Being Visible

Agents of change make status quo folks rather squirmy. Folks who were previously absent or invisible either join up or speak up, and next thing you know, colored people want to drink out of lily-white fountains, and red people want their land back and treaties honored, and homosexuals want to get married, and women want to be treated as more than sex objects…. It’s hard. It’s very hard for those who’d been used to the Way Things Were. There the world was, ticking over nicely in their estimation, and suddenly a horde of uppity upstarts are there harshing their mellow.

Jackie Robinson, who did a hell of a lot more than play good baseball. He broke color barriers all over the place: in various sports, in television, and in business. Image courtesy Maurice Terrell, LOOK magazine, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jackie Robinson, who did a hell of a lot more than play good baseball. He broke color barriers all over the place: in various sports, in television, and in business. Image courtesy Maurice Terrell, LOOK magazine, via Wikimedia Commons.

And what they’d dearly love is for us to shut up and go away.

I do understand. I’ve been Status Quo, you see. I grew up in a conservative household, and the conservative sentiment is “America – love it or leave it!” and there were many times when I wished those noisy liberals would just shut up and move to Canada if they hated this country so much. Learning the liberals were right was a long, at times painful, process. And there were issues with white privilege, and cis privilege, and middle-class privilege, that had me howling “shut up and go away!” until the people who refused to shut up and go away got through the fingers I had stuffed deeply in my ears. Now I’m glad they didn’t do what I wanted.

And that’s not a patch on the discomfort caused by feminists, who had a job o’ work convincing me to reexamine certain of my assumptions and admit that yes, even in America, feminism is desperately needed.

Florence Bascom, the first woman to receive a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, where she had to sit behind a screen so as not to discomfit the delicate menfolks. She went on to become the first female geologist in the USGS and the first woman elected to the GSA. She mentored three other women who became part of the USGS. So it would seem, in some situations, that being visible behind a screen can get the change ball rolling. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Florence Bascom, the first woman to receive a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, where she had to sit behind a screen so as not to discomfit the delicate menfolks. She went on to become the first female geologist in the USGS and the first woman elected to the GSA. She mentored three other women who became part of the USGS. So it would seem, in some situations, that being visible behind a screen can get the change ball rolling. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Did you notice? None of those folks went quietly away.

They remained visible and vocal. Sometimes, they were out there very vocally explaining the injustices they’d suffered, demanding commitments be honored and rights be extended. Sometimes, they were giving me a glimpse into what it meant to live as a minority among the majority, or disadvantaged among the advantaged. Sometimes they were just there, being visible doing things “conventional wisdom” said they weren’t supposed to do, thus proving conventional wisdom full of shit.

So there it is, this thing you can do if you’re not a firebrand or an activist, if you’re not able to devote yourself to constant activity in campaigns for equality. Not all of us have to be leaders or marchers. Those activists need you, too, being visible. Being in a non-traditional career, or a non-traditional relationship, or a non-traditional body. Being an atheist, matter-of-factly. Adding some color to a sea of white. Because the more visible the formerly-invisible people become, the harder it is to ignore and dismiss and other them, and the more other formerly-invisible people are encouraged to become visible. And momentum is gained. You know how inertia and momentum work. You know it gets easier to keep the ball rolling in the direction you want it to once you’ve got it up to a good speed.

Mathieu Chantelois and Marcelo Gomez getting married in Toronto, July 2003. They were among the first to tie the knot when same-sex marriage became legal in Ontario. The rest of Canada followed suit within a couple of years. Someday, I will be trying to explain why couples like Chantelois and Gomez were pioneers simply for loving each other and insisting on getting married, and those kids won't understand, because the pioneers will have made it all perfectly normal, just as it should be. Image courtesy Mm.Toronto via Wikimedia Commons.

Mathieu Chantelois and Marcelo Gomez getting married in Toronto, July 2003. They were among the first to tie the knot when same-sex marriage became legal in Ontario. The rest of Canada followed suit within a couple of years. Someday, I will be trying to explain why couples like Chantelois and Gomez were pioneers simply for loving each other and insisting on getting married, and those kids won’t understand, because the pioneers will have made it all perfectly normal, just as it should be. Image courtesy Mm.Toronto via Wikimedia Commons.

How can you impart a little extra momentum, even if you’re not in a position to give it a good shove? Do the little things. Sign petitions. Phone, write or email politicians and organizations and companies to let them know what you’d like them to start, stop or keep doing. When you can, correct mistaken assumptions and let the people around you know when something they’re doing or saying is a problem. You don’t have to make a huge fuss, just let them know there’s an alternative to what they just did or said that won’t hurt you. Support the people around you who are doing that work. People sometimes won’t understand they’re doing or saying bothersome things until multiple people have advised them it’s a problem.

You can think of more, I’m sure. And it won’t seem like much. It won’t ever seem like enough. Friction will sometimes steal some of the momentum, and it’s discouraging and horrible when that happens. You’ll sometimes feel like giving up in despair, because how can you’re little bit change anything?

But the point is to keep being visible. As much as you can. Because it’s very, very hard to ignore the people in plain sight, even if all they’re doing is quietly going about living a life prejudice said shouldn’t be possible.

Do your thing, and you will help revolutionize the world.

Aya Kamikawa, the first transgender person in Japan to hold an elected office (and won re-election rather handily). The government told her she'd be considered male; she told them she'd work as a woman. Image courtesy Kenji-Baptiste OIKAWA via Wikimedia Commons.

Aya Kamikawa, the first transgender person in Japan to hold an elected office (and won re-election rather handily). The government told her she’d be considered a man; she told them she’d work as a woman. Image courtesy Kenji-Baptiste OIKAWA via Wikimedia Commons.

 

(None of this is new. We already know it. But it sometimes bears repeating.)

Los Links: I Laughed, I Cried, They Became a Part of Me

Some of you will remember Los Links from back in the day when I could spend two days out of every week reading blogs, and then share the linky goodness with you. Life’s been too busy for a while for that, unfortunately. It should have been too busy tonight, but my brain said, “You know what? Fuck you. I’ve been thinking all day.” War at work, y’see: fighting to make things the best they can possibly be at an American megacorporation. It’s fun, and fulfilling, but taxing.

Thankfully, I had posts written (longhand) in advance, but my wrists said, “You know what? Fuck you. We’ve been typing most of the day.” So today ended with me lying about catching up on some freethought reading. If this continues tomorrow, I can bring you a roundup of recent geology posts. I suppose that won’t be so bad, now, will it? And then, on Wednesday, you will be guaranteed an original post of near-epic proportions, because we’re going to talk about why Mount St. Helens melted some bits but not all the bits on the cars. If we’re very fortunate, we’ll end up on Boing Boing again (thank you, Maggie Koerth-Baker!). I say we, because I wouldn’t have written up cars if it hadn’t been for you lot liking things like that, and as it turns out, you’re not the only ones. So, thank you, my darlings!

It’s not all happy fun times, alas. The thing with frequenting the freethought and skeptic blogs that I do is that Things That Are Not Happy get discussed, and if it weren’t for the bloggers and commenters restoring my hope for humanity, I’d have crawled off to a cave and become an official misanthrope by now. Between all of you, though, I am not willing to declare the vast majority of human kind irredeemable arseholes. Only a subset of it. Sigh.

There will be a humorous intermission, and loving comfort at the end. Stay with me.

Almost Diamonds: When You Already Are the Middle Ground. An important read, this, reminding us that people who are screeching for some “middle ground” between “the two extremes” haven’t quite noticed that one of those “extremes” is already the middle ground they’re howling for.

Being out of patience with the whole make-peace-with-the-howling-bigots sanctimonious shits, I’d like to recommend, in a calm and even voice, that they read the above post, and then please, if it’s not too much trouble, take their sanctimonious faux-peacemaking shit and stuff it in the orifice of their choice.

Love, Joy, Feminism: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Abortion Wars. I am inspired by Libby Anne’s post about her first experience as an abortion clinic escort. I’m inspired to start walking in to abortion clinics on days when protesters are present, just so I can shout at them, “Wow, thanks! I was just coming in for an ultrasound, but your signs featuring fake dead baby parts and your religious howling has inspired me to abort instead, because I don’t want to raise my child in a world featuring you assholes!” I’d love to see their dear little faces as they tried to compute that, and whilst we were facing off, some women could hopefully walk unmolested into the clinic for their procedures.

Skepchick: Ain’t I A Skeptic? This is just… I don’t even… I’m ashamed of humanity and any feminist who would complain that a woman isn’t a good enough feminist because she chooses to stay home with her kids. This is a reminder that feminism is about a woman’s choice, not about forcing her into a different set of narrow boxes. It’s also a reminder to white feminists such as myself that there are feminists of color whose experiences are different from our own, and we cannot shut them out. Why the fuck is it so hard for people to realize that mileage varies with varying degrees of privilege?

Blag Hag: Indiana high schoolers want to ban gays from prom. And just when the clueless gits within the skeptic/atheist communities have just about turned me off from speaking out against religion, because their toxic bullshit seems more or less equally toxic, along comes religion to remind me that, no, while people can be toxic bullshit-spewing arseholes no matter their creed, religion makes people just that much more likely to spew disgusting, hateful, poisonous shit. So, um, thanks for reminding me that religion is still a force worth fighting… and if you’ll excuse me, I wish to crawl into a corner and weep for humanity before I don my fighting trousers (thank you, Avi, for a memorable phrase).

Mah new battle standard.

Mah new battle standard.

I promised you a humorous interlude, and a humorous interlude you shall have.

Butterflies and Wheels: The wot is feminism chart. Funny-sad or sad-funny that anti-feminist tropes can be made into such a humorous and apropos chart? I think we should establish a drinking game based upon it.

Daylight Atheism: Why Atheists Should Care More About Education. We already do care, of course, and not just when creationists get frisky. But there’s so much poverty, and so many lost opportunities, and so many kids who need better chances. Give a child a bible, and they can be stuffed full o’ falsehoods. Give a child a good education and a bible, and they can say, “Wait. Just. A. Minute. WTF???”

Choice in Dying: Wafa Sultan and the Position of Women in Islam. Warning: contains women-as-property, pedophilia, little boys being taught that women are nothing but property that should remain silent, animal cruelty, and a charming hadith about the kinds of nasal secretions a wife is expected to lick off her husband’s face with her tongue. I’m sure I missed some trigger warnings for various forms of horrible misogyny, cruelty and sexual violence – but hey, Islam’s totes the religion of peace, amirite?

(Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Find a happy place… ah, here we go. I hope.)

WWJTD: Boggle on mental illness and “a cry for help”. I like this muchly. Makes me want to go handing out sticks.

As originally seen somewhere on Skepchick.

As originally seen somewhere on Skepchick.

And if you’re still needing something warm and fuzzy after all that, might I suggest Cats Hugging Things? Because it’s pretty damned hard not to squee at this.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back to avoiding absolutely everything by re-reading Marriage, a History and sniggering at all the “traditional” marriages therein.

Cautious Optimism, and the Need for a Meaningful Boot

You know, I didn’t expect anything. I figured a few random Democrats would poke their heads up and make some noise before getting the only-protruding-nails treatment and pounded back down, but we have a President with no reelection campaign and two young daughters, and he appears to be eyeing his hip waders and giving the Rubicon some meaningful looks.

Once stripped of the religious treacle, which was slathered on good and thick for the religious folk and gave not a single thought to the possibility that one or two of the bereaved may be nonbelievers, Obama proved that he has good words.

This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?

Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?

Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.

Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.

And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose – much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.

We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.

If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.

Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?

Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

[Emphasis added]

Those are good words, strong words. Vague, but this was a memorial service and not a purely political speech, so this time, I will give him a pass on vague. There are power words in here. There is plenty of signaling that a band-aid measure won’t be pushed and passed and then the issue forgotten. And there is an awareness that no single action will prevent gun violence in this country, nor can we only address mass shootings and forget the rest.  There is awareness that we don’t have all of the answers, and will have to seek them.

These are the right words. These are good words.

Now he needs to back them with actions, and that, my fellow Americans (and allies throughout the world) is where we and our meaningful boots come in.

We will need to be applying the meaningful boot to reluctant backsides, giving them a gentle but firm prod, and using that meaningful boot to push those who refuse to try out of the way. We will have to get our meaningful boots on the ground: to walk in to polling places to vote, to stump for good candidates, to march for measures. We will have to apply our metaphorical meaningful boot to petitions, contacting politicians, working for our various causes.

I said various, because we’ll need a multifaceted approach to fixing this country. It’s not a matter of gun control alone: we can’t just work to get assault rifles off the streets and locked safely away in gun clubs (where enthusiasts can still have their fun, and far-right fanatics can practice to take on the gubmint with nothing but an assault rifle and an attitude). We can’t get a regulation or two passed and call it a day.

We also have to fix our broken systems.

We need to address the root causes of violence. We can start with what we know helps: reducing domestic violence. Empowering women to get themselves and their kids out of bad situations. Reducing economic and political inequality. Giving kids far better schools, with good free meals and smaller class sizes and a better education. Giving teachers the support and resources they need to do a great job with these kids. We need campaigns to reduce bullying, and campaigns for diversity (the real thing, not the window-dressing thing). We will need to listen to minority communities when they tell us what we need, and work for it with them. We will have to listen to the experts when they complete their well-designed studies and tell us what’s broken and the best ways to fix those things, and fix them. We will have to do an incredible amount of hard work, and we will have to be in this for the long haul.

And it will be expensive. Tough. This country can avoid a war or two and pour that money into these efforts instead.

It will be difficult. Tough. So was ending slavery. So was the Civil Rights Movement. Everything we have that’s worth having was difficult to achieve. We’re just going to have to suck it up and deal.

We will be faced with loud, oftentimes vicious, and sometimes violent opposition. So has every other movement for social change been. Together, we can face the opposition down. We must.

We were already working for many of these things, my friends. It’s what A+, it’s what social justice, is about. We will never eradicate violence completely, but we know we can make this society more peaceful, more just, more equitable, and we know it will take time and tears and massive effort, but we now have a President and at least part of a Congress galvanized by too many good people and innocent kids dead. We have their attention. We might just be able, with enough applications of the meaningful boot, to get them to stay focused long enough to get good things done.

There will be setbacks. We won’t always win. And there’s no real finish line, no Utopia waiting, but if in the end we can say that we left this world a little better than we found it, if we’ve bent the arc of history as far towards justice as we could, then we’ve done good.

“Surely, we have an obligation to try.”

Here are a few places to start:

Politicians:

Call and write your Congresspeople. Contact your governor; rattle the cages of your state representatives.

Petitions:

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!”

Donations:

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.

If you’re a crafty sort, some A+ folks are gearing up to send comforting handmade items to the community.

(Tell me about your favorite secular charities, and I’ll add them to the list. Newtown needs some immediate assistance, but other organizations across the country and world will need ongoing support.)

Organizations:

Brady Campaign

Ceasefire Oregon

(Let me know of local, state, federal, or international groups addressing issues of social justice and gun control. I’ll begin compiling a master list.)

Share awe, and wonder, and love, and science, and great books, and good movies, and beautiful music, and fun, and all of those things that make life worth living.

And remember.

Photo released by the family of Emilie Parker,  6, of President Obama's visit. Image via @WestWingReport.

Photo released by the family of Emilie Parker, 6, of President Obama’s visit. Image via @WestWingReport.

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

You Voted for Death

Dear Friend Who Voted for Romney:

I’ve spent a week trying to process the fact that you voted for Mitt Romney. I still don’t know what those “conservative values” of yours are – you couldn’t tell me, and I can’t figure out what in the Republican Party platform you could agree with. I’m still hoping that you weren’t well-informed and were just voting how the people around you recommended you vote, because if you’d educated yourself on Romney’s values, lies, business practices, actions as a bishop, and history with gay classmates, and still chose him for President, then I don’t know if I ever really knew you.

But that’s not what hurt most.

The thing is, you’ve admitted you didn’t think of many things. You didn’t think of the damage Romney would do to the economy. You didn’t think of the wars we’d get in to. You didn’t think of how he’d gut FEMA, leaving people in disaster areas vulnerable to rapacious companies – if they could afford help at all. And you sure as shit didn’t think of what would happen to women of reproductive age if the Cons came back into power. You told me outright you didn’t think of me and the other women in your life when you voted for Romney.

Romney tried to backpedal on abortion, but he supports efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Romney’s Web site says this would require the Supreme Court to first overturn Roe v. Wade. Then “states will be empowered through the democratic process to determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.”

Right now, women are protected by Roe vs. Wade. Yet states with Republicans in charge are currently busy stripping away as many of our abortion rights as they can get away with. With Roe gone, they’d have nothing standing in their way. Even the most extreme Republican stance – no abortion, no exceptions, not even for rape or life of the mother – could become state law.

This is the Republican dream for the nation.

And I want you to take a moment right now to picture all of the women of reproductive age that you love, and then imagine them in the world you would have made possible. Imagine them being impregnated by rape or incest, and told they had to carry that child to term. Read about the complications and risks of pregnancy, and tell me whether your “conservative values” are worth forcing them to endure this against their will. Because your “conservative values” come with that cost to women. You need to understand that.

And you need to know what the world you might have made would look like:

Savita Halappanavar died of septicaemia at University Hospital Galway a couple of weeks ago, because she had a miscarriage and the hospital refused to abort the dying fetus.

“Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

“This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, ‘this is a Catholic country’.

“She spent a further 2½ days ‘in agony’ until the foetal heartbeat stopped.”

Then she died of a raging infection, because doctors wouldn’t abort a failed pregnancy even to save her life.

Savita Halappanavar. Image courtesy Shakesville.

Savita Halappanavar. Image courtesy Shakesville.

And you might say, “But that’s Ireland!” It happens here, too. You might say, “But that’s Catholics!” This is exactly what anti-abortion zealots in this country want, too. Even in places where they, like you, would allow exceptions for “life of the mother,” they don’t much care for mothers’ lives.

They put fetal heartbeats above the heartbeats of living women.

And you voted to empower them.

You voted for a world in which women had better be damned good at being pregnant, because their life is at stake.

You voted for death.

Another time, we may discuss the fact that you also voted for financial collapse, the destruction of the middle class, and endless war, but I think this will do for now.

I love you. I will always love you. I will always be there when you need me. But with your values turning out to be so antithetical to mine, we have a lot to work through.

Sincerely,

Your Very Upset Liberal Friend

 

“She Had a Heartbeat, Too”

That is the phrase I want all of you “pro-life” people to remember: “She had a heartbeat, too.”

And now she doesn’t, because people like you placed a doomed heartbeat above her own life.

Look at the woman your morals killed.

Savita Halappanavar

Savita Halappanavar. Image courtesy Shakesville.

“She had a heartbeat, too.” Remember that. There is a life carrying that fetus you’re so concerned about. There is a human being you’re condemning to death when you tell her that the failing heartbeat of a person that will never be is more important than her own beating heart.

And if you can look me in the eye and tell me that what happened here was right and just, then I will know religion has stripped all traces of humanity and compassion from you.

People Have Always Had a Hammer Ready for Uppity Women

Since getting the Kindle Fire, I’ve been teaching myself the history I never learned. School wasn’t big on freethinkers (although they were big on paens of praise for the Founding Fathers – the real secularist ones, not the weird rabid Christian ones that only exist in right wingers’ heads). My education glossed the suffragettes. It somehow left me thinking that women kicked up a brief fuss and got voting rights justlikethat, and that Susan B. Anthony had something to do with the American Revolution. Well, she was a revolutionary fighting a war of sorts, but I had her badly misplaced. Elizabeth Cady Stanton might have come up at some point – her name seemed familiar when I rediscovered her as a Freethinker – but if so, she wasn’t exactly expounded upon.

The impression I took away was that a woman’s right to vote was a natural evolution in American history, practically inevitable, and that bloomers were a big deal. I got the sense these women were rather freaks in their time. They were, but I don’t think the public school system meant me to think they were quite weird and somewhat undesirable.

But that’s exactly what anti-woman suffrage frothers wanted folks to think. Note the conservative hysteria in this series of political postcards. It should be depressingly familiar to anyone who’s followed the sexism and misogyny outbreaks in our community and the world at large recently.

Anti-suffragette postcards. Image courtesy ROFLrazzi.

The artwork is different, the issue of woman suffrage is (mostly) settled, but the sentiments are the same: Women speaking out for treatment as equal human beings hate men and want to dominate and destroy them. They’re ugly and masculine. Familiar silencing tactics, aren’t they? And there’s the terrible fear that the natural order of things will be overturned if the little ladies ever get so much as a hint of independence. Men won’t be able to get their way anymore! Women will voice their own opinions, wear pants, make men do housework! Horrors!*

In some ways, we’ve come very far. So far that every teacher throughout my education took it for granted that woman can and should vote. And yet we’re still stuck in the past in so many ways. Terrified, angry men in the atheist, skeptic and other communities freak out over feminism on a regular basis. Terrified, angry, authoritarian men in conservative, evangelical and fundamentalist religions, along with others on the political right who may not be so overtly religious but still have definite Ideas about a woman’s place, would like to see the clock set back to an era when birth control and abortion were illegal. Some have gone so far as to call woman suffrage “evil.” There are a lot of people who would reverse our gains and take away our right to vote if they could.

We’ve put up with this shit for a long time. We’ve faced down the attacks on our minds, our bodies, our personal safety. Most women have resisted the efforts to stuff them back in the house, into the role of housemaid and baby producer. We’ve fought for our right to vote, we’ve fought for birth control and legal abortion, and now we’re fighting to make sure those things aren’t taken away from us. We’re fighting gender roles that tell us girls can’t do math and boys don’t cry. We’re fighting the sexism and misogyny that infest every group of people which includes men who want to retain their dominance, and the women who enable their bad behavior. We’re fighting to be recognized as human beings, with all of the rights, responsibility and equality that entails.

The efforts to silence us didn’t work then. They won’t work now. Women voted. We voted pro-rape candidates down. We voted women in. Women are used to battles, and we’re used to the antics of those who want us to stop fighting.

We won our right to vote. We won on birth control and abortion. And we will continue to win. Those who want to take us back to the 19th century will eventually have to face the fact they’ve already lost, and are now merely dashing about like headless chickens in a doomed attempt to regain their supremacy.

Not even scathing postcards from the past will save them.

 

*Those last two are nightmares that sexist atheists mostly seem to have outgrown, but men in the Christian patriarchy movement seem terrified their servant-wives may break out of their bonds and decide gender roles are for suckaz. The fear of lady pants is still strong with some.

 

(Standard reminder for posts on sensitive subjects: First-time comments go automatically to moderation. Due to the vagaries of work and sleep, they may not be released immediately. Swearing and disagreement are fine, but keep it within bounds. Gendered epithets, misogyny, abuse of other commenters, and other misbehavior won’t be tolerated. You might wish to review the cantina’s comment policy before you comment. There are also ground rules for this discussion here.)

Let Breathing Recommence

Oh, thank the people sane enough not to vote for Mittens.

Thank you. This is your victory.

The lead image at barackobama.com. That smile on his face? There’s one like it on mine, too. Whew!

You know what, he’s not perfect, and he’s practically a Republican (the sort of Republican you might have found in the mainstream before Republicans lost their shit), but fuck it. Compared to the batshit bizarre fuckknobs now infesting the Con party, and the magic-underwear-wearing psychopath that is Romney, I’ll take him. Hells to the yes, I’ll take him. With utmost pleasure.

Congratulations, President Obama!

In my own home state, we’ve so far cleaned the Cons’ clocks. We’re also poised to become potheads (which means far fewer folks in jail for enjoying weed), and it looks like I’ll be shopping for the appropriate attire for attending weddings in. I’ve only got the one dress I like, and several sets of friends in committed same-sex relationships. Yay, wedding bells! I’ve always said they should be allowed to suffer enjoy wedded bliss like us heteros.

Ladies: give yourselves a round of applause and drinkage. Women pwned the politial world tonight!

I’d like to extend hearty congratulations to probable Governor Jay Inslee. Woot!

I’m pretty proud of my state right now.

And I’m proud of the majority of my country. A bare majority, mind you, but still a majority.

(As for those of you who voted for Mittens, until you’ve perfected the “I’m sorry I was so stupid, and I’ll never be that stupid ever again” speech, you can kindly never speak to me again.)

My uterus and I are going to attempt to concentrate on Mount St. Helens research now. It’s hard – we’re both grinning like idiots and a bit bouncy. It’s just damned nice to know that we’ll be employed, have health care, and won’t have Cons poking about our persons. Huzzah!

I Do Not Trust Edwina Rogers to Represent Our Interests

I’ve sat out the Edwina Rogers fiasco since the Secular Coalition of America announced they’d chosen her as their new Executive Director, waiting to see if my initial revulsion would pass. It hasn’t. I read the transcript of the interview she did with Greta Christina, and the entirety of her Ask Me Anything on Reddit, hoping she could somehow allay our fears and prove she’s capable of representing us effectively, despite her sordid history in Republican politics. But I didn’t have high hopes. Put it this way: I’ve learnt over the last decade that when one trusts Cons not to kick them in the teeth, they’d best have an excellent oral surgeon on speed dial.

Edwina’s managed to meet expectations: she outright lies, she avoids the hardest questions, she babbles nonsense in reply to most of the questions she deigns respond to without bald-faced lies. She is exactly what I suspected she was when I heard some absolute morons had chosen a Republican operative neck-deep in the Bush administration, yammered on Faux News, and who has donated generously to Rick bleeding Perry, to become executive director of the Secular Coalition of America: an unmitigated disaster.

Not all atheists are liberals, and I suppose it could be a good idea to get some secular conservatives on board at times – if they don’t end up compromising the values held by the vast majority of us. As several people have noted, a Republican lobbyist as part (not head) of the SCA isn’t such a horrible idea. And I rather think it would be nice to give the Rabid Right something to worry about from within its own ranks, so the idea of developing a coalition of secular Republicans and siccing them on the fundies actually tickles me. So no, I have no objection per se to having a Republican working with the SCA.

But surely, surely, the SCA could have chosen a better Executive Director than this Bushie. She can’t reach across the aisle to elected Republicans – the bunch currently in office here, there and everywhere are, overwhelmingly, theocratic freaks frantic to install god as our ruler. They’ve already demonstrated that they’ll abandon their own policies if a liberal expresses approval. And I cannot dismiss the fact that she actively supports some of the worst of them.

Not to mention she thinks she can pull a fast one on skeptics by outright lying to them, thus demonstrating a spectacular inability to understand the people she’s supposed to represent.

What good is she? How can she possibly represent our interests?

I’ve only one thing left to say, because Greta Christina summed up my thoughts quite well here. I just wish to tell the Secular Coalition of America that a group of people too bloody stupid to realize that choosing a former Bushie to lead them would be an utter catastrophe has not got my support. I’m ashamed of them.

Other views here at FtB:

The X Blog: Secular Coalition of America Hires ex Bush White House Advisor as Executive Director; Edwina Rogers on Energy Policy; Edwina Rogers on War in Iraq; Introducing Edwina Rogers (updated slightly); and Edwina Rogers and the Secular Coalition of America,

Almost Diamonds: Attempting the Impossible? and You Can’t Always Get What You Need

Camels With Hammers: A Republican to Head the Secular Coalition for America?; Edwina Rogers vs. Michael J. Fox; and The Pros and Cons of Hiring A Republican to Represent Secularists.

Butterflies and Wheels: A woman in secularism; So far so not good; That interview; Zing; and About the questions being asked.

Blag Hag: Controversy comes with the new Secular Coalition for America Executive Director and Ask Edwina Rogers anything on Reddit;

Pharyngula: Who is going to be our spokesperson on Capitol Hill?; Good questions, ____________ answers; and The crash test.

The Crommunist Manifesto: Edwina Rogers: the unanswered questions.

A Voice of Reason in an Unreasonable World: Secular Coalition For… The Right Wing GOP?

Greta Christina’s Blog: Edwina Rogers: Processing… processing…; Transcript of Interview with Edwina Rogers, New Executive Director for the Secular Coalition for AmericaTranscript of Interview with Roy Speckhardt, SCA Board, About Edwina Rogers, and Edwina Rogers.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: The SCA’s New Leader.

The Atheist Experience: Thoughts on the SCA’s new Executive Director.

The Uncredible Hallq: On Edwina Rogers, the new Republican head of Secular Coalition for America.

 

*People prone to complain about FtBers weighing in on the SCA’s choice should first consult Lousy Canuck: The uniform groupthink of The Freethought Borg.

**A note on commenting for those who haven’t commented here before: First-time comments go automatically to moderation. Due to the vagaries of work, sleep and adventuring, I may not be able to fish them out for several hours, so please be patient. Feel free to swear. You’re welcome to disagree, and argue both for and against Edwina Rogers, but keep it within bounds. Gendered epithets, misogyny, abuse of other commenters, and other misbehavior won’t be tolerated. You might wish to review the cantina’s comment policy before you comment.