Tag Archives: United States

Rick Santorum, just stop.

United States Senator Rick Santorum, sponsor o...
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been trying to stay out of the Republican nomination race, but I just have to say something.

Transcript:

Anchor: Uh, I-I know you personally, a little bit, and my impression of you I’ll share with the viewers is you are an incredibly nice guy; you’re very compassionate, you’re very caring, you look out for other people. When I talk to some of my friends who are gay and lesbian, they don’t understand that characterization of you, because they think that you have it in for gays and lesbians, because you’re pro- you’re anti-gay marriage, and you’ve called it wrong and you’ve called it destructive of the family, and I want to give you the chance now to explain why they should not feel that way about you.

Santorum: Well I appreciate the opportunity, Megan, and the bottom line is we can have a public policy difference about what, uh, what the proper, uh, marriage law should be in this country and what’s in the best interest of society, and not hate somebody or-or feel ill will for them, as I’ve said many times I have friends who are gay, uh, I, uh, I accept them for who they are, but I disagree with them vehemently about what is in the best interest for society and what we’re going to teach our children in schools, what the impact of those marriage laws will be on our faith communities and their ability to be able to proclaim the truth as God has laid it out in the Bible- all of those things are ramification of a public policy debate where, again, I’m going to stand and be very vocal about, but that doesn’t mean that I dislike or hate anybdoy because of their orientation. I respect that decision, but I also, you have to respect me for feeling very differently about trying to take that orientation and then try to project an agenda on the American public that is consistent with that. That is where I’ll have a disagreement, but it’s not personal, it’s about policy.

Rick Santorum or anybody who has used this defense, I’m going to say this about as clearly as I can- I believe that you can tell yourself that you don’t dislike or hate LGBTQ people. But- putting policy into place that denies them a basic human right as well as equality under law means that you more than hate or dislike somebody- you are condescending, arrogant, and bigoted.

That is all.

(Except to say- can we please play “Conservative anti-LBGTQ buzz word bingo with this or what? It’s about the children and what they’ll be taught in school! It’s about an agenda! It’s about being anti-God! Yeah, okay. Because it couldn’t possibly be about people wanting to be accepting and celebratory about themselves, their lives, raise children, etc.)

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The myth of “freedom of opportunity”

I grew up in an area that many people deem to be, quote, “ghetto as fuck.” My high school was right across the street from a park notorious for drug deals, my freshman class’ count was over 1,000 while less than 600 of us made it to graduation day, etc. I have always noted post-High School that I was lucky to have the teachers that I did have; while none of them said it out loud, it was quite clear that they were training us to succeed based on our hard work, talent and intelligence because, after all, very few of us had been born into any chances and even fewer would be able to get by on their looks.

While in high school, I was introduced to the idea of “freedom of opportunity.” Supposedly, this was an “American value,” the idea that everybody deserves the same chances in life, and that what they do with said chances determines their future success. In this way, the onus falls onto the government to provide the opportunity, and the people to use the opportunity.

It’s a lovely idea. And it’s bullshit.

I don’t claim that this is bullshit based on personal experience, which would be easy enough to qualify but does not carry enough weight. No, I’m calling bullshit based on facts and figures.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce recently published their findings regarding the amount of money an American makes over their lifetime from their employment. The following is a chart detailing pay gap:

From http://kaysteiger.com/

The obvious implications are that, as we have known, men make more than women. While this obviously makes my feminist heart sink, it is the rest of the study that makes me even more angry.

According to these findings, “[African Americans and Latinos] make close to a million dollars less [than Whites]” over their lifetime, even when working the same amount of time and the same position as their white counterpart.

These charts show the results of people from all walks of education, from those who never completed high school to those who have completed post-doctoral, professional degrees. Even those women and people of any other race or ethnicity than “Caucasian” who reached the top are earning far less than their white, cis-gendered male counterparts.

This doesn’t even take into account this simple fact: while women have, technically, surpassed men in numbers of recent college graduates, people of color are statistically less likely to reach a higher education level than a high school diploma. While being Caucasian at my high school technically put me into a racial/ethnic minority within that pool of students, there were far more Caucasian teachers and staff at my high school than there were teachers and staff of color. The reason why “freedom of opportunity” can never be a reality is because, for many cultures, family trumps education. Statistically, many families of color cannot afford to send a son or daughter to college when the family needs money at that moment. Many high-school students, graduated or not, find it much easier to take over the family trade and help their parents rather than to make the immediately-“selfish” decision to further their education. And the trend continues.

Perhaps we should call it what it is: we don’t have “freedom of opportunity,” we have “freedom of white people to make themselves feel better by pretending that offering specialized scholarship opportunities is the same thing as making a culture in which everyone has the same opportunity to succeed.”

My privilege is showing.

What I am about to write is important to me, and I think it’s very important to my blog for me to take note of my biases, my privileges, my experiences. I live with scientists, and have been posing the question to them recently: does your personal experience, your bias, your privileges, your experience, do these things factor into how you interpret or accept new data?” This is important to the field of science. And, turning it inwards, I note: this is important to life.

My background is not very interesting, nor is it very significant. I am a white female, born into an almost-middle-class, Southern Baptist family. The first year that my class was administered governmental standardized end-of-year tests (first grade, I believe?) I was the only student to score in the 99-percentile range (all of my scores were in the 99-percentile range). From this point on, I was treated as an intelligent child, which cushioned me from many of the hardships that children face from struggling with academics and being chastised for it. I was never treated as less capable (especially in math) because of my sex-chromosomes, though I did witness this happening often to other cis-females in the class. In fact, I was often asked to give private, after class tutoring to other girls who were struggling in math (never the boys, however). While I lived in very close proximity to a low-income city until I left for college, I actually lived in a city which is considered to be much safer, more quiet, more calm than its adjacent, surrounding neighbors. The most opposition I ever faced was some light bullying from older girls in Elementary School (stopped when my sister bravely stood up to them for me) and then again when I was teased for dressing like a boy in Junior High (from the same girl from before, again stopped when I mentioned that my same sister was currently serving time in a juvenile corrections facility. Apparently this implied threat of her eventual presence was more than enough). My own mind is what gave me more opposition in my life than any other person.

While I have faced incidences of relative injustice in my life (all very light, all very small) I have to admit that I have been very, well, privileged. I was born without fear of racism or racial discrimination, I was born without and have never experienced physical handicap, I was insulated from much gender discrimination by virtue of being considered “smart” (something with implications that is infuriating, of course), I was born outside of and have never lived in poverty, and my relative heterosexuality (I’m very queer and much more than incidentally attracted to women, though most people don’t know this because I have never acted on it) has insulated me from personally experiencing homophobia. Honestly, the only aspect of myself that puts me into a minority of any kind is the fact that I am an atheist, and it’s not like puts me at any threat of bodily harm, generally. Also, while I have faced some instances of being discriminated against due to mental-health-related issues, this has had very little effect on me.

I don’t even need to say that my life has been easy, relatively- it has been easy, and that’s that. Obviously I have faced difficulties in my life, but any sort of discrimination is not something that I come face-to-face with on a daily basis.

The fights and battles that I am interested in fighting are, largely, not my own. I fight for reproductive rights, because I believe that, without adequate reproductive rights, the people who are hurt the most are people who are of color, live in poverty, and have fully-functioning vaginae and uteri. I fight for queer rights, because there is no reason to discriminate against somebody based on their sexual/gender identity, their sexuality, or anything else that makes them supposedly “other.” I fight for people of color, not because they need a white person on their side, but because the inequalities have not been erased, because we still live in a society and a judiciary system that still perpetuates the problems and the stereotypes that give people of color more to fight against. I fight for disability rights and against ableism, because everybody should have equality of opportunity, and because the need is still there. I fight against poverty, nationally and globally, because it is a travesty on the part of the human race, and because it is connected to everything. I fight for education, because I think that it is the key to change and to progress.

I fight because I care. I fight because I am a humanist. I fight because it’s moral and ethical and true to my values.

But I have to understand- though I am willing to fight, I first have to listen.

So I invite people to share their stories. Their own experiences, the prejudice they have faced, their own privileges. I meant it when I said that education is the key to change and to progress, and it starts here.

The Importance of Numbers (Or, How in a Roundabout Way, I’m Pro-Life)

Official photo of Congresswoman Michele Bachma...
Nemesis #1 tbh

My politics are obviously not informed by faith (kind of difficult for that to be true when I don’t subscribe to any faith). But they are also not informed by my lack of faith; it would make no sense for my atheism to inform my politics beyond perhaps being one less thing to tell me how to think/feel/vote.

Though I am a proud feminist, I am not informed by my feminism. People might point out- “aren’t you pro-choice? Isn’t this because you want reproductive rights for women? Isn’t that feminism?” And I would say “my feminism is the part of my life that helps me make personal decisions and helps give me a drive for activism, but it does not tell me how to vote.”

I am obviously and definitely a secular humanist. If there were any kind of label that I subscribe to that informed my politics the most, it would probably be this. This is because, underlying what does inform my politics, what I am looking for are the answers to the question- “what is best for humanity?” (This can easily lend itself to “what is best for nature,” because humanity is kind of nature’s bitch, and we have to appease nature and treat nature with respect and kindness. Nature will go on without us very easily.) I think that the idea of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” is extremely misleading; one should not, in my opinion, call themselves “pro-life” if their concern for life stops the minute it exits the womb, if they care more about the potential for life than the actuality of it, if they vote in ways that aren’t informed about poverty, about education, about the death penalty, about the environment, about human rights. That is life, at least it is life in the United States, and that is what we vote for.

But what does inform my politics the most, what I look to before anything else, are facts, figures, statistics. Numbers. These are the tools that help me to grasp- what is the result of the availability of abortion, or what would the result be were there to be a lack of abortion availability? The same goes for science education, for environmental measures, for laws that have the ability to limit human rights to any one group of people. What matters to me is- what do the non-partisan fact-checkers say?

I was worried when Sarah Palin stepped onto the scene, but that was nothing compared to my fear of Michele Bachmann. The easy thing for people to say about my abhorrence for Bachmann is that I don’t like her because she has the evangelical, home-schooled thing going for her, something I obviously don’t agree with. While yes, it’s one thing that I could pick on her for, my annoyance isn’t with her faith, but with her lack of truth or reason. Out of all of the candidates for the Republican nomination in 2012, Bachmann has the worst record of stating any truths at all, and yet she is one of the top-runners for the nomination. Why? Because she “speaks our language,” which is the language of the United States Evangelical. Michele Bachmann is, of course, well-suited to become a favorite amongst the average citizen voter, because the average citizen voter is a Christian, and the average Christian’s vote is informed by faith and not verifiable fact. (I understand the argument “God is fact, and what he says is what’s important, and that’s fact for me.” But until you can supply empirical evidence to back up the claim that “God is fact,” it will still be a faith issue.

In theory, I have no problem with people letting faith be a big source of their political views and their voting record. What I have a problem with is people disregarding the importance of facts, numbers, statistics, truths, for anything. If an atheist voted for an atheist solely based on the candidates lack of faith, I would have a problem; the same with a woman voting for a woman based on her sex chromosomes, Democrat for a Democrat based on his party affiliation, etc.

I used to say that the important thing was for everybody to vote. I retract that statement. The important thing is for everybody to vote informed. Not informed by far-partisan media (such as The Daily Show, Fox News, MSNBC, etc.) but by non-partisan facts, statistics, numbers. That is my utopia.

My past life experience from my life’s past

Charles Darwin proposed the theory of evolutio...
Image via Wikipedia

I need to stop with these excruciatingly terrible titles.

Almost a year ago, when I still identified as a Christian, I underwent a past life regression experiment with my sister and my brother-in-law. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I believed in the idea of past lives, but I decided to give the experience a try and see what happened.

What did happen was, as I was just explaining to my friend, “trippy.” I remember the feelings of wanting to fly but being unable to, and, most curious of all, I remember feeling as though I had a deep connection to Charles Darwin. (I had recently watched the movie Creation, which is about the life of Charles Darwin and which is extremely amazing.)

Of course, at this point in my life I’m assuming that most of the things that I experienced were either worries that I was having at the time or based on recent experiences of mine. I have undergone hypnosis once before, in a psychology class, and I remember having visions then, as well, but I also don’t remember much of the experience (I felt that I was sleeping for much of the time, which was apparently a half an hour). I know that this is generally how these experiences work, but it was still something interesting to go through.

And it was right- I do have an important connection to Charles Darwin. The connection of admiration.

For more information, you can visit the Skeptic’s Dictionary‘s page on past life regressions here.