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Someone I know posted the above on Facebook, which is assumed written by Jeff Foxworthy. It's full of half-truths and outright lies. I posted a point-by-point argument against it on that person's wall and then again as my own post.  I was just going to leave it on FB, but dammit, I did a lot of research to refute the points and wanted it to be part of my blog.

"If plastic water bottles are okay, but plastic bags are banned, — you might live in a nation (state) that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots."

Plastic bags are especially hard to keep in landfills--unlike plastic bottles, they more easily get into the soil and waterways and end up in the ocean, where they kill marine life that eats those plastic bags. Also, plastic bags are only banned in a few cities in the nation. Additionally, most people have the choice of asking for paper, or better yet, bringing their own reusable bags from home. And if more people recycled and/or didn't use plastic bottles OR bags, this wouldn't be as much of an issue.

"If you can get arrested for hunting or fishing without a license, but not for entering and remaining in the country illegally — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots."

Contrary to what people are being told right now, people who enter and remain in the country illegally are disciplined for it and always have been.

"If you have to get your parents' permission to go on a field trip or to take an aspirin in school, but not to get an abortion — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots."

Under most states' laws, children under the age of 18 still have to have permission or notify a parent prior to having an abortion, just like they have to have permission to go on a field trip or take an aspirin at school. There are extenuating circumstances that will allow a judge to override this need for permission though.

"If you MUST show your identification to board an airplane, cash a check, buy liquor, or check out a library book and rent a video, but not to vote for who runs the government — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots."

This deals with voter registration laws that are discriminatory towards people who might have trouble registering to vote, like the elderly and poor. When we register to vote, we are mandated by state law to provide a state ID. The state then sends a voter registration card to the address provided in our voter registration. Just to receive a state ID in the state of Illinois, a person has to have AT MINIMUM two forms of identification and at most four that show a written signature, social security number, date of birth, and proof of residency. So by the time you are registered to vote in Illinois, you have shown four identifiers to the state which in turn carry over to your state voter registration. But to get that ID, you also have to pay for that ID, and some people, believe it or not, simply don't have the money to get an ID card because they are too poor to do so. Or they don't have a way to get to the DMV to get a new ID card.

In CONTRAST, when you board an airplane, cash a check, buy booze, or open an account to rent a library book or a video, you are doing those things with companies that don't have a relationship to the state government your ID is issued from, and they need to know who you are every single time. This prevents people from stealing your money or your identity.

"If the government wants to prevent stable, law-abiding citizens from owning gun magazines that hold more than ten rounds, but gives twenty F-16 fighter jets to the crazy new leaders in Egypt — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots."

If you need ten rounds of bullets to protect yourself, you aren't protecting yourself from a single home intruder or rapist or other violent criminal you meet on the street. You are fighting a war. It's unnecessary for a civilian to carry a weapon of war when a handgun or rifle will do.

Regarding the F-16 fighters: where is the proof that the US just GAVE those to Egypt, or anyone else. Countries buy arms from the US, OR the US "also provides some countries with grants and loans -- separate from the arms sales -- to purchase defense equipment from American manufacturers, as part of a program called Foreign Military Financing."  But this nation has made a habit of ILLEGALLY giving weapons of war to foreign countries who the US was allied with at the time. Remember the 80s when Reagan was giving weapons to the Sandanistas?

"If, in the nation's largest city, you can buy two 16-ounce sodas, but not one 24-ounce soda, because 24-ounces of a sugary drink might make you fat — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots."

This is another issue that is run by city ordinance or state law, not federal law. It's also a moot point because you can still buy two 16-ounce sodas and drink them back to back, thereby increasing your blood sugar and your chance to become overweight and get Type 2 diabetes. Has anyone really had their rights violated because a city won't sell a 24-ounce soda?

"If an 80-year-old woman who is confined to a wheelchair or a three-year-old girl can be strip-searched by the TSA at the airport, but a woman in a burka or a hijab is only subject to having her neck and head searched — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots."

TSA can not legally strip search people going through airport security.
They might have done it in the past, but that was highly inappropriate and a gross abuse of a person's civil rights.

Women wearing a burka or hijab are NOT exempt from TSA screenings or pat downs; in fact, many women who wear a burka or full hijab have complained that they have been patted down for two hours by TSA agents.

"If your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots."

True. So call your Congressional representatives NOW and tell them to quit spending so much damn money on their personal interests and the military, while at the same time not touching Social Security (which you've paid into all your life, so that's YOUR money, not Congress's) or Medicare (which is how most people of retirement age have health insurance right now, and is also a program we pay into ALL our lives and is a program you deserve to have available to you). In 2015, Congress appropriated $598 Billion for military spending; the next largest discretionary spending category was "other" at $276 billion.

"If a seven-year-old boy can be thrown out of school for saying his teacher is "cute" but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots."

There was a boy who was suspended for two days--that's hardly being thrown out of school--for calling his teacher cute. After the school district investigated, they found no basis for sexual harassment. The results? ""We will be sending an official letter of apology to the parents," Gaston County Schools Spokesperson Bonnie Reidy said. "Also the suspension will not count against the child and the child will receive additional instructional assistance to make up for the time out of the classroom."

School districts don't host sexual exploration and diversity classes in elementary school. Teachers can attend seminars to help them learn about gender and sexual diversity, but that wouldn't be something they would teach at the grade school level because it wouldn't be appropriate, and states mandate appropriate sex education for each age group.

"If hard work and success are met with higher taxes and more government regulation and intrusion while not working is rewarded with Food Stamps, WIC checks, Medicaid benefits, subsidized housing, and free cell phones — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots."

It's true that people who earn $100,000 pay more in taxes than people who earn less than that, BUT if we're talking about the extremely rich, "[t]he system starts to lose its progressivity at the very highest levels: In 2015, the effective rate peaked at 29.3% for taxpayers in the $2 million-to-under-$5 million group, then fell to 28.8% for the $5 million-to-under-$10 million group and 25.9% for those making $10 million or more."

From a Washington Post article: "The average SNAP participant would be a child. The highest proportion of SNAP participants are children. Of those who aren’t -- and I think this is one of the things worth emphasizing about SNAP -- is that of those who aren’t children or on disability or retired or something like that, the majority do work. But more than half of SNAP participants are children... Medicaid discourages work: If you earn one dollar more than the cut-off, you lose all your benefits. So if you’re right at the cut-off point, maybe you say ‘I’m not going to work more hours,’ or ‘I’m not going to take a higher-paying job’ or whatever. Or the old Aid To Families with Dependent Children program -- I don’t think there’s any doubt that it discouraged people to work. But that wasn’t because the people getting the benefits are lazy -- well, I’m sure some of them were -- but generally, the disincentive was the fact that there was a huge tax rate on AFDC benefits. [Note: Under AFDC, benefits increased very slightly with higher incomes, to encourage recipients to work; but taxes on those benefits rose far faster.]"

"If you pay your mortgage faithfully, denying yourself the newest big-screen TV, while your neighbor buys iPhones, time shares, a wall-sized do-it-all plasma screen TV and new cars, and the government forgives his debt when he defaults on his mortgage — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots."

The government doesn't forgive personal debts like that; only lenders forgive debts: "Debt forgiveness is simple in theory: a lender forgives some or all of the debt you still owe on a loan. But this undeniably appealing concept almost always comes with strings attached."  When you default on your mortgage, your credit score drops, you can be sued, it can increase your tax bill, and you might have to file for bankruptcy. This has NOTHING to do with the government. NOTHING.

"If being stripped of your Constitutional right to defend yourself makes you more "safe" according to the government — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots."

Nobody is being stripped of their right to own guns or bear arms. Nobody. This would require a Constitutional amendment to a law written in the Bill of Rights, and most Congresspeople wouldn't touch that particular amendment with a ten foot pole. No President in history has advocated for stripping people of their right to bear arms, not even our Democratic Presidents.

I don't know who wrote this thing, if it was actually Jeff Foxworthy or someone else, but it is full of half-truths and outright lies. It was written to be inflammatory and fear-mongering. We have to do better than this. We have to fact check the things we read. We have to quit spreading lies because they sound good.

Grace's adorable face

We got Grace when she was four or five weeks old.  She was a rescue.  Jeff went into work one morning fifteen and a half years ago and one of his co-workers told him that they'd rescued a puppy that weekend.  She was dumped out of a moving truck downtown and they stopped to pick her up.  "Do you know anyone who might want a puppy?" she asked Jeff.

They didn't want to keep her, so we agreed to keep her until we found a new home for her.  Jeff brought her home on a Friday night.  Our dog Jenny growled and barked, so we had to corral her in the kitchen while we played with the puppy in the living room.

This was in mid October, and the next evening we went to our church's Harvest Festival.  We took this tiny, nameless puppy to the Festival with us, thinking we could probably find her a new home there, and we did.  Some friends of ours took her home that night.

I cried on the way home.

The next morning we went to church and our friends showed up with the puppy.  "We forgot that a puppy this young was just like having a baby in the house," she said, handing said puppy back to us.

And just like that, we had another dog.  We told each other that we were going to find a home for her, but a few days later, Jeff named her Grace.  As in "by God's grace."

For the first few days, Jenny growled, barked, bared her teeth, and tried to bite Grace as often as she could.  We kept them separated while Jenny got used to the idea of having a little sister.

One night I came home from work and they were both in Jenny's crate, sound asleep.  Grace was sleeping on Jenny's back.

We didn't take many pictures of Grace when she was small because we really were trying to find another home for her, and thought it might be upsetting to take pictures if we found her a new home.

One night when Grace was still small, I took her to bed with me.  She fell asleep by my head.  I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't find her.  She'd somehow wiggled herself down to the middle of the bed and was sound asleep between my right leg and Jeff's left leg.

Jenny passed away suddenly in December 2012 and Grace was a little lost without her.  Like the rest of us, she adjusted but missed her big sister.

Grace was eighty pounds of gentle giant until a few years ago.  She got a little older, a little slower.  She slept more and played less.  She developed arthritis in her hips and started to eat less.  In March 2017, she got sick and we were afraid we might lose her then, but her vet took great care of her and she was better a few days later.

Unfortunately, she had a fever while she was sick, and that made her already arthritic joints more sensitive and painful.  We had to start helping her up the three steps to our front porch after potty breaks.  He back legs shook a little.  Sometimes she lost her footing in uncarpeted areas.  Sometimes we had to help her up after her naps to get her to stretch or go outside.  Her short walks became shorter.  Some days she only ate about a third of the food she used to eat.  She became more and more reluctant to go outside.  People commented on how difficult it was for her to get up from the floor.

When Grace got sick last March, Jeff and I began watching her more closely and talking about when the time might come to let her go.

That day was today.

All three of us were at the vet's office to say goodbye.  We told her we loved her and to tell Jenny that we love and miss  her too, said we'd miss her and how she was a good girl.  She went to sleep, and then she was gone.

Grace in a sunbeam

I hope she wasn't scared.  I hope it didn't hurt.  I hope she doesn't hate us for making this decision for her.  I hope that God welcomed her in Heaven and told her that she's such a good girl.

Grace on laundry

I feel like I've made an awful mistake that I can't ever make right.

Grace likes yogurt

Goodbye, Graciepants.  I love you.  You're a good girl.

Grace's last picture, May 9, 2018

For Earth Day 2016, I wrote a blog post about easy ways to be a better environmental steward.  For today's Earth Day post, I want to talk about something more complicated: Reducing.

If you're my age, you've heard "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" since the eighties.  Most people place a lot of emphasis on recycling, which is important.  But it's not the most important part of the three Rs, and there's a reason that "Reduce" is the first word: Reducing is the KEY to better environmental stewardship.  It's also the most difficult part.

To reduce is to decrease.  Obviously.  But what does that mean for being a better environmental steward?

It means to reduce what we buy, what we use, what we trash, and what we want.  Reducing what we want is difficult.  Capitalism isn't built around reducing.  Advertising isn't built around reducing.  Our society isn't built around reducing.  But if we reduce what we want, then we can easily reduce what we buy, use, and trash.

For example, I want to take a bottle of water with me on a road trip.  It's extremely convenient to buy a bottle of water at the grocery store or a gas station, but that bottle is made from single use plastic.  It could be reused or recycled.  But if I'm being honest, am I going to save the empty plastic bottle to fill up from a water fountain down the road or for a recycling bin that I may or may not find?

No.  That bottle is probably going straight into the trash can on my next stop.

Instead of buying a bottle of water, I should reduce my plastic use by buying a water bottle that's meant to be reused.

Reducing requires planning ahead, which we can do most of the time.  There are a lot of things we can reduce our use of in this world, but I want to focus on reducing the use of plastics.  I can't stress this enough: we must reduce our use of plastics, especially single-use plastics (like water bottles and food containers).  Most plastic is made from petroleum and does not break down when it's put in a landfill.

Here are some ways that we can reduce our use of plastic in everyday life:

  • Buy a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water
  • drink tap water from a glass instead of buying bottled water
  • take reusable shopping bags to the grocery store instead of using plastic bags
  • buy liquids like milk and soda in glass or metal containers instead of liquids in plastic containers
  • buy dry  goods like rice, beans, and cereal from bulk bins (where possible) instead of buying dry goods prepackaged in plastic.  Take your own containers to the store for dry goods
  • use storage containers with lids for leftovers instead of using plastic wrap or bags, and take your own food containers to restaurants if you anticipate leftovers
  • replace liquid items in plastic packaging with solid items in paper or no packaging
  • avoid styrofoam packaging whenever possible
  • buy clothing made from natural fibers instead of items made from polyester, nylon, and acrylic
  • when buying faux leather, find items made with plant materials instead of petroleum
  • make your own cleaning supplies from ingredients you have around the house instead of buying cleaning supplies in plastic containers

Reducing requires a shift in our thought patterns.  We have to decide that there are some things we simply don't need, like bottled water at home when drinking tap water will do, another tee-shirt when we already have twenty in our closet, or the new iPhone when the one have works just fine.  We have to plan ahead instead of relying on convenience items.  And we must take seriously how awful plastic is for the planet.

We can't completely avoid plastic, but we can definitely reduce our reliance on it.  Start with just one of these changes and work your way towards a total reduction of plastic items.

Yesterday, my Google mini told me about chimeras, which was quite fascinating.

Except I didn't say, "Hey Google, tell me about chimeras."

And I got rid of my Google mini three months ago.

I don't really care what celebrities say about politics.

Usually.

But Jennifer Lawrence makes some very good points here.

 

1. The way US elections work right now, politicians need an exorbitant amount of money to run a campaign.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, "it costs an average of $1.4 million to run a successful U.S. House campaign, and you've got just two years to raise the money... Senators have six-year terms, so they've got more time to raise it--but their campaigns can cost more than six times the typical House race."

Campaign funding pays for tv commercials, newspaper ads, mailers, flyers, employees, travel, and other things.  The more commercials, ads, flyers, and mailers a politician can buy, the more name recognition that politician receives.  "Building name recognition is one of the most important things you can do to to win a political campaign, and it's on the reasons why candidates spend so much money on multiple mailers, yard signs, billboards, and advertisements in the final weeks of election season."

2. Politicians who win their elections spend time in office campaigning to raise money when they should be in their district or state/federal offices working.

"Practically every day that Congress is in Session, fundraisers are going on all over Washington--especially in and around Capitol Hill.  Attending campaign affairs, to raise money for their next re-election campaign, is nearly as vital a part of the Congressional calendar as showing up on the House or Senate floor to vote."

Every politician campaigns and fundraises while in office.  All of them.  Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty of fundraising when they should be governing.

3. Politicians rely on corporate donations or donations from wealthy individuals for the bulk of their campaign funding.

A recent Washington Post article begins, "More then 3.2 million Americans contributed to federal candidates in the 2016 elections, but fewer than 16,000 of them provided half the donations."

In 2010, large donations from individuals made up 48% of Congressional candidates campaign contributions, and 23% of their contributions came from PACs.  Most PACs are sponsored by corporations, trade associations, and other business and professional groups.

4.The corporations and wealthy individuals who donate to political campaigns expect those politicians to vote for their interests.

A 2014 report of a multi-year study of policy changes showed that there is no relationship between the desires of low- to middle-income Americans and policy changes; instead, policy changes correlate to the desires of wealthy Americans, whether or not those desires are shared by less affluent people.  This study concludes that "Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy..."

A year-long study by the Sunlight Foundation says that between 2007 and 2012, 200 of America's most politically active corporations spent a combine total of $5.8 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions.  Those same 200 corporations received $4.4 trillion in federal business and support.

Bluntly stated by the Center for Responsive Politics, "The biggest supporters of incumbent members tend to be long-term donors giving not once, but every election year... because strategic donors--PACs, lobbyists, and interest groups--want friendly access to lawmakers on a host of issues that may emerge many times over the course of their careers."

Government shouldn't be a popularity contest.  "Campaigns with money can reach voters--with commercials, flyers, and mailings--more often and more effectively.  Candidates with minimal cash have a hard time just getting voters to recognize their name."

The website Political Campaign Tips says, "The reason why name recognition plays such a vital role in a successful campaign for office is simple psychology: even though most voters don't know the candidates they vote for, it's human nature to want to feel comfortable with the person you choose to lead and make decisions on your behalf.  Even if voters don't know a single thing about a political candidate's history, opinions, or qualifications, they are much more likely to vote for him if they recognize his name."

Candidates contribute very little of their own money to their campaigns, relying instead on major contributions from wealthy individuals and PACs.

So what can we do to change this?

My suggestions are pretty simplistic.

First, don't allow campaign contributions to candidates' campaigns.  No donations from wealthy individuals or businesses, no donations from non-profits or lobbyists, no small donations from lower- and middle-income individuals.

Let's make candidates fund their own campaigns.  If candidates don't receive money from other people, they won't be obligated to vote for the interests of people who give them the most money. Instead, they can vote for the interests of their constituents, which is the reason we have a representative government in the first place.

We can't stop there though, because only wealthy people would run for office.  Next, make the maximum spending limit for a campaign $100.  With that little money to spend, candidates can't buy tv commercials, newspaper ads, mailers, and flyers.  They won't be able to spend more money for more name recognition. Instead of people voting for a candidate based on a single issue and comfort due to name recognition, people would be forced to find the candidates through their own research.

With the availability of the Internet--anyone can access the Internet for free at their public library--anyone should be able to read about individual candidates and their stance on the issues.

That's it.

While I don't expect that any changes will be made to campaign finance, that doesn't change the fact that we need campaign finance reform, because it has become too easy for the billionaires of the country to buy our elections.

1

"Go big or go home."

"Do or do not.  There is no try."

"Be all in or get the hell out.  Life's too short for being half-assed."

There are a lot of people out there who want the big things. The grand gestures, all the passion, giving it all you've got 24/7.  Etcetera.

I don't know about you, but I'm not built to live like that.

I could give you a grand gesture about once a year.  When people talk about finding your passion and running with it, I'm over here in the corner like, "Uh, I've got purpose, but what is this passion you speak of?"  And giving my all 24/7?  That sounds like a recipe for a complete breakdown or burnout in about six months.

I don't think most of us are built to live like that.

When we tell someone to go big or go home, or there is no try, we perpetuate a way of thinking that's black and white.  There is only one way to be right and every other way is wrong.  There is no grace.  No room for failure.  No place for experimentation.

This sort of thinking leaves a lot people, including me, in a really dark place.  Despite every example of success being part of a process of grace, failures, experimentation, and every shade of color imaginable, what my brain hears and absorbs is that if I'm not doing all of it, my efforts are in vain.

And that's a lie.

Small things make a difference.  Let's say that one person recycles one piece of paper every day.  That's it.  One piece of paper.  It seems like a paltry offering to people who have been hardcore environmentalists for years, but it's still one piece of paper that will be turned into fresh paper instead of going to the landfill.  That one piece of paper put in the recycling bin will save energy, virgin resources, and water.

Now imagine that every single person in the United States recycled one piece of paper every single day.

Right now (March 2018), the population of the US is about between 323.1 million and 327 million.  Going with the more conservative figure, that means 323,100,000 sheets of paper would be recycled each day.  One ton of paper equals 200,000 sheets of paper.

Over 1615.5 tons of paper would be recycled every day.

One tree produces about 8,333 sheets of paper.  It takes roughly 24 trees to produce a ton of paper.  So if every person in the US recycled one sheet of paper each day, every day 38,772 trees would be saved.  That's big.

Every year (let's say trees aren't cut down on the weekends, so that leaves roughly 261 logging days are left), 10,119,492 trees would be saved.

(I attached a picture of my math at the bottom of this post.)

(To be fair, that many trees aren't actually harvested for paper each year in the US, but it does make the point that...)

That's huge.  And that happens because one person decided that even though they were just one person that one person could make a change.  And that "one person" thinking that "one person could make a change" was every single person in the US deciding to take one small action.

Science is built on failed experiments and observations that don't support their hypothesis, but those same observations led to new, supported hypotheses.  Books (and blogs!)  are written word by word.  Miles are walked step by step.  Houses are built brick by brick.  Millions of dollars are saved small deposit by small deposit.  Every small action contributes to something bigger, no matter if that action was a success or a failure.

So try.  Go small.  Half-ass it if you must.

Because everything big is made from the small things.

(All 648 words of this post brought to you by small things, "Dammit, I WILL write today," and the letter Q.)

Math is fun.
Save the environment.

 

 

 

 

Forceto compel, constrain, or oblige (oneself or someone) to do something

Coerceto compel by force, intimidation, or authority, especially without regard for individual desire or volition

 

The Internet's divided right now about an article written by Katie Way in babe.  "I went on a date with Aziz Ansari.  It turned into the worst night of my life" is the story of Grace (name changed to protect her privacy), a twenty-three year old woman who says she was sexually assaulted by Ansari during their date.  If you haven't read the article, you should do that now and then come back here.

I'm positive I'm not the only person who's sharing their opinion about this article, but I want to share it from what might be an entirely different perspective.

I've never been sexually assaulted.

The more I talk to friends and read stories online, I realize that I am in the minority of women.

Some people are saying that Grace's story is just a normal crappy date and that it happens all the time to women.  Other people are saying that this is really, truly sexual assault.

In her post "not that bad," KatyKatiKate says:

"I have had my fair share of what I'd call "crappy dates." And what I call crappy dates looks an awful lot like what Grace calls sexual assault. It's like we went on the same dates, wrote down the same details, and told two very different stories...

"If you got to choose a narrative for your life, which cut would you pick? The one where Clarice descends into cannibalistic hell and fights for her life? Or the one where she's caught in a jaunty love triangle with a couple of quirky gents?

"And that's the thing: we do get to pick how to decide to tell our stories, at least to ourselves. I've dated a few Dr. Lecters, and like Clarice Starling I escaped with a few tears, a few shivers of disgust, and a few stories that I rarely tell. I decided not to call those encounters assault. I decided to make those nights the bad-date montage in act one of the story of my happy life.

"That's how I moved forward.

"Grace's story is common. It's so common that I don't have to imagine it because I remember it. I laugh about it without smiling. It's the story of so much bad sex. And when I hear that bad sex described as a sexual assault, it forces me to reexamine my own history. And see, I just started feeling strong again."

I've never had a "crappy date" either.

Ideally, we should believe people who say they've been sexually assaulted, even if the assault looks something like Grace's story.  But there are a lot of people denying that this was sexual assault, including women who have had the exact same experience.  I haven't had the same experience, and I'm on the outside looking in. So if you won't believe the women with the crappy date experience--and you really, really should believe them--then please listen to me:

Grace was sexually assaulted.

"When Ansari told her he was going to grab a condom within minutes of their first kiss, Grace voiced her hesitation explicitly. “I said something like, ‘Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill.’” She says he then resumed kissing her, briefly performed oral sex on her, and asked her to do the same thing to him."

Sexual Assault: generally refers to any crime in which the offender subjects the victim to sexual touching that is unwanted and offensive.

Grace said "Whoa, let's relax, let's chill" and Ansari resumed kissing her, briefly performed oral sex on her, and asked her to do the same to him.  His sexual touching was unwanted.  She told him to relax.  He didn't.  He kept going.

"Ansari also physically pulled her hand towards his penis multiple times throughout the night, from the time he first kissed her on the countertop onward. “He probably moved my hand to his dick five to seven times,” she said. “He really kept doing it after I moved it away.”"

Again, she'd already told him to slow down, and he proceeded to move her hand to his genitals, even after she moved her hand away.  His sexual touching was unwanted.

"She says Ansari began making a move on her that he repeated during their encounter. “The move he kept doing was taking his two fingers in a V-shape and putting them in my mouth, in my throat to wet his fingers, because the moment he’d stick his fingers in my throat he’d go straight for my vagina and try to finger me.” Grace called the move “the claw....”

"Grace says she spent around five minutes in the bathroom, collecting herself in the mirror and splashing herself with water. Then she went back to Ansari. He asked her if she was okay. “I said I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you,” she said....

“I just remember looking in the mirror and seeing him behind me. He was very much caught up in the moment and I obviously very much wasn’t,” Grace said. “After he bent me over is when I stood up and said no, I don’t think I’m ready to do this, I really don’t think I’m going to do this. And he said, ‘How about we just chill, but this time with our clothes on?’”

"They got dressed, sat side by side on the couch they’d already “chilled” on, and he turned on an episode of Seinfeld. She’d never seen it before. She said that’s when the reality of what was going on sank in. “It really hit me that I was violated. I felt really emotional all at once when we sat down there. That that whole experience was actually horrible.”

While the TV played in the background, he kissed her again, stuck his fingers down her throat again, and moved to undo her pants. She turned away. She remembers “feeling in a different mindset at that point.”

Rapeunlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim

Reminder: at the beginning of this, Grace told Ansari to slow down.  When he didn't slow down, she went to the bathroom to clear her head, and when she came out of the bathroom, Grace told Ansari that she didn't want to feel forced.  Later she told him "No, I don't think I'm ready to do this, I really don't think I'm going to do this."  They got dressed, sat on the couch, and he kissed her and stuck his fingers down her throat.

That's rape, people.  Sexual penetration of Grace's mouth, without force, by Ansari's fingers, without Grace's consent.

That's rape.

This wasn't a crappy date.  It was a sexual assault, at the very least, and I personally think it was rape.

Did Ansari use force?  No.  But he certainly coerced Grace into sexual acts she told him she didn't want to do.  Coercing someone into sexual acts is still sexual assault.

I am appalled that so many women have been in similar situations and have had to chalk this up to usual dating behavior because no one would say to them, "That wasn't crappy sex.  You were assaulted, and it's not your fault."

So if you have ever had a crappy date like the one Grace described and no one has ever told you that it's not your fault:  It's not your fault.  You were sexually assaulted.  You shouldn't feel guilty because you didn't do anything wrong.

 

When we were little, Bart and I loved Star Wars.  I'm just old enough to have seen A New Hope in the theater, though definitely during a re-release (probably 1978 or 1979).  Our dad is a fan of science fiction, so we saw all three of the originals almost as soon as they hit the theater.

When we got cable tv in the early eighties, any time Star Wars was on HBO, we watched it.  We had, get this, an audio tape of A New Hope that we used to listen to all the time.  We played Battleship, we listened to the tape.  We played legos, we listened to the tape.  We had that thing memorized and would say the lines along with the characters.

As adults, we were excited when Lucas Films decided to do Episodes I-III.  We were disappointed when they sucked so badly.  We were excited when they re-released the remastered with additional scenes episodes IV-VI.  We were shocked and annoyed when Lucas sold the franchise to Disney, but excited when Disney announced the new episode would arrive in theaters in December 2015.

It was not long after that announcement that Bart was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.  He died in April 2015.

He didn't get to see The Force Awakens.

There are a lot of things I hate about cancer, but one of the things that I hate the most is that Bart won't get to see episodes VII-IX.  That probably seems like a strange thing to hate about cancer, but if you knew Bart (and some of you reading this do), you know how much he loved Star Wars.

Several years ago, he bought like 5000 pieces of Legos off of eBay (because he also loved Legos, and he really loved Lego Star Wars).  Probably a good 200 of those pieces were Stormtroopers, several Darth Vaders, and a few other characters.  I remember the Stormtroopers in particular because 1. he thought the Stormtroopers were the coolest anyway, and 2. I actually built a Lego Stormtrooper honor guard for his memorial service.

In case you doubt me:

Note the Stormtrooper T-shirt and the Star Wars Lego set.

 

When December 2015 came and The Force Awakens released, we were all pretty excited to see it.  Jeff, Liam, and I saw it a few days after it was released, and then the three of us went to see it with my parents a few days after Christmas.  While we enjoyed it, we were definitely somber as we left the theater.  No one said it, but we were all thinking about the missing person in our midst.

When Carrie Fisher died last year, I cried.  The Princess, the General, was gone.  I knew then that I would probably cry during episode VIII.  I told several people I would be taking plenty of tissues with me.

Last night, Jeff , Liam, and I went to see The Last Jedi.  I was very excited and prepared with paper napkins from the lobby.  I didn't know when the tears would start, but I knew they would at some point.

And then:

Excitement mixed with sorrow is a weird feeling.  It took all of three seconds for tears to run down my face.  Happy tears because here it finally is!  Sad tears with the (overdramatic but legit) thought that "I'm watching this for my brother."  More tears when the third sentence of the opening crawl began with "Only General Organa..."

I think I quit crying about two minutes into the film, but it wasn't the last time. There is a certain scene with Luke Skywalker that immediately made me wonder what Bart would have thought.  If I had to guess, it would have involved a jaw drop and use of the word "fuck."

I miss not being able to talk to Bart about the new movies.  I wish I could talk to him about Poe and Rey, Han Solo's death, the theories that Ben Solo and Rey were actually twins, how Carrie Fisher's death might affect the last film, the lack of Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens, what The Last Jedi might lead into for Episode IX, and so many other things.

There are so many things I miss because Bart is gone, but I miss him most acutely when a new Star Wars movie comes out.

Photo credit: tribktla.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/la-1502592986-gjp54ij6m1-snap-image.jpg?quality=85&strip=all&strip=all

 

I confess, I don't know what to do in situations like this.

I have my opinions about the KKK, white supremacists, Nazis, and terrorists.  To put it bluntly, I think their racism makes them awful human beings.  I'm pretty vocal about it too, telling all my Facebook friends, twitter and instagram followers, and readers of this blog how I feel.  I tell my friends how I feel in real life too.

If I know they agree with me.  Fortunately, most of the people I know in my private life are as progressive as I am and feel the same way.

A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to Renegade Mothering's article Dear White Women: This is Definitely Us earlier today:

"They say the truth will set you free, but first it will really piss you off. The reason it pisses us off is not simply because we are wrong, but because the truth – the great truth – sets aflame everything we thought we knew about ourselves. It uses us up and spits us out into a pile of something we never imagined could exist in us, let alone thrive at the core of our being.

"Do we believe people of color now?

"Do we believe our silence is compliance? Do we believe our silence is not revolutionary? Do we believe that it is only through pointed, conscientious action that we can break down the system of supremacy from which we all benefit? Do we see that watching slavery movies and feeling bad isn’t doing a goddamn thing?

"Do we believe we are responsible? That we must speak? That we must call out the fifty racists in our families–oh come on. I know they’re there. Even in Portland–that we must RAISE CHILDREN WHO UNDERSTAND AMERICA WAS BUILT ON RACISM?

"We are not post-racial. We have never been equal. And it is an outright delusion to convince ourselves “This is not us.”

"This man  [Trump] was brought to power because of his white supremacy, not in spite of it.

"This is a backlash of eight years of black presidency. This is a backlash against people of color rising to power. This is white America reclaiming its Empire.

"This is every race-based immigration law in our history. This is Native America genocide. This is anti-miscegenation laws, the one-drop rule, and American colonization. This is white nostalgia and the rewriting of history.

"This is Jim Crow after slavery. This is the prison pipeline after civil rights. This is redlining and white flight after the GI Bill of WWII.

"This is exactly how America has always wanted it. HAS ALWAYS DONE IT."

 

(Really, you need to follow the link and read the whole post.  Stop and do that now. Come back when you're done.)

I have friends and at least one family member who I know voted for Trump.  I talk on social media about how abhorrent bigotry and racism are because it's easy.  But I don't like confronting actual human beings about their personal bigotry because I don't like confrontation.

My silence is compliance.  I need to be more vocal and active, but other than praying about it (which I believe can help change the situation more than my actions alone), I don't know how.

[Insert a lot of inner turmoil and hand-wringing here.]

Fortunately, about the time this inner turmoil and repeating "WHAT DO I DO?" in my head showed up, I found an article from the Southern Poverty Law Center with a list of things we can do to combat racism and bigotry:

The first thing I'm going to do is keep reminding fellow Christians that we are commanded to love everyone, even those we see as our enemies or different.  We need to pray that we (including our own selves), the Body of Christ, love people as Christ loves them and renounce hatred in our own lives.  Loving other people is probably more difficult for me than confronting them, so this challenge is pointed at me more than anyone else.

I'm going to work on gently and lovingly confronting those people in my life who say bigoted and hateful things.

I'm going to continue to work on my own prejudices, facing them and eliminating them.

I'm going to continue to speak against bigotry and hatred on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and in my writing.

And I'm going to continue praying the God will use me to help end bigotry and hatred.

 

 

2

Yesterday, a dear, beloved friend of mine posted a reprint of John Pavlovitz's blog post on his Facebook page regarding the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend (August 12, 2017).

One of his friends responded, "I disagree with this pastor. I don't accept that anyone in Charlottesville is racist, a bigot, or anything other than ignorant, ignorant of their history and common beginnings, and ignorant of why there is a statue of a confederate general in the first place.  All the more reason to maintain those statues"  He continued in a later comment, "To wit: if all we see and speak about is racism and bigotry, then that is all we will discuss."

I suspect he wanted to continue the conversation about states' rights and how a big government was really to blame for the South's succession from the Union before the Civil War; however, I wanted to take the conversation in another direction: "Then let's start talking about sin. About how it's a sin to not love others as Jesus commands us to do. Instead of loving other people, we spout stuff like, "Love the sinner, hate the sin." We teach people that justice is more important than mercy. We teach people that the racial divide started in the Bible and that because the Bible talks about slavery and bigotry, that makes it OK--when the POINT of God and the writers of the Bible talking about those things wasn't to say those things are OK but to show how they don't work. And then to point out the better way, which is loving God and loving one another.

"So sure. Let's stop talking about racism and bigotry, but if we're going to do that, we need to START talking about how racism and bigotry are 100% rooted in sin. You can talk about states' rights and ignorance all you want, but this is willful, blatant ignorance, and people who are that willfully and blatantly ignorant don't want to be educated. They want to feel powerful and privileged and better than people who are different than them.

"So let's start talking about sin with these people then. And see if they respond any differently to THAT than to us talking about how wrong their racism and bigotry are."

People are sinful.  As a Christian, I truly believe that.  On a personal level, I have to fight against my sinful nature every day.  And yes, I even have fight against my own bigotry, prejudice, and privilege that tells me that I'm better than people of color or that I should be scared of the young African American man I encounter when I'm walking my dog at night.  I think and feel all these things, all while being horrified when I hear of another young African American man who was shot by some white dude for doing nothing more than walking down the street minding his own business.

In reality, it's the white guy I need to be more afraid of.

I have friends who are African American, Korean, Chinese, Jewish, Muslim, Latino, and Indian.  I love hearing stories about their cultures and religions (or lack thereof).  I'm saddened and infuriated by what some of them have had to endure because they aren't white and/or Christian.

And I still harbor some prejudices in my heart.

Prejudice and bigotry and thinking we're better than other people is a sin.  God told the Jewish people to welcome foreigners into Israel because they were once foreigners and oppressed in Egypt. In Jesus' day, Jewish people hated Samaritans, but Jesus spent time with a Samaritan woman and told a parable about a Samaritan who acted with love towards an injured Jew while his Jewish brothers passed him by.  Jesus commands us to love one another, to love our neighbors: "There are countless modern parallels to the Jewish-Samaritan enmity—indeed, wherever peoples are divided by racial and ethnic barriers. Perhaps that’s why the Gospels and Acts provide so many instances of Samaritans coming into contact with the message of Jesus. It is not the person from the radically different culture on the other side of the world that is hardest to love, but the nearby neighbor whose skin color, language, rituals, values, ancestry, history, and customs are different from one’s own."

Honestly, I really want to erase all the stuff in this post about how I have some prejudices still.  But I can't, because sin can only die when a light is shining on it. To my friends who are people of color, I'm sorry that I still harbor these prejudices.  I am praying that God will help me remove them and if I have ever hurt you by my words or actions, I'm so sorry.  I don't want to be like the people in Charlottesville who marched with Nazi flags under the banner of white supremacy.  Despite my shortcomings, I stand with you on the side of the oppressed.