Category Archives: Politics

Don’t Tell Me That I Live In A Bubble

Don’t tell me that I live in a bubble.

 

If I lived in a bubble, I might believe that Muslims were some terrifying alien Other that I see on Fox TV, coming to blow up my family and put the bits under Sharia Law, instead of being the co-workers who shared their Friday night Ramadan meal; or the man with the Halal cart, immigrant entrepreneur with a small business, living the American dream, taking a break to bow toward Mecca; or the neighbor walking her daughter to practice, with a soccer ball and a hijab.

 

If I lived in a bubble, I might believe that all blacks and Hispanics are like those rampaging animals I see on Fox News: welfare queens, young bucks, living in the cities, smashing windows, looting stores, selling drugs, living off the hard work of people like me.  Except for the ones who live in my town, dress exactly like I do, act exactly like I do, agree with everything I say.  They’re One Of The Good Ones, and they’re how I know I’m not racist.

 

If I lived in a bubble I might believe that there’s only one way to be a man, and that it’s been the same way since forever.

 

Or that 97% of the scientists in the world are just pretending to be terrified by climate change as part of a Chinese conspiracy.

 

I might believe that it infringes on my freedom of religion for an old woman to have the right to be at the side of the love of her life as the last few minutes of fifty years count down to the beeping of a heart monitor.  I might believe that I’m being persecuted if the law requires me to serve gay customers at my bakery or florist shop, and doesn’t allow me to turn them away like my grandparents turned black people away from the lunch counter; or that them damn queers have special rights if they can’t be fired or evicted just for what they are.  I might believe that The Gay is a thing that can be cured – or that needs to be.

 

I might think that three children, siblings, adopted out of foster care as a group so the family could stay together, should be taken away from the men they call “Daddy and Papa” because all gays are child molesters.

 

I might believe that impoverished, dying small towns (but hardworking and white!) whose industry left a generation ago were paying the bills for the vast and thriving cities, instead of the other way around.

 

I might even believe that whites, straights, Christians, and men are the only people still oppressed in America, because I have no perspective on pain.

 

I could live in a bubble if I wanted to.  I’m white, straight, male, middle-aged and middle-class.

 

I could collect my white-collar paycheck, enjoy my white-collar tax cut, cash in on my stock options while the market is high.  I could go to Broadway shows and movies at Alamo Drafthouse, eat meals at fine steakhouses during Restaurant Week, go to little places in Chinatown where the locals go, and not give a shit about the wider world unless and until it came for me.
Do I live in a bubble?  I don’t live in the neighborhoods where poverty and despair fill the air like the smell of garbage.  Where the criminals are the only ones with any money, and the City lets the streets crumble.  No, I follow close on the leading edge of gentrification, and when people like me move into a neighborhood, the City starts to care.

 

That’s the bubble I live in.  But it’s a bigger bubble than the one you live in, with a lot more people in it who are not like me.  So don’t tell me that I live in a bubble just because my bubble  isn’t the same as yours.

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Two Thoughts

Not Real America

It pisses me off when I hear people talking about New York City as if it’s not part of Real America.  Hell, lots of people actually use the name as shorthand for “Not Real America”: “Maybe they do things that way in New York City, but not around here.”

Here’s the thing: as of 2015, New York City had a population of 8,550,405 people.  As of 2016, the United States has a population of 323,127,513.  Do a quick calculation, and that gives you 2.65% of the total population of the United States.  In just that one city.  Nearly three out of every hundred Americans live in New York City, and those Americans are a true cross-section of this country.  Every race, creed, color, country of origin, gender and sexuality that calls America home lives in this City.  We are Real America.

 

Two Surprise Attacks

I have in mind two surprise attacks: Pearl Harbor and D-Day.

D-Day was just the first step in a larger plan.  On D-Day itself, many units had objectives to capture roads, bridges and towns that were instrumental to the overall invasion.  By the next day, the beachheads had become supply depots, moving troops, vehicles, fuel and materiel into the breach in Fortress Europe.

Pearl Harbor caused terrible damage (though less than it could have, by purest luck), but it had no plan for follow-up, and in the end it only enraged and mobilized the enemy: awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.

Trump and his cronies wanted their first few weeks in the White House to be D-Day.  But when you kick out the only guy who knows anything about actually running a government (however corrupt he might have been), refuse to attend briefings, issue proclamations as if the judicial and legislative branches (or even the affected departments) have no input as to whether or not your will be done, and generally fly by the seat of your Nazi Chief Adviser’s pants, you don’t get D-Day.  You get Pearl Harbor.

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Guardian Angel

angel-pin-do-essay

A little over two weeks ago, I wore this pin to the Women’s March on New York.

It wasn’t just a fancier variation on the iconic safety pin, though it was also that.

When I went to the Women’s March, I was worried there might be trouble: police crackdowns, counter protesters, provocateurs…who knows?  So I wore this pin for…luck isn’t the right word.  Not nearly strong enough.  This pin is the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to magic.

I bought this pin back in college when my then-girlfriend passed out for no reason we could discover while we were walking across one of the lawns.  I gave it to her to watch over her in my stead while she was in the hospital being examined.  Nothing was found, and she never had the problem again.

Some time later, we loaned the angel to a girl in our dorm whose brother back in Romania had been in a car accident, and all she could do was worry and weep.  We gave her the angel and told her that it was good luck.  A few days later, she gave it back, no longer worried and weeping.  Her brother would be all right.

Some time after that, a girl from our dorm was raped at a frat party.  We loaned her the pin, and…she slept a little better.  She said it felt like we were watching over her and it kept some of the nightmares away.  Sometimes even magic can only do so much.

There have been others.  And it always seemed to work.  So when I say that pin is magic, I mean that it’s a ward.  It’s protection.  And if this angel is a guardian angel, as it seems to be, then it seems to watch over women.

It worked again on the day of the March, though of course we were never in actual danger that I know of.  There are logical explanations for all of the other good things that happened, too.  I’m still going to wear this pin to every future protest I attend.  May the angel protect the women around me; their enemy is in power.

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The Minor Annoyance That Destroys Other People’s Lives

I got a bit of a shock when I opened the mail yesterday: I was being charged a little over $1,000 for some tests that my doctor had ordered during my yearly physical a few weeks ago.

I didn’t panic.  For one thing, I knew it had to be a mistake.  I’ve never been charged for tests associated with my yearly physical before.  For another, well, if it turned out that my insurance coverage really had changed that much when I the company re-negotiated this year, I could cover it.

Fortunately, that turned out to not be the case.  I made a few phone calls, and it turned out that the doctor’s office had made an ever-so-tiny mistake with the billing.  A box not checked, a form not filed, something like that.  The insurance company got in touch, the situation got resolved, and no more thousand dollar bill.

It was an enormous relief, but in my relief, I got to thinking: what about the people who don’t know how to navigate the system, even to the rudimentary degree I did?  What about people who aren’t taken seriously, or who can’t speak the language well enough to make their problem understood?  Why, they’d be stuck with the thousand dollar bill.  This is how the poor get poorer.

And of course, that’s leaving out the people who don’t have insurance at all.  Chances are good that they wouldn’t have gone to the doctor in the first place.  That’s how the poor get dead.

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I Didn’t Want To Talk About This

Even more true now than it was one year ago. These people are my neighbors, and this Nazi talk about a Muslim Registry – to say nothing about the fact that an open Anti-Muslim bigot has been made National Security Advisor – enrages me.

Dreams of the Shining Horizon

Right.

A month or two ago, I gave up commenting on political blogs, and cut back severely on even reading them. I was developing a bad case of Internet Rage Addiction.  I was wasting precious, irreplaceable hours out of my life writing long, angry comments in the hopes of scoring points against people who were wrong on the internet instead of writing material I could actually publish.  I was stressed and angry.  I was even missing sleep.  I had to quit for my own health.  A few nasty fights and some irreconcilable differences with people who’d been on my side to that point, along with the closing of Pandagon, made it easy.

Then yesterday morning, some stupid bigot on my Facebook friends list posted that cute R. Lee Ermey meme that’s going around about “loosing” America to “goat humpers”.  I’m not going to link to it, still less repost…

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I Didn’t Want To Talk About This

Right.

A month or two ago, I gave up commenting on political blogs, and cut back severely on even reading them. I was developing a bad case of Internet Rage Addiction.  I was wasting precious, irreplaceable hours out of my life writing long, angry comments in the hopes of scoring points against people who were wrong on the internet instead of writing material I could actually publish.  I was stressed and angry.  I was even missing sleep.  I had to quit for my own health.  A few nasty fights and some irreconcilable differences with people who’d been on my side to that point, along with the closing of Pandagon, made it easy.

Then yesterday morning, some stupid bigot on my Facebook friends list posted that cute R. Lee Ermey meme that’s going around about “loosing” America to “goat humpers”.  I’m not going to link to it, still less repost it here.  You can Google it.  I don’t recommend it, it’s absolutely vile.

Needless to say, that stupid bigot is no longer on my Facebook Friends list.  But now the politics has come to me, and I need to speak if I’m going to have any peace.

1) Those who want to block Syrian refugees are Helping The Terrorists.  Literally.  Daesh would love it if the refugees had nowhere to go, if they had no choice but to convert or die, which is of course what the refugees are running from in the first place.  And of course, they would like nothing better than to turn this into Islam vs. The West, rather than Daesh vs. Civilization.  Of course, in their own minds – and the minds of the ghoulishly pleased bigots here in the U.S. – that’s already how it is.  This isn’t speculation.  They’ve said as much.

1a) By the way –  call them Daesh, not ISIS.  They hate that.

1b) Am I willing to take that chance myself?  Neighbor, I already am.  I live in New York City, the place that’s always either first or second on the list of places Our Enemies want to bomb.  The city that had a hole in the goddamn sky for ten years after 9/11.  I pass through Times Square and Penn Station every day.  Every day could be the day that I get blown up by some God-bothering asshole.  Of course, every day could be the day that a gas main blows up, or I get knifed for my wallet, or I get hit by a bus.  Or hell, this is America.  We could get a mass shooting that has nothing to do with anything at all.  So you sit up in your town that The Terrorists have never heard of and don’t worry.  Nothing’s going to happen to you one way or the other, and you get to be smug if I’m wrong.  Meanwhile, I’m willing to risk it if it means saving lives and spitting in Daesh’s eye.

1c) Incidentally, so is France.  We don’t get to call them cowards anymore.

1d) All this, and not a single one of the Paris attackers identified so far has actually been a refugee.  It’s ridiculous how eager some people are to play into their enemies’ hands.

2) Fuck every one of you who is using this as a justification for your existing anti-Muslim bigotry.  No, seriously.  Fuck you sideways with a rusty chainsaw.  How many of you have ever even seen a real live Muslim?  Are they even real people to you, or just some sort of faceless Other?  These people are my neighbors.  They’re the guy with the Halal cart who takes a break to bow toward Mecca before returning to serving chicken and rice – quintessential immigrant success story with his own small business.  They’re the people who went to the three mosques in my old neighborhood in Astoria and never caused a bit of trouble – good neighbors all.  And they’re the people who, at my first job in NYC, would share their Friday sundown meal with the rest of the office during Ramadan.  These people are better people and better Americans than the people calling them “goat humpers”.

2a) Judging all Muslims by the actions of Daesh is like judging all Christians by the actions of Dylann Roof.  Two interesting points of comparison there: Roof’s victims were all other Christians; Daesh’s are mostly other Muslims.  Roof tried to start a race war, but we made sure he failed.  Daesh are trying to start a religious war, and we’re letting them win.

2b) If you’re afraid of “creeping Sharia Law”, then you need to affirm Separation of Church and State as an absolute principle of American law.  If you want this to be a “Christian Nation”, with your particular sect’s dogma enshrined into law and your symbols as public monuments, you just create the precedent that whatever religion happens to be in the majority gets to make the rules to their advantage.  That way lies endless sectarian conflict, with the group in charge oppressing everyone else out of fear that they’ll be overthrown and oppressed in turn.  Most of human history, in other words.  The Founding Fathers made some big mistakes, but they knew that the only way to avoid that was to build Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state”.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  I wish I could believe I was done, but bigots never do learn and they never do quit.  Meanwhile, now that I’m getting things off my chest, I’ve got a post that I probably wasn’t going to run this week, but now that I’m speaking my mind on things, tune in tomorrow.

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Tough Girls, Class Differences and Rape Culture (Trigger Warning)

Salander

Salander was not like any normal person. She had a rudimentary knowledge of the law—it was a subject she had never had occasion to explore—and her faith in the police was generally exiguous. For her the police were a hostile force who over the years had put her under arrest or humiliated her. The last dealing she had had with the police was in May of the previous year when she was walking past Götgatan on her way to Milton Security. She suddenly found herself facing a visor-clad riot police officer. Without the slightest provocation on her part, he had struck her on the shoulders with his baton. Her spontaneous reaction was to launch a fierce counterattack, using a Coca-Cola bottle that she had in her hand. The officer turned on his heel and ran off before she could injure him. Only later did she find out that “Reclaim the Streets” was holding a demonstration farther down the road.

Visiting the offices of those visor-clad brutes to file a report against Nils Bjurman for sexual assault did not even cross her mind. And besides—what was she supposed to report? Bjurman had touched her breasts. Any officer would take one look at her and conclude that with her miniature boobs, that was highly unlikely. And if it had actually happened, she should be proud that someone had even bothered. And the part about sucking his dick—it was, as he had warned her, her word against his, and generally in her experience the words of other people weighed more heavily than hers. The police were not an option.

She left Bjurman’s office and went home, took a shower, ate two sandwiches with cheese and pickles, and then sat on the worn-out sofa in the living room to think.

An ordinary person might have felt that her lack of reaction had shifted the blame to her—it might have been another sign that she was so abnormal that even rape could evoke no adequate emotional response.

Her circle of acquaintances was not large, nor did it contain any members of the sheltered middle class from the suburbs. By the time she was eighteen, Salander did not know a single girl who at some point had not been forced to perform some sort of sexual act against her will. Most of these assaults involved slightly older boyfriends who, using a certain amount of force, made sure that they had their way. As far as Salander knew, these incidents had led to crying and angry outbursts, but never to a police report.

In her world, this was the natural order of things. As a girl she was legal prey, especially if she was dressed in a worn black leather jacket and had pierced eyebrows, tattoos, and zero social status.

There was no point whimpering about it.

On the other hand, there was no question of Advokat Bjurman going unpunished. Salander never forgot an injustice, and by nature she was anything but forgiving.

– From The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

I was in a bookstore, flipping through a copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo when I first came upon this passage.

I’d heard about Dragon Tattoo’s notorious rape scenes (and equally notorious rape-revenge scene), but I’d decided to brave it anyway. I’ve since picked up a copy, and added it to my stack of books I need to read – I’ll get to it one of these days – but that one passage struck so much of a chord in me that I need to talk about it now instead of later.
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