Friday, February 27, 2015

American History Exed

I am not sure if there is a competition about which the general public knows nothing, but it seems that a number of states are trying to out-stupid each other in the realm of children’s education. Oklahoma legislature passed a bill that would essentially defund AP US History in high schools, because a committee deemed the curriculum “threatening the public peace, health and safety”. They are not the first to try to push legislation against funding AP History; Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and, of course, Texas, all had lawmakers who voiced opposition to the AP curriculum.

Why? Because it focuses on some darker parts of the US’s history, like the Trail of Tears, the Chinese rail workers’ plight, Japanese internment, and also a lot of the intricate details of historical figures that get left out or glossed over in regular high school history. They claim that it focuses too much on these negative aspects of our past, which is “unpatriotic”. Sayers of “nay” also claim that there was inadequate talk of important documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, or of important figure like the Founding Fathers and important social leaders, which makes it inadequate for national testing standards.

Of course, all of these claims are utter tripe. Anyone who has taken an AP exam knows that you get enough talk of the Founders and MLK and Eli Whitney to fill more than a few essay questions worth of facts about them. If you don’t believe me, check out this practice exam. I would like to see the lawmakers who raised this issue take and pass the exam. Given state legislatures’ knowledge of the female human anatomy, I highly doubt that they were great history scholars either. Furthermore, why are we even letting states with the some of the LOWEST scores in education have any say in our children’s education? Of the mentioned states, only Colorado is in the top 10 in overall ranking, and NC, SC, and GA have some of the least safe schools. Of the six states, Texas spends the least in education. If educators and legislators in the #1 and #2 in education, New Jersey and Massachusetts, made a gripe, then maybe I’d pay attention, but these states are consistently bad at education spending and deployment. It is kind of like trying to take Mississippi serious about mending and cooperative race relations when they just ratified the 13th Amendment 2 YEARS AGO.

Some have been saying that these smudges in our armour of perfection is lying. Let us be clear: TALKING ABOUT THINGS THAT YOU DON’T LIKE DOES NOT MAKE THOSE THINGS LIES. Saying things that are not true make them lies. Omitting things that ARE true and bad is almost as bad as lying. Barack Obama was not being unpatriotic and lying and anti-Christian when he pointed out at a prayer breakfast that Christianity has been used to do horrible things to people. Mass lynchings of black people happened. Jim Crow happened. Chattel slavery happened. The Trail of Tears happened. The Salem Witch Trials happened. All of these were terrible, and all of them were justified by the twisting of a mainstream religion. If I hit someone with a hammer, the hammer is not bad. I am bad...unless it’s Sean Hannity or Tyler Perry’s hand as he tries to hand in a new script. People who pretend that these things didn’t happen because that cannot IMAGINE these bad parts of our collective history sound as ridiculous as people trying to bend over backwards to concoct conspiracy theories to deny the 35+ Bill Cosby rape allegation just because they have very fond memories of The Cosby Show and Fat Albert.
Lack of teaching “American Exceptionalism” is a common complaint among the idiocracy, as if bringing up these bad things of the past somehow makes us anti-American and unpatriotic. I will concede that the United States of America is exceptional. We only took a few years build a representative government with a living constitution that can be amended. Our government structure was a mix of previously attempted democratic republics and something completely new. It was the model for future governments. We have a foothold in the world economy and civic policy (whether you like it or not) not seen since people thought the world was flat and only the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere knew about the Western Hemisphere. In less than 300 years, our worldwide influence is unprecedented. It took other governments up to 1000 years to achieve that in their known world. That is pretty exceptional.

Do you know what else is exceptional? That we had men who fought for and built the skeletal structure of this country based on the freedom and autonomy of every man, but still owned other men and considered them only 60% human, and that was only because of a compromise. Also, we built our base economy on the backs of those 60% people, and when we freed them, we did little to protect them from the wrath of those who once owned them until nearly 100 years later. We made land treaties with people who we KNEW had a different idea about ownership, and then when we reneged on those deals, we either killed them or made them walk thousands of miles to a completely different part of the country. In either case, we kidnapped their children and forced them to stop learning about their own personal history. We joined a war to fight a dictator who deemed it necessary to pen certain people in work and death camps, while we put our own citizens and residents in “relocation camps”. The atrocities we have imposed on our own citizens in less than 300 years are pretty amazing. It took other governments up to 1000 years to achieve that in their known world. That is pretty exceptional.

This is our United States of America. Looking and learning about the bad parts does not make one unpatriotic, but only focusing on the good aspects and denying/ignoring the dark side definitely is. You are lying to yourself if you think you are doing yourself a favour by raising holy hell every time someone talks about the horrors of slavery or the Japanese internment or the involuntary scientific testing or fighting against woman sovereignty. You only make yourself look like a fool. People with spouses love them (hopefully), but they love them despite their flaws, and if they have a detrimental habit, they help their spouses grow out of those flaws. Pretending that things in the past didn’t happen and trying to make it so that our children won’t know does not create a super patriot. It creates an idiot who lags in the world in the realm of true knowledge. We need to stop these lawmakers from trying to out-stupid each other.

Friday, February 13, 2015

50 Shades of Shaming

I got through about 3 chapters of 50 Shades of Grey before I had to put it down, lest I continually carry a vomit bag. It is some pretty terrible writing. It reads like Twilight fan fiction…then I found out IT WAS ORIGINALLY TWILIGHT FAN FICTION.
The story is this:
  • Rich distant boy meets poor charming girl
  • Rich boy has a “quirk”: he’s into BDSM.
  • Girl submits to boy’s “quirk”, because she sees something in him.
  • As boy falls in love with girl, he abandons his “quirk”, because she’s worth it, and he was just hiding from his emotions.
  • Boy and girl forever have “normal” missionary sex and fly off into the sunset on a pearl embossed carriage filled with dove feathers driven by unicorns that poop candy (I didn’t read the last chapter, so I’m speculating based on the beginning.)

Basically, 50 Shades of Grey is the plot of every romcom, but with leather and chains. You would be more entertained setting your money ablaze than using it to watch or read 50 Shades of Grey.
I initially tried reading the book because I thought it was a fictional introduction to BDSM culture. Sadly, it approaches BDSM using the Hottentot Venus method: It examines it, sensationalises it, pokes fun at it, and then when it is done, it reminds readers that “thank goodness you’re ‘normal’!”, and then throws it to the wayside without actually truly delving deeper than the surface. The franchise has built a mountain of money based on turning kink culture into a freak or minstrel show. Since neither the author nor the director seemed to actually delve into kink or BDSM culture beyond observing it for reference, one could posit they were actually just putting on blackface…I guess in this case, “leatherface”? Even the actors expressed their disdain for the subject matter in cast interviews. The fact that there was an uptick in handcuff and bondage-related injuries since the book came out indicates that there was a lot of shallow treading of the subject and glamourizing it without actually expressing the value of responsibility and true consent. Those who are into BDSM and practise it responsibly and ethically probably feel the same way about “50 Shades of Grey” that black artists feel about mainstream hip-hop, or how Asian producers and actors feel about nearly every token Asian character in movies and TV shows, or how everyone feels about Iggy Azalea.

One might think I’m down on 50... because a woman wrote the book, and a woman directed the film. I have two words for you: Tyler Perry. Playing up the stereotypes of a culture without going deeper is as demeaning as if someone from outside the community did it. Because of Sam Taylor-Johnson’s  directing credit and EL James’s writing credit, producers tried to wrap this up as a story of female empowerment the only “power” message in the story is that if you’re a good girl, you can change any man into anything you want him to be, and you’ll live happily ever after. So close your legs, but only open them for the right guy, and then mold him like clay into the cast that our society allows!

The whole message of the film is that if you are a young chaste woman, you can turn that Vince Vaughan typecasty jerk into a sweet young man, and once you do, he’ll stop doing all the things he once loved to do, and you both will then not be allowed to pass “GO” and collect 200 lashes. You go straight to “missionary” from then on. Life is never like that.

Women like sex as much as men do, some like a little rope & leather play. If you think that you can “change” someone’s kinks, you are a fool, and if you DO “change” him/her, then that person has no spine, and you would not be attracted to him/her. If you are truly interested in BDSM and kink culture, reach out to your local kink society. Nearly every area has one, and they will teach you how to play safely. If you just wish to be entertained, “The Secretary” is on Netflix now. It’s much more egalitarian, and it beats watching/reading a minstrel show in leatherface.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

#JeSuisAméricain: What Domestic Terrorism Looks Like

Yusor Abu-Salha, her sister Razan Abu-Salha, and her husband Deah Barakat were murdered in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Tuesday, 10th February 2015. Their killer shot them in their apartment. He then turned himself in to Chapel Hill Police. The victims were Muslim, and the murderer is a proud “anti-theist”. As expected, Twitter went crazy. Everyone was waiting for a hate crime charge, but thus far, the police are saying this murder was about a dispute over a parking space. This is where I call bullshit.


Let’s look at what these three people were doing with their lives. All three were students. Deah Barakat was enrolled in UNC’s school of dentistry, and his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, was to be enrolled in the coming semester. Deah also obviously loved his UNC sports, because when Dean Smith died, he simply tweeted, “UNC lost a legend today”. Razan Abu-Salha was a sophomore at NC State University. All three were honour students. All three participated in charities to help the less fortunate and refugees of war. Yusor Abu-Salha recorded a StoryCorps interview, regaling how great life is, and great the USA is. STORYCORPS, people! You can't get much more American than a public radio project! Deah sent out tweets denouncing violence as a tool and how just killing your enemy makes everyone ignorant. There is not one picture of any of these three people where their smiles look forced. These three individuals were doing America better than all of us.




The killer is, as stated before, an anti-theist and very pro-Second Amendment. These two things are not necessarily indicators of bad behaviour. However, anti-theists are a little bit different from atheists, in that they tend to take time out of their day to hate on a religion. Imagine a right wing religious zealot spewing fire and brimstone, but replace the misinterpreted Sturm und Drang with misinterpreted science and logic. That is an anti-theist: same amount of hate, different roots. However, his wife (soon to be ex) claims he sees everyone as equal. I guess premeditated murder was the dealbreaker for their relationship, but this defence that he sees everyone as “equal” does not hold up to his own words on his Facebook account about religion:


“When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me...If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I. But given that it doesn’t, and given the enormous harm that your religion has done in this world, I’d say that I have not only a right, but a duty, to insult it, as does every rational, thinking person on this planet.”

Yeah...That is exactly how a champion of equality sounds. I remember when Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream that one day little black girls and little black boys will go hand in hand with little white girls and boys...but fuck those dirty Canadians”.

The murderer’s ex-wife, Cynthia Hurley, has a different view of his character, noting his disturbing obsession with the movie Falling Down, which should be retitled “The Passion of the Middle Aged White Dude”. His neighbours also describe him as a bully who was confrontational, especially about parking and neighbourhood noise. One neighbour essentially said he was an equal opportunity asshole to everyone. See? So it wasn’t a hate crime, because he hated EVERYONE! This really was about a parking space, so calm yourselves.


Perhaps a parking space was the  motivation for violence, but why did he think that he could walk into someone’s house with a gun and shoot them over it? This whole thing was about a parking space as much as Michael brown was killed because of stolen cigars, or as much as Eric Gardner was killed because of loose cigarettes, or as much as Marissa Alexander was not allowed to used Stand Your Ground defense because she “stepped forward”, or as much as Officer Dawon Gore was indicted because he assaulted someone on the hand with a baton while Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted at all. It was as much about a parking space as the traffic stop regarding the validity of my registration was actually about the validity of my registration. The murderer may have been an ass to everyone in his neighbourhood, but he targeted the ones who looked different and acted different upon which to enact violence, and loose gun laws gave him a murder weapon. He targeted the people who were divergent from what he considered was “normal”, and they happened to live their lives practising something he previously aggressively railed against.. He did not even have enough respect for them as people to honour the boundaries of their home. Ironically, they were probably the most American people in that neighbourhood. Perhaps on the surface this was about a parking space, but let’s not pretend that, like other cases mentioned, there aren’t much deeper, more potent layers. Things were a lot easier to define when “veiled racism” actually involved an actual white veil and a few burning crosses, but make no mistake: that disputed parking space was nothing but an excuse. Yusor Abu-Salha, Razan Abu-Salha, and Deah Barakat were killed because they were different, and the different is an easy target. Perhaps it is hyperbole to say that they were the greatest examples of a true America, but they were damn close.

Their killer is the face of the domestic terrorism about which we must be vigilant. That is not hyperbole. These "men" who can't can't fathom a person that is outside of their demographic who think that they have a say over what others do and what they see in front of their faces are a danger. If it's just some idiot ranting online about how Spider-Man is ruined if Danny Glover plays Peter Parker or kvetching because the Ghostbusters reboot has an all female cast, it's annoying, but almost adorably chauvinistic and racist, like a drunk uncle. When it's in the real world, like fake-retching when seeing two guys kiss outside, it's a bigger problem. This murderer acted because he thought he had dominion to do what he wanted since his victims were not "like him". If his act isn’t a hate crime, then I don’t know what is.



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Slut-Shaming Feminisim: The Amber Rosery

Until last week, I had no idea who Amber Rose was, nor did I understand why everyone was going crazy over her Instagram account. By now, though, I know who she is, and by the looks of her Instagram account, she really likes string, and really hates clothes. Good for her. String is very useful, and sometimes clothes can be cumbersome. Her penchant to wear string as clothes, however, confuses me, but hey, she’s her own woman.

What I still don’t understand, though, is why everyone was going crazy over her string-as-clothes selfie. As predictable, many people ogled and then called her a slut and whore, as per patriarchal protocol, and then people said she is setting women back by not dressing “respectably”, and of course, some brought up that she’s a mother and should know better.

The claim that she is “setting women back” by posting selfies of her nearly nude is as ridiculous as thinking that women posting selfies of themselves nearly nude is a threat to women. As long as they are taking these pictures of their own volition and not under any duress, then where is the problem? The Hobby Lobby decision is a threat to women. The new House of Representatives, who tried to push through a bill limiting abortion rights not even a month after being sworn in, is a threat to women. There are a bunch of old men who have never in their lives had vaginas actively trying to regulate vaginas more than they wish to regulate things that are ACTUAL threats to our lives, like chemical pollution in drinking water and guns. You’d think that vaginas were Cthulhu or something. Disproportionate sexual assaults and loose laws to deal with them are a threat to women. Then of course, things that are threats to men, like poverty, income inequality, crime, are threats to women. You realise Cee-Lo Green, who essentially admitted to drugging and raping someone, and Bill Cosby are still on the loose? A buzzcut blonde woman who wears dental floss as clothes is NOT a threat to womankind.

To the “She should know better, she’s a mother” point, I must ask, “So what?” What is this “better” thing that she should know? Mothers are no longer allowed to be sexy? Someone had to have found them attractive, because that is the first step in long process of making a baby. (In Ms. Rose’s case, I assume the second step is getting a pair of scissors so that she can undress.) Why should a mother no longer do things that she did before, so long as she’s not hurting her child? There is an entire million-dollar niche industry in porn that is centred around sexy mothers and their clothes-optional adventures. So why is it so bad that Amber Rose, mother of one, still wants to feel sexy, and acts on that want?

This same tripe was lobbed Beyonce any time she performed after she had Blue Ivy. How dare she go out and perform in skimpy clothes and dance and sing about sex? THAT IS HER JOB. Beyonce is a performer. Just because she is a mother, she still has a job to do, and nowhere in her lyrics connotes that she must now wear an oversized grey poncho and only talk about her baby and motherhood. Mothers are not saints. They are not exalted to asexual seraphims after they have had children. They are humans, and they have the right to have human desires, like wanting to look good/sexy, doing whatever their jobs are, and not being judged by hypocrites who like have a pile of Mom-on-Teens porn stashed on their thumb drives labeled “Taxes”.

This all just harkens to  the ridiculous double standard that we have that claims that women must be chaste, virginal vessels of tranquility, especially after they’ve had a child, even though men can go by the credo “boys will be boys” and get away with anything. Who the hell do you think boys are “being boys” with? People who have this view generally have a problem with boys being boys with other boys, so there are obviously girls “being girls” with the boys.

Being hot and showing it off establishes absolutely no evidence about one’s aptitude for raising a child. If Beyonce and Amber Rose want to act/feel attractive and express it and want to continue to sing and dance and...whatever the hell Amber Rose does...as long as they’re not hurting anyone, you sound really dumb criticising them.Maybe if we spent more time registering to vote than we did going nuts over some woman’s selfies, perhaps we wouldn’t have such an inept Congress, and women everywhere would not have their uteruses regulated as if they were guns.



...JUST KIDDING! America doesn’t regulate guns.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Si Je Suis Charlie, Je Suis Aussi Ahmed.

Courtesy aljazeera.com
As I write this, news outlets everywhere are covering the deaths of the murderers* of the employees, visitors, and two police guards at Charlie Hebdo headquarters. The assailants claimed to be avenging the honour of Islam and their prophet, who were often targets of the publication’s satire. Their act of terror is the worst France has seen in a very long time, and it seems that instead of fear, it merely solidified France with the #JeSuisCharlie meme, and also showed how hypocritical they were when they killed a Muslim police officer. Look up #JeSuisAhmed. Now that this ordeal will hopefully be over soon, and hopefully with minimal casualties, let’s get a few things straight.

If you think that prominent Muslims in the public eye should be denouncing these acts, then you are an asshole. The “men” who executed this attack on unarmed citizens are no more representatives of all of Islam than the Ku Klux Klan is a representative of all Christianity. No law-abiding Muslim person has to apologise for the acts of terrorists as if they are drunk uncles who keep saying racist stuff in front of your black boyfriend who you brought home for the Holidays. They co-opted a banner and fueled their hate through it, much like the murderer of the two patrolmen in NYC. He was never part of the #BlackLivesMatter movement; he used the tags and did terrible things, and now anyone who marched for reasonable reforms and dialogue are roped in with him, and leaders of the movement must denounce his crimes as not representative of that for which they stand. Both of these events were hate crimes, yet when white people commit hate crimes, they are depicted as lone wolves and slightly disturbed, no matter how many memberships to hate groups or hate movements they have. No one demands that Wolf Blitzer make a statement when a white supremacist, say, bombs an NAACP headquarters. So stop demanding that brown people denounce the acts of hate groups whose roots are in a specific religion or cultural background. Either that, or before you demand denouncements from large groups of brown people, formally denounce the Inquisition, the Middle Passage, the Nazi Holocaust, the Expulsion of the Moors, Apartheid, the Hottentot Venus fiasco, and every other major crime done by “Christian people”. You need to be honest with yourself: If the Internet existed in the Dark Ages, the world would be calling for the eradication of Christianity, and demanding that the Pope denounce the crimes of Christians, from witch burning to the Crusades...actually, the Popes at the time were leading the charge to do those acts, but you get the point…

If you are defending the religion of Islam by saying that the assailants were not “truly Muslim”, sorry, but you’re doing it wrong. They were Muslim. However, they were part of a hate group. Just as Christianity has many sects, there are many sects of Islam. Sadly, just as with Christianity, Islam has hate groups as well, and some of them are violent. Christianity has the Neo-Nazis, the National Front, Focus on the Family, and various militant anti-secular government groups. Islam has al-Qaeda, ISIS, and various militant anti-secular government groups. The murderers in this case undermined their actions, because as much as they claimed to be defending Islam, they killed a Muslim man. That is how indiscriminate hate works. The Klansmen who thrived on fear in the South were Christians who were killing other Christians. It is irrational, and it is despicable, and it drags the religions they represent through the mud. That does not mean the religions themselves are bad. It means the hate groups who claim to follow these religions are manipulative assholes.

If you are not hashtagging #JeSuisCharlie because you don’t feel sorry for them because they printed a lot of racist stuff, don’t be a dick. You are doing the same thing that mansplainers do when a woman is assaulted, and the first thing they say is , “Well, you shouldn’t have been wearing that short skirt”. I never liked much of what Charlie Hebdo published, but I never thought they deserved to die. I just noted how much I didn’t like them and didn’t read their publications. This is the way a free press should work. If you don’t like it, you are free to criticise it, but don’t kill the author, and don’t blame the author for his own death. There is nothing wrong with saying #JeSuisCharlie et #JeSuisAhmed, and you can still not like their content, and you can still not sound like you're victim blaming people who were freely expressing themselves, as you are doing by expressing disdain for their content.


There are about a billion Muslims in the world. I know a few, and they are pretty awesome, not necessarily because the are Muslim, but I would be foolish to think that their choice to follow the religion did not help hone their own sets of values and traits that make them awesome now. The religion is not forming terrorists, unlike what you’re hearing in the news and editorials. Any religion can be used as a beacon for goodness or a bludgeon for hate. So demanding someone to apologise for what others of his/her faith/ethnicity has done is as foolish as claiming that the assailants are not of said faith, which is as foolish as blaming the assholes expressing free speech for their own deaths.

*I know the names of the assailants, but much like with the Nice Guy™ who went on a shooting spree this summer, I am not going to immortalise their names so that they can be martyrs for their false cause. Other outlets can do that.

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