Politics and Social Issues

Charlottesville, Virginia.

This post is going to be a bit scattered, but I have to say something.

What’s happening in Charlottesville right now is what I was afraid of back in November.  When Trump said he would “Make America great again,” I kept wondering what he meant by “again.”  When was the golden age he was trying to get back to?  Based on this demonstration, it’s clear what these people consider “great.”  “White power,” they chanted.  All because a statue was removed – a statue of a general from the losing country.

And then Trump said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”  Because clearly both sides are equal here.  But this man was endorsed by the leader of the KKK.  He rallied about taking our country back.  The seeds were all there.

This isn’t about free speech any more.  When you’re carrying torches and guns, it’s about more than that.  When someone protesting you is murdered, it’s more than that.  When the symbol on your arm is the same symbol worn by those who literally killed billions of people, it’s more than that.  This was proven when a black man was literally beaten at this protest.

I don’t have a solution, but I know it starts with calling racism and Nazis what they are, not equating those things with those protesting them.

 

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The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood wasn’t on my to-be-read list until last year.  I had heard of it, but had no idea what it was about.  I still didn’t know what it was about when I decided I should read it, but it sold out when Donald Trump was elected president, and that made me curious.

It’s a dystopic novel about a theocracy taking over America.  As a handmaid, Offred isn’t allowed to go out alone, read, or possess anything except her strict uniform and her Pass.  When she does the shopping, another handmaid accompanies her and she passes over vouchers with pictures of food on them.  Once a month, she participates in a ceremony to impregnate her so she can be a surrogate for her Commander and his Wife.  The ceremony was inspired by the story of Jacob and Rachel in Genesis 30, one of many scriptures the regime manipulated for their own purposes.

As she tells the story, Offred shares snippets of her life before: her husband Luke, her lost daughter, her feminist mother, and her friend Moira.  It was a time when she had her own job and family, when she could wear whatever clothes and make-up she wanted.  At first, it seems like a story set long ago, but with every detail it becomes clearer.  This isn’t the past for us, it’s the future.

One of the most powerful things Atwood does in this novel is to subvert the timeline.  By tossing us into the middle, she shows these rules and lifestyles as “normal.”  Only when Offred finally tells us when the change took place do we see how quickly it became so.

The women have little choice in the matter and are constantly told it is better this way.  “Look at how it was before,” they’re told.  “Women being raped and murdered all over the place.  This way protects you.”  Meanwhile, women who were actually raped are told they were to blame for it.

There is some resistance: an underground network and a rebel army.  But most people in Gilead are just trying to survive.  Except the Commanders, whose power allows them to flagrantly break rules with no consequence.

It is easy to read The Handmaid’s Tale thinking this could never happen, but the first step was to designate an entire group of people, legally, as second-class citizens.  And if we aren’t all free, none of us is truly free.  That includes our transgender brothers and sisters.

No one should feel like there is something wrong with them for existing.  Transgender people are not a burden.  And if we live in a country where this can happen, it isn’t truly the land of the free.  Don’t tell me it is when people with the bravery to serve are denied because of who they are.

If you choose to read this book, don’t start with the mindset that this could never happen to us.  Do not read it believing we have it easy because “things could be worse.”  If you read this book, do so with the realization that many women now are forced into abusive relationships or desperate lifestyles because of a power imbalance.  Realize how many people choose the military in an effort to escape poverty whether they feel called to it or not.  And realize how many people were just called a burden and not deserving of the chance to serve by the president of the United States.

Ordinary, as Aunt Lydia says, is what you are used to.  Let’s not let this become ordinary.

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Bill Nye Saves the World

Bill Nye has been educating children about science for decades.  This year, he has moved on to adults with his Netflix original show Bill Nye Saves the World.

This week, I watched all thirteen episodes.  They follow a particular formula.  First, Bill Nye introduces his topic in a fun way that makes it easy to understand.  He shows some science, then one of his correspondents tells a relevant story from another place.  He brings on a panel of experts to discuss the issue. He tends to conclude the show with a guest star or a joke video.  It’s funny but there’s an underlying message: it proves its relevance to the modern day.

There are a lot of things I love about this show.  Bill Nye is very aware of representation, using women and minority correspondents and experts.  Every show is a different topic, but he always comes back to the scientific process: how we make an observation, make a hypothesis, experiment, and then try to duplicate the results in order to find a solution.  With his panel of experts, he proves that it is okay, even good, to ask questions.

I also love his “Bill needs a minute” segments, where he is overcome with emotion (usually anger) and talks about the issue and why he finds it ridiculous.  Plus, oh my god, the DAD JOKES!  (“Paraphrasing my colleague Jay-Z, it’s not one problem, it’s 99 problems, and they’re all…difficult.”  About his ankle: “I’m attached to it.”  They’re cheesy and kind of hilarious in a really horrible way.)

This is not a kids’ show, and he repeats that a lot.  It’s for adults.  One of my complaints is that he sometimes forgets who his audience is…or maybe I am.  Most of his show is for my generation, the millennials who know there are problems in the world and want to help fix them.  But much of it is proving these things are problems in the first place, which makes it seem like he’s talking to the skeptics and those who disagree with him.  Sometimes he (or his guests, but he doesn’t edit it out) insults those people pretty harshly.  While he has a reputation for disagreeing with creationists and Global Warming deniers, if he wanted this show to bridge the gap and inform those people, he should have approached them more kindly.  Instead, he only enforces the believes of those who already agreed with him and maybe just wanted more information.

Bill Nye has come a long way from his Science Guy days.  In this show, he switches between his lab coat and a blazer, showing when he is in “scientist” mode and when he is in “politician” mode.  His show is called Bill Nye Saves the World because its purpose is to encourage his audience to learn from his show and effect change.

All of it is fun to watch, but some of the episodes are more important than others.  I believe everyone should watch the episodes on global warming, vaccination, pseudo-science, and the sexual spectrum.  We can learn a lot from Bill, and maybe it really will help us save the world.

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month

One in five women are raped in their lives.  Eight of ten victims know their attackers.  One in four girls are sexually abused before they are eighteen years old.*

But only six out of every thousand rapists go to prison.*

In America, April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  It’s a time to remember our outrage at the system that lets Brock Turner go free after being convicted of rape, what his father called “twenty minutes of action.”

Cases like that anger us, but when I look at the statistics…I just feel tired.

It is easier to get angry about a single attack, it’s harder to stay angry about the constant reinforcement of sexism and rape culture that build the foundation for them.  And we need to stay angry.  It is only when people get angry that change happens.

That’s what awareness is for.  Many people from the older generation like to look down on what millennials do, on the idea that a like or a share can do anything in the face of the world’s problems.  But awareness is important because it is the first step.

In the case of sexual assault, it is not enough to know the statistics.  We have to know where they come from.  We have to know what societal factors contribute to the numbers.

It’s years of teaching our children that “boys will be boys” and “he can’t help himself.”  It’s teaching them that no means “maybe” or “convince me” and silence is consent.  It’s acting as though a short skirt or a low-cut top automatically means a woman is open to sexual encounters.

It’s also a society that continues to consume media from actors and creators who have a history of sexual violence.  It’s a society that promotes stories where a woman says no before someone “changes her mind.”  It’s a country that looks at a man with pending rape charges and says, “Yes, let’s make him president.”*

The first step to changing this pervading culture is awareness.  The next is to treat it like it’s wrong, to speak up when someone makes light of sexual assault, to boycott when creators are found to be rapists and abusers or when companies protect them, and to protect the sanctity and power of the word “no.”

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so let’s stay aware and informed.  But after that, let’s speak up.  Let’s do something about it.

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Thoughts from a Pro-Life Feminist

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Picking Battles

Last year, when my contract at BB&T ran out, I went on this massive road trip.  (You may have read about it.)  One of my motivations was that I was so tired of being angry all the time.  That was fine.  That was time for me to take care of myself.  Now it’s time to be angry.

  1. Flint, Michigan is still without clean water.  It’s been almost three years.  The state government was ordered to give the residents bottled water but refused because it’s “too costly.”  And they still expect residents to pay for the bad water.
  2. There are 1.6 million young people (teenagers mostly) who are homeless in America.  Almost half of them are LGBTQ community and a lot of them are in that situation because their parents, many of whom are religious, have kicked them out of their homes.
  3. Pretty much everything Donald has done since being sworn in.  His Cabinet nominees are, for the most part, as unqualified as he is.  The Press Secretary has already lied to the American public and is more focused on defending the president’s ego than on actually informing the public.  They took down all the whitehouse.gov pages on pertinent issues like global warming, disabilities, and the LGBTQ community.  Furthermore, they’re using this to distract the public from actual policy work they’ve been doing, the same way they used Pence’s “rivalry” with the Hamilton cast to distract you from Donald’s settling a fraud lawsuit for $25 million.  And I’m still pretty pissed that we have such an antiquated system like the Elector Collage in place so that a person who lost the popular vote by over 2.5 million votes still gets to be president.  Don’t you tell me we should have voted instead of complaining now: we DID vote.
  4. The fact that this is a thing.  And this.  And this.  And…one more.  Xenophobia is not okay, and it is not “just another point of view.”  It is dangerous.

It is important to take time to take care of ourselves…but it is also important to draw a line and say “This is important to me, and I’m going to fight you on it.”  Picking your battles is a self-preservation method.  I don’t judge anyone who needs to step away from politics and social issues to protect their mental health.  As for me, it’s time to get in the game and pick a couple fights.  These are the ones I intend to prioritize.

This blog is supported by Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

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