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    Pro- and Anti-

    Monday, February 9, 2009, 9:18 PM [General]

    The most common way to frame the discussion of abortion is in terms of "pro-choice" versus "pro-life," obviously implying that one cannot value both a woman's autonomy and "life," whatever that means.

    I've never liked this way of framing things. Most pro-choice people are also pro-life, but not all pro-life people are pro-choice. The conflict here is over choice. The question here is not "is life good" but "is it good for a woman to choose for herself whether to have an abortion." So the argument is more properly framed as "pro-choice" versus "anti-choice."

    But not on BeliefNet, evidently.


    After my first post in the abortion discussion forum, I received a warning. My tone was fine, and all I did was point out that--contrary to the OP's rant--there was indeed an anti-choice ticket (since using laws set down by Alaska's legislature doesn't actually say anything about the head of its executive) in addition to the pro-choice ticket.

    This violates the rules, the post was deleted by justme333, and I was warned. I sent an email to the mod, and here is the text of it:

    I noticed that I was just warned and had a post removed because I did not frame the abortion debate using the terms you prefer.

    "Finally, the only terms allowed in the description of positions for this board are Pro-Life and Pro-Choice."

    Do you understand why there are many people who object to framing this issue in terms of one side which is in favor of "life" and one which is not? There is a very good reason why I do not describe the anti-choice position as "pro-life," most notably that it is not my life they are protecting.

    I find it hard to believe you would not be aware of this issue of terms and why it is important, so I suppose the real question is why you object to this terminology so strongly that you will not even let anybody post using it. It is not offensive, it is not inaccurate. It is, in fact, a well-established and well-accepted way of framing the issue, which scholars in these matters use for a very good reason.

    Except, evidently, on your board. Why?

    I don't anticipate getting a satisfactory answer. The only reason anybody objects to the terms I'm using is that they resent the loss of a moral high ground they never earned, that of being the side that values "life."

    But who knows. Perhaps I'll be surprised. Doubt it though.

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    A rare personal entry!

    Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:19 PM [General]

    She's going to change the world...
    She's going to change the world...
    But she can't
    change me.

    My partner has commented in the past that I have an odd approach to religion, even my own. I view it as a cultural system in which I either want to participate or not. If I gain from it as a person, it's good. If I do not, then I have no use for it and will leave it to the people who can gain.

    But what this means is that while I can throw myself into a practice wholeheartedly, throwing myself into the beliefs is somewhat of a trickier proposition. This is simplified by the fact that I don't care about how a religion answers questions of science or fact. I don't care if a holy book says that the world was created in six days or whether an even more ancient oral tradition posits a planet on the back of a turtle (on the back of a turtle on the back of another turtle...). That stuff isn't for religion, and if I make it about answering questions for which we simply have not figured out the facts... well, I'm missing all the stuff it does that matters (and is actually interesting).


    Some people reading are aware that I'm a member of a Wiccan circle. We play pretty fast and loose with dogma in my circle, and that was essential to me feeling comfortable there. We draw from many different traditions so that we can attempt to learn or accomplish something new. Thankfully other my circle-mates are also aware of the colonialist implications of picking buffet-style from other religions as well, so there's a lot of respect there and I don't have to smack anyone with various bits of miscellaneous scholarly discourse.

    Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that we negotiate lots of different traditions by acknowledging that different things work for different people. The real question here for many folk (Pagans in particular, though anyone in an interfaith social group will face it eventually) is why.

    To some people, all gods are real. Some of these believe that we make them real by creating or coalesce those divine power forces using our own personal power of will. Some of these believe that there is simply one massive pool of divine energy that everybody draws from in the way that best fulfills their needs.

    To some people, only some gods are real. They have to be "real" gods, preferably ancient. After all, a religion that sprang up two thousand years ago carries a lot more weight than a religion that sprang up five years ago, or six months (even if a religion scholar would see little functional difference aside from age).

    To other people, no gods are real. Religion is best experienced through allegory and metaphor, as a meditative practice that allows for access to multiple perspectives, opportunity to answer questions that many individuals just wouldn't think to ask.

    I am personally somewhere between a monist (it's all the same, just with different faces on the divine to break It down into smaller, easily-digestible pieces) and an atheist. How the fuck do I manage that? By not fucking caring whether the facts are verifiably true, instead worrying about the processes. Do the processes of the religion do for me what I'm setting them up to do? Yes? Good! I win at religion!

    I don't think this necessarily makes me an agnostic. I'm not ambivalent or indecisive, which is what "agnostic" implies to me. I genuinely do not give a damn at this phase in my life whether god is blue or brown or has four arms or two or a beard or exists at all. For many people the idea of a deity watching over or supporting them is helpful, and is a useful avenue for personal growth. Personally, no answer to that question is useful to me.

    If scientists proved tomorrow that there is no divine force, deity, whatever, I'd be stunned that they'd figured out a way to test it... but I wouldn't throw out religion. At least not my religion. I don't fucking care if there's a god/dess, and I don't really tend to petition anything outside myself in the way that many magick-users and praying Christians (though there's not actually any difference if you ask a non-Christian). So why do I care whether someone answers?

    Same if they proved there was a divine force, I think. Again, what the hell did they do to prove that one, but... meh. I still reserve the right to disagree with or even ignore a deity if I choose. Free will is awesome, and if I'm not letting a deity tell me what to do... does it matter whether they're shouting their divine heads off without me listening? It's still the same world it was yesterday, and my life would still be my own.

    It's not indecision. It's unconcern. It makes no nevermind to me one way or the other. I just plain do not care.

    I do care whether I am absorbing a code of ethics and customs that I believe to be useful and beneficial in my life. If I find out conclusively tomorrow that there is or isn't a deity out there, the world will still be the same place it was today, and what works will still be the same as it was today.

    This means that I can accept and cherish lots and lots of religious traditions without fretting over whether telling beads really wins Catholics brownie points with God, or whether my menstrual cycle is a cosmic metaphor, or whether I'll be born again after I die. I am doing what I need to do to make my life work, and I assume everyone else is as well.

    I think that perhaps someday I might make a useful sort of spiritual-leader-type-person, simply because I'm good at making use of what I've got and seeing the good in what we have. I ask decent questions, and think a little ahead. I could be useful to other people who are just looking for a set of customs and perspectives to fit them better than the one to which they were likely born and raised.

    But there are problems. I can't just run out and become a priestess. For one, does anyone really want to talk to a priestess who doesn't care whether the divine force we're all here to revere actually exists? For another thing, I don't know what it would do to my relationship with my partner. I've already had to face the possibility that because I practice a religion, he won't be able to commit to having me in his life. If I became a religious leader of some variety... it might be more of a strain than our relationship can take. While I know he would never demand that I give up any aspiration or dream for his sake, I do have to consider what sacrifices I might be making. Whether they'll be worth it in the end.

    I'm still looking. I have a better idea of what I am, and I'm taking steps to get a better handle on that. The question of where I am can come later, but I'll have to chew on it eventually. I don't know how that will resolve, but I foresee emerging a new person. I have to trust myself and assume I will come out of it better. I always seem to do that, and damn it I can do it again.
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    power of the corpse

    Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:18 PM [General]

    Read a news article today. I am hesitant to link to the original page, for reasons that you'll understand if you've read this entry of mine. It has a picture of a dead man.

    Here is the printer-friendly page.

    DETROIT -- This city has not always been a gentle place, but a series of events over the past few, frigid days causes one to wonder how cold the collective heart has grown.

    It starts with a phone call made by a man who said his friend found a dead body in the elevator shaft of an abandoned building on the city's west side.

    "He's encased in ice, except his legs, which are sticking out like Popsicle sticks," the caller phoned to tell this reporter.

    "Why didn't your friend call the police?"

    "He was trespassing and didn't want to get in trouble," the caller replied. As it happens, the caller's friend is an urban explorer who gets thrills rummaging through and photographing the ruins of Detroit. It turns out that this explorer last week was playing hockey with a group of other explorers on the frozen waters that had collected in the basement of the building. None of the men called the police, the explorer said. They, in fact, continued their hockey game.

    Before calling the police, this reporter went to check on the tip, skeptical of a hoax. Sure enough, in the well of the cargo elevator, two feet jutted out above the ice. Closer inspection revealed that the rest of the body was encased in 2-3 feet of ice, the body prostrate, suspended into the ice like a porpoising walrus.

    The hem of a beige jacket could be made out, as could the cuffs of blue jeans. The socks were relatively clean and white. The left shoe was worn at the heel but carried fresh laces. Adding to the macabre and incongruous scene was a pillow that gently propped up the left foot of the corpse. It looked almost peaceful.

    What happened to this person, one wonders? Murder in Motown is a definite possibility. Perhaps it was death by alcoholic stupor. Perhaps the person was crawling around in the elevator shaft trying to retrieve some metal that he could sell at a scrap yard. In any event, there the person was. Stone-cold dead.
    I think that the reporter, Charlie LeDuff by name, covered this in as sensitive and tasteful a manner as could be hoped. He used it as an opportunity to discuss Detroit's homeless, and the ability of the city to continue functioning unphased no matter what happens to them. If you're homeless, damned near anything can happen to you--anything--and even people who supposedly share your situation will be too busy with their own struggles to worry much about you. LeDuff did an excellent job with that, and I think that including a picture of those feet above a plane of ice that you know hides the rest of a man is part of hammering in that we only care because we don't see, or can pretend we don't see.

    But I still have issues with the use of images of the dead. If you don't know what I'm talking about, please check out the entry I linked before. Read it here; this'll make more sense if you do. I think that there I explained it as well as I am likely to do.
    371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99cHere is my question. Do you feel that, considering a debt that comes with viewing images of the dead, that LeDuff has paid his debt? Or has he just used this homeless man's corpse and his suffering to make a political point of his own? Is he taking up the unnamed corpse's cause, or pursuing his own and using the power created by the stranger's death to fuel his own cause?

    And here's the really disturbing question for me. Completely aside from considerations of LeDuff's debt and the repayment thereof, what about me? I've seen this image, and I've been touched by the emotional energy of a man's death. I owe him something, but as I discussed in that previous entry... you cannot always know just what it is you owe the dead. By helping people in Indiana get foodstamps and Medicaid, am I helping to repay a man whose death was caused by disregard? Or is that not what's required at all?

    Now that the emotional/spiritual energy created by this man's suffering and this man's death is part of the emotional/spiritual energy of my life, what do I owe him for grokking his death in that way? By observing and considering his death in such a way that it has become part of me and my life (something which cannot be avoided now that the photo of his corpse has been reflected in my eyes), I have taken something from him and made it part of myself.

    How can I repay it? I don't know what he wants. You can basically never know what the dead want.

    What do you think?
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    The Exception

    Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:16 PM [General]

    I have blogged before over here on what I think of the so-called "rape exceptions" in anti-choice legislation. To grab an excerpt:

    "Well, they should have thought about that before they started having sex," you might say. It's a common enough argument. If women don't want to get pregnant, they shouldn't engage in risky behavior like sex. Most people will agree that a woman who is raped or molested at a young age is not "to blame" for her sexual activity, and as a result an abortion is okay in these cases.

    But here's what this really says. A woman who doesn't choose to have sex deserves the choice of whether to keep an unwanted child. A woman who does choose to have sex does not deserve the choice of whether to keep an unwanted child. What makes this misogynist is that it takes a moral imperative ("good women don't sleep around") and uses it as a framework to give "bad" women fewer rights than "good" ones.
    371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99cI was reading something that made another point about this exception, and it's here. The author mentions those anti-choicers who're willing to admit that rape is terribly sad but "why should the baby have to pay for someone else's wrong?" She rightly questions just whose wrong we're looking at here, suggesting that the figure blamed is seldom the father who didn't wear a condom, but the woman who "wrongly" took an interest in sexual activity.

    And here's an excellent question, one that is asked but seldom by people who seriously offer an answer. What about the woman? Whose choices should she suffer for, and to what degree?
    I know, it’s a radical thought, but really: what of them? Why should they have to pay for someone else’s wrong? What about their lives? Don’t they matter a damn bit? Or again, are we just assuming that they are partially at fault for the wrong committed?

    Of course, anti-choicers will argue that we’re looking at disproportionate interests/rights. The “baby” has a life; the woman just has “convenience” and her lazy, selfish desire to not have a physical reminder of her traumatizing experience every second of every day for 9 months, not to mention a child created by that rapist at the end of 9 months.

    In fact, regaining control after a rape experience really can be about a woman’s life. Thankfully, I don’t know the trauma of having been impregnated as the result of rape. But I do know the trauma of rape itself. And I know, or can read in tons of readily accessible literature, about how rape takes away a sense of control over one’s body. It can, in fact, heavily make one question who that body belongs to.

    And anti-choicers want that answer to be the government. In spite of the fact that the right to an abortion after rape really can be about a woman’s life — since a woman may be easily made suicidal over a forced pregnancy as the result of rape, or simply traumatized forever because of it — anti-choicers think that a fetus’ rights overrule it. When forced to choose between the life of a fetus, and the life of a woman (and often thereby her fetus due to simple biology), anti-choicers choose the fetus time and time again.

    Once again. The unborn always take precedent for an anti-choicer over the already-born. Whose suffering has worth to you? Whose life has worth to you?

    This is why the anti-choice position is not pro-child. It is anti-woman. That's why we don't call them pro-life, because it sure as hell isn't my life they're fighting for, nor is it yours. They'd sacrifice you in an instant if it meant that those dirty fornicating whores get what they deserve, subhumans who should have kept their damn legs closed, or not had that third drink, or not worn that skirt, or screamed a little louder, fought a little harder.

    It's not about protection; it's about punishing women who step out of line--a line drawn by misogynist factions of our culture more concerned with keeping women in their proscribed "traditional" gender role than with keeping women safe.
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    The Least of These

    Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:16 PM [General]

    I always did like this passage. It's pretty unambiguous, which is not usual for this book.

    "For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me."

    Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?"

    Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me." - Matthew 25:42-45
    371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99cI suppose this is one of the big differences between Jesus and Jeezus, the American folk hero. For some others, see here.

    Funny how people are so often willing to "vote their consciences" when it's about denying women access to reproductive control, but they're not willing to do the same when it comes to poverty. Even if they say they believe it's virtuous to help the poor, they vote against such efforts at every turn because they don't want charity to be mandated.

    Guess what, guys! If we vote for it, no one's shoving it on us. It is not a measure of your faith and virtue to vote against social services in the hopes that private charities will do the job instead. It's a measure of your unwillingness to do what works to accomplish a goal you claim is important to you.

    But if that's cool by you, fine. You're the one who'll be answering for all those times you denied Jesus disability pay, or all those times that you voted to deny food stamps to his family, or all those times you scoffed at the needs of Jesus' children for affordable single-payer health care.

    You may not have to answer for the unborn babies that you forced their mothers to bear, but you'd better start figuring out how you're going to talk your way around what happens to those children after they're born, at how little you did to ensure that resources were available for their wellbeing and education. Because "the least of me" doesn't just mean the unborn. There are people around now who need you, and what exactly do you think Jesus would do about it?

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    Narcan, or: Why You Deserve to OD and Die

    Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:14 PM [General]

    I wanted to relay this entry to you guys. Seemed like the kind of thing that young people these days ought to keep track of, even if you or your friends or whatever aren't in contact with "those druggies."

    Pharmacy colleague (and I hope he doesn't mind my calling him that) and fellow blogger Abel Pharmboy* provides a most excellent summary of the current buzz in the blogosphere about statements made by Dr. Bertha Madras. Dr. Madras, in the event that you were unaware, is a head member of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy. And Dr. Madras would rather see opioid abusers die than distribute rescue kits that "encourage" opioid use.


    What denying needles (and Narcan) to addicts does do is send a powerful message. It says "society doesn't care about you, and we're secretly hoping you die so that we don't have to deal with the problem anymore."
    As a personal note, you'll probably meet fewer people in the universe with less sympathy for drug users than I have. I'm pretty spectacularly callous. But that doesn't mean I'm blind to what actually works and what doesn't. It means I won't claim I'm saving lives or solving problems if I don't care to do either.371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99cThese people.... they're potentially more callous than I am, and they're hiding it under a veneer of prim determination to reform these junkies by letting as many of them die as possible to teach the others a lesson.

    Think about that for a second. Protective measures "encourage drug use" by reducing the risk. It means that the risk is what people like Madras think deters drug users (despite evidence to the contrary). But let's depart from the obvious factual problems here. The fact that this makes no damned sense in light of what drug users actually do is easy enough to see.

    My problem is with the people who advocate this plan in the absence of evidence. With no evidence in favor of this, people like Madras are completely comfortable with the implications of these statements. Unless drug users continue to overdose, contract hepatitis and AIDS, and eventually die terribly... their plan doesn't work. Their plan depends on people dying tortuous deaths as an example to others. That's sick. Sicker than any junkie I've known, and I've known some gems.

    This turned into a longer rant than I'd expected, but this upsets me. If you're comfortable with damning whole groups of people because you don't think they deserve to live, come out and say it. Don't pretend there's any compassion in a stance like that, and don't pretend that you're saying it because you think it'll somehow help them.

    *Text from Abel Pharmboy's entry, in case you didn't check out the page: Since being distributed in 16 communities the overdose-rescue kits [at $9.95 each] have saved 2600 lives, nearly the number of people who perished in the combined terrorist attacks of 11 Sept 2001.
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    So the Apostle Paul.

    Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:12 PM [General]

    Corinthians 4:5. " are to deliver this man to Satan 4 for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord."

    Paul suggests giving people over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh, so that their spirit can be saved. I was struck by this. Satan is surprisingly helpful here; you can count on him to do you favors.

    "We've got this guy, and he's kind of corrupt. Ah.... if you could take him and give him back when he's better... yeah. That'd be great. Right, also, if you could come in on Saturday to take away our incestuous pagans? Greeaaat."371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99c
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    "I brought this on myself; I knew at the start how He gets..."

    Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:10 PM [General]

    James McGrath posted in his blog about a comment I made in class one day. Now, I'm starting from the common metaphor that the relationship between God and Israel (or Christ and his Church, take your pick) is analogous to the relationship between a man and his wife. Men and their wives are close, have bonds of loyalty and mutual respect and various obligations they owe one another. They even cause each other pain, as men and wives can. As cited on that page:

    Rabbi Joshua ben Levi says: “The Assembly of Israel said to the Holy One: Even though He embitters me and causes me to suffer, He shall lie between my breasts” (Yalkut Shimoni, Song of Songs, 984).

    This gets me to my next point. McGrath links 1 Corinthians 10:6-12.
    We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!

    This goes beyond the acceptance that spouses may occasionally inadvertently hurt each other. Every time Israel displeases God, a great and terrible wrath is unleashed, to human eyes seeming way out of proportion to the crimes committed. And yet Israel is still to blame for these outbursts. No matter what God does, if it was something Israel did to set Him off... Israel is required to repent. Israel must not test the Lord, and Israel must not complain. Otherwise God is left doing something terrible and asking, "Baby, why do you make me hit you? You know how I get."

    I could easily end here and say that Christianity is essentially patriarchal, both based in misogyny and perpetuating it by elevating it to God-like behavior. But that's a boring place to end, and reserved for really lazy scholars. The big question is, which came first, the chicken or the egg?371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99cDid ideas about God's right to abuse Israel give the Israelites fuel to abuse their wives? Or did the norms of Israelite marriage color their portrayal of God's relationship with Israel? One thing seems certain: the normative relationship between married people in America does not include one party using corporeal punishment to discipline the other, and then blaming the violence on the disciplined party. In this our cultural context is very different from what the Israelites were taking for granted.

    Now, does this mean we have to throw out the spousal metaphor because our spousal relationships have changed? Or can we keep the spousal metaphor and change our relationship with God to suit it? Now that women are encouraged to take onto themselves more autonomy and agency, even at the expense of their husbands' power, does that recast the roles of God and Israel, or of Christ and the Church? Just as women are demanding more respect and consideration from men, are Christians free to demand more respect and consideration from God?

    It seems to me that we either have to throw out the spousal metaphor now that men aren't allowed to abuse women the way God abuses Israel, or we have to demand that God keep up with modern ideals. I personally find this latter option much more interesting. If men and women are rightly treated as equals in a marriage, does that mean that God and Israel should be rightly treated as equals?

    This implication totally turns the mainstream Christian hierarchy on its head. While Judaism allows for much more dispute with God (Israel itself means "struggle with God"), Christianity tends to adopt a much more submission-oriented approach. The assumption that humans must submit to God no matter what seems at odds with the "equality resolution." The only option then is to decide we're wrong to treat men and women as equals. Instead of changing our relationship with God to fit our modern social context, we must reverse our modern social context to match an earlier relationship with God.

    It seems in the interest of Biblical orthodoxy one would have to choose the latter. It's the neatest way to seal up this nasty friction resulting from a metaphor that no longer seems to apply. Return everyone to the conditions under which the metaphor worked.

    Still. As a woman who doesn't particularly want to go that route, I'll suggest a new relationship with God. What happens when humans demand the equality and respect from God that wives demand of husbands? It might require a re-imagining of God's place in our lives, and that re-imagining may essentially change a religion whose core is "submit yourselves to God; He knows best." If we essentially change Christianity to fit God into new ideas of mutual spousal respect, is it still Christianity anymore? If no... what is it?
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    Things Americans don't like to talk about

    Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:08 PM [General]

    From our beloved Orcinus!

    Things Americans don't like to talk about

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    One of the oddities of the emerging media meta-narrative about Jeremiah Wright is the way it is now readily assumed by the broad range of talking heads that Wright's recent comments have only proven the charge that he is deeply "anti-American," embodied in the endlessly repeated "God damn America" sound bite.

    There's no doubt that a lot of Wright's views are indeed deeply critical of America, even pugnaciously (and thus disconcertingly) so, and some -- particularly his apparent absorption of racial theories regarding the spread of HIV -- are dubious at best. Considering Wright's contentious performance yesterday at the National Press Club, one really can't blame Obama for washing his hands of the man.

    But it's also apparent that the larger context in which Wright condemns American behavior -- the reason he shouts "God damn America" -- in fact reflects hard historical realities that Americans, and the American media especially, really don't want to talk about, let alone confront the present-day consequences thereof.

    And doing so, evidently, is now proof of being "anti-American."


    Among the things, evidently, that we're not supposed to bring up because it interrupts Peggy Noonan's fantasy vision of an American history populated mostly by noble 49ers and industrious Henry Fords, are the following:

    -- The genocide committed against Native Americans.
    -- Slavery.
    -- The "lynching era" and Jim Crow.
    -- Sundown towns.
    -- The forced incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.

    It's human, of course, to want to think of yourself as a good person, and your country as a good country. Which is why it's human of white Americans -- the descendants and beneficiaries of the people who perpetrated these atrocities -- to want to forget that these things happened. And they want to believe that because these events were in the past, and they took some initial steps toward reconciliation 40 years ago, the issues should have gone away, and if they haven't, well, it's the victims' fault.

    The victims and their descendants, however, cannot forget that these things happened, because they continue to live with the legacy of them every day. And white Americans should not delude themselves into thinking that they could or should have forgotten, either. Ask any Native American living on a reservation, or any descendant of Japanese camp internees, or any African American, whether they can forget these things.

    Perhaps when young black men no longer face persistent job discrimination or lowered life expectancies, when racial residential segregation is no longer a persistent reality, when hate crimes are a distant memory, when our response to great national war-inducing traumas is no longer imbued with xenophobic hysteria -- perhaps when white Americans take actual steps beyond those four-decade-old baby steps to confront the legacy of their very real history of shameful behavior toward nonwhites, then perhaps we can ask for that forgetting.

    Assuming that they should -- and indeed insisting that the fact that they haven't is proof that they "hate America" -- is simply childish. But then, that's what we've come to expect both of the American right and the American media.

    These historical realities in fact were what provided the context of Wright's "God damn America" snippet. Here's the key passage from the sermon:

    Where governments change, God does not change. God is the same yesterday, today and forever more. That’s what his name I Am means. He does not change.

    God was against slavery on yesterday, and God, who does not change, is still against slavery today. God was a God of love yesterday, and God who does not change, is still a God of love today. God was a God of justice on yesterday, and God who does not change, is still a God of justice today. God does not change.

    And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on the reservations.

    When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps.

    When it came to treating the citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters. Put them on auction blocks. Put them in cotton fields. Put them in inferior schools. Put them in substandard housing. Put them in scientific experiments. Put them in the lowest paying jobs. Put them outside the equal protection of the law. Kept them out of the racist bastions of higher education, and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness.

    The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strike law and then wants us to sing God Bless America. Naw, naw, naw. Not God Bless America. God Damn America! That’s in the Bible. For killing innocent people. God Damn America for treating its citizens as less than human. God Damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is Supreme.

    What's obvious, in fact, is that the longtime right-wing "America, love it or leave it" style of patriotism has become part of the media's standard narrative in the post-9/11 world. I think Al Franken had it right:

    If you listen to a lot of conservatives, they'll tell you that the difference between them and us is that conservatives love America and liberals hate America.... They don't get it. We love America just as much as they do. But in a different Way. You see, they love America the way a 4-year-old loves her Mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups.

    To a 4-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad, and helping your loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world.

    In the new media universe, Mommy America would never ever hurt those poor black people. And if maybe she did once upon a time, well, she made up for it a long time ago and now things are all better. Bringing up evidence to the contrary just means you hate Mommy.

    Which might explain why people like Wright get all contemptuous on their asses.

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    Women in "Godly Marriages"

    Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:06 PM [General]

    I was having a discussion once with a born-again Christian who was arguing passionately that it is best for women to be under the "loving headship" of a man, the way that the church is under the loving headship of Christ. The ideal marriage is not an egalitarian one, but one in which a man governs the woman based on his own consideration and love for her.371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99c

    I did not see this as an ideal marriage, and have little interest in it. I'm one of those college-educated "women's libbers" who feels that I'm qualified to have my own means of economic support, and the same social and political autonomy as a man. Most importantly, I feel I'm better off this way.

    My issue with taking the gender roles offered in the Bible at face value is that traditional heteronormative (if you'll forgive the jargon) marriage roles are upheld as "Biblical" (which is itself a largely-undefined term), but advocates are really just picking and choosing from what's in the Bible to support what they'd like.

    Now, I know that "picking and choosing" is a trigger-phrase for a lot of people who are debating the Bible, and it's often used as a way to instantly condemn as "UnBiblical" whoever gets it applied to them. I feel it's appropriate here, though. There are a lot of aspects of the submissive-woman/leading-man arrangement that clearly came from the culture in which the Bible was written.

    Levirate marriage is the best example of this I can think of. Because women in those times didn't have any economic power of their own (aside from prostitution, which is not exactly desirable), they had to be married to survive. If their husband died, it was his brother's duty to marry the widow (often in addition to his own wife) so that he could support her and give her the offspring that his late brother could not.

    This came up in Matthew 22:23, and Christ doesn't deny the worth of this practice. He just says that in the world to come NO ONE will be married. If Christ had a problem with the practice, that was his chance to say something. He did not, and Matthew 22:23 is actually a better argument against romantic relationships overall than it is against Levirate marriage.

    The reason I bring up Levirate marriage is that it's a practice that was assumed as normal in the time of Christ, and not condemned by him as adultery. The reason people don't practice it today is because we live in a different culture. "Oh, that's just what they did then," people say. "We know better now. Marriage is between one man and one woman, and these are the obligations each has to the other. The Bible says so (in the parts that we choose if we ignore the parts that we don't like)."

    Marriage in the time of Christ (and in the early church of Christ) was a much more complex thing than it gets credit for, and if we can accept that Levirate marriage doesn't belong in our modern society, why are we blindly accepting all gender roles attributed to the Bible? To put it another way, if we can trace practices like Levirate marriage back to the culture of the Bible's authors and thus dismiss their applicability for us, but we ascribe divine sanctity and authority to the parts we DO like... how is that honest? At the very least I think it requires that we find another definition of what counts as "Biblical," since clearly "it's okay in the Bible" is not enough.

    Of course, another alternative is to pay close attention to what the cultural atmosphere was like at the time the Bible was written. What did the authors take for granted? What was "normal" to them, and what was deplorable? It was normal and natural to them that a woman could not support herself without a man. It was normal and natural to them that if men are good, women will be supported. If men are not good, women are the ones who suffer. Oh well.

    And that's my big problem with attempting to reinstate millenia-old cultural norms by encouraging women to be economically dependent on men. Sure, in an ideal world this'd all work out fine. But we don't live in an ideal world, and in the world where we live now... if anybody in this system fall short (which Christian theology teaches that they must) women suffer. Women will bear the brunt of their own failings AND the failings of the men on whom they are dependent.

    That's why feminists don't like these gender roles. It's not that they hate men. It's that men have to be perfect in order for this system to work, and even Christian theology admits that this is a lost cause. Because feminists are concerned with women being able to survive in a world where humans are imperfect, they assert that women need to have their own social and economic viability. Feminists therefore take issue with the Christian "traditional" marriage. It assumes that it's important for women to be healthy, safe, and otherwise well off, but not important enough to build a system that will actually produce that end.
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