Saturday, February 22, 2014

I don't believe in an interventionist god.

Home again, home again.
Sleepytime Sinus Soother Tea
Dagoba New Moon Chocolate Wafer
(even though I'm saying it "duh-gobuh" aloud, I will always think Yoda in my head)

Tonight's soundtrack provided by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (thanks, for the title)...

I don't believe in god.  Not in particular.  But I don't believe that there is no god.  I'm agnostic - I stop at, "I dunno."  But if - if - there is a god, I don't believe he/she/it/they will ever intervene for or against you if you ask them hard enough.

No matter how many prayers you whisper or shout, no matter how pious, how charitable, how flawless, how penitent... god won't step in for you.  God is not going to stop that bullet.  God is not going to help you win the lottery.  God is not going to pick your team to win whilst bitch-slapping your rivals.  It doesn't work that way.  It can't.  Because if intervening is on the table, and god doesn't step in, then god is the Universe's biggest bastard.

After the Sandyhook shooting, I saw this meme start up, even on some of my sweetest friends' pages, claiming that it was the godlessness of today's society, and the absence of prayer in school in particular, that allowed this horrific tragedy to take place.  All I could think at the time was that if I was one of those parents who had lost their child, and someone said that in front of me, I don't know how I would be able to stop myself from slamming that person's face into the nearest solid object.  Repeatedly.

Think of what you're saying...  God could have stepped in?  He could have spared the lives of those little children, who were barely older than my little babies are now.  But, no, what mattered more was... what?  More divine "Likes"?  These children deserved to die for other people's lack of conviction?  That was the righteous divine action in this case - to let them die?  Why?  Because not enough of us clapped our hands and shouted that we really do believe in fairies, I mean, god? 

This country is overwhelmingly Christian (I am obviously turning my criticism more directly in the Mike Huckabee direction, here), far more than a simple majority.  What kind of numbers do we need to put up?  And how, exactly?

As I said, I'm agnostic.  Just how am I supposed to appease this vain bastard so that he'll see fit to not let 6 and 7 year-olds be literally torn apart by bullets?  How?  You can't force me, or anyone, to believe in something.  Or would he rather I mouth words I don't feel and I don't believe just to "allow" him to put the gunman's hand down?  I do believe I read something about not bearing false witness...

If god is willing to intervene, choosing to do so when it suits him, then think of the awful stuff he allows to happen.  Holocausts and wars, ethnic cleansings, pandemics and debilitating diseases.  And then there's the really, truly awful stuff I can hardly type...  The Game of Thrones stuff that, minus the dragons and the White Walkers, really does happen around this world every day.  There is no place or person that is inherently safe, sacred.  Remember, god has been letting priests rape children by the thousands for centuries.  If he could prevent any of them, why would he let a single one happen?  What child, what pious little choir boy, deserves that?

If god doesn't intervene in his own house, why would anyone think he would step foot in a schoolhouse?

As an agnostic, that's not a god I have much incentive to believe in.  That kind of god is so repellant to my psyche, I just refuse to believe that he.../she/it/they... could exist.  But I said already that I don't believe there is no god...  Just no god like that.

A Creator does not necessarily mean a Controller.  It is possible that there exists - or existed - a god - or several gods - that brought the Universe into being.  But after that?  Was the Universe just set into motion and left without any further great galactic guiding hand?  Or is there still some cosmic consciousness aware of everything that continues to pass?  I don't know.  How am I supposed to know without some kind of divine-intuitive epiphany?  I can only say that if some all-knowing, ever-present deity is out there, it is possible that it has the power to intervene but has chosen long ago not to - ever.  Perhaps our choice is absolute: free will or nothing.  And perhaps, it has never been able to change anything we do.  Is a god still a god if it isn't all-powerful?

Whatever the answers are, god still could have been present in that schoolhouse that horrible day.  He/she/it/they... could have been in the heart of the teacher sheltering a frightened child in his last moments of life, so he could know love could still exist...  God could have been throughout all the halls and classrooms in Sandyhook Elementary, giving comfort to those who could feel it, in the face of the greatest horror...

And maybe god doesn't will the other team to lose, but maybe the personal solace your favorite wide receiver feels in his relationship with his lord and savior gives him the strength that carries him to the end zone, oh so fleetly...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

You don't have to take it anymore.

The Couch
Cinnamon Sugar Kettlecorn
Some kind of tea if I can persuade my sweet, wonderful, considerate partner to make me some...  And good old Sleepytime, it is!

This going to be more rushed and more random than my usual stream-of-consciousness blogs.

There's another racially-charged, "self-defense" trial that was just decided by a jury.  Mostly decided, I should say.  I just finished reading some of the details of the verdict and an overview of the incident.  It started with a confrontation.  Old white guy v. young black punks, re: loud music.  It ends with the white guy firing off 10 shots and one black kid dead.

Was it self-defense?  Was there a weapon that the other kids in the car disposed of?  Did one of the kids get out of the vehicle, as the defendant claims?  Did the defendant return to the car with the intent of killing at least one of the kids in it?

The jury decided on the lesser charges of the trial - guilty - and it will cost the defendant at least the next 60 years of his life.  Basically, the long slow death of incarceration.  But the jury could not say whether or not they believed it was outright death by intention - murder.

It struck me, as I was reading this, how the defendant - the man who unarguably shot at and killed a younger man, just 17 - he decided to turn himself in.  It reminded my of how George Zimmerman never denied killing Trayvon Martin, and how he "fully cooperated" with the police investigation.  Clearly, both of these men felt they had every right to do what they did, and no fear of any repercussions.  Somehow they each felt entitled to engage in a hostile confrontation with a stranger and then kill that stranger when the conflict was not otherwise resolved.

Aside from the other awful, troubling aspects of this trial, it illuminates how terrible we are as a society at conflict resolution.

Gurus and fad psychologists have have been trying to tell us how to deal with our emotions for millennia.  Despite that, we are not very far along.  We are, collectively, vastly immature.  Part of the problem is finding the right words that make it click for each individual.  For me, advice like, "Don't let it get to you," has never stopped it from getting to me.  Then this story - yet another story or confrontation turned to tragedy - brought something to my mind that made it all click.

Imagine a man or woman arguing with someone they may have never met before.  Their adversary is shouting, throwing all kinds of unfair insults, showing the worst kind of disrespect.  Imagine that first man or woman rising to their feet with the declaration, "I don't have to take this anymore!"  The trick is... no, you don't have to take it anymore.

Just because someone is behaving disrespectfully to you, that in no way changes whether or not you deserve respect.  Nothing they are doing or saying is you, and none of it can change who you are.  It's their actions, their behavior, on display.  It has nothing to do with you.  Imagine all that vitriol as a giant wave of bull pucky raging your way - but it can't touch you.  It breaks around you on a sphere of your own self-awareness, certain that no one can really disrespect you - only you can.

Think Moses.  Think X-Men.  Whatever helps you visualize it.

Just don't take it in.  It's not yours.  So some kids are playing their music too loud and they are doing what you have asked them to.  So what?  You can't be good, considerate people for them.  That's on them.  It doesn't make you weak to be mistreated.  The abuser is the weak one for living as a "lower" human being.  For you to be the higher human (stop giggling, Beavis), you have to leave their lowness outside of you.

Respect is about how you behave, not how you are treated.  To think that your worth, in any way, is dependent on other people's behavior, takes all your power away and gives it to others.  You have no control over anyone else.  Waiting for other people to treat you nicely, to like you, will only make you vulnerable and insecure.  Stressed-out.  Trigger-happy.

So you do what you can to set things right - speak your peace, defend yourself, body, mind, and spirit.  Call on others to come to your aid, if you need to.  Just make a noise complaint and be done with it.  Or, turn the music down and shrug off that cranky old person.

There are so many other ways to say it... just let it go.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hey, Nick Jr: Where my bitches at?

Mix Sweet Shop
12oz Half-Caff Soy Mocha
French Onion Tart

It's okay, mom - I'm talking about female dogs.  Specifically, I'm talking about the lack of female dogs on Nick Jr.'s show "Paw Patrol."  Let me just jump out of the gate and say that I will not be starting any petitions over this.  There are a lot of things to get all hot under the collar over, and this is not one of them.

I'm just disappointed in you, Nick Jr.

The boys discovered Paw Patrol shortly before I did, so it was already too late to guide them elsewhere.  There are certainly more annoying kids' shows out there (don't get me started on Bubble Guppies) but what bothers me most about this one is that its sin is sooooooooo ooold:

Gender bias.  Aren't we done with this?

So the set up is that there are about half a dozen rescue dogs that make up the Paw Patrol team, and one 10 year-old boy who trains them and co-ordinates the rescue operations.  The pups have specialty backpack type things with gadgets and special vehicles they ride around on (pretty obviously designed for the toy store shelves).  There's a police pup, firefighter pup, recycling truck pup... and some others (I haven't made a meticulous study of the half-year old show)... and then there's a helicopter pilot pup.  And that last pup is the only female on the team.

And she's all in pink.

The rest of the town seems fairly diverse, at a glance, with a dark-skinned female mayor, for instance.  But the jobs of the lead characters still fall into their stereotypically male-dominated paws.  And the tiny token female is pink. Why is it always fucking pink!

I've been trying for years to make my peace with pink.  There are certain (natural) shades I can deal with, but I object so strongly to the branding of femininity as a color, that even the most benign occurrences of this color - little pink roses, pretty sunsets - make my stomach clench, oh, just a little bit.  It's not (always) the shades that offend, it's what they are meant to represent: delicacy, fragility, immaturity... Even the "sassy" shades of shocking pink, still demand self-expression within the given hues of cultural obedience.

Yes, I know, it's just a kids' show.  But so is Dora the Explorer, and Dora kicks ass.  Pink stuff with Dora doesn't bother me as much because it's more incidental, not a uniform.  She is the lead character of the show and she is smart and resourceful (and woefully unsupervised in some shockingly dangerous territory), and she gets to run around in orange and red t-shirt and shorts.  Yes, she wears pink dresses sometimes, but she also wears other colors and other outfits.  She has been the knight to the rescue, and she didn't have to wear pink armor to do it.  In other words, she is a well-rounded, developed character... as far as cartoon characters go.

Dora has been around for years, too.  She is basically the face of Nick Jr.  And she is not the only good female role-model out there.  Most of the time, we see great examples on that network, on the shows and in the in-between spots, of gender equality and good all-around life lessons.  So how, with all that self-awareness about treating people the same, despite any differences in gender or culture or ability, does that forward thinking network develop a new show (just this last summer 2013) with the same gender throw-back thinking?  Why do people have such a hard time creating normal, neutral female characters?

Could it be that media keeps rehashing the same anti-feminist themes?

Even strong shows like Yo Gabba Gabba (which we all love), still offer the same female archetypes to choose from: girly Foofa or Tomboy Toodee *coughdykecough*.  What archetypes do Muno, Brobee, and Plex represent?  Can't pinpoint them, hunh?  (And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, go to YouTube and look up the awesomeness that it YGG... I'll wait...).

My suggestion to writers, producers, and storytellers everywhere who seem to struggle with this idea of girls being and doing whatever the hell they feel like being and doing, is to assign the gender last.  Write out the attributes of the character - their interests, abilities, challenges, physicalities - and then flip a coin to pick whether that person - or anthropomorphic personification, thereof - is a boy or a girl.  Heck, borrow a D20 from your D&D pals and assign more complex combinations: 1-pretty girl, 2-pretty boy, 3-average girl... 14-average boy with a slight limp...  You get the idea.

When I was younger and struggling to settle on a career path, my gender never entered my decision making process.  I ultimately decided on becoming a math/physics major, but I ended up in a women's history class one semester.  I was shocked by the number of women in my class who were surprised by my major.  They had always been told that girls couldn't do math.  This stunned me.  I had somehow never gotten that messaging.  And, perhaps more importantly, I had been raised by a single-father who valued logic and learning, and who never refused to answer any of my questions because I "wasn't old enough to understand" or because I was the girl and wouldn't I rather run along and play with some dolls...

Well, unless my brothers were going to let me play G.I. Joes with them... but after dad explained what I wanted to know about the structure of the Universe...

What if we just treated everyone like that?  Like the only thing that mattered really was on the inside.  There might still be gender disparities in some fields, but they would be the naturally arising disparities and would not carry the stigma that "cross-over" professionals (male nurses, female firefighters, etc.) still have to deal with today.

C'mon, Nick Jr...  You're so close.  You could be a full part of the solution.

Just mind the bitches.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Because I don't have Stockholm Syndrome...

Downtown Grounds
16oz Soy Lavender Mocha
Lemon Muffin

It's Sunday and it's my Out Day.  My week is askew.  But I saw a post on my fb page from one of my many coffee roosts - they are open today and if enough people come visit, they can justify being open Sundays from now on.  I hear your call, oh, coffee sirens...

So, I have about an hour, before their experiment concludes and my battery dies, to make my political perspective clear.

Ooo - even my blog bots just got their hackles up...

I call myself an "Independent Blue."  I don't believe in dogmatic adherence to any party.  I think it gets in the way of objective reasoning.  Maybe it's the scientist in me, but I believe the only way you stand a chance at getting to the truth of any situation is by allowing yourself to be wrong.  It becomes less painful to your ego to just assume that you are probably wrong about at least some of what you believe, and it's much more healthy and productive for everyone in the long run.

In the truest sense of the words, without any fear of their current word-associations, I would consider myself a "conservative progressive."  Conservative in my approach, but progressive in that I think we've still got a long way to go to live up to our sacred charge of being a free and equal society.  In other words - do big things, but don't do big things dumb.

I am guilty, though, of filtering my votes based on political affiliations.  I used to say that I could consider voting for a reasonable, middle-of-the-road kind of Republican.  I can't say that now, because all Republicans vote too regularly down the line, even on the most unreasonable measures.  So, when I look at a ballot and see a tight race, I almost always vote defensively for the Democrat, because I consider it too directly risky for my family to allow another Republican vote.

And I don't mean that in a hyperbolic way (like those Dish commercials that start with you having cable and end with some outrageous conclusion, like your dad getting punched over a can of soup, or you selling your hair to a wig shop).  I mean that Republican policies have directly affected the life of my family.  I have talked about receiving SNAP and WIC benefits.  Those have been slashed - no, really, slashed - over the past few years whenever Democrats failed to stop Republican policy measures.  And unless the Senate votes down the Farm Bill, they are going to get hit again by another $8.7 billion.  The really sick thing I just learned today is that those cuts target blue states - including mine.

This is some of the comment I just sent to my two otherwise decent senators...

I am angry that the Farm Bill would cut food stamps by $8.7 billion, at a time when soup kitchens are running out of food.

My husband and I are the working poor.  We receive food stamp benefits which have already been slashed.  We've lost almost $100 as benefits keep getting chipped away or outright hacked off.  Even with our tax refund coming up, it will not be enough to get out of the hole we've already had to dig this year.  How bad will it be by next year?

How does anyone think this is a liveable compromise?  All this will do is hurt us and hurt every business where we would be spending our precious few dollars.

I'm tired of being vilified as a "taker" for utilizing a service I have already paid for.  We are "makers" too - we "make" the market for these so-called "job creators."  Without us, there will be no one left to buy their products and services.

I know it's hard to prolong this stupid battle and delay all the good things that are in the Farm Bill.  But this is not a compromise - this is capitulation and my little boys are the ones that are forced to deal with the consequences. 

Please, reject this bill.

...Okay, that was my entire comment.  I should note that the first line was not mine but part of the pre-written suggested message in the comment field of the petition thingy I was signing.

As for other Republican policy that I consider directly dangerous to me, to be flippant, let me just say: "MY uterus - MINE!"

And now, here are the caveats...   Being averse to Republican politicians does not make me pro-Democratic politicians.  I have about zero inherent love for any politician and, if I consider it "safe" to do so, I will generally vote for a third party candidate. 

And I don't disparage any person who calls themselves a Republican.  It's the politicians I have a problem with.  If the actual policy-makers made policy that reflected the rhetorical principles of the party - responsible investment of public funds, protection of peoples' personal liberty - I could totally get on board with that.  But when you examine what they are actually doing - restricting my rights to my body, restricting voting access and rights, undercutting fair pay and overall economic stability - that is the exact opposite of what they are supposed to support.

The problem is that both sides are guilty of waging war against strawmen.  I'm sure some of my facebook re-posts about marriage equality and economic inequality can probably chafe some of my conservative friends and relatives, just on principle.  I do make a point of trying to avoid the ones with the more snarky titles or gross generalizations (really, I do).  But, frankly, if you use the term socialist, or dictator, or anti-Christ, you've lost your seat at the grown-ups table.  I have plenty of criticisms of Obama, but none of those terms apply.  They are empty words by people who are trying to gin up your emotions so they can manipulate you into attacking the people who don't back their agenda.  When you have made liberal use of a dictionary, and a little impartial history, I welcome an objective discussion on the matters at hand.

Okay, that sounds a little snarky, but I am really not being dismissive.  I really, really do want a conversation - many conversations - with people who don't think like I do.  I regret the amount of MSNBC I watch because I think it's intellectual laziness to approach every political discussion with a default bias.  Unfortunately, CNN has made itself generally unwatchable, and PBS News Hour (probably the least biased you can get) isn't running when I'm looking for an update on the days events.  And, of course, I can't stomach FOX "News" because I don't have Stockholm Syndrome.

But as much as I want to bring all my friends, relatives, and respectable strangers to the table to talk, I just can't expend the energy defending myself against views I don't hold:

I don't hate the 1%.
I don't hate capitalism.
I am not a tax-crazy "libtard."
I don't want big government.
I don't hate the troops.
I don't hate freedom.
I don't hate religion.
I am not a Communist, socialist, or fascist.
I don't want to impose my views on anyone.
I don't want to emasculate men.
I don't want to murder the unborn.
I don't want to take your guns away.
I don't want to take anything away from anyone.
I am not a taker.
I don't hate work.
I am not lazy, immature, or inherently irresponsible.
I don't think I'm entitled to indulgences of any kind.
I don't want anyone else's money - I want my money back...  All of us, who have worked and worked for years without full compensation have a right to demand fairness... to demand change.

Oh, I'm sure there's more.  The point is that it's not just me who defies the Strawman stereotypes.  I cannot think of a single Blue-minded friend of mine who actually espouses any of those beliefs.  And if I wanted to, I could easily come up with a counter-list of all the stupid, hyperbolic things people say about "those right-wing nut jobs."  But if you find that hard to believe, that the Other side is not, in fact, out to destroy America, you'll have to stop shaking your pitchforks at the Strawmen and sit down at the table... and speak... and listen.

The truth is there are no "Others."  We are not members of warring clans, or ancient football (or futball) rivals, forever to be locked in battle... or until we get traded around for a sweeter endorsement deal.  What we are is family.  Human beings.  We are logical and unreasonable, angels and demons, to our own varying degrees.  And we all can, and should, change our minds from time to time, if you'll let us...