Lest You Had Any Doubt…

In case you were wondering why people in general, especially non-white people,  and non-white men in particular, don’t trust police, I suggest you watch this.

To recap: Luis Rodriguez goes to the movies with his wife, Nair, and their 19-year-old daughter.  Outside the theater, Nair gets into an argument with the daughter, it gets heated, and Nair slaps her.  Bystanders called the police, who then proceeded to beat Luis Rodriguez to death.

Now, I know that most police are just doing their jobs, and by and large police interaction with citizens doesn’t go sideways like this incident did.  But for Christ’s sake, there is simply no excuse at all for this.

Based on the story, which you can read here, the police officers were acting within protocol.  But if this is protocol, then what exactly is not acceptable behavior for these cops?

These five officers should all be tried with murder, plain and simple.

How Do You Know if a Fish is a Serial Killer?

Seems like a strange question, I’ll admit.  But, a couple weeks ago I got each of my girls a goldfish to go into a tank we made together.  My youngest named her fish Lucille.  And after three dead tank-mates, Lucille is still hale and strong.  Something seems fishy about this…

*Yes, I know it’s a bad pun.  But it’s the most terrible puns that I like the best*

Bill Nails It

That said, I’m pretty sure the guy’s got a device in my brain to read my thoughts.


A Couple Things…

Big news in sports this week.  Evidently, the NFL is going to start flagging players for using racial slurs on the field, to the tune of a 15 yard penalty, as part of the rules against abusive language.  This seems to have come as a result of publicity about bullying in the Miama Dolphins’ locker room.  Here’s the thing, or things:

Language is Ever Changing

A while back, I had a post in which I argued that calling an oppressive system a “Patriarchy,” when it’s not one in any discernible way, creates an anti-male bias in one’s head, because it connect the idea of maleness (“Pater” is “Father” in Latin) with a nameless, faceless, oppressive enemy, who is the source of all one’s problems.  This happens much in the same way the word “gay” being used to describe unpleasant things creates an anti-gay bias, and calling women as a whole “bitches” makes one subconsciously mistreat women.

That said, “gay” once meant only “happy.”  “Bitch” only referred to female dogs, and calling a human one would be so contextually inconsistent as to be tantamount to gibberish.  “Patriarchy” was once used to describe genuinely patriarchal governmental systems, as opposed to being a catch-term to distract people from being oppressed by an Oligarchy.

The same goes for racial slurs.  Everyone knows the tired trope of “if black people can call each other ‘nigger’, why can’t everyone else use the word?”  Right?  It gets used all the time, and the response is often that black people use it to take the power from the word, and thereby make it less dehumanizing overall, giving the word less oppressive power over them.  And, to be honest, that actually makes some form of sense to me.  My first choice would be that anyone use whatever words they want, and my second choice would be that no one use “nigger” except to reference the term itself (more on that later), but as third choices go, I’m fine with the “black people can say it and white people can’t” argument.

But the fact is that the usage of that one word has changed dramatically over the last few decades, and will continue to do so.  Eventually, it will carry none of the weight it did in the antebellum south, or during the 1960’s, or even today.  Words change, and outlawing them will not change that.  Frankly, if people can’t say one thing, they’ll find a way to say it without saying it anyway.  Because…

Context is Everything

I don’t use racial slurs.  I find them coarse and ignorant and I just have no use for them.  Well, almost.  You see, Louis CK has a point when he says that saying “N-Word” is the same as saying “Nigger.”

In both cases, the listener knows what word or idea you’re referring to, so they are effectively the same.  They’re synonyms.

There’s really no difference between saying “Bob called Joe a nigger,” and “Bob called Joe the N-word.”  If you’re offended by the usage in that context, you’re over-sensitive and you need a better understanding of how language works.

That said, it is always wise to avoid calling anyone by derogatory terms (unless involved in some kind of S&M degradation role-play, in which case, you should know where your lines are).  But it should apply across the board.

What I’m getting at is that the context of when you use a word has a lot to do with whether or not it’s offensive.  And more importantly, the things you say have meaning not because of the arrangement of consonant and vowel sounds, but because of the meaning heaped on them in the context of when the words are being said.

I mean, come on.  It wasn’t called “sex in the daytime,” but who doesn’t know what “Afternoon Delight” was about?  But the most important thing is this…

The NFL Has ABSOLUTELY ZERO Room to Even Talk About Racism

Until they force Daniel Snyder to change the name of the fucking Washington Redskins, I don’t want to hear anyone in the NFL front office say a God damned thing about players using racial slurs.  Fuck you people.  Take the beam out of your own eyes, douchebags, before giving anyone shit about the speck in their own.  The hypocrisy here is pungent enough that the normal bullshit about supposedly supporting “player safety” is white lilac and fresh linen by comparison.

Sometimes, I just don’t fucking understand people…

Chivalry is Dead, and I Say Good Riddance

Valentine’s Day has come once again, and across the country, old ideas of chivalry are resurrected to pressure men into emptying their wallets to prove to their significant others that they love them.  It’s a sickening cycle of manipulation, of both sexes, that is amplified to the Nth degree every February 14th, but stretches to more than just Valentine’s Day.  Above all, though, chivalry is an ideology that treats women as incompetents, and men as beasts of burden.  It’s a trap and a disgrace.

Allow me to explain.

Everyone wants to be happy, que no?  The big question, though, for most people, is from whence will my happiness come?  In our society, the answer to that question depends on your sex/gender.  American culture teaches men that their happiness is achieved by making a woman happy.  And women are taught that their happiness is derived from a man giving them things (watch a couple of DeBeers commercials if you have any questions about this).

So, a man and a woman get together.  They want to be happy together, so he buys her things and does nice things for her, and he believes that this will make her happy, which in turn will make him happy.  But, of course, happiness is not a material thing you can buy (unless you’re a horribly shallow and materialistic person, in which case your partner likely will still be miserable, but I digress).  So what happens?

She’s still not happy.  But, she’s been socialized to believe that more things, more gifts, more more more (one guy in the video mentions this), will be the key to her happiness.  Because she’s not happy, he’s not happy.  And he knows that what’s “supposed” to make her happy is more (see previous paragraph).  So, he works and works to try and make her happy with gifts and houses and cars and lifestyle upgrades and fancy dinners (and diamonds, never forget the diamonds) and all those things that both of them have been taught are what will make her happy, and in turn, make him happy as well.

And before you know it, they are both broke and miserable, and neither of them knows why.  So they break up, and attempt the same cycle again, with another person, in the hopes that more of the same will somehow have a different result.

My favorite question is “cui bono?”  And the answer here is obvious.  Over $13 billion spent every year just on Valentine’s Day.  “Proving” your love to someone is big business.  And it all stems from old, chivalrous ideals of men taking on a role of patronizing benefactor, and women accepting the role of damsel in distress.

And it’s all bullshit.

I’ve seen a lot of failed relationships.  And, in all fairness, been in more than a few myself.  And from where I sit, it seems one of the biggest factors in so many of those failed relationships stems from people allowing everyone else’s expectations to dictate how they think they are “supposed” to be, instead of defining those expectations for themselves.

In a recent post, Jim Wright of Stonettle Station wrote

There is only one truly inalienable right, one right that can’t be taken away by gods nor governments nor men, and that is the right to define yourself.  If you limit who you are to the labels others apply to you, you’ve given up the only right that truly matters.

And though he was referring to the definition of a successful writer, the sentiment applies to so much more than that.

Over the last year, I have developed a relationship based on none of the labels and expectations foisted on us by our society.  Where neither of us feels obligated to one another beyond the bounds of mutual respect, regardless of whatever labels might be applied.  It’s not me who holds the door for her, it’s whoever gets to the door first.  It’s not me who picks up the tab on a date every time, it’s something we both do.  I don’t expect her deference because I’m a man and she’s a woman; rather, we arrive at mutually agreed-upon conclusions based solely on the merit of ideas.  She does not define her happiness by the things I give her, nor do I do that with her, and neither of us expects the other to ride to the rescue and solve one another’s problems.  Instead, we work on those things together, and do what we can to help and support each other.  She is a strong, talented, hardworking and independent woman, who defines herself on her own terms, and I love and respect that about her.  And it’s a love and respect that goes both ways.  Oh, we do things for each other that the other can’t do, sure.  We have different abilities and skill sets, which is entirely to be expected with different people.  But, we make a concerted effort to learn these skills from one another, because neither of us wants to be dependent on the other.  We are together because we want to be, not because we need to be, and it’s ever so much better that way.

And as far as labels go, when referring to one another in the context of our relationship, we use the term “partner,” because it fits so much better than anything else (thanks gay folks, for popularizing that, by the way).

Cultures are slow to change, that has always been the case.  But they do change, always, or they die.

The old chivalrous mentality is unable to change, and so it is dying.

And I say good riddance.

Black History Month 2014: So Much Accomplished, So Far to Go

I was going to do something for Black History Month, but when Michael is so much better at this kind of thing than I am, it’d be an injustice to you to ask you to read my thoughts on the subject.
Read and enjoy!

Social Justice For All

Black History Month_2014logo_0This is the fourth year that Social Justice For All (SJFA) has celebrated Black History Month. As we start the month I like to reflect on the progress made around issues of equity and equality and also reflect on how much work still has yet to be done.

Every year, SJFA looks to celebrate the substantial accomplishments of African Americans and the cultural and political history of the African-American experience. Here at SJFA we’ll take some time to celebrate  individuals who have made great contributions to social justice as pioneers, activists, and role models. Although it is wonderful to have many people to celebrate, our nation maintains  huge gaps; distressingly, many of these firsts have happened in just the past decade.

I am absolutely elated that President Obama has nominated more African-American judges and more LGBT judges than any previous president. I am particularly delighted that two weeks ago he nominated Staci Michelle Yandle…

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From Boomers to Bust

I’ve mentioned before that I am a big fan of Bill Maher, and his “New Rules” segment on Real Time.  Comedians, of course, even more than other artists, tend to have a knack for bringing uncomfortable truths to our attention, in a way that we can process.  Unfortunately, this time, what began as an excellent finale to the segment devolved into a bunch of dick jokes with little to no insight.

But the beginning of this particular New Rule made me think.

As Maher put it, “In the battle for government giveaways, we have to stop thinking in terms of rich versus poor, or black versus white, and admit it’s really a war between the young and the old.  And the old are winning.”

Maher highlighted that federal spending is roughly $3,822 per child, and $25,455 per senior citizen (a difference of $21,633).

Then he began the dick jokes.  And that’s ok, because Bill Maher is a comedian.  It’s his job to tell dick jokes, and he’s really good at it.

That said, I think it would have been nice if some other issues had been brought up.  Like, for instance, the fact that college tuition rates have increased over 1000% since I was born, while at the same time, earning potential has become more dependent on acquiring an advanced degree than ever before.

Medical expenses have also risen over 600%, and food is up over 240%.

And from January of 1975 to January 2005, housing costs increased a stunning 700%, from $39,500 to $283,000.

And all this time, the median household income has remained flat since 1965.

And all we hear is that it’s imperative we all go to college, so we can remain a competitive workforce with the rest of the world.

This brings me to another point in the Real Time episode, when Maher and author P.J. O’Rourke wax nostalgic about their Boomer youth, and make the claim that, though their generation is often called spoiled, they were far less spoiled than generations after.

Why were they less spoiled?  Apparently it’s because corporal punishment was more acceptable then and kids have more sophisticated entertainment available to them now.

But fewer spankings and more television channels does nothing to account for the fact that, as a generation, the Boomers had more advantages and opportunities than any other generation in history, before or since.  And, as is evidenced by the massive discrepancy in federal resources devoted to the young versus the old, that same Boomer generation is still reaping the lion’s share of benefits from our civilization.  And the programs that Boomers use most, Social Security and Medicare, are the only ones no one is willing to cut, while anything that helps out the under-50 crowd is immediately on the chopping block, because those same Boomers don’t want their taxes to be used for anyone but themselves.

Maher says “…let’s not kid ourselves where our tax dollar goes.  It goes to Grandma, because she votes, and young people don’t.”

What he leaves out, of course, is that people over 55 constitute about a third of all voters, and they vote more regularly because they can.  “They have the time to participate in politics… Most of them are retired, largely thanks to Social Security, and they have the disposable income to make campaign contributions…”

It’s a lot easier to get out and vote when someone else is paying your bills, and you don’t have to put in a twelve hour shift on election day.

Seniors vote at higher rates because they have the ability, and the people they are voting to screw are the ones giving them that ability.

Here’s what it comes down to, though.  My partner and I were discussing plans for the future this weekend.  Because we have children, and because both of us have found ourselves remarkably disadvantaged by the utterly ridiculous cost of college (and therefore the cost of opportunity), we have decided our priority is that none of our children will face this roadblock.  We will live meagerly our whole lives if necessary.  We will, if need be when those children are grown, take to a tiny one-room studio, and pour our combined income into making sure our children do not have to pay a thousand percent more, just for the opportunity to earn the same lifestyle that their grandparents had.

We will not sacrifice our children, in other words, for our own benefit.

Because that’s what the Boomers did.  That’s what they continue to do.

If you are a Boomer, know that your generation had every possible advantage.  You came of age when wages were the highest (in adjusted dollars) they have ever been.  Food, housing, everything was far less expensive then than it is now, or was before you.  College, the engine by which so many chose to improve themselves, was damn near free, by comparison.  Your parents’ generation sacrificed everything to make sure you had these opportunities.  It was their gift to you, so that you would never have to know the difficulties they knew.

You took these gifts, enjoyed them, grew fat from them, then turned around and demanded that every generation after did the same, for you.

For you and only for you.

I’m not going to go as far as former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm, and claim that you have a “Duty to Die,” but I will say this:

You will be gone, one day.  You can’t suck enough life from the rest of us to stick around forever. One day, your stranglehold over America’s electoral system will be gone, and perhaps those of us who came after you will finally have a chance to benefit all of us, instead of just you.

I do not wish you ill, and I do not wish you pain.  I just wish you would think of someone other than yourselves, or, barring that, at least get out of the way.

We will be better off without you.

*As always when speaking in broad generalities, I add this caveat:  If this post, and my comments on the Boomer generation don’t apply to you, then they don’t apply to you  You know who you are.*