Monthly Archives: December 2015

“La la la la I Can’t Hear You…”

As in, stick fingers in ears and repeat as necessary.

This is the reaction I have been getting to my blog, and, oddly, one I got in person yesterday.

To provide some context: I emailed a friend to ask him why I can’t seem to get any feedback from anyone except him.  Don’t get me wrong, his feedback has been invaluable to me, as it’s always dead-on and helpful.  I was asking him because I had sort of taken an informal poll of many of my other friends, asking them how they thought I could improve the blog and so on.

Every single answer I received was evasive, from suggestions I find a forum for blog writers, to just not responding at all.  In between there were comments such as, “I don’t feel qualified to say”, and things of that nature.

I was very put off by these responses, so I asked my friend what he thought.

He told me that these people are most likely uncomfortable with what I write, so they either don’t read it, or they don’t know what to say in response to it.

Aside #1: I did get some unasked-for and unwanted feedback from someone who is tangentially related to me, who wrote me several times that I am too negative and therefore am attracting negativity, and that I ought to “just not care” about all the bad things I see and hear on a daily basis. That was so far off-base as to who I am and what I am trying to do, that I couldn’t really count that as “constructive criticism”.

Anyway, he added that I should keep writing, and keep trying to raise awareness of what it’s like being poor, disabled, and over 50 in the US.  I appreciated that a lot more than anyone will ever know.

But his point about people being uncomfortable was borne out in an interaction I had just yesterday, on Christmas.

I am currently visiting my son and his wife in Memphis.  They typically have her parents and 2 family friends over for Christmas dinner and what-not.  It’s always an enjoyable time.

But after dinner, when a lot of them were hanging out in the kitchen (cleaning up and watching the cleaning up heh), I sat in the living room so I could keep one of their guests company (this was one of the family friends).

She asked about Pennsylvania.  I told her I liked it, in general, and I was volunteering at the local hospital gift shops (they have 2), but that I was glad to be elsewhere because it was starting to get me down and drive me a little mad.

She asked why.  I began to relate the “holiday dinner incident” (“Let Them Eat Cake, Replied the Food Bank Staff”), in which a friend of one of the gift shop managers made some really uncalled-for remarks about people who use food banks and food stamps.

I had just gotten to the part where I was repeating the woman saying, “They shouldn’t take so much bread”, when my listener said…

“Stop!  I don’t want to hear it!” And put both her hands up in the “stop” position – palms out, facing me.

I stopped.  I looked at her and blinked.  I thought, “Well, now, this is unusual and a bit rude.”

She went on to state, “Tell me something good.  Otherwise, I don’t want to hear it.”

So I stammered, “Um, the older ladies I volunteer with are all really funny, and I enjoy their company…”

“That’s great!” she exclaimed.  She continued, “I don’t think you should have let the woman in the gift shop say those things.  I think you should have told her to be quiet because she was being negative.”

I blinked again.

“I can’t really do that,” I explained, “as I like my volunteer gig and they can actually ‘fire’ me for saying something like that to a customer, no matter how out-of-line she might be.”

I went on to state that I use these kinds of experiences to blog, so I can let others know what it’s like out there in the real world where people say awful things.  That I hoped it would foster some kind of understanding in people as to how people like me live from day to day.

I also told her that, had she let me continue, I would have told her what I said to this customer in order to attempt to raise her awareness.

“The best thing you can do is just tell them to be quiet, then walk away.  Then forget about it,” she advised.

I replied, “The thing is, I have done things like that, and have lost nearly every job I have ever had for either telling people they were wrong, or otherwise antagonizing them.”

She said, “But that’s a good thing.”

I thought, “Easy for you to say, you aren’t going to risk YOUR job by telling others to be quiet.”

But I didn’t say that out loud.

Instead, I changed the subject and we chatted about inane things – I can’t even remember what – until the others came in.

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Relativism and Bestowing Kindness

I posted a rant on Facebook today.  It was a bit different from other angry posts I have written in the space that asks, “What’s on your mind?”

Because this one was directed very specifically at a few people I had, at one time, considered friends.

Oh, not just Facebook friends – nearly all of them are/were friends “in real life”.  From high school, and from former workplaces, these are people that I may have had what I would have considered “minor ideological disagreements” with, but whom I generally considered to be kind and decent people.

But, in keeping with this particularly “grinchy” holiday season, some decided to repost some pretty vitriolic and/or holier-than-thou passive-aggressive treatises this week.

The essays are formulaic in that they usually have a big picture on top of the text that spouts some directive such as “like and pass this on if you agree!”  Then the text that follows is often what apparently the writer thinks is a brilliant and original set of thoughts strung together but which is actually a mishmash of right-wing platitudes.

The tone of the treatise is always smug, a kind of “oh we poor, beleaguered, hard-working property owners who are being oppressed at every turn by filthy ignorants wanting equal rights and basic essentials like food and housing” textual equivalent of wailing and tearing their hair out.

Sometimes they throw veterans in the mix, as if public assistance agencies deliberately cross-check with the VA in order to steal benefits from one to give to the other.  It goes something like this: “People who have NEVER worked a DAY in their LIVES get housing and food and free utilities and free Obamaphones and free healthcare while OUR VETERANS who RISKED THEIR LIVES to KEEP YOU FREE are homeless, starving, cold, phone-less, and waiting MONTHS for a doctor’s appointment…”

I don’t know what kind of mind thinks these things up, but it takes a special kind of craftiness to twist “facts” like this.  The “fact” is, although both types of agencies are funded by public money, they have their own budgets, and their own advocates in Congress and elsewhere who lobby for funding.

“Welfare” and the VA are entities that endeavor to assist people with all kinds of issues – and that’s where the similarity ends.  They have nothing else in common, and do not share resources or funding.

But it’s important for extremely conservative people (and I use that word “people” in the broadest sense) to set up false equivalents like this because they can’t gain much support by saying:

We don’t like poor people because sometimes they smell, are often mentally ill, sometimes are disabled in ways that make us uncomfortable, don’t dress nice/appropriately, don’t fit in the middle-class life script of stable family-college-steady job-retirement, aren’t the same culturally as we are, don’t go to our church or any church for that matter, and generally make us not want to be around them or even think about them.

So it must be their fault, because WE did everything right in our lives and we’re just fine.  Why should WE pay to support people who messed up their lives?  Oh, except veterans, because…imperialism/oil/we-hate-Muslims.  And “I support the troops” is the mandatory addition to any statement criticizing US foreign policy, especially if it involves killing.  Have to make that clear – after all, we don’t want to be seen as traitors for questioning our military!

It’s quite apparent to anyone with basic intelligence that right-wing people in all classes hate the poor.  Even some right-wing poor people hate the poor!  If they had their way, which thankfully they do not (yet), everyone would be made to conform to their way of living or be locked up or given no help at all so they could just starve/freeze to death.

And, despite the zillions of times people point out the statistics that state our most vulnerable populations are children, the elderly, and the disabled, right-wingers persistently try to assert that most people getting public assistance are able-bodied young people who can work but won’t.

The “disabled” are all faking, are mentally ill (which to right-wingers means “not ill at all, just morally bankrupt/not saved/weak”), or have substance abuse issues (which, again, to right-wingers means they “just need to stop, the weaklings”).

If people happen to be born disabled, they ought to be put in institutions where we don’t have to see them or interact with them.

To someone like these mean-spirited, rather dim-witted individuals, state institutions for special-needs people are a good use of their tax money.  Because hey, it’s all about them and their comfort level, because they are so physically, morally, and mentally perfect – kind of like Aryans or something.

And Jesus loves them, don’t you know.  The Bible tells them so!  Some Bible that I guess I never studied, because in the ones I read, Jesus hung out with lepers and other “undesirables”, the same kinds of people right-wing Christians want to kill/imprison/hide away in institutions.  He even touched them and stuff!

So, the relativism the title of this post refers to?  I’m getting to that now.

I have read several things on the internet (comments and articles), and have had people state to my face that the people who speak about the poor in the disgusting and cruel manner they do “are unhappy people who aren’t aware of how hateful they’re being.”

Those people, it is asserted, deserve my kindness too.

No, they don’t.

First of all, I think they are fully aware of what they’re saying, because they say it loud and they say it often.  They can quote Faux News fake statistics to back-up their boneheaded opinions.

I do not have a poker face.  Never did, never will. So unless I am, for some reason, wearing a Halloween mask when people say these horrid things to me, they are more than aware of the reaction they have elicited.

Additionally, they often whisper or speak in low tones when they say hateful things.  That indicates they are aware that other people, in general,  would disapprove of their ideas.

Since this is hardly Seattle, and they are unlikely to be confronted about their ideas by anyone except me or perhaps Nancy Downstairs (who doesn’t suffer mean fools either), this tells me they know their ideas are unacceptable by social norms.

Know = awareness.

Next reason?  Oh yeah, they’re unhappy souls.

So?

I don’t care if they’re unhappy that their mortgage rate is too high, or that they have to pay $400/month in Medicare because they make over $200,000/year (look it up, that’s the rate), or that they hate having to choose between buying an $800 iPhone and buying a new purse – when “poor people” can get free Obamaphones!!!

“Obamaphone”: a basic cell phone (Kyocera Jax is an example of one – I know because I had one) that does nothing but call and text.  You get 350 minutes of call-time free, which isn’t a lot if you are disabled and have a lot of doctor’s appointments, or are looking for a job, etc.  You get unlimited text messages.  

It’s not an expensive smartphone.  That’s a flat-out lie.  Here is the site for it: Safelink.  They have income guidelines – you can’t just get one because you want one.

The point is, I don’t care if they’re unhappy.  They need to shut up.

To these unhappy folks I say:

Either deal with your “terrible” situation, or don’t.  But it’s not poor peoples’ faults your car payment is too high.

Yes, I guess you could reason that it is poor peoples’ faults because you have to pay taxes, and some of that money goes to social services.  And so you put down less money on your car, so consequently have higher car payments than you’d like.

Heck it can’t be the car manufacturer’s fault for the high car prices, right? (“It’s the unions,” I hear you muttering)

Or the banks, for high interest rates?

Hey, Mr and Mrs Fox News, guess what?  Many people who get food stamps or other assistance do so because their jobs don’t pay them a decent wage – the kind of wage you get.

You go look up the minimum wage and tell me how you would be able to have a house or even just a car on that amount of money.

Go on, I’ll wait.  *whistles tunelessly*

Yeah, you either didn’t do it, or you did and now you know that you cannot afford those luxurious groceries on minimum wage.   Why, produce alone will run you $50 just buying apples, onions, potatoes, basic stuff.

So maybe you don’t care – you earn a decent living, screw all those losers who work at McDonald’s and Walmart…

Ok, so let’s cut out taxes for social services.  You’ll need to pay more for police, prisons, and military because we po’ folk aren’t just going to quietly starve to death or die from health problems in our shabby apartments, we’ll be hobbling out in the streets long before it gets to that point.

We’re uppity that way.  And some of us, you just can’t kick us enough to keep us down.

Hey, when you become disabled, we’ll help you, too.  Even though you’re an asshole who probably doesn’t deserve it.  Because we think things like food, shelter, and healthcare are things everyone ought to have.

We’re not mean and nasty like you.

No, I am not going to be kind and understanding to people who have many things to be thankful for in their lives – comparatively speaking – but who are hateful in word and deed to the poor and disabled.

They don’t need kindness and understanding – they need a good dose of reality.

They need to – just once – imagine themselves in another person’s situation.  How would it feel to push a shopping cart in the streets in the middle of winter, that contained every possession you own?

Why would someone do that?  What would they be thinking and feeling?  Would they be cold? Hungry?  Depressed?  Ashamed and hurt when people give them dirty looks?

No, don’t anyone dare lecture me that I am being unkind to people who look down on people less fortunate.  My priorities are straight, thanks very much.

I am thoroughly disappointed in these so-called “friends” and their hateful posts.  Besides the disgustingly callous aspect, it’s disappointing in that they are in “monkey-see-monkey-do” mode.

Donald Trump and other Republicans can trash the poor, the disabled, the “other”, so it must be ok for them to do so too, right?

So in addition to these “friends” being morally bankrupt hypocrites, they also haven’t a brain between them that they can use to think original thoughts.

They just have unhappy lives/marriages/not enough material possessions so they’re going to take that out on the first downtrodden person they encounter – but probably not to their face.

No, they repost it on Facebook where no one can confront them or, if they do confront them, they can rally their other cowardly right-wing, pseudoChristian, xenophobic, racist, sexist, entitled, smug, holier-than-thou jingoistic Facebook warrior friends to come to their defense.

There.  I feel oh so much better!

Weirdness of the week comes from last night’s Republican debate.  Ben Carson, narcissist extraordinaire, when asked about how he felt about carpet-bombing that resulted in the deaths of children and other innocents, first replied, “Yes”, then said this, referring to children he has had to operate on (this maniac is a surgeon):

“I say to them, ‘we’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor’, they’re not happy about it, believe me. And they don’t like me very much at that point, but later on, they love me.” (“Watch Ben Carson Debate Weirdness: I Told Kids ‘We’re Going to Have to Open Your Head Up’ [VIDEO]”, Oliver Willis, Addicting Info Website, 12/16/2015)

Yeah, populations we bomb and kill eventually learn to love us for doing that.  And this man wants to be president??

Recommendation for the week: Go out and look at holiday lights in your neighborhood or elsewhere.  They can have a soothing effect, especially when you’re driving around.  I would love to do an experiment sometime on the physical effects of lights like that, and how that influences mood.  Hmmm, a dissertation idea!

Be good.  Be kind – but not to petty-minded, mean people.  It does no good and will only sadden you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Let Them Eat Cake”, Replied the Food Bank Staff

No, I don’t know any food bank staff who said this.  And yes, I know Marie Antoinette never said that (here is a link explaining the possible origins of that phrase).

It’s just a title to get your attention.  But, yes, this post will be about hunger and public attitudes.

I felt a need to write another blog post because I was in tears coming home from my volunteer gig yesterday.

It sometimes feels as if my words – either in print or verbally – have no impact, no matter how often I repeat them, explain them, or try to appeal to peoples’ humanity.

Yesterday, the bigwigs at the hospital held a holiday dinner for the volunteers.  It was pretty good.  And, aside from the administrators standing by the buffet, all in a row, wishing everyone who got food a “Merry Christmas”, it was a nice thing to do.

The administrator “line-up” is something one sees a lot in situations like these.  And, as an employee/volunteer, you are expected to thank them humbly, each and every one of them. They, for their parts, stand there looking every bit of “noblesse oblige” with smug smiles on their faces.

But, hey, I can play that game so it just pinched my heart a tiny bit.

I took my food and went back to the gift shop, as much to avoid some other volunteers for whom I did not have patience that day as avoiding the atmosphere in the room.

When I got back, the manager was there with a friend of hers who works in some department in the hospital – clerical, not clinical.  The manager is nice, and I enjoy working with her.

Her friend had always been nice and friendly, so I didn’t have a problem with her…until yesterday.

The first thing out of her mouth was, “I thought you needed your cane to walk, but I was surprised to see you go get your food without it.”  She was smiling as she said it, though the smile did not reach her eyes.

I was caught off-guard by this.  I am not used to people making personal remarks like that.  And, as usual when I am surprised, I default to the truth.  Instead of just not answering, which clearly would have been the normal option.

I said to her, “I usually do use it, but when I know I have to carry something I don’t, because then I will have several people making a fuss and trying to carry things for me, and I am not comfortable with that.  But it will make it hard on my back the rest of the day.”

She smirked.  She actually smirked!

I decided to just eat my food and let it go.

But apparently she had a bee in her bonnet or something because she decided to continue to talk to me.

“How’s the food?” she asked.

“Better than at many places I’ve eaten, like at the senior center,” I replied, since she had wrinkled up her nose as if she wouldn’t deign to eat the dinner.

“Yeah, they really don’t serve very good food at places like that,” she continued.  Then she turned to the manager and said, “I hate to even drive by those places, because I see people with shopping carts full of free bread!   They shouldn’t take so much!  I can’t afford to buy that much bread!”

I remained quiet, and continued to eat, not even looking up.

She added, “And they’re on food stamps!  What do they need so much bread for?  They’re lucky to get any food from the food bank.”

I looked up.

“It’s hard because the food bank often doesn’t have good food,” I explained.  “For example, many people give large amounts of canned corn and unhealthy food like ramen, so maybe some people supplement by using bread,” I suggested.

I added, “When I have used the food bank, it’s mostly donations of baked goods, corn, high sodium canned goods, and a lot of unhealthy things I cannot eat.  With choices like that, sometimes the bread is the healthiest, most filling option.”

And here it came…

“People who are hungry have no right to decide what they should get from the food bank.  If they’re really hungry, they’ll eat it.  And, like I said, I can’t afford to buy 6 loaves of bread, why just last week I was at JC Penney and I had to spend $24 on a pair of slacks…”

I tuned her out.

I looked at this woman, who claimed she couldn’t afford 6 loaves of bread – she had on full makeup, her hair was salon perfect, she had very nice clothes and jewelry on, as well as very expensive shoes.

My first reaction was to want to reach in my wallet, pull out $6, hand it to her, and say…

“Here you go, now you can buy 6 loaves of out-of-date bread.”

But, of course, I didn’t.  Because this woman is not worth me losing my gig over.

I tried again.  I know I shouldn’t have, but I did.

“I don’t know many people who have food stamps and also use the food bank who take more than their share,” I stated.  “And for someone to be pushing a shopping cart through the streets of Altoona during winter suggests to me that they might have a mental health issue.”

She ignored me, continuing on….”Some old woman told me that she hates food bank food because it has bugs in it!  Can you imagine?  Here she was, getting free food, and…”

Her voice took on the “wah wah wah” of a Peanuts cartoon, when the adults talk.

The last thing I heard her say was, “And that’s why I never donate to charity.”

I tuned her out for good this time.

Redefining Terrorism: Donald Trump and the Politics of Fear

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, one of the definitions of “terrorism” is “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion” (Merriam-Webster online).

“Terror” is defined as “a very strong feeling of fear” (Ibid).

According to the F.B.I., domestic terrorism has the following components:

  • Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  • Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
  • Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. (“Definitions of Terrorism in the U.S. Code”, F.B.I. website, ref. 18 U.S.C. 2331).

Keep that in mind as you read today’s post.

This post is about Donald Trump, a candidate running for the Republican Party nomination for president.

For the future readers (refer to my “About” page if you don’t know what I mean by this), Donald Trump is a very rich man who is running for president of the United States in 2016.  His grandfather made his money by owning restaurants/brothels in the late 1890s during  the Klondike Gold Rush (“Donald’s Trump Grandfather Got Rich in the Yukon with Hotels Known for ‘Female Companionship’ “, Dermot Cole, Alaska Dispatch News website, 9/12/15).

Donald Trump increased the fortune he was born with by investing in property, primarily.  I am not going to cite his biography or CV or anything, because it’s just not worth my time.  There are plenty of sources if readers want to research Trump’s background.

He has made a lot of foolish statements during his lifetime, but the latest ones are worrisome because he actually wants to be president.  He seems to have a rather large grassroots base, mostly because he parrots the worst fears and extreme hatred of some segments of the American population.

He doesn’t research before he speaks, and he even cites faulty polls or, in some cases, completely misrepresents what polls have concluded, in order to advance his ideology.

It appears, at this point, that the Republican Party does not support him or his awful ideas.

So, what prompted this blog post was a speech Trump gave on December 7, 2015, to an audience aboard the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.  In it, he literally read a proposal – referring to himself in the third person (can you see my eyes rolling?) – in which he stated he wanted to ban all Muslims from entering the US “until our country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on” (“Donald Trump’s Call for Banning Muslims from Entering U.S. Draws Condemnation”, David Jackson, USA Today website, 12/7/2015).

He also stated

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life” (Ibid).

In case you missed it, he was saying that all Muslims “believe only in jihad” and have “no respect for human life”.

He is repeating something that ultra-conservative, right-wing extremists say, that the actual religion of Islam is inherently violent, so all Muslims are inherently violent.

Other people, maybe not so political, also believe these things because:

  1.  They don’t know any Muslims personally.
  2.  They have never read any books about the history of Islam.
  3.  They have never read any books about the origins of terrorism.
  4.  They think all Muslims are Arabs who hate the U.S.
  5.  They don’t use critical thinking skills, and just believe everything that either confirms their     biases or panders to their fears of “the other”.

The San Bernardino shooters are held up as a failure of the ‘fiancee visa’ program, and of the immigration program in general.

The problem with all this is that you cannot just ban people from coming to the U.S., based on their religion.  And, until Trump started sputtering and backtracking today due to the backlash his comments received from the right, middle, and left (basically, from everyone with a brain), when he said “all Muslims”, he included American-born Muslims coming back from vacation, and Muslims in the U.S. military coming home from duty.

Trump cited Franklin D. Roosevelt’s use of internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII, stating that what he (Trump) was suggesting wasn’t as bad as that; the implication being that, if the public accepted the internment camps, they ought to accept Trump’s plan, too.

Or, as he also implied, if people thought Roosevelt was a great president, they ought to think Trump is, too, as his idea about banning Muslims from the U.S. isn’t as bad as putting them in internment camps.

However he tried to spin it, it sounded awful.  Because it is awful.

That’s like saying, “But Hitler cremated living people, and all I’m doing is banning them from the U.S. based on their religion – see how what I want isn’t bad?”

Which, as any first-year logic student can tell you, are false and patently ridiculous arguments.

And we all used to dismiss Trump as an idiot, a blowhard, and a narcissist whose world is divided into 2 parts – winners (him), and losers (everyone else).  In fact, he stated as much to Don Lemon on CNN last night (12/8/15) – I heard it myself.

He is an idiot, a blowhard, and a narcissist.  The problem is, he’s very rich, and so he has a lot of power…and he incites his base of supporters into doing some hateful things, by using a combination of whipping up xenophobic hysteria and flattery (telling his supporters how much smarter they are than everyone else).

For example, in August of this year, 2 men were arrested for beating a homeless man of Mexican nationality, and one of them told the police, “Donald Trump was right about deporting all these illegals” (“Police: Man Who Beat Homeless Mexican Said ‘Trump was Right’ “ Associated Press via the PBS website, 8/21/2015).

That was during a time when Trump was focusing on the “danger” from immigrants, particularly those from Mexico, claiming they were mostly criminals (“Donald Trump’s False Comments Connecting Mexican Immigrants and Crime”, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Washington Post website, 7/8/2015).

All he is doing now is switching “Mexicans” for “Muslims”, and attempting to reinforce and spread fear in order to…

…intimidate a civilian population, and/or influence the policy of a government by intimidation.

Now scroll up and read the F.B.I.’s definition of domestic terrorism again.

In case you need another example, after his latest gaffe speech, someone threw a pig’s head at a Pennsylvania mosque (“Philly Religious Leaders Condemn Donald Trump’s Anti-Islamist Rhetoric”, Sandy Smith, Philadelphia News + Opinion website, 12/8/2015).

Additionally, a N.Y. shopkeeper was beaten after a customer stated, “I want to kill Muslims” (“Jittery Muslim Americans Accuse Trump of Inciting Violence”, Jennie Matthew, Times of Israel website, 12/8/2015).

I would also like to add an observation about the public at large:  I have been watching “liberal” news on TV (Anderson Cooper, for the most disappointing example I can think of) actually buy into this “all Muslims are terrorists” by having “experts” such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali of the “AHA Foundation” state that “most Muslims” will react to Trump’s rhetoric by “becoming more devout”, to which she added that part of being a devout Muslim was being violent.

She stated that she rejects the word “radicalization” because violent Muslims are devout Muslims (and therefore common, not some kind of atypical minority of Muslims).

I was surprised because this woman runs an organization that, on the face of it, appears somewhat progressive, claiming to want to end female genital mutilation and other horrors. She speaks out against the “oppression of women under Islam”.

Of course, progressive in one area does not necessarily mean progressiveness in other areas, and this woman clearly blames the entire Islamic religion for the policies of extremists.

Horrors committed by a government that tries to justify them by claiming religious authority is one of the oldest cons around.  It does not mean we ought to indict an entire religion.

By using progressives to support blanket misconceptions about Muslims in general, CNN is making it ok for liberals to be as anti-Muslim as Trump.

I see that as a very dangerous thing and an attempt to deliberately mislead the American public.

For another example, I was surprised by watching Dr. Drew make some small noises of agreement for policies based on religion, as well.  And while I have no respect for him as a clinician, I do consider him a liberal.

One example of his lack of clinical knowledge is, when Amy Winehouse died, he stated that it was impossible to die from alcohol withdrawal!  That you can indeed die from that is a basic fact of alcoholism and there is no excuse for a “addiction specialist”, as he bills himself, to not know that.

Anyway, he didn’t come right out and say he agreed with “Muslim=terrorist”, but in a discussion with an audience last night, he basically shouted down any audience member who suggested that blanket anti-Muslim statements were ignorant and based on a lack of critical thinking.

It alarms me when liberals start agreeing with fascist types.  I know that often they are the first group to fold when the going gets tough (read that as “to save their own asses”), so my cynical self isn’t surprised, just dismayed – because I don’t want things to get to the point in this country where the sane people are in danger of being persecuted in some way.

Sane people like my friends, my family, and me.

I think it’s tragic and ironic that the “anti-terrorist” rhetoric coming from liberals and conservatives alike is causing my blood to run colder than anything that’s been said or done since the 9/11 attacks.

That’s real terror.

I have another blog post for tomorrow night, and will post “weird news” and my recommendations at that time.

 

No, I Wasn’t Blaming Christians…

Sigh.  I should have known better.

I got some heat yesterday for my post about the San Bernardino shootings, from Christians.

So now I feel as if I have to explain my comments, because it wasn’t my intent to upset people who have a belief system that is different from mine.

I made the comment that it pissed me off to see pictures of the survivors of the shootings standing outside the building where it happened, holding hands and praying.

YES, they have every right to do that, public building notwithstanding.  Though, technically…

Perhaps my complaint ought to rest with the press, who took the picture.  I really don’t know.

It could have ended badly for those people if Christians – or non-Muslims – were the targets. I’m pretty sure they didn’t consider that, as at that time not much was known about what happened or why.

My reaction to it was based on the continuing, nearly constant public displays of people asserting their right to pray everywhere – at least in Central PA (and they do that in Memphis, too, where I moved here from).

Also, there are the constant comments online and in the media from Muslims asserting their rights to believe as they wish, always with the caveat that terrorists “aren’t them, it’s the other guys”.   CAIR comes to mind, for example.  They can always be counted upon to deny that anyone “bad” is connected in any way to Islamic extremism.

I am not commenting on CAIR’s funding or anything else the right-wing crazies accuse them of – I am basing my comments strictly on what CAIR says publicly, in press conferences.

Basically, my message was this:  I am tired of extremists of any kind.  I am tired of people stomping around and screaming about their religious views.  ANY religious views.

And lately, it’s everywhere – this “war on Christmas” silliness that gets bandied about on public transportation and the senior van (what happened to all the progressives when they got older?), on the radio, on TV, in the gift shop I volunteer in, and so on.

On the internet, it’s Islamic extremists and their anti-Semitic rhetoric on Facebook, their insistence on using the comments section of the “Times of Israel” to troll their hatred for Jews (and Christians), and their CAIR press conferences that no one seems to ever comment on unless they are batshit, Pam Geller-like crazy.

I AM SICK OF ALL OF IT.

NO, I do not blame Christians for the attack in San Bernardino.  I made my comments, just wondering, if the constant drum-beating by conservatives and fundamentalist Christians might, JUST MIGHT, have triggered something horrible in an already unstable fundamentalist of another kind.

What those two people did is on them.  Period.

Why people cannot just be who they are, without pushing it on everyone within earshot, and deal with each other as fellow human beings, is beyond me.

I realize it is in the nature of fundamentalists to convert everyone they see, or that non-believer faces some dire consequence either by some evil spirit on earth or in the afterlife.

I think I speak for most when I say this: WE ALL KNOW THERE IS A BIBLE, AND A KORAN.  WE KNOW WE CAN READ THESE BOOKS IN THE LIBRARY OR BUY THEM AT BOOKSTORES.  IF WE DO NOT BELIEVE AS YOU DO, IT’S NOT BECAUSE WE’VE NEVER HEARD OF YOUR RELIGION.

Shut up already.  That was my only message.  To everyone.  Quit trying to proselytize everyone you meet, quit making a show of your conversations with your deity (Matthew 6:5), and don’t assume everyone believes as you do.

Don’t assume that if you threaten people on Facebook, spew Islamist extremist hate anywhere on the internet, or post videos on YouTube instructing people on how to kill Jews, that people will just turn a blind eye now.  The ‘youth group’ (as I like to think of them) Anonymous has already put you on notice.

And after the San Bernardino shootings, most Americans are probably going to be a little more watchful, and a little more willing to report the potential for terrorist attacks or hate crimes now.

And, for the sake of everything sane and moral, don’t shoot/blow up/vandalize people or places where people gather who disagree with you – this includes Planned Parenthood, mosques, synagogues, and New Age stores unluckily named Isis (you know, after the goddess).

I think that just about covers everyone.  Ok?

 

 

Shooting in San Bernardino, California

I was going to write about Syrian refugees and the difficult – if not impossible – position they find themselves in, just trying to get out of Syria.  I’ll probably publish that next week, depending on the news.

Yesterday as I left the gift shop where I volunteer, I saw a “breaking news” story on one of the televisions there.  Three Two people had entered a facility that assists developmentally-delayed people and started shooting.

14 people are dead.

There isn’t a lot of information at this point, though the shooting happened yesterday.

The latest report is that police chased an SUV into Redlands, stopped the vehicle and there was a shootout.  The man and a woman – the shooters – are dead.  A third suspect is in police custody, and not much is known about who that person is.

At least one shooter is a U.S. citizen.

The dead male shooter has been identified as Syed Reswan Farook. The dead female shooter has been identified as Tashfeen Malik.  No one is sure what her relationship to the man is, perhaps the dead man’s wife.

No one is commenting on a motive.  Initial reports indicate that one of the shooters had an argument with someone at the site of the shooting, and came back with one other person, or two other people, depending on the report, armed with AK-47s and dressed all in black.

Of course, there are the usual murmurs that it’s a terrorist attack.  NBC reports that “David Bowdich, the FBI’s assistant director in Los Angeles, said the incident was being regarded as ‘possibly terrorism’ ” (“At Least 14 Dead in California Shooting, Two Suspects Killed”, NBC website, M. Alex Johnson, Corky Seimaszko, Pete Williams, and Tom Winter, 12/2/2015, 9:49PM).

Police also found suspicious items in the building – “rudimentary explosive devices” connected to a remote control (which was found in their vehicle).  The shooters were also wearing body armor.  This apparently was a planned attack.

Some things struck me about this incident.  The first thing was, there were reports that the male shooter became angry during some kind of company function (either training or party, it’s not clear which).

I wonder if it had anything to do with the hateful, ignorant comments I hear on a daily basis about Muslims.  That doesn’t excuse the shooting, but it does kind of go a ways towards explaining it.

The second thing was, people were texting others during the attack – who does that?? – and asking for prayer.  People were seen outside, after the attack, holding hands and praying.

That pissed me off.  Sorry, but it did.  These kinds of things just serve to make whatever happened some kind of religious conflict between people and their gods.  It reduces a complicated set of circumstances to “our god will save us” and “their god is evil”.

If the Christian god was so involved in peoples’ lives, don’t you think he/she would have prevented the shooting in the first place?

When Muslims pray, do these Christians really think the prayer is re-routed to some other deity than the one they think is “all-knowing, all-present”?

What about the rest of us?  Why do we have to be stuck in the middle between fanatical Muslims and fanatical Christians?  Both groups incite and feed off one another.

Many Christians think they are entitled to force their religion on everyone, no matter where they are.  Any attempts to curb this are met with screams that they are being persecuted.

Many Muslims think they are entitled, also, to force their religion on everyone, but when they are determined to do that it is usually by violence.   Attempts to weed out the violent factions from the lesser, more mainstream followers are met with screams that they are being discriminated against.

I am sick of both groups.  Shut up already.

The rest of us don’t bother anyone.  We don’t hassle Christians for praying everywhere, and we don’t hassle Muslims for wearing hijabs.  We don’t hassle the Amish for dressing old-timey and traveling in buggies, and we don’t hassle Hassidic Jews for wearing beards and having different haircuts.

If any person does, they are usually arrested and punished in some way.  That’s as it should be.

What is the difference between, say, the Amish and fundamentalist Christians?  They both have what the rest of us might call “strict beliefs”.

The difference is, the Amish never make any attempt to convert or push their ideas on “the English” (what they call the rest of us).  They have their communities, and they follow U.S. laws and so on.  They don’t run for office or make political statements.

What on earth is the matter with these 2 religious sects – Muslims and Christians – that they cause so much destruction and heartache wherever they are?  Why is it these 2 particular religions feel that they have to get involved in politics and try to legislate their beliefs on the rest of us?

Yes, the people in these religions who do this are the fundamentalist sects.  But there seems to be no attempt made by others of their religion to tell them to knock it off, to explain to them that our country is not dictated by religious principles, and that it never will be unless they want to kill or jail sizable portions of the population.

Some people will brush this off as some kind of aberrant behavior that has nothing to do with religion.  A “workplace dispute”.  Yeah ok, but…

…we do this at our peril.  It depends on what the “workplace dispute” was about.

Was it a situation where the person had taken all he could take, hearing cracks about his culture and/or religion day in and day out?  Because, you know, anyone saying that this doesn’t happen is either very stupid or very foolish or just doesn’t want to see what’s going on.

Was it a personal situation where he just got angry about some job-related thing that happened one day?

I really doubt it, as most people do not have body armor, automatic weapons, and home-made bombs just sitting around their house for them to retrieve after some random argument.

This was planned.  So whatever “dispute” this guy had with others, it must have been pretty serious in order for him to not only do this, but to enlist the help of his wife/girlfriend to do it, too.

And they left behind a 6 month old baby.  That doesn’t sound like some random workplace dispute to me.

If we dismiss this, as we dismissed the shooting at Fort Hood in 2009 (psychiatrist enters base and starts shooting; he had contacted Al Quaeda and had become radicalized months before the shooting), as a “workplace dispute”, we’re not looking into a cause that might be preventable.

I am not sure why this seems to be such a taboo subject.  If the authorities are afraid it will increase anti-Islamic sentiment in this country by examining how this person thought and why, they’re too late.

This country is already experiencing a major anti-Islamic sentiment across the board.

I don’t think examining things is ever a bad thing.  I think it’s the only way we can understand the world.

But, of course, we just killed the two attackers, so it’s not likely we will ever know now.

And we will continue to kill attackers, because there just isn’t a decent policy in place to handle situations like these – not one that works, anyway.

This is not a good thing.  This reduces our police to combatants in a war they do not understand, battling people who may or may not have a political or religious agenda.

It will not decrease the inflammatory and disgusting language used by fundamentalist Christians, right-wing loudmouths, and now some mainstream “concerned citizens”.  And so, perhaps, the cycle continues.

If I, as a peaceful Pagan, get angry and feel intimidated by the things said on the bus by ignorant Fox News watchers, I can only imagine how someone whose beliefs are entrenched would react to people like that.  After all, they don’t even discuss Pagans.  They discuss Muslims.

And if that kind of language and pontificating upsets me to the point where I want to throw something at them, I cannot even begin to understand how upsetting it would be to a Muslim of any stripe.

I can, however, imagine how a fundamentalist Muslim who is fed up might react to it.

So, my opinion is, we ignore fundamentalists of any religion at our own risk.  Because they are not harmless.  Even if they never physically hurt anyone, they still do a great deal of damage…

…to the rest of us.

I see a big ol’ game of “let’s pretend” going on.  Let’s just ignore that there is any religious aspect to any of this, and maybe it will just go away.  Because we really do not want to offend any religious people, except for maybe Pagans and Rastas and other “weirdos” (who are usually the first ones rounded up and jailed/killed during a fascist regime).

We need to have a serious conversation in this country about what constitutes “religious freedom”, and what is just pushingpushingpushing beliefs on the community at large.

Christians are going to have to take a hard look at some of their brothers and sisters and examine how their religious views mask a more serious and hateful agenda. Or even just look at their flawed thinking where “religious freedom” is concerned.

I honestly think that a lot of Christians – or at least the ones I know – don’t realize how their constant assertion of their religion comes off to others who don’t believe as they do.  In other words, “smug”, and “self-righteous”.

A brief example would be of a woman I volunteer with.  Someone she didn’t know died in her apt building last week.  Yet this woman approached the man’s relatives as they were cleaning out the man’s apartment to ask if he had “known Jesus”.

She didn’t even know these people!  But she told me she just had to ask because she was so afraid the man had gone to hell “for not knowing our Lord”.

She didn’t see a thing wrong with that.  And therein lies the problem.

I have a friend who posts a lot on Facebook, who often makes the point that religions are the basis of conflict in the world.

I still believe the primary conflict in the world is class-based.

But he has a good point.  Religion can serve to justify some pretty horrific behavior, including wars.   And I think we as a society really need to have a few conversations about this.

Gone are the days of WWII, for example, when we could just declare that a god was on one side or another (America’s), and everyone seemed to just accept that and repeat it often.

But certainly not everyone felt or thought like that.  I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t.  Yes, they went to church but I never heard them express the idea that their god supported one side or another in war.

They kept quiet, though.  A lot of people kept quiet – they had to have done – because the popular culture at the time was in this “praise god and pass the ammunition” mode.

We keep quiet now at our peril.

We cannot reduce what happened to gun laws (or lack of), mental health issues, workplace disputes, Muslim terrorists, or lack of “values” (translation: Christian values).  We need to look at all aspects of what happened, with an objective eye, so we can figure out maybe how to prevent something like this happening again.

Knee-jerk reactions are not helpful.  We need people to analyze this with a dispassionate sensibility.

I wish, more than ever, that my dad was still alive.  He would have had an objective perspective on all this.  I really can’t think of anyone else who could even rise to the challenge.

Someone with “no dog in this fight”.

It’s a sad and scary holiday season this year.  I hope this is the last of the violence, but I won’t hold my breath.

Weirdness for this week: Sorry, even conducting a search that included Ripley’s Believe It or Not website, I got nothing.  Either I am just not in the mood, or my tolerance for “strange” has increased.

Recommendation for the week is a series on Netflix called “Miss Fisher’s Mysteries.”  It’s a continuing story about a female amateur detective in Australia, circa 1920.   Nearly everyone in it has English accents, not Australian – which, for me, is a good thing because I find Australian accents nearly as grating as Arkansas ones.  Anyway, it’s good for a look, even just for the costumes, sets, and vintage vehicles.

Be good.  Be kind.  Speak up and challenge people when they say ignorant, hateful things – no matter what their religion/political point of view is.