Monday, October 26, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The Wifester and I had a long, serious conversation last night. We talked in depth about my need to take action, and how I feel that I have to shout louder because so many feel no need to speak up at all.
Ani said it well in her poem My IQ when she said "If more people were screaming then I could relax..."
That's exactly how I feel, and I feel passionately about this partly because it is so personal to me, but also just because any infringement on human rights is wrong, and I will always stand passionately, adamantly, and vocally against it.
I asked the Wifester how anyone could differentiate the civil rights movement of the 60's from our plight now.
Easily, she says, apples to oranges. This lands in the bedroom and touches on the fundamental religious beliefs of the majority of the country's population. Beliefs, she says, that had not been threatened by blacks gaining equality with whites.
I disagreed. The backlash to the civil rights movement cited the Bible as the foundation of their argument with such declarations as "God created separate tribes and placed them on separate lands and gave them different languages so that the races wouldn't mix. This is proof that God does not want the races to mix."
Of course, anyone who had read and studied the Bible knows that virtually anyone could construe whatever message they wanted to from it. It is written much like a horoscope or a good fortune cookie: broad generalized tales that can be interpreted in a variety of manners and can apply to an array of scenarios, if you look at it from just the right angle.
I know I'll get some backlash for that, but hey, that's how I roll. Call it as I see it, see it for what it is.
Anyways, as I was saying, The Wifester says no way are we ever going to gather the kind of support and mobilization that created the civil rights movement. First, she says, people today are much more narcissistic and self absorbed than they were in the socially conscious times of the civil rights movement. They just don't care about anything beyond their own noses. Second, she says, is the issue of gay rights rubbing that religious nerve that she feels wasn't rubbed during the days of the race riots and the marches on Washington led by MLK.
Wifester and I both agreed that the general population does not see our plight as being a fight for basic human rights, and that our right to marry really is the same as the right of a black person to marry a white person, or an Asian to marry a white... But we disagreed when it comes to whether or not that will ever change.
The Wifester says no.
She says that because our country is run by Christian fundamentalism and that Christian Supremacy is so prevalent we will never gain true equality in this country.
I don't hold the same grim outlook.
I believe that the majority of my Christian neighbors and friends are not fundamentalists and ideologues. I believe that most of them realize that love between two consenting adults is never wrong. I believe that as we grow and mature, as we learn and expand our knowledge base we begin see that some beliefs we once held may be wrong, some things we once thought have changed, and not everything our parents taught us is the truth.
I believe in the basic goodness in humanity, and that given the chance, most people will ultimately do the right thing- more often than not, and that in the end we will prevail.
I believe that it is the squeaky wheel that gets oiled, and I take it upon myself to squeak as much as I can, until that much needed oil has been received.
What do you think? Are the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement parallel or are they apples to oranges, as The Wifester put it?
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
It's been a while hasn't it? I promised at the beginning of this year to spend more time with you and it seems that I did quite the opposite. I know, I suck. You can beat me with an anvil later. On the bright side, I know now to make my 2010 resolution to spend less time here, and if history holds true to form, I should end up spending an extraordinary amount of time writing and posting here regularly.
We'll see how that works out.
So what's happened in my world since we last talked? Gosh, a lot. I've taken and passed some really tough classes. I *tried to* organize a marriage equality rally, and was the one lone demonstrator in said rally. I reunited and reminisced with some old friends, and I've baked a LOT of Sunny Dog Snacks. I've been a very busy Cookie!
One thing that has really had me contemplating my relationships and how I communicate to those closest to me has been the untimely and truly unfair passing of one of the youngest family members on the Wifester's side. Tragedy strikes without warning and is often a prelude to this type of introversion and retrospect.
How can a child be taken away from a family before she even has a chance to live her life? How is that fair? How do her parents and brothers go on after that? Her grandparents? What good reason could all of that pain and tragedy possibly serve? And who am I to question these things? Who am I not to?
I can't answer any of it. I don't know that I want to. But I hate the not knowing.
Could it have been averted? Why wasn't it detected before? How did this go undiagnosed? And then, the worst part; the selfish part... because she suffered a seizure... is my nagging, incessant thought, "Will that happen to me one day?"
She never had a seizure disorder before.
Neither did I, and then one day I did.
I try not to think too much about those things, and just live my life like I always have, but its there always, lingering in the back of my mind; What if...
What if's could easily land me in a cave, surrounded by padding, helmet secured in place- if I let them, so I try not to let them.
I hope to see more light shed on epilepsy and seizure disorders and the people who have them in the future. So often, people think, upon finding out I have epilepsy, that they will inevitably see me shaking and convulsing and foaming at the mouth. Sure, that's happened. But more often than not, it presents as a strange, repetitive movement of an arm or leg. Or it presents as a distant, vacant stare followed by blinking and lip smacking. Sometimes, Wifester says, I look like I'm picking invisible somethings off my shirt, over and over again.
Yep. I'm a regular amusement park. Wifester even makes a game of it. She likes to confuse me by speaking in Spanish or saying nonsensical phrases to me, just to illicit my postictal response. She always has a good laugh telling me about it later.
At least I can serve to aid in comic relief.
I don't like feeling bogged down with the why's and what if's and how's...
I prefer to live freely and openly and not be bothered with such questions, but they persist. My mind never rests until it feels secure in the answers that it seeks, and those answers become more and more elusive the older and more inquisitive I get.
What reality do you question or life circumstance do you investigate with the microscopic lens of a research analyst on the cusp of a major breakthrough?
Thursday, October 15, 2009
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Monday, October 12, 2009
If you fly over the country of Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, the island on which Columbus landed, it looks like somebody took a blowtorch and burned away anything green. Even the ocean around the port capital of Port au Prince is choked for miles with the brown of human sewage and eroded topsoil. From the air, it looks like a lava flow spilling out into the sea.
The history of this small island is, in many ways, a microcosm for what's happening in the whole world.
When Columbus first landed on Hispaniola in 1492, virtually the entire island was covered by lush forest. The Taino "Indians" who loved there had an apparently idyllic life prior to Columbus, from the reports left to us by literate members of Columbus's crew such as Miguel Cuneo.
When Columbus and his crew arrived on their second visit to Hispaniola, however, they took captive about two thousand local villagers who had come out to greet them. Cuneo wrote: "When our caravels… where to leave for Spain, we gathered…one thousand six hundred male and female persons of those Indians, and these we embarked in our caravels on February 17, 1495…For those who remained, we let it be known (to the Spaniards who manned the island's fort) in the vicinity that anyone who wanted to take some of them could do so, to the amount desired, which was done."
Cuneo further notes that he himself took a beautiful teenage Carib girl as his personal slave, a gift from Columbus himself, but that when he attempted to have sex with her, she "resisted with all her strength." So, in his own words, he "thrashed her mercilessly and raped her."
While Columbus once referred to the Taino Indians as cannibals, a story made up by Columbus - which is to this day still taught in some US schools - to help justify his slaughter and enslavement of these people. He wrote to the Spanish monarchs in 1493: "It is possible, with the name of the Holy Trinity, to sell all the slaves which it is possible to sell…Here there are so many of these slaves, and also brazilwood, that although they are living things they are as good as gold…"
Columbus and his men also used the Taino as sex slaves: it was a common reward for Columbus' men for him to present them with local women to rape. As he began exporting Taino as slaves to other parts of the world, the sex-slave trade became an important part of the business, as Columbus wrote to a friend in 1500: "A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten (years old) are now in demand."
However, the Taino turned out not to be particularly good workers in the plantations that the Spaniards and later the French established on Hispaniola: they resented their lands and children being taken, and attempted to fight back against the invaders. Since the Taino where obviously standing in the way of Spain's progress, Columbus sought to impose discipline on them. For even a minor offense, an Indian's nose or ear was cut off, se he could go back to his village to impress the people with the brutality the Spanish were capable of. Columbus attacked them with dogs, skewered them with pikes, and shot them.
Eventually, life for the Taino became so unbearable that, as Pedro de Cordoba wrote to King Ferdinand in a 1517 letter, "As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth… Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery."
Eventually, Columbus and later his brother Bartholomew Columbus who he left in charge of the island, simply resorted to wiping out the Taino altogether. Prior to Columbus' arrival, some scholars place the population of Haiti/Hispaniola (now at 16 million) at around 1.5 to 3 million people. By 1496, it was down to 1.1 million, according to a census done by Bartholomew Columbus. By 1516, the indigenous population was 12,000, and according to Las Casas (who were there) by 1542 fewer than 200 natives were alive. By 1555, every single one was dead.
This wasn't just the story of Hispaniola; the same has been done to indigenous peoples worldwide. Slavery, apartheid, and the entire concept of conservative Darwinian Economics, have been used to justify continued suffering by masses of human beings.
Dr. Jack Forbes, Professor of Native American Studies at the University of California at Davis and author of the brilliant book "Columbus and Other Cannibals," uses the Native American word wétiko (pronounced WET-ee-ko) to describe the collection of beliefs that would produce behavior like that of Columbus. Wétiko literally means "cannibal," and Forbes uses it quite intentionally to describe these standards of culture: we "eat" (consume) other humans by destroying them, destroying their lands, taking their natural resources, and consuming their life-force by enslaving them either physically or economically. The story of Columbus and the Taino is just one example.
We live in a culture that includes the principle that if somebody else has something we need, and they won't give it to us, and we have the means to kill them to get it, it's not unreasonable to go get it, using whatever force we need to.
In the United States, the first "Indian war" in New England was the "Pequot War of 1636," in which colonists surrounded the largest of the Pequot villages, set it afire as the sun began to rise, and then performed their duty: they shot everybody-men, women, children, and the elderly-who tried to escape. As Puritan colonist William Bradford described the scene: "It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they [the colonists] gave praise therof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully..."
The Narragansetts, up to that point "friends" of the colonists, were so shocked by this example of European-style warfare that they refused further alliances with the whites. Captain John Underhill ridiculed the Narragansetts for their unwillingness to engage in genocide, saying Narragansett wars with other tribes were "more for pastime, than to conquer and subdue enemies."
In that, Underhill was correct: the Narragansett form of war, like that of most indigenous Older Culture peoples, and almost all Native American tribes, does not have extermination of the opponent as a goal. After all, neighbors are necessary to trade with, to maintain a strong gene pool through intermarriage, and to insure cultural diversity. Most tribes wouldn't even want the lands of others, because they would have concerns about violating or entering the sacred or spirit-filled areas of the other tribes. Even the killing of "enemies" is not most often the goal of tribal "wars": It's most often to fight to some pre-determined measure of "victory" such as seizing a staff, crossing a particular line, or the first wounding or surrender of the opponent.
This wétiko type of theft and warfare is practiced daily by farmers and ranchers worldwide against wolves, coyotes, insects, animals and trees of the rainforest; and against indigenous tribes living in the jungles and rainforests. It is our way of life. It comes out of our foundational cultural notions. So it should not surprise us that with the doubling of the world's population over the past 37 years has come an explosion of violence and brutality, and as the United States runs low on oil, we are now fighting wars in oil-rich parts of the world.
That is, after all, our history, which we celebrate on Columbus Day. It need not be our future.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
- -Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court in the decision overturning Colorado's Amendment 2 referendum
I wanted to let you know about a Marriage Equality Rally that will be happening this Sunday, 10/11/09, in front of the Capital Building, downtown Nashville, on the front steps, at 12:00 noon.
I am hoping to gather up some more support and some more bodies to stand in solidarity with us to tell our government that marriage is a right, and to prevent people who love each other that right is standing in the way of their pursuit of happiness.
Marriage is an institution between one man and one woman.
UGH! This is the most often heard argument, and the one that is getting the states' constitutions re-written to re-define marriage as one man, one woman. But as I am exploring in my research paper, Who says what marriage is and by whom it is to be defined? The married? The marriable? Webster's Dictionary? As one essay I recently read on gay marriage said, " Isn't that kind of like allowing a banker to decide who is going to own the money stored in his vaults? It seems to me that justice demands that if the straight community cannot show a compelling reason to deny the institution of marriage to gay people, it shouldn't be denied. And such simple, nebulous declarations, with no real moral argument behind them, are hardly compelling reasons. They're really more like an expression of prejudice than any kind of a real argument. The concept of not denying people their rights unless you can show a compelling reason to deny them is the very basis of the American ideal of human rights."
Gay relationships are immoral.
Again, we need to ask, " Says who?" The Bible? Well, this is precisely the reason that our founding fathers included that pesky little clause, you know the one, tacked in the First Amendment, it discusses freedom of religion. That doesn't just mean you can practice whatever religion you wish, it also means you have the right to freedom from religion as well. The Bible has absolutely no standing in American law, as was made clear by the intent of the First Amendment (and as was very explicitly stated by the founding fathers in their first treaty, the Treaty of Tripoli, in 1791) and because it doesn't, no one has the right to impose rules anyone else simply because of something they percieve to be a moral injunction mandated by the Bible. Not all world religions have a problem with homosexuality; many sects of Buddhism, for example, celebrate gay relationships freely and would like to have the authority to make them legal marriages. In that sense, their religious freedom is being infringed. If one believes in religious freedom, the recognition that opposition to gay marriage is based on religious arguments is reason enough to discount this argument.
Same-sex marriage would threaten the institution of marriage.
I've got 5 words for you: Cher, Larry King, and Brittney Spears.
Threaten marriage? By allowing people to marry? This one is laughable. If it is the stability of the institution of heterosexual marriage that worries you, then consider that no one would ever require you or anyone else to participate in a gay marriage. You would still have freedom of choice, of choosing which kind of marriage to participate in -- something more than what you have now. And speaking of divorce -- imagine how the divorce rate could drop if gay people stopped trying heteresexual marriage because that's what's expected of them, only to end in divorce because they have to be true to themselves and their sexuality. To argue that the institution of marriage is worth preserving at the cost of requiring involuntary participants to remain in it is a better argument for reforming divorce laws than proscribing gay marriage.
And the one that got Prop. 8 passed in California:
Gay marriage would force churches to marry gay couples when they have a moral objection to doing so.
Just like in CA, this argument is usually advanced by churches that oppose gay marriage. To be blunt, it is a big fat lie. There is nothing in any marriage law, existing or proposed, anywhere in the United States, that does or would have the effect of requiring any church to marry any couple they do not wish to marry. Churches already have the right to refuse any couple they wish, and for any reason that suits them. Many often do. Some churches continue to refuse to marry interracial couples, others inter-religious couples, and a few refuse couples with large age disparities and for numerous other reasons. Gay marriage would not change any church's right to refuse to sanctify any marriage entirely as they wish - it would simply offer churches the opportunity to legally marry gay couples if they wish, as some have expressed the desire to do - the freedom of religion would actually be expanded, not contracted.
Soap box removed, Fortune Cookies climbing down.
I hope to see you Sunday, in front of the Metro Courthouse.
I'll be holding this poster, look for me!
Click on map to enlarge
National Equality March™ « Equality Across America
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If you can't get to Washington, organize locally.
Are you located in the Middle Tennessee area? Meet us on the steps of the state capital at noon, October 11th. Be sure to bring your signs and your thirst for EQUALITY!