Another Example of Careless Perpetuation of Sexism. This Time the Victim is an 11 Year Old Girl.

Last November in Cleveland, Texas 18 young men and boys were charged with raping an 11 year old girl.  The act was recorded on a cell phone video and discovered by the girl’s teacher who reported the crime.

While this is a heinous enough crime in and of its self, the reporting of this story in no less a paper than the NY Times compounded the the pain that the girl and her family must feel by perpetuating the myth that the victim “had it coming”.

“Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.”

While bringing up what a woman was wearing, how she was acting or what she was doing to try to justify that “she had it coming” is disgusting enough as it is, to even ask these questions about an 11 year old girl is beyond the reason.  An 11 year old has no real concept about how the way she dresses or acts will effect men.  To even hint at the “she had it coming” myth is simply irresponsible reporting.

But that isn’t all that is wrong with the article.  The reporter goes on to state:

“The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core and left many residents in the working-class neighborhood where the attack took place with unanswered questions. Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?

It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.””

Not once in the article is the girl’s welfare even mentioned.  Nowhere do we hear about the pain and trauma that an innocent 11 year old girl endured at the hand of 18 males.  That is 1.6 males violating her for every year of her life.  Where is the community outrage and concern for this poor girl?  Who there is talking about how she will have to live with this the reset of her life?  There is something seriously wrong with a society  that has more concern for the male perpetrators than the female victim.

Change.org has a site where you can sign your name to a letter that will be sent to the NY Times protesting their editorial decision to publish this sexist perpetuating article.

 

The Stigma of Mental Illness – A Personal Story

The resources for people with mental illnesses in the country are sadly lacking. They are terribly underfunded and understaffed. The problem is somewhat better for those with health insurance, but even then, there is the social stigma that goes along with being mentally ill.

I would prefer a term such a Brain Chemical Imbalance or Brain Structural Anomaly. These terms are more accurate and better describe where the real cause of mental illness lies. It is a malfunction of various brain activities. Because these things are happening in our brains, where our mind resides, the effects can be profound and devastating to the person suffering from it and all those around him.

I have a son with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). Deal with him has been a constant and difficult struggle since he was a baby. While he is intelligent, attends high school like any other kid, ways of perceiving the world and relating to others that make life very difficult for him. He can come across as indifferent to feelings of others because he can’t understand the normal queues such as tone of voice or body language or facial expressions that most of us grasp intuitively.

I myself suffer from chronic clinical depression. There are days when I literally can barely function. Imagine wearing a suite that weights 200 pounds and goggles that are slightly cloudy and then trying to go through your day like that. Add to that a complete lack of motivation and even something as simple as standing up to walk to the printer at work takes an amazing effort. I’ve even had people remark that I look like I’m carrying a weight around on my shoulders. It actually affects how I move physically. It certainly effects how I feel physically. My head feels like it is full of cotton stuffing, my arms, hands, head feel like little needles are being poked into the. There are almost constant headaches and the pain in my neck, shoulders and arms are real and ever-present. When those commercials say that depression hurts, they are 100% serious and true.

I have begun to reach the point where I don’t know if I can work anymore. Of course, I have to because I can’t afford not to. I’m a single dad and there is no one else to take care of my kids. Taking a leave of absence is out of the question. I have not idea if my disability insurance at work covers mental illness. I suppose I need to find out.

I’m sure you are wondering what I’m doing to treat this? I am on various medications for depression and anxiety. I also regularly see a therapist. I try to get out, do some exercise. Not keep myself isolated. I’m doing the right things, but the depression just seems to worsen as each day passes.

Why do I bring all this up? I’m not looking for sympathy. I want people to be aware that mental illness is more than just homeless people mutter to themselves in parks and on street corners. It can effect anyone, in any walk of life. It is as debilitating as any physical illness can be, and that is because it is a physical illness. And just like other physical illnesses it needs to be treated with medication and therapy.

Unlike other physical illnesses, you can see the signs just by looking at someone. Instead it affects behavior and mood, which are considered to be part of our personalities. If your job performance is impacted because of a physical ailment like a back problem, accommodations can be made to help compensate. But what accommodations can you make for an inability to focus on tasks or to organize your thoughts enough to organize your work?

I don’t have the ability to even focus on possibly solutions. If anyone out there does, please comment.

Coexistence?

A dear friend of mine posted some disturbing videos from Indonesia of people being stoned to death for one religious offense or another on her Facebook profile to highlight the terrible violence that religion continues to inspire. She changed her profile photo to
wpid-174270_830719950_2402185_n-2011-02-13-18-21.jpg

I found what I consider to be a much more accurate version of the Coexist sign above,

wpid-sexist_by_dailyatheist-small-2011-02-13-18-21.png
*by http://dailyatheist.deviantart.com/. Used with permission.

I’m not a graphic artist, but I’m sure if I had the talent I could come up with other signs that contained more “truthiness” that the Coexist one.

Of course, the Coexist message represents something to strive for and as such it serves its purpose well. If religious coexistence was a fact, we wouldn’t need the logo in the first place.

While I fully support efforts for peoples of all faith to coexist, my feelings, as I said in my response to one of the videos, is that to coexist we must see each other as fellow humans, not as believers and unbelievers and until we can throw off all vestiges of religions, that can never happen. As long as people allow religion to guide how they live their lives, the violence and hatred will continue. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but we need to be realistic about just how insidious the influence of religion really is and how very difficult it will be to change that.

Religion Kills Another Child

In Bangladesh, a religious cleric ordered a 14 year old girl to be given 100 lashes with a bamboo pole for supposedly having an illicit relationship with a married cousin. The man’s wife said that she saw the girl speaking to her husband near their home and notified the village cleric who order the husband and the girl to undergo the punishment of 100 lashes. The girl collapsed half way through the beating and was taken to hospital where she died a week later.

If this weren’t horrifying enough, the wife tried to claim that her husband was raping the girl and upon hearing the girl’s cries, the wife ran in and began beating the girl. Let me repeat that. Upon supposedly hearing a 14 year old girl being raped by her husband, the wife said that she ran in and beat the girl! The police aren’t buying that story, but what does it say about these people that she would think that beating the girl who was being raped was actually justification for her death?

This incident speaks volumes about the almost non-human status of woman in many religions and cultures. While it may be true that some of the attitude toward women is cultural, it is almost always supported by religious writings and teachings.

Wether the girl was just talking to her cousin, who is a male relative after all, or if there was an illicit relationship ilvolved, murder is not an appropriate punishment, especially for a young, impressionable 14 year old child.

I am reminded of a quote by Nobel laureate and physicist Steven Weinberg:

        “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil – but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.”

Religious Thinking Hits Home

A good friend of mine from my Army days has unfriended me on Facebook. He took issue with my post of the morality of sex acts. Here I present his message and my response. Other that my response to him, I don’t really have anything more to say about this, except that it make me very sad.

Ed Connor February 1 at 2:42pm Report
Jay

I saw your extremist writing on sex not being connected to morality. As a father and a husband, you should really be ashamed of yourself and deeply embarassed and you really need to get a grip on reality. I doubt that hurt spouses whose partners have commited adultery, or prosititutes whose lives have been destroyed or children who have been sexually exploited, or those suffering from aids or other veneral diseases would agree with your bizarre and warped views promoting sexual immorality on a wholesale scale. Your children are in deep trouble given your bizzare views. So given your criterea, I guess your ex “Holly” was justified in engaing in beastiality and other infidelities. I guess the the children victimized by pedophile priests are in the wrong and need to put up with having their persons violated by these perverts. I guess you want one big Soddom and Gommorah to prevail. I see through you and other perverts like you and that is this: You want a life of unrestrained immorality with no accountability or consequences. That is what you promote and I’m sure that is what you teach your children and you deride and insult any people AKA Christians, who disagree with you.

You are not the same person I was friends with and we have nothing in common and I want no part of what you espouse. As such, I do not want to have any further contact with you. Thanks.

Ed

Jay Walker February 1 at 7:32pm
You know, Holly cheated on me. She tore out my heart and ground it into the dust. But it wasn’t the sex, it was the betrayal of trust. It was taking me for granted.

I teach my children to respect each other and other people and to treat people as they would like to be treated (you know, that do unto others stuff from that bible of your). Most importantly I teach them to be honest, with themselves and with others.

I am all about accountability and consequences. I’m about adults being open and honest with each other about their feelings and emotions, their needs and their desires.

Immorality is lying, to yourself and to others. It is hiding the secret desires that you have and pretending that they don’t exist. When you are open and honest about everything then you can decide to act or not act on those desires, but if you do decide to act you must do so with the understanding and support and agreement of the one you love. If they don’t agree or support you, then you have a moral obligation not to act. The morality comes from your respect of one another. The immorality comes from disrespect, selfishness and disregard of other’s feelings and well being, not from the acts themselves. The actual act has no morality attached to it, only the intent and execution makes it moral or immoral.

I am sad that you choose not to have anything to do with me. I certainly don’t agree with your religious views, but I believe you have every right to believe as you choose and I would never let that fact that you believe in some things that I find disagreeable influence our friendship. Unless you have done me harm by believing as you do, then I have no reason to not be friends with you. You haven’t done me harm with your beliefs and I don’t see how I have harmed you in any way with mine.

You must do as your conscience tells you, but your reaction proves one of my main points about the religious: you may espouse forgiveness as a central tenant of your religion, but you don’t mean it and you certainly don’t practice it. The bible also teaches you to judge not lest ye be judged, but I don’t see much of that going on here either.

I don’t follow any book or writings and I don’t let anyone tell me what to believe so I don’t have anything to refer back to to justify how I live my life, only my espoused belief in honesty, truthfulness and respecting my fellow human beings. You may not agree with what I believe, but at least I have the honesty to live my life by own words. You, and those like you, on the other hand, don’t have the honesty to live by the words you claim to revere.

I’ll always consider you a friend, Ed, regardless if you don’t consider me yours. But I will respect your wishes and will leave you alone.

Of Skepticism and Love

I am going through my second divorce. The first one was five and a half years ago. That marriage lasted over 17 years. I have friends who keep telling me that the right woman is out there for me. Some say that as soon as I stop looking she will show up in my life, other that l am a loving, caring person and that I deserve to be happy and they are sure that prefect woman for me will come along.

I know my friends are trying to cheer me up and don’t want me to lose hope that I’ll find happiness. Hell, I want to tell myself the same things, because, yes damn-it, I do deserve to be happy, but I know that life doesn’t work that way. I don’t want to get into the gory details about what happened to bring me to this point. Suffice it to say that my love and trust was terribly betrayed to the point where, for a while, I didn’t believe in real love at all, but instead saw love as a selfish way for people to get what they want from someone else. Fortunately, I realized that I still had the capacity to give love without totally selfish motives so I figured that if I could do that, so could others.

Life is not going to give me what I want or need. The universe doesn’t care about my desires, or anything else for that matter. The universe just is. It follows laws that came into being when it did and what ever happens is merely a result of the interactions arising from those laws. The only one or thing that can fulfill my needs and desires is myself. Not in a hedonistic way, but by making the most of what life throws at me. Of course I have plans and dreams, but they are only guides, like a compass needle pointing me in the direction I want to go. How I navigate the landscape that is presented to me as I go is totally dependent on what I see in front of me. We dream, we plan, but ultimately, we react to what is placed in our path.

The good thing is that I still believe that real love, true love, is possible. I still believe that there could be someone out there who would fulfill all of my needs and desires, and I hers. I just think that the chances that I’ll ever meet someone like that are astronomical and I’m too much of a realist to think that there is some kind of universal justice that will someday give me what I desire. The universe is arbitrary and there really is no rhyme or reason to it. We, as humans, are evolved to find patterns where there are none and to assign agency to events in our lives where none exist. Unlike many, I actually find great beauty and solace in this idea. It means that none of us are anymore more special than anything else in this world, and that is a great equalizer.

The Only Life We Have

We just got back from the candle light service for the assistant principle who was shot and killed at school yesterday. Here are some pictures I took with my camera phone. I didn’t think to bring my good camera because I wasn’t thinking about recording it in anyway.

It was very eerie and unreal, with somewhere between 1000 and 2000 people gathered. They started off with the school cheer and then I couldn’t really hear much else, that was until the most poignant point, when they sang Happy Birthday for the woman who’s birthday would have been today. It was very emotional and very unreal. You see things like this on the news, but it is always somewhere else. To be actually standing there and realize that a human life has been needlessly taken, and seeing the hundred of students and faculty who’s lives have been so horrible changed in an instant is just beyond words.

My kids don’t go to that school, but my son’s girlfriend does. Tonight was actually the first time I’ve met her. Most of the kids I saw were either very quiet or they were acting like this was just another school event, but you could tell from the way they quickly looked away whenever they met someone else’s gaze that emotional turmoil was just under the surface.

The saddest thing to me was realizing just how many people were affected by this tragedy. Students obviously were directly affected, but you knew that their parents, who must have been panic stricken yesterday when the news hit, we just as affected. There too, were the faculty, all of whom must have known and worked closely with the woman who was killed. Even the look in the eyes of a couple of the reporters seems to show that even they were not unaffected.

As I said on my blog earlier today, it is things like this that make you realize how precious life is and how terribly quickly and suddenly it can be snuffed out. Tonight has made me treasure all of the people I know and love more than ever. A message to take away from this is to never, ever take anyone for granted because in the blink of an eye, they could be gone (or perhaps you could be). Our lives are all we really have in this world and it is the people around us who make those lives worth living. To take that for granted, to overlook this fact is probably the one of the greatest mistakes we could ever make.

Followup On The Manhood Academy

My last post was about The Manhood Academy. My friend did a lot of research into the Manhood Academy’s history. They have , as of 2010, rebranded themselves as a Men’s Rights group. Before that, the sight was apparently locked down as of 2008, likely for their blatant promotion of hate and abuse toward women. Read her findings here.

Hey, Fuckwad! No Means No!

I read a couple of interesting blog entries here, here and here, about the current news item about Julian Assange being indicted for rape in Sweden. The whole case seems to center the idea of withdrawn consent. The sketchy details are these:

On one occasion he agreed to use a condom while having sex with a women, but it wasn’t until they were done that she realized that he didn’t’ wear one. In the other case, he wore a condom, which broke during intercourse. The woman asked him to stop when it broke, but he continued the sex act to its conclusion.

In Sweden, the law basically says that if consent is withdrawn at any time, the the person continues, that constitutes sexual assault.

To me, this is a given. I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly not get this. But, to my astonishment, it seems that most states in the U.S. do not have any kind of laws that deal with withdrawn consent. Apparently, most states still focus on the use of force in determining if rape occurred. WTF!?

If I am kick boxing with someone and half way through, I tell him to stop, but he continues to wail on my ass, I’m pretty sure that would constitute assault in most jurisdictions. Why should sex be any different. It is an, like kickboxing, an act that two people consensually engage in, but when one person withdraws their consent and says, “Stop!”, then the other person should stop. This is a basic of civilized human interaction.

It is horrifying and unacceptable that any woman should ever need to worry about a man not stopping a sex act if she tells him to. That any man would continue when told to stop is reprehensible beyond words and that man should be charged with sexual assault at the least, and really should be charged with rape, pure and simple. What part of “no means no” don’t these guys get?

This all goes back to this socially ingrained sense of male privilege that permeates society. It is a throw back to patriarchal societies that sprung up thousands of years ago and even back then there was no justification for it. If you had a penis, you were golden, if you didn’t, you were chattel. It was total and complete utter bullshit then and it still is now.

As long as the laws allow a man to have sex against her will, regardless of if she originally gave consent when they started, we will coninue to tolerate the intolerable. Laws that clearly define that, “no means no”, must be passed and penalties for breaking those laws must be harsh. Next to murder, sexual assault and abuse is the most heinous crime imaginable. Men need to realize that they will lose their freedom for a long time if they don’t stop when they hear “stop”.

It’s time to move beyond sensitivity classes and make sure that 50% of the population knows it can’t just impose their will on the other 50% without serious consequences

The Antipathy Towards Science Is Killing Us

I’ve spoken here before of the harms of religious thinking. Today I want to talk about something that is a threat to our modern society and that is the religious antipathy toward science.

Science has done more to advance the health and welfare of the human race than anything else humans have yet devised. In the past 100 years alone, the average human lifespan at birth has almost doubled. Humans are healthier, taller and live longer than at any point in our history as a species. This trend is due almost entirely to the progress that science has provided.

Science has allowed us to understand how the world we live in really works which in turn has allowed us to improve sanitation, housing, agriculture, food safely and production, health care and more. Without an understanding of how the world really works, we would still be in the medieval ages in terms of our well being and technology, beset by famines, plagues and pandemics that, until the middle of the 20th century, killed millions annually.

To illustrate just why and how science is important, I’m going to discuss evolution as it applies to bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Evolution is a fact. Yes, it is a theory, but it is also a fact just as much as gravity, which is also a theory, is a fact. Gravity exists. We know this to be true because we can successfully launch space probes and satellites, and we can predict where an asteroid or comet will travel.

In the same respect, evolution is a fact. We know it is a fact, for example, because we can see how bacteria evolves resistance to antibiotics. Because of our understanding of evolution we are able to predict how certain bacteria will likely evolve and use this knowledge to provided new drugs in time to treat bacteria that became resistant to older antibiotics. **

The problem we are now running into is that the funding for research and development into antibiotic resistance is in jeopardy because of resistance to science funding by the U.S. Congress, driven mainly by the GOP due to religiously motivated ideology.

Another problem that is possibly even more serious is the general lack of education in evolution in public schools. This lack of evolution education is caused mainly by religiously motivated anti-evolution groups all across the country.

The effect of this is that most students who enter college have littler or no knowledge of evolution or even science in general. This has lead to students who have little or on interest in science, or if they do, they tend to get discouraged because of the extra classes and work they have to complete just to get up to the level to be able to do college work in science.

This sad state of affairs means that the United States, once the undisputed leader in science and technology in the world, is quickly becoming a scientific has-been in the world. It is now countries like China, Russia, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and the European Union that lead the world in science and technology. It is no accident that these countries have very weak or nonexistent religiously based political groups.

In fact, if you look at countries that have the greatest infusion of religion in society and government, you will see that these countries are all scientific and technological backwaters. The Middle East is a prime example. Yes, they might embrace technology, but that technology is bought, not developed. Soon, unless we do something to change the current trend, the U.S. will also be a buyer of other’s technologies. We will become a nation of consumption instead of creativity and innovation. We will be entirely dependent on other countries for almost everything we need to function as a society. That is not a future that I think any of us wish to live in.

What is the solution? Get religious ideology out of government and public institutions. Base science funding and policy on what is proven to work or has the potential to work, not on religious dogma and ideology. Make science education as important as reading and arithmetic, just like we did in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

It is time to put religion back where it belongs, in our homes and churches, and keep it out of where it doesn’t belong, in government and our public institutions. If we fail to do this, we will soon find ourselves the greatest has-beens of world.

**Wikipedia, Antibiotic resistance, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibiotic_resistance#Alternatives