October 13, 2011
There’s a photo being shared around Facebook (I tried to find a version I could link to, but wasn’t able to); I’ve now seen it twice on my feed. In the photo, what appears to be a young woman holds a hand-written note up in front of her face. In that note, she tells her audience that she is a senior in college and will soon graduate debt-free. She has worked hard and lived within her means, eschewing luxuries like a new car or an iPad, and is thus able to live comfortably. “I expect nothing handed to me,” she says, “and will continue working my ass off for everything I have.” She goes on to say, “That’s how it’s supposed to work,” and concludes, “I am NOT part of the 99 percent and whether you are or not is YOUR decision.”
I have a problem with this narrative. First of all, that last part appears to be based on a misunderstanding of what “we are the 99%” actually means. That statement is based on the distribution of wealth in the United States, i.e. the fact that the top 1% of the population control a sizeable chunk of the country’s wealth. The 1% is made up of the billionaires, the CEOs on Wall Street, the rich folks, the ones who use “vacation” as a verb, and so on and so forth. The 99% is the rest of us, the workaday folks, the ones who are really only one major accident or illness or layoff away from losing everything, no matter how much we believe that if we follow all the rules (don’t spend more than you earn, neither a borrower nor a lender be, keep your nose to the grindstone, etc.), we’ll always be able to live comfortably. And many of the 99% will indeed always be able to live comfortably, especially the middle class white folks. For many others, though, things don’t always turn out so rosy.
Secondly, here’s the thing: I understand how reasonable people can disagree on the efficacy and nature of the Occupy Wall Street protests. What I don’t understand is a) how and why people translate “hold Wall Street accountable for its actions” into “by demanding the aforesaid, I abdicate any and all responsibility for the decisions I myself have made,” and b) how, when faced with a choice between sympathizing with the “unwashed masses” of the 99% and the Wall Street CEOs, people who are in similar income brackets to my own would choose to sympathize with the CEOs. Sure, I’m in debt because I made some arguably questionable decisions—decisions that I nevertheless stand by today. But you know who helped me back up when I was at my lowest? It sure as hell wasn’t Bank of America. It was my friends and family—again, members of the 99%. We, i.e. the American people, bailed Wall Street out; they’ll only return the favor if they deem us an acceptable risk based on our credit scores, income, and other assests. How does that not strike more people as fucked up?
I guess people repost pictures like the one I describe above because they want to believe that’s true—again, that if you follow the rules, you’ll be okay. It actually reminds me of a certain variety of rape apologism, the one that appears to buy into the idea that if you follow a particular set of rules (this time it’s be a “good girl,” don’t drink or do drugs, don’t go places with strange men and DEFINITELY don’t have sex with them!, don’t dress in any way that could be termed indecent, etc.), you won’t get raped. Nevermind that people are often (usually?) raped by someone they know. Nevermind the innumerable survivors who’ve been raped in their own homes. Nevermind that both sets of rules rely on a fair amount of denial and magical thinking (child abuse? sudden catastrophic illness? whuzzat?). This is what we’re told, and what many people choose to believe: follow the rules, and you’ll be safe from harm.
And if you truly believe that, I’ve got a bridge or two you might be interested in.
October 7, 2011
I imagine that many of you have now seen the Think Progress article discussing the fact that the Topeka, KS city council is considering decriminalizing domestic battery. I wanted to take a moment to dig a bit deeper into the specifics, and figure out what we can do to make a difference in this situation.
Here’s what’s going on, as best as I can figure out: to save money, the county in which Topeka is located, Shawnee, opted to stop prosecuting misdemeanors committed in Topeka. This meant that a whole bunch of domestic battery cases were dumped on the city, which is ill-equipped to handle them. The solution proposed by the Topeka City Council is that they repeal the part of the municipal code that bans domestic battery. The rationale for this is that it would force the county to start prosecuting those cases again. While I understand that impulse, the move strikes me as short-sighted and potentially dangerous. My hope is that between the council and those of us who live here and care about such things, we have to be able to come up with a solution to this problem that doesn’t involve literally decriminalizing domestic battery.
Locals: please contact the city council. It might be worth mentioning that this is making Topeka look bad on the national level, and could well be considered detrimental to local business and investment. It might also be worth contacting the Shawnee County District Attorney, Chad Taylor.
Thank you for your time and consideration!
April 15, 2011
I stumbled this morning upon this poem, by Catherynne M. Valente: A Silver Splendour, A Flame. It’s exceptional—part poem, part libretto for an imaginary vaudville show, part retelling of the Persephone myth, part kaleidescope, maybe even a bit of ars poetica, and entirely beautiful. Well worth checking out.
The Zingara Poet has begun a new series of interviews with poets, which will feature discussions with poets a bit more off the beaten path than one normally encounters in textbooks or at, say, Poets.org. The first interview, with Alarie Tennille, can be found here.
Just for the record, Liberty University (a private, conservative Christian institution founded by Jerry Falwell) received more money from the federal government last year than the Corporation for Public Broadcasting did. (Hat tip to Fred Clark.)
What’s with the abuse of figurative speech lately? First Senator Jon Kyl states that 90% of Planned Parenthood’s work is related to abortions (when the figure is actually closer to 3%), and when called on it, his office stated that “his remark was not intended to be a factual statement,” and then, after Kobe Bryant received criticism for calling a referee a “fucking faggot,” he stated that the slur “should not be taken literally.” What bothers me about issues like these is, quite simply, words mean things. “Oh, but that’s not what I meant” does not come across, to me, as a particularly compelling explanation. Even when writing poetry—a form of communication that is not generally assumed to represent factual statements or to be taken literally—if most of the people who hear or read your words take from them a meaning counter (or unrelated) to the one you’d intended, you might want to reconsider your words.
Of course, Jon Kyl’s statement ended up leading to a thoroughly amusing Twitter hashtag, so that’s something.
This article about a young woman growing up Objectivist has been making its way across the interwebs, but I thought I’d link to it as well, just in case my lovely readers haven’t seen it.
Happy Friday, all!
February 12, 2010
Kansas senators endorsed a plan that tells federal lawmakers to stay off their turf.
Senators voted 33-7 in favor of a nonbinding resolution (SCR 1615) Thursday that asserts the state’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The resolution takes aim at the federal government for taking a bigger role in everything from education to health care.
I’m kind of wondering where these senators were when No Child Left Behind came around, if they’re really so concerned about the federal government interfering with state sovereignty where education is concerned — but maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe they were up in arms about that, too, but since I didn’t live in Kansas at the time, I wasn’t aware of it. At any rate, it gets better (and by “better” I mean “more horrifying”):
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, asked what statement the resolution might make about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The resolution calls for compulsory legislation to be repealed.
“Would this language indeed say that those federal acts should be repealed?” he asked of Sen. Tim Owens, whose Judiciary Committee brought the bill to the full Senate. “That that would be the opinion of the Kansas Legislature to repeal those two acts?”
Owens, an Overland Park Republican, said that was a possible interpretation.
“I find that very troubling,” Hensley said.
Yeah. Me too. I have a bad feeling this is going to become a “red state” trend, if it isn’t one already, and while I appreciate that the resolution is nonbinding, I think it has troubling implications, particularly with regard to issues of civil rights.
E pluribus what now?
December 1, 2009
Keith Haring’s “Silence = Death,” 1989
From The Body: What Can You Do, See, Hear and Know on World AIDS Day 2009?
The theme for World AIDS Day this year is HIV treatment access and human rights. Uganda’s “Anti-Homosexuality” bill is therefore relevant to this discussion:
The bill would criminalize the legitimate work of national and international activists and organizations working for the defense and promotion of human rights in Uganda. It would also put major barriers in the path of effective HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, the groups said.
“Discrimination and punitive laws like this aimed at marginalized groups and at those often among the most affected by HIV drives people underground and does nothing to help slow down the AIDS epidemic,” said Daniel Molokele, Africa program officer at the World AIDS Campaign.
(Rather an unfortunate topic for Pastor Rick Warren to declare himself apolitical on, then, no?)
On the eve of World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday made the strongest statement yet by an administration official that the United States will not tolerate efforts to criminalize homosexuality among countries that receive U.S. funding to combat HIV/AIDS.
Also from Human Rights Watch: World AIDS Day: Punitive Drug Laws, Policing Practices Impede HIV/AIDS Response
Now that the U.S. has lifted the travel ban for people with HIV, the International AIDS Society has announced that it will hold its 2012 conference in the US, which will be the first time the conference has met here since 1990. (I recently read about the Society’s early meetings in And the Band Played On; I hope to have a review posted within the next few days.)
Education is still essential: Michigan teenagers, for example, are still becoming infected with HIV at an alarming rate.
From Sex in the Public Square: Thinking Local on World AIDS Day
November 10, 2009
To begin with, for the record, here is the pertinent section of the Stupak-Pitts amendment:
SEC. 265. LIMITATION ON ABORTION FUNDING.
(a) IN GENERAL—No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.
People who believe that women might have valid reasons to seek an abortion outside of danger of death, rape, or incest, and who understand that many women, should they find themselves in a position where they need or want to terminate a pregnancy, would need that procedure covered by insurance that is funded, entirely or in part, by the government, find this amendment unsettling, to say the least. (See Ann, Jill, and Shark-Fu’s takes.) The idea that the amendment will probably get removed in committee? Not particularly reassuring. The idea that the amendment is only talking about induced abortion, and couldn’t possibly be used to refuse coverage of an elective D&C to remove an incomplete abortion (as in, after a miscarriage, also known medically as a spontaneous abortion)? Yeah, that one’s also not particularly reassuring. The idea that this is not a big deal, it’s just politics, we have to look at the bigger picture? That’s not reassuring, and it’s patronizing! Whee! Read the rest of this entry »
August 26, 2009
“[L]et us resolve that the state of a family’s health shall never depend on the size of a family’s wealth.”
–Senator Ted Kennedy, from his his 1980 address to the Democratic National Convention
Senator Kennedy was a complex figure indeed, even if one ignored his personal life*. Nevertheless, he helped Congress make a number of great strides toward progressive ideals**, and I expect his loss will be especially palpably felt (and has been felt already) during the continuing health-care-related struggles. I wish peace and comfort to his family and friends.
*I realize, of course, that that “even if” is pretty damn loaded.
**Hyperbolic? Oh, most definitely. After all, this is a memorial.
June 4, 2009
So much has happened lately: the issues of torture and the abuse of detainees continue to rear their ugly heads. President Obama nominated Justice Sotomayor for the Supreme Court (and the wingnuts, predictably, went completely batshit) on the same day the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8. Dr. George Tiller was murdered. On all of these subjects I tend to find myself vacillating between being at a complete loss for words and babbling incoherently, and ultimately I feel like there’s really nothing I can say that others haven’t already said better. I’m not a journalist; I need time to let things stew before I can adequately articulate my thoughts and feelings. To wit, when Evil Bender told me on Sunday that Dr. Tiller had been murdered, first I said, “No,” partly disbelieving him entirely and partly hoping Tiller had been shot and rushed to the hospital and had been thought to be dead but would actually turn out to be alive. My next response was to tear up and say, “Motherfucker.” Neither word makes for a particularly substantive blog post.
Okay, so why am I going into this now? Well, something goofy came across my desk this morning that I thought would make for a nice lighter-side post, but I was concerned that without having at least acknowledged the other things going on in the country these days, it would come off as insensitive (at the least) and/or as if I’d been living under a rock. So. There we are.
April 24, 2009
I’ve not made much of a secret in my offline life of my feelings for our local newspaper, the Topeka Capital-Journal: I’m not a big fan. I think it’s biased and poorly written/edited. (Check out an example that made it to the blogosphere a couple of months ago here.) As much as I’d like to support local print news, then, I tend just to ignore the CJ. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to avoid; today while I nuked my lunch I glanced at the front page of a copy that had been left on the break room table. The top two stories focus on Governor Sebelius and the national spotlight that’s currently shining on her. It only took a few sentences for the top of my head to come flying off (emphasis added):
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ decision to veto Thursday a bill amending Kansas law on late-term abortions occurred at a critical juncture in her bid to become a Cabinet secretary in the administration of President Barack Obama.
Sebelius, who supports abortion rights but says she personally opposes the method of birth control, said the vetoed legislation likely would have been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts.
Now, maybe they’re paraphrasing words Sebelius herself used, but a cursory search makes me dubious that that’s the case. I think that sentence conflates — whether deliberately or unintentionally — abortion (the termination of a pregnancy) with contraception (the prevention of pregnancy). At best, it’s clumsy. At worst, it reflects an anti-choice bias. Either way, it frustrates me. And the thing is, I do think it’s possible to report on this issue without writing things that make my head explode (see this article from the Wichita Eagle). So — what gives, CJ?
February 25, 2009
Jane Hamsher, in the comments of this post:
I love how these fuckers crawl out from under their slimy rocks every time there’s a Democrat in office to preach “fiscal responsibility,” which somehow always has to start with the social safety net but never quite works its way up to the F-22.
Quite. And by “love,” of course, I mean that I’m developing a dent in my forehead from banging it against the desk. Metaphorically speaking, of course.