Monday, November 24, 2008

Victim blaming take 5 bajillion

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

Still I carry all my old delicious burdens

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."

-Walt Whitman

Friday, November 14, 2008

A bad week for women worldwide

I feel like all I write about these days is either depressing or angry. Who wants that? :)

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.
  • 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.
I bring up these instances because I think it is important to realize that, whether worldwide or here in our own country, women are subjected to discrimination, hatred and extreme violence. And I know that "awareness" is sort of a shit thing in terms of actual action taken, but talking about these things and realizing that they exist can help us tune into circumstances in our lives where we actually CAN make a difference. At least, that's the idea.

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

Proposition 8....trying to blame it on black people?

So there's sort of an eruption happening in all the blogs I read in regards to Proposition 8 and the fact that 70% of the black vote went to "YES" on Proposition 8. Lots of people are voicing their VERY strong disappointment that even as a black man makes history and cuts through centuries of racial division, black people are voting, in larger percentiles than any other demographic, to pass a law that fundamentally changes the California constitution to say that everyone should not be treated equally.

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 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

Changes: One line at a time

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 pu
rse 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
aww yeah

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
We ain't ready, to see a black President
, uhh

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
dope game
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

we live
and let's change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn't working so it's on us
to do
what we gotta do, to survive.

And still I see no changes can't a brother get a
little peace
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
to you
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.