that this investigation may have failed to meet the minimal qualifications for totally unbiased. Color me shocked.

Interesting Times

So Friday was a bit of a strange day. It started with management splitting up my former manager’s team and parceling us out other managers. It continued with me filing an ethics complaint because of my concerns over the legality of his firing. It concluded with them suspending me with pay “pending investigation.” Investigating what? They wouldn’t say. Not to me, and not to the union steward. Why did they suspend me, then? They said they were investigating to find that out. True fucking story. What they appeared to be doing is getting me out of the way while they attempted to find something they could use to intimidate me into silence. That’s certainly how it seemed.

That impression intensified Monday, when they tried to intimidate me with some pretty weak tea. Alas for them, witnesses witnessed, and they have nothing. They ended up returning me to duty after a brief attempt at silencing me about the whole affair, which I nixed by pointing out that such attempt is very possibly illegal and I would have to seek advice, after which the request changed from silence to “discretion” with a quickness. They’re still “investigating.” I have no way to be certain, but it looks very much like a spirited attempt at retaliation, boys and girls. This appearance is creating what we in the business call “a hostile work environment.” This could lead to Very Interesting Times, indeed. I’m certainly finding them fascinating so far.

I’m not ready to tell the whole story just yet. I have certain avenues I’m pursuing, and shall hold my tongue publicly until I have professional legal advice. I will, however, make the observation that both my manager and myself found our jobs threatened or ended just after filing ethics complaints. I believe that fact will prove to be of some interest to various parties going forward.

Thank you, those of you who forwarded the names of attorneys. That will be very helpful to both my former manager and myself, and possibly others.

A few things I want to make sure are crystal clear:

1. I don’t want you to worry about me (this means you, Mom and Dad!).

2. Please don’t die of curiosity. I know this is all rather vague, but depending on certain outcomes, it may not be vague for long.

3. I’m fine. Seriously, fine. I was prepared for this eventuality, and I have time now to prepare even further. So see #1

I may at some point need to hold out the tip jar. You’re under no obligation to fill it if so, but anyone who can help when that time comes will have my undying gratitude and possibly swag. I’ll do me best to make it worth your while. And I beg your patience in advance, because there may be some days when I have to neglect the blog in favor of working on this stuff. Hopefully, it won’t last long.

Wish me luck, my darlings.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

Sign to Save Amina

So here’s a thing that shouldn’t be happening: a young woman posts a picture of herself topless with the slogan “my body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honour” has been kidnapped “for her own good” and condemned to death by a cleric who thinks boobs and defiance are terrible things to display.

There is a petition here for those who would like to inform her government that neither of these things are at all acceptable. International pressure may help protect and save her from harm.

Also, April 4th will be the International Day to Defend Amina. Maryam Namazie has many excellent suggestions for doing so.

Let’s help make this shit stop.

Image courtesy Maryam Namazie.

Image courtesy Maryam Namazie.

Attention Washington Peeps: Lawyer Recommendations Needed

Some of you may be aware that all is not happy families at my place of business. Now the family is broken, because they decided to fire my manager. Yes, the one who stood by his employees. Yes, the one who had just filed an ethics complaint. And yes, they did it for a reason that is very close to blatantly illegal, if not right over the line.

My manager is, shall we say, exploring options in pursuing legal remedies . He’d like your assistance in finding the right person for the job. Let me know if you’re an employment attorney licensed to practice in the state of Washington, and enjoy the challenge of taking on well-known multinational companies. If you’re not an attorney but have recommendations, we’re all ears. Send your info to dhunterauthor at yahoo.

Thank you for your help!

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

“Rape is not a recreational activity.” Steubenville Rape Verdict Roundup

A near-miracle has happened: two rapists have been convicted of sexual assault. Excuse me, found “delinquent” in a juvenile court. At their ages, had they stolen something more than an intoxicated girl’s bodily integrity, they would have likely been charged as adults – but hey, it’s just rape. Not like they stole a car or murdered somebody, amirite? And, hey, if they learn the appropriate sorry-won’t-do-it-again words, they may not even have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Pretty sweet, huh? That’s actually amazing, considering how few rapists ever get convicted at all.

United States rape statistics. Those numbers should horrify every decent human being. Image courtesy RAINN.

United States rape statistics. Those numbers should horrify every decent human being. Image courtesy RAINN.

And you know what America’s future rapists are learning from this rare semi-functioning of the justice system? Don’t rape? Don’t make me laugh. No, what they’re learning is simple: don’t do your raping in front of dozens of witnesses, and don’t upload pictures and video of your raping to social media. That’s what the judge warned them about:

Judge Lipps described much of the evidence as “profane and ugly.” In sentencing the boys, he said rape was among the gravest of crimes and noted that they could have been tried as adults with far harsher punishments. He also said the case was a cautionary lesson in how teenagers conduct themselves when alcohol is present and in “how you record things on social media that are so prevalent today.”

Folks, this is rape culture. The message isn’t, “Don’t rape. Full stop.” No, it’s more of, “Try not to, and if you can’t help yourself, don’t make it so inescapably obvious. Because rape is just awful (wink, wink), but being forced to punish popular people is ever so much worse.”

And calling out rape culture and its apologists? Horrible.

And victims reporting their rapes and seeking a conviction? Obviously the worst thing of all, worthy of death threats and additional threats of rape, because how dare victims think they deserve justice?

One of the reasons I’m proud to blog at Freethought Blogs is because the bloggers and readers here don’t tolerate this shit. And maybe, just maybe, if we fight back against rape culture over and over and over and over again, we can begin to change it. If we refuse to be silenced, maybe, just maybe, this rape culture will no longer be studiously ignored. If we speak out forcefully, loudly, repeatedly, maybe there won’t be another person who doesn’t know what rape is:

One of the three, when asked why he did not try to stop what was happening, testified that he did not realize it was rape. “It wasn’t violent,” he said. “I didn’t know exactly what rape was.”

Following is a selection of links and comments from around FtB, with some from our allies. We’re not fighting this fight alone.

Butterflies and Wheels:

Steubenville: Richmond and Mays found guilty.

They didn’t realize?

If you don’t want to be treated like one…

Pharyngula:

Steubenville rapists found guilty.

Do you deny that rape culture exists?

I’m not usually a fan of dog-piling…

Brute Reason:

More About Justice and Less About Revenge: On Reading the Steubenville Coverage Too Early in the Goddamn Day. (If you only have time for one, make it this one. I mean it.)

Biodork:

Talking About Rape

Shakesville:

Steubenville Trial: Two Found Guilty.

An Observation.

The Raw Story:

CNN grieves that guilty verdict ruined ‘promising’ lives of Steubenville rapists.

The top 5 rape apologist reactions to the Steubenville rape verdict.

 

Some comments from our community:

tigtog on ignoring “trolls”:

One doesn’t have to be consciously/deliberately pro-rape to be an actively harmful participant in rape culture. Most rape culture involves trivialising and minimising the experience of rape, not promoting the practice of it.

Many people feel that the rigorous calling out of toxic victim-blaming and rape apologetics is a hugely important process contributiong towards the goal of dismantling rape culture. When you tell them to stop doing it just because you think that this one particular person’s statements are less important than Some V.V. Important Thing Which Is Gained By Ignoring Him, then you trivialising and minimising the experience of rape, by framing the naming and shaming of rape apologia as less important than the satisfaction you gain by ignoring this guy.

I absolutely believe that you are not personally/deliberately pro-rape. Telling others to ignore somebody who clearly is pro-rape doesn’t help you look like an effective anti-rape ally though.

And:

If it wasn’t for folks on the internet highlighting their vileness relentlessly for years and years, there probably wouldn’t be a cadre of volunteers to act as a buffer zone between the mourners at funerals and the WBC pickets, and the WBC would be spouting their vileness without opposing voices.

Clear strong opposing voices are much more comforting to the targeted than a dignified silence which opposes nothing.

 

The Mellow Monkey on silence in the face of rape apologia:

You know, I’ve been surrounded by people who go uncomfortably silent or just try to ignore nasty rape apologia for years. That silence has been every bit as damaging and hurtful as anything nasty someone could say, because either they are silently supporting the bad stuff or they just don’t care to provide support and defense to victims.

So when you say “Don’t Feed the Trolls”, you’re not just suggesting that you should deny a troll attention (and people seem to think anybody who disagrees with them is a “troll” only seeking attention instead of a genuinely hateful asshat, of which there are millions on this planet). You’re also suggesting that you should deny all of the survivors support. You’re suggesting that you should ignore the pain people are being caused. You’re suggesting that because you are lucky enough to not be hurt by those words, it’s the fault of a rape survivor for being upset by them.

Fuck that. I will continue calling it out every chance I get. Will it change the mind of the one spouting it? Probably not. But it might change the minds of all those assholes who sit around quietly refusing to take a stance. And–most important of all–it will make other survivors feel a little less alone and marginalized.

And that last one is a fucking hell lot more important than “oh no, some troll got attention.” That last one saves lives.

 

Pteryxx on rape culture:

 

No rape culture, eh?

-

*warning for victim-blaming within the trial, specifically re testifying, and photos – Og, brace yourself*

The alleged victim is not expected to testify when the trial begins in Jefferson County juvenile court — before outside judge Tom Lipps took over for a recused judge with ties to the famed Steubenville High football teach, a West Virginia judge blocked a subpoena of the girl and two other witnesses called by the defense. But that hasn’t stopped Richmond’s attorney from using Jane Doe’s so-called “silence” against her: “The person who is the accuser here is silent just as she was that night, and that’s because there was consent,” Madison said.

There it is. Directly claiming the silence of an unconscious victim equals consent. And using that claim to shame her for not testifying up to that point.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/03/steubenville-trial-defense/62967/

More coverage of her testimony:

http://www.cleveland.com/steubenville-rape-case/index.ssf/2013/03/steubenville_rape_case_decisio.html

“Honestly, I was praying that everything I heard wasn’t true,” she testified. She didn’t want to be the center of drama, especially in a small town, everybody-knows-everybody atmosphere. “I thought everybody would blame me.”

And she was right.

On Aug. 14, after taking the teen to a medical center in her hometown of Weirton, her parents decided to go to police. She testified that she sat in the car.

“You never wanted to go to court on charges did you,” asked Marianne Hemmeter, a special prosecutor with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

“No,” the girl said, who has the 28th witness to testify during the trial, which began Wednesday.

And while CNN and almost all the coverage focuses on the poor promising rapists:

In the most outwardly emotional moment of the testimony, Hemmeter showed the 16-year-old a photo of herself that she had not seen. In the photo, she is lying on the tan carpet of a basement floor, naked and on her stomach. Her arms are underneath her body.

The girl began to cry, as did some of her family members, many of whom were wearing teal ribbons and the color teal, which is identified with supporting survivors of sexual assault.

“Do you remember that photo?” Hemmeter asked.

“No,” the teen replied.

“How’s that make you feel?” Hemmeter said softly.

“Not good,” she answered.

Even more here:

http://www.cleveland.com/steubenville-rape-case/index.ssf/2013/03/steubenville_rape_case_teen_gi.html#incart_river

She also testified that she did not want to go to police. She said it was her parents’ idea. She sent a text to one defendant, 17, saying, “We know you didn’t rape me.”

Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter asked her that when she sent the text, did she know that digital penetration was also rape. The girl said she didn’t know that. She also said she didn’t know she had been digitally penetrated.

Like most victims, like most people, she didn’t know what counted as rape. But she did know coming forward would make her a target, and would make her friends turn on her; because they already had, that very night.

Hemmeter read from three of the texts: “Reno (football coach Reno Saccoccia) just called my house and said I raped you,” one said.

Another said, “You know what happened, there’s no video, so nothing happened.”

The third said, “This is the most pointless thing I’m going to get in trouble for. I should be thanked for taking care of you.”

The girl testified that she was interested in him and left a party with him because she trusted him.

She trusted him, and he said “there’s no video, so nothing happened.” She trusted him, and her friends (now former friends) yelled at her and blamed her the next morning, before she even knew what had been done to her and before she even knew the word “rape” applied to it. Though judging by the video, her attackers knew perfectly well that’s what it was.

And that’s the story, her story, and basically all of our stories in one form or another, that’s being erased when all the sympathy’s given to her rapists. That’s rape culture in action.

There’s far more from excellent people. If you have time, read the threads on the FtB and allies posts linked above. Speak out. Change the culture. And let’s never forget what Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said as he promised to take this case further: “Rape is not a recreational activity.”

Sunday Sorrow: What We Can Do

No songs today. Something broke this time.

These mass killings have gone on since before I was born, and somehow I accepted them. Outrageous, horrible, tragic: can’t do anything about them in our gun-obsessed, health care-deprived, bullying, class-ridden society. Moving on, then.

Not this time.

These mass killings have gone on since before I was born. I want them to stop before I die.

And I will need your help. We are going to have to start pushing hard together for a great many things.

We will need evidence-based solutions. Good studies of mass killers will need to be done; those studies will have to be conceived of, and funded, and read, and digested, and disseminated, and acted upon.

We know, already, that these mass killers have a tendency to use the kind of weapons you don’t keep around the house for shooting deer. We may not yet know how to keep them from hatching fantasies of killing, but we do know one way to mitigate their damage: get the guns out of their hands. We do indeed have the right to bear arms in this country. That right does not need to include assault rifles, semi-automatic handguns, and extra-large clips with armor piercing and/or hollowpoint ammunition. You want to shoot that shit off, you can do it at a gun club where your weapons are kept under lock and key and not allowed to leave the premises.

These fantasies about more guns being the answer need to stop. Watch this video:

You are a howling idiot if you believe you could do any better. The answer is not more guns. Period, full stop.

But controlling guns alone won’t fix the problem.

We need to combat bullying in schools. Kids need to learn to accept differences, learn it early, and have it reinforced often. So many people who have gone on to kill were outcast, bullied, denigrated, driven to despair – and even if it turns out that stopping bullying doesn’t stop the kind of social dislocation that causes people to murder one another, it will sure as fuck prevent a few suicides, and that is reason enough to do it.

We must push for better health care. If health care of all sorts were as cheap and easy to obtain as bullets, and had just as little stigma attached, more people would be able to get the help and support they need, physically, mentally and emotionally. They might walk in to the doctor’s office for help with that pit they’re edging up to, before they’ve gone down in it and think they can only shoot their way out of.

And as I say this, we need to absolutely ensure that we are not falling into the trap of blaming what these people do on being mentally ill, developmentally disabled, learning disabled, or any other bullshit reason people reach for in order to draw a nice thick line between regular ol’ us and homicidal, horrible them. Yes, absolutely, they are disturbed. You do not shoot up crowds of people if you are not disturbed. But the vast majority of us have one or more of those illnesses or disabilities that people try to pin the blame on. If any one of us found ourselves angry and suicidal enough to follow the blaze-of-glory script, people could whip a quirk out of our quirk bag and wave it around shrieking, “That’s it!” They were depressed, or schizo, or bipolar, or ADD, or autistic, or dyslexic, or had a small lesion, or hit their head as a kid, or… the list goes on, it is endless, and it means bugger-all. Stop fucking stigmatizing every mentally ill person in the country by saying only people with a mental illness can kill. This is not true and it doesn’t help anyone.

Here’s a helpful reminder:

“Predicting the Risk of Future Dangerousness”

Phillipps, Robert T.M. Virtual Mentor. June 2012, Volume 14, Number 6: 472-476.

Abstract: “A consequence if not a driving force of the pendulum swing away from benevolence and toward the protection of others has been increased attention to an individual’s dangerousness, with the operative presumption that dangerousness is often the result of a mental illness. But dangerousness is not always the result of mental illness. Individuals who commit violent or aggressive acts often do so for reasons unrelated to mental illness…. Research, in fact, confirms the error in associating dangerousness with mental illness, showing that “the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illnesses [8]. The absolute risk of violence among the mentally ill as a group is still very small and…only a small proportion of the violence in our society can be attributed to persons who are mentally ill” [4]. Violence is not a diagnosis nor is it a disease [9]. Potential to do harm is not a symptom or a sign of mental illness, rather it must be the central consideration when assessing future dangerousness.” [emphasis added]

Does mental illness need to be destigmatized, diagnosed, and treated? Absolutely. Are some killers mentally ill? Sure. But just like we know a few assault weapons bans won’t resolve the problem, we know – or should know – that we can’t blame mental illness for every asshole who walks into a crowded place and opens fire.

We must identify factors that can trigger violence, and put in place safety nets to keep people from falling too far. There are things we can do for those who have lost jobs, loved ones, suffered other triggering events that, combined with other factors, could help put them in a situation where violence seems like the best and only answer for them.

But we must also stop glorifying killers. We must stop treating them like rock stars. No matter the horror we express about what they’ve done, we allow them fame because they killed, and we must find a way to educate ourselves about them and their actions without giving them that fame.

We will have to work to change a culture where little boys are taught to glorify violence and turn their aggression outward while holding their pain in until they burst, while little girls are taught to harm themselves first of all. We need better definitions of action and heroism. We need to change certain aspects of our culture that are doing more harm than good.

We must address poverty, and economic disparity, and work to reduce the differences between the haves and have-nots. We need to make this country that much more just.

Those who still believe must realize that bringing prayer into schools will solve nothing. What use is a God who will let 20 kindergartners and first graders die because people didn’t praise it enough? God will always have an excuse to do nothing: wrong kind of prayer, not enough worship, whatever excuse believers can come up with to excuse its absence.

And we all must be relentless. Call and write your Congresspeople. Contact your governor; rattle the cages of your state representatives.

Sign petitions. You may think they’re useless, but they are voices, and enough voices raised to a shout might get heard.

Here is one on Whitehouse.gov: Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress. And, for good measure: Today IS the day: Sponsor strict gun control laws in the wake of the CT school massacre. Also, since you’re already there and because so much violence starts in the home: Change Domestic Violence Awareness month form October to May so that it can rise from the shadows of Breast Cancer.

Avaaz would like us to Tell the NRA: ENOUGH! I couldn’t agree more.

SignOn has this excellent petition: Newtown, today we tell our leaders “No more!”

Done signing petitions and writing to politicians? Want to do more than howl? Donate to Newtown Youth and Family Services. They have set up a fund for the Sandy Hook victims, and are providing desperately needed mental health services in the wake of this travesty.

Donate to the Red Cross, which responds in disasters like these, too.

And remember.

Roses.

And use your anger and pain for building a better world.

Enough Children Have Died

Enough children going to school, or out with their families, have died. Enough adults going to work, going out to eat, going shopping, going to the movies, have died. Enough people attending political rallies have died. Enough people have died.

It’s time to have a serious conversation as to why the United States has so many more of these shootings than anyone else.

It’s time to get serious about gun control.

It’s time we found the political will to face down the NRA and those who refuse to believe that regulating guns will solve anything, and make it much more diffcult for raging, hateful people to access the weapons they need for murder.

It’s time we found the political will to face down the cries of socialism and enact health care policies that will allow people to seek the help of a therapist when they can’t control their anger and hate on their own. It’s time we have the will to ensure that people who need help can get it, afford it, and will be judged as strong and good for seeking that help.

It’s time we stop excusing these killers as lone nuts, and start seeking real answers regarding their actions so that we can engage in real prevention. It’s time we had the courage to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

It’s time. It’s been time for a very long time.

I don’t want to see any more dead kids on my screen.

Contact your representatives. Tell them it’s time.

Control Arms campaigner David Grimason lays a photo of his son Alistair, who was killed by stray bullets in a gun fight, at the base of a mock tombstone. Control Arms coalition set up a mock graveyard next to the United Nations building in New York July 25, 2012. They are demonstrating as the negotiations for an Arms Trade Treaty comes to a close on Friday. Image and caption courtesy Control Arms/ Andrew Kelly

Control Arms campaigner David Grimason lays a photo of his son Alistair, who was killed by stray bullets in a gun fight, at the base of a mock tombstone. Control Arms coalition set up a mock graveyard next to the United Nations building in New York July 25, 2012. They are demonstrating as the negotiations for an Arms Trade Treaty comes to a close on Friday. Image and caption courtesy Control Arms/ Andrew Kelly

Link roundup and my letter to my Congresspeople below the fold.

From FreethoughtBlogs:

I am putting Avicenna’s post on top. If your heart isn’t already broken, I hope this breaks it.

A Million Gods: “The Right to Bear Arms.”

After he’s told us about a five year-old who will never, ever be the same, he says, “If you don’t realise that the right to not get shot is more important than the right to shoot people then nothing I say will ever make sense to you.” And this is what I will be saying to anyone who starts arguing with me about the right to bear arms, unless I choose the choice words of John Poteet instead.

Do not even think about slathering your right to shoot people bullshit all over my comments section. You have nothing to say to me today.

To all of you who might be tempted to howl, “Don’t politicize a tragedy!” – answer this question:

Brute Reason: If Not Now, When? On Politicizing Tragedy.

I’m not willing to wait a “decent interval” while children are dying, and have been for decades.

Pharyngula: Newtown Murders and Before you reach for the “it’s not guns, it’s the cray cray” argument.

Zingularity: Elementary school gunman identified, Frum makes sense on guns and Take a wild guess why Fischer & Huckabee think the shooting happened?

Greta Christina’s Blog: The Newtown Shootings: It Is Not Too Soon to Start Talking.

Butterflies and Wheels: A holy God in judgment.

Lousy Canuck: Yet another isolated incident of gun violence.

No Country for Women: Let the children live.

Ashley F. Miller: When You Tie Shootings to Mental Illness.

Mano Singham: What more is there to say?

 

Other reactions I’ve read:

Love, Joy, Feminism: Tragedies Should Be Calls to Action.

Wonkblog: Mythbusting: Israel and Switzerland are not gun-toting utopias.

Mother Jones: A Guide to Mass Shootings in America.

David Frum on The Daily Beast: Every Day is the Day to Talk About Gun Control.

Ontario Geofish: Male depression and machine guns from vending machines.

Salon: Congress mum on “guns” in wake of shooting.

Cross-Check: Will Connecticut Massacre Give Politicians the Guts to Take on the Gun Lobby?

John Poteet (reproduced here for those without access to G+):

If you’re thinking of defending easy access to handguns today…

Shut The Fuck Up.

Just shut up. Your gun is not your dick and it won’t kill you to shut up and listen to people, parents, grandparent aunts, uncles, brother’s and sisters of schoolchildren and teachers rant and grieve for a few days. This is the product of your philosophy. This blood is on your hands.

Own it. Silently.

 

This is the letter I wrote to my Congresspeople. Feel free to steal and modify for your own purposes. Contact your Congresspeople now.

Dear [Congressperson];

Enough children have died.

Enough children going to school, or out with their families, have died. Enough adults going to work, going out to eat, going shopping, going to the movies, have died. Enough people attending political rallies have died. Enough people have died.

It’s time to have a serious conversation as to why the United States has so many more of these shootings than anyone else.

It’s time to talk seriously about gun control.

I’m sure you’re aware that in at least 2/3 of the 62 mass shootings that resulted in more than 4 deaths, the weapons used by the killers were legal. (Source: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map)

It’s time we found the political will to face down the NRA and those who refuse to believe that regulating guns will solve anything, and make it much more diffcult for raging, hateful people to access the weapons they need for murder.

It’s time we found the political will to face down the cries of socialism and enact health care policies that will enable people to seek the help of a therapist when they can’t control their anger and hate on their own. It’s time we have the will to ensure that people who need help can get it, afford it, and will be judged as strong and good for seeking that help.

It’s time we stop excusing these killers as lone nuts, and start seeking real answers regarding their actions so that we can engage in real prevention. It’s time we had the courage to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

It’s time. It’s been time for a very long time.

I don’t want to see any more dead kids on my screen. What will you do today to help ensure that America’s children are protected from gun violence?

Sincerely,

Dana Hunter

Annual U.S. Firearms Fatalities. Image courtesy Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Annual U.S. Firearms Fatalities. Image courtesy Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Tell Me Again About Our Post-Racial Society

Actually, tell it to Ashley Miller’s dad, who disowned her for dating outside her race. He apparently didn’t get the memo about racism being a thing of the past. A scene with two lovers holding hands in which there is some contrast in skin tone is, to him, so intolerable that he must cut his daughter out of his life. Of course, he’s a coward as well as a racist, so he made his wife tell his daughter that he is willing to give her up over the skin color of her beau.

Lovers holding hands. Image courtesy Tanjila Ahmed.

Lovers holding hands. Image courtesy Tanjila Ahmed.

Racism is still a reality. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. Don’t tell yourself that lie.

I hope Ashley’s father has a photo like this one.

Parent and child. Image courtesy Steve Baty.

Parent and child. Image courtesy Steve Baty.

I hope it makes him weep. I hope it will make him think, and I hope it will eventually make him come to some different conclusions.