Fact : I’m A Bad Feminist Who Wishes She Were A Badass Feminist

I’m pretty new to the Twittersphere (follow me if ya want, @BrenWeber), but I do understand inside that ‘verse rages a vast and mostly ridiculous debate about the role of women in the skeptical community. I’ve been trying to educate myself more on this, which lead me to this: .


I couldn’t help myself, my first thought was to tweet back “Dunno, maybe just tell them there will be lots of chicks there?” That thought makes me a bad feminist, at least in some back alleys of the internet.

The fact that I didn’t send it is evidence I’m not a badass feminist. I need to work on that.

Mission Impossible

Every time another psychopath takes the path of least resistance with their illness and succumbs to their darkest urges, Americans begin another round of “I’m Right And You’re Stupid”, an awful game that’s quickly shadowing baseball as our national pastime. The mass murder committed at Sandy Hook Elementary School lit off another round of this last week.

You’ve all seen it; our Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of righteous indignation over guns, mental health services, and the old stand-by about someone’s god not being “allowed” in schools (so much for all-powerful huh?) Friends and followers lists are undergoing mass purges, and I’m betting some of us can’t even get away from it at our holiday parties.

I’d like to take a moment and explore all this. Is there a reasonable proposal on the table concerning gun legislation that would have prevented the murder of those 20 kids and 6 adults? Because I haven’t seen one. A ban on “assault weapons” is overly vague and encompasses far too many weapons to be practical, especially considering that similar bans in the past have only resulted in gun manufacturers making changes to their high-powered weapons to avoid the restrictions.

I’m also not ready to jump on board with the idea that if more people were armed this wouldn’t have happened. While I grant the universal possibility that another adult, armed and properly trained, could have mitigated the damage here, they almost certainly wouldn’t have “stopped” it. Also, the chance that a competent, properly trained person would have just happened to be there at the right time and place to stop this is astronomical. Considering how lazy the American public is, it’s more likely that anyone packing that day would be some dude with the latest fancy handgun and only 20 hours of firearm safety training (if that) under his belt. It’s extremely unlikely they would be properly trained to deal with a situation as chaotic and frantic as this one must have been. That kind of training is usually only found in the very small populations of law enforcement and the military.

Better access to mental health treatment, while a worthwhile goal I wholeheartedly support, also would have done nothing to stop this. Assuming the news reports are accurate, this young man’s mother received $200,000 a year in spousal support. Financially she was in the top 10% of society, and fully able to afford good mental health care for her son. I have no idea if she sought help for her son (there are at this moment some reports she might have been considering committing him, but those reports are extremely preliminary), but she certainly could have. So either she did provide care for him and it didn’t work or she chose not to despite adequate resources available to her. You can’t force mentally ill people to take care of themselves if they, or their responsible party, choose not to.

(I won’t even address the “gods in school” argument. Silliness is not my forte.)

I think we have to explore the possibility that maybe we can’t stop all these things from happening. It seems like every time something like this happens we all start shouting at each other about what we should be doing to “stop this from happening again”. So far it doesn’t seem to me that any of  proposals are adequate to the task of “stopping” mass murders by mentally deranged people, at least not in any reasonable fashion that most of us would accept.

We could do ourselves a great favor if we stepped back, took a deep breath and accepted that sometimes awful things just happen. There is little to nothing we can do to stop it, and the constant arguing over solutions to an impossible situation only add to the discord we’ve all been forced to live with lately. I’m no defeatist, usually, but here is where I might be willing to wave the white flag and say “Sometimes bad things happen. It’s not in our ability to prevent all bad things from happening, but I can control how I react to those things.”. Life is messy and sometimes cruel, and often there is very little we can do about it.

So it’s time to accept the facts – there is no balance to nature, and sometimes bad things happen that can’t be stopped. It’s important for the adults to recognize this and learn how to discern between what we can effect and what we can’t. Otherwise we end up focusing on the impossible and ignoring all the things we can change, all the while alienating our friends and loved ones. Meanwhile, our kids pick up our bad habits.

Now With 47% Less Emotion

Well, I got all the emotional baggage out the way with my last post about A+, so time to move on to the analytical. Emotions are interesting, no doubt, but when it comes to the heavy lifting of being a rational person I usually engage the more utilitarian side of myself. Unfortunately for A+ my practical side isn’t really excited about it either, to tell the truth. I actually think A+ has the potential to harm the non-belief movement.

The A+ movement wishes to present itself as a combination of disbelief and political ideology. They claim the disbelief ultimately leads one to embrace the more liberal side of the political spectrum, so melding the two is not only appropriate but inevitable. Too bad it isn’t wise.

There is an example of melding atheism to a political position that resulted in damage to the secularism they were seeking: Communism. Now I’m not talking about the fur-hat wearing, parade loving Ruskies (although I do kinda miss their showmanship, their costumes were fantastic!) I’m talking about all those writers, thinkers and rabble-rousers McCarthy was seemingly terrified of. Since communists were (incorrectly) believed to be wholly atheistic, during the “red scare” of the 1950’s Congress added the words “under God” to the pledge of allegiance as a defense against their influence. According David Greenberg in an article written for Slate magazine:

“The legislative history of the 1954 act stated that the hope was to “acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government upon … the Creator … [and] deny the atheistic and materialistic concept of communism.”

It’s clear the intent was to distinguish America as fundamentally opposite of those “godless commies”. Of course 60 years later we realize we were never under any serious attack by communists in our country, but those words are still there, all because someone married disbelief with a political position. It just goes to show that given even the smallest opportunity to, the faithful in the halls of power will impose their beliefs on others, especially if they can earn political points in doing so. We shouldn’t be giving them these opportunities, because the laws of unforseen consequences will rear their ugly heads.

Additionally, considering the current Pew poll regarding faith and religiosity in America, it’s safe to say that an increasing number of young people are leaving their churches, and it’s pretty well-known that the push by churches to combine faith and politics is one of the driving forces behind this trend. They are rejecting the notion that their faith and politics are one in the same, and therefore are rejecting their churches and religion. This does not mean they are embracing disbelief, indeed they primarily self describe as being “spiritual but not religious”. But it does mean, as my friend Damion points out:

…since the “nothing in particulars” are marginally less skeptical than the general public, the only really good news here is that both of those groups are probably willing to hear us atheists and skeptics out when we try to explain to them that gods, spirits, souls, ghosts, astrology, reincarnation, faith-healing, and alt-med all fall into the same evidential category. To be sure, our mission field is expanding, but we still have to do the hard work of teaching people why and how to think critically about such claims.

Does anyone think our job of recruiting those who are leaving their churches because of politics will flock to us if we conflate our movement with politics? I think exactly the opposite, they will simply view our movement as just the same old crap they just left, only with a more “liberal” bent. These people might be open to a discussion of rationality, reason and logic as it pertains to their “spirituality”, but not if we muck up the process with politics.

Nailed it

I’ve mostly avoided getting involved on the Atheism+ debate, despite having strong opinions about it. I really thought it was a flash in the pan vanity project that would soon join its historical brethern the Betamax and the DeLorean in the scrapheap of noble but ultimately bad ideas, so I felt no real need to write about it.

But today I finally came across someone who hits the nail in the head about why I think it’s unnecessary crap. SoggyMog lays out most of my objections beautifully:

…yes it’s a bit grim to unexpectedly see someone masturbating on your walk to work – and of course what the homeless man was doing was illegal.  On the other hand, I couldn’t work out why McCreight seemed to have taken it as such a personal attack on her rights, as in her own words all that had happened was that she’d seen him masturbating while she was “walking by”.

I totally acknowledge that had I been in McCreight’s place there probably WOULD have been a moment of “ew, gross” when I saw this homeless man and registered what he was doing.  I’d also probably have got the hell out of there in a hurry.  But I’d like to think of myself that once the initial shock had subsided I’d have felt at least a “little “concern for this man, for his safety and well-being.  If I witnessed a homeless person shrieking in conversation with himself at the top of his voice, or engaging in self-harm, or doing anything else that most mentally-healthy people do not do in public, I would have felt uncomfortable and probably scared… but I would also have felt compassion. Why does this not apply because the particular eccentric behaviour this man was displaying happened to be sexual in nature?

Then I saw this tweet:

“Heaven forbid I want to walk to work without someone watching me as they masturbate without my consent

…and suddenly I got it. The reason McCreight expressed no sympathy or concern for the homeless man is that, in her world, “everything anyone does within the scope of her perception is about her”.

This has been one of my problems with the entire Elevatorgate/Atheism+ boongogle: it’s so selfish. From the first poor fool who assumed a pretty standard “No Thanks” to his clumsy attempts to mate was an abject rejection of all he was, is, and will be in this universe to the gals complaining that satirical jewelry was “harassment”, this entire boondoggle has been all about the “ME, MYSELF AND I!”

This is the inevitable raction of those suffering from what I like to call “Purple Participation Ribbon Syndrome”. We’ve bred an entire generation (perhaps even a couple of them) of overindulged, spoiled narcissists who think the entire world is only relevant as it pertains to them personally.

These people were raised with the idea that we’re all special; terrific in every way and deserving of credit for and praise for every feat ever attempted. They get good grades simply for trying really hard, toys as rewards for doing chores, trophies for coming to half of scheduled practices. They’ve been showered with accolades for every little thing they’ve ever done and it’s warped their minds so they can only see the world in terms of “What’s in it for me?”

They see every event, statement, idea, or activity through their own personal lens, constantly seeking the answer to the only question that’s relevant: “How does this effect me, and if it doesn’t, how can I make it effect me?” Worse yet, current definitions for words are wholly inadequate to describe their personal wonderfulness, so they make up new words to delineate themselves from the masses, which leads to the seemingly obsessive need to force everyone else to acknowledge their “specialness” by insisting we all refer to them by these new definitions. It’s maddening.

I have no objections to the stated goals if A+, I support all of them. But I do understand why folks find the execution icky, mostly because the attitudes of the organizers are icky. This is just one of my problems with A+, stay tuned for part two.

I only thought my day was bad

So I slogged through another 13 hour day today, feeling half sick, bone tired, and put out by half-wits and cranky babies of all ages. I took my bad mood put on my husband, folks on the internet, and myself. In other words, a typical Tuesday. Then I came across this:

A Young Girl’s Life Almost Stolen: On Malala Yousafzai’s Shooting.

Nuts. Now I gotta label myself a first world problem having, whiney ass numbskull who doesn’t recognize just how good she has it. I hate when that happens.

Arkansas : Why?

Who knew the morality of slavery was still being debated by civilized peoples? Arkansas, despite being one of the prettiest states in the Union, is also unfortunately one of the nuttiest. The Arkansas News brings us tales of just two of these nutballs, John Hubbard and Loy Mauch, both of who currently serve as legislators for the Razorback State. It seems Msrs Hubbard and Mauch share a belief that the morality of slavery is still in question (Shocked? Not me, sadly. Cynicism will destroy my youthful good looks before long, I just know it):

… Hubbard argues that slavery was not such a bad thing: “… the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.”

In a 2003 letter Mauch wrote: “Nowhere in the Holy Bible have I found a word of condemnation for the operation of slavery, Old or New Testament. If slavery was so bad, why didn’t Jesus, Paul or the prophets say something?”

Now, I’m no biblical scholar. As a matter of fact I’ve never gotten much past the “begats” before my eyes glazed over and I put it aside in favor of staring at my fingernails. But I know folks who’ve read it,  some several times, and they tell me that not only does the Bible not condemn slavery, it specifically lays out rules for the ownership and treatment of slaves.

If the book you lean on for your moral framework doesn’t condemn the ownership of human beings by other human beings, your moral code is flawed. Period. Same goes for rape, child abuse, war for profit and fame, child sex (how old was Mary again?) or any of the rest of that hot mess you call a “Bible”.

As for Mr. Hubbard’s claim that slavery was a “blessing in disguise” for those “blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances” and eventually got to become Americans (lucky devils, getting around immigration and customs by disguising themselves as cargo, how clever!), I could point out that several generations of slaves never got that chance because, you know, mortality and stuff.

I could also point out that this theory hasn’t moved Mr. Hubbard to import his own property in the hopes sometime, down the road, if they are hale and hearty enough, they may too get to become an awesome American (yay us!).

Instead I think I’ll just be content in the thought that all those Jews liberated from Nazi death camps were actually quite lucky! Those that survived got an entire country out of it for themselves, not just citizenship in some other country, how fortunate is that? Some might even call it a “blessing”.

Debate This!

The first debate is over, and I did watch it. Or mostly listened to it, to be completely honest. Now, I understand the general concensus is that my man Barry lost; that he was dull, never made a point, missed chances at zingers, generally just sucked. Yeah, probably true. Would I have been happier if he had called Romney out for lying, just once? Of course. Do I think it’s a big deal? Nope.

First of all, I think he was justified in being distracted last night. Turkey and Syria were lobbing missles at each other, and I imagine he got that news sometime yesterday before the debate. I hope he had that on his mind the entire debate. He is the commander in chief after all. It’s kinda his job.

But who cares? Let Mittens have this one, what difference does it make? I doesn’t matter if he repeats the word “crushed” a million times (that could have been my drinking game cue, I should’ve seen that one coming), pretend to understand all those middle class citizens making $200,000 a year (Whaaat?) and their tuna casserole, all the time rolling up his sleeves so we think he’s finally serious about jobs, he’s still wrong. Let me say that again, Mitt … Romney … is … wrong. It’s that simple. He’s a trickle-down, free-market sychophant who keeps trying to sell the same snake-oil that started this whole mess 30 years ago. Why would I buy that crap knowing full well what it’s done to this country all ready? In the immortal words of Dubya, we “won’t get fooled again”. Or at least I hope not.