Activism, Immigration, Refugees, Uncategorized

Do What You Can For Refugees

Here is a list (from Think Progress) of some protests going on throughout the country against the fascist Trump’s illegal & immoral executive order banning refugees & migrants from the nations of Syria, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and Somalia, all nations the US has bombed, invaded, or sanctioned. Do what you can: if marching or protesting is not your thing, write or create art, or call your congressperson, spread information through your social media or blog, volunteer to help refugees, or donate to a reputable charity helping refugees, like the UN Refugee agency  (https://donate.unhcr.org/us-en/redirect/). Do what you can.

Atlanta, Georgia

January 29, 4–6 p.m.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport
https://www.facebook.com/events/370576413312630/?active_tab=about

Bloomington, Indiana

January 29, 4–5 p.m.
Court House Lawn
https://www.facebook.com/events/141181763054369/

Boston, Massachusetts

January 29, 1–3 p.m.
Copley Square
https://www.facebook.com/events/1808560036070492/

Canton, New York

January 29, 12 p.m. — 1:30 p.m.
Park St. and Main St.
https://www.facebook.com/events/1877987165813906/

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

January 29, 12 p.m. — 2 p.m.
Peace and Justice Plaza
https://www.facebook.com/events/1830257140581355/

Chicago, Illinois

January 28, happening now
O’Hare International Airport

Denver, Colorado

January 28, 5–7 p.m.
Denver International Airport
https://www.facebook.com/events/1416101161753999/

Detroit, Michigan

January 29, 3 p.m.
Hamtramck City Hall
https://www.facebook.com/events/1754583231524900/

January 29, 4–6 p.m.
DTW- Macnamara Termial- Intl Arrivals
https://www.facebook.com/events/959584757476881/

Houston, Texas

January 28, 7 p.m.
IAH Terminal E
https://www.facebook.com/events/771992316298993/

January 29, 1–4 p.m.
Discovery Green
https://www.facebook.com/events/386770058353091/#

Louisville, Kentucky

January 29, 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office
https://www.facebook.com/events/175651122918583/

Minneapolis, Minnesota

January 28, happening now
Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport
https://www.facebook.com/events/1626807780957019/

January 31, 4:30–6 p.m.
Minneapolis Federal Building
https://www.facebook.com/events/294911630924576/

Newark, New Jersey

January 28, happening now
Newark Liberty International Airport

January 28, 5–8 p.m.
LAX, Tom Bradley International Terminal
https://www.facebook.com/events/1655523898074718/

January 29, 1–4 p.m.
LAX, Tom Bradley International Terminal
https://www.facebook.com/events/1876148372629363/

Nashville, Tennessee

January 29, 3–4:30 p.m.
Sen. Bob Corker’s office
https://www.facebook.com/events/1782511105404931/

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Civil rights, Politics

We White Liberals Need To Listen & Learn

Marissa Johnson, left,  Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Sen. Bernie Sanders, far right  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Marissa Johnson, left, Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Sen. Bernie Sanders, far right (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

I will say upfront that I like a lot of what Bernie Sanders says he stands for: I support his position on student debt relief and free college tuition, he says the right things and supports the relevant bills regarding financial regulation and the breaking up of the big banks. He seems to be supportive of LGBT Rights and has a relatively sane point of view when it comes to foreign policy (with the exception of a little too friendly attitude to Israel, who I actually see as an enemy to the interests of our country). I will consider voting for him in the Illinois Primary next year, and I probably will end up voting for him as I will cut off my own hand before voting for that hawkish corporatist shill Hillary Clinton…

Here comes the “But”…

I am concerned about the response Bernie Sanders has had to the black activist movement in particular and the Black voting bloc in general. African Americans are THE key voting block that lets the Democratic Party get into power at all. Without the almost unified Black Vote in presidential elections, every President after Lyndon Johnson would have been a Republican. Bernie Sanders seems to have the “all lives matter” mentality when it comes to his policy prescriptions i.e. if we reform the economic and regulatory systems of the US everyone will benefit and advance equally. US History has shown that is never the case. From the New Deal to Federal Housing Assistance to the Great Society to Welfare Reform in the 90s, every upgrade or expansion of the welfare state has either passed black Americans behind, ignored them entirely, or in the case of Housing actively held them back. I am not saying that Bernie Sanders’ remedies will have the same issues, but there is no historical or logical reason to believe they will be any different. If Sanders wants to really address the true institutional racism problem in the US he will embrace the Black Lives Matter movement’s values totally, and start an ongoing dialogue with the black communities across the US in order to understand what THEY think must be done to address the deeply racist United States government and society. He is a older, White, Upper Middle Class, man in a position of power.That is a fact, not a condemnation, and this fact comes with its fair share of privilege and biases. Take his tone deaf response to the Black Lives Matter disruption of his appearance at the Netroots conference:

Instead of addressing the actual concerns of the Black Lives Matter protesters or even debating them on the merit of their positions, he let his privilege get the better of him and he scolded the activists. A quote from a Salon article on the Netroots debacle quotes Sanders as saying this in response to the Black Lives Matter disruption: “But I’ve spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights. If you don’t want me to be here, that’s okay.” He then went on to “remind” people that he “marched with MLK” and was a big supporter of Civil Rights back in the good ol’ days of white liberal activism. This is the political rhetoric equivalent of the “but some of my best friends are black” argument against examining ones own privilege. Sanders repeated this sort of defensive white liberal guilt speak when he was confronted once again at his speech in Seattle. When interrupted by protesters who said they were with the Black Lives Matter Movement (which is very much a grassroots and decentralized movement) he reacted like a deer caught in the headlights and eventually left the stage. Instead of saying he respected the fact that they were outraged over institutional racism and that he would devote his campaign to addressing the concerns of the one voting block he CANNOT afford to alienate if he wants the nomination, he harrumphed off stage and muttered aloud “I guess I’m not wanted hear.” One could almost hear the collective black political activist head slamming into the desk. Black voters are savvy, perhaps THE most savvy political bloc in the entire country (Black Women especially vote at a higher rate than any other group in the nation). They know when they are being pandered too, and also when they are being taken for granted. The response of White Bernie Sanders supporters online is not helping. When I deigned to criticize (rather gently) Sen. Sanders’ response to the disruption, I was inundated with dozens and dozens of responses saying that black voters should “know why their real friends are” and that “Bernie is the ONLY person” who can “solve” structural racism. Some even said that “those people” are not acting intelligent and don’t know how to protest “the right way” so as not to “force” white voters to not support black issues. Talk about taking a group for granted…

Political activism is messy, it is often annoying to outsiders and unpleasant. It is rarely polite or even civil. That is exactly the point though: activism is never effective unless it galls and disrupts, especially those with authority, especially those who actually have the potential to do something and the willingness to listen if pestered enough. Black Lives Matter doesn’t bother protesting Donald Trump or Rick Santorum for the same reason SNCC or MLK didn’t bother showing up at Strom Thurmond or George Wallace rallies: those on the racist and bigoted Right and Far Right will NEVER care what black protesters and activists have to say, not matter what they do or how much they disrupt or protest. They have already decided that black people are the enemy and nothing will change them. It is a waste of time, creativity, and energy to try and get the attention of folks who already see you as less than human. You make REAL change happen by embarrassing, manipulating, disrupting and petitioning moderates and liberals, people who may actually do something concrete if they see that the political stakes are too costly to ignore. But no establishment leader, no matter how progressive, will act on the issues important to a oppressed minority, even a politically essential one, unless they are MADE TO. This was proven over and over again during the Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ and Clinton administrations. Black activists have never gotten the desired results for themselves and their communities by “playing nice” with the white liberal savior of the moment. Bernie Sanders is on point with a lot of things, but he is not the “only person who can save us” or the “solution to institutional racism”. SNCC and MLK had to agitate against and antagonize liberals all over the country, from the White House and the Justice Department on down, before they deigned to do things like send in the national guard to desegregate schools or sign the Voting Rights Act. These things did NOT come about because of the beneficence of White Liberal politicians.

The great political commentator and activist Imani Gandy  got right to the heart of the issue of White Liberal privilege and political entitlement in an article on her “Angry Black Lady Chronicles” blog (which I will link to at the bottom of this post):

“As a white liberal of adult age in the 1960s, [A White Liberal was] politically required to do these things, right? And if the answer is yes—and we all know that it is—why the hell are you tossing Bernie Sanders’ record of doing them in Black people’s faces in order to shut down conversations about structural racism, police brutality, and the #BlackLivesMatter movement?”

White Liberals may have good intentions and many good ideas, but they DON’T understand what is “best” for the black community and black activists, who are as varied and diverse in their interests and issues as any other segment of the population. We have to realize that it is not Black Lives Matter who needs white liberals, but white liberals who need Black Lives Matter.

Here is a Link to the positively genius article Imani Gandy wrote about Bernie Sanders and his supporters response to Black Lives Matter: http://rhrealitycheck.org/ablc/2015/07/22/youre-white-marched-dr-king/ 

UPDATE 8/10/15

At his 27,000 person rally in L.A. tonight Bernie Sanders opened by inviting #BlackLivesMatter activists onto the stage to speak to the crowd. This information comes from Los Angeles Times politics reporter Kurtis Lee. I have to say, that is a very impressive and prompt response to the criticism leveled against him by #BlackLivesMatter and people on the far left like me. Very Impressive.

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Activism, poetry

This Flag

ragflag

This flag

it is a rag

it ain’t my bag

to salute this piece of cloth

signaling defeat

and deceit

in the eyes of those

unfortunate enough

to be “liberated”

in its name

This flag

is just a rag

a blood one at that

used to mop up the

trail of tears

and 500 years

of genocide

red as the blood that stains the great plains

white as the skin of the conquerors

blue as the blood of those who profited

and who profit still

on the tyranny

and calumny

that reigns

under

that

flag

that

rag

to me

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Uncategorized

What Does Memorial Day Mean?

vietnam-war-01

“Memorial Day will be celebrated … by the usual betrayal of the dead, by the hypocritical patriotism of the politicians and contractors preparing for more wars, more graves to receive more flowers on future Memorial Days. The memory of the dead deserves a different dedication. To peace, to defiance of governments.”

—-Howard Zinn

There has been a campaign on social media to promote something called the “Go Silent” campaign. As to this “Go Silent” campaign to ask for a moment of silence on memorial day; I will not be taking part because I find this request insulting and condescending to the people of the US. We The People have the right to free speech, we have the right to speak out against the injustice being perpetrated against innocent people all over the world by the US Military in the service of US Government/Corporate interests. I will use tomorrow to speak out against the glorifying/deification of war dead, which only serves as a way to silence and shame discontent and dissension from the people against the crimes being done in their name.

No war or military operation the US has fought has been just or warranted, not since at least WWII, and since the end of the Vietnam war we have had a volunteer force so anyone who has died since then has died because of a choice THEY made to be a part of an armed forces in services of a government that has perpetrated slaughter on a massive scale, especially in the Middle East. Why, why does the “protection” of our “freedom” and “liberty” and “way of life” seem so often to require the wholesale destruction of other nations and peoples?

This memorial day I will be honoring not the US war dead (they have plenty of people celebrating their cause) but instead the victims of US imperial brutality in the name of “freedom”. Also remember, the best way to honor the war dead, veterans, and those who are still serving is to make sure they are never again sent to fight a war of aggression in the name of national security, corporate interests, or plain old fear. The holiday has also become yet another excuse for Americans to self-righteously congratulate themselves, to worship the military for the sake of it being the military, and also an excuse for retailers to sell cheap foreign made goods to eager consumers. I am not asking that you believe what I believe or act how I act, but I am asking that you take a long hard look at what it is exactly that we are memorializing this day, and why.

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2nd Amendment

American Violence: God, Guns, and Gore

gun control

I saw this story today on one of my favorite news sites http://www.rawstory.com/2015/04/fake-georgia-cop-yells-fcking-nrs-pulls-shotgun-on-skateboarders-for-being-in-the-street/ 

I could not help but thing…How, HOW is it legal to buy a Kalashnikov in this country? So because some criminal could “theoretically” have “any” weapon, we should be allowed to buy any weapon to “protect” ourselves? Theoretically, a criminal (who could be ANYONE…gun nuts act as though criminals have a certain physical trait that shows who they are…oh, wait…) could get their hands on any sort of weapon. Should we be allowed to by a tank or a anti-tank weapon? Where does the insanity end? The article really captures the key themes of US worship of guns and violence: racialized attitudes about “protecting property” and self-defense, gun fetishization, a macho attitude and delusions of authority. These themes come up again and again and again but STILL gun “rights” advocates try to divorce the social ills that plague US society from the US obsession with firearms and with crime. It has gotten to the point where I cannot even have a discussion about guns IN SCHOOLS without being called a “gun grabbing fascist” or a gay/sexist slur (it seems to be assumed by ammo-sexuals that one who does not believe in the power of the gun is by default a gay man or a woman). There also seems to be a real religious, especially Christian, obsession with arming oneself against the threat that is the “other” in the world. The Conservative Christian mind in this nation is a mind that is always fearful. It is an issue I am working on in my writing lately…it is a real cause that I am fascinated in and devoted to.

We to make the case, as a civil society, that guns are not the answer to all of our problems and that unlimited gun ownership is NOT a right, it never has been. It is a PRIVILAGE and can be taken away or restricted if you show yourself to be a danger to your family or your community. Even in TEXAS of all places Dallas County is finally going to start confiscating the guns of people convicted of domestic violence. This is also a Federal statute, but many states do not have enforceable laws on the books that protect people from domestic gun violence. We are always told that a gun is “just a tool”, as though this is some sort of argument AGAINST restrictions or of understanding gun violence as a social disease. According to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics guns were responsible for the deaths of more than half of all women killed by their partners between 2001 and 2012. So guns are used as the weapon of choice for those who terrorize their partners. That should give unlimited gun rights activists pause.

More education and dialogue is needed on the issue of human violence and obsession with “security” and “purity”. If you want to understand human violence, obsession with “rights” and “liberties”, and mythic tendencies, I suggest reading the books Sapiens and Blood and Soil. Two of the best books I have ever read. Both talk about what makes human beings tick as an animal, what causes them to seek out violent solutions to complex problems and, in the latter especially, how societies and groups go about the ugly business of doing and justifying violence. I worry that a genocidal sort of fury may be coming from the Right in this country…so much misguided fear and hate directed towards immigrants (this obsession with “legality” is just a new of articulating the “purity” aspects of xenophobic nationalism that existed in the past regarding immigrants), towards LGBT people, towards atheists, towards Muslims. When the majority group, Christians, feels as thought IT is the one being persecuted, they start getting paranoid, and violent, and start arming themselves and convincing themselves that the “others”, “Those People” and “their culture” are to blame and that something needs to be done about it for the good of the nation. That is how genocide happens, that is how you get armed racist bands in the streets, and how you get Muslims being herded into pens…I am trying to be more aware of the hate and fear in this country. The gun/2nd Amendent cult obsession and the persecution complex of conservative christians worry me the most

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Civil rights, Ferguson

White America: WE are the Problem

arton1586

White people, especially white men, are the most dangerous people in the US to people of color, women, immigrants, children and LGBTQIA people. I say this as a white man. We must look in the mirror. See who we are and what we have wrought on this nation and on this world. WE are the problem. WE are the danger that our fellow citizens need to be protected from. It is our fear, our rancor, our privilege, our hate, our greed, our power, our arrogance, our stupidity, our lack of empathy, our closed ears and closed eyes and loud, brash, cruel voices that are the problem. We must correct ourselves before we tear what was once a great democracy to the ground. We must make sure that the efforts and struggles and heroism of men and women like MLK, Malcolm X, Emma Goldman, Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, Frederick Douglas, Cesar Chavez, Upton Sinclair, Harvey Milk, Eugene V. Debs, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells and  the countless educators, Civil Rights marchers, Reconstruction workers, Union Soldiers and labor rights activists were not in vain. There have been too many Mike Browns, too many black and brown bodies hanging from sturdy tree branches. We must look into our hearts and realize that this nation is dying, this democracy is being taken apart day by day and that we, the white men of this nation, are largely to blame. This is not meant as condemnatory screed, or a public shaming but as a CALL TO ACTION! We are better than this, we are human beings. We must start behaving like human beings and realize that the wealth and power we possess was purloined from the labor of countless millions of women and immigrants and laborers and slaves. We are making monsters of ourselves and plucking the wings off of the better angels of our nature, casting them down into a dark, endless abyss where only capital, power and narcissism remain. The US can only survive if we realize that we are the ones destroying it and making it uninhabitable unlivable, for the millions of our fellow human beings who do not share our gender or our skin tone. We must join our fellows in the streets and marches and teach-in and theaters of national conversation and raise our voices with those who have trod upon for too long with impunity. We are not the master race, no one race is or could be, but how could we even conceive of such a possibility be if we are not even the masters of our own baser instincts. The white man is the rotten core of this mess. We must purge ourselves of our hate and our prejudice. We must make our enemy the powerful, the entrenched interests, the corporations and the warmongers and the do-nothing leeching investor classes. We must make common cause with those who we have wronged. We must rejoin the family of humanity in good standing and atone for our crimes. Only then will we truly deserve a place in the American system.

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Atheism, Feminism

Towards A Feminist Atheism

femfem

I will start this post with a few simple statements of fact: society is and has long been misogynistic and many people within that society are personally misogynistic to one degree or another, knowingly or not. Atheists are part of that society, and the Atheist movement is a part of society…therefore some elements of the Atheist movement, and some individual atheists, will be misogynistic. It is not an condemnation of a movement of which I am a proud part to point out this fact.

I was not always as aware of misogyny and feminism as I am not, and I am nowhere near close to the end of my education on the topic. I can say that growing up with three incredibly intelligent and independent minded sisters and a very feminist father and an incredibly supportive and liberal mother really shaped my views of women, men, and society. I grew up without knowledge of patriarchal religion and I was never taught that being gay or trans* was in anyway different from my own sexuality. I was unschooled (i.e. I directed my own education at home with the help and support of my parents) until I started attending community college classes at the age of 16 so it was not until then that I even realized that people had a PROBLEM with other people’s sexuality. It had just never been something that seemed to me as a “difference”. People love. That is what I was taught. I know now how lucky I was to be raised this way, that most people do not get to go their entire childhood without encountering damaging hate of differences in people. I also know now how very naive I was. I think m autism had part in this…I tend to see people as uniform unless I really get to know them. It is literally almost impossible FOR me to see difference sometimes! That is one thing about my autism that I do like

I am now married to a wonderful, intelligent, gorgeous feminist atheist woman. She has also opened my eyes as to how women are viewed, and abused, in society. She is a pin-up model so I have seen firsthand how people, especially men who claim to be “open-minded” try to shame her for daring to be proud of her body and to take control of her sexuality. Her strength in the face of this sort of judgement, even at times from her own very conservative Catholic family, is inspiring to me and has moved me to look into more about feminism and issues of justice for women and for the rest of society.

I am a feminist not just because of the women in my life but because of myself, my own feelings, and the men in the world who are degraded and poisoned by patriarchal views. We raise boys to be rough and stupid and dense and to ignore their feelings and the feelings of others. We assume that any man who can express his emotions, admits when he is in pain, or stands up for women is a “pussy”. We also tell our young boys and men that gay, bi, and trans* men cannot, by definition, be masculine or strong and that masculinity is the ability to dominate and control others through physical power and manipulation. Women are the focus and the chief targets of the controlling grip of patriarchal mechanisms but both women AND men are the walking wounded; many men do not even understand how much their own minds and emotions have been hampered, even crippled by the social disease that is misogyny.

A case in point: the backlash against atheist blogger and activist Rebecca Watson when she dared to tell her story about being sexually harassed by a man (an atheist man) at a conference. Many male atheists, including one of the self-important “patron saints” of the “New” Atheism, Dr. Richard Dawkins, attacked her as essentially a whiner and  other claimed she was undermining the Atheist cause (whatever that may be) by DARING to suggest that any freethinker could be a misogynist. Dawkins even suggested it was NATURAL that women will be constantly harassed, propositioned and given unwanted physical attention in public, even at a place where the participants declare their moral superiority to Religious misogynists. Skepchick blogger Sarah Moglia even reported that Dawkins threw a temper tantrum and blacked-balled Watson from speaking at the popular Atheist conference The Reason Rally! ( http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/09/05/richard-dawkins-blackballed-rebecca-watson%EF%BB%BF-from-speaking-at-the-reason-rally/)

Needless to say Rebecca Watson (and many others who do not have her fame or name recognition) fought back and stood her ground and in her case she become a leading voice in the Atheist community. This was after hundreds of rape threats, death threats, and insults online and in person. The idea that Atheism somehow inoculates men against being misogynistic is absurd and dangerous: it causes freethinkers to believe in a sense of moral superiority that is unearned and also causes the real issues facing women in the Atheist community to be ignored, laughed at or dismissed. We claim to be better than the senseless, reason-free hate and prejudice of the religious world. That claim is made laughable and impotent if we continue to ignore the problem of patriarchal ideas and misogynistic tendencies within the Atheist movement.

In my own personal experience, mostly in the Atheist groups I am part of online, I am constantly seeing some men, not all by any means, attack and belittle women who dare raise issues about patriarchy or who even use the word feminism. It is as though some atheist men think of themselves as beyond such petty concerns. I believe the truth is that when a woman brings up issues of misogyny and feminism it scares some men and forces them to confront the prejudices within themselves that they want to, need to, believe they do hold. Atheism is not served by believing that atheist are a priori morally superior in all issues or beyond the prejudices that infest and poison society as a whole. One of the major Atheist groups I was once a part of on Facebook, AANR (Atheists, Agnostics, & Non-Religious) is positively FILLED with people who harass women, degrade them, demand nude photos and even actively proposition them through messages and in person. Women were often ridiculed or appreciated only for the physical attributes that these men found desirable. There was even a supposedly “tongue and cheek” meme on the site where if someone brought up an issue, especially women, they would be confronted with this not too subtle misogynistic threat: TOGTFO. What does that mean? “[show us your] Tits Or Get The Fuck Out”. This misogyny was one of the reasons I left what was once the largest atheist related group online. This sort of vile misogyny is not limited to AANR buy any means; all around the internet and in groups in the real world, women are gaslighted, harassed, sexually objectified and taken less seriously just because of their gender. This has got to stop.

I am writing this not because I think I am immune to misogyny or patriarchal thinking. I am not. I am sure I have abused my privilege in the past and I probably will in the future. But at least I am aware of my own failings and want to overcome them. I want all atheists, men and women, to overcome this issue too. We are a remarkable community of intelligent, activist, largely kind and empathetic people who can have an enormous influence on society for the better if we choose to. Far too many atheist men have bought into the easy moral capitulation that is the MRA movement. NO MORE. Let’s decide that we are NOT yet past the demons that haunt the rest of society. Let us instead aim to lead by example and try and take on misogyny and patriarchy as a unified and progressive movement. We can create a better future for all of us. Feminist Atheism should not be a bad word.

NO MORE shaming women

NO MORE using slurs against women

NO MORE dismissing the concerns of women because they are women

NO MORE assuming that we are morally superior by virtue of our atheism

NO MORE using atheist groups, meetups, and conferences as a way to try and get sex from women

NO MORE supporting atheist luminaries like Richard Dawkins who refuse to confront their own prejudice

NO MORE treating feminism, patriarchy, and misogyny like they are four letter words

No. More.

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