Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When Religion Promotes Discrimination.....

Missouri defensive end Michael Sam speaks during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. Sam came out to the entire country Feb. 9, and could become the first openly gay player in the NFL. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Michael Sam may be the first openly gay player in the NFL, setting off a firestorm among conservatives. Michael was a very popular student at the University of Missouri and he appears to have the complete support of his classmates. Not to mention being an outstanding football player. None of that matters to the gay-bashing crowd.

Some of you may remember GOP lobbyist, Jack Burkman, from his heyday during Bill Clinton's impeachment when he was on t.v. being outraged day and night. He must have missed those glory days because he's back with a new cause guaranteed to garner him lots of publicity. He has drafted a bill to ban gay athletes from playing in the NFL.

In his press release, Burkman said, "we are losing our decency as a nation. Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That's a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?"

He then went on to say - "if the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it."

This is wrong on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin but I'll start with the Mom aspect.

I'm a mom, unlike Mr Burkman and I wouldn't be one bit worried about my son showering with a gay man. John played junior high and high school athletics. I assume that he showered with many gays whether known or unknown. He emerged, unmolested and still straight. If he encountered lascivious looks along the way, he never told me about them and  was evidently untraumatized.

Secondly, by the time you become an NFL player, you are a man yourself, not an innocent young boy, as Mr Burkman would imply. It ridiculous to think gays are out to seduce every man they see but even if they had that urge, their hulking major league football player teammates might not be the wisest place to start.

Third, no, Mr Burkman, it is not Congress' job to find morals for the NFL. Hell, we can't even get them to pass a budget, keep the country running, renew unemployment, raise the minimum wage, find a solution to immigration reform, etc, etc, etc.......the last thing I want them to waste their time on is the NFL's morals.

And if they were going to muck around in the NFL's value system, I'd much rather they paid more attention to the culture of bullying, which actually hurts people, than to whether they allow homosexuals. The NFL has assaulters and shooters and druggies and dog-fighters and drinkers and rapists (or at least people who have been alleged to have done those things) and you're worried about gay players? Seriously?

I have to say, I've been rather aghast at the kinds of backward attitudes some Americans (and not only Americans, as proven by Russia, Kenya, Uganda - yep, those are the countries we revere as our role models, huh?)  still have about gays and how willing they are to go to the mat and how vicious they are willing to be on this issue. It is second, I assume, only to abortion but actually I can come much closer to sympathizing with pro-lifers than the anti-gay crowd. I can understand them even if I don't agree.

We are currently waiting to see if Governor Jan Brewer is going to veto Arizona's draconian new law which allows virtually anyone from doctors to florists to motel managers to restaurants to ambulance drivers to refuse service to gays or even people who are with gays or, I guess, anyone who supports gays. (Can teachers refuse to teach gay students?) There are other states that have tried to pass or are trying to pass this same kind of legislation, including Georgia and Kansas and Missouri and many more. They are billed as "Freedom of Religion" laws. Congress has long loved these "give-laws-a-name-that-says-the-opposite-of-what-they-really-are" titles but this one takes the cake.

Legal discrimination isn't Freedom of Religion. It is the opposite of what religion is supposed to be. And anyway, civil rights trump religion in this country which is exactly the way the Founding Fathers planned it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The "Open Season on Black Kids" Law



Evidently, Florida simply cannot bring itself to find anyone who kills a young black male guilty of murder. All you have to do is declare that you were frightened and Florida juries find that such a sympathetic charge that they give you an automatic free pass.

If I truly believed Michael Dunn was afraid, I might even be able to relate in a way. I'd probably be wary of a car full of rowdy black teenagers playing loud rap music which, according to his gutless girlfriend, Dunn called "thug music".  (Being an old rock and roll girl, I also find rap unpleasant to listen to). Heck, I'd be a little nervous of a car full of rowdy white teenagers playing loud rap music.

But if that were the case, I'd react as most nervous people do. I'd ignore them or avoid them. If I was really frightened, I might even go on down the road to the next convenience station and get away from them altogether. What I definitely wouldn't do is confront them. Michael Dunn declared that Jordan Kelly said something like, "I'll kill you" after he ordered the boys to turn down their music. He swore he saw Jordan Kelly with a weapon (turns out, there was no weapon). So what did he do? He rolled down his window and said, "are you talking to me?" Then he took out his own gun and fired into Kelly's SUV.

Isn't that what you're do if you were terrified? Yeah, sure you would.

Then you'd fire several more shots into the vehicle and calmly drive away to a motel and order a pizza. You wouldn't call 911 to report the "incident". You wouldn't be curious if you'd killed or wounded someone. You'd be so sure of yourself that you'd assume you were perfectly within your rights.

And Florida would agree with you regarding the murder charge because their Stand Your Ground law allows you to justify killing someone if you can make even the slightest case for self-defense no matter how bogus it may seem to normal people who don't go around with a gun looking for excuses to use it.

This "loud music" case was even more egregious than the Trayvon Martin case but it didn't garner nearly the attention. On Facebook, Zimmerman versus Trayvon called forth hundreds of posts. Us lefties, of course, were almost 100 percent with Trayvon's family. But the conservative types were vociferous in their support of George Zimmerman, who was just trying to be a community protector and solid citizen. They labeled Trayvon a thug (there's that word again), a druggie, a thief. Meanwhile, they attached a halo firmly to Zimmerman's head.

So why didn't they come out in the same kind of full-throated defense of Michael Dunn this time around? Was it because even they realized there was no "public-spirited" spin that could justify Dunn's actions? Was it because Zimmerman has let them down and proven them so wrong with his multiple speeding tickets, domestic violence accusations, appearing proudly at the gun manufacturer's plant that produced his Trayvon-killing weapon in a display of total crassness?

Usually when you Google any controversial topic, the first cites that pop up are the myriad ones from conservative sites - Breitbart and RedState and (well, I forget the rest but there are a ton of them) but oddly, in this case, that's not the way it is. I went looking for right-wing analysis of the case and couldn't find any.

Not to fear though, the N.R.A. is actively working to expand Florida's Stand Your Ground law. Yes, unbelievably, they want to make it even easier to kill with impunity...even though 26 children and teenagers, and 134 individuals have died in Florida with the perpetrators using the Stand Your Ground defense since its inception. (Twenty states now have such laws).

Of course, the new proposed law has some euphemistic name but since the N.R.A. and their backers are so sure of themselves, I don't know why they don't have the guts to just call it what it is - "The Open Season on Black Kids Law."  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Russia Doesn't Deserve the Olympics


Sure thing, Vladimir, tell us how much you love puppies.

I'm not actually boycotting the Olympics formally or officially. I just can't bring myself to watch them because I think they lend credibility and honor to Russia and Vladimir Putin in a way neither deserves. As far as I'm concerned, Sochi should never have been rewarded with the 2014 Winter Olympics.

I believe Vladimir Putin is an ex-KGB thug and that's what he will always be. I resented the hell out of the admiring photos and quotes that went around Facebook for a while, implying that America would be lucky to have such a strong and admirable leader, instead of the dreaded Barack Obama. Putin's negative quotes about our president were posted with satisfaction. Take that, Barack!

So along about the time we were gearing up for the Olympics, Russia and Putin decided to to pass laws making being gay illegal. Not only being gay but talking about being gay or supporting gays or sporting rainbow signs or ribbons.

According to the New York Times, "on July 3, Mr. Putin signed a law banning the adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but also to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists in any form.
A few days earlier, just six months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Games, Mr. Putin signed a law allowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days. Contrary to what the International Olympic Committee says, the law could mean that any Olympic athlete, trainer, reporter, family member or fan who is gay — or suspected of being gay, or just accused of being gay — can go to jail.
Earlier in June, Mr. Putin signed yet another antigay bill, classifying “homosexual propaganda” as pornography. The law is broad and vague, so that any teacher who tells students that homosexuality is not evil, any parents who tell their child that homosexuality is normal, or anyone who makes pro-gay statements deemed accessible to someone underage is now subject to arrest and fines. Even a judge, lawyer or lawmaker cannot publicly argue for tolerance without the threat of punishment."  

Along with all this, we've seen pictures of gay people or gay supporters being arrested or beaten by security officers, approved by Putin and his government.

And then there are the dogs. Sochi had a stray dog problem, there's no doubt about that. Partly that's because so many homes were torn down to build Olympics venues while the residents were relocated to high-rise apartments where having a dog was impractical, so they left them behind. Partly, its because Sochi, and Russia in general, has no laws making it a crime to abandon and/or neglect pets and no policy of encouraging owners to be responsible by spaying or neutering their animals. 

Russia reacted to the situation in typical Putin blunt instrument fashion by shooting or poisoning the strays. Lots of kindly Russians have made an effort to provide homes or shelters but mostly, its been too little and too late.

I don't like Russia. I think it is ugly...not the country itself, of course, but its attitude and authoritarianism. I'm sure there are many wonderful Russians but Putin and his cohorts are their representatives so that makes them look brutal and belligerent and bullying.

On top of all that, last year gold medal-winning figure skater, Irina Rodnina, tweeted this doctored tweet about the Obamas and guess who Russia chose to light the Olympic flame? Ah, yes, that would be our Irina. Do you suppose it was just an unfortunate coincidence. Yeah, me either.

Of course, afterwards Ms. Rodnina said, "freedom of speech is freedom of speech." Sure, tell that to the Russians who try to stick up for gays.

View image on Twitter
So, all in all, I support our athletes in Sochi. I certainly understand how hard they've worked and how much they want to make the most of their opportunity to gain Olympic glory. But, for myself, I can't stomach the country or its leader, so I'm just letting this one go by.

Monday, February 3, 2014

I'm Changing My Attitude


I am 67 years old. I've lived through good times and bad times in my country - wars and assassinations and terrorist attacks and injustices. Sometimes, I've been hugely  proud of our accomplishments and sometimes, I've been ashamed when we failed to live up to our principles. That's the way it is with anything or anyone you love. You don't expect perfection. You support them through their successes and their failures. You applaud their strengths and tolerate their weaknesses, always hoping the weaknesses will turn into strength.

I've lived through presidential administrations I admired and through administrations I disagreed with. But I didn't think the ones I admired were faultless and I didn't think the ones I disagreed with were always wrong. And in the end, it didn't matter what I thought. The voters had the final say and when they spoke, that was that. Impeachment was considered something only to be contemplated in the event of truly high crimes, not simply because we disapproved of a president's policy goals.

I worry this question like a dog with a bone: have Americans changed or does our access to cable news and social media simply emphasize our differences? Have we always been so vicious about our presidents, our government and one another or did we simply not have access to articulate our feelings, except in a stray letter to the editor, so that our loathing of one another wasn't as noticeable?

I usually scroll through Facebook once in the morning and once at night and I come out feeling hopeless and helpless about my country. Have we always scorned one another so intensely over political and social disagreements? Were there always significant pockets of people who not only disagreed with, but despised our various presidents? Were we simply not aware of the the demeaning names by which other presidents were known among the true believers - names like Obummer and the Mooch? Were there whole segments of society who cheered when JFK was assassinated, as I think there would be if it was Obama, or do we simply have means to voice our feelings in ways we didn't then?

Did we take everything so seriously? Would so many of us have turned on Coke for a commercial in which America the Beautiful was sung in languages besides English? Really? An ad that is meant to be a show of American solidarity (e pluribus unum is our national motto, after all, not In God We Trust) is turned into a jingoistic screed? Or a cereal ad is trashed because it shows a mixed race family?

Am I seeing the past through rose-colored glasses? My conclusion is that I probably am. I'm forgetting the ugly people screaming hurtful, hateful things at black children guilty only of wanting to go to school. And the beatings and hoses and dogs and clubs that were used and the deaths that resulted from the civil rights movement.

I'm forgetting the violent clashes between anti-war protesters and the pro-war crowd and the killing of students at Kent State.

I'm forgetting the contemptuous name-calling of women by politicians and others when we were fighting for equal rights. Rush Limbaugh is no different than the blowhards back then, he just has a larger microphone.

I'm forgetting that Trayvon Martin was only one in a long, long line of black boys sacrificed for our prejudice.

I'm forgetting that many of our mental hospitals were hell holes and many of our prison were brutal pits.

I'm forgetting that most gays were afraid to come out of the closet.

When I think about it like that, I feel better. I'm convinced America is improving and will continue to evolve.

The nasty voices are louder but I believe there are fewer of them. Gays are visible now - in our families, in our military, in our workplaces. Gay marriage rights are sweeping the country.  

We still have pockets of virulent racism but we did, after all, elect a black president...twice.

The glass ceiling isn't broken but it is cracked. Most of us can contemplate a woman president with equanimity, which would not have been possible in the 60's or 70's.

Joe Arpaio is an anachronism now, not a representative.

A majority of us are proud of the melting pot that is the U.S. We believe those diverse voice in the Super Bowl Coke commercial make us stronger, not weaker.

The more the haters feel themselves being overtaken, the more maniacal their screaming becomes. I have determined to take it as a sign that they know they are going down.