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The Letter I’m Not Sending

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That letter would be to orthopedic surgeon and Oregon State representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend), the Republican party’s candidate in the Oregon governor’s race.  [1] The subject matter of the letter would be the why behind the fact that although there are reasons I might consider voting for him, I cannot vote for him.

And the reasons have nothing to do with the fact that Oregon has elected only one Republican governor in the past 43 years.

I gotta have some respect for a Republican who receives the following critiques:

…Buehler frequently found himself getting into hot water with party activists who didn’t think he was conservative enough. They particularly criticized him for refusing to embrace President Donald Trump and for describing himself as pro-choice on abortion. Buehler’s recent vote in favor of a gun-control bill related to domestic abuse also rankled many gun-rights activists.
(“Republican Buehler Nominated To Face Brown
In Oregon Governor’s Race,” OPB 5-18-18)

After reading about some of Buehler’s positions on various issues, MH wondered aloud, something along the lines of, How/why is this man was even a Republican?

 

 

confusedspock

I have no logical answer at this moment.

 

 

 

I have found the incumbent governor who is running for reelection, Democrat Kate Brown, to be…. mostly acceptable. What I find unacceptable is her campaign’s advertising campaign  [2] against Buehler.  I am particularly disappointed with the way the Democrats are trying to smear Buehler re his claims of being prochoice, despite his repeated public proclamations as such.

“I’m going to vote for you, but I sure wish you were pro-life,” (a Republican voter tells Buehler at the Oregon state fair).
(The Republican voter) says he finds abortion offensive and posits that Buehler’s position is just an appeal to the liberal western portion of the state. Buehler sympathizes with his perspective, but confirms he supports abortion rights. Efforts should be made to make abortion as rare as possible, Buehler says, but the decision to have an abortion should be between a woman and her doctor.
(“Buehler’s ‘pro-choice’ stance: Disliked by conservatives, discredited by Democrats,”
Salem Statesman Journal 9-6-18)

That seems straightforward to me, and expresses sentiments similar to those I’ve heard from both prochoice conservatives and liberals. But many Oregon Democrats don’t like the fact that Buehler disagrees with them on related issues – “it’s my way or the highway” seems to be the attitude they are taking. He must agree with every issue they, or the Oregon chapters of NARAL or Planned Parenthood – organizations which I support, both philosophically and financially – deem to be related to abortion and/or reproductive health care, or they feel entitled to take away his prochoice label.

Example: there was an Oregon House Bill, signed last year by Gov. Brown, which required insurance companies to cover abortions and other reproductive health services at no cost to the patient. (I favored that bill, BTW). Buehler opposed the bill because he considered it “fiscally irresponsible to fund a new program as others were losing funding.” So, Those Who Think They Own The Label ® declare he “really isn’t pro choice.”  Which means I am seeing and hearing political ads featuring Concerned Women ®  saying, “We just can’t trust Knute Buehler,”  and implying that Buehler would somehow do away with women’s rights. And that just frosts my butt.

 

 

slothpeekaboo

While this picture is in no way illustrative of the issue addressed in the previous paragraph, wouldn’’ you rather see a cute sloth than the writer’s frosty butt?

 

 

 

In 1969, Oregon was one of the first states to legalize abortion, even before Roe v. Wade hit the law books. “Our policies are borne out of Oregon exceptionalism,” says (the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon). “We are progressive and libertarian. Voters on the east side of the Cascades may or may not agree with a woman’s right to access abortion, but they sure as heck agree that the government has no place in that decision.”
(“Why Oregon is the Only State that Doesn’t Limit Legal Access to Abortion,”
Portland Monthly)

Oregon’s long record as a prochoice state makes us the envy of many other states; thus, the issue of abortion in this particular political race is not a “biggie” for a staunch prochoice advocate such as moiself. And although he crosses his party’s line in his prochoice stance, I know there are other issues about which Buehler likely toes the Republican party line. But he is willing to tackle what is one of the most important state political issues for me, and one that the Democrats have repeatedly failed to address: the fact that Oregon’s growing public pension obligations are crowding out the rest of the state budget – what the NY Times refers to as a severe, “self-inflicted crisis.”

Oregon…is caught in a fiscal squeeze of its own making. Its economy is growing, but the cost of its state-run pension system is growing faster. … its spiraling costs are notable in part because Oregon enjoys a reputation for fiscal discipline. Its experience shows how faulty financial decisions by states can eventually swamp local communities….
Oregon’s costs are inflated by the way in which it calculates pension benefits for public employees. Some of the pensions include income that employees earned on the side. Other retirees benefit from long-ago stock market rallies that inflated the current value of their payouts.
The bill is borne by taxpayers. Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System has told cities, counties, school districts and other local entities to contribute more to keep the system afloat. They can neither negotiate nor raise local taxes fast enough to keep up. As a result, pensions are crowding out other spending. Essential services are slashed.
 (“A $76,000 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash,”
NY Times, 4-14-18)

I like Buehler’s willingness to address Oregon’s need for PERS ( Public Employees Retirement System) reform. The PERS as it stands, IMHO as well as the opinions of financially astute people on all sides of the political aisles, is a disaster in the making. The system is unsustainable as currently calculated and implemented, and yessiree Bob, it will be a complicated and a “dirty” fight to reform it.  The spineless Democrats haven’t done a @#$?! thing about it, except to criticize Buehler (or anyone who has a plan to reform PERS), as being anti ____ (teacher, firefighter, or other public employees    [3]  ).  Thus, every four years when it’s time to elect a governor, here come the ads showing Concerned Teachers ® – mostly female, from what I’ve seen – talking about how ____ (insert name of non-Democratic candidate…this year, it’s Buehler) is “against” them.

My butt grows frostier by the minute.

 

 

slothbucket

Oh, no! Don’t worry; we’ll save you from the pictorial representation of her wrath.

 

 

No no no no no – and did I say, no? Teacher Ma’am, those who point out that your purse is leaking dollar bills and that you need to either get a new purse or fix the existing one – or at least stop walking down the street with your purse hanging upside down – are not “against” you, or your profession. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Someone who is trying to save you from inevitable bankruptcy is not out to get you (boys and girls, can you ask your economics teacher to explain what happened in Detroit, or Greece ?). But the critics of those who offer PERS reform, time and time again, year after year, offer nothing substantial in response, except for the occasional mealy mouthed admission that “something” needs to be done…eventually…by someone….

Buehler has proposed a sound beginning approach to PERS reform, and the response is ad homimen criticism from Democrats and teachers’ unions: “Why does Buehler hate teachers/public employees!?!?!?  Their distract-from-the-real-issue hysteria reminds me of the rabid, irrational criticism from conservatives leveled at football players who take a knee to protest racial injustice. Instead of actually listening to and considering the grievances which inspired the players’ actions, it’s,  WHY DO YOU DISRESPECT OUR FLAG AND OUR SOLDIERS ?!?!?!?!?

 

 

cowfish

But everyone respects a picture of a lovely cowfish, so let’s all take a deep breath and think before we yell.

 

 

 

There is a sad truth I am getting back to, in the letter I am currently not sending to you, Rep. Buehler. Despite just having expressed disgust with the black/white, you-must-agree-with-me-on-every-thing-or-you’re-against-me attitude and despite admiring you for your ideas on an issue that is of paramount importance to all Oregonians, I cannot seriously consider voting for you as long as you are willing to remain affiliated with the Republican party.

People who know most of my political positions probably assume I usually vote “for the Democrat,” and that is (usually) correct. For most of my voting life  [4] I have been registered as independent or decline to state for political party affiliation.  [5]  I have, at times, temporarily registered  in a variety of parties – mostly in the two “biggies” (Democrat or Republican), depending on how I wanted to vote in a primary election (or in a couple of cases due to my curiosity as to what kind of political mailers I would receive by being on, say, the Peace and Freedom Party’s membership roll  [6]).  In each case, after the primary election was over, I left skidmarks switching my status back to Independent.

I have never felt a strong affiliation for a political party, in any personal or “loyalty oath” kind of way, and have always loathed (what I view as) the kneejerk, no-thought required tendency of many people to always vote for their party’s candidates, no matter what.  I have voted for Republican candidates who, like you, Mr. Buehler, seemed willing to tackle difficult issues in a meaningful way and “reach across the aisle” to do so. But, as I have previously stated in this space, I will never vote for a Republican again, as long as your party continues to support/does nothing to oust #45.  [7] 

Now, you may point out that the governorship to which you aspire is a state office, not Federal.  It doesn’t matter; I will not vote for a Republican for any political office. If you claim the party affiliation, you share that affiliation with those who support the affront to human decency and civilization that is The Current Occupant of The White House. Your Republican brethren at the top seem impervious to criticism from the top, so I’m holding all of y’all down the totem pole responsible.

I’m sorry, Mr. Buehler, because you seem like a thoughtful, intelligent, just plain good person in many ways, and one who is trying to do his best for the state he loves. But the continued presence of #45 shows, to me, that those who support him have turned a blind eye to their country and their humanity – as particularly and abhorrently illustrated by the events of recent weeks  [8]  – which leaves me ethically unable to support anyone at any governmental level who is willing to remain on the Republican team.

 

 

 

ladyliberty

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Possible Exception To The Previous Proclamation

I could vote for a Republican who was actively and publicly working to remove #45 from office via impeachment or by invoking the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Oh And One More Thing

The above political cartoon, by Bruce MacKinnon for The Halifax Chronicle Herald, should be a shoo-in, IMHO, for the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.

*   *   *

 

 

May you carefully weigh the costs of your affiliations;
May you accept my thanks for abiding with me through one-issue rants posts;
May pictures of sloths warm your frosty butts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Notice I did not use the term, Gubernatorial, and when you’re around me, please don’t you use it, either. I find the word offensive, as in unnecessarily fancy…and just plain nasty.

[2] An objectionable political advertising campaign – what a surprise!

[3] Which include some OHSU physicians and Oregon University football coaches, some drawing grotesquely inflated pensions of more than $76,000…per MONTH.

[4] Since I register to vote at age 18 I’ve never missed an election for which I was qualified to vote.

[5] The label has varied from state and county, etc.

[6] The mailers were never as interesting – or out and out loony tunes – as I’d hoped they’d be.

[7] Whose name is not spoken in my house.

[8] I of course refer to the SCOTUS nomination and confirmation of Judge “I love beer so much I can’t remember the women I tried to rape when I was drunk but I love beer don’t you love beer and nothing’s gonna happen to privileged white preppie boys like me, boy ya gotta love beer!” Kavanaugh.

The Boat I’m Not Floating

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Halloween; The Nun;  Predator;  Hereditary; The First Purge….. There have been a lot of horror movies released in 2018, and also two Stephen King books.  But arguably one of the scariest stories of the year comes from the real life experiences of Linda Kay Klein’s book, Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free.  

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. We’re going to talk about the evangelical sexual purity movement, its insistence on sexual abstinence before marriage and the impact the movement has had on women who were brought up in it, women like my guest, Linda Kay Klein. She says the movement has traumatized many girls and maturing women who are haunted by sexual and gender-based anxiety, fear and shame. Her new book, “Pure,” is part memoir, including the story of how she left the movement. The book also draws on the interviews she did with other women in their 20s, 30s and 40s,…about how the evangelical purity movement has affected their sense of identity and their sex lives.

The purity movement grew in the 1980s during the Reagan administration, which funded abstinence-only programs for community organizations, schools and health departments. A whole industry of purity-related products developed around the movement, including purity rings, T-shirts, mugs, even a purity Bible. Klein describes the purity movement as conveying the expectation that all unmarried girls and women must maintain a sexless body, mind and heart to be pure. Klein is also the founder of Break Free Together, which tries to help people escape the sexual shame they were raised with.

 

 

fear

 

 

 

Listen, if you dare, to the rest Fresh Air interview about Klein being raised in and breaking free from the Evangelical “Purity Movement“, but keep the lights – this is scary shit.

Like many if not most horror stories, there is somewhat of a happy ending.  However, like many horror stories, the monster is not ultimately killed – it just, IMHO, assumes a different, more benign-seeming form.

Translation: the author still calls herself a Christian.  At least now she (thinks) she is practicing her faith on her own terms. Still, her answer to the host’s question about her relationship with her parents – it just about broke my heart, listening to that.  [1]

GROSS: It was your mother who brought you into evangelical Christianity. When you left the evangelical church, was your mother upset? And if she was, did you feel guilty about making her upset by following your new thinking and leaving the church?

KLEIN: My mom was heartbroken when I left and moreover, I think, scared. You know, for my mom, the fact that I was a Christian was her very favorite thing about me. She literally told me that, as did my father. On separate occasions, they both told me their favorite thing about me was my Christianity when I was younger. And so, you know, when I left, I lost my parents’ favorite thing about me.

If you haven’t heard of the Christian Purity Movement and you have a strong stomach and are curious, put on your sterile gloves – nitrile, for those of you with a latex allergy – and Google away.

It is unlikely I will be reading Klein’s book, for same reason I do not watch the Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale.  Although I “enjoyed”   [2]   the Margaret Atwood book upon which the series is based, I rarely find depictions of misogynistic, joy-sucking dystopias to be sufficient diversionary or amusing forms of entertainment.

 

 

puritygif

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Crimes I Don’t Understand

On March 18, 1990, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston…. Despite efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and multiple probes around the world, no arrests have been made and no works have been recovered.
(Wikipedia entry on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft)

I just don’t “get’ art heist – the theft of famous works of art. What good is it, to the thief, to steal a painting valued at $25 million? It’s not like you can take it to the local pawn shop, fence it at the flea market, or put a notice on Craig’s List:

 

thescream

Moving sale, Scandinavian picture, good condition, only two previous owners, $20 million OBO

 

 

The point of most thievery, as moiself understands it, is to sell (or barter) what you steal. You can’t turn around and sell a famous painting – anyone who would be interested in it or who would or who would be able to afford to buy it would know it’s stolen.

The second, less common motivation for theft is a desire to acquire that which you want but do not have and are unable and/or unwilling to acquire honestly and/or legally (for example, when a grade school friend of mine swiped my mini spy camera). [3]   Simply put, you take something because you want it for yourself.

So, you’re a passionate art lover, and you somehow are able to filch the Mona Lisa. The work of genius is yours, at last! And now you have…a masterpiece millstone, around your neck. What can you do with it? Hang it on your wall and admire it…all by yourself…forever? You can’t ever have guests or family over because, once again, anyone who sees it will  eventually figure out that it’s stolen.   [4]

Perhaps the real crime I’m thinking of is one of mislabeling: art theft really isn’t theft, it’s essentially kidnapping. The permanent acquisition of the object is not the point; the ransom is what the Renior robber is after. The thief negotiates via intermediary to return the art to the museum for a payment, with both parties grudgingly agreeing to a charade of sorts (“Look what fell off the back of my cousin’s girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend’s truck!”). If investigations by The Proper Authorities ® are going nowhere the museum agrees to this; the board of directors and curators just want their “priceless” object returned and are willing to pay a pittance of its estimated value to do so (which will still likely be a pretty penny for the thief).

 

 

steal

I wonder, did Hoffman receive any royalties (or ransom?) for this?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

Dateline: Wednesday morning, 8 am. I am walking around the grounds of the Kaiser Permanente Medical center in Hillsboro, where I have taken a friend for an appointment. It is a brisk-cool-melting into sunny, gorgeous autumn day, and so naturally I start wondering about the medical center’s name.

Kaiser Permanente.  I know – or assume – where the Kaiser part of the moniker comes from: a doctor and/or founder/benefactor of the HMO.   [5]   But, whence Permanente, and what does it mean?   Were the Kaiser founders unsure, all those years ago when the idea of managed care was rather unique, that their institution would survive, and thus they named it optimistically: “It’s not Kaiser Temporaria or Kaiser What-the-hell-it-just-might-work-out, it’s Kaiser Permanente!

 

 

confusedspock

I find that explanation highly unlikely…but whatever floats your boat.

 

 

 

I decided to ask the staff people I was encountering on the footpaths around the center’s grounds –friendly, smiling employees on their way to and from the various clinic buildings, who sported Kaiser name badges.  I gave up after three tries; I’d begun to feel  rather guilty to be the cause of the seemingly perpetually beaming faces slumping into confused, Why are you asking/is this a trick question? expressions.

Never mind. I suppose I could Google it….  But…sometimes…I just like to wonder. After all, knowing the answer to everything would, as the Monty Python sketch put it, “take all the mystery out of life.”

 

 

NehalemAug2012

It’s my boat, and it’s floating. Now what?

 

*   *   *

May you never stop walking and wondering;
May your boat always float;
May you bitch-slap-until-they-soil-themselves those cretins who try to teach children
that “purity” has anything to do with sexuality;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] What a monstrous worldview, that causes a mother to fear that, as Klein later states in the interview, her child “…would no longer be with her in heaven, that she would have to spend eternity without me and that she would look down and see me in eternal damnation and know that there was nothing she could do to save me.”  Yikes.

[2] Wrong word…but don’t know how to describe my reaction. It was excellent, well done, but depressing/ chilling.

[3] Which I had purchased – “redeemed” was the term, I believe – from the makers of Bazooka bubble gum, for fifty cents and a whole bunch of Bazooka gum wrappers. My friend had admired the teeny camera and tried to pressure me into trading for it, but I refused. One day she came home with me after school to play at my house, and after she left I noticed my camera was missing. The next day I went to her house to play, and when she was called to the kitchen by her mother for some reason, I snooped in her room and found my camera in a box on her dresser. She had peeled off some of the decorative paper on the camera’s body, no doubt in an effort to “disguise” it.  I quickly pocketed the camera and made up some excuse why I had to go home. I never confronted her about it; she had a sad family situation, and I felt sorry for her.

[4] The “Oh, it’s just a print” cover story will only work so long.

[5] “Kaiser Permanente is an American integrated managed care consortium, based in Oakland, California, United States, founded in 1945 by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and physician Sidney Garfield.” – from Wikipedia entry.

The Lot I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of At Last, An Honest Answering Device

Last week I was gob smacked by the picture MH sent me of our answering machine’s display of a caller ID (for the phone call he missed):

 

 

ID

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Just Where My Mind Goes

My first thought upon reading the following review  [1] excerpt: The film isn’t circumcised?

New York Times Critics’ Pick!
An uncut gem of a movie…..

*   *   *
Department Of No, I Can’t Just Leave It Alone

Whaddya mean, I’ve never told you my favorite circumcision jokes?

Q. What did the receptionist say to the patient waiting in the circumcisionist’s office?
A. “It won’t be long now.”

Q. How much does a circumcisionist earn?
A. One hundred dollars an hour, plus tips.

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

Speaking of unkind cuts…what a convenient segue to

 

 

Department Of Name Dropping And Saint Shaming

Mother Teresa’s work was part of a global enterprise for the alleviation of bourgeois guilt, rather than a genuine challenge to those forces that produce and maintain poverty.
(“Mother Teresa as the Mirror of Bourgeois Guilt,”
Indian journalist/historian Vijay Prashad )

The following rant thoughtful explication was prompted by a recent comment I overheard, which I list in the paragraph after the warning.

(Consider yourself warned.)

Should you ever attempted to deflect a commendation (within earshot of moiself ) regarding an act of generosity or kindness on your part  by using the intended-to-be humble qualifier, “Well, I’m no Mother Teresa…”, brace yourself for my rejoinder:

“Yes, but Mother Teresa was, in fact, ‘no Mother Teresa.’ ”   [2]

The first time I recall doing this was at least fifteen years ago, during the book study group I attended at a UCC church (where we the still-closeted atheists – MH and I – were active members). I cannot recall the book under discussion nor the particular comment which elicited a fellow book group member’s poorly-timed, Well, I’m no Mother Teresa….

“Poorly-timed” translation:  I’d been reading up on Mother Teresa, having come across criticism from liberal Catholics regarding MT’s entry into what amounted to the RC church’s “Ten Items or Fewer” saint checkout line.  [3]  In doing so I’d encountered a surprising number of informed and rational voices – from British journalist Christopher Hitchens to Australian academic and social critic Germaine Greer [4] to Indian physicians and activists and others. These voices had dared to question –  and more importantly, to examine – MT’s previously unexamined reputation as a humble, selfless humanitarian devoted to the poor.  And I began to share some of my “encounters” with the book group.

Pity that unfortunate I’m-no-Mother-Teresa comment-dude…. I did later apologize to him   [5]  for getting the group “off track.” (And the always tolerant and circumspect book group leader practically left skidmarks getting us “back to the subject at hand.”)

 

weinterrupt

 

As per the name-dropping: In October 2007 I attended the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s annual convention, held that year in Madison, WI. Christopher Hitchens, one of the featured speakers, gave a rousing speech for his acceptance of the FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes Award   [6].  Later that evening, a New Friend I Met At The Convention ® and I went to the hotel bar/cafe, to discuss the day’s events over wine and a tasty hummus platter.   [7]  There were no tables available, so NFIMATV and I took a seat at the bar.  NFIMATV noticed that Mr. Hitchens was seated at the end of the bar, a mere six barstools down from us, and decided we should commend him re his speech.

Although never averse to chatting up strangers, I was reluctant to “pester” someone who was…well, a celebrity of sorts.  I reminded NFIMATV of Hitchens’ reputation for not suffering fools;  [8]  also, he’d just spoken in front of hundreds of people and might want to simply unwind and sip his drink….

NFIMATV would have none of my protestations. “He came to a crowded, public place! If he wanted to be left alone he’d have gone up to his suite and ordered room service.” She grabbed my arm and literally dragged me down to the end of the bar.

NFIMATV briefly introduced herself and I to Hitch, and complimented him on his speech. Moiself said WTF to moiself, and then aloud to Hitch: “I thought you might appreciate knowing that you’ve been quoted…uh, by me…in a church book study group, when someone said the usual obsequious nonsense about Mother Teresa.”

Hitch winked at me, replied, “Indeed,” and raised his whiskey glass in a toast. Then it was my turn to be the arm-grabber as I led NFIMATV back to our end of the bar.

This ends the name-dropping portion of our programming.

 

 

reliefjpg

 

 

“I just thought that this myth [re Mother Teresa and the Catholic charities providing compassionate care in the slums of India] had to be challenged”….
Over hundreds of hours of research, much of it cataloged in a book he published in 2003, Dr. Chatterjee said he found a “cult of suffering” in homes run by Mother Teresa’s organization, the Missionaries of Charity, with children tied to beds and little to comfort dying patients but aspirin.
He and others said that Mother Teresa took her adherence to frugality and simplicity in her work to extremes, allowing practices like the reuse of hypodermic needles and tolerating primitive facilities that required patients to defecate in front of one another.
(from “A Critic’s Lonely Quest: Revealing the Whole Truth About Mother Teresa,
NY Times profile of Dr. Aroup Chaterjee )

It is highly likely that what you “know,” and what most people think they know, about MT comes from a book about her  [9] – and the media coverage about the celebrity visits to MT’s clinics, which followed publication of the book – written by Malcolm Muggeridge.  Muggeridge, a zealous Roman Catholic convert and conservative British social commenter, was derided by  Christopher Hitchens as “that old fraud and mountebank.” Hitchens largely credited Muggeridge for providing the propaganda tool which spawned MT’s becoming “the focus of a fawning cult who used the suffering of the poor for her own political and ideological ends.”

 

 

Mother

 

 

Christopher Hitchens was MT’s most vocal – but by no means only –  detractor.  He described her as a “thieving, fanatical Albanian dwarf,” and charged that the missions she ran in Calcutta were humanitarian humbugs serving as a masquerade for her “cult of death and suffering.”  What Hitch did by investigating MT and her work is what any good journalist – and citizen – should do, and yet because he was one of the first to do so he was considered radical and contrarian when he was in fact being sensible and straightforward: he judged Mother Theresa‘s reputation by her words and actions.  What was being promoted by the myth makers, saint manufacturers was the opposite – they wanted you to judge MT’s words and actions by her reputation.

Okay, perspective timeout. If you’re interested in this subject, or just perplexed because this is the first time you’ve heard about the MT controversy, you can find much more information than the crumbs I offer in this space.  There have been books, articles, even a documentary  [10] on the subject, by writers and investigators far more experienced and eloquent then moiself.  If you find your defensive hackles rising at the mere thought of criticizine a “saint”–  if you prefer the PR to reality – it’s likely you won’t be convinced by the evidence, no matter the source.

Evidence – and her own words – show that Mother Teresa was not so much a “champion of the poor” but a religious fanatic who took pleasure in their suffering. Not only did she refuse to alleviate the pain of her patients but she gloried in it. As she herself said: “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.”
(“Mother Teresa ‘a friend of poverty, not of the poor,” Carol Hunt, independent.ie)

Here’s the main point, which I think cannot be overemphasized:  Mother Teresa did not love the poor and the afflicted; she was in love with poverty and affliction. The difference is astronomically crucial, particularly in understanding her motivation – which is most adamantly not an excuse – for the way she treated her patients and ran her organization.

Did she see the Calcutta slum dwellers for who and what they were, and respect them as (non-Catholic) individuals? Or did she see them as mere objects sharing a “lot” she considered to be some kind of blessed condition bestowed by her deity?

People who are in fact poor and genuinely suffering do not idealize their misery. The destitute want to rise out of poverty, and the afflicted want to get well. To think (and act) otherwise about their situations is patronizing, not compassionate.

 

pajamasloth

Is it time for some kind of cute picture to relieve the tension?

 

A summary of the reality behind the Mother Teresa mythos:

* Critics have pointed out a host of ways in which MT’s mission of mercy was not all that it seemed, including but not limited to her shady ways of caring for the sick, her problematic political contacts, her irregular management of the vast sums of money she received, and her harsh, dogmatic views on social and cultural issues.  Examples include:

* Doctors and journalists who visited MT’s clinics accused her of perpetuating the suffering of destitute patients by not giving them easily obtainable painkillers and by having the dying spend their final weeks on wooden pallets in communal dormitories, fed only on boiled rice and water;

* Families who took their loved ones to MT’s clinics to receive care for, e.g., a broken leg, complained that their loved ones were treated as if they were dying (i.e., given only hospice-type care and not transferred or referred to another, actual medical clinic) and thus did die, from lack of treatment of totally non-lethal, treatable ailments.  [11]  Meanwhile, MT herself traveled out of the country to California clinics when she got sick and required treatment.

* Several visitors who traveled to see MT’s Calcutta clinic, impressed by the mission to help the poor but appalled by the clinic’s primitive conditions and lack of supplies, made substantial donations to MT’s order (“The Sisters of Charity”) for the express purpose of updating and supplying the clinic. When these donors returned months or years later to see what their monies had wrought, they were shocked to find the clinic was as rundown as it had always been (and MT’s order refused to publish any audit of its funds).  Meanwhile, MT’s order was opening religious schools around the world – by MT’s own claim she opened 500 convents in more than one hundred countries – most of them bearing her name.  [12]

* Germaine Greer called MT a “religious imperialist” bent on evangelism,” and Indian human rights activists accused MT of a covert agenda – trying to convert the poor to Christianity, under the guise of treating the sick. Witnesses observed MT and her staff performing the Catholic rite of baptism upon dying and delusional non-Christian patients while pretending to cool the patients’ heads with wet cloths.

* MT accepted donations from – and provided photo ops for – sleazy public figures who gave her donations –  including the brutal Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier (whom she praised in return), the disgraced British publisher Robert Maxwell, and the thieving American banker, Charles Keating (remember the S & Loan crisis?) – while refusing to comment upon (or claiming ignorance about) their atrocious human rights violations.

This last * is particularly galling to me, because if you can for some reason excuse the other criticisms of MT, how can you justify, other than for brazen $$ interests, her cozying up to such horrible people and regimes? Do you know about her astonishing personal involvement in the prosecution of Charles Keating?

MT wrote a letter, on behalf of Keating to the judge who tried Keating’s case, asking for mercy and leniency in Keaton’s sentencing…despite claiming in the letter to know nothing about his business nor the criminal charges levied against him. The Deputy DA who worked on the prosecution of Keating wrote an eloquent letter back to MT, detailing the charges against Keating and the sources of the money that Keating had donated to MT, thus providing, as Hitchens put it, the “clearest and best-documented proof against the customary apologies about (MT’s supposed) innocence and unworldliness.”

The DA was so appalled by MT’s efforts on behalf of her benefactor  – and her seeming lack of concern for those Keating had swindled – that he allowed Hitchens to print his response to MT in its entirety, in Hitchen’s MT expose, The Missionary Position.  An excerpt from his letter:

“The victims of Mr. Keating’s fraud come from a wide spectrum of society. Some were wealthy and well-educated. Most were people of modest means and unfamiliar with high finance. One was, indeed, a poor carpenter who did not speak English and had his life saving’s stolen by Mr. Keating’s fraud….

You urged (the judge) to look into his heart – as he sentences Charles Keating – and do what Jesus would do. I submit the same challenge to you. Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were given the fruits of a crime; what Jesus would do if he were in possession of money that had been stolen; what Jesus would do if he were being exploited by a thief to ease his conscience?

I submit that Jesus would promptly and unhesitatingly return the stolen property to its rightful owners. You should do the same. You have been given money by Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the “indulgence”  [13]  he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it.

If you contact me I will put you indirect contact with the rightful owners of the property now in your possession.”

Mother Teresa neither replied to the letter nor returned the money.

*   *   *

May you always judge the reputation by the deeds, and not vice-versa;
May you always be able to provide an accounting;
May you know (at least as per circumcision jokes) when to leave it alone;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

[1] for the movie, We the Animals.

[2] And be relieved if I stop at the mere rejoinder and do not go into full lecture mode. 

[3] Bypassing traditional procedures for canonization, a move by Pope John Paul II which bothered many Catholics.

[4] Greer was once on the same airplane flight as MT, and noted that while she (Greer) rode in economy class, MT, who had taken a vow of poverty, rode in first class.  Greer had critiqued  MT and the Catholic charitable orders and their policies and politics before and after that plane ride, and infamously referred to MT as the “glamour girl of poverty” and MT’s Missionary order as an “order of clones.”

[5] And he later thanked me for bringing up a hitherto unknown (to him) perspective.

[6] An award bestowed by the FFRF, for public figures who use “plain speaking” on the shortcomings of religion.

[7]  We had to settle for stale pretzels. But the wine was nice.

[8] Which had been fully on display that evening during a Q & A session after his speech, when “Hitch” calmly, wittily, and effectively verbally eviscerated those who were less than prepared/articulate in framing their questions.

[9] Something Beautiful For God.

[10] “Hell’s Angel,” produced by Hitchens and journalist Tariq Ali. Hitchen’s research for this film, which first ran as a BBC television program in 1994, spurred him to write the book, The Missionary Position.

[11] And these poor families (who later spoke with journalists) told of how when they complained to the local  authorities, they were either disbelieved or hushed up, due to MT’s reputation.

[12] So much for her claims of modesty and humility.

[13] The purchase of “indulgences” (i.e.. buying one’s way to forgiveness)  was once an acceptable method of seeking forgiveness in the Catholic church. It was one of the theological abominations cited by Martin Luther which led to The Protestant reformation.

The Book I’m Not Finishing

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Department Of I Should Have Known Better

It was a podcast that sent me back to the book, this time.  By the book I mean the book I should have finished reading several ( as in, almost ten ) years ago.  Do you know what I mean?

 

Of course you don’t. Because I am the only person on this planet who does what I am about to describe.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali came to the attention of the wider world in an extraordinary way. In 2004 a Muslim fanatic, after shooting the filmmaker Theo van Gogh dead on an Amsterdam street, pinned a letter to Mr. van Gogh’s chest with a knife. Addressed to Ms. Hirsi Ali, the letter called for holy war against the West and, more specifically, for her death.
A Somali by birth and a recently elected member of the Dutch Parliament, Ms. Hirsi Ali had waged a personal crusade to improve the lot of Muslim women. Her warnings about the dangers posed to the Netherlands by unassimilated Muslims made her Public Enemy No. 1 for Muslim extremists….
The circuitous, violence-filled path that led Ms. Hirsi Ali from Somalia to the Netherlands is the subject of “Infidel,” her brave, inspiring and beautifully written memoir…..
Ms. Hirsi Ali describes a journey “from the world of faith to the world of reason,” a long, often bitter struggle to come to terms with her religion and the clan-based traditional society that defined her world and that of millions of Muslims all over.

The book I’m not finishing is the much-praised (as per the above excerpts from William Grimes’ review in the New York Times) Infidel: My Life, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

I have had the Infidel book for…I don’t know how long.  [1]  And I have started reading it….I don’t know many times. Last weekend, as I have done before (and before and before and before), I found the book in my stash pile, started over (it had been at least a year since my last attempt), then, once again, set it aside.  I haven’t been able to read past the chapter in which the author – using an almost journalistic,  dispassionate prose style I’ve come to recognize as being common to PTSD survivors – describes her horrific torture and mutilation at that age 5, when she (and her younger sister) underwent the barbaric procedure of FGM or female genital mutilation (which was, and in some cases still us, euphemistically and mistakenly referred to, by the countries and cultures and religions that practiced and/or mandated it, as “female circumcision”  [2]  ).

Ms. Hirsi Ali’s bravery seemingly knows few bounds; she is a passionate and articulate activist for feminism,  human rights, free speech and freedom from religion, despite being under constant fatwas or death threats from Muslim extremists  (ala another ex-Muslim writer, Salman Rushdie, who lived for years in virtual exile).  [3]    I’ve read/heard  excerpts of Hirsi Ali’s other works and speeches;  I know she is respected in the free speech and Freethinker communities, and I feel that, in order to respect her work, I need to read her influential memoir in its entirety….

And yet I just can’t get past her recounting of the misogynistic, life-negating, barbarism, which – as is the norm in FGM – was arranged and abetted by trusted family members. I know she survives her ordeal and eventually escapes from other self -negating circumstances (including an arranged marriage)…but the FGM was done to her when she was only five years old, and moiself, perhaps immaturely but self-protectively, wonders how much more deprivation, ignorance and brutality is going to be served up until I can get to the Triumph-Over-Adversity ® chapters?

What am I, some kind of intellectual coward?

 

 

chickens

 

 

 

As a long-time feminist activist with a background in reproductive health care, I am no stranger to the horrific reality of FGM.  Still, it affects me in ways that reading about other brutalities (e.g. war; serial murders) do not, possibly in part for the personal/worldwide/political ramifications of such a primitive, atrocious, spirit-crushing, female-hating ritual.

I’m wondering if others have had the same problem, when it comes to reading about gruesome trauma?  There have been other books I’ve read, usually memoir other non-fiction, where I have been unable to get past certain passages, then felt it was somehow disrespecting the integrity of the work as a whole to continue reading the book via skipping problematic passages or chapters, so I set the books aside for a few months…but eventually tackled them again and was able to finish. But, in this case, I’m talkin’ years of avoidance.

And now, once again, the Serious Book ®  – which I’ve come to view as a literary equivalent to cleaning behind the refrigerator, taking cod liver oil, and memorizing the capital cities of all fifty states (i.e., daunting tasks that are supposed to be “good for me”) sits on my nightstand, atop my I’ll-get-to-it-eventually pile.  [4]  Not that I’m paranoid or anything, but I swear the book’s front cover has been glaring at me disapprovingly, each night since I set it atop my reading pile, as it sees me open the literary equivalent of Twinkies on my Kindle reader: two other memoirs (one of a recently deceased actor and the other of a punk/pop “princess”).   [5]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of You Had To Be There

Sighting of week: Dateline, Monday morning, just before 7: 30 am. A big ass truck (y’all know the kind) pulls into the driveway of a house I am approaching on my morning walk.

 

 

big truck

This about captures the size ratio.

 

 

 

The driver’s door opens, and inside the big ass truck I espy a very petite, very blonde, very, very pregnant young woman. Dwarfed by the mammoth vehicle, she exits the cab by somehow sliding down the side of it (the truck has no cab step). She manages to land gracefully and delicately on her tiny feet, then waddles toward the house.

On the one hand, nothing remarkable, right? On the other hand…I have different fingers.

 

 

bearmeme

 

 

Sorry.

On the other hand, it seemed like a noteworthy feat for me to bear witness to, let alone for the Very Petite, Very Blonde, Very, Very Pregnant Young Woman ® to accomplish. The image has been coming back to me all week, and has served as a reminder that there is a kind of extraordinary grace – even beauty – to be found in ordinary situations.

 

*   *   *

Department Of If You Haven’t Got Anything Nice To Say, Come Sit By Me

Dateline: last week, driving to the beach.  I took one of my favorite “shortcuts” from the Sunset Highway to the coast – a very windy, two lane road snaking through the Nehalem River Valley, Route 53,  which MH and refer to as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – and stopped for lunch at a café off of Highway 101. I’ve eaten at the café many times in the past few months; I’ve found the service is friendly, and the food a notch above standard diner fare if mostly unremarkable.

There was much food remarking that day, however, between a young man working at the café and an older couple who were seated at a table near the door. The café is small, and I couldn’t help but hear the conversation, which began with the couple complimenting their lunches (“This is hands down the best food we’ve had on the coast!  [6]  ) to the young man when he refilled their water glasses. They asked him for dining recommendations as they headed north; the young man enthused about a Thai restaurant up north of Astoria, then the three of them began discussing other local dining options

The couple said they’d heard about a new restaurant in Manzanita, which several people had recommended to them, but it had a crazy (to them) name:  YolkWhose idea was it to call a restaurant, Yolk? the man chuckled. It’s not very appealing, but their food is good, I hear. Maybe, a little on the fancy side?”

“It’s hard to imagine it would be as good as this,” said the woman, indicating with her fork the mass various yellow, fried items on her plate.

Young Café Man thanked them again, and said he thought that his café’s food could stand up to that of any other restaurant, including the “high end” ones, like Yolk.  He treaded lightly at first – he said he had friends who’d dined at the new place and liked it – then he dove right in.

“I don’t want to knock another local place…. Young Café Man said (as he proceeded to do so). “Fancier places like Yolk have a impressive menu and all. But most people don’t realize we local restaurants all  get our food from the same suppliers, then they serve the same thing – they serve the same French fries we do – only  call it something different and charge four bucks more a plate for it….”

And there I sat, eating my Gardenburger, trying not to smirk as I realized that holding my tongue when I first heard the mention of Yolk was a good idea. I was going to offer, after the man had said their food is good, I hear, that indeed, IMHO, Yolk’s food is not only good but great – in fact, Yolk was my favorite place in on the coast for breakfast and I would highly recommend it, for the incredible, tasty, creative menu items, a visually appealing dining space and friendly service….

But if I had done so, perhaps I wouldn’t have had the guilty pleasure of listening in on Young Café Man’s bogus claim about Yolk’s food sources.

Yo, Young Café Man: it’s one thing to share your opinion – to which of course you are entitled.  But when you start making allegedly factual statements that are untrue….

“… then they serve the same thing – they serve the same French fries we do – only  call it something different and charge four bucks more a plate for it….”

 

 

 

we are not amused

 

 

 

 

Young Café Man, I have many meals at your restaurant, and also at the restaurant you unjustly disparaged.  Not only does Yolk have an entirely different menu than your establishment,  [7]   they do not, in fact, “serve the same French fries.”  Thus, I assume you were just talking out of your ass.  Let’s hope your restaurant doesn’t cook that way.

 

 

 

ass

“You want to cook out of my what?”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of And One More Thing

BTW, when you’re in Manzanita, be sure to get either breakfast or lunch at Yolk. Owner Connie and staff will take good care of you. Their lemon ricotta pancakes are rave-worthy, their take on huevos rancheros (served atop a delectable grilled cornmeal patty instead of a corn tortilla) is sublime, and whatever you order, be sure to get the molasses oatmeal bread. My go-to favorite is their roast veggie hash (with just the right touch of harissa, a simple yet inventive touch rarely found in a breakfast dish.  Yummers!).

 

 

 

yolk

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you be able to see the grace and beauty in mundane situations;
May you have the courage to finish the books that need finishing;
May you know the difference between expressing an opinion
and unfairly dissing a competitor;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] I purchased it not long after it was released, so it could be as long as 10+ years.

[2] FGM could only be compared to male circumcision if male circumcision involved the excision of the entire penis, rather than a portion of the skin of the tip of the penis.

[3] And then in the good ole USA, Hirsch Ali had an invitation for an honorary degree withdrawn from the university that extended the honor, after her telling the unvarnished truth criticisms of Islam’s treatment of women was called, “hate speech.”

[4] Well, at least it’s at the top of the pile.

[5] Respectively, IN THE PRESENCE OF GREATNESS: My Sixty-Year Journey as an Actress, by Patty Duke, and Lips unsealed: A Memoir, by the Go-Gos Belinda Carlisle.  I purchased both of them within minutes of putting down Infidel.

[6] To which I thought, “This is your first day on the trip?”

[7] I double-checked, both in person and online, to make sure my memory was correct.

The Sights I’m Not Lowering

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Department Of Check The Definition Before You Use The Word

progressive
adjective

pro·gres·sive  \ prə-ˈgre-siv \

1 a : of, relating to, or characterized by progress
b : making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities
c : of, relating to, or constituting an educational theory marked by emphasis on the individual child, informality of classroom procedure, and encouragement of self-expression
2 : of, relating to, or characterized by progression
3 : moving forward or onward : advancing….

(Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Y’all get the idea.

Unless you’re referring to that pesky red rash on your patootie, something that is progressive  is generally…well, what would Jesus Martha say?

 

 

 

martha

 

 

Of course, the idea of progress and improvement and using education and reason to move forward has long proved threatening to many religious leaders.

Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has….”
(16th century Protestant reformation leader Martin Luther )

And now we have mean-spirited Christian nationalist Billy Boy’s son Franklin Graham flogging a 21st century version of religion’s fear of progress.

“Progressive? That’s just another word for godless.“
(Franklin Graham, from “The Evangelical Fight to Win Back California.”
New York Times, 5-27-18 )

Hell yeah.

Frankie G., please know that you are welcome to take your traveling circus tent show and leave California – and please skip Oregon while you’re out west – and all states exhibiting progressive values – and go back to the safety of the Iron Age mythology/superstition rock you have crawled out from under.

 

 

religion1jpg

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of While We’re On The Subject Of Leaving The Dark Ages

Ireland Votes to End Abortion Ban, in Rebuke to Catholic Conservatism

Not long after seeing this welcome and long-overdue headline,  [1]   I saw another headline, about how the pope was “setting his sights lower” – as in, concentrating missionary efforts in the countries of South  American and Africa – now that Ireland seems to be going the way of other European countries (read: throwing off  centuries of Roman Catholic oppression and influence).

Many people are “crediting” the late   [2]  Dr. Savita Halappanavar‘s (and her grieving husband’s) pitiless and primitive treatment (read: lack of it) at an Irish (read: Catholic) hospital in 2012 as yet another prime motivator in the fight to overturn Ireland’s abortion restrictions. You may remember (or have tried to forget) reading about Dr. Halappanavar’s horrific death – which was commented upon by moiself,  here,

Halappanavar, a 31-year-old, 17-weeks pregnant dentist, presented with severe back pain at Galway University Hospital in late October. After doctors confirmed she was miscarrying, Ms. Halappanavar asked for a medical termination. Savita’s husband, Praveen Halappanavar, an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says his wife asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated, but her request was refused because the fetal heartbeat was still detected (“This is a Catholic country,” Savita and Praveen were told). Savita spent a further three days “in agony” until the fetal heartbeat stopped, after which the doctors removed the dead fetus and took Savita to the intensive care unit, where she died of septicemia.

Heart-wrenching, scandalous, deplorable, merciless, primitive, callous – of the many dreadful descriptions  that can be applied to this travesty of medical “care,” surprising isn’t one of them. This is what happens, outrageously but totally predictably, when governments allow interpretations of Iron Age mythologies to influence and even dictate 21st century medical decisions.
As Irish Parliament member Clare Daly pointed out, 
“An unviable fetus…was given priority over a woman’s life.”

 

So, yeah.

As to the pope “setting his sights lower” re the RC church concentrating its missionary efforts on South America & Africa, in the wake of Ireland’s vote signaling the waning of influence of RCs in Europe…Hey, you – dude in the pointy hat –

 

 

pope

You talkin’ to me?

 

 

…don’t’ let the shamrock hit you in the ass on your way out the door. And be sure to take your snake charming charlatan saints with you.

 

 

 

SPDMyth

 

 

 

Aye, the RC missionaries, as per their own PR, drove out the old evil pagan ways of Ireland…and brought with them…oh yes, what is it they forget to mention? Maybe it’s how they subsequently brought in their new evil ways, including Catholicism’s “empire of misogyny,” enslavement of “fallen women,”  [3] restriction of medical care, religious and educational discrimination, child and adult sexual abuse by priests ….  [4]

 

*   *   *

May you understand the implications of progression;
May you be a part of any movement that causes a pope to set his sights lower;
May you continue to be patient with this blog, even when it strays too far into current events/politics and thus fails to deliver even one rousing fart joke;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] for Freethinkers and anyone who cherishes religious, political and scientific freedom.

[2] “late’ as in, dead due to religiously mandated, medieval medical care restrictions.

[3] E.g. the Magdalene Laundries.

[4] There could be a bajillion other footnotes even more depressing.

The Optimism I’m Not Sharing

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Department Of Things That Make Me Feel Like A Curmudgeon
Aka, A Pessimist Reads  “The Optimists”

A special edition of Time magazine (The Optimists, January 15) features a guest editor for the first time in the magazine’s 94-year-old history: Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, bagajajillionaire and global philanthropist. Gates has picked a slew of fellow guest editors and writers, running the gamut from scientists to celebrities, to curate “data and insights from leaders in many fields to show the upside of what’s ahead.”

Although I was initially attracted to picture of the grinning Ethiopian five-year-old boy on the cover as a symbol of optimism, I cringed to read the picture’s caption: Why The World Should Celebrate Mohamad Nasir’s Fifth Birthday.

 

 

#5

 

 

 

Yeah, happy birthday kid. And I’m sorry about your name.

The article featuring the boy (and six other Ethiopian children) is used as a focal point for the other issue’s articles; i.e., hope for the future vis-à-vis the fact that, “Thirty years ago, 1 in 5 children in Ethiopia didn’t live to their fifth birthdays.”

IMHO, whatever optimism I may hold for the future is tempered by the fact that in 2018 people continue to name their children after their religious leaders/idols/prophets.

And I have to wonder, given that more Ethiopian children are now growing into adulthood, what will that mean for a country whose birthrate is so high?  Unless you have cultural and infrastructural changes which allow for and encourage family planning, you are increasing the base rate for multiplication of even more poor people competing for even more finite resources. Ethiopia’s birthrate has been gradually declining, but it is still in the top 20 of the world. Its fellow countries on that sad list are almost all African, and are all – surprise! – also on the list of the world’s most impoverished countries.

It seems every third article in The Optimists deals, either directly or obliquely, with the global status of women, and how, “…there is nowhere on earth where women have the same opportunity as men.  Nowhere.”  Any (non-religiously proselytizing) global aid worker will tell you that education and empowerment of girls and women is the key to lifting people out of poverty, and that as birth rates decline, the health of and educational opportunities for women and girls increase. 

Here’s something else many global aid workers will tell you, if they think it is safe to do so: “Culture” (read: religion) is the biggest obstacle to empowering and educating girls and women, especially and including the idea – heretical to all religions, up until relatively recently – that females have the right to be educated about, and be in control of, their own bodies and fertility.

The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of woman’s emancipation.
(Elizabeth Cady Stanton)

 

Augustinejpg

 

 

 

*     [For women] the very consciousness of their own nature
must evoke feelings of shame.
(Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian, ca.150-215, Pedagogues II, 33, 2)

*  Woman is a temple built over a sewer.
(Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

*   No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise.
(Martin Luther, Protestant Reformer, 1483-1546)

   *   The root of masculine is stronger, and of feminine weaker.
The sun is a governing planet to certain planets, while the moon borrows her light from the sun, and is less or weaker.
(Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS movement)

(For more fun quotes which, after reading them, will make you want to douse your eyeballs in isopropyl, see 20 Vile Quotes Against Women By [Christian] Religious Leaders From St. Augustine to Pat Robertson, Alternet    [1])

 

“Naturally there will be fundamentalists in any religion, who insist on literal interpretations of outdated dogma. But the problem is not just with fundamentalism, but with Islam itself, says author and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In her book, The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation for Women and Islam, she pinpoints three reasons why the Muslim world lags behind the West and, increasingly, Asia. First, “Islam is strongly dominated by a sexual morality derived from tribal Arab values dating from the time the Prophet received his instructions from Allah, a culture in which women were the property of their fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, or guardians…..The essence of a woman is reduced to her hymen. Her veil functions as a constant reminder to the outside world of this stifling morality that makes Muslim men the owners of women and obliges them to prevent their mothers, sisters, aunts, sisters-in-law, cousins, nieces, and wives from having sexual contact….”
(Big Think, Does Islam really Subjugate Women)

“A woman’s heaven is beneath her husband’s feet.”
(Traditional Islamic saying)
“Women are like cows, horses, and camels, for all are ridden.”
Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Quaranic commentary).(Citations from the Council of Ex-Muslims online forum, topic: I left Islam because I am a woman)

 

 

 

 

no comment

 

 

 

I take good news wherever/whenever I can, but I’m too much of a realist to think The Optimists is brimming with good news.  I find little optimism in a “fact” which touts that more people are surviving in countries which have high adherence to fundamentalist religions. All these people, “surviving” (and then reproducing) for what – to be potential foot soldiers for the next our-gods-told-us-to-grab-your-land-and oppress your people war?   [2]

 

 

 

witches

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

*   *   *

Department of Existential Crisis

Moiself went through a bit of one after seeing the movie “I, Tonya” , which I highly recommend (the movie – not the existential crisis). Leaving the theatre with friend and fellow cinema buff CC, I started flashing back to my extended family’s distressing history, some details of which are long known to me and my siblings, some only suspected and recently confirmed.

I’ve written previously if very briefly about the life of poverty and deprivation my father’s family endured before, during and after The Great Depression. There were other aspects of his family life (child neglect and abuse; undiagnosed/misdiagnosed/mistreated adult mental illness and illiteracy) that go beyond – read: are not excused by – economic circumstances.

The movie brought the issue to a forefront for me, as yet again I wondered (this time, aloud to CC) about the formula no behavioral and developmental scientists have yet figured out: how is it that some people are able to escape a “white trash” [3]  background, while so many others stay and repeat (and then pass on) the dysfunctional behavior and thinking?

 

 

itonya

 One bad choice after another: chain-smoking asthmatic Tonya Harding
(here depicted in the movie, I Tonya, by actor Margot Robbie).  

 

 

 

 

How fortunate was my immediate family, the one my father created with my mother, that my father was able to get away?!  Given what he, or any child in such circumstances, was surrounded by – when that is all you have and all you see and you are told by those who may (or may not) love you but who certainly have control over you that this is your life – how was he even able to imagine a different future for himself?  How did he recognize that he wanted to do so – that, as he once phrased it to me, he knew he needed to get out?  It blows my mind  [4]  when I think about how he was able to marry and raise a family, be a loving and kind husband and father (despite the abominable example his own father provided in those roles), and keep his wife and children “safe” from (and mostly oblivious to) the deprivations and degradations of his own upbringing.

It is a complicated equation – the factors leading to paths a child may eventually choose, coming from an environment over which a child has no choice.  As to how this relates to the events depicted in the movie, Tonya Harding certainly made some dubious choices, to put it mildly.  I am no Harding apologist – I believe she was much more complicit, in the figure skating scandal and in her pubic skirmishes in the years that followed, than she admits to.  And yet it seemed obvious to me, even before the attack on Kerrigan, that Oregon’s “most infamous Olympian” had the deck stacked against her from the start.

Harding hadn’t the right “look” or background for her sport, which preferred its female participants to be ethereal and elegant, not athletic and assertive, and her outsider status and appearance seemed to matter more than her athletic talent and achievements.  She wanted to rise above her background, but (likely due to that very background) lacked the self-awareness and other emotional and cognitive skills to do so.  And those who were in position to judge her, literally as per her skating and figuratively as per her public persona, made it clear that she didn’t belong and would never be good enough.

Now then. Extended psychoanalysis and existential crisis aside, I, Tonya is a highly entertaining, well-written and acted movie.  I give it two thumbs up…and yeah, so both of the thumbs are mine….

 

two thumbs

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Department Of Because It Was Tuesday Movie Night,  [5] That’s Why

Why not go all out in making a fun dinner (especially since being inspired by daughter Belle, who made gnocchi on Monday and sent me photos)? Le menu:

☼  potato gnocchi with garlicky tomato sauce
☼  
red wine vinegar roasted beets
☼  roast Delicata squash
☼  Arugula and baby romaine salad with dried cranberries, lemon-soaked red onion, toasted walnuts, red d’anjou pear, and Dijon vinaigrette
☼  2013 Pomum Red Wine

 

 

 

gdinner

*   *   *

 

 

 

 

May you have optimism for the future despite the present;
May your past not determine your future;
May you go all out for a Tuesday night dinner;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Or just read the holy books of the three major monotheistic faiths.

[2] And it’s not even our god vs your god. Historically and currently, those who believe in the same deity maim, torture and murder one another over the details while their deity stands by and…what, watches the show?  (e.g. The Christian’s Inquisition’s  – drawing and quartering of infidels who do not confess to the “one true faith;  Blessed be the prophet Mohammed – yes, my brother,  we’re both Muslims, but I am the correct Sunni and you are the heretic  Shia so I’ll have to smite you,  maybe after we both persecute the Sufis….”)

[3] Yes, I realize it is a pejorative to some. But it’s my heritage’s N-word, which I claim for a variety of personal and political reasons.

[4] My affinity for 1960s imagery betrays me with that phrase, but, yeah.

[5] This week, it was The Post.  Go see that one, as well.

The Ancestors I’m Not Worshipping

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Department Of Sourdough Analogy
Hint: An Acorn Is Not An Oak Tree

My sourdough starter, “fed” and bubbling, plus the right proportions of flours, water, salt, an autolyse period, an initial rise, a final shape and rise followed by baking in a properly preheated oven, usually/hopefully (but not guaranteed every time – ask any baker) will yield a loaf of sourdough bread. But the sourdough starter and flour and water and salt, separately or combined, are not a loaf of sourdough bread.

Picture this: At one of MH’s and my dinner gatherings, a friend/guest/family member expresses anti-reproductive choice sentiments just as I am about to pass the basket of homemade sourdough bread.

Yeah – someone getting all anti-abortion-y at a dinner party hosted my moiself? The scenario is a stretch to imagine,  [1] but bear with me:

 

 

 

bearjpg

Well, okay.

 

 

 

Depending on the vehemence of their sentiments (on a scale running from “I’d never have one or be the cause of one myself, but I’d never try to butt in on other people’s medical decisions,” to “A fertilized ovum is the equivalent of a person,” to  “Citizenship for sperm!”) they will be served some combination of the following: the raw sourdough starter, flour, water, salt, the pre-risen bread dough, the risen and shaped but unbaked bread dough – while the rest of us enjoy the actual bread.

 

bread

bread2jpg

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Department Of It’s Almost Worth The Potential Global Destruction
And/Or At Least Worldwide Humiliation Regarding The Functioning Of Our So-Called Democratic Electoral System…

…to have someone like Cheetos Hitler be #45, so that someone could come up with One Of The Best Acronyms Ever ® .

It is a given that most sentient beings with moral compasses larger than a fleck of bellybutton lint refuse to refer to #45 as POTUS. Now – thanks to/may the Flying Spaghetti Monster bless The Internet – we have a most fitting option:  SCROTUS.  [2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

As regular readers of this blog know (and new or sporadic readers will likely surmise), I am not a religious person. I was raised by church-going, Christian parents; [3] flirted with/researched a variety of denominations during/post college; was a member (even served as a deacon, holy shit!) of a UCC church [4] for many years; happily (read: finally) came out over a decade ago as a lifelong skeptic-atheist-Freethinker-Bright.

While I hold a modicum of respect for some of the ideals and practices of, say, contemporary non-theistic Buddhism and Unitarianism and Jainism, I find all religions to be more-or less silly/offensive/just plain fallacious. There is one “spiritual” practice, however, which I can somewhat understand, if only in that it makes a teesny-tiny, infinitesimally wee bit o’ sense:

Ancestor worship.

 

 

really

 

 

Yes, really.

Make that, ancestor veneration, not worship. For the love of the FSM, get off your knees, open your eyes, and stop bowing your head – nobody should “worship” anything.

Worship: VERB
1.  [with object] Show reverence and adoration for (a deity)
1.1  [no object] Take part in a religious ceremony.
(English Oxford Living Dictionary)

Unlike the claims of religions which have one or more deities, you don’t have to take your ancestors’ existence on “faith” [5] – you know they have lived (you yourself are evidence of that); you’ve likely met them one, or two or sometimes even three, generations back. From the photo albums and other heirlooms to the birth certificates, school and county records, family businesses, homes, farmsteads, and kinfolk near and far, you’ve an idea of what they have “given” you, materially, intellectually and emotionally – you’ve some idea what you might be grateful for.

Best of all, you’ve little incentive to argue or go to war with other people over whose interpretation of what their imaginary friend wants is correct. Your neighbor’s ancestors are their business, and yours are yours.

Of course, the option of ancestor veneration leaves out a small subset of people: those who have little or no knowledge of their forebears, such as certain kinds of adoptees ,[6]  as well as those who have just enough information (e.g., children in the foster care system) to…well, I’ll put it this way: if you come from two generations of meth addicts,  ancestor veneration might not be the spiritual practice to float your boat.

Now then. By ancestor veneration I’m not talking any kind of belief system wherein the dead are beseeched to intercede on behalf of the living – that’s just as silly as all the others. I do not believe that my deceased grandparents and parents have a continued existence in a spirit world, or that their spirits look after moiself and my family in particular or the world in general, or that they somehow can influence the fate of the living. I’m talking about a practice of honor and appreciation, in which a person might use the roads paved and trails blazed by previous generations as a focal point for remembrance and gratitude.

 

 

candles

Thanks for the dimples, Dad.

*   *   *

 

I’m not sure what brought the previous topic to mind. A likely suspect is the recent death of my mother. Anyway, y’all have my permission to honor your ancestors…as well as my fervent wish that that is as far as your theology goes. However, as I look at the state of the world, it appears that the old superstitions have some staying power. As long as people will continue to proclaim and dispute over whose invisible leader is the bestest, I’d like someone to come up with another dog in the fight.

As the Bay Area’s own Huey Lewis, the Bard Of The Bammies, once sang, I Want A New Drug.

Putting it yet another way, y’all have my encouragement (if you are religiously inclined) to come up with a new religion, within the following parameters: in this belief system, it is the men who are required, in one form or another, to cover themselves

That’s it. Yep. That’s the entire theology in a nutshell.  [7]

From a light veil or hijab – make, that, hejab –  to a full-body, Bro burqua, your theology must include all the usual nonsense reasons (modesty; an easily offended diety;  protection from your fellow believers who will beat the holy crap out of you if you show any evidence of human form) as to why certain people –  in this case, those with boy parts –  must be covered in public.

Duuuuude – put a scarf on it.

 

 

 

hejab

We swear on Her Holy name, it doesn’t make your butt look big, no, not at all.

*   *   *

Department Of Factory Fail

For some reason I’d prefer to think that it was an assembly line glitch, rather than a human judgment call, which was responsible for putting this spice shaker style cap on a bottle of bay leaves:

 

 

bayleaves

*   *   *

May you choose the appropriate cap for your container;
May you acknowledge if not esteem those who blazed your family trails;
May you continue the resistance and gram ’em by the SCROTUS;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] I do not know each and every political belief of each and every  member of my family and circle of friends. I’ve some anti-choice family members, who have yet to bring up the topic at a dinner table gathering.  With my friends I either know or surmise we are on similar pages re The Big issues .®  

[2] So Called Ruler of the United States.

[3] Lutheran, specifically: what was once called the ALC and now ELCA, for those obsessives interested in denominational nitpicking, It wasn’t one of the “synod” denominations (Missouri & Wisconsin), which are closer to Catholicism in their conservative doctrines (e.g. women cannot be ordained as ministers; liking to snipe about other denominations as being the “not true” faiths) .

[4] Which I have, since leaving, recommended to people who for whatever reasons are looking for a liberal Christian church experience and/or community.

[5] Although, especially at Thanksgiving when someone brings up politics, you may have to take them with a helluva big grain of salt.

[6] If you’re counting “blood” kin as the only kind of ancestors which matter. Which I hope you are not.

[7] Which is the proper receptacle for all theologies.

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