Sexual Harassment is Not Politics

November 27, 2017

Roy Moore may be the drop that burst the dam, but the long sad history of men using power to sexualize and objectify women reaches back millennia. Recently the news about Al Franken broke, signaled by the same man (Roger Stone) using the same language (“time in the barrel”) used to announce the Wikileaks release of hacked e-mails from the Clinton Campaign. There is a political side to this issue, but this is a far more import issue than the election of a Senator (or President for that matter). The fact is that women have been abused subtly and not so subtly in our society and it’s long past the time to end it. The boy’s club should be closed.  It is not enough to reject physical sexual assault of women and tolerate verbal assault, or economic and social assault. But how to change?

Men are getting pretty nervous about now. Welcome to the experience of women. What is harassment and what is not? Is inviting a women coworker out for drinks after work harassment or a good will gesture? When is a joke a joke and when is it an assault? What is OK or not OK? Here are some suggestions guys…

If you want to share a joke, an invitation, or conversation with a woman in the workplace (or anywhere else), how about asking yourself if you would be good with someone doing that to your own daughter? How about treating women respectfully with clear boundaries until the woman knows you well enough to understand your motive? How about questioning your own motives first? How about asking women for permission and respecting their answer?

Of course, it will be hard on men for a while, and why not? It wasn’t men who precipitated this social change – it took the courage of women speaking out. Even now, victims of abuse from men are attacked and risk attempts to smear, shame and bully them into silence. Guess what? It doesn’t work anymore. We men have to change, and if we don’t know how to change then let the women around you define what that change looks like. Wow! You mean let women have some control? Yes, that’s right.

Even now, we can only begin to see the outlines of the path to change. Liberal men do it. Conservative men do it. It is a problem that transcends politics, but political ideology seems to be a defining aspect of responses. Al Franken immediately admitted the truth and apologized for behavior over a decade earlier and before he became a Senator. Trump and Moore attack their victims. Kind of ironic, if not sad, that the Party of Family Values is now becoming the Party of pedophiles. Whether it’s fair or not to be paying the price for behavior done decades ago, there is a moral difference between admitting your behavior was wrong and denying it and attacking the woman involved.

Some well-intentioned men, confused and fearful of their own past behavior being exposed, resent being put in the position where they may be “inconvenienced” by having to question their behavior toward women. Change is never easy, and for men in this society change is long overdue. We can start by rejecting the attempts to victimize women who speak out.

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Snipers … When Did It Be Gun ….

January 26, 2015

Following the weekend box-office success of the Clint Eastwood film <em>Sniper</em>, Michael Moore tweeted that when he was growing up, his father, a WWII Vet, told him that snipers were “cowards” and “they would shoot you in the back if they had to.” Moore stated that this was because a sniper in WWII had killed his uncle. While he didn’t mention the film by name, the media absurdly connected the statement to the movie.

The point here is that snipers are trained to shoot people in order to kill them, in the front or the back or the middle, provided they get the job done. At least snipers trained as soldiers, that is. The soldier featured in the film is U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who is portrayed saving his own men, and avenging attacks on Americans. Kyle was later fatally shot in America, by another veteran with PTSD; the very disorder that the film alludes to Kyle having overcome.

Moore, in his tweet, used the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. to illustrate his point about snipers not being heroes. He was hopeful that the American public wasn’t viewing them as such, especially at the time of year when we honor and remember Dr. King.

I’m not quite sure that the film shows Kyle as a hero.Rather, it focuses on the point that soldier snipers are human beings. Indeed, there was even some anti-war sentiment in the film.

The sniper who killed Dr. King, and the one who shot JFK, were former Marines. Cowards? Of course. Sociopaths with guns. The man who assassinated John Lennon wasn’t a sniper, he just aimed at close range and landed four of the five bullets into Lennon’s back.

We human beings form opinions and proceed to justify them based upon what is important to us. Moore was taught that snipers were cowards because of his uncle’s death. Oswald and James Earl Ray reinforce that belief. Obviously many regard Chris Kyle as a hero. The difference is which side of the fence you are on when the sniping starts.


GUNS AND COMMON SENSE

January 13, 2015

Guns have one purpose. To kill.

Four years ago, Representative Gabby Gifford was shot in the head while preparing to give a talk in her hometown. Twelve people were killed in Paris for drawing “offensive” satirical cartoons. Two years ago nearly two dozen children were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Only a year or so before that, a lunatic killed a dozen movie goers in Colorado. It goes on, and on, and on, and on…

Incredibly, the news coverage of these regularly occurring massacres never assesses the deluge of guns in America as a contributing factor. The media doesn’t even explore or report on why we, Americans, mindlessly encourage easy access to guns, or why we are the only country in the world that does so.

And today – right now – there is a bill waiting to be signed by Rick Snyder that will further loosen gun laws in the state of Michigan – because we obviously need looser gun regulations amid the gun violence, don’t we?

This bill would make it possible for people who have been charged with stalking to have a concealed weapons permit, and thus, keep a gun on their person. This means anyone who has a PPO against them could get a gun. The stalkers lobby must be really strong in Michigan.

The bill also shortens the waiting time to get a gun. In the past, people had to go through a background check and get fingerprinted. Sometimes it would take up to 60 days or more for the background check to be cleared. Isn’t that good?

Under the new law, the application process will only be allowed to take 45 days. If the background check isn’t done by then, the applicant will get a temporary permit regardless.

This means that ANYONE — criminals, the insane, lunatics — will be able to get a gun because the bureaucracy may take too long to issue a decision. And the legislature has provided no new funds to speed up the process.

Our bureaucracy takes long to do anything. Look at the thousands of rape kits that haven’t been processed in the city of Detroit. Where is the money going to come from now to pay for this new expedited gun permit process??

Everything costs, everything takes time, but because gun manufacturers want as many people as possible to have guns, our Republican lawmakers are only too happy to oblige.

Does this make sense? Are we crazy?

The only good news is that Snyder hasn’t signed the bill. Yet. Perhaps, if any sense is left in our Republican dominated state, this bill will be left to die. Common sense would dictate that it never sees the light of day. However, if I have learned anything over the last 64 years, it’s that when it comes to guns, America has no common sense.


Labor in America

September 9, 2014

There was a recent expose on children working in the tobacco fields of the New South in the New York Times yesterday.

Numerous examples of children as young as 10 years old working 10 to 12 hours a day for less than minimum wages have been documented, many of them getting poisoned by the exposure to nicotine. It evokes the images of the antebellum South, but in reality they are a sign of the future to come. They are not an isolated instance of abuse. In fact, they are the new face of labor in America.

All across the Country, including the “Right to Work” Michigan, right wing legislatures are systematically reversing over 100 years of hard-earned labor rights. Right wing politicians, elected through the financial largesse of billionaires such as the Koch brothers are not only attempting to destroy labor unions, they are even attacking basic labor rights such as child labor laws.

So this fall, when you vote, remember the face of those child workers getting those jobs created by your Republican governor and Republican legislators. Snyder and Lynn-Land will put your children to work …


On Being Black in America, Part 1

August 10, 2014

This past week bore loud witness to one of the most disturbing and ignored aspects of American society: the mortal risk of being a black male in public. A recent study estimated that a black male is shot dead by police or security guards every 28 hours. Many of these victims of homicide will not be guilty of any crime, and unarmed, although virtually every killer will be released claiming they thought their victim was committing a crime and thought they were armed. Many of these homicides are committed in broad daylight in public settings with no criminal prosecutions resulting.

Eric Garner was choked to death on a street in New York City by the police. He was pleading with the officers killing him that he couldn’t breathe. Police later said that he was detained originally because he allegedly selling “loose cigarettes.”

None of the officers have been charged with a murder clearly captured on video. John Crawford was shopping at a Walmart in a predominately white suburb in Ohio, when he made the mistake of picking up a toy gun to buy for a nephew. On seeing a young black man talking on a cell phone and carrying a toy gun, alarmed Ohioans called security and the police. As Mr. Crawford was pleading the toy gun was not real and with his arms up, he was shot dead.

None of the guards or police have been charged. They claim he was not being “compliant” with their commands. The circumstance surrounding the homicide of Michael Brown are still unclear but suspiciously similar to the script. Mr. Brown and a friend were walking down a street when they were detained by an officer who told them to get on the sidewalk and produce IDs. One thing we do know is that he was shot at least several times as he stood holding his hands in the air. The police tell a different story.

They claim after the officer “politely” asked Brown and his friend to get on the sidewalk and wait, Brown charged the police vehicle, began beating the officer and attempted to grab his gun. Why Brown, a young man bound for college would suddenly become a crazed police killer is only one of the absurd questions being investigated by the police, as the officer who killed an unarmed man who was standing still with his arms raised is typical of these killings by the police. These investigations always involve substantiating the claims of the officer that the victim was armed, committing a crime and threatened their life.

Being stopped for no probable cause is an everyday occurrence for black men, and their socio-economic class is no exemption. I speak with African-American attorneys, doctors and other professionals who can all share incidents of police harassment. When I was younger, simply crossing 8 Mile Road as a black man was reason enough to be detained. “Driving while Black” is another well-known cause for harassment. If it’s hard for me as a white man to understand why this doesn’t create a rage, all I need to do is remember their reality: that even the most righteous anger can result in being shot dead.

This is a reality that white America won’t listen to. Martin Luther King once said that “riots were the language of those not being heard.” Eric Garner, John Crawford and Michael Brown will never be heard from again, but at least some people are speaking for them, and thousands like them.


Crisis at the Border

July 10, 2014

The flood of women and children creating the crisis at the Texas border is not an immigration problem. It is a refugee problem. These children are fleeing countries where there is no rule of law, countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

The murder rate in these countries is more akin to a war zone like Syria, which is probably a valid analogy. Like any refugee crisis in any country, they are taxing local resources and the solution requires humanitarian and political efforts. And it’s only right that we do provide humanitarian assistance. These are countries that past U.S. Presidents deliberately destabilized. Remember the death squads Reagan secretly funded in El Salvador and Nicaragua? We sabotaged the legitimate political process in these countries because we didn’t like their politics. This left most Latin American countries hostage to those with the most guns, and today that means drug cartels. 

We should help these children because we helped cause the problems they are fleeing from and because it is the moral thing to do. The immoral thing to do is make them pawns in a cynical political war, or to fan the flames of hatred. Who could look at the scene of the protesters in Texas stopping busses full of terrified children and listen to the hatred spewing from their mouths and not feel ashamed for our country? Apparently, plenty of people who call themselves “patriots” and “Texans.”


Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

July 9, 2014

Some of you may remember the old Monty Python skit. A man is being given the third degree about something minor when, out of exasperation, he says “Well, I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!” Then suddenly a group of men dressed in red cleric robes burst through the door and says “NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

Well, life imitates art sometimes and here we are with the Catholics on the Supreme Court enforcing their religious beliefs on all Americans in the Hobby Lobby case. Make no mistake, the Catholic Church bans the use of contraceptives and the Conservative men on the Supreme Court are intent on enforcing their church’s doctrine in law — so much for separation of church and state.

Justice Scalia has made no secret of his opinion that his religious beliefs should directly affect his rulings, though the other Catholic men are a bit more circumspect.

The Hobby Lobby decision was wrong on many levels and the logic so obviously contrary – and dangerous – to virtually any laws banning discrimination, that Alito went out of his way to say that the decision was a one-time, limited decision (remember Bush v. Gore?). Conservatives hailed the decision as a blow for religious freedom.

The owners of Hobby Lobby consider forms of contraceptives that terminate conception as violating their religious rights so egregiously that it made it an irresolvable crisis of conscience (although they did invest their tax shelter profits in companies that make the “abortion pill”). Historically, religious beliefs have been the rationale for Jim Crow laws and discrimination against any number of groups (including Catholics). That is why allowing one religious group to discriminate is so dangerous.

The truth is that the Catholic men of the Supreme Court are better described as Ayatollahs issuing religious rulings on secular political matters. They ignore the Constitutional mandate separating church from state, let alone legal precedent.

Unlike the Monty Python skit, this is no comedy.