morgan_dhu: (Default)

So, all those people who don't want the government to have anything to do with marriage are of course perfectly willing to give up all of the associated privileges appertaining to the married state, right?

And all those people who specifically want the church to decide which marriages are valid are willing to accept all the definitions of marriage proposed by all the various religions in the world, right? Or even just all the religions with churches in your country or community? Because you've got your Metropolitan Community Church, as well as a few other denominations, which most certainly consider same-sex marriage as valid, and a number of religions that approve polygamous marriages, and there's probably at least on of each in your municipality if you live in North America.

Oh, did you mean only "real" churches, like the ones that share your ideas on marriage, should be allowed to decide which marriages are valid? And who's going to make sure that only those "real" churches are allowed to be in your community, recognising marriages? How do you prevent the ones you don;t like from recognising marriages you don't like, unless it's through intervention from the state, which would mean violating separation of church and state, which you've already insisted is a key principle that you can't violate.

Tell me another one, please, that was hilarious.

I certainly don't want the church, any church, determining which marriages are valid for everyone in my country.

Since marriage (churched or not, legal or common-law) is, at least in my country, a legally recognised state with a variety of rights, responsibilities, obligations and special circumstances attached, both between the parties to the marriage and between the parties and the state, then there has to be some law that identifies what is a marriage and what is not for the purposes of those laws.

My preference would be to have the broadest definition possible, such as: a marriage exists between people who have declared themselves to be willing to accept that the rights, responsibilities, obligations and special circumstances attached to the state of marriage apply to them, until such time as that declaration is terminated by mutual agreement or court decree (where a mutual agreement has not been possible), with the understanding the the persons involved are all competent to enter into a legal contract and do so of their own free will. (N.B., IANAL and this is an off-the-cuff draft.)

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Nothing makes the folks at the top happier than to see two groups on the bottom fighting each other rather than working together to challenge the whole notion of there being a top and a bottom. It's a technique that has been used for millennia as a means of social control. Foster mistrust, hate, competition for the scarce resource of attention from the people at the top, any kind of discord, any way of keeping natural allies apart, and it's a lot easier to stay in power, to maintain the status quo.

This means that the primarily white, primarily straight elite in the US right now - who almost lost Proposition 8 in California - are rubbing their hands in glee as supporters of equal marriage rights - who almost won Proposition 8 - start lining up to blame black voters for the loss. Because throwing blame around is going to make coalition work between the two groups so much more difficult, and that serves no one but the people who want to "give away" as little of their power as possible to either group.

It benefits the people in power - who have been using people on the religious right as shock troops - to stir up homophobia among racial minorities. It benefits those same people to encourage queer people to direct their frustration and righteous anger against racial minorities. It's divide and conquer, divide and rule - for the people in control.

And if you play that game as a member of a marginalised group, it means you lose.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

I am aware that this was developed for use in a university setting, but it seems to me that the list is very questionable as more than a very blunt instriment indeed, and does not do very well at anything other than, perhaps, differentiating the traditional American middle class nuclear family from anything that is not that.

I illustrate by doing... there's hardly a single question I can respond to without questions and qualifications. The instructions are to bold that which is true, but it doesn't tell me which part of my childhood or youth I'm to consider. Since I went through several changes of class before hitting 18 and/or finishing college, both of which events are mentioned in this list, I'm going to have to discuss what was true for me when.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: From What Privileges Do You Have?, based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. (If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.)

1. Father went to college. (That is, my most likely biological father, whom I have never met and who hasn't had any effect on my life experience, and who did not at any time, to my knowledge, contribute to my financial support. My mother's husband, who had a profound effect on my class status for the first few years of my life, did not attend university, but did, I think, attend some community or vocational college. In Canada, in the 1950s, this is a huge difference in class.)

2. Father finished college. (See above. My putative biological father not only finished university, he taught university, which is what he was doing when he got his student, my mother, pregnant. She had to leave school, of course. This was the 50s.)

3. Mother went to college. (See above.)

4. Mother finished college. (Much later, when I was around nine or ten, she completed her BA and her MA. She got her PhD when I was about 16, and got her law degree when I was in my early 20s.)

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor. (See above. On the part of my biological father, this would have had zero effect on my own class or access to professional class privileges or values while growing up. My mother taught constitutional law later in life after retiring from a long career in the civil service which started when I was 10, after she finished her MA - but that had no effect on my class or access to professional class privileges either, as it happened after we'd pretty much stopped speaking altogether. I have other relatives, but I had little to no contact with most of them, ever, and most of them, I have no idea what their profession or occupation might have been. I was raised for a time by my maternal grandmother, who was completely estranged from her own family. My biological maternal grandfather was an engineer - definitely professional class in the 1920s and 30s, but since my grandparents divorced when my mother was two, he's not a class influence. My grandmother ran a whorehouse during the war - what class would that make her - do you know? I certainly don't. The only one of her husbands I even knew was her last, a farmer who did not complete grade 6. He helped raise me at some points in my life.)

All of these questions assume a stable nuclear family, or at least a family in which one's relatives are ongoing influences. It assumes that you know who your parents are and stayed with them throughout your childhood, that changes in family structure such as divorce or death of a parent did not affect your family's circumstances.

6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers. (By the time I was 11 or 12 and my mother was fully established in the professional class and out from under the debts her husband had dumped on her, yes, I was the same economic class as my teachers.)

7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home. (Yes, even if many of them were second-hand or my mother's textbooks when I was very young. Having a very strong aspiration to complete her own education and move up in class, my mother went to some lengths to provide me with access to the cultural advantages of the class she wanted us to become accustomed to. She did without so that I could have books, when we were poor. She gave me as much money as I wanted to acquire books once we were middle class.)

8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home. (See above. By the time I left home, the walls were covered with books, hers and mine.)

9. Were read children’s books by a parent. (My mother read a lot to me when I was very young, but as I began reading spontaneously when I was about three, she didn't continue this once I could read on my own. She did, however, encourage me to write.)

10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18. (Yes. But (there's always a but)... I had free gym lessons for a while when my mother worked for the YMHC in Montreal. Later, I had more free sports and gym lessons for a while when my mother's husband worked for the YMCA in Saskatoon. I had some free piano lessons courtesy of a friend of mt mother's who was paying for a Conservatory student to come and teach her two daughters - she let me sit in and use their piano for practice. I had some free art lessons when I was young becasue many of my mother's friends were struggling artists and she'd let them come to dinner sometimes. I had free swimming lessons through a community pool. And later, in high school, I had a whole year's worth of private art lessons that I arranged for myself by doing housework and shopping for an artist I'd met through some school program.)

11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18. (See above.)

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like you are portrayed positively. Often people who talk like me are (but more often than not their voices are baritone or tenor or even bass rather than contralto or soprano), but never people who dress and look like me.

13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18. (This really didn't happen in the 60s, unless you were really upper class.)

14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.([Edit] I neglected to discuss the whole issue of paying for university. I first went to university when I was 16. When I started university, I was still living with my mother, who paid my tuition. The universtiy I attended was located in the city I lived in, so I lived at home and my mother continued to pay all my living costs. However, I dropped out at mid-term, left home and hitchhiked around the continent for a while, having many adventures on little to no money at all before deciding to go live with my grandmother and go back to school. Still estranged from my mother, with my grandmother unable to help me financially, I managed to win a scholarship that covered tuition and room and board (in residence). I got a job working nights in a pizza joint to cover all my other expenses.)

15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs. (See above)

16. Went to a private high school. (For one year. On partial scholarship. My mother's husband lost the money that was supposed to cover the rest of it gambling, so I wasn't welcome back the next year, and they withheld my prize for best student in Form I becasue the bill wasn't paid. I should be glad that they didn't kick me out at half-term.)

17. Went to summer camp. (For one summer. When my mother's husband had a job with a summer camp and staff kids were allowed to attend free.)

18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18. (When I was going to high school, Greek was still taught in some schools. I loved Greek. But after my first year, it was phased out at my school. The Greek teacher, out of the goodness of his heart and for no pay, allowed those of us who wanted to continue to drop in on him to ask questions, run drills with him, do assignments and have them marked, on our own schedules. Does that count?)

19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels. (After my mother joined the professional class, all the time. Before then, in summer, we camped. In winter, we stayed in cheap motels.)

20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18. (The older I was, the more likely this was to be true, but as an only child without any relatives living nearby, during the entire childhood, most of my clothes were either bought new or, more likely, made by my mother.)

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them. (When I was around 25, my mother gave me her older car when she got a new one. I've never owned a new car in my life. Note how this assumes that one's parents were able to maintain a car.)

22. There was original art in your house when you were a child. (As I mmentioned, many of my mother's friends were struggling artists. Plus, both my mother and I painted. After mother pulled us up into the middle class, she sometimes bought original art from unknown artists whose work she liked.)

23. You and your family lived in a single family house. (Once, for a couple of years, we rented a small house in Saskatoon. Also, my grandmother and her husband lived in a farmhouse in rural Nova Scotia during the times I lived with them. The rest was apartments and flats.)

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home. (My grandmother's husband owned that farmhouse. My mother has never owned any houses to the best of my knowledge, except for the farmhouse which she inherited and sold when my grandmother died. At 52, I've just bought my first house.)

25. You had your own room as a child. (I was an only child, so this was mostly true. But even so, for a while, I shared a bedroom with my mother, after she divorced but before she paid off the debts. And for a time, when I was quite young, we all lived in a bedsit, my mother, her husband, and me.)

26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18. (Once my mother was well estabvlished as a professional, yes.)

27. Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course. (This was, again, something only for the very upper crust when I was young.)

28. Had your own TV in your room in High School (Yes. A very small, portable, black and white TV.)

29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College. (Hah! I have only just this year, at the age of 52, been able to begin an RRSP, which is the Canadian version of an IRA.)

30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16. (My mother used to fly me home to my grandmother's whenever, for whatever reason, it wasn't possible for her to have me with her. Once I was into my teens and we were middle class, we flew often when vacationing.)

31. Went on a cruise with your family.

32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.

33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up. (When I was young, yes, on free admittance days. When I was older, often, particularly when we travelled.)

34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family. (Since we usually rented, there were for the most part no heating bills, it was included in the rent. I did have a basic idea of how much rent my mother paid and how it compared to rents in other kinds of housing. And of course I knew how much it took to buy a cord of wood for the wood stove at my grandmother's farmhouse.)

One of the assumptions in this list that hits me the hardest when I try to answer, aside from the whole issue of assumptions about family structures, is the assumption that one either gets access to intellectual experience (books, classes, private schools, art, museums, etc.) as a privilege or not at all. What about all the people who managed access, but it wasn't through privilege but through a combination of luck and planning and getting in through the side or even the back door, or even just looking very intently through a window, for some. I wasn't privileged to have access to cultural knowlege, my mother, during my childhood, fought hard and found unconventional ways to get me access. But I always knew I didn't always arrive through the front door, and so, while I have the knowledge, and I now have many of the privileges that knowlege has enabled me to access, I feel differently about it than someone who got those initial experiences as entitlements. I imagine there are a lot of people that got their intellectual privilege the same way.

For more discussion of the unexamined assumptions in this list, check out Elizabeth Bear's journal ([personal profile] matociquala)

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Every once in a while, someone I know on the Netz finds a website that does work with Implicit Association testing, and I go and test myself again. I've been doing this for a long time, longer than most, because I used to know via a particular fandom one of the students of the original researchers on this particular methodology and I took a test she had developed for her own research project.

So I have a fairly long history of taking them. I may be testwise by now, but I try to measure that by, whenever I find a new site that tests some new set of implicit associations, finding one of the first tests I ever took and retaking it to see if there's been a change in my results. There hasn't been yet. And I try to approach each new test I take with a clear mind, focused on the task and not on what the results will be.

So today I wandered through my flist and followed some links to the Harvard IAT test site. There were some new tests that I hadn't taken before, and a few that I had, so I took some new ones and retook a couple of them.

As usual, I am bothered by some of my responses.

My responses to one of the new ones I took was perfectly understandable. It turns out that I have a strong automatic preference for fat people over thin people. Seeing as I am fat, and that society is obsessed with thinness to the point of unhealthiness, especially for women, that's likely a good thing. It probably means that while I'm concerned about health issues, at least I think fat people can be good.

I also have always demonstrated a moderate to strong automatic preference for gay people over straight people. Again, being bisexual, I tend to identify with gay people more than I do with straight people, in general terms, so that one makes sense, too.

It also turns out that I do not have an automatic association between men and science, as opposed to women and science, which makes sense because I'm a woman who has always been interested in the sciences and has spend a lot of time thinking about anti-woman stereotypes and assumptions and I think in my time I've managed to get over a lot of them at a pretty deep level.

Here's the stuff that I don't get.

Over the years I've been trying these tests out, I have consistently been told that my responses demonstrate a strong automatic preference for black or dark-skinned people over white or light-skinned people. My responses also apparently indicate that I automatically associate North American Aboriginal people with being American to a much greater extent than I associate whites with being American and that I don't appear to think Asian people are "foreign" compared to white people. I'm apparently neutral in terms of religions - I have pretty much the same pattern of associations with Judaism as I do with other religions. I apparently also have a moderate automatic preference for Arab Muslims over other people. All of these responses are apparently anywhere from somewhat to very uncommon - for instance, my response to the preference test for black people vs. white people is found in about three percent of the American test population.

Here's what bothers me. I am white, raised in a predominantly white environment. While it is true that over the years I have had colleagues, friends and lovers of other races and religious groups, I was, like every other white person in North America (at least) raised in relative privilege and raised to be racist.

So when I look at these results, I wonder, and I worry. Am I unconsciously faking out the tests to reassure myself that I'm "not really" a racist? Have I fetishised people of colour? Or am I just so disgusted by the history of white people’s behaviour in general and American/North Americans in particular that I automatically favour any other group of people in a context where I am thinking about prejudice and race? I'm not sure I understand or trust what may or may not be going on in my head, especially with respect to the responses to race-based tests.

And the literature I’ve found online isn’t much help. Most of it seems to be focused on either reassuring me that I’m not a bad person because my results show bias against minority groups, or arguing that the tests are invalid because they make almost everyone appear biased against minority groups. There’s nothing that I can find about people who appear to be consistently biased against majority groups, even the ones that they are members of.

But there have to be other people like me that have a consistent anti-privilege bias, because that’s what seems to be the connecting thread in all of my responses over the years. This would even explain my response to the religions test – if I was unconsciously faking it, you’d think I would have come out strongly pro-Judaism, but if I’m being anti-privilege, then I’d be expected to get confused with this test, because it’s not comparing responses between two religious groups with unequal privilege in North American, but rather comparing Judaism on one hand and a collection of several other religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and North American Aboriginal spiritual traditions as well as Christianity, on the other hand. And while I’m well-known to be severely critical of Christianity as the privileged religion in North America, I would expect that I’d tend to favour the other religions included as much as I’d favour Judaism.

But I wish I could find more information on how to interpret consistent responses like mine on race-based tests coming from white people. Does it make sense to think what’s going on in my head is an anti-privilege bias? Or am I just trying to justify some unusual manifestation of inherent racist thinking? Or am I overthinking the whole damn thing?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

A couple of weeks ago, I was up late at night reading and sort of listening to/watching the news in the background, as I often do, and because I live in Canada, the channel I was watching was a Canadian 24-hour news channel.

And one of the big stories that night was about the release of the Council of Europe's report confirming that the US has used extraordinary rendition to transfer prisoners captured Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries to secret prison camps in Europe, including in Romania and Poland, where they were held and tortured. The World Socialist Web Site quotes the report as follows:
“What was previously just a set of allegations is now proven,” the report began. Providing a portrait of lawlessness on an international scale, it noted, “Large numbers of people have been abducted from various locations across the world and transferred to countries where they have been persecuted and where it is known that torture is common practice. Others have been held in arbitrary detention, without any precise charges leveled against them and without any judicial oversight—denied the possibility of defending themselves. Still others have simply disappeared for indefinite periods and have been held in secret prisons, including in member states of the Council of Europe, the existence and operations of which have been concealed ever since.”
Now you might think that what I'm about to rant about would be the secret prisons, but I'm not. I've already done that elsewhere.

No, I'm going to talk about what I saw when, just out of curiosity, I turned the channel to look at the seven or eight other 24-hour news channels I get via my superduper cable package. Now surprisingly, the European channels including the Beeb, were giving appropriate coverage to the report. Even though, because it was about three in the morning when I was doing this, it was already, quite literally, yesterday's news on that side of the Atlantic.

But what do you think I found on all but one of the US 24-hour news channels?

If you guessed Paris Hilton and her emotional, medical, personal and legal woes, you are 100 percent correct. (Incidentally, I forget what the other US "news" channel was covering, but it wasn't news, not even American news.)

Just to be fair, I switched back a couple of times during the night, looking for anything - even a crawl at the bottom of the screen - that suggested this story was getting any significant degree of coverage.

Didn't find a thing. The whole night long, there was nothing on the US news but Paris Hilton and a few other pseudo-news stories about celebrities, sensationalised crimes, or both.

Interestingly enough, a few days later, [ profile] glaurung_quena pointed me here to Making Light, the blog of Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and a comment made there by PNH about Paris Hilton as news distraction. And that blog (going, oddly, full circle) refers to an article here at the World Socialist Web Site about "why Paris Hilton."

Now, I really do wonder, why Paris Hilton? Or any of the rest of what all too often seems to pass a journalism, particularly on the US media that I can access on cable (which also includes all the main US broadcast networks and their newsmagazines, plus local news from the actual affiliate stations I'm getting the network news on).

I'm not saying that Canadian news, or what little international news based in Europe that I can access, doesn't have its share of sensationalism, puffery, silliness, and plain crap. But I do not believe I'm being biased when I say that there's less of it. And that the slant is different - for instance, many of the Canadian news stories I've seen about Paris Hilton were framed as stories about the nature of the coverage that the story was receiving, so that there was at least some attempt at social commentary in among the pointless tripe. But it does seem to me that, at least via the medium of television, the American people are not getting nearly as much news content as seems to be available through Canadian and European television.

And I do wonder why. It surely doesn't have anything to do with comprehension - I'm quite convinced that the average American is just as capable of understanding a nuanced geopolitical assessment of a news event as anyone else on the planet. The American news media seem to be saying that this kind of "infotainment," however, is what Americans want, because this is what they will watch and hence this is what the advertisers want to pay for because this is what Americans want to watch, and I'm sure we've gotten into some kind of circular reasoning here... and I really don't know if that's true or not. But for whatever reason, there really doesn't seem to be a lot of news - or at least what I am accustomed to thinking of as news - on the US TV that I have access to.

And the fact remains, that unless I want to perform a little, totally unscientific experiment like the one I've just described, the only US news organs I know of that carry anything like the kind of news coverage, analysis and commentary that I can get all over the place in Canada are The Daily Show and The Colbert Report - and even those, I watch on Canadian channels. ;-)

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Today, June 29th, is a National Day of Action in Canada.

It was called for by The Assembly of First Nations, and summons "First Nations, Canadian citizens and corporations, to stand together to insist that the Government of Canada respond to the crisis in First Nations communities."

This is me, a white settler woman, standing. I do not comment on any of the choices that Aboriginal and First Nations people may take today, because I am not qualified to judge their actions. I have not lived their lives.

I am qualified to judge the history of violence, greed, arrogant colonialism, deliberate exploitation, and calculated oppression committed by European settlers in the lands now called the Americas. To judge the way in which people of settler backgrounds came to the Aboriginal and First Nations people of these two continents and killed many of the people, eradicated some nations forever from the face of this earth, stole their lands, tried to destroy their culture, break their spirit, confine them, exploit them, assimilate them, isolate them, reduce them to the least of the least. To judge the history of callousness and inhumanity, dishonesty, deceit and self-serving paternalism behind the relations between the government of Canada and the Aboriginal and First Nations peoples living in Canada. And I condemn this history, and accept my responsibility for working toward negotiation, reparation, reconciliation, and whatever is necessary for the renewal and regeneration of the Aboriginal and First Nations peoples.

I do not know what form this working will take, but I do know that, on the side of settler culture and organisations, it must begin with respect for Aboriginal and First Nations peoples, and an acknowledgment that we have to start listening and taking the actions that are needed, rather than imposing "solutions" from a position of continued racist paternalism, colonialist thought and settler privilege.

I do know that one place for settlers to listen and learn is from the Wasáse movement. I quote here from the Statement of Principles of Wasáse. I hope this may serve as food for thought on this day, and those to come.
Wasáse is an intellectual and political movement whose ideology is rooted in sacred wisdom. It is motivated and guided by indigenous spiritual and ethical teachings, and dedicated to the transformation of indigenous people in the midst of the severe decline of our nations and the crises threatening our existence. It exists to enable indigenous people to live authentic, free and healthy lives in our homelands.

Wasáse promotes the learning and respecting of every aspect of our indigenous heritage, working together to govern ourselves using indigenous knowledge, and unifying to fight for our freedom and the return of our lands. It seeks to liberate indigenous people from euroamerican thoughts, laws and systems.

Wasáse is a resurgence of diverse actions. It works by awakening and reculturing individuals so that indigenous thoughts are restored to their proper place in the people’s minds and their attachment to false identities is broken. Members of the movement are committed to the restoration of indigenous traditions, ceremonies and knowledges; reconnecting to and loving the land; and, revitalizing indigenous languages.

Wasáse challenges indigenous people to reject the authority and legitimacy of the colonial system and to rebel against its institutions. Wasáse is not a political party or governmental organization, and its members do not seek or hold political office. The movement does not use violence to advance its aims. Its political struggle is conducted through intellectual confrontation and mass communication; revealing the corruptions, frauds and abuses of colonizers and collaborators; and, supporting direct action in defense of indigenous communities, their rights, and the land.

LOL fun

Jun. 13th, 2007 11:21 pm
morgan_dhu: (Default)

Blame [profile] whumpdotcom for this. He's the one on my friends list who posted the link to ROFLBOT

Both were random images.

This is what any cat would say, seeing as they are such superior beings.

This one's kind of wistful.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

I don't usually post about memes, even if I do them when I see them in someone else's journal. But this one amused me. I assume that it takes sections of text out of your LJ of the proper length to create a Haiku. The ones it has generated for me have been, well, rather appropriate.

As you all probably know, haiku do not always stand alone as complete poems, but are sometimes parts of a discussion, either within the writing of one individual or as a conversation between two. The several haiku below may be considered in that light.

in prisons and jail
cells and interrogation
rooms and detention

not to ignore the
contributions of all those
substances together

behind walls you that
never done nothin' but
build to destroy you

the leaders and law
makers of the so called
civilised west

suspect that torture
in prisons and jail cells and

might happen both in
terms of the content of their
bodies and is buried

you do let me ask
just one simple question what
the fuck seriously

morgan_dhu: (knight)

I've been alternating between sickened horror and an outrage I can barely express without tears or violence for days now.

And I've been struggling to figure out why.

It's not as if I - and all of us - didn't know that countries around the world have been torturing prisoners, both criminal and political.

And it's not as if I - and all of us - didn't know that the countries of the so-called civilised Western world have been torturing people in colonised nations.

And it's not as if I - and all of us - didn't know that these same so-called civilised countries have been backing, supporting, encouraging and protecting dictatorships all around the world that have been torturing people.

And it's not as I - and surely, at least since Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, all of us - didn't know that people were being tortured by or in the name of the so-called civilised countries we live in.

And it's not as if I - and many others - didn't suspect that torture in prisons and jail cells and interrogation rooms and detention centres and other places in these so-called civilised countries was nowhere near as uncommon as those who run these places would have had us think.

No, we knew all that, and I'm sure we all thought it was horrible. and I'm sure that many of us marched or wrote letters or did something over the years to speak out for the human rights of people all around the world not to be tortured.

I think what makes it so much worse now is that at least in the past the leaders and law-makers of the so-called civilised West have at least tried to pretend that they didn't approve of torture. That it was wrong. They tried to conceal the fact that they tortured, or allowed torture to happen in their name or at the hands of dictators they gave political, financial and military support to (at least until it suited them to abandon those same dictators).

Until now, our leaders have at the very least been a little ashamed of what they were doing. They were worried that if they came out and said it, we might get angry enough to do something about it.

But not any more. Now, it's possible to debate how much you should be able to torture someone, to discuss how much pain and humiliation and damage one can inflict before you go too far.

And that sickens and outrages me to the core. How did it come to this, that every citizen of every so-called civilised country has not risen up in their disgust and outrage and demanded that those who want to torture people, or who are willing to stand aside while their allies do so, are not fit to be our leaders?

And no, I am not pointing fingers at any one country. We all, in this so-called civilised West, are responsible for letting it come to this, and for whatever will follow from it. I'm sickened and outraged by my own government's actions, and the lack of response among my fellow citizens.

What kind of people are we, that we can accept this?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

On September 11, 2001, and on the long days following it, thousands of fire-fighters, police officers, and volunteers worked in the ruins of the World Trade Center, breathing in a toxic mixture of chemicals, concrete dust, asbestos, fibreglass, petroleum combustion byproducts, and some things that had never existed before because no one had ever burned all those substances together in one place before. Many had inadequate breathing gear, or none at all.

In the days following September 11, 2001, many New Yorkers remained in the city, or returned within just days or weeks, breathing in the dust, cleaning up the hazardous waste that filled their homes and offices, often with nothing more than a wet rag and a dust mop. Christine Todd Whitman, the head of the EPA assured them that the air was safe to breathe.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of New Yorkers, many of them firefighters, police officers and others who worked at Ground Zero, are now disabled due to conditions that can be medically linked to their exposures to toxins on September 11 and the days following. Some have died. Many more are still working, but struggling with asthma, gastric complaints, headaches, diminished lung capacity, dozens of other medical problems. Some are beginning to develop environmentally-induced cancers. Medical experts in human response to toxic exposures predict that as time passes, more and more of those exposed will get sick, those who are already sick will, for the most part, get sicker, and more will die.

Most of them have faced disbelief, resistance and denial every step of the way from their insurers and their governments in their search for workers' compensation, medical pensions, appropriate health care.

Many of these people were honoured by their government as heroes five years ago. What a difference five years can make.

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Five years ago today, several thousand people were killed, in New York City, and Washington, and a lonely field in Pennsylvania.

Since that day, tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If you choose to remember deaths today, remember all of their deaths.

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Last night I saw the first part of the award-winning BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear on CBC Newsworld's The Passionate Eye.

The documentary explores the rise of fundamentalist Islamist thought in the Middle East and the neo-conservative movement in the west, with particular attention paid to the similarities and interconnections between the two. The starting premise of the documentary is that these two movements are, at the core, both reactions to the failure of liberalism. As it traces the growth of both movements, it also highlights some of the ways in which they have influenced each other, used each other and developed in response to each other.

Because I've done a moderate amount of reading in the last few years on the growth of fundamentalist Islamic thought, much of the historical background addressing this aspect of the film was familiar to me - what really hit me was the recounting of things I had either forgotten about or never known about neocon politics in the US in the 70s and 80s. Though I must admit, I remember sitting with friends - some of whom were ex-pat Americans - on the night Reagan was elected and feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was the beginning of a long nightmare... and finding that everyone agreed with me. I don't think we really could have realised just how much of a nightmare it would be, and just how long it would last.

Some of the material in the film that discusses neocon politics of the Ford and Reagan eras with respect to US policy concerning the Soviet Union seemed eerily and unpleasantly familiar. And why shouldn't it? It is, after all, many of the same men who railed about the threat from the Evil Empire in the 80s who brought us yellowcake, chemical factories on wheels and the Axis of Evil in 2003.

One sequence of a profound deja vu nature outlines the way that neocons Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Pearle et al (as part of the Ford and Reagan governments) set out in the late 70s and 80s to prove that the USSR was secretly building up its armaments to threatening levels and preparing to attack the US. Does this sound at all familiar:

DONALD RUMSFELD, US Secretary of Defense, Speaking in 1976: The Soviet Union has been busy. They’ve been busy in terms of their level of effort; they’ve been busy in terms of the actual weapons they’ve been producing; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding production rates; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding their institutional capability to produce additional weapons at additional rates; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding their capability to increasingly improve the sophistication of those weapons. Year after year after year, they’ve been demonstrating that they have steadiness of purpose. They’re purposeful about what they’re doing. Now, your question is, what ought one to be doing about that? [quoted from transcript available online].

According to the documentary, when informed by the CIA that there was simply no credible intelligence to support this allegation, the neocons argued that the fact that there was no evidence merely proved that the Soviets had to be doing it, but keeping it secret.

While profoundly critical of the neocon movement, the documentary isn't pulling any punches about the Islamist movement either - the leaders of both are shown as, on the one hand, idealists who want to save their people and their worlds from what they believe to be a profound moral and spiritual disease, and on the other hand, cynical manipulators who, believing that their end is so important to the survival of what they cherish that any and all means are justified, start out by creating The Big Lie and end up at least half believing it themselves.

For Canadians and anyone else with access to CBC Newsworld, the documentary concludes tonight - check your local listings for the time.

For anyone else - this documentary is not currently available on DVD due to problems with clearing rights for archival footage, but a transcript - which I skimmed and which appears to be accurate - is available on the Net.

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From [profile] whumpdotcom: If you see this, post the lyrics to an anti-war song in your LJ.

So, here's one of the first ones I ever learned. Seems like some things never change.

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead

Bob Dylan, 1963

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Well, now that we have to be able to defend any cultural product, whether it depicts a real or an imagined sexual act involving a person under 18 years of age, I figured that I'd have a look and see what I might need to defend ownership of.

I know that some people will tell me, and all those members of the Canadian artists community, that I'm exaggerating, making a big fuss about nothing, because the law has some phrases in it that would surely prevent them from challenging the status of real "art."

After all, the work has to have "as its dominant characteristic the description, presentation or representation, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years."

And "No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the act that is alleged to constitute the offence (a) has a legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art; and (b) does not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under the age of eighteen years.

One of the big problems with this is that the onus is now on the originator, distributor or owner of "any written material, visual representation or audio recording" that contains representations of sexual activiy involving someone under 18 to prove:

1. that the sexual activity is not its dominant characteristic
2. that it does not have a sexual purpose
3. that it has a legitimate purpose related to one of the specified areas
4. that it does not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under 18

Now I agree that if the nature of the sexual activity is heterosexual and vanilla, and there's a plot in it somewhere, you will likely get a pass - in fact, if there's enough of a plot, it might not even be challenged.

But let's talk about work that involves kink, or queer sex. You really think that a book about a baby leatherdyke finding herself and coming to terms with her sexuality can easily prove, in this society, it does not have a sexual purpose (whatever that means), that does it has a legitimate purpose and that it does not pose an undue risk of harm to minors? Because the Canadian public and their elected legislators may have just barely agreed queers can get married, but lots of them still don't want to think about what queers do in bed (or on the kitchen table, or in the dungeon), and they don't want their kids finding out about it either, lest their kids realise that it sounds interesting.

And who says that a work in which the dominant characteristic is sexual activity involving minors is automatically TEH EVOL? Can anyone honestly argue that Romeo and Juliet aren't filled with teenage lust right up to the very tragic end?

And who decides what is a legitimate purpose? Obviously, the legislation presupposes that auto-eroticism is not a legitimate purpose. Would a book that helps young women who have decided to have sex (as is their right if they're over 14) develop skills for negotiating safe sex issues with their partners be a legitimate purpose? Is writing a political rant that mentions a book about young women aged 14 to 18 who have decided to have sex a legitimate purpose?

Many people are going to tell me, I expect, that these new restirctions are necessary because of the Supreme Court rulings in the case of John Robin Sharpe (more details here). Yes, the Supreme Court found that under the old law people can't be prosecuted for producing written or visual of their own imagination, for their own use.

And you know what? That was fine by me. It was illegal to show these works to a minor. It was illegal to use these works to persuade a minor to agree to sexual acts with an adult or another minor. It was illegal to use representations of real minors in creating these works. And it was certainly illegal to try to do any of the things in these works if a minor was involved. Making it illegal to even create the works is censorship and creation of a thoughtcrime. It may well be regugnant to most of us, but there's nothing demonstrably harmful about anyone wanking off in private to kiddie porn he or she made themselves without any exploitation of a minor person.

We didn't need laws about creative works to convict John robin Sharpe. He was also using porn produced through the exploitation of minors. That was illegal, and rightfully so. But it was his acts that invovled minors, not his solitary use of written porn, that caused harm.

And if you believe that only people who commit acts of pedophillia with minors would ever get off on kiddie porn, think again. Think about all those people who like to do sexual role-playing involving schoolgirls, or infantilism, or want to be leather daddies, or imagine initiating the hot young pizza boy. Think about people who use porn that depicts teenage sexuality (without actually using tennager to produce it) in order to regain the rush of their own adolescent sexual explorations. If people were only honest about it, there would be a great many people who include some sort of fantasy ageplay in their sex lives. Very few of them ever commit sexual acts with minors. Why? Because they know that what they're into is a fantasy. They don't want to really have sex with a minor of any age. They know that would be wrong. They just want the fantasy. Laws like this are trying to turn fantasies into thoughtcrimes.

So I thought about what I own that might make me guilty of thoughtcrime. My partner and I took a casual glance at a couple of our close to 50 shelves of books, and started making a list of books, both fiction and non-fiction, that depict some sexual activity involving a minor or minors. We don't know what "dominant characteristic" means, nor are we sure about "sexual purpose," because we can think of lots of sexual purposes that have nothing to do with wanking.

Here, in no particular order, is the first installment of the books I own that could be determined to be works of child pornography.

Dorothy Allison - Bastard out of Carolina
Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
Rita Mae Brown - Rubyfruit Jungle
Michelle Cliff - Abeng
Moyra Caldecott - Guardians of the Tall Stones, Daughter of Ra
Frankie Hucklenbroich - A Crystal Diary
Anita Diamant - The Red Tent
Margaret Laurence - The Diviners
Alice Walker - The Color Purple
Anne Rice - Belinda
Anne Marie McDonald - Fall on Your Knees
Marion Zimmer Bradley - The Mists of Avalon
Lauren Greenfield - Girl Culture, Fast Forward
Bernard Lefkowitz - Our Guys
Susan Faludi - Stiffed
Pat Califia - Public Sex
Susan Hemmings (ed.) - Girls Are Powerful: Young Women's Writings from spare Rib

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Oh, I'm such a thoughtcrimer.

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One might think that my joy would be unalloyed today.

The Civil Marriage Act was passed in the Senate last night, and received Royal Assent today. Canada now officially in all provinces and territories defines marriage as a union between two people.

In a particularly bizarre bit of last minute asshattery, Conservative senators attempted to introduce an amendment "stating the traditional definition of marriage is between a man and a woman, but that civil marriage is between two people."

Said one of the amendment's supporters: "It would have brought a great deal of comfort to same-sex couples that they would not be perceived as having somehow gained their legitimate rights at the expense of those for whom the traditional marriage of a man and a woman was so terribly important," said Conservative Senator Noel Kinsella, who supported the amendment.

Yeah, right. All us queers and queer-friendly allies would have been so comforted to know that even as Canada finally acknowledged the rights of any two people to get married, the Religious Wrong was trying to have it enshrined in that very law that same-sex marriages might be legal, but they weren't really "real" marriages like those that happen between a man and a woman. Because nothing is real unless there’s a penis in it somewhere - as long as it's nowhere near another penis, of course.

But let's move on. I'd much rather my last thoughts on this Parliamentary struggle be about Senator Nancy Ruth, who danced in the Senate Chamber, and said "the whole country should be dancing."

Unfortunately, the Senate has also given us a very good reason not to dance, but rather to start the next fight for civil rights.

Yesterday the Senate passed Bill C-2, AN ACT TO AMEND THE CRIMINAL CODE (PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND OTHER VULNERABLE PERSONS) AND THE CANADA EVIDENCE ACT. In an attempt to disprove Stephen Harper's allegations from the last election, Paul Martin's government has now passed an anti-child porn law so vague in it's attempt to catch all the child porn in the world that it may even be illegal to discuss what's in it, unless I can prove in court that I am doing so for a "legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art."

So humour me, folks, I'm educating you. Legitimately. Right?

In the Library of Parliament's Legislative Summary of Bill C-2, one of the problems that has cultural workers and arts organisations across the country up in arms for their right to write is discussed as follows:

Bill C-2 eliminates existing exemptions for material with "artistic merit or an educational, scientific or medical purpose," leaving the statutory defence of a "legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art." Bill C-2 further specifies that the material in question must not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under the age of 18. Amendments also broaden the scope of the offence by eliminating the need to show that written materials advocate or counsel illegal sexual activity with children. To satisfy the definition of child pornography, it will be sufficient to establish that the "dominant characteristic" of any written material is the description, "for a sexual purpose," of sexual activity involving a person under 18 that would be an offence under the Criminal Code.

Representatives of cultural workers, particularly writers, have been vocal about this legislation. From a Press Release released by the Writers' Union of Canada, dated June 20, 2005:

"Real abuse of real children deserves zero tolerance," said Brian Brett, Chair of The Writers' Union of Canada, "but this proposed legislation forces an accused writer to prove that his or her work does not present an undue risk of harm to children. What has happened to the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty'? We are urging the Senate to hold hearings on these issues and not rush through such important and sweeping legislation."

A spokesperson for the Quebec Writers' Union said this week:

"They're trying to clamp down on child pornography, but they're going too far by making too loose a definition of it," says Charles Montpetit, chairman of the freedom of expression committee at the Quebec Writers' Union. "Any description of sex involving people under 18 will be considered child pornography. It's absurd because the age of consent in Canada is 14. Between 14 and 18, teenagers can legally have sex but we can't talk about it because that would be child porn."

And let's not for a moment forget that it's young women and young queers of all kinds who often have the most need to be able to explore a variety of writings and imaginings about sexuality, because there's not much representation of sexuality from these perspectives in the mainstream culture.

Canada has a bad history of targeting queer writings with its porn laws. If anyone has any doubts that important explorations of queer sexuality and coming out among youth will be particular victims of this law, then you need to look at the kinds of works that have been challenged in the past and think again.

Just last night I watched an interview with author Susan Swan talking about the indignity of having to defend her well-known bookThe Wives of Bath from accusations of child pornography under the previous laws, which allowed for a defence of "artistic merit." For those unfamiliar with the book, it explores, among other things, the sexual awakening of two girls in a boarding school. It was a finalist for the Guardian Fiction award and Ontario's Trillium award, and was the basis for the film Lost and Delirious

To say nothing of writers and readers using literature as a way of discussing and dealing with issues of child sexual abuse. Will anyone in Canada be able to see the film based on Dorothy Allison's Bastard out of Carolina ever again, let alone read the book?

Arggh. I’m disgusted and appalled.

Next up: Watch this space for future posts in which I list the books we own that may well be child porn under the new law. Just to make it easier for the cops to find me. Any other Canadians out there feel like telling everyone what evil works of child porn they're hiding on their bookshelves or among their collections of DVDs?

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So, as just about everyone must know by now, a bill redefining marriage as a union between two people to the exclusion of all others passed in the Canadian House of Commons last night, and barring some totally unforeseen circumstance, will be signed into law within the next week or so. So, we've won the right for everyone to marry who they want to, and that's the end of it... or is it?

As I said in a previous rant, the general belief of many opponents of this legislation is that "marriage is so special, you know, and if queers get their deviant and debauched claws of doom on it, all marriage between heterosexuals will immediately collapse into the same primordial slime the rest of us are condemned to live our lives in."

Throughout this long fight for the recognition of relationships between two men or two women, most people have been doing their best to assure straight, non-secular folks that nothing's really going to change. And in one very real sense, it won't. No matter what kind of relationship *I* have, there's no reason why it should affect *your* relationship. My being queer isn't going to make someone else queer if they aren't already - whether they've become aware of it or not. Having a queer married couple living next door is not going to send anyone else to the divorce court, unless that relationship was already doomed.

To quote myself again, I said "I still have not been able to find one opponent of same-sex marriage who can make an effective argument, without resorting to religion, about how the marriage of two men or two women is going to irretrievably damage existing marriages between a man and a woman, or the concept of marriage, or society, or the fate of the universe." And I do believe that's true - same-sex marriage isn't going to damage marriage, or society, and it certainly has nothing to do with the fate of the universe.

But I do think it is part of a long slow change in the idea of what family is, and how families function in society. And that what has happened is a big step forward in that process of change. And that where we are headed is going to upset some people deeply.

What is happening, and what this legislation is part of, is the secularisation of liminal events in human life and the personalisation of ritual. We are moving away from a kind of social structure that has existed for most of the history of our kind, a social structure in which a common religion marked all the important changes in a person's social status - birth, coming of age, marriage, becoming a parent, death. What that religion was, and what events were seen as liminal, depended on what the particular culture was, but until very recently in terms of human history, that's just how it was. And the political organisation of that culture - be it clan, tribe, state, whatever - reflected the dictates of religion with respect to the definitions of all of these statuses.

But all that is breaking down - has been, very slowly, for three or four hundred years, actually - and at an increasing pace. We are moving toward a social structure where the state records and acknowledges personal, not religious, definitions of these liminal events, and where religious recognition becomes an individual and optional element in these events - often a very important element, but not the sufficient and necessary element.

With the passage of the Civil Marriages Act, we now have in Canada a situation where religious marriage and civil marriage have distinctly different definitions. It's been that way for a while, actually - the Catholic Church does not recognise civil marriages where one person has been previously married but whose marriage has not been properly dissolved under canon law. But it's now clear to everyone - civil marriage is defined in secular terms, and religious marriage is defined according to religious beliefs.

If the definition of civil marriage is whatever the state agrees to record and acknowledge, without consideration of religious beliefs, then that definition can change again as ideas of what forms a family can take change and evolve. The concept of marriage, at its heart, is about commitment and caring - which may extend to making commitments to and caring for children within that marriage. We've already decided that the race, ethnicity, religion or gender of the adults in a marriage is irrelevant to its legitimacy. The next change to the secular definition, I think, will be the number of adults in a marriage.

And it's still not going to affect anybody else's marriage if I get myself hitched to a dozen people of all genders and colours and cultures. Nor is it going to change the essence of marriage, or bring about the collapse of society or the end of the world. And not all of the ranting of narrow-minded people who can't understand that nurturing love in all its forms can only add to the peace, justice and joy in the world can make it otherwise.

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It's getting so hard to read the papers. Not that there's ever been all that much to cheer about in the news, but it's getting so damned ire-raising and depressing all at once.

If it's not war, torture, pestilence, famine, disaster and ruin, or the callous disregard of human rights around the globe, it's lying, cheating and general asshattery everywhere you look. What the fuck are we doing to ourselves, our neighbours, our fellow lifeforms, our one and only distressed and wheezing planet? Are there enough people out there who have a clue about at least some of this to make a difference? Or are we doomed to follow the bloody standards and beating drums of the people who want power and the accumulation of things more than peace, more than justice, more than compassion, more than clean air and water and soil? Is there any point in trying any more?

And yet, and yet... how do I live with the fact that I'm one of the relatively few who has some measure of choice in all this? I have the privilege - at least for now - to say "I don't want to think about all this stuff, I'll just sit back and enjoy the comforts of a middle-class western life," unlike those who wake up every day to the bombs and the guns and all the other threats to life and liberty and health and safety.

I think I'll go and howl.

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Sad but telling counterpoint to all the political and media frenzy over the termination of the body that once was Terri Schiavo:

U.S. Soldier Convicted of Killing Iraqi Walks Free

Oh yes, mercy killing is a horrible, evil thing when we do it to nice white North American women, but if it's an Iraqi citizen that we just gunned down, well, there's no need to get all worked up about something like that.

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I think I start to understand how many Americans must feel watching their news media.

This week, the CBC newsmagazine program the fifth estate is airing a report on the state of the American media from a Canadain news perspective. The report is called Sticks and Stones, and is described thusly by the network: The United States is in the midst of a very un-civil war. It's a war of words that's pitting conservative against liberal, that's already divided the country into red and blue. The new gladiators are commentators like Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter and their forum is the television studios of networks like Fox. It's loud, it's raucous, but does it have anything to do with the truth?

Some of the material covered was familiar to me from my faithful viewing of the only U.S. "news programming" my ex-pat American partner will allow on the T.V. in his presence, Jon Stewart's The Daily Show.

What brought it all home to me was an interview with American right-wing pundit Ann Coulter. The reporter, CBC journalist Bob McKeown (who has also worked for U.S. networks CBS and NBC), initiated a discussion about her on-air comments concerning Canada spoken on an American T.V. newsmagazine program Hannity and Colmes: they need us...they are lucky we don't roll over one night and crush them....they are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent.

Part of Coulter's response was a lecture on how Canada had been such a stalwart ally of the U.S. until now, and that our disloyalty (in declining to join the U.S. illegal invasion of Iraq, not that she described it in those words) is fair justification for anti-Canadian sentiment. To bolster her argument, she listed all of the wars Canada had supposedly "supported" the U.S. in, beginning with WWII (how could we have supported U.S. involvement when we were there several years before the U.S., supporting Britain?), Korea (we were there as part of a U.N. action, not as support for the U.S.) and Vietnam.

McKeown politely informed Coulter that Canada had not sent military forces to Vietnam. She told him that it had. He replied that no, we really had not been involved in Vietnam. She insisted that he was wrong, and said that she would send him the proof after the interview was completed. He basically shrugged and moved on. Of course, McKeown noted following that segment of the report that neither Coulter nor her staff ever got back to the CBC with their supposed proof - and that Canada had not sent troops to Vietnam.

But it hit hard. If this woman could take part in an interview for a Canadian audience and shamelessly insist that she was right and the Canadian reporter (who is actually of an age to remember the war, having been a pro football player in the early 70s) correcting her about his own country is wrong... then she could lie to anyone about anything.

But I guess that's really not so remarkable after all. It's just a shock to see it, rather than hear or read about it.

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It’s all over LJ, so you probably know about [ profile] anniesj and her visit from the Secret Service over comments she had made in her LJ that she describes as “some rather inflammatory things about George W. Bush in a public post in my LJ, done in a satirical style.

She has written a new entry in which she responds to some of the discourse that has occurred in response to her experience. Now, [ profile] anniesj has every right to her own thoughts and responses to this experience, but I also have every right to say that I think she is very wrong in some respects.

In her follow-up, she says:

1. I made a very big mistake in posting what I originally posted. I did not intend to threaten anyone with what I originally said. I was pissed off by what President Bush said, and I ranted about it without thinking that what I said could be construed as a threat against the president's safety. Obviously, I was wrong and I admit responsibility for making an inflammatory post. I apologize to anyone it may have offended, and I will be much more careful in the future when expressing my political beliefs.

2. My political beliefs did not trigger this, and what happened to me was not political. The reason why I was reported to the FBI was because I made the mistake of posting something that could be misconstrued as being a threat to the president's safety. I understand this, I apologize for it, and I will not make the same mistake again. I repeat, I do not seriously wish to harm anyone else on this planet, and in the future, I will make certain that I never give that impression again, no matter how pissed off I get.

[ profile] sistermarysith has already written a wonderful response to this, but I need to put in my two cents’ worth as well.

Free speech is one of the most important rights that a citizen can have. Any attempt to suppress it is a political act. It’s true that most democratic nations have placed some prudent limitations on some forms of speech, such as inciting crimes, hate speech against minorities, slander and libel. But citizens must remain able to challenge any and all of the cultural and political assumptions, issues, policies, processes, parties, and powerful individuals in their society. And to ensure this, limitations should not be placed on speech because it is offensive, or satirical, or speculative, or obscene, or even violent.

Satire, in particular, has a long history of using violent images to make its points. And satire is a mode of speech that is open to anyone, not just professional comics and satirists. The use of violent imagery in satire does not mean that a real threat is being made. Emotional utterances are another area in which people use a lot of violent imagery that has no literal intent. Again, just saying something violent doesn’t mean you are going to do it, or even that you really want to do it.

For instance, I could make a satirical comment about George W. Bush being too arrogantly sure that he is doing God’s will and under God’s protection to bother getting out of the way of a deadly plague of locusts. Does this mean that I, personally, am planning on making this happen, or even that I want to see harm come to him?

I could write a play about George W. Bush waking up one day and finding himself transformed into a pregnant women, and cover in great detail the agonising process of trying to find an abortion and failing, only to end up bleeding to death on a back-street abortionist’s table. Does that mean I really want to see that happen?

Or I could create an animation in which George W. Bush can be made to walk into a toxic waste dump and die choking on the chemical fumes while all the birds and animals harmed by his environmental policies express their hopes that a new President will do something to let them live. Does that mean I want him to die a slow and painful death?

I might blurt out in the heat of anger or frustration that often surrounds intense political debate, that the world would be much better off if George W. Bush were dead, or even that he deserves to die because of all the Afghani and Iraqi civilians murdered in his wars. Does that mean that I want the man dead, much less that I plan to kill him myself?

I have the right to be offensive. I have the right to think about violent acts, and to speak about them. It may well be impolite and inconsiderate and even counter-productive to utter offensive and violent speech, but unless it’s coupled with immediate threat of bodily harm, it’s still just speech and it’s my right to utter it. And it’s a lot less offensive than sending armies to kill innocents, or wilfully turning a blind eye to policies that ravage the environment.

What I - or anyone - do not have is a right to commit violence, or incite someone else to. And if a government cannot understand the distinction between the act of speech and the act of violence, if it tries to limit speech about a public figure, no matter how offensive or violent that speech may be, that would be an act of political repression, no matter how nice and polite the brown-shirted thugs in their government-issue camouflage suits are when they arrive at the door.

And that is what bothers me, not just about what happened to [ profile] anniesj, but also about the tone of her response to it. [ profile] anniesj was silenced, and unless we fight that silencing, it could happen to anyone else. The lesson I take from what happened to her is not to be cautious about what I say, lest someone think it is offensive or threatening and call down the dogs of thoughtcrime upon me, but rather to struggle for the right of everyone to speak in freedom.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
-Pastor Martin Niemöller

September 2017

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