For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

We're in the middle of preparing our Wigilia feast, which seems to be turning out quite wonderfully.  The house smells marvelous, and I can't wait to try that goose!

I'd like to take a moment in the middle of all the preparations to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  May Christmas be a day of joy and contentment, and may 2011 be a year of health, happiness and prosperity for you and yours.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Veiled references

There's a topic I've been wanting to touch on for some time.  This post is going to be a little light on references and links, though, as I'm sitting in a coffee shop with bad Christmas remakes in the background, using a PITA laptop. *L*  I might be able to update later, but no guarantees at this point!

All joking aside, the topic I want to address is no laughing matter.

Ever since France moved to ban face veils, I've been thinking about how and why veiling the face is such an issue in so many countries, the history of veils specifically, and facial coverings in general.

As someone who leans strongly towards the notion that people should be able to wear whatever they want and the state has no place in telling us how to dress, I do have limits to this.  For example, I object to outright nudity, not because I have any problem with seeing the nude human body, but for reasons that range from sanitation and hygiene (would you want to sit in a chair after someone nude sat in it?  I sure as heck wouldn't want to sit in someone else's butt sweat) to the fact that it's inflicting one person's preference (to be nude) onto someone else's (to not see some stranger's nude body).  It's along the lines of, your right to punch me stops at the tip of my nose.

So generally, I have no problem with people's dress.  If some guy wants to wear long flowing skirts and a belly dance shawl, I have no problem with that.  In fact, my only regret is that I never got around to finding out where he bought those beautiful skirts!  I haven't seen him in ages, and it looks like I've missed my chance. If another guy wants to wear brightly coloured spandex biker shorts with a thong on the outside?  Weird, but fine.  It's a bit hard on the eyes, but it's none of my business.  Likewise, if women want to wear their pants so low they're showing off their thongs and butt cracks... that's their business, though I would make an exception;  I would really prefer if they didn't wear them while working in the food industry.  Someone's butt crack and underwear out for display does not go well with food hygiene.  When I had my first job as a waitress, health regulations stipulated that we had to wear sleeves long enough to cover our armpits.  If we couldn't flash our stubbly pits, we sure as heck shouldn't be flashing our cracks.

In other words, I expect reasonable limits to our freedom to dress however we like. 

Enter the face veil.

First off, I do not have any problem with "traditional Muslim dress," whatever that may be.  Any objections I might have are of a more pragmatic nature than anything else.  The long flowing garments women wear can be stunningly beautiful.  They can also, however, get caught on things and be a danger.  There was a story not too long ago of a woman wearing a burka who was killed when it got caught in the wheels of the go-cart she was driving (note on the link:  I believe the file photo identified as a burka is actually a niqab).  While it happened to be a burka that got caught, I've seen other traditional garments that don't cover the face that would have been equally risky.  I have similar objections in mind when I see people walking around with long chains or belts hanging off their clothes, or women teetering along on high heels.  If the people wearing them are willing to risk physical injury for fashion, it's generally none of my business.  It might become my business if, say, I were an employer and the dress would hinder their ability to do the work I've hired them to do, or if a particular dress code or image were required.  Otherwise, it's no big deal and part of what makes people so interesting.

I do, however, draw the line at covering the face.  I agree with France's stand in banning the burka and niqab, and would support such a move here in Canada.

Before I explain my reasoning, let's take a broader look at face veiling.  This is not isolated to Islam.  Covering the face for one reason or another probably goes back to the beginning of humanity.  Islam developed in a geographical region of hot sun and a dry, harsh environment.  People covered their faces then, as now, to protect themselves from the elements.  At the time of Mohammad, few people actually veiled themselves.  They are impractical garments that get in the way while working.  The women who did wear veils were of the nobility; they were wealthy enough that the women didn't have to work in the hot sun, getting all dirty and sweaty.  Smooth skin, untouched by a harsh sun or sandblasted by winds, showed that a woman was from a family of high status and wealth - their women didn't have to work for a living!  When they did leave the confines of their homes and risk exposure to the elements, they could minimize the damage by wearing a veil.  When Mohammad said that all women deserved to wear veils because all women were equally noble, this was what he was referring to.  While some branches of Islam have taken his meaning to the extreme and turned it into a reflection of modesty, Islam itself does not require women to veil their faces.  In reality, the wearing of veils is not rooted in modesty, but vanity.  When Mohammad made this statement, most women still didn't wear the veil because it is such an impractical garment; their need to work for a living trumped the vain desire to protect their skin, and this was perfectly acceptable.  With this historical perspective, the argument that wearing the burka or the niqab is a religious requirement doesn't wash.

The veiling of women in Islamic countries is very much a cultural tradition, wrapped under the guise of religious requirement.  Growing up in a culture that expects women to cover their faces, one might have difficulty understanding why other cultures have a problem with it.  So let's take a moment to explore facial coverings in other cultures.

Over the centuries, women in European countries wore veils of various kinds.  One significant difference is that these veils, which often covered the entire face, were all open mesh or lace.  The face was not completely hidden, and women would still be recognized as individuals.  Lets look at other facial coverings which, like the burka and niqab, actually hide a person's identity.

Perhaps the most iconic Western example of face veiling is the cowboy with his ubiquitous bandanna.  While driving large herds of cattle, a tremendous amount of dust could be kicked up.  Weather also played its part as dust storms arose. Cowboys wore a number of things with very special purposes.  Chaps protected their legs.  Dusters were specially designed to protect them from the rain, even while riding a horse.  Hats had brims that drained rainwater out the back.  Bandannas were worn around the neck, where they could be easily pulled over the nose and mouth during dust storms or when thousands of hooves kicked up clouds of grit.  No cowboy would be without his bandanna, unless he liked the crunch of grit in his teeth or breathing clouds of particulate matter.

Of course, living in Canada, we have our modern facial coverings to protect from the elements.  Balaclavas, scarves and deep hoods all serve to keep our faces warm and protected from our often harsh winters.

There are those who make the argument that the burka and niqab are no different than wearing a balaclava. I always found that a rather silly argument.  For starters, no one is forced to wear a balaclava, while in too many Islamic cultures, a woman without a veil can be beaten or killed for her crime.  Even for those branches of Islam that view it as a sign of modesty, rather than the vanity its rooted in, there is a significant difference.  When people protect their faces with scarves and hoods and balaclavas, they don't leave them on when they go indoors.  In fact, in our culture, those who hide their faces are considered suspicious.  In the days of the wild west, bank and train robbers would use the ubiquitous bandanna to hide their faces while committing their crimes.  In modern days, sunglasses and hoodies are used the same way.   Before anyone suggests that it's not illegal to wear sunglasses or hoodies, therefore it shouldn't be illegal to wear a burka, the city of Edmonton recently made the news for banning sunglasses, hats and hoods.  It turns out there were so many jewelry store robberies where security cameras were rendered useless by criminals wearing hoods and sunglasses, a law was brought in.  If you go into a store or bank with your face hidden, they have the right to tell people to take off their sunglasses and hoods.

But what about outside the store?

Eldest and her friend, Raider King, found out about that.  Some time ago they did their "post apocalyptic" walk.  They wandered around our city wearing their costumes which, for Eldest, included a "scarfkerchief" worn over the face like a bandanna, with her eyes hidden by home made goggles.  Raider King wore a gas mask.  When they entered a mall, they were approached by a security guard and told they had to uncover their faces.  They understood why and complied, but Eldest did wonder what they did for Muslims or at Halloween.  Obviously, they make an exception for Halloween - the one day of year when people are actually encouraged to disguise themselves.  Just as obviously, they don't tell Muslim women to remove their veils.

From this Western cultural perspective, face coverings are viewed with significant suspicion.  People who hide their faces are doing so specifically to hide their identity while committing a crime.  This extends even to protesters who hide their faces, since they are obviously trying to hide their identities from authorities, even if no actual crime is perpetrated.  Those wearing facial coverings are far more likely to become violent during demonstrations, since they're more likely to get away with it.  For all that I agree and support people's right to protest something, even if I wildly disagree with their cause, I fully believe it should be illegal for protesters to cover their faces in the process.  If you believe in something enough to protest about it, you should believe in it enough to be identified, even if there's a risk of being arrested.  Once protesters start hiding their faces, it tells me that their motives are less than altruistic.

When it comes to the burka or the niqab, security concerns are completely valid.  There have been several incidents of late that have demonstrated this.  One was the now infamous video someone posted on youtube where veiled women bypassed airport security.  There's also the incident where some women made a fuss until the security staff let them through, without checking their identities.  As they were walking away they were overheard, speaking in their native tongue, mocking Canadians.  The man who overheard them did speak up, in their own language, calling them on it.  Another recent incident involved a woman who was pulled over by a police officer.  She accused him of racism and, when it went to court, tried to claim mistaken identity because he couldn't see her face.  Thankfully, his dashboard video camera recorded the entire incident in question and he was exonerated, but it's another example of veiled women trying to take advantage of their cultural tradition to usurp local law.  Meanwhile, there have even been incidents of male suicide bombers disguising themselves in burkas.  The burka and the niqab is a serious and legitimate security concern, as is any other form of hiding one's identity.  The difference is that people like my daughter and her friend couldn't make religious claims when the security guard told them to uncover their faces, as those who wear the burka or the niqab do.  As far as I am concerned, religion cannot be allowed to trump safety and security.

Which brings me to another defense of veiling that is sometimes used.  People claim it is a symbol of a religion, no different than a Catholic wearing a crucifix, or a Sikh wearing a turban.  These religious symbols, required or not, do not hide anyone's identity (and we've already established that veils are do not actually symbolize Islam, nor do they represent the concept of modesty, but vanity).  Rather, the Sikh's turban or Catholic's crucifix pendant openly show for all the world to see that this identifiable person holds certain beliefs.  The veil, on the other hand, hides the believer away.  The irony of such a defense is that, in some Islamic nations, other religions are illegal, as are their symbols and trappings.   A quick look at the persecution of Christians in various countries will find many examples.  In Western nations that object to veils, it's the veils themselves that are the objection, not necessarily the religion of the person wearing it.  Unlike countries like Iran, it's not illegal to hold certain religious beliefs, nor is anyone trying to force someone to turn their backs on their faith, while nations that require all women to cover their faces require this of all women, not just Muslim women, even though doing so is against Islam.  To carry over the metaphor, Islamic nations that force all women to wear the burka or niqab would be like us forcing a Muslim woman (or anyone else not a Catholic, for that matter) to wear a crucifix. 

Okay, so we've covered face veiling from a couple of perspectives.  Veiling fails from a religious perspective, as it is not actually a religious requirement.  It fails from a modesty perspective, since veiling is rooted in vanity, and as a symbol of Islam, as it it neither required by Islam, nor is it limited to Islam.  It fails from a security perspective for obvious reasons.

There is, however, another objection I have against veils.  This one is actually hinted at in the other reasons, and it is purely psychological.

Let's go back to the modesty angle.  Wealthy women in the Middle East began wearing veils to protect their delicate skin from a harsh environment.  This clearly separated them from other women.  It was an exclusive, rather than inclusive, act.  Wearing the veil was a way of saying "I'm better than other women; I don't have to slave away in the hot sun.  I live a life so luxurious, I can wear this completely impractical garment.  I don't have to worry about getting it caught on things or getting in the way, because I don't have to work for a living."  In this vein, the veil is a sign of privilege as well as vanity.  It was a flagrant way of saying that one's wealth and status (or those of their family) made them superior to everyone else.  There's more to say in that direction, but I'll cover that in a moment.

Let's now go back to the veil from a religious perspective, as so many claim it is either a requirement or a symbol of Muslim faith.  Religious symbols are typically ways to identify people.  Turbans, for example, not only represent Sikhism, but their colours can symbolize different things.  If someone wears an empty cross, you can assume a Christian faith, but if they're wearing a crucifix, you can usually assume Catholicism.  If you see someone wearing a pentagram, it usually identifies them as pagan.  Granted, many of these symbols are now worn by people as pure ornamentation.  Sikh men are required to wear a turban, but Christians have no such requirement to wear any symbols.  These days, you're not likely to see people wearing turbans just because they like the look (though they were in fashion for a while), but you do see people wearing a cross pendant that isn't Christian, or a Star of David that isn't Jewish.

The point being that these symbols serve a dual purpose: on the one hand, the person wearing the symbol is identifying themselves as being part of a select group.  On the other, they are making a blatant statement about their beliefs.  Early Christians began tattooing crosses on the inside of their wrists, despite biblical admonitions against body modification.  Why?  At the time, Christians were considered a dangerous element of society and frequently executed in rather horrible ways.  Identifying oneself as Christian was very risky. Indelibly marking one's body with a Christian symbol was a bold statement, and in doing so, these early Christians knew they were putting their lives on the line for their belief.  A tattoo on the inner wrist could be easily hidden by a sleeve.  It could be used to identify themselves to other Christians, since no one else would risk such a thing.  Having such a tattoo discovered by the authorities, on the other hand, was pretty much a death sentence.

The key point, however, is identity. These symbols boldly state to the world, "this is what I believe.  This is who I am."  What does a veil do?  It hides identity.  "This is what I believe, but you can't know who I am."  The veil hides the believer from the rest of the world, even from other believers, since Muslim women are expected to hide their faces from all men not their father's, brothers or husbands.  Some Muslim women have even gone so far as to never show their faces to their own husbands.  The veil becomes, not a symbol, but a barrier.  A wall of separation quite different from open symbols of faith.  With the veil, Islam becomes a hidden, secret thing, separating the wearer from everyone else, even within their own faith.

Which leads me to the final objection I have.  The veil is not just a physical barrier, but a psychological one.  It dehumanizes the wearer and isolates her.  There's two statements made here.  For the forced wearing of the veil, the woman behind the veil becomes nothing.  She is no one.  She is less than chattel; she is not worth even her own identity.  She is no longer allowed to be human.

For those who choose to wear the veil, the psychological barrier is different, but no less disturbing.  Here, the statement is reversed.  It's not that the woman behind the veil is not worth an identity; but that those on the other side of the veil are not worth knowing her identity.  In an open faced society, this psychological barrier is perhaps more damaging than forced veiling.  At least with forced veiling, those who disapprove of veiling can feel empathy for the woman behind the veil.  She is still a person to them; if her own culture does not value her as an individual, ours does.  For the woman who deliberately walls herself off from everyone else behind a veil, she is dehumanizing those who do not believe as she does.  We are the ones who are unworthy; unworthy to see her face; unworthy to be part of her world; unworthy of knowing who she is.

In the end, my objections to the burka and the niqab comes from two sources.  The legal objection is one of security, based on hidden identity and it not limited to just the veil.  I believe that, barring the need to protect one's face from the elements or similar reasonable exceptions, facial coverings in public should be illegal.  My other objection is psychological.  Whether the veil is worn by choice or by force, it is a damaging psychological barrier that seperates and isolates the wearer from everyone else, including those who follow the same faith.

Update:  A hearty welcome to my visitors from Blazing Cat Fur.  I hope you enjoy your stay. :-)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What's funny, what's not.

The news of late has had a lot of stories about Wikileaks and it's founder, Assange.  I won't wade into my thoughts on the whole thing right now, as others have said what I think far better than I would have. 

What I'm going to touch on today is humour - or lack of it, as the case may be.  A while back, sumdood named Flanagan, identified as senior advisor to PM Harper, made a comment during an interview suggesting that Assange should be assassinated.  I found out about this when the anti-right folks I know and follow practically shat their drawers over it, with a flurry of link sharing on their facebook pages, outraged blog posts, editorials and more.  When it was pointed out that a) Flanagan is a *former* advisor to the PM, and now is basically just another nobody like the rest of us, and b) the remark was flippant and off the cuff humour, the outrage and disgust merely morphed from "it's disgusting for him to call for an assassination" to "it's disgusting for him to even joke about assassination."  It was truly fascinating to watch the anti-right (and for the people I know personally, they are usually intelligent, rational and smart - it's only when politics or religion are brought up that their brains explode into emotional irrationality, fear and hatred) freaking out over a stupid joke.  Especially considering how many on the anti-right have called for the arrest, death and occasional dismemberment of prominent people on the right, such as GWB, Palin or PM Harper.  The difference being that they quite obviously were serious about their comments and upset that no one was following through with their wishes. 

Perhaps most disturbing is that now, Flanagan is actually being investigated for his remark.  If every person who made remarks like this, flippant or otherwise, were investigated, charged and jailed, we'd probably end up losing half our population, if not more - and from my personal observations, most of them would be people on the political left, who also seem to eager to censor or call for the arrest of those who disagree with them.

Most of this I generally tried to ignore, but I saw a new one today that had me thinking about that whole humour thing I mentioned earlier.  One of my anti-right friends - a talented and otherwise intelligent woman, shared a link with this comment.

"Wassamatta?  Cantcha take a joke?  What a creep."

Curious, I followed her link to the Globe and Mail (aka the Mop and Pail).  The story is of a woman (who voted Liberal in the last election, the article made sure to mention) who was "justifiably outraged" by Flanagan's joke, sent him an email.  She wrote:

The e-mail that Ms. Reymond sent to Mr. Flanagan was blunt: “So you are in favour of assassinating people that you disagree with. Does the Reform Party have no ethical basis? Agree with us or get assassinated?”
 To which he replied with just one line.

“Better be careful, we know where you live.”
I admit, I just about laughed out loud when I read that.  Flanagan clearly has a very twisted sense of humour.  It was a stupid joke to make - obviously someone who wrote the email she did wouldn't get it.

Not only didn't she get the joke, but she even "immediately called the police," was unable to sleep because she felt threatened by it, then went to the media over it, leading to the G&M headline, Tom Flanagan threatened me over wikileaks comment

She said she is not asking that criminal charges be laid against Mr. Flanagan.
“I just want an apology from him and assurance that he won't harm me.”
Good Lord.  She actually believes Flanagan would hunt her down and harm her?  All this tells me is that she's a rather special little snowflake who needs to go back to that special little bubble so many anti-rightists seem to live in.  On the other hand, maybe she needs to stay away from them.  After all, she had to get the idea that he might actually mean to harm her from somewhere and, as I mentioned before, when the anti-rightists make these sorts of comments, they clearly aren't joking.  Likewise, observing them at various protests and demonstrations, I would have to say that comments like this from one of them would actually warrant concern.

Then I thought of the comment my anti-right friend made when she shared this article.   Let's look at this again, now that we've read the story.

"Wassamatta?  Cantcha take a joke?  What a creep."

Ignoring the rather condescending "accent" she chose to write in - an attempt at being flippant herself, perhaps - let's look at the content.  After reading the article, clearly it was Flanagan making the joke and this Ms. Raymond didn't get it.  However, the writer of this comment was among those outraged by Flanagan's comments originally.  So she's actually saying that Flanagan is the person who can't take a joke and is a creep.  What joke does she mean?  I know it can't be Flanagan's "we know where you live" line.  Does that mean she thinks Raymond's email was a joke?  Let's look again at the portion of her email that's quoted.

“So you are in favour of assassinating people that you disagree with. Does the Reform Party have no ethical basis? Agree with us or get assassinated?”
Does that look like any kind of joke?  Maybe I don't get leftist humour, but I'm not seeing it. 

Now, having been at the receiving end of some rather nasty comments from both the left and the right, I'm no stranger to attempts at intimidation, threats, insults and so on.  There is a distinct difference between those from the right and the left.  Folks on the right will simply tell me I'm insane or whatever for holding a position they disagree with.  Those on the left try to intimidate me (drives them bonkers when it doesn't work) and hold moral sway over me (which also doesn't work).  When it comes to threats, there's another significant difference.  A person on the right might threaten to punch me or something, we post back and forth for a while, then in the end we either part ways on the subject or I get invited over for a beer; even if we never come to agree.  Those on the left, however, become increasingly vicious in their personal insults, increasingly outraged and emotional, then simply break contact; they have no interest in seeing/reading a differing point of view, and certainly not from someone who can challenge their own views on a point by point basis, with references. *L* 

Which is a long way to say I've been at the receiving end of some pretty nasty stuff that clearly was no intended as a joke.  Most of the time I read them out to the rest of the family and we all get a good laugh out of the people who think so highly of themselves that they feel I should be intimidated by them.

In the case of the email exchange as quoted in the article, as well as other related stories I've read, I'm increasingly finding Flanagan hilarious.  My anti-right friend clearly does not.

I still don't get her comment, though.

update: Dec. 14

After I wrote this, I was able to get Eldest to go over it with an editorial eye.  As we talked about it later, she suggested a possible explanation for my anti-conservative friend's comment.  Eldest suggested that she actually *did* get that Flanagan's one line response to the email was intended to be a joke.  Her comment, then, was in the first part (the "wassamatta" part) supposed to be in Flanagan's voice, and the second part (calling him a creep) was her feelings about it.  I think my daughter might be right, however if she is, this is how I would now interpret the comment.  First, based on the "accent" the comment was written in, this person was projecting onto Flanagan a sort of ignorance or mentally inept thought process.  Considering I don't think anyone has ever heard Flanagan speak like that, it would be pure projection on her part (and, one could argue, a projection of racial/cultural stereotypes based on the "accent" which, in turn, shows a level of prejudice I would not have expected of her).  Then, in the second part, she finds him a creep... based on her interpretation and projections of his thoughts that are impossible for her to know, but which she seems to be quite comfortable assuming.

Which makes me wonder more about the person who wrote this comment, than the article she was responding to.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

My confusion about "don't ask, don't tell."

For many years, I've had confusion about why people were so upset about the US military's "Don't ask, don't tell," policy.  This confusion grew in the last few years as more people fought to repeal the policy, which seems to be reaching a fever pitch these days.

Let me explain.

As I understood it, "don't ask, don't tell," simply meant "we don't care what your sexuality is, as long as you can do the job."  It seemed to mean that a person's sexuality was irrelevant - no one wanted to know, no one cared to know, it's your own business.  Isn't this a good thing?  Isn't this ensuring equality?

So when people argued to repeal the policy, it seemed to me that what they were saying is that a person's sexuality did matter, and that everyone should know or care what each individual's sexuality was.  Considering the sort of homophobia my husband witnessed in the military, this just didn't seem like a good idea.

I finally mentioned my confusion to my husband who explained to me that, in the US, it's actually illegal for homosexuals to serve in the military.  "Don't ask, don't tell" was implemented as a way for gays to serve in the military, so long as no one knew they were gay.  Once it became known, because it was illegal, the military would then be forced to boot them out.  What a bizarre concept!

So this leads me to a new confusion.  People are calling for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."  Don't they really mean that they want it to no longer be illegal for gays to serve in the military?  Shouldn't they be protesting the law, not the policy that allowed for a loophole around the law?

I think in the end, it's a matter or semantics.  The protesters really are wanting to repeal the law, but the policy is so connected to the law, they're viewed by pretty much everyone as one and the same.

Personally, while I think it's ridiculous to bar people from serving in the military simply for being gay, I still think my original interpretation of "don't ask, don't tell" is a good thing; unless that person's sexuality is somehow causing them to not be able to do their job (and I really can't think of how that would be), who cares?  Sure, it might come up socially, but that's a different issue.

In the end, as long as the person can perform their military duties, who gives a rip what their sexuality is?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I want my country back

(This one's been sitting in my drafts since October 19 - that's what I get for not finishing a post right away.  I forget to get back to it!)

There's a Huffington Post opinion piece that's being passed around a lot by my friends on the far left.  I'm going to have to stop calling them liberals, or even lefties.  I don't want to imply that all my friends on the political left are like this.  I think it would be more accurate to call them anti-Conservative, since they leap on anything that paints conservatism in a negative light while ignoring the positives (and if I sound like I'm picking in my anti-conservative friends, it's because my right leaning friends don't pass around this kind of stuff, so there's been nothing to pick on).  In fact, anything positive gets twisted around to become a negative.

Take this piece they're passing around, mocking the "I want my country back" mantra. You can save yourself some time if you want.  They're using the term to attack Republicans and TEA partiers (TEA is capitalized because it actually stands for Taxed Enough Already, but it took me a while to find that out, since it doesn't get much mention) by twisting the meaning of the phrase and saying these right-wing nutjobs (of course, everyone on the right is a nut job.  They're also all white, old, male, Christian... you get the picture) want to turn back time to some blissful Luddite utopia, with no technology, no equality, or no medical advances, and where coloured folks knew their place, and there was no religious diversity.  Lefties, of course, want to move forward, not back, with good sanitation, medical care, etc.  Because folks on the right don't want any of these things.  They want to take their country "back."

Which is typical bovine feces coming from the anti-conservative crowd.  First, they tell us what those on the right supposedly are, (ignorant, bigoted, whatever), then tell us why they are wrong, then tell us how oh-so-superior folks on the left are.

Of course, they're missing the point entirely.  It's not "I want my country back to..." something.  It's "I want my country back from..." something.

While there certainly are elements on the right that have some strange Utopian image of a blissful past, typically coloured by the lens of childhood memory rather than reality, it is a mistake to paint all folks on the right like that, just as it would be to paint everyone on the left the same way, even though many of them are just as guilty of putting forward an image of that past that has more to do with childhood memories or ideology than reality.

People who say they want their country back aren't saying they want to go back to the time of June Cleaver and Father Knows Best.  What they want is to reclaim their country from... oh, a whole bunch of things, such as:

- exorbitant taxes that penalize those who work for it (that would be the middle class, mostly), and punish the wealthy for being wealthy, only to see those tax dollars disappear into billion (or trillion, in the US) dollar debts, endless layers of bureaucracy and boondoggles, and to fund special interest groups or pay people who don't work (no one is begrudging a helping hand to those in need, but those who play the system)

- special interest groups that are convinced they know what's good for us better then we do, so they work to change laws and regulations to control everything from what kind of fuel we put in our cars (except, of course, those that would take our cars away from us entirely), where we should live and in what kind of dwelling, what we should watch or read, what we should be allowed to eat or drink, how much of either, and even what our body size and shape should be.

- revisionism of religious reality, both current and historical, by the powers that be and vocal minorities that try to tell us that our countries' founders weren't actually Christians (this applies to both Canada and the US), unless it's to claim those Christians were actually evil, or that our laws aren't actually based on Christianity, or that the majority of our current populations aren't actually still Christian (in both Canada and the US, the majority of the population is some Christian affiliation, with the majority of those being Catholic, with the next category being "no religious affiliation" followed by Muslim and Jewish, with some regional variations).  Yes, we have a diversity of ethnicity's, cultures and religion, but we shouldn't have to pander to any special interest group just because they're not white or not Christian.

- extreme political correctness, where instead of just trying to be polite and caring of other's differences, the majority is now expected to cowtow to vocal minorities to the point that people are afraid to say "merry Christmas" or compliment someone on their ethnic garb without fear of offense.

- a nation where, instead of a meritocracy, where the best people for a particular job are hired, companies are required to meet ethnic or gender based quotas (white males need not apply).

- a bizarre, twisted notion of cultural relativism, where all cultures are supposedly equally good, but the US, the West, and those of European background are actually evil or wrong for their very successes, while others are considered better for being less exploitative, or more "natural" even though women have no or few rights, gays are jailed, beaten and/or executed and where a 17 year old woman who dared go out in public (or was just rumored to have) with a man not her husband, father or brother, was beaten, stomped and stoned to death on the street by a mob, while the crowd took photos and videos on their cell phones and posted them on the internet. (No, I'm not going to link to that one.  I watched it, not realized what I was about to see, and it still haunts me).

- a society that thinks we should apologize for being successful, relatively wealthy, and enjoying material comforts, and would have us forced to give those up and would take that wealth and turn it over to corrupt organizations, such as the UN, or dictator governments in some sort of bizarre attempt to make everyone equal, not realizing that taking from the rich and giving to the poor just leaves everyone poor (why would anyone strive to get ahead if the fruits of their efforts will just be taken away and given to others).

There are more examples than I can think of right now.   These are just a few of the things TEA Party folks (who aren't a cohesive group to begin with) are trying to take their country back from.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Readers: What did you do?

While visiting Free Range Kids today, I found out about this virtual funeral for the swing set.  It seems a young boy jumped off a swing and broke his arm.  His parents sued, and the county responded by getting rid of swing sets in playgrounds (though that's apparently changed back).

I well remember jumping off swing sets when I was a kid.  Heck, I'd still do it if my knees weren't shot. *L* My kids have jumped off many a swing, too, and had a blast doing it.

It got me to thinking of the many things I and others did when we were young that were potentially dangerous, but we did them anyway.  Sometimes we got hurt.  Most of the time, we didn't.  Once in an extremely rare while, someone got killed, but no one I've ever known.

In telling my kids stories of the things I did as a kid, I've often found myself wondering how we survived!  But survive we did, and had a blast at the same time.  When my own kids would do something that got my Mommy fears going, I would remind myself of the things I'd done that were far more dangerous and made myself back off.  I'm glad I did.

Being on the farm opened up all sorts of opportunities for potential disaster.  Here are just a few things I remember doing.

Our barn was a typical 2 level building with the upper level being the hay loft.  My dad had built a single level lean-to on one side that was slightly shorter than the eaves of the barn roof.  My youngest brother and I would climb onto the lower roof of the lean-to, then climb up the roof of the barn to its peak.  I always envied that my brother could just run straight up the side.  I had to climb up using the cable from the lightning rods.

There were 4 lightning rods on our barn roof.  One of the things we discovered, as we balanced our way back and forth on the peak of the roof, was that the tips came off.  These tips also fit onto our fingers.  We took turns putting them onto our fingers and pretending they were long fingernails or dangerous claws.  Then we put them back, clambered back down the roof of the lean to, and went on our merry way.

In the winter, when clearing the snow away from the entrances to the barn and lean-to, my dad built up a pile of snow a few feet away from the barn - far enough away that we could open the doors wide and the cows could mill about somewhat.  My brothers, some of the boys from neighbours farms and I would climb onto the roof of the lean-to and jump into the snow, trying to get as much distance out as possible to avoid the cleared space under us.  It wasn't soft snow, by any means, but a rather hard packed pile.  It was soft enough, I guess, as we never got hurt.

Another childhood favorite goes back to before we got a hay baler.  We had the old fashion haystacks, which my father would pay a neighbour with a house moving trailer to move from our fields to the hay yard beside the barn.  They were placed next to each other in two groups, with a narrow path in between, leading to a side entrance to the barn.  Though the stacks were placed next to each other, there was usually enough space that we could squeeze between them, as if they were tunnels.  I remember winter nights when my brothers, the neighbourhood boys and I would play hide and seek around the haystacks, climbing on top of them, jumping from stack to stack, jumping from stacks to the lean-to roof and back again, and generally having a blast. Other nights, on my own, I would climb to the top of one of the stacks and lie on my back, watching the northern lights or finding patterns in the stars while listening to the sounds of owls, coyotes and other creatures I never identified. 

Of course, there were always trees to climb.  As usual, it was my youngest brother and I that climbed them together.  I could never make it as high as he could, though!  We even had our favorite trees with branches splayed out in just the right way to lean back and get comfortable.  I spent many happy hours in trees.  Years later, when my kids would come home from climbing nearby spruce trees and I'd find their clothes ruined by resin and tears, I found myself trying to remember if I'd ever caused my mother the same dismay over destroyed clothing. I couldn't remember, but I must have at some point.

Another adventure involved a large tarp and bale twine.  My brothers and I tied lengths of twine to the grommet holes around the edges.  Two of us would then hold it up to the wind, while a third would be holding the lengths of twine, in hopes a strong enough gust would give us a parachute ride.  It never quite worked well, but we did get some air time once in a while.  The tarp was just too big and heavy to work well.  It was fun to try, though!

Someone got an idea, though.  The bale twine came out again (there was always lots of it around) and we tied together enough to reach from one end of the barn to the other.  The ends were tied to the first and last of the bottom cords, but not before a large pulley with a hook on it was placed on the twine for a makeshift zip line.  Loose hay was piled up in the middle of the hayloft, and we all took turns climbing onto the door frame, grabbing the hook and taking a ride down the line until we dropped into the pile of hay.

I was on my second turn when the rope broke.  I landed on my butt in the hay, and the hook on the pulley hit me on the head.  I remember sitting in the hay, gleefully rubbing the spot on my head and saying "that hurt!"  Then I looked at my hand and saw the blood.

Lots of blood.

Well, I started screaming and crying and flipping out.  My youngest brother spirited me away to the house and got me cleaned up while begging me not to tell our parents.  I seem to remember a lot of that.  Both the cleaning up of blood and injuries, and the keeping it from my parents!

Years later, I shaved my head and discovered I still have a scar from this incident.

There were a great many things like this that we did as kids.  As I got older and got to know more kids that lived in town, I got to really appreciate just how good we had it on the farm.  The townies didn't have haystacks to play hide and seek in, ponds to slog around in, bushes to explore and puffballs to stomp on.  Sure, they had fancy things we didn't, but I had no envy for any of it.  As time went on, I especially came to appreciate the time I had as a child to just wander around in the bush by myself (well, the dogs where with me), lost in my own thoughts and imagination.  I didn't realize it for many years, but those were times of significant emotional and intellectual growth and development that serves me well even now.  I think the greatest unexpected benefit has been that I am quite content to be alone in the quiet.  It seems to me that many people seem unable to handle being on their own.  They have to have TV or music, video games or be on the phone, or somehow fill the silence with noise and activity.  It seems they literally don't know how to be alone in their own thoughts.  When I had kids of my own, I tried to give them that freedom to be alone.  I don't know that I accomplished it very well, but I'm hoping I did at least a little.

So now I'm turning it over to you, dear reader.  What do you remember doing as a kid that, looking back today, would now be considered too dangerous, too messy, or just not allowed anymore for one reason or another?  How free range was your own childhood?  Was there something in your youth that you now really appreciate, that our modern culture no longer allows for children?

Let me know.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I was going to post a movie review here, but felt it was more appropriate for my other blog.  Feel free to head over and give it a read.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Still laughing - except I'm not supposed to find it funny

Ah, my anti-conservative facebook friends.  They've been providing me with so much blog fodder lately!  What would I do with out them?  Life would certainly be less entertaining!

Today's scandal that's been shared back and forth on my news feed is this blog post about a Tea Party Children's Book, with various personal comments expressing shock, horror and disgust.  The writer is mocking the book, but I don't think he (or other anti-conservatives) have noticed what a mockery they're making of themselves.

I've never seen this book, but in reading the above post, I thought it was a hilarious parody of everything the political right is complaining about the left.  It sounds like something out of The Onion.  I don't know that I'd fork over $20 for it, but I think I'd get a kick out of reading the whole thing.

Of course, the anti-conservatives don't see it as funny.  But then, they don't think anyone on the right has a sense of humour, it seems.  What makes it even funnier for me is that, while they're sharing this blog post with each other and expressing their horror at those nasty, nasty Tea Partiers, if something like this had been written by a Democrat about McCain and Palin or against the Republican party in general, they would have been sharing it with each other with comments on how funny, yet truthful, it is.  Lord knows, they've shared and said viler things than this book over the years, though few as poorly written as this blog post.

Of course, one of the things they're upset about is that this is a children's book.  Do they think the writer told this story to them with a grave and serious face, like the father in this ad?  Personally, I imagine a lot of funny faces and voices, and kids laughing hysterically.  The leftists seem to prefer giving their kids nightmares.  Mind you, they seem to be okay with blowing them up, too - that is, if they don't turn into little eco-spies, first.

If this satirical parody of a book is the worst the anti-conservatives can come up with, the right doesn't have much to worry about.  The leftists, on the other hand, don't seem to realize how much they're making fools of themselves, or how badly their antics are driving folks in the middle toward the right.

They've certainly done it with me.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A matter of offense

This seems to be a crazy time of year, doesn't it?  The same things seem to get rehashed every year, too.

I did see a new variation go by.  Immediately after Halloween, one of my "gamer friends" on facebook (people I've gotten to know through the one online game I play there) put up one of those "if you agree with this, change your status, too!" things.  Most of them, I ignore.  Especially the ones that say "97% won't have the courage to put this on their facebook," or some similar phrasing attempting to shame people into cutting and pasting the blurb into their own facebook status.  Once in a while I will share a status on my own, but as soon as I see that "challenge" at the end, I reject it immediately, even if I do agree with the original statement.  It's like those emails people share with this wonderful, inspiring story, only to find a paragraph at the end telling people to forward it to X number of friends and their wish will come true or, worse, admonitions of how, if you really believe in God, Jesus, or a particular cause, you will share it with everyone in your address book, but it you don't, you're just an awful, heartless beast.

For me, that's the fastest way to get something trashed.

This particular status update was saying no to Christmas decorations and sales displays before Remembrance Day out of respect for our veterans, because Christmas is all about commercialism and materialism and it is therefore offensive to our vets.  It ended with saying something along the lines of  "I refuse to shop anywhere that has a Christmas display before Remembrance Day."

They're not going to get much shopping done in the next while.  I suppose they never go to craft supply stores at all, either, since those have year round Christmas displays.

Aside from the fact that Christmas displays started coming up at about the same time as the Halloween ones, whoever came up with this particular meme is displaying a few revealing things.  First, the idea that Christmas is all about commercialization and materialism.  Now, I happen to agree that there's too much commercialization surrounding Christmas, but that's secular Christmas.  As we celebrate religious Christmas, we simply ignore the crassness of it all and do our own thing.  That's a matter of choice.  Don't like the commercialism of Christmas?  Don't buy into it.  On the other hand, as weird as it is to see the displays coming out so early, I actually kind of like them.  It's cheering.  Plus, as a crafter, I'm always looking for inspiration and materials for all those hand-made gifts and decorations I make every year, and it can take weeks, if not months, to complete these.

But this call for activism wasn't about Christmas, exactly.  It was about Remembrance Day.  Whoever made this up is claiming that these displays are offensive to our veterans.  Which is ridiculous.  Has any vet ever said they found it offensive?  Even if they did, what vet would go so far as to tell retailers what they should sell and when?  They wouldn't, and they don't.  Someone, ticked at seeing Christmas displays so early in the year, is using Remembrance Day and veterans to push their anti-commercialism.

It's not the early Christmas displays that's offensive to veterans.  It's this person using the vets to push their own snark. 

I never saw this particular status meme show up again, thankfully.

evening update: after posting this, I remembered another repeated attempt to use veterans and Remembrance Day under the guise of not offending them.  There have been calls to have Nov. 11 turned into a statutory holiday because everyone going to work like normal is somehow offensive to veterans.  This seems to come up every year, even though veterans have repeatedly said they are not offended by this, and don't want to have Nov. 11 made into a statutory holiday.

Nov. 10 updateLink

Another controversy that seems to come up every now and then has reared its head.  In this case, someone I know was defending the white poppy and was rather upset with the Legion, as quoted in this article. She was actually offended by the quote from the Legion representative.

I admit from the start that the white poppy issue is a sore spot with me, and her comments and those of her readers exemplified to me just why that is.

Like so many of their ilk, the first thing they do is misrepresent what the red poppy represents.  There's a lot of talk about how the red poppy is a symbol of war, and that they and other Remembrance Day ceremonies "celebrate" and "romanticize" war, which is, to be blunt, pure bullshit.  The red poppy represents peace, and the price paid to achieve it.  Remembrance Day reminds us of the horrors of war, and shows gratitude to those who were willing to fight and die, giving us the peace and freedom we have since enjoyed.  "Lest We Forget" is a call to vigilance, in hopes of preventing the rise of another Hitler.  White poppy supporters reject this notion.  Their white poppy, we're told, represents peace, while the red celebrates violence and advocates war.  Their twisting of the meaning of the red poppy is offensive all on its own.

While I would never try to stop someone from wearing the white poppy, I do not hesitate to tell people that I find it offensive and why.  These "pacifists" tell me that they are against war (as if wearing the red poppy and Remembrance Day were somehow in favour of war) and that there is no justification for war, ever.  What they are telling me is that I should not exist.  Were it not for people willing to go to war, my parents would never have survived, never have met and I would never have been born.  The same it true for a great many others.  

I pointed this out to the white poppy supporters, then asked if they really thought sitting around and talking would have stopped Hitler and his Nazis from trying to wipe out Jews, Poles and Roma, or the Japanese Imperialists from torturing and killing their prisoners, sometimes in the name of "science."  How many millions more would have been killed?  Not wanting war is laudible, but the reality is that the world produces madmen, and sometimes those madmen want nothing more than to destroy their percieved enemies.  How is talking to them going to stop them? 

About the closest thing to an answer I got was someone sharing a link to an article about non-violence.  The article did make some good points - in fact, it gave a real world example that was exactly the sort of victim to victor scenario I'd written about before.  Ironically, the advice it gave for ways to deflect potential violence is right in line with what is taught by any good martial arts teacher.  It drew some rather strange correlations to Nazi Germany and the Khmer Rouge that made no sense to me.  It actually seemed to imply that, if ordinary people had just stood up and said something at the early stages, these regimes would never have reached the heights of power they did.  It was a bizarre sort of "blame the victim" twist that was not only illogical but showed a complete ignorance of history. 

Part of what irritates me about supporters of the white poppy is their claim to pacifism and non-violence (and the moral superiority that comes with it).  I actually don't have a problem with pacifists.  Aside from my usual live and let live philosophy, I have a great deal of respect for some pacifists.  Let me give you a few examples.

The Quakers are a pacifist group.  They hold to their beliefs with remarkable strength, even through imprisonment, torture and death.  In the US, the Quakers played a significant role in running the Underground Railway, helping blacks escape slavery, at great personal risk.  Whether or not one agrees with their views, there is much to respect about them and their great courage.

During WWII, conscientious objectors who refused to take up arms, instead took part in the Ancel Keys starvation study.  As their physical health deteriorated, they were given the option of stopping, but they refused, knowing that the knowledge gathered would be used to help thousands.  Decades later, the surviving participants still say they would do it again.

Another example is from a story told by a Vietnam vet.  While many draft dodgers fled to Canada, some chose instead to serve in non-violent ways.  Some who refused to fight worked as medics.  The vet recounted how, on the battlefield, these pacifists who wouldn't even touch a gun would risk their lives, crawling onto the battlefield under live fire to get to a wounded soldier, then drag him back to where he could be treated.  In recounting what he saw, the vet spoke of how much he admired these men.

Being a pacifist isn't for cowards!

Which is why I don't like hearing these white poppy supporters call themselves pacifists.  These are the kind of people who, living their soft, privileged lives, will go out with signs and shout slogans, pen caustic and insulting articles attacking those who don't agree, then go back to their safe warm houses and jobs and lives, after insulting the very people who gave them the ability to have those lives in the first place.

Because, unlike the facebook status meme I mentioned earlier, vets have said outright that they find the white poppy insulting.  Supporters of the white poppy, however, are not only okay with that, but are offended by their offense!

In a PC culture where people are told not to say "Merry Christmas" and schools are having "Winter Festivals" instead of "Christmas concerts" because of the risk of offending other religions (who, by the way, have stated they aren't offended and think it's ridiculous to make these changes), here we have a "pacifist" group that has been told outright that they are being offensive, yet refusing to change.  They could choose another flower.  They could choose another date.  There are many ways they could show their beliefs without offending veterans.  They refuse to.

There's a reason for this, of course.  If it weren't for Veterans and Remembrance Days, they would have nothing.  Their activism is a direct attack on Remembrance Day, and on veterans.  Their offense is intentional.

They are also rather ignorant, not only of the true meaning of the red poppy and what Remembrance and Veterans Day is all about, but of their own symbol.

Red poppies were chosen because of how they would suddenly appear over battlefields.  Where no poppies grew before, suddenly there were fields of them.  Over the years, these fields of poppies have gone away, and they have gone back to their previous scarcity.

The white poppy, however, is the Asian Opium Poppy.  There are fields of them, all right, but they are grown for the heroin trade.  A rather poor choice to symbolize "peace."  Better, perhaps, to represent the violence of the drug wars and the pain of addiction.

Then there's the use of white.  Historically the colour white symbolized purity in death.  This goes back to ancient Greece, but white flowers are still traditionally used for funerals.  Hence the white lily associated with Easter and the death of Christ.  There are still cultures today that find our use of white for brides rather strange and morbid because of the colour's association with death and funeral garb.

Hmmm... perhaps their use of white is more appropriate than they think.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Rights of Vulgar Little Cowards

I thought this was well worth sharing.

The humiliation continues...

There has been a lot of talk these days about the tragic suicides of a number of young men recently.  They were teased, bullied and humiliated for being gay until they couldn't take it any more. 

At first, the resounding condemnation of bullying and support for gay youth was good to see.  As time went on, however, a strange sort of momentum has been building up, and I'm finding it quite disturbing.  These young people, who lived such short, pain filled lives, are still being used and abused, even in death.  Their new abusers, however, are those who claim to be their defenders.  Now, everyone from special interest groups with specific agendas, to individuals with their own bones to pick, are using these deaths for their own ends.  They are continuing the humiliation these young men killed themselves trying to escape to further their own ends, and it's beginning to sicken me.

Bullying has long been a problem, and it's one that has become increasingly vicious and widespread over the years.  In my own youth, I was no stranger to bullying, as witness and as target.  I'm ashamed to admit I did some of it myself.

I've known a few people over the years, young and old, who have committed suicide.  Mostly young.  I certainly had suicidal thoughts myself my youth. One young man I knew killed himself after his marriage proposal to his girlfriend was rejected.  Another young man (who's death was officially ruled an accident, but his friends knew otherwise) was troubled and probably depressive, with no support he felt he could turn to at home.  Another young man who killed himself was a total shock to all who knew him.  Probably the only person who knew why he killed himself was his identical twin brother, who also killed himself a short time later.

Of all the successful suicides I knew, only one was actually due to bullying.  This young man was a neighbour of ours growing up.  He was in the same age range as my brothers and used to come over to our place to play, but there was some sort of falling out among them that somehow ended up involving the parents. So even though this family were the only people who lived less than a mile from our own farm, I pretty much never saw him growing up.  He was even on a different bus to school and I just didn't see him much.  I do remember that he was teased rather horribly.  One of the things he was teased about was being gay, a concept I didn't even completely understand at my age at the time.  Whether or not he was actually gay, I have no idea. I doubt the bullies that were teasing him knew - or cared - whether he really was gay or not.  After graduation, he took a job up North with a logging company and was gone for a number of years.  When he came back, amazingly, the teasing continued as if it had never stopped. By then, of course, these were all adults doing the bullying.  Yes, he was still being teased for being gay, but he was teased just as much for being such a huge fan of Dolly Parton's.

One day, after supper with his parents, he complimented his mother on the excellent meal, then said he was going to go outside for a smoke.   He never came back.  It was a couple of hours later that his father discovered one of their rifles was gone, too.  This being the country, if anyone ever heard the shot, no one would have noted it as unusual.  It was a month before his body was found, hidden in some bushes.

I have no way of knowing if his tormentors felt any guilt for their part in his death.  The bullying was only one facet of the pain in this young man's life.  There were others who were bullied just as much as he was, but somehow they managed to keep on going, and the bullies eventually left them alone.  Why that didn't happen with this young man is something that can only be guessed at.

There's one thing to note about the bullies of this young man.  None of them were particularly religious.  Of the few that did go to church, it was because their families made them go.  Most were actually of no religious affiliation at all.  I mention this because religion is being blamed for these recent suicides I'm hearing so much about right now.

Bullies don't really need a reason to bully.  In fact, they might not even have a reason at all.  The one time I behaved in such a horrible fashion, the closest thing to a reason for doing it was because... well, I thought that that's how I was supposed to treat this particular person.  I was a terrible one for doing what I thought I was "supposed" to do.  It somehow got so ingrained in me to follow expectations that, after I got my driver's license, I actually would feel an overwhelming urge while driving to take every turning lane I passed,  I would actually feel guilty if I didn't, because people built these turning lanes to be used and, by not using them, I was somehow letting them down.  Yeah.  I know.  Bizarre.  It was this same mentality, however, that had me doing what I saw as an expectation - for some reason, I was *supposed* to treat this person badly, so I did it.  After all these years, my cheeks burn with shame just writing about it, and I wish I knew of some way to apologise to this person.

Pretty much everyone made fun of this girl.  For some reason, individuals become specific targets for bullying.  It may be because of a difference in their appearance, behaviour, interests - or just because someone decided that *this* person would be the target of their bullying, and others just followed along.

That these young men were bullied for being gay is horrible.  From what I've read, one of them wasn't gay but, like my former neighbour, that was irrelevant to his tormentors.  The thing is, all bullying, teasing, tormenting and humiliation is wrong and horrible and needs to be stopped.  It's not just gay kids. Kids (mostly girls) have killed themselves or wanted to do so after being teased for being fat - in fact fat kids and adults alike are being told outright they should commit suicide, just because they're fat (if you doubt me, spend a bit of time reading the comments after most obesity related news articles).  Like the gay taunts, it doesn't even matter if they really are fat.  Kids are teased and bullied for being skinny, too.  They're bullied for their skin colour, their hair, their economic status, their intelligence, their interests, their religion, their ethnic background, their clothing, their speech mannerisms... anything can and does become a reason to bully. 

This is where I'm seeing the tragedy of these young men who killed themselves being compounded by those who are now using their deaths to further their own ends.  Some people have been deeply moved and inspired to reach out by these deaths.  Others are using their deaths to lash out with their own hatred.

The most notable target for this hatred is religion - which it is clearly specific to Christianity in general and especially those who object to gay marriage (never mind that many gays also disagree with changing the marriage laws, and that there are Christian/religious gays out there who find comfort and peace in their faith).

The deaths of these young men has been a boon to those who hate Christianity. More and more, I'm seeing articles, editorials and letters where people are blaming these suicides specifically on (Christian) religion, which is inevitably described as being hateful.  I just read one particular response to a letter writer (who identified only vaguely as Christian) objecting to the accusations that, by being religious, they and their beliefs were somehow responsible for these young men's deaths.  The response article I read was angry, rude, expletive filled and very hateful.

The anti-religious people that are using the deaths of these young men to attack religion are in a sweet spot right now.  They can spew the most vile accusations and rhetoric, and that's okay, as it's considered justified.  After all, gays are dying! In fact, the writer even mentioned he'd just learned about more young people who had committed suicide, and laid blame for their deaths at the feet of religion, too.  That no mention of these other deaths having anything to do with being gay was irrelevant.  It's as if all teen suicides are now assumed to be because they were gay and being teased for it.  Blame for this is being put on religion, but people of faith cannot defend themselves against the accusation.  The mere act of objecting is viewed as proof of their hate and bigotry.  People of faith are supposed to just accept that they're guilty and meekly allow themselves and their beliefs to be trashed with abandon.  In fact, any disagreement of anything gays do is labeled hatred against gays (again, ignoring the fact that gays aren't all one homogeneous group that agrees on the same things to begin with).

Among the accusations made is that hatred against gays is being preached from the pulpits; that religious parents are indoctrinating their kids with this hatred at home, and that by these actions, their kids are being encouraged to bully other kids for being gay.

To those who actually believe this, I have this to ask.

How do you know that the people who bullied these young men are even religious?  What makes you so sure that religion had anything to do with why they are bullying?  Do you even know who the bullies were?  Do you know anything about their backgrounds?  Do you really think that the guy who recorded the young man having gay sex, then posted the video on the internet, did it because of his religious indoctrination?

Somehow, I don't think so. 

Bullies do not need religion to justify their bullying.  They don't need anything to justify their bullying.  Bullying is a completely separate issue that crosses all boundaries.  That some people actually do use their religion to justify their behaviour (and that applies to adults as much as kids) is irrelevant.  People who bully will use any excuse that is convenient to justify their behaviour.

Just as those who now spew hatred against religion are using the deaths of these young men to justify their anger and vile words.

How they killed themselves is being repeatedly described with morbid fascination, as are the methods by which they were tormented.  It doesn't matter that people are continuing the humiliation these young men suffered in life.  They're dead, and who cares what their families might be feeling, having salt poured on the wounds left by the deaths of those they loved, watching their sons, brothers, friends turned into public figureheads based on nothing more then their being gay (including the one that wasn't actually gay).  Tell me, do these people busily attacking religion actually care for anything else about these young men?  They are so obsessed with their deaths, they're forgetting about their lives.  These young men were people, with dreams and interests, talents and skills.  Their entire existences are being reduced to being gay (even the one that wasn't) and being bullied, teased and humiliated to the point of suicide.

Bullying and hatred is wrong, plain and simple.  Too many kids are being bullied to death.  It needs to be stood up against and stopped.  That people are using these particular suicides to further their own causes and to justify their own versions of bullying and hatred is also wrong.

I don't care what your cause is.  It doesn't matter if I agree with it or not.  If you are using bullying tactics and spreading hate to further it, you are just as much in the wrong as the groups you accuse of doing the same.

And for God's sake (am I allowed to say that?), please stop using these young men to justify and spread your hate.  Doing so makes you as abhorrent as those who drove them to suicide in the first place.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A travesty, huh?

Ah, the joys of reading articles in the TorStar.

My friends on the far left are at it again.  As I've mentioned before, they're really struggling to keep the G20 issues awake.  This usually involves sharing stories from the TorStar.  I can barely stomach that paper and usually ignore them.  My kids, however, are encouraging me to blog about this one. :-P

This story was shared with musings of "ZOMG!  I can't believe the media isn't freaking out about this like we are!" and how this is a travesty of justice.

Staggering conditions on accused G20 ringleader

The story begins with some rather trite literary tricks of sentencing and spacing that are supposed to pull us in to this travesty.  All they're saying, though, is this guy can't talk to the media.

Apparently, that's considered news to the TorStar.  As if they've never encountered a media gag before.

The man in question, one Alex Hundert, is an accused ringleader of G20 violence.

Now, let's be very clear on this, since the article sort of brushes passed it.

This man is AN accused RINGLEADER of G20 VIOLENCE.

This means that
a) he's just one of an unknown number of accused ringleaders
b) as a ringleader, he would (allegedly) be someone who organized and incited others and;
c) what he incited and organized was violence.

So we're not talking about someone who sat around singing kumbahya, here.  It was know well before the G20 that people were planning violent protests.  They were counting on violence.  Riots break out at pretty much every one of these G20 meetings.

Now then.  This guy, allegedly someone who organized or somehow inspired violence at the G20, was released on $100,000 bail and with 20 bail conditions.

Not long after, he was arrested for breaking one of those conditions.  He was speaking on a panel discussion at a university.  His bail conditions have now been clarified.  He is not, among other things, allowed to speak to the media.

This, according to his lawyer, is something "I've never seen before."

All that tells me is that he's either not a very experienced lawyer or he's lying.

The article goes on to say how bail conditions are intended to prevent further crimes from being committed, but that these conditions go too far.

Too far?  Really?

I love these lines.

“People have to be able to air grievances, and the media is a primary tool in which people can air grievances effectively.”

“Speaking to the media does not threaten public safety,” she said. “These bail conditions are only aimed at silencing speech.”

Let us look back again at what this guy is accused of being in the first place; being a ringleader of violence.

How does one do this? Well, in this day and age, a lot of it is done over the internet (I wonder if an internet ban is among those bail conditions?).  They also do it by getting together in groups.  Like... oh... I don't know.  Panel discussions, maybe.

How else does one incite violence?  By publicly airing "grievances" as far and wide as they can.  The best way to do that?  Through the media.  The media, in its various forms, is frequently used as a tool to incite violence around the world.  They're not exactly well known for checking their facts anymore, and aren't above publishing incendiary stories without bothering to find out if they're true or not.  Likewise, the spreading of rumours through groups of people by other means is also used.  What can the result be?  Around the world, stories reported in the media, or even just rumours spread through word of mouth, has led to rioting, destruction and death - like when some Christians were killed and churches burned on the rumour of desecrated Korans, or even when some "vigilante justice" was inflicted on someone rumoured to be a sex offender.

The point being, speaking to the media can and does threaten public safety.  It's not about silencing speech.  It's about silencing someone who is accused of using speech to incite violence.

Restrictions of this sort are not common, but they are not unusual, either.  If this man turns out to be innocent, he will then be free to lambaste the powers that be through the media all he wants, and his supporters will be free to use his story to flog their anti-[fill in the blank] views.

Of course, if he's found guilty, they'll just keep doing what they're doing now - passing on stories about these travesties of justice - at least in their eyes.

And the TorStar will continue to take something ordinary and try to make it into some kind of scandal.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The True Face of Islam?

First of all, a warm welcome to my new readers.  I never expected my posts on Obama's citizenship would get such a response!  Glad to have you all here, and thanks for the feedback.  I hope you enjoy my ramblings. :-)

Today has been a busy day of unexpected running around today (and having a friend of Eldest's move in with us), so I haven't had a chance to go through my morning news at all.  I did glance through my facebook news feed, since it's my home page.  One of my Muslim friends shared a video.  Unfortunately, I can't find it anywhere else but on facebook, including the site listed after the clip, so I can't post it here.

The video is titled "The TRUE face of Islam."  It consists of a news clip that included some security video, then ended with "Proud to be a Muslim" and a URL to a pro-Muslim site that I thought was the source, but I'm not sure.

Anyhow.  I had time to watch the video and read the comments some other friends had made below it, and that's it.  The comments were all going on about how this clip showed the truth about Muslims being generous and kind.

I wish I could embed the video so you can see for yourself.  Hopefully, some of you tv watching folks have seen it and know what clip I'm talking about.

The news clip includes some security video footage of an attempted store robbery with voice over, and a few seconds of comments from the store owner.  Basically, a guy came in to rob the store.  The store owner pulls a gun out from behind the counter, instead.  The would-be thief drops to his knees and apparently starts apologizing and giving a sob story about how he's unemployed and has a family to feed.  Which may even be true.  The store owner ends up giving the guy $40 and a loaf of bread, then letting the thief go.  The interview clips of the store owner had him telling us that he'd felt sorry for the thief.

Understandably, this was the part my Muslim friends and the people commenting under the video are talking about when they were saying that this was the true face of Islam.

I didn't have time to comment myself, or even really think about it, before I had to head out.  It stayed with me, though, because the whole thing was bugging me.  It didn't take long for me to figure out why, and it has to do with details of the clip I haven't described yet.

After the would-be thief dropped to his knees and gave his story of sorrow, the shop owner - gun still trained on the still kneeling man - gave him the money and bread.  The thief apparently also said he wanted to become a Muslim (I'll have to trust the voice over for this).  To this, the shop owner, gun still trained on the man, had him raise his right hand and repeat a Muslim prayer.

Now, I can understand why people are going on about this guy's generosity to the man who wanted to rob him, but I don't think this video is really showing the "true face of Islam" they think it does.  First off, how difficult is it to be generous to someone begging on their knees while you've got a gun on them?  Unfortunately, what I'm seeing is a man who clearly felt that his life was in danger, and that claiming he wanted to be a Muslim would save him (how did he even know the shop owner was a Muslim?).  He was then made to recite a Muslim prayer while staring down the barrel of a rifle.

I'm afraid "Would-be Thief Converted to Islam at Gunpoint" isn't the politically correct headline that could have been used.  I would apply this to any other religion, but I haven't heard of anyone from another religion doing something like that.

Not that I haven't heard of other victim to victory incidents. Over the years, I've heard of a few, but as far as I know, they haven't been making the news (keep in mind that 1) I don't usually watch tv and 2) I especially avoid tv news, but that I am actually a news hog that follows stories online around the world).

Here's the difference.  In most (actually, all the ones I've heard, but I'm sure there are plenty of others I haven't) stories, the victim isn't the one with the gun.  In fact, the victim never physically turns the tables at all.  Yet they still managed to turn the situation around.

I'll use one story as an example, simply because I know more about it.  A young woman was the victim of a carjacking.  She's stopped at a light when a man with a gun jumped into her car and ordered her to drive.  The woman was, understandably, terrified.  As she drove, she prayed silently to herself for courage.  After a while, she started talking to the carjacker, who'd only spoken to her to give orders.  She began talking to him of God and Jesus and faith.  He said nothing, so she kept talking.  After a while, the carjacker ordered her to pull over.  When she did, he simply got out of the vehicle and left.

I've heard similar stories, and while most were about other Christians (understandable, since most people I know are Christian), I've also heard of the same involving Buddhists and others with no religion mentioned at all.  The thing they have in common is that the calm strength and generosity of the victim somehow won over their aggressor who had the upper hand.

Which is not what I saw in this clip.  In this case, the victim became the victor with a gun.  The victim became the aggressor.  Not to say the shop owner should have been a passive victim or not used the gun.  Far from it.  I believe he had every right to stand up to the thief.  Good for him.

If the shop owner had simply given the man the money and bread and told him to "go and sin no more," then I would have agreed with my friend.  But was this really the "true face of Islam" she intended to share?  I don't think so.  In fact, I think this shows quite a different face of Islam, and not one she meant to promote.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Worthy of it's own post

Originally, this was going to be a reply in the comments of my previous post asking, Birther, or just wanting answers?  In the end, I decided I needed to make this a whole new post.

First, a bit of an explanation.

I've been writing on this blog for quite a while now.  More than five years, in fact.  Over all these years, this blog has remained largely invisible.  I post under a pseudonym for a number of reasons, which have a lot to do with why I don't make any real effort to promote this blog.  A few people I know in real life know about this blog and occasionally visit it, but otherwise, people who find this blog do so either by accident/keyword searches, or by following my name through comments I leave on other blogs.  Which means that I get about as many visitors now as I did five years ago - not many at all.  Of those, hardly anyone leaves any comments.  So when someone does leave a comment (that isn't spam), I appreciate that they've visited my blog and cared enough about a post to make the effort to say something in response.

So it was when someone posting as Anonymous left a comment on my Birther post.  I was a bit surprised by how quickly a comment showed up, but appreciated the information left.  I responded with thanks and added my own commentary on what I felt was still at issue.

With surprising speed, Anonymous answered my reply.

As mentioned above, I was originally going to respond in the comments, but decided I needed to do a bit of research first.

My first confusion was with this answer.

Re: “It still leaves the question of why due process wasn't followed, as it was for McCain. “

Answer: Exactly the same process was followed for Obama as for Bush, Clinton, Bush41, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, LBJ, JFK, Eisenhower, Truman, FDR, Hoover, Etc. In short, for all of them.
The reason this confused me was because I'd never heard of people claiming Bush, Clinton et al. were not natural born citizens, as Obama and McCain were, nor did any of them go through the court system to prove their citizenship as McCain did, but Obama refuses to do.

Then there's this.

McCain was the exception. He got special treatment by the senate largely because he was a senator and, of course, because there was an issue with his birth being in the Panama Canal Zone and not in the territorial USA. 

Wait.  Hold on.  McCain got special treatment?  Because he was a senator? Implying, that Obama (also a senator) didn't get special treatment? 

Anon then goes on to claim there is no issue with Obama because he was born in Hawaii, which makes even less sense.  If there really was no issue, there would be no Birther movement and I would never have written my post.

On we go...

Re: “Or why his records were instead sealed, etc."

Answer. His records are NOT sealed. The records you are referring to are private, all of them.


The other records, kindergarten, grade school, high school, college, etc., are all private.


In the next presidential election, if Obama’s opponent shows his high school records, then Obama may do so too. Or not, it is his decision, and it should be.

This part started to get me suspicious.  Private?  Seriously?  During the election campaign, McCain and Palin had every aspect of their past and personal lives dug up, dragged out and flailed around for all the world to see.  People even made up complete lies about Palin's family that refuse to die even now.  They sure as heck didn't make any decisions as to whether or not the general public could have this information.  That decision was taken from them.  When objections were raised we were told that, being public figures, they were fair game.  Especially for people running for president/vice-president.  In other words, public figures have no private lives.

Obama, on the other hand, was treated with kid gloves (what was that about special treatment?), with little to no attempt to look into his background.  The double standard in the media was so obvious that even this Canuck with no real interest in US politics and an overall avoidance of mass media could see it.  Usually, the mainstream media would be all over the tiniest hint of something as major as the legal qualifications of a potential president, and eager to find and flog any bit of dirt they could dig up.  They didn't, and that alone makes me sit up a bit straighter and take notice.

Once I started looking around (more on that later) I began to see that his records and past really has been sealed, with or without an executive order, in the US, Kenya and, apparently, Indonesia as well.

Next point...

Re; “I'm still confused by how US official birth certificates are handled. As I mentioned, if anyone asked for mine, I could show it to them because I have it."

Answer: So does Obama, and he has shown it. The Certification of Live Birth is the official birth certificate of Hawaii, used by thousands of people every year.


Further, if Congress were to pass the so-called birther bill, Obama would be able to comply easily. The bill would require presidential campaigns to submit “a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate” to the Federal Election Commission. The certificate Obama has released publicly would meet this requirement.’ 

My suspicions already raised, I decided to start doing a bit of digging for myself, rather than rely on Anon for information.  In the process I've read the pertinent portions of Hawaiian regulations, about long forms and short forms and learned the difference between a Certificate of Live Birth (which is issued only to those actually born in Hawaii) and a Certification of Live Birth (which can be issued to anyone, even adults, and which Obama has - they are not the same thing).  In the process I got to look at the official Obama Certification of Live Birth and see it compared to others issued in the same year (1961).  They look completely dissimilar.  I've also seen the "evidence" put forward to show that the official Certification of Live Birth is a forgery, and even read about a person who claims to have done the forgery, on request.

This also had me go searching for more information about Obama's grandmother, and Anon's claim that she didn't actually say she was at Obama's birth or that he was born in Kenya, and that they first found out about his birth through a letter from Hawaii.  Well, I didn't find anything about a letter from Hawaii.  I got distracted from looking, I suppose.  Too busy listening to an interview with Obama's paternal grandmother, who very clearly claims to have been present during Obama's birth in Mombasa.  I also found a sworn affidavit from the person who translated the interview claiming that, not only did she insist she was at his birth, but that her family members in the room kept trying to interject and tell her to stop saying it.  When the translater asked a grandson why he was trying to stop his grandmother from saying she was present at Obama's birth, he wouldn't answer.  Meanwhile, Obama's got a half-brother and half-sister who also say he was born in Kenya.  Oh, and his Indonesian born half sister, Maya, apparently also has a Certification of Live Birth from Hawaii.

I also found a telephone interview with the Kenyan Ambassador to the US where he talks about the marker that's going to be built at the place of Obama's birth - in Mombasa.  He mentioned that in Kenya, it's common knowledge that Obama was born there.  That was no surprise to me, having already seen the clips of Kenyans, after he won the election, dancing and singing about how their Kenyan Muslim was now in the White House.

I found all sorts of other interesting things.  Like there being a Kenyan birth certificate which, when compared to others issued in 1961, actually looks like it should.  There are theories that Obama is actually an Indonesian adoptee, and so on.  There's lots out there, most of which can be dismissed out of hand.  Others, not at all.

As I was going through all this, there was something else niggling in the back of my head.

As I mentioned earlier, mine is a pretty invisible blog.  I found myself wondering just how Anon came upon my blog, and why s/he would bother making such effort to respond to a Canadian about the eligibility of Obama.  Especially after I'd already written that I, personally, didn't really care.  My point was that the defenders of Obama were actually feeding the Birther conspiracy theories.

My curiosity was piqued even higher when I looked more closely at my stats.  My dear Anonymous, you have broken a record.  No one - not even the people who know me in real life - has spent 7 hours, 8 minutes and 11 seconds on my entire blog, never mind at one post.

I also found that Mr. Anonymous found me through a google search under the terms obama citzen kenya and obama citzen hawaii.  Seventeen times.  In fact, Anon came to me via the kenya version three times, the hawaii version ones, six times through the comments, and seven times either via bookmark or history, as there is no longer a referring link.

How dedicated!  I'm rather flattered.  Especially when I see that the first six visits were within only two minutes.

Now my curiosity is even greater, Mr. Anonymous from Arlington, Massachusetts.

I checked out the referring google links (it's spelled citizen, by the way, not citzen) to see how easily I was found.  I tried the kenya version, first.  After 25 pages and not finding my post, I was truly at a loss as to how Mr. Anonymous found my post.  Then I noticed the "search blogs" button next to the "search the web" button at the top.

I'm on the second page.

The hawaii version found me on the second page, too.

So what do I have on my hands?  Someone who is specifically searching for blogs that talk about Obama's citizenship in either Kenya or Hawaii.  Someone who, for some reason, singled out the blog of a Canadian to spend so much time (7 hours, 8 minutes and 11 seconds) on.

What more could I find out?

Well, very little - yet something very interesting.  Mr. Anonymous shows up elsewhere.  It seems that there's a "Rapid Response Team" (or multiple teams, it seems, that go back to the election campaign) of volunteers who search out blogs and other media that question Obama's eligibility and the write comments to refute them.  Mr. Anon (aka Granite elsewhere) appears to be one of them.

I've been hit by a "Birther Refuter."

addendum: One more note to Mr. Anonymous.  Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog and leave your comments.  You have achieved something I totally did not expect to happen when I first wrote my post.  Thanks to the curiousity you piqued and my susequent searches, you have me convinced.

I am now officially a Birther.