Sunday, December 28, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
USA Today is reporting that obesity is on the rise in China, along with the standard health conditions that come with it, such as Type 2 diabetes. For me, this set off a series of contemplations about Michael Pollan.
For those of you who don't know who Michael Pollan is (and I'm assuming there will be only a few of you since he's quite famous right now), he's the author of The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and his latest, In Defense Of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. In Defense of Food was written as a follow-up to the Omnivore's Dilemma in which Pollan points out the disparities and hypocrisies in our food systems (including the organic industry). Apparently after reading 300-400 pages of expose, people wanted a solution. So Pollan told them as much, in small words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
It's a pretty simple solution. He advocates short ingredient lists (also known as "nothing on the ingredient list that your grandmother wouldn't recognize"), buying local, growing your own, and a few other simple solutions. He talks about the need to get away from the "Western" diet which focuses on processed foods and a lot of synthetic corn. One of the things he points to, which I think is especially relevant given this new report out in China, is that as soon as the Western diet is introduced to a culture, obesity and the typical round of Western health problems follow (heart disease, diabetes, etc). It doesn't seem to really matter WHAT diet people are on, as long as it isn't ours.
SO, knowing what we know, why is it still so hard to follow? I think one reason might be that his directives run the nebulous knife's edge of both easy and particularly difficult at the same time. The solution is TOO simple. For people who are accustomed to the exhaustively minute details of the ordinary diet book, six words of advice can seem- well, it can seem a little baffling. There aren't concrete steps and there aren't levels of measurement to make sure that you're progressing the way you "need" to. It's also difficult because to live those six little words means you put a lot more time and effort into your eating habits (more time cooking, more time shopping, more time in a garden, more time planning). Doing that can be a huge lifestyle change and everyone (especially at Christmas) knows how hard major lifestyle overhauls can be.
This year, I tried to follow those six words. I planted a garden (and herbs), I cooked twice as much as I usually do, I went the the Farmer's market and shopped as locally as I could, and I planned out my meals better. I think the hard part for me is the letting go- the feeling that there's something more concrete that I should be gaining other than a feeling of generalized wellness. This upcoming year, I'll try even harder to stick with this- to believe that it IS what works- to stop believing that all the marketed "low fat" "low carb" "diet" "sugar-free" chemical stuff is better for my body than the stuff that grows in the ground. Viva la FOOD revolucion! Spread the word!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
1) Anyone who ever tries to tell you that the answer to poverty is a one-hit solution is either a) ignorant, or b) trying to hit you up for money
2) The concept behind microcredit that I have always had a problem with is that it presumes that old American/capitalism concept that if you just work hard enough (i.e., take out a loan), you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and be successful. It doesn't take into account the fact that poverty is geopolitically, globally, socially, and demographically influenced. In a lot of ways, micro loans are just a smaller way of throwing money at a problem that demands a much more complex solution.
Anyway, check it out if you have a second.
Monday, December 15, 2008
So lately I've been thinking a lot about radical self-acceptance. I got out of a relationship a couple months ago and the heaviness of the sorrow had taken about fifteen pounds off me because I was simply too sad to eat. Regular exercise and a better diet have given me back some of my energy and weight and, while I've been grateful for it, the old eating disordered thinking raises its head whenever I have to watch that scale rise. It's always hard, even when it's for the best.
In the upcoming edition of "O" magazine, Oprah talks about her guilt and shame for once again allowing her weight to spiral up to 200 lbs. All my favorite feminists are talking about it- about how such an amazingly talented, gifted, smart, successful, beautiful woman is so beholden to her weight that it actually drives her to public confessional. We all know that body snarking is one of the foundations of our modern society, but I think Oprah is just a very extreme example of how a woman can be one of the most influential and powerful people in the entire world and STILL, STILL be beholden to constructs about how she's "supposed" to look. It's tragic. It's tragic to me that Oprah and I spend SO much time and energy on this stupid subject. Kate Harding writes:
"Some days, you feel like it would be so much easier to take on that old part-time job again — especially when you’ve done it so many times, for so many years, you could do it in your sleep. All you have to do is carve out three or four hours a day to exercise more vigorously, obsess about what you’re going to eat next, and prepare it; stop listening to your body and only pay attention to your food plan and workout schedule; cut out some hobbies and social time to make room for the job; recall all the tips and tricks for not eating at holiday gatherings, at restaurants, at your dear friends’ houses, at your own birthday party; retrain yourself to believe that salad dressing — let alone artisanal bacon, creme brulee, whatever — doesn’t taste good enough to warrant its negative effects on your job performance; talk constantly about what you’re not eating and how great it makes you feel, in hopes that some of your friends will join you at this lonely little workplace; and — most importantly — continue to believe with a religious fervor that your body is an ugly, hateful thing that must be punished and diminished. As long as you really believe that, the rest isn’t so hard to keep up, once you get used to it (again).
Some days, all that sounds a hell of a lot easier than resisting the messages — especially when you think of all the praise you’ll get once you’ve lost a noticeable amount of weight, or how good it will feel when you get to put on a smaller dress (though that feeling goes away quickly, as it must, or else you might lose your motivation to keep going). How proud and in control you’ll feel — again, for a few minutes at a time, for as long as it’s working. How much better people will treat you, as long as there’s less and less of you. I totally get that.
But I stopped giving in to it. And boy, I wish you would, too — because you’re way too smart to take that sucker bet yet again. "
Some of you know about my deep, long-standing girlcrush on Ani DiFranco. If you don't know her, if you haven't listened to her, I'm embedding a small reason to start. Because this is a woman who GETS this concept:
Love is all over the place. There's nothing wrong with your face.
PS- Sorry about the commercial up front. Damn WSJ and their moneymaking ploys! :)
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
For this reason, it's always hard for me to wrap my head around the concept of losing friends. I'm not talking about the typical, "She moved 3000 miles away and we gradually lost touch but if we ran into one another there would be hugs and laughter"- I'm talking about the conscious decision to terminate a relationship with someone you love. If you've had friends that have been around for a few years, the likelihood is that sooner or later stuff is going to come up and the decision will have to be made whether to try to stick it through, work it out, or leave.
So when do you leave someone? And, if you leave, is there ever a time when it's okay to come back again? Does leaving someone mean that you didn't love them enough? Does returning to someone whom you've left indicate that time heals all wounds, or does it establish a return to old habits, addictions, cycles that will cause history to repeat itself?
Obviously, these questions are a case-by-case sort of thing, as is any personal relationship. There is no diagnostic book that can tell you the signs and symptoms of emotional regression within a particular relationship. However, I guess the reason I post this post is this: sometimes we have to leave. Leaving is not the worst thing. It is just one of a few uncomfortable options when problems arise. It can be the wrong choice, and it can be the right choice. And, just because it's the right choice now, doesn't necessarily mean that returning is the wrong choice later. Unlike chemical elements, people change and relationship compositions change.
(end streamofconsciousness word vomit) :)
Monday, December 1, 2008
So there's this great quote on Shakesville (which is quickly becoming one of my top favorite blogs EVAH) and I wanted to post it here but it seemed like posting it, without context of WHY I think it's such a great quote, would somehow lessen it.
Doing the Monday morning read-through of the newspapers and the blogs, I found the following:
1) Salon has a front page spread about Charles Graner, one of the guards convicted in the Abu Ghraib scandal. Roommate L and I were talking about the article and whether or not the sentence he is serving is a just one:
me: Did you read that article in Salon today/yesterday about the Abu Ghraib guard?
2) There's a post over at Racialicious (probably one of the healthiest blogs for me or anyone to read) about Native American stereotyping and how common and harmful it is. I recommend reading it, as well as visiting all the links provided, as well as reading the lengthy and heated commentary that follows the posting. One of the posters seemed SO hostile to me in her challenges to other commentators, but Latoya (owner of Racialicious) had a different take on it:
Kathy-Oneida Nation is quite correct. It does get tricky when someone purports to comment on the nature of a community that is not their own. Now, I can only speak to Rob - not as familiar with Jess, but I’ve been working with you, Rob, since I’ve been on this blog - and I understand where you are coming from. We’ve checked Newspaper Rock for a while, and Rob actually does do good work with reference to bringing awareness to issues within the Native Community, particularly in reference to stereotypes.
However, Rob, this is part of the process. I know that you and Jessica have knocked heads before about this. And to be honest, that is going to happen. Tim Wise often writes about how he doesn’t expect anything from the communities he discusses in his anti racism work - he is often met with mistrust, but he acknowledges it is with good reason.
Carmen and I run a multiracial blog - we get hit all the time with questions about why we cover the things we do, and who we allow to cover certain issues. Often, if we are called by the media, we are asked to refer them to someone that is a part of a certain group - a transracial adoptee, or maybe a Muslim woman who is also African-American. Could Carmen and I talk about some of these issues? Sure we’ve posted on it enough, done our own research.
But most of the time, producers want someone who speaks from that experience. It isn’t just for the authenticity factor - it’s also because a lived experience can provide insights that you just cannot duplicate with research and observation.
And this is why we - and I would caution everyone on this blog to do the same - tread lightly when we cover issues outside of our own experiences. We all internalize stereotypes, and we can all make mistakes. And it is only by listening and learning that we move forward.
Here's the quote:
"This is why we've all got to be consciously, deliberately, vigilantly all in. We each make a difference in this world, for good or ill. There is no neutral. There is no Switzerland. There is only saying no to the indignities one human visits upon another—prejudice, hatred, humiliation and pain—or saying yes. And sometimes there is only stopping and kneeling and laying your hands on a stranger and putting your own body in between theirs and a herd of the unconcerned.
Always, every moment of every day, we must remember that kindness really can be a matter of life and death."
Monday, November 24, 2008
A law is expected to pass in east Indonesia mandating that people with HIV be implanted with a microchipping device so that the government can "monitor" the disease and hold people accountable who are "deliberately" passing it on.
Ok, let me get this straight, instead of, you know, EDUCATING people about the disease in a mass public health campaign, providing condoms and programs to destigmatize condom usage, working to make sex work safer, confronting the issue of drug abuse and substance abuse etc., you want to MICROCHIP PEOPLE???
Wow. Just, wow. Because, you know, having HIV doesn't already SUCK ASS ENOUGH, they should definitely take away personal freedoms and infringe on people's civil/human rights. Because sex is evil people. Sex is evil and if you have sex and you get an incurable deadly disease as a result of having sex, well, then it's your own fault you're treated like dirt (and this totally includes victims of rape, incest, etc. btw. Oh and child sex workers too. EVIL SINNERS ALL OF YOU!) I love it when governments and religion combine and create oppressive openly-hostile regimes that use their power and moral superiority to further victimize already vulnerable populations. Oh and this will TOTALLY stop the spread of AIDS btw. Because now, instead of utilizing health facilities, people who don't want to be implanted, tracked, and potentially criminalized are going to completely avoid getting tested at all. And ignorance is bliss. No doubt the rate of HIV will drastically plummet- a success story for the Indonesian government! (Non-alcoholic drinks all around!) Strangely though, people will keep dying at about the same rate.... hmmmm.... Well, you can't solve everything!
Using religious values to legislate ends up hurting people time and time again. Religion, at its best, is supposed to appeal to our better natures, to bring out our better selves. Every religion acknowledges that this is a process and that everyone makes mistakes and everyone slips up. Unfortunately, (leaving out the small little detail that everyone's concept of religion is different, even if you fall under the same name umbrella), religion is not working with what is real. The reality is that, like it or not, legislate it or not, people have sex and do drugs and get diseases. When we stop looking at what "should" be and start looking at what "is," it's very easy to realize that rather than castigating people for actions that we may not approve of, it's far more productive to stop all the judgemental bullshit, roll up your sleeves, and start utilizing methods and techniques that WORK. And, just in case you were wondering, Indonesia, the whole microchipping thing? Not on that list.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Today, walking back from lunch at Wild Oats, there were two guys begging on the corner. I noticed that they were different than the normal homeless people who usually beg on that corner because their signs were bigger- one seemed to have been made from a washing machine box- and said, "Houseless" instead of "Homeless", as if to state that the situation itself left nothing lacking.
As I passed, the one sitting down called out to me, "Hey! Wanna take me home? I'll do dishes, I'll wash your car, whatever you want." And, as I laughed, he seemed satisfied and turned away. I walked up to them, and noticed that they were only kids- maybe early 20's at best. I asked them what they were doing and they told me they were traveling, that they had come from New York and were on their way to San Francisco. They were happy and light hearted and laughing, complaining about the cold and the fast-approaching snow. It was easy to see that San Francisco was the golden light at the end of the tunnel- the place where everything would be warm and happy and alright, but that they were in no great hurry to get there.
And I wanted to help them. Not for the reason that I would normally give money to a homeless person, out of sorrow, out of incredible sadness. But because something in them embodied a youth that I sometimes feel is slipping silently away from me. A freedom that is lost in the daily grind. The longing that wrenches at me from time to time- for space and open air and no backward glances. In a way, it was comforting to know that such a pair exist. Even if it is not me, at least I know it is not lost.
"Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road."
Friday, November 14, 2008
Two positive things before getting on to the yucky stuff:
Gardasil may be an effective HPV vaccine for men as well as women. This article made me smile, remembering a conversation I'd had with Dianne Fuller, a Salt Lake SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) nurse, and one of my personal heroes. She occasionally does clinical hours at Planned Parenthood and I swear, every time I am around her, I turn into this starstruck teenager, stammering and stuttering awkwardly while trying to follow everything she does as closely as possible. ANYWAY, so we were having a discussion about Gardasil a while back and all the protests that parents have made, arguing that giving teens this vaccine will push them into having sex early. Dianne harumphed about how ridiculous it was and then snapped, "and you can BET if I had a son, I'd be shooting him up with Gardasil just the same as I would any girl. It never hurts to be cautious." Looks like her genius prevails again. :)
The International Criminal Court may be pressing charges against Omar al Bashir (Sudan's "president") for using mass rape as a weapon of genocide. If it passes, it will be the first time in history that rape as a weapon of genocide has been charged against anyone. As far as Darfur goes, there are complications with the ICC pressing charges against Bashir and everyone is not all on board with it, but as far as this particular charge goes, I think if it happens, it will truly be a victory for rape victims worldwide. Acknowledgement that rape is a weapon of genocide will help bring justice to the millions of women (and men and children) who have been victims of rape at the hands of oppressors. (The horrific circumstances in the Congo happening right now come to my mind.) It would be a small but significant victory if Bashir is prosecuted for rape.
Other than that though, it's been a bad week for women all around.
- Four Afghani girls were sprayed in the faces with battery acid on their way to school. The Taliban doesn't approve of women receiving an education and similar attacks like this have been reported 236 times this past year. All four of the girls were hospitalized and two of them are permanently blinded.
- A 13-year old Somali rape victim was stoned to death, while thousands of people watched and cheered.
- Duana Johnson, a trans woman, was shot and killed in an execution-style murder on the corner of her block. If you haven't heard of her before, she is the woman who was the victim of filmed police brutality after being arrested back in February. She was in the process of pressing charges against the Memphis police when she was killed.
We can support government officials who make international women's rights a priority. We can give money and time to organizations here and abroad that work with sexual violence and women's reproductive health. We can look at our own prejudices and biases regarding sex and sexuality and transgender people and make sure that these issues are something that we've worked through, rather than things we don't face until they bite us. We can teach our children to look at the world honestly and examine their prejudice and biases. We can talk about these things until people who would not normally listen, start listening. It's nothing as direct as I'd like- I'd like to rescue that poor little girl all alone in that stadium of so many angry voices, I'd like to offer protection to each brave girl and woman who keeps on going to school despite the risks, I'd like to warn Duana Johnson ahead of that gunshot. But I can't. I've got one life to live and it isn't in Somalia or Memphis or Afghanistan. It's here. So I do what I can here and pray it's enough.
Monday, November 10, 2008
It's easy to be upset over this because it seems like such an obvious cut and dry case- the black community must be homophobic if they're voting like this, and, it's worth being upset at them because they might just have been the deciding factor on this issue. But obviously, when things seem that cut and dry, there's more going on. I wanted other perspectives so I've done a little bit of research. If you want a black perspective, I advocate going to Racialicious and checking out the compilation of links from black bloggers that they've acquired on the subject. It's very interesting and opens up more perspective on this issue of blame.
But basically, I've been thinking about it, and you know what? It's not my issue. It's not my issue who black people decided to vote for as a demographic. I cannot claim them as my demographic and thus, cannot blame them on issues as complex as this either. I think that the farthest I can go in respect to the black vote, would be to express surprise and disappointment that their demographic would support it the way that it did. Any further than that? I'm outta my league.
I'm out of my league because I don't understand. When is it appropriate to criticize a demographic of people not your own? I guess, I don't know. In many respects, I just don't think it's appropriate for me, as a white person with very limited access to black culture, history, etc., to criticize black people as a demographic because then it becomes a discussion about RACE that I don't feel qualified to have. I would be fine to criticize someone who was black for doing something I didn't agree with, because it's about an issue or a personality or an individual not about race. Criticizing based on race seems like a surefire way to make yourself look like an idiot and talk about things you don't understand.
Especially when, as far as critiquing goes, I've got my OWN demographics to worry about. I guess I just think that's what people should be doing, rather than pointing fingers elsewhere simply because it's more convenient and requires less self-assessment.
My demographic is the LDS church and the LDS background I come from and the fact that, with few exceptions, my very large California-based family HEAVILY supported Proposition 8. These people are the people with whom I am shocked and frustrated with the most. It sickens me to think that, once again, due to the "righteousness" of the LDS church members, basic civil rights have once again been denied to vulnerable populations, including children. The church will regret their position on gay marriage, just as they regret their past position on blacks and the priesthood. Their position will have to change as time passes; evidence of this change is already apparent in the fact that they are subtly changing their dialogue and approach to homosexuality. These days, gay members of the church are not told to get into a heterosexual marriage; they are not put through electro-shock therapy; they are not excommunicated and shunned; the church extends to them all the rights of membership....as long as they remain celibate. No longer is it a sin to have homosexual desires- it is only a sin to "act" on them. It's a fundamental change to previous church doctrine. My heart hurts to think that so many people I love, and a church who has so many qualities I respect, acted in such a short-sighted, hateful manner. This is my demographic and they are largely to blame.
Secondly, I am white, and despite the fact that the for/against white vote was closer than the black vote on this issue (49%/51%), the fact of the matter remains that 51% of white people are still against gay marriage. And this liberal percentile is only in California- in more white-based conservative states (Arizona? Arkansas? Utah?), the numbers are MUCH higher. California is not indicative of the white vote elsewhere, as is made obvious by the ease with which gay marriage amendments have passed in other states. White people still deal with large amounts of homophobia. This, too, is my demographic.
My roommate and I were talking today about the things we do in our individual families to keep the peace, despite having very different ideologies than the majority of our family members. Most of the time, this means we don't start fights. We want to love our family members, despite vehemently disagreeing with them on issues like abortion and gay marriage. But at what point does this become complacency? Where's the fine line between respect and undue deference? What amount of responsibility do I have to tell my family how I feel about Proposition 8 and gay marriage? A part of me says it wouldn't even matter- I am a second class citizen because I'm not a member of the church any more. But maybe conscience demands more.
Until I can even figure out my OWN family, you can sure as HELL bet that I'll leave the question of black responsibility alone.
UPDATE: Portlydyke at Shakesville has a great post about this (as do many others), but I wanted to include a direct quote because I think it is especially pertinent to my earlier musings about criticism.
To apply this lesson more generally: If you're ever wonder whether you're "laying" Blame rather than letting Responsibility "rest" where it belongs, notice how much effort is involved -- and where the Power is.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Come on come on
I see no changes wake up in the morning and I ask
is life worth living should I blast myself?
I'm tired of bein' poor & even worse I'm black
my stomach hurts so I'm lookin' for a purse to
Cops give a damn about a negro
pull the trigger kill a nigga he's a hero
Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares
one less hungry mouth on the welfare
First ship 'em dope & let 'em deal the brothers
give 'em guns step back watch 'em kill each other
It's time to fight back that's what Huey said
2 shots in the dark now Huey's dead
I got love for my brother but we can never go
unless we share with each other
We gotta start makin' changes
learn to see me as a brother instead of 2 distant
and that's how it's supposed to be
How can the Devil take a brother if he's close to
I'd love to go back to when we played as kids
but things changed, and that's the way it is
Come on come on
That's just the way it is
Things'll never be the same
That's just the way it is
I see no changes all I see is racist faces
misplaced hate makes disgrace to races
We under I wonder what it takes to make this
one better place, let's erase the wasted
Take the evil out the people they'll be acting
'cause both black and white is smokin' crack
and only time we chill is when we kill each other
it takes skill to be real, time to heal each
And although it seems heaven sent , uhh
We ain't ready, to see a black President
It ain't a secret don't conceal the fact
the penitentiary's packed, and it's filled with
But some things will never change
try to show another way but you stayin' in the
Now tell me what's a mother to do
bein' real don't appeal to the brother in you
You gotta operate the easy way
"I made a G today" But you made it in a sleazy
sellin' crack to the kid. " I gotta get paid,"
Well hey, well that's the way it is
We gotta make a change...
It's time for us as a people to start makin' some
Let's change the way we eat, let's change the way
and let's change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn't working so it's on us
what we gotta do, to survive.
And still I see no changes can't a brother get a
It's war on the streets & the war in the Middle
Instead of war on poverty they got a war on drugs
so the police can bother me
And I ain't never did a crime I ain't have to do
But now I'm back with the blacks givin' it back
Don't let 'em jack you up, back you up,
crack you up and pimp slap you up
You gotta learn to hold ya own
they get jealous when they see ya with ya mobile
But tell the cops they can't touch this
I don't trust this when they try to rush I bust
That's the sound of my tool you say it ain't cool
my mama didn't raise no fool
And as long as I stay black I gotta stay strapped
& I never get to lay back
'Cause I always got to worry 'bout the pay backs
some buck that I roughed up way back
comin' back after all these years
rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat that's the way it is uhh
Some things can change. And will change. And do change.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Echidne of the Snakes (if you don't read that blog, I highly recommend it) has been doing a 3-post long explanation of why she is a feminist. Her last post in this series has to do with religion and the concept of God as a male figure. I think it is an excellent post and would encourage everyone to read all 3 posts since they have a lot of material worth consideration. The religion post, talks a lot about how women grow up with male deities and often times only have higher access to God through a man.
Suppose that I have just arrived on earth and am eager to learn about the human religions. A kind earthling has given me the names of the possible members of a nuclear family: father, mother, daughter and son, and one such nuclear family takes me to their church on a lovely autumn Sunday. While in that church I learn that the family worships the Father and the Son. I also learn that it does not worship the mother or the daughter.
In the LDS religion, Heavenly Mother has a very miniscule spot in doctrinal/cultural affairs. Church doctrine states that, in order to enter the celestial kingdom, one must be married. By that logic, God must be married and there must be a Heavenly Mother up there. The church hymn "O My Father" has a reference to Heavenly Mother and I remember loving the song for it's tiny acknowledgement of a goddess figure. However, I was told growing up that Heavenly Mother was not to be prayed to and that God chose not to give information about her because he was "protecting" her and keeping her sacred.
As people who have left the church can attest, it is a process. Part of that process includes having to re-think and reevaluate everything that you've grown up relying upon. It can be painful and terrifying and infuriating all at once. Since leaving, I haven't once thought about the church and their lack of a female divine until today. While a member of the church, it didn't really bother me all that much because I sincerely believed that women were sacred and that it made sense that a Goddess figure would be protected.
Thoughts as of Today:
Protected from whom? Her own children?
Who would do what? Blaspheme her like they do God? What exactly is Heavenly Mother being protected against?
And if she is present, why discourage church members from praying to her? If women and mothers hold such a vital and sacred part of the church, why would they not be encouraged to pray to the one person (goddess) who would be able to intimately identify with their concerns and their pain? If the emphasis on the differences between men and women is so important in the church (and it is), why is Heavenly Mother not included to be an example and a specific support to this emphasis?
Why would a church who stresses the importance of mothers being specifically available to care for their children, have what essentially amounts to an absentee spiritual mother?
Unfortunately, I don't think there are really any good answers to these questions within the church or church doctrine. I guess my asking them is more just part of the fact that I had never considered the issue before and, now that I question everything (religion based or not), I figure I'll get around to it.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
- In my opinion, anyone wanting to talk about the Supreme Court decision in California or Proposition 8 should be familiar with the actual court decision. Glen Greenwald gives a very precise explanation of what the decision does and does not do.
- My all-time favorite quote on the separation of church and state (I've probably listed it before in this blog and I'll probably list it again):
"Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific values. Democracy requires that their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faith's, including those with no faith at all. Politics depends on our ability to persuade one another of common aims based on a common reality. It involves compromise- the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of hte consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy-making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing." -Barack Obama
- Being post-Mormon and having family and friends who are currently Mormon, my interest in the LDS church's position on this subject is perhaps more focused than my interest in the perspectives of other groups who advocate for Proposition 8. I've read the church's statement released in June, 2008 as well as "The Divine Institution of Marriage" which they recently released, as well as the "Same Gender Attraction" interview with Apostle Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B. Wickman, of the Quorum of the Seventy. While these serve to provide a good perspective on why the church and church members individually oppose gay marriage, I did not find any of their arguments compelling in regards to passing a government amendment. I would be interested in speaking with someone who holds an opposing viewpoint on this- not because I'm looking to fight, but because I would be interested to see if the reasons stated within these documents can withstand questioning and expansion.
I'm sure I'll have more to say later.......for right now, that's about it.
UPDATE #2: This was on Feministing via magdalune and I think it's hilarious:
5. Because marriage is for procreation. That's why sterile couples and childfree couples aren't allowed to marry.
6. Because if we allow gay marriage, then schools will have to encourage it among our children. That's why everyone is pushing interracial marriage on kindergartners all the time.
The fact of the matter remains that if you take someone's concept of GOD out of the picture, the reasons to oppose gay marriage are pretty slim. Not only is it offensive to gay and lesbians, it's offensive to those of us who have a different idea of who God really is and what God thinks. That's the trouble- when we get to arguing about God, we've stepped into the realm of insanity.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
This post is essentially an exchange between my friend and I on the subject of abortion that I have decided to post. I'm posting it because I believe it is an exchange that many of us have had regarding different issues.
It is so easy to divide the world into black and white, right and wrong, good and evil. However, the uncomfortable reality is that, whether we like it or not, things are much more nuanced than that. I would like to point out that I do not think I am the ideological savior of nuance- heaven knows I've got more than my fair share of strong opinions about the way things are. I confess to have called John McCain "a duplicitous, lying fucktard" and other such names on more than one occasion. So, from the getgo, I admit hypocrisy here. However, I do attempt to do better.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from the 2004 election was that I had a choice about how I viewed the outcome of the election. It basically came down to two choices:
1) I could continue to view Bush as the GREAT SATAN SENT TO DESTROY THE COUNTRY AND THE WORLD, and the people who elected him again as RIDICULOUS FOOLS WHO DESERVE THE FUCKING OVER THAT THEY WOULD GET FOR RE-ELECTING SOMEONE SO CLEARLY EVIL. Thinking this way, however, had meant that I hadn't gone to school in 3 weeks (being a political science major during a presidential election is basically like taking concurrent hits of cocaine and heroine- it completely overwhelms your system) wore only black, and had taken to reading The Communist Manifesto and mumbling to myself.
2) I could choose to believe that, although I fundamentally disagreed with President Bush on basically every single issue, he wasn't "evil" (or at least, not completely evil, which was the best I could do). And, people who voted for him weren't evil either- they had different priorities and ideals than I did (and possibly less information).
Actively choosing the second option made me a more peaceful person. It made me more rational and able to accept the fact that I don't know everything about everything. It reinforced my previous belief that, when you are angry, no matter how right you might be, you are wrong. The following exchange of letters represents my (flawed) attempt at bridging the gap between black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. I'm half tempted to not publish it at all, lest I seem self-aggrandizing, but I think everyone has been in a position where they find themselves wanting to oppose someone, but with information and rationality, not emotion. I am hoping that people who read this exchange can critique my response- and together we can find a better way to discuss and debate ideas.
October 4, 2008
Dear Friends and Family,
In every election cycle, we as Americans have the distinct privilege of choosing which issues
are important to us, and then casting our votes according to which presidential candidate
we feel best represents our values. There are many issues this year that are important to
me, as well as most Americans, including the war in Iraq and especially the economy. The
current economic unrest is frightening, and must be taken seriously in our consideration of
who we'll vote for this November. But as a mother and as a christian conservative, I have
found myself very much concerned about the disintegration of the family in our society, and
more specifically the heinous practice of abortion.
Simply put, some issues are more important than others. How can future generations of
Americans have the privilege of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, if they are never given
the chance at life. For this reason, it matters a great deal to me how the presidential and
vice-presidential candidates feel about this practice. So I've done my homework. I have
been so repulsed by the information I found that I have felt compelled, for the first time in
my life, to publicly speak out against one candidate in favor of another- rather than keeping
my opinions to myself.
In 1999, a Chicago nurse named Jill Stanek (www.jillstanek.com) discovered that surviving
fetuses of botched abortions were being left to die in a soiled utility room at Christ Hospital
where she worked. At the expense of her job, she immediately began a campaign in defense
of these defenseless babies. She worked toward getting the Induced Infant Liability Act
passed before the Illinois State Legislature. But she received outright resistance. Barack
Obama, who was then the chairman of the Human Services Committee voted no, therefore
immediately killing the bill that would have given basic human rights to survivors of late term
abortions. The bill was later translated into the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act,
which was passed into law, along with the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, in 2003 by President
George W. Bush. Jill Stanek was vindicated in her work when she was personally invited by
the President to be present at the signing of those bills. Only 15 members of the house
opposed it and it passed the Senate unanimously. But Barack Obama didn't believe these
babies deserved human rights.
Another thing that concerns me is that according to the 1996 IVI-IPO General Candidate
Questionnaire, Barack Obama doesn't see the need for teenage girls over the age of 13 to
have parental consent to get an abortion. He's even gone on to say at a recent campaign
speech in Johnstown, Pennsylvania that he didn't want his own daughters being "punished
with a baby" if they were to make a mistake. In his language and his actions, Barack
Obama has shown a lack of concern for the protection of the unborn and defenseless and a
pattern of disregarding the sanctity of life.
It is for these disturbing reasons that I have felt personally compelled to speak out in favor
of his opposing candidate in this election, Senator John McCain, who has consistently stood
for life during his career as a Senator. And his running mate, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin,
has stood for life not only in her words, but in her actions, when she knowingly chose to
give birth to a child with Downs Syndrome.
In contrast Barack Obama's running mate, Joe Biden has said that as a practicing Catholic,
he believes that life begins at conception. And yet he still sides with the pro-choice
movement and refuses to come out against abortion. In fact, in an effort to appease the
pro-life movement, the Obama/Biden campaign has made it part of their platform to
"reduce the number of abortions" taking place in this country. On the surface that sounds
great, but the bottom line is that over 48,000,000 abortions have already taken place in this
country since Roe vs. Wade was passed in 1973. Six times the population of New York City
has never been given the chance at life. America today needs people of conviction and
courage in the White House who are willing to take significant action against abortion, not
people who will abandon faith and conscience in order to please their political party.
I believe that in order to protect the sanctity of life and to stop this destructive tide sweeping
our nation, that simply casting our own vote is not enough. I feel very strongly that those of
us who understand the sanctity of life must be willing to speak up and share our views with
those around us. We must be willing to engage in conversations with our friends and
neighbors, informing them why we feel the way we do. And we must be willing to support
the candidate that will most likely appoint judges to the Supreme Court that will fight to
protect the lives of these precious unborn children in the decades to come.
Please vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin on November 4th, 2008. Please vote to protect
the unborn and the defenseless. And please be willing to speak up and encourage your
friends and neighbors to do the same. Some issues are simply more important than others.
PS. If you feel as strongly about this issue as I do, please consider writing your own letter
and send it to your friends and family.
I truly appreciated you forwarding on that very thoughtful letter that your friend wrote regarding abortion and Barack Obama’s position on abortion. I think it is a wonderful thing to be reminded that all people have different opinions and different convictions regarding this upcoming election.
I wanted to write you a letter back because some of the information that your friend’s letter contained was out of context and erroneous. While I think the point of her letter was simply to point out that, to her, abortion is one of the most serious issues of this current election, this point rested on several pieces of information that are in fact, untrue. In correcting these, I am not seeking to undermine your friend’s convictions. Rather, I believe that having true information on this matter would make her argument stronger.
It is very true that people on both sides of the abortion issue have a tendency to misconstrue information and exaggerate the truth. In this particular instance, all one needs to do is go online and type in “Obama Jill Stanek” and hundreds of pro-choice/anti-abortion blogs and websites will pop up, each vilifying the other side for their take on this story. While I think everyone has their personal opinion about this “Born Alive Infants Protection Act,” I think there are some facts that don’t represent partisan slanting. I have listed them below, with references.
1) One of the reasons that Barack Obama has said that he opposed the “Induced Infant Liability Act” in 2001, 2002, and 2003 was because a law had already been in place since 1975, defending the rights of infants born alive through induced abortive practices. Pro-life groups dispute this, so I am including several passages from the actual 1975 law:
As you can see, Obama’s statement that law was already in place for this particular issue is correct.
2) In her letter, your friend Susannah claims that Stanek’s efforts were vindicated when the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act was passed in 2003. However, the
However, there is some dispute over the 2003 piece of legislation that Obama also opposed. Pro-life people say that the 2003 legislation contained exactly the same language as the 2003 federal bill, with a few minor changes in language. FactCheck.org backs this, saying that the bill did contain essentially the same language as the national bill that Obama said he would have supported. However, pro-choice groups, such as Planned Parenthood offer a different take and clarification on why this bill continued to be different:
In 2003, “Born Alive Infant” legislation was reintroduced. This time it was a package of two bills instead of three. SB 1082 would have amended the Statute of Statues by including the definition of “born alive” in any Illinois statute, rule or regulation using the terms “person”, “human being”, “child”, or “individual”. SB 1082 included a clause that was different from the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. It also excluded language contained in the federal law. The second bill, SB 1083, would have created the Induced Birth Infant Liability Act which included civil liability for physicians who performed abortions. Again, the legislation was aimed at creating barriers to abortion services in
On March 12, 2003, both bills were posted for consideration in the
So even though the language in one of the laws was the same as the federal bill, the bill in question was part of a package that contained another bill which would have put general abortion rights at risk. I realize that I am including partisan information, but in doing so, I am simply attempting to point out the concerns voiced by the other side of the argument, since both sides make valid points.
3) The concern of whether or not abortion by teenagers requires parental consent is certainly much more ideologically based. I think, however, rather than labeling Obama as uncaring about the “protection of the unborn and defenseless” or “disregarding the sanctity of life”, looking at the pros and cons of such an issue definitely show that there are rational reasons to support either side of this issue. I have included a non-partisan break-down of the parental consent debate which I think shows many good points from both angles. For Obama to choose one rational side over the other does not mean that he is dangerously uncaring. It means that he has ideological priorities that differ from your friend’s.
The fact of the matter is that Obama is pro-choice. Abortion is a very serious topic that no one should consider lightly, however I think it is worth mentioning that many people who believe in the sanctity of life and the importance of families are also pro-choice. If your friend chooses not to vote for Obama because he is pro-choice, that is a decision that I am sure she is not taking lightly, and I respect her decision. However, utilizing information that misconstrues Obama as a baby killer does a disservice to her (for misrepresenting information), to the people she contacts (who may not have the time to conduct a review of the information), to Obama (who, although ideologically different from your friend, is clearly NOT a baby killer), and to the large population of people who fundamentally differ in their beliefs of what constitutes life. Abortion is not a black and white issue- it contains thousands of shades of grey. Acknowledging this fact, while respecting differing opinions, can help bridge the divide between both camps, making the entire debate less hostile, less violent, and more approachable.
I hope this letter has not offended you, or your friend, if you choose to pass it on to her. I love you very much and hope I get to see you the next time I come out So.
Monday, August 18, 2008
We were talking yesterday about this Obama craze and how much it bugs Kristin that people have jumped onto the Obama bandwagon willy nilly, knowing nothing of his policies, knowing nothing of his stance on issues that matter, walking around like they're the big stuff spouting "yes we can" at every opportune moment. It's a national excitement that's hard to overlook, even if Obama support has been a little less glassy eyed as of late. Since Utah takes, in my estimate, at least twice as long to catch up to national trends, it's not surprising that we haven't hit backlash yet in good ol' SLC. People are still singing praises to the skinny black senator, savior of mankind, beautiful orator, hope-filler, wunderkind, with as much enthusiasm as the rest of the nation emitted back in February.
In some ways, I'm happy for them. I find that so few people are interested in politics that even the slightest amount of intelligence or enthusiasm on the subject is sort of encouraging. And, you know, after 8 years of misery spent in a hell of our own making (yes, WE elected that man America...TWICE), I think the concept of a savior has its own appeal. He certainly looks like a savior. Talks like one too. The concept of a presidential figure who was a well-published author before he even had a shot at the presidency is, to me at least, very sexy.
However, a degree in this political stuff, while not giving me a shot at a well-paying job or any sort of scholastic legitimacy in the eyes of my peers (no one respects a political science major, trust me), has taught me one lesson: We all shall fall.
I am voting for Barack. I am excited to vote for Barack. I think he has the potential to be one of the greatest presidents in American history. But he is, at the end of the day, a politician. In deciding to run for the president of the United States, he has ceased to be a man and has become a politician. It is inevitable. He has to do that in order to win. This decision has placed him in a precarious position that in the end, may prove to be his ultimate downfall.
To become a politician instead of a man means that Obama ceases to hold personal opinions. Each opinion he states now has been analyzed for political effectiveness, white-washed to remove potential offensiveness, and processed to be as vague as possible. To become a politician instead of a man means that Obama compromises his personal integrity for the "greater good," the greater good being a shorter term for "whateverisgoingtowintheelection." This means he will back bills and propositions that he would not have backed in the past (the FISA bill being a great example of this). This means he reverses or changes positions he has long held (abortion rights, Iraq war, Afghani war, the decision to not accept public funding for the election) in order to appeal to greater numbers of voters. This means he shills for people who are giving him money to win this campaign (backing "clean coal" is a great example of this...seriously....clean coal!). In order to reach this almost unreachable goal, Obama has turned into a well-oiled political machine, dictated by the most Machiavellian of ideologies: the ends justify the means.
We can't really blame him for this, because we created and supported this system. He is a product of our flaws and failures. The fact that he has to compromise himself to even get to a position where he can do potential good says much about the failure of our system to produce effective government.
The problem is that, by declaring him savior, we are essentially condoning this compromise for the long-term. We expect him to save us from ourselves, not acknowledging that we are creating a monster as he strives to attain that position. A mere man cannot be president. Barack Obama would never be president of the United States. He has to become an aggregate of the masses (the companies, the individuals, the 'demographics') in order to reach that spot and by the time he does it, he will have acquired all our worst characteristics in the process.
We can't give him a green light because without our voices, he will fail. Without our protests and our criticisms and our caution and our policing, he will become just another politician who got to the white house and proceeded to do a little good and a lot of harm. We can't go starry eyed on Obama because he needs us to save him from what he is becoming for our sakes.
He will disappoint. They all do. But, while he still has the capacity to listen (and I believe he does), it's important that we continue to remind him why we are voting for him, and why he has to reach a little farther and become a man again, in the most difficult job in the world.
I hope he can do it. For all our sakes.
Having dealt with an eating disorder for most of my life, I live in constant fear of being or becoming fat. It is not something I am proud of. It has made my life miserable in many many respects. It is something that I will always struggle to overcome. I think it's somewhat like being an alcoholic. Alcoholics Anonymous shows people that, though they might not have had a drink in 25 years, they are, in fact, still alcoholics. They will ALWAYS be alcoholics. Having an eating disorder means realizing that I might not have starved myself or thrown up in years or months or weeks, but I still have an eating disorder. I will ALWAYS have an eating disorder. It's something to do with the interior workings of the mind. Something inside me that craves control patterns (or for alcoholics, the lack of control, or the lack of caring), will always want to return to eating as a way to manifest anxiety, stress, and pain. I have to accept it. The strength to accept the things I cannot change....
To come from this background where fat = fear/loathing/bad, delving into the fatosphere has been a very unique experience. I have long felt/known that fat people are society's whipping boys. It's acceptable to hate, demean, berate, judge, discriminate against, and blame fat people in ways that would never be acceptable to any other demographic. Even sitting in a puddle of my disordered hypocrisy, this has always bothered and offended me. Being a close scrutinizer of people's bodies, I have noticed time and time again that there are plenty of "fat" people out there, who are healthier and fitter than myself. I never believed the BMI bullshit, and talk of the "obesity" epidemic has always made me sneer.
Anyway, reading the blogs in the fatosphere has been an extremely empowering experience. I love hearing these (mostly women) people talk about their struggles to remain healthy and body-positive in a world that reviles them. As someone who struggles to remain healthy and body-positive with a mind that reviles me, I have found a lot of inspiration in their messages.
When I was taking a 40-hour training course on crisis counseling, we had a chapter on bias. Representative David Litvack, (one of my personal heroes) then the Volunteer Coordinator for the Rape Recovery Center, said something to us that I will never forget. We did an exercise regarding racism which was supposed to show some of our racial biases. At the end of the exercise, he got up and said, "Some of you are probably congratulating yourselves for coming through this test with few or no biases. I want to tell you that your work is not over. If you cannot find an immediate prejudice or bias, then your job only becomes more difficult because it means that your darkness is more hidden, more nuanced. I challenge you all to keep constant vigilance on your thoughts and to find the places inside yourself that are bigoted and racist and ugly. You have them. We all do." Obviously, this probably isn't a verbatim quote, but I remember it quite distinctly.
I think it will ultimately be up to individuals to challenge the greater society bias on "fat." To do this, we'll not only need a body of evidence that contradicts all the research being produced by diet companies, we'll need to challenge the idea that a person or a society can judge someone simply by their immediate appearance. We will need to get past our idea that nutrition is something that we should leave to scientists and that exercise is something that should be done at a gym and that if you don't follow those guidelines, you are wrong and bad and other.
I'm not perfect at this. I read Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food" and I agree with his observations about our cultural food famine. And then I go buy "lite" butter and throw up my lunch. But I think the main point is to keep trying and keep asking questions, especially of ourselves and our perceptions.