Friday, July 16, 2010

“I used to be a bible-banging homophobe, sorry.”

Story: I Hugged a Man in His Underwear. And I am Proud.

(This post/story is now a few weeks old, but it took me a really long time to get to a shareable point, so... Here it is.)

It's stories like this that renew my hope for humanity...

The title of this post is the message on one of the church members' signs. While I can't really speak for the church group, or even vouch for their validity, I can identify with some of their messages. I haven't always been a gay rights supporter... In fact, it took me a long time to even realize there were disparities. What's that word they keep throwing around regarding teaching children principles that they will never be allowed to question or doubt... Indoctrination. Typical. Catholic schools (which we often lovingly referred to as our "fascist oppressors...") only teach children that homosexuality is evil and a sin that would send you straight to hell. We barely even discussed it in grammar school, and when we did it was something dirty and shameful... A slur, an insult... I remember one day, a bunch of us were sitting in the back of the bus, and one kid was going on about how the Church must be mixed up, because all women are gay and all men are lesbians... Let's just say real information was scarce. My high school was a bit more liberal, there was a grand total of 2 openly gay students that I got to know, and for the first time we began to talk about these things in class in a way that involved actual information from sources other than the Vatican. These new teachers taught that while, engaging in homosexual behavior was against the Church's official teachings, the Bible doesn't condemn love-- just sex-- & what happens in private between 2 people may be sinful according to the Church, but it's no one else's business. It's very embarrassing to admit that less than 10 years ago I used to join in on the bashing. I would get very uncomfortable when anyone used any sort of slur, but I rarely said anything about it. I wrote in a fanfic once when I was about 14 about how disgusting yaoi was, ran around quoting the bible, and volunteered for a debate against allowing gay marriage. (I'm horrifically embarrassed and ashamed Now I'm so in love with yaoi that hetero couples bore the hell out of me & I find myself leaving a show mid episode to find some good slash to make it all better Sorry, Topanga, but Shawn & Cory are just totally meant for each other and you know it! Just like House/Wilson, Kyle/Cartman [yea, I know that's messed up, but Cartman sooo has a thing for Stan... Explains EVERYTHING.], Chuck/Nate, or even Chuck/Dan. I mean, yea, ChuckXBlair was good & all, but Chuck/Nate??? Why didn't I think of this sooner?! Oh yea, socialization.) It was all just too far out of my little conservative comfort zone. I find it odd now that we were learning about these things at the same time as Brown vs. Board, Jewish & Japanese internment in the 30s-40s, the Civil Rights Movement, Native American and Aboriginal rights, yet there was such a disconnect between the fact that discrimination and inequality is wrong, and that we continue to discriminate against so many and it's somehow "ok" because "the Bible says so." (Despite the fact that separation of Church & State should be enough of a barrier to keep religious groups from getting laws passed to favor their own beliefs... I have yet to come across a legitimate argument against same-sex marriage that isn't entirely based on religion or illogical reasoning...)

Even up until college I had some doubts about everything. (These were the end of my "I'm smack-dab in the center" days. I've always been more of a centrist than a radical, and I've been a "socialist" since I was 15, but never really embraced the entirety of the concept until I was 18.) By then I had learned enough to know that is, learned more in my sociology and psych classes, and all of my doubts went away... We're all human. Our behaviors aren't naturally moral or immoral, and just because one group says something wrong because a book or mystical cloud-person "says so" doesn't make it true. Why should I or anyone else tell people how to live and love?? Religious beliefs should never be forced on others... I regret that I ever bought into anything that hurt others, or participated in fear- and "morality" based derogation. And for that, I am truly very sorry.

I've since renounced my formal brainwashing. I guess you can call this "new me," and my advocacy/activism on gender and sexuality issues, my penance. (The "rebel" teen years were the best thing I could've done.) I'm a humanist-- I no longer call myself a Christian (as I can't get past that whole believing in a "God" thing), although I do believe that the man called Jesus (if he existed) was someone to be admired and respected, just as Gandhi should. Jesus preached love and acceptance, Catholicism preaches hate and discrimination... and denounces hypocrisy?! (Wasn't there something about glass houses, or people without "sin" casting the first stones?) If there is anything positive that I have learned from Catholicism and Christianity, it's that every creature deserves to be loved and respected for who they are, and we should strive to be accepting. (I won't use tolerant, because it's literally impossible to be tolerant of everything. We shouldn't be tolerant of racism/sexism/classism and bigotry... Plus I believe that we should truly strive for more than tolerance.) I'm trying to work now as an ally and advocate, because as much as the words "I'm sorry" have meaning, it's not enough. I fully support equality of all people, but words are stronger in action. I even have my little "I <3 <3: I support Gay Marriage" bumper sticker from Credo in here (right next to my NO SB1070 sticker, and my Liberal definition t-shirt... Still waiting for my Greenpeace anti-drilling sticker... Ordered that one in April, didn't I? The well's been stopped-- for now. Still against drilling, always have been and always will be, but I kinda want my sticker too... And where's my Marriage is So Gay t-shirt? Ordered that weeks ago too! :-D)

What will you do to show your support? For more info, or to learn what you can do to help, check out some of these sites:
Straight for Equality
PFLAG (They have cute American-made, sweat-shop free t-shirts & donate a portion of proceeds to organizations that support marriage equality. Each shirt has it's own unique number. I've ordered mine, 6 months later, now that I have money again lol...)
Human Rights Campaign
I bet we can find 1,000,000 People who Support Same Sex Marriage FB group (which actually has over 2.2 million members...)

Edit: DOMA has been declared unconstitutional, which is a major win. Argentina is the first Latin-American country to legalize same-sex marriage with all the same rights and privileges as every other marriage. DADT is on it's way towards repeal (hopefully). We're getting there! Keep up the fight for equal rights for everyone!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

just heard news of my cousin in afghanistan... A bomb blew up nearby & seriously hurt his friend. cousin is really freaked out but alive...

how much longer will this bullshit go on?!?!?! they need to come home NOW.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

(Temporary Setbacks)

Not that anyone cares or anything, but I won't be posting anything major until I get a break from work & have the energy to remember to care about something. (My job is seriously exhausting, between what I actually do and the hours, both when I wake up & how long it takes...)

Miscellaneous Mini-updates will now be on the rants page--> see top of side panel to find it.

One share before I go-- I thought this was a joke until I realized the source-- Comics With Problems is a site that shares "educational" comics & PSAs... Including official government publications and other things of that caliber... So, the latest-a HuffPost Article. And the comic itself... (also, regarding it's authenticity... And my own research - it's real, and copies are in fact where the site says they are... This link is a Google book search, but I also checked my university's library...)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Philosophy of Politics & Law - Attempt #1

I seem to have lost my voice again-- both literally and figuratively. So I ask you to please forgive me as I try to find it.

My mind has been spinning from all of the information being thrown at me. Introvert + ADD + Sensory overload= I wonder if it really was that easy in school to have a single train of thought at a time simply because the syllabi organized everything so neatly... I think perhaps it's time for me to go about this in another manner. While my mind is always so unusually disorganized and "jumpy," I'm going to try to keep this simple and follow a single directive-- like a thesis.

I've noticed in recent weeks that there have been several new attempts to redefine what it means to be "liberal" or "progressive" in modern times, especially considering the rise of New Left and neo-conservative movements. I thought it would be interesting to trace the roots of modern thought to define how and why we as liberals/progressives came to believe what we do, and why they are closely related but are not the same thing. So over the next few weeks, I want to examine not only current events but the philosophy behind them—why is it such a controversy; what are the arguments and the reasoning behind them; how do we go about solving these problems, and why do we choose what we do? Things in life are never as simple as we try to make them.

(Again, here is where one of those mandatory classes I never thought would be useful actually has a purpose...) Someone once claimed to me that law has nothing to do with philosophy, that enforcing laws and borders “isn't all that philosophical." Such a claim to me shows great naïveté about not only law but also philosophy as a whole-- though then again, I spent a great deal of time studying philosophy during my life, so perhaps I am just overly sensitive to these things. Politics, law, and social thought are all derived from philosophy, the study of existence, knowledge, values, etc. How we define the world and other beings determines what we perceive to be right and wrong, which is translated into politics (the process by which we make collective decisions), which is then translated into laws (collective decisions that are then formally enforced as rules). Changes in the political structure reflect changes in social thought, which are motivated by philosophy -- after all, political ideology is a set of ideas and expectations based on common sense and philosophical thought. For example, the need for economic recovery in terms of employment is based on several core principles: 1) humans need food, shelter, etc. in order to survive; 2) In order to fairly obtain our basic needs, we use a system of bartering in which we trade something (to which we have ascribed a value) for what we need; 3) In order to fairly obtain that "something of value," we have created an exchange system in which we provide a service or "goods." This seems basic and common sense so far, right? Now, take note of all of the philosophy behind it-- ethics, in terms the notion of fairness and justice derived from "natural law"; ethics, in terms of hunger and homelessness; sense of purpose and community, in terms of providing what others need; sense of self, being, and empathy, in terms of recognizing ourselves in others. As a result of this philosophy and common threads, we as a society have created rules to govern our Employment and the economic system are first and foremost not about "every man for himself" but how we all help each other to provide for our basic needs. It is a system, a set of interdependent bodies amalgamated to create a whole. And that is precisely what a society is.

I will leave you with this, for tonight… I have a lot to think about over the next few days… What does a society mean to you? What is the purpose of that society, and how has it affected who you are and what you believe? What would you think about the world if you were born into a different culture?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Internet Sales Tax?! Again?? Ugh...

Before I even get to what I was going to say today, this was just brought to my attention:

Several Democrats just presented a bill to extend sales-tax to the internet. They call it the "Main Street Fairness Act." While the internet sales tax argument is incredibly old, I believe the odds of it actually passing are getting better. In 2001, Bush extended a "temporary" ban on internet taxation for 2 years (originally passed in 1998). At the time it was believed that taxing internet sales would hinder the growth of the WWW as well as it's economic potential, especially during the holiday seasons. In 2007, a moratorium was passed again to suspend all internet taxes for 7 years-- however, as this was before the "Great Recession," many states are looking to expanding taxation to the internet now. It is considered a "Fairness" Act because it is intended to level the playing field between online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores.

I'm still thinking this through, so consider this my official "knee-jerk" reaction. even I have those moments... often. ^^") I don't think this is really quite that big of a deal, but for the sake of argument, let's act like it is. Personally, I feel like I should be opposed to the idea of this (seemingly regressive) taxation bill. I'm concerned that it may have a too much of negative effect on the population and sales than it would have a positive effect on the government, even if it is just a small (and relatively simple) sales tax. Many people already can't afford basic (already taxed) things (due to high levels of unemployment, increasing costs, etc.), especially in states that are already heavily taxed (like California, which is the highest in country at 8.25% minimum, & can get to over 10.75% with local taxes). I'm assuming it was meant to be "fair" to small business owners and brick-and-mortar retailers that already have state sales taxes, and in that aspect I suppose it succeeds. And I'm sure it could actually bring in millions of much needed revenue. But I still have to wonder, why is this the "next step" instead of something bigger and more effective? Why this instead of proper financial reform? Bringing more resources into a broken system doesn't really help anyone...

Why are we still wasting money on stupid crap? I would much rather prefer that we cut "defense" spending & stop spending billions to kill people (including death row inmates who cost us hundreds of millions, even though life in prison is much cheaper), take out the troops stationed all over the world, end the "war on drugs," and stop letting CEOs pour funds into tax-free offshore bank accounts before we add new taxes on the middle class, especially considering what's going on in Congress. Taxation is necessary, for things like schools and roads and things like that, but instating another regressive tax (after almost all of Congress-- all but 2 people-- voted to suspend it) for the middle class after refusing to extend unemployment just seems like another slap in the face. Many of us shop online to save money (and gas), and find a wider range of items that may not be available in our local communities. Buying goods online can help cut down on impulse buys, because you can see and control exactly how much you're spending before you get to the register. You find what you need at the price you can afford and you get out. Shipping costs a fortune already, and some sites/states do still require some sales tax, so I don't even want to imagine just how much more we're going to have to pay to rectify the mistakes of Wall Street & certain groups within the Federal Government... Besides, which state would get the funds anyway? Say I'm shopping for a new composter on Amazon (since my current method is coming along nicely but maybe I'll want to upgrade to a "real" one). Would my state, get the sales tax, would Amazon's headquarter's state, the manufacturer/warehouse, would it just go to the federal gov't, what? How much would that tax be? Same as the state tax? (Again, which state? They have yet to explain any of this... The bill isn't even online yet... Maybe it's the same way iTunes does taxes? Though there's a distinct difference between a tangible item and a computer data file.)

However, from the government's perspective, I think it does make some sense. E-commerce taxes are lost revenue (assuming one can lose what one never actually had)... I suppose "potential" revenue is a better way to phrase it. Basic way to readjust/refresh any system - take/borrow from where there is a surplus or where you're not currently collecting, put it where it's most needed. Hone your resources. Work from there. I am not against tax-and-spend when it's greatly needed. I am glad to give what I can and should for a good cause. Borrowing from other countries is out - trust me, loans suck, avoid them as much as possible. I'm against regressive taxation -taking resources from the bottom to give to the top, when you can just as easily take from the top. Bottom should be an absolute last resort-- otherwise, you're just contributing to poverty and homelessness instead of solving the problems. Statistically speaking, most of the people who shop online are middle and upper-middle class. This tax to me just seems like they've run out of ideas (and they're going back on a promise. Though why we'd be surprised about that, I don't know. After that jerk of a judge decided to overturn the drilling moratorium, why would any of us be surprised if someone tried to overturn the internet sales tax "ban"? Obama's done a decent job doing what he actually can-- albeit somewhat disappointing still, but there's still time--but the Congress and the Supreme Court are continuing to piss me off... )

I think it's in our best interests to keep taxes where they are (or at least, where they were prior to Obama's tax cuts for the middle class, & Bush's tax cuts for the upper class), or implement a small version of a progressive tax system, and try to limit spending to the essentials - health, food, job creation, schools. If every single person in Congress gave half their campaign money towards fixing one area of the budget deficit or to one of the areas on that list (instead of making idiotic videos featuring a twisted version of Lincoln, and demon sheep...), we could be much better off. Stop wasting what we don't have, focus on what we do have and put it where it's most needed. (-_-" Reason #1 why I'm canceling my vacation and saving that money for loan repayments, food, charities, etc. Have the money now, but it could be put to better use, as much as I want/need a vacation. I'll take a smaller, more local trip instead!)

And really, right now I really can't understand why many people are so angry with the government but not furious that the corporations and the wealthy are allowed to do whatever they want to make and keep as much money as possible, while people are struggling to survive-- especially now that it really hits home with unemployment so high. Yea, the government's (read: Reagan's spiral of) deregulation is a major cause in this, but money talks. It's why corporations chose to outsource and hire undocumented people to fill jobs, it's why many people were tricked into loans and mortgages they never should have even been told to consider, it's why we have all of these problems and lawsuits dealing with bonuses and off-shore accounts and embezzlement. Sure, they go to prison for a few years sometimes, but where is the outrage and moral indignation? I hear a bit from the Coffee Party, and occasionally from other groups... I can't be the only one over here pissed off that 10% of the world's population "owns" 86% of the world's resources, when 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day. Within the US, the top 10% of the richest people own 80%, while the bottom 40% has less than 1% of the resources. (And the "new" face of poverty in the US now also includes some of the "middle class." How sad is that???) Government vs. corporate, I'll take my chances with the group that's more likely to actually spend my money on something useful instead of a new yacht or summer home. Grr...

Anyway, I suspect I'm probably not thinking this through all the way just yet. It's probably a good idea in the end... And I guess it is quite fair for internet stores to be taxed just like brick-&-mortar stores... I think I'm just trying to be irrational & I'm complaining because I don't want to pay more ... Online shopping allows me to stay within very strict spending limits, and I'm really not looking forward to a 7% price increase (even with the way Amazon prices waver)... & I need to get to work on making computers out of sand, as corporatism is wearing me out again (she says, as she types away on her HP laptop with Windows Vista, sipping on a Smirnoff Triple Black with Lime... [sigh] One of these days...)

Here's a pretty decent article that outlines some of the pros and cons of taxing e-commerce. Will proceed to Google this topic until I get bored (3-4 more sites I bet...). Will just be going down the Google search results for a while until I see something that's boring and simple enough to share...

Like this. One down. And here... Two down & I'm already bored because I found cute emoticons... ^^" Still finding more cons than pros on this one... If you have constructive and/or kind criticisms, please be my guest. (You can find me at DarkAngelKiely on AIM, Care2, or half the anime forums on the internet :-P) My mind is all over the place lately...