Department Of Yeeeeeesssssss! Thought Of The Week
Dateline: Tuesday morning 7:45 AM-ish; morning walk, stomping through wet leaves, on what promises to be a blustery day. Listening to a Clear + Vivid podcast episode (Laurel Braitman: Writing Wrongs). Braitman is a writer whose interests and topics include grief, mental health and medicine, and the importance of self-expression and storytelling, especially for doctors and others working “on the frontlines of humanity.
At the end of every C+V podcast, host Alan Alda asks his guests seven quick questions, all connected with the concept of communication. When he asked Braitman question #6, What gives you confidence? She answered that being outside, in nature; “non-human nature” gives her confidence, and moiself was intrigued by the way she phrased it:
“I never feel better than when I’m walking through a forest, with no mirror.”
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Department Of Surprising Moiself By Honoring This Dead Celebrity
That would be Suzanne Somers, who died this week, on the day before her #77 birthday.
Among Somers’ many ventures in life, her Wikipedia bio lists actor, author, businesswoman, and “health spokesperson.” Let moiself get that last, dubious moniker out of the way. I don’t know whether or not that title was self-proclaimed, but Health personified certainly didn’t ask Somers to speak for or represent her, in any way. And Somers’ crazy-ass nonsense controversial stands on the risks and efficacies of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, her conspiracy-laden critique of the ACA/“Obama care” (a “socialist Ponzi scheme,” really?)  and promotions of alternative cancer treatments raised the red flags among people who have studied those issues for decades – read: scientists, doctors, medical researchers – people who actually know what they are talking about. (note: Somers died of a recurrence of breast cancer, for which she had refused the recommended chemotherapy). 
However, she had moiself’s admiration for two things: her ground-breaking (at the time) fight for salary equity, and her sense of humor. As per the former, Somers is best known for playing Chrissy Snow, the (not-quite-so) Dumb Blonde® on the sitcom Three’s Company. TC was one of the highest rated TV shows in the late 70’s early 80’s, due in most part to the interplay of the three lead actors, and in particular, the between Somers’ and John Ritter’s characters. When it was time for contract re-negotiations in season 5, Somers demanded an increase in salary to match what co-star Ritter was making: $150,000 per episode (her salary was $30k/episode). Nothing against Ritter, but he did not have five times the screen time nor five times as many lines to memorize as Somers – who had at least five times the magazine covers and other publicity ventures for the show. Nevertheless, he was being paid *five times* what she was, for doing the same thing: costarring on a sitcom.
Those In Charge Of Such Things® (the network execs) set an example of what happens to women who seek salary equity: they offered Somers a $5k salary increase…and eventually fired her. Somers went on to score other acting gigs and ascend the throne of informercials and entrepreneurship – she hawked everything from jewelry, clothing (the “Three-Way Poncho,”  skin care products…. Most memorably, she became the spokeswoman for the toning muscle exercise devices with the memorable names of the Thighmaster and the Buttmaster. Her promotion of the latter was responsible for my admiration of her humorous timing.
In the early 90’s, when Somers was promoting the Buttmaster, she took the device everywhere with her. She promoted it on talk shows, in interviews, etc., even when she was doing the gig to ostensibly promote some other aspect of her life (e.g., her Las Vegas stage act). This was also around the time when then Pope John Paul II was touring the United States. I remember reading about her interview with a reporter who, knowing Somers was raised Catholic, asked Somers what she would do if she were invited to meet the Pope – would she bring along the…uh…exercise device? Somers said that she would. Okay, the reporter pressed, but what would she do if the Pope noticed the device and asked her what it was? Her reply:
“I’d say, ‘It’s a Buttmaster, Your Holiness.’ ”
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Department Of The War I’m Not Avoiding Writing About
Except that I kinda/sorta am…because it makes me want to abandon all hope; because it makes moiself want to apply a Buttmaster to the craniums of some very sincere, well-meaning, rubbish -spouting people, when I hear their responses to Israel’s response to the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.
… the original covenant spells out clearly Hamas’s genocidal intentions. Accordingly, what happened in Israel on Saturday is completely in keeping with Hamas’s explicit aims and stated objectives….
The covenant opens with a message that precisely encapsulates Hamas’s master plan…the document proclaims, ‘Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it’….
After some general explanatory language about Hamas’s religious foundation and noble intentions, the covenant comes to the Islamic Resistance Movement’s raison d’être: the slaughter of Jews. ‘The Day of Judgement will not come about,’ it proclaims, ‘until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’ ”
( “Understanding Hamas’s Genocidal Ideology: A close read of Hamas’s founding documents clearly shows its intentions.”
The Atlantic, 10-10-23 )
Truth#1: It is possible for reasonable, good-hearted folks to hold multiple opinions and feelings about this war; it is possible to empathize with a repressed minority, and realize that the injustices experienced by the Palestinians are a breeding ground for violent zealots to recruit hearts and minds to promote and carry out acts of terrorism.
Truth #2: The latter does not excuse the former; never never. NEVER.
Still, the foreboding admonition (variously attributed to leaders, from President JFK to MLK, Jr.) comes to mind:
“Those who make peaceful change impossible,
make violent change inevitable.”
I have strong opinions as to the wrongness, both morally and strategically, of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and have been frustrated for – crap, how old am I? – for as long as I can remember,  about the fact that the so-called leadership on both sides of the Israel/Palestine dispute attains and maintains power by fomenting fear of and hatred for The Other. Each side also appeals to their respectively held tenets of their so-called Divine Right to occupy that disputed part of the world. Neither side seems to fully comprehend that the *only* true security for both sides, for all sides, will be peace.
But, although left-leaning moiself has done as much as I can to avoid exposure to such things, I still have heard and read about leftist groups and individuals declaring themselves pro-Palestinian in ways that seem to excuse, via “understanding,” the terrorist attacks by Hamas. Again, I have been trying to avoid most of this butt-frostingly naive rhetoric, and cringe with embarrassment on behalf of those who lack enough self-awareness to know what they are supporting, when I hear them sanitize the barbarity of the Hamas terrorist attacks as, “anti-colonial resistance.”
To those who think they are supporting a repressed/colonized people: do not fool yourself for one moment into thinking that Hamas is pro-Palestinian. Palestinians suffer greatly under Hamas.
Poor Palestinians; they can’t catch a break. While “Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continued to face Israel’s oppression, domination, fragmentation and segregation under its brutal occupation and apartheid,” the Palestinian authorities continue to “…heavily restrict freedom of expression, association and assembly,” and hold “scores of people in arbitrary detention and subjected many to torture and other ill-treatment,” have carried out executions and committed war crimes, such as those in 2022 during three days of fighting with Israel, when Hamas used “…unguided rockets in populated civilian areas and killing at least seven Palestinian civilians.” 
Good people of the Earth: absolutely, advocate for the right of Palestinians to be able to have a homeland and to determine their own destiny. And absolutely *open your eyes* and know that the radical régime of Hamas will have none of the latter, for anyone, least of all their own people, whom they oppress under the guise of governing.
What are the values you want to support, for all people, everywhere?
* Civil rights; women’s rights; LGBTQ rights?
* Freedom of – and *from* – religion?
* Democratic enfranchisement of all citizens?
* The right of children – boys *and* girls – to be educated
(in subjects other than memorizing the Quran and Islamic doctrine)?
* The right of all people to live in peace?
Hamas supports None. Of. That.
Hamas supports Islamism, and sharia law.  But just not any kind of Islamism – it must be *their* flavor (Hamas are Sunni, and they have harassed and assaulted Palestinian Muslims who are Shia).
With Hamas, as with other extremist groups, the world is entirely binary.  You must be Muslim – and not even being Muslim is enough – you must be the right kind of Muslim,  you must *their* kind – or you are an infidel, worthy of death.
“If you’re an LGBTQ+ parent, you should worry about Hamas gunning down your kids. Did that get your attention? Sounds outrageous, doesn’t it? Guess what? Hamas feels the same way about LGBTQ+ people and their families as they do about Israelis. Let me make this crystal clear: If an LGBTQ+ family moved into Gaza, Hamas would kill them. LGBTQ+ Palestinians are afraid to let their families know they are gay for fear that they will be murdered. Many have been killed — or successfully escaped — as reported in PGN and in media around the world.
Hate is hate.
Like many of you watching the carnage in Israel this week, my sorrow and outrage were too much to bear. Seeing the bloodshed of toddlers having their throats slit; pictures of mothers, children, and Holocaust survivors being kidnapped; and whole villages being gunned down was more than any civilized person should witness. But it’s not just Israelis that Hamas hates. They hate you as well. And when I say ‘you,’ I mean ‘LGBTQ+ people.’ Much like how they feel about Israel, they believe we should not exist as well.
Yet, there are members of our community who are so full of self-hate or are so masochistic that they would love the person that would kill them? They praise Hamas and make apologies for their actions this week. Some go as far as to support what Hamas did this week. Think about that: Supporting the kidnapping of a woman who survived the Holocaust. Supporting an organization that wants, and has always wanted, the genocide of an entire race.”
( “Hamas hates you as well,” Philadelphia Gay News, 10-11-23 )
As I type this, the world awaits Israel’s responses, short and long term. Hamas gave no warning before their assaults upon Israeli civilians, because civilian carnage was what Hamas intended. The Israeli government and military will go after Hamas – they *have to* go after Hamas. Sadly but inevitably, there will be heavy civilian Palestinian casualties, despite Israel’s warning for civilians to evacuate. The Hamas operatives will embed/hide among the civilian populace of their own people, because that’s what terrorists do.
A day or so after the Hamas attack I saw that someone had posted the above, an “inspirational” picture on FB – a picture which has been making its way around social media. The picture showed three tween-age-ish boys, each looking somewhat awkwardly into the camera (as in, “my parents made me do this”), each dressed in the garb of and/or holding icons of their respective family’s religion:  Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, the three monotheistic faiths which have historical ties to Jerusalem. Somewhere in the text accompanying the first post moiself saw was a request for “prayers for peace.”
Yeah, knock yourself out hearing those prayers, Yaweh, Jesus, and Allah. Because that’s been working so well for seventy-five years. 
* * *
Department Of If I Were A Witch And Had The World’s Most Powerful Wand
And The Greatest Spell-Casting Ability In History…
I’d wave my wand in the direction of the Middle East while muttering, Absurdum religioso evanesce, and turn all of its hatred-holding residents into a bucket full of gentle, contented baby sloths.
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Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week 
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May you walk through a forest with no mirrors;
May you never excuse barbarity, even when enacted on behalf of the oppressed;
May you sieze the opportunity to say, “It’s a Buttmaster, Your Holiness;”
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 She did, however, allow some “conventional” treatment of her disease, including radiation therapy.
 Does that sound vaguely… suggestive…or is it just moiself ?
 “As in, why is this fucking mess still such a fucking mess?!?!?!” And in my less noble moments, I confess to having thoughts like “Put a dome over the entire area, let those who want/agree to live together in peace get out, and enclose the others and let them hate themselves to death and leave the rest of the world out of their violence and chaos….”
 Islamism in the Gaza Strip (Wikipedia) The Islamic group Swords of Truth threatened to behead female TV broadcasters if they didn’t wear strict Islamic dress. “We will cut throats, and from vein to vein, if needed to protect the spirit and moral of this nation,” their statement said.
 And good luck being “gender queer,” or political or cultural queer, in that world – they allow for no such gray areas in sexuality (or just about any aspect of life). They will, however, allow for a red area, which will be around your throat or other parts of your body, after you are executed for “moral turpitude” (the Hamas term for homosexuality).
 Sunni, and not Shia, Whabbi, Salafi, Berelvi, Sufi, or Deobandiite….
 Notice I don’t say, “*his* faith…even though there is a 90+% chance those boys will take on the rites and superstitions of their parents, especially in that part of the world. I think it’s a form of child abuse, to declare a child is a certain religion, when, realistically, children have no say in it, no independent choice in the matter. It’s equally abusive/absurd to say, that an 11-year-old boy is a Republican, when he is a child of two registered Republican parents.
 The modern state of Israel was established by a UN resolution in 1948.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org