Friday, August 31, 2012

Is Mitt Romney a Real American?

There’s been a lot of political winking and nudging going on lately, with people talking about how Mitt Romney is a *REAL* American (you know, because that black guy isn’t). So I decided to do a little research.

Here’s a brief list of how Real American Mitt™ stacks up against the Real American Constitution:

First amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion
Romney’s running mate has voted for a personhood amendment, which would establish life as beginning at birth, an inherently Christian belief. The new Republican platform also calls for a complete ban on abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is at risk. Under Jewish law, it is considered a mitzvah (a good deed) to save the life of the mother, even if that means performing an abortion. Any of these bans would be a clear violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Second amendment
The right to keep and bear arms
Romney supported the Clinton Gun Ban in 1994, and in 2008 told Meet the Press he would have renewed the failed gun control law. As governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Romney signed one of the toughest assault weapon laws in the country. He's flip-flopped recently to pander to the NRA vote, but that only proves what little regard he has for his own beliefs and the Constitution. 

Fourth amendment
“…right of the people to be secure … against unreasonable searches and seizures…”
Romney has chosen as one of his foreign policy advisors Michael Hayden, a member of the Bush administration who added to the Patriot Act the ability of the government to wiretap phones and monitor electronic activity. Romney has also affirmed his support of current TSA search practices.

Sixth amendment
Protects the right to a fair and speedy public  trial by jury and the right to retain counsel
Romney once said “Now we're going to -- you said the person's going to be in Guantanamo. I'm glad they're at Guantanamo. I don't want them on our soil. I want them on Guantanamo, where they don't get the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil. I don't want them in our prisons. I want them there.”

Fourteenth amendment
“no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Romney supports a complete ban on LGBT marriages, and would support the Republican platform which bans LGBT individuals from serving in the military. Romney also believes men have a right to self-determination over their bodies, but not women.

Fifteenth amendment
Prohibits the denial of suffrage based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude
Pennsylvania Republican Mike Turzai stated during a Republican State Committee meeting that voter ID laws would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” A Pennsylvania judge upheld those laws, claiming they’d be “fairly enforced,” despite pretty obvious evidence to the contrary. Florida’s attempt to enact voter ID laws primarily targeted Democrats, and reduced new Democrat registrations to almost zero in its immediate wake. Attempts were made in Ohio to limit voting hours for primarily low-income, Democratic areas, though that blatant attempt at racial segregation failed. Colorado attempts at a voter purge targeted over 4 times more Democrats than Republicans, specifically those who registered with non-resident (though still legal) paperwork (those would be Hispanic voters, if you didn’t catch on).

Sixteenth amendment
Allows the federal government to collect income tax
Romney claimed that he has paid “no less than 13% income tax” on his fortune – which is terribly generous of him, because I’m rather solidly middle class and pay around 30%. Romney has refused to release more than 2 years of tax records, because the vast majority of his funds are in off-shore tax havens.

Now fucking tell me again how Romney’s a Real American. I fucking dare you. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ryan and Rape

The Huffington Post drew attention to a statement made by VP nominee Paul Ryan about rape and the method of conception. His statement was that “the method of conception doesn't change the definition of life."
Many commenters, liberal and conservative, pointed out that Ryan doesn’t specifically say “rape is an acceptable method of conception” and that he also talks about the Romney/Ryan ticket, which at some point might have mentioned exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.*
*Of course, I think it’s safe to discount that last argument, since the official GOP platform which was recently unveiled supports a complete ban on abortion, even (especially?) in cases of rape and life of the mother. I’m still not quite sure how they expect a 10-week old cell cluster to become a person without – you know ­– a woman to grow inside, but that’s another story.

First of all, semantics. Ryan is specifically asked about exceptions in the case of rape, and his response was formulated within that context. What Ryan’s statement does do is very-explicitly imply that a rape or sexual assault is a legitimate (thanks, Akin!) way to begin a pregnancy. Which it's not. Ever.

This is simply a nuanced form of victim-blaming.

Rather than focusing on a culture that is still far too tolerant of rape (mainly because it refuses to fully recognize or understand it), this shifts the focus to the outcome - to villainizing the women who don't want to deal with the repercussions of rape as Republicans think they should. It shifts the entire discussion away from “rape is an evil that cannot be tolerated” and turns it to “women are second class citizens.”

It’s a diversionary tactic to make us focus on one aspect of our rapid disenfranchisement, while another aspect of it is just further cemented in the popular vernacular.

Several years ago, Israel was dealing with an issue of increased rapes. Then-Prime Minister Golda Meir was encouraged to institute a curfew for women, for their own protection. Meir responded “Men are committing the rapes. Let them be put under curfew.”

At the national level, we lack even this basic understanding that we cannot continue to blame the victim. Rape will continue to be an issue so long as men like Todd Akin and Paul Ryan treat it as an inevitable occurrence, or as if most women are just liars and sluts who make it up or ask for it.

Rather than wanting to eliminate rape, Ryan wants to eliminate a woman's choice in dealing with rape. And that's the problem with his particular, insidious brand of misogyny.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

So you want to end abortion

Ahh abortion: the screaming-point that has kept middle-aged Christian supremacists and misogynists relevant for over 40 years.

Right wingers like to do a lot of fancy talking about protecting the unborn and extending rights to all humans (except Muslims, women, Native American women, illegal immigrants, LGBT individuals, hungry school children, the middle class, poor people, etc.), but what they refuse to do is be honest about their intentions.

Say you wanted to end cancer. Would you start by cutting off all chemotherapy treatments? After all, if no one is getting treated for cancer, cancer must no longer exist, right? Hmm. Probably not. Sure, it removes the problem of people getting sick, losing their hair, and possibly dying anyway, but it does nothing to address the underlying cause.

You don’t end the need for abortions by taking abortions away.

We reduce the need for abortions by reducing the incidences of unwanted pregnancies.

We start by educating people about safe sex. Abstinence-only education doesn’t work – communities with abstinence-only programs have disproportionately higher rates of teen pregnancies than other communities of similar socioeconomic standing that teach actual sex education.

Then we make sure people can access effective forms of birth control and use them properly. We make sure lower-income women in poor, rural communities have access to birth control at free clinics, so they can control the size of their family or delay child birth until they’re financially able to have children. You don’t let their lives be subject to the oppressive whims of religious organizations that would condemn them to hell for an abortion, but abandon them to poverty if they were to have the child.

Then we change the social culture to be supportive and inclusive of all people. We make sure women can access adequate health care resources for their children. We incentivize education for boys and girls, and make sure families have access to the resources they need to keep their children in school through high school. We create a society that is truly inclusive of individuals with disabilities, because currently over 80 percent of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Downs Syndrome choose to terminate.

The path to reducing abortion rates is clear: better sex education, better access to contraception, and better social support for those who do choose to keep an unwanted pregnancy.

So why can’t Republican pro-lifers figure this out?

I’ll let you in on a little secret: because that’s not their goal at all.

This is not rocket science; We have the resources, we have the money, we have the knowledge and the skills to drastically reduce abortion rates in this country, but that’s not what the religious zealots – the ones controlling the pro-life crusade – really want.

They want control.
They want widespread recognition that women are less competent, less worthy than men, and therefore should be subservient to man, as their God intended. They ultimately want women out of the workforce and back in the home, acting out a perverse vision of a dystopian bible scene.

They want to bend government to the whims of the Church. They want their beliefs recognized as superior to set the stage for establishing a national religion and a return to a theocratic state.

Don’t believe me? Look at Todd Akin, who publicly announced that most women are liars and sluts, or the Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, who thinks giving women the right to vote was the greatest mistake man ever made. Look at David Kennedy, a major muse for Akin, who believed women invite rape and who wanted to “reclaim America for Christ.” These men didn’t come up with these ideas on their own – believe me, they’re not smart enough.

They’re being fed this Machiavellian enmity piece by piece, and spreading their virulence on to their followers. And they’re succeeding in reaching the mainstream.

There are many millions of people out there who don’t recognize the ulterior motives of the religious right, and who truly believe they’re fighting the sacred fight for the wee bitty babies. They won’t recognize the truth until it’s their turn to be persecuted.

Freedom of religion is also freedom from religious tyranny. Let’s get these anti-American, anti-progressive, hate-filled bigots out of our uteruses and out of our government. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Legitimate rape

Legitimate rape (noun): 1. The Republican-confirmed act of a large, burly, often dark-skinned or poor (or both) male dragging a virginal, screaming, helpless female into a dark alley, holding her down, and having vaginal intercourse with her against her will; an act from which no unwanted baby results, so long as she is properly traumatized, was not “asking for it” and prays diligently to Jesus. 2. A travesty; like a Republican getting elected. 3. Something extremely rare, like a Republican with common sense.

Aside from the obvious problems with Todd Akin’s idea that women have some magical mechanism that prevents them from getting pregnant during cases of legitimate rape (1. It’s wrong, 2. It’s ignorant, and 3. Yeah, still wrong), the idea is part of a larger, hate-filled agenda targeted at marginalizing not only women but people in same-sex relationships as well.

Adding a qualifier to rape shifts the burden of proof to the victim; if there is legitimate rape, there must also be non-legitimate rape. If a woman was raped, but didn’t get pregnant, she must have been asking for it, or have subconsciously wanted it. It’s slut-shaming taken to an extreme, to assume a woman is always a sexual object, and therefore must justify any situation in which she did not want to be used as such.

This kind of hateful rhetoric only serves to codify and reinforce the idea that women are sexual, devious, and senseless beings, intent on causing harm to men. Rather than focusing on shifting the blame to a society that teaches men that it’s okay to sexualize and fetishize women, and to see women as an object rather than a person, it blames women for being that object of the male gaze. It reinforces the idea that most women are liars, faking rapes left and right just to … what? Damage some guy’s career? Salve their own bruised egos if a man doesn’t call them the next day? The man is innocent until proven guilty, but the woman is guilty until proven innocent.

In cases of male rape, by a woman or another man (3 percent of adult males, 5 percent of male children, and much higher within the prison population) (Coxell, King, Mezey, and Gordon, 1999) or woman on woman rape, pregnancy (of the victim) cannot result, so the rape must not be legitimate. Like the Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act, which protects only certain women (straight, non-Hispanic and non-Native American, primarily), this idea of legitimate rape encompasses only certain victims – the Republican-approved kind.

In a half-assed apology attempt, Akin says he misspoke, but he was simply parroting extremist right-wing views; views that are sadly becoming more acceptably mainstream. Good Christian girls don’t get raped because they know better, they dress appropriately and Jesus protects them; if you were more like them, you wouldn’t get raped either.

The very tenet of most religion is that morality and worth comes from being a member of that religion. Even if the religion preaches tolerance or love for others, it still creates the dichotomy of the other – the outsider who is not quite as good, or quite as deserving.

This current iteration of Republicans doesn’t care for equality; they openly campaign for a return to morality – specifically the superiority of their own twisted morality.

Mr. Akin, there is currently a legitimate rape taking place – the rape of American values such as equality and tolerance and progress – at the hands of the evangelical right who seeks to seize control of this country and govern by divine mandate. And this is one victim we need to save. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

The tyranny of religion

I wrote about religion yesterday, but I’m not done talking about it.

I’ve long thought organized religion was one of, if not the most insidious danger facing modern society.

One of my final classes in my Masters program focused on the construction of disability rhetoric. Early writings about blindness and deafness and physical ailments focused on how those impairments prevented the afflicted person from being able to truly understand religion. Most thought inability to physically hear a sermon meant the person could not truly “hear” – as in understand or comprehend - religion. Conversely, disability was a physical manifestation of an absence of religious faith or goodness.  
It was understood that those who were physically or mentally impaired were being punished for some [religious/spiritual] transgression and were therefor less worthy human beings.

Religion formed the basis for determining the morality and worth of a human being, and an absence of religion as a particular group understood it meant non-believers lacked morality and needed to be “saved.” If you’ve listened to any Republican speak over the past few years, you know this idea hasn’t changed.

Though this country was formed by a bunch of Deists seeking to escape the oppressive rule of an intolerant Church, we’re rapidly heading right back where we started. Those who don’t believe, or who believe differently, are godless, religious oppressors.

Several Republican candidates/politicians have been linked to the writings of D. James Kennedy, an evangelist pastor who died in 2007, who wanted to “bring this nation back to God, back to decency, back to morality, back to those things that we wish America was like again.” Ironically, Kennedy often cited the Holocaust as justification for Christian supremacy. A lack of religious morality and a heathenish devotion to Darwinism and progress caused Hitler to exterminate 6 million Jews; no good Christian would have done what he did.

And maybe that’s right, but the religious morality of those who would seek to eliminate access to safe abortion will result in the deaths of thousands of women in the US alone. A genocide in its own right.

The problem with morality is that it’s not absolute, and no one group has ultimate claim to it. Morality is fluid, and personal, and a result of the collective all at once. What is moral in one situation or period of time may not be moral in a different context. And the reason our government is based upon a separation of church and state is to prevent the absolute “morality” of one group from running roughshod over the morality of another group.

Christian extremists say the life of the fetus must be saved at all costs, but Jewish law says it is a mitzvah (a good deed) to save the life of the mother. Why is their morality more valid than mine?

The GOP has had a field day protesting the trampling of their religious rights due to Obamacare and some woman they’ve never met hundreds of miles away who just popped a birth control pill into her mouth. But these poor, beleaguered victims of anti-religious tyranny are the first to fall silent when the religious rights of others are brought into question.

They are the ones who question the religion of the man in the White House. They are the ones eyeing anyone at the airport with a tan suspiciously. They are the ones who shrug indifferently when someone shoots up a Sihk temple.

The current state of religion in the Republican party is a study in hypocrisy. They want to save the lives of fetuses, but advocate cutting off funding for hungry and homeless children. They want to save the lives of women, but close down health care clinics and force women in Texas across the border into Mexico to obtain unsafe abortion drugs. They want their religious rights held sacrosanct, but not the religious rights of any other group.

There is no religious freedom in the religious tyranny of the radical Republican right. Religious freedom must apply to all religions to have any sort of meaning; otherwise it’s just oppression draped in rosary beads. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The FRC and religious freedom

A security guard was shot Wednesday morning at the Washington DC office of the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization designated as a hate group in 2010 by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FRC believes "criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior" should be enforced, supports “conscience clauses” that would allow pharmacists and doctors to withhold legally prescribed medication from women for nebulous religious reasons, and thinks intelligent design and abstinence-only education should be taught in all schools, among other extremist, anti-progressive beliefs.

Every report, every piece of media coverage has framed this as domestic terrorism and an attack on religious freedom.

A man opens fire at a political rally, killing 6 and wounding 13, and he’s a lone wingnut. If more good Americans with big guns had been there, it would have never happened. A man plants a bomb at a Family Planning clinic in Florida in January 2012, another man bombs a Planned Parenthood clinic in Wisconsin in April 2012, two separate abortion clinics are set on fire in May 2012, and these are all unrelated attacks by lone actors.

Another man opens fire at a Sikh temple and the Republican Presidential candidate doesn’t even both to learn the difference between “Sihks” and “Sheiks.”

Yet suddenly, an attack on a designated hate group blatantly attempting to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is an attack on religious freedom. The religious freedom to be bigoted white Christian supremacists, apparently.

Now don’t get me wrong, the attack on the FRC was horrible, and it’s very fortunate that only one person (a security guard, not even an employee of the organization) was injured. Violence is absolutely not the answer, and it pains me to see rational, pro-freedom/pro-choice individuals being driven from the high road. But this highlights an important issue, one I’ve talked about before.

We have to stop letting the Republicans have all the good rhetoric.

One man, reacting inappropriately to the systemic segregation and persecution of LGBT people in the country is not an attack on religious freedom; it’s a misguided revolt against injustice and those who would actively support it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.” We need to fight the ignorance and injustice of the current right with our voices and our hearts, by speaking out, not by lashing out.

Silence is our kryptonite; every time we quietly watch our friends spew hate through their Facebook walls, or listen with pursed lips as someone thumps their chest and touts the superiority of Christian beliefs, we are enabling a dangerous slide toward the very theocracy this country was formed to combat.

Don’t let people tell you or fool themselves into believing that this attack on the FRC was an attack on religious freedom. The only religious freedom under attack in this country is the freedom to be anything other than a white Christian male.

My religion understands persecution; we’ve seen it for thousands of years. And now religious persecution is back in full force, brandishing a cross and waving a tattered American flag. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012


It’s amazing – threaten a woman’s very right to privacy, and many people don’t bat an eyelash, but threaten someone’s access to peanut-oil fried chicken, and the Facebook world loses its collective mind.

The Chick-fil-a case is really more interesting in the responses it has generated than in the actual novelty of the situation. The president of the company is a bigot supporter of biblical marriage (funny, I feel like this country is suspiciously short on pet goats, if we’re really supporting biblical marriage), he uses his profits from his company to support anti-LGBT hate groups, and that’s his prerogative.

He absolutely has the right to believe whatever backwards, anti-progressive, hate-filled religious nonsense he wants, and he absolutely has the right to use the money he has earned to support his beliefs. In fact, I respect Chick-fil-a for how successful they’ve become while maintaining their closed-on-Sunday status.

What I don’t respect is the people who try to intellectualize the fact that they prefer chicken nuggets to equality.

As consumers, we have something called personal agency – when we find out that a company is behaving in a manner we find unethical or morally reprehensible, we can use our buying power to hurt that company’s profits and force them to change their ways.

As a customer of any establishment, your money is going toward the profits of that company. In this case, the president is taking that profit and investing it through a private foundation in groups that actively promote inequality, intolerance, and hatred. Maybe it only averages out to about 1 cent of your sandwhich, but your money is being used to directly further the cause of bigotry in this country.

If you disagree with that, you have the right and the power to change it. But rationalizing that “oh, well  it’s only 1 penny…” or “…but the waffle fries! I’ll just donate to GLAAD as well…” doesn’t help or change anything.

If greasy chunks of chicken are more important to you than living in a free, secular and tolerant society, that’s fine, but call it what it is. Have the courage that Chick-fil-a’s president had to stand up and proclaim that you don’t think LGBT people are humans or citizens deserving of equal protection under the Constitution. Embrace and announce your bigotry, so we know whom to leave on the wrong side of history.

Maybe we can’t investigate every company we need to do business with, but we have the privilege and the opportunity in this country to be smart consumers and to support people who deserve our support.

Sure, the waffle fries are great, but you know what’s even better? Equality, damnit.