Friday, March 20, 2015

For the right-wing, even #RaceTogether is a good excuse to bash them damned kids

Commentators on the left had plenty to say about Starbucks' #RaceTogether plan to address the complex issues of racism with your cup of coffee. Even Starbucks' baristas weighed in on what a misplaced idea it was. There have been plenty of good points raised, and some bad ones too. Particularly when we start to look at the right-wing reactions -- that's when things get really interesting.

I've written before about the GOP's successful tactic of dehumanizing and degrading the working poor. If you listen to conservative commentators for any length of time, the pattern is pretty hard to miss. Certain groups -- minorities, the LGBT community, non-submissive women, non-religious people, liberals, etc. -- are cast not just as being on the other side of an ideological divide on an issue, but as lazy, worthless, and useless. If you're not white, Christian, upper middle class or wealthy conservatives, you're one of the enemies, fools, criminals, and/or monsters. There is language specifically reserved for these "others": Thug. Baby-killer. Slut. Un-American. Moocher. Taker. Welfare queen. God-hater.

Young people are just one of these sets of people that conservatives seem to hate. And not coincidentally, conservative policy is either agnostic to, or downright hostile toward, young people. Republican apathy to student loan debt, attacks on higher education and healthcare access, silence on or opposition to minimum wage, etc., are good indicators that the problems facing millennials at best aren't on the radar of the Republican Party. Often, though, they're the direct result of conservative policy and action.

So how do you convince your base of middle-aged and older voters to support you as you destroy their children and grand-children's prospects? By convincing them that young people are narcissistic, ignorant, clueless, selfish, entitled and lazy. Hell, they even party wrong!

Sound familiar? It's the playbook they've been working from for quite awhile now. Which brings me back to Starbucks and #RaceTogether. On a topic where almost everyone, except the upper echelons of Starbucks' management, can agree that it's a bad idea, or at least poorly implemented, how could this possibly end up an opportunity to bash young people, you ask?

Well, I encourage you to turn to the dark underbelly of conservative social media. Like that intellectual cesspool Right Wing News, which shared this image earlier today:

No real-world experience.

And if these descriptors weren't enough to make you hate the hapless purveyor of your morning coffee, keep in mind that this arrogant judgey liberal kid wants to "treat you like an ignorant hillbilly" -- as well as imply that you have pedestrian tastes in coffee! What's a Real American© Conservative (but I repeat myself -- is there any other kind?!) to do?

For many of RWN's commenters, the solution was simple: reveal to the world just how ignorant, racist and plain old crazy they actually are. And they managed that all on their own, with zero input from any "arrogant 20-something".

Like Jason, who decided to share this gem:

Or these people, who are truly concerned about racial victimization in this country...of white people, of course.

Then there's the Real Americans © who are worried about the real problem in this country: liberals. These patriots know what's wrong in this world. Michael, for instance, points out just how elitist baristas are; like Donna, he has a solution: don't drink Starbucks coffee. Sean, though, has a dream.

Vincent is just tired of it all. It must be overwhelming, after a while, to put up with people having different ideas than you.

Brandon, meanwhile, has a message for the "libtard" behind the counter. And David is worried about the spiritual implications of purchasing from Starbucks.

Worried enough to comment more than once, in fact.

That's a good point, really. Supporting Starbucks is basically saying this:

To Satan, you godless sickos.

But lest we lose sight of the more tangible aspects of this travesty, Bob is there to bring us back around to the main point: young people are ignorant know-it-alls, who are just waiting to get in the face of a Real American ©. Oh, and, let's bash low-wage workers for good measure. Because, why not, amirite?

Now, it's worth noting that businesses that actually fight for legal sanction to discriminate against their customers are heroes to these same hateriots. But when a business puts forth a widely criticized (but well-intentioned) policy to get people to think about racism, all of a sudden businesses have no reason to take a moral stance on issues. Indeed, it's outrageous that they'd even contemplate it!

What's more interesting to me is that they feel they are, personally, under attack because people want to end racism...and promptly drop a boat load of racist language to protest the perceived attack. That's pretty telling.

But the way it's framed as an attack by ignorant, judgey young know-it-alls against Real Americans © is also telling. This wasn't a move put in place by the working "20-somethings"; it was put into action by corporate business men. And, still, conservatives manage to make it about them damned arrogant kids.
It's not like youth-bashing is a new thing. Curmudgeons have been complaining about the latest generation pretty much since forever. Conservatives have figured out how to seize onto that generational resentment, and turn it into a major part of their political movement. They've managed to convince some people to hate their children and grand-children's generations, to see young people as lazy, entitled, ignorant and contemptuous. So contemptuous, apparently, that they're lingering in coffee shops and sneering at their elders' coffee choices. And, now, just waiting to accost those elders, and chew them out over race relations. It's a tough life for Real Americans©, courtesy of them damned whippersnappers. 

Men in suits (typically, the heroes of any conservative narrative) coming up with a bad idea really doesn't fit the conservative world view in the same way that arrogant-kids-judging-real-Americans does. And if you're going to convince Republican parents to support a party that wants to subject their kids to a future where education is out of reach, employers pay as little as they want, healthcare is only available to the wealthy, jobs keep going overseas, environmental protections are gone, nature is a privilege reserved for those who can afford it as we sell off our public lands, etc., etc., etc. ... well, you're going to have to convince them to hate the future generations of humanity. Them, and all their coffee-snobbery.

Jon Stewart reveals Fox News' utter hypocrisy with comparison of Ferguson report to Benghazi report

When the GOP-led Benghazi investigation debunked all the Fox Obama conspiracies (that I'm still hearing from conservatives -- thanks for that, btw, Fox), it didn't merit a peep. When the DOJ finds that Michael Brown didn't have his hands up when he was shot, but the Ferguson PD is thoroughly corrupt, racist and abusive -- like Ferguson residents were saying all along -- damn it, protestors better apologize! (And let's just ignore that their concerns were  validated, regardless of the specific incident).

You can spend thousands of written words on something like this, but sometimes the video really speaks for itself. These people are the most amazing hypocrites.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A fiendish and feathery turf war (fowl language warning)

So the quality isn't that great. Regarding the video, it was shot on my phone. As for the puns, well, I make no apology...there just aren't many geese jokes that'll quack you up, but there's a few that I think are just ducky.

Alright, alright, I'll stop. Anyway...I caught this on a walk the other day...the annual showdown has begun a little early this year. The one goose was particularly vocal, and was screaming long before I got the camera.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Forgiveness and redemption from the perspective of an atheist

Forgiveness and redemption are core elements of many religious teachings, the idea that God can clear the slate and we can start anew, at least in the eyes of the divine. But without a god figure, this sort of blank slate isn't really possible.

And yet, forgiveness and even redemption are. No, not supernatural redemption, or forgiveness granted by a divine being. But, stripped of the supernatural elements, the concepts are not only valid but sometimes necessary.

If you were one of those atheists raised outside of religion, this might not make sense. But if you're a former fundamentalist, you probably already know what I'm talking about. Because me? I was raised a religious bigot. My faith taught me to hate pretty much everyone who wasn't like my family and church communities: straight, far right, and hardcore Christian. It wasn't called hate, of course; but that's what it was. Transgender people were abominations. Gay people were pedophiles. Muslims were terrorists -- or were not true Muslims. Women who had premarital sex were sluts. Abortion doctors were murderers. Women who had abortions were too, and deserved to be tried for murder. (In case you are curious, the penalty for murder -- and everything else -- should, in a truly Christian nation, come from the the case of murder, the penalty would be death). Depending on the church, racism often lingered just below the surface...and every once in awhile, in plain sight. With the exception of some Buddhists, my dad hated pretty much every one who wasn't Christian; and not just Christian, but conservative Christian. Liberal Christians pissed him off worse than anything. We attended various churches (some very, very culty) as I was growing up, but, in the end, they were all too soft. Because no one knew the mind of God quite as well as my father. So we spent our Sunday's watching a televised dominionist preacher in the morning, and then reading the Bible.

I wish I could say that I saw through the nonsense, but I didn't. I was homeschooled, and taught that the father was the head of the household, appointed by God. To question him was to question God (and, like the God we read about every Sunday, my father was not above emphasizing his authority through brutality). There were things that, even as a child in that situation, didn't make sense; but I questioned within the established parameters only, ever. Doubt was not an option; better understanding was the only object of questions, and sometimes "God has his reasons" was the answer you'd have to content yourself with.

So, after my father's death, when we started attending a local Southern Baptist church for continued spiritual guidance, I didn't bat an eyelash when I heard church leaders say that Islam was a religion created by the Devil. Well, of course! my bigoted brain kicked in. I didn't think twice when I read Christian apologists explain how Christianity was a great religion, and the bad things it did were perversions of True Christianity; but when Islam taught the same sorts of things, that was evidence that it was inherently evil. I accepted and regurgitated such nonsense, because I believed it was true. (As an interesting aside...reading the Quran in full actually was pretty significant to my journey to atheism, because, having been so inundated in the Bible as I had been, it was hard to maintain the nonsensical position that Islam was demonstrably or significantly worse than Christianity...this is also part of the reason why, today, I can't stand to hear atheists saying pretty much the same things that I was taught as a Christian -- "Oh, well, Christianity's bad, of course, but Islam is sooooo much worse...". Aside from the fact that it's not true, it's a cultural bias that allows us excuse the crazy/malicious/evil things our ancestors did, while getting on a high horse about the crazy/malicious/evil things other people do...and all it does is marginalize people and promote bigotry. But I digress).

And no matter how much I wish I had never believed the crazy things I did, I was raised to be a fearful, bigoted zealot...and I was. Then I grew up, and -- with my mom's support -- got an education, at a public university.

Having grown up hearing all the conservative talking points that I had, I fully expected an all-out assault on my values and beliefs. It took me awhile to get used to the fact that it wasn't happening. 

Meanwhile, for the first time, I had real, unfettered access to information. Again, it wasn't an immediate probably took longer than it should have...but, like dominoes, once I started really examining my beliefs on one point, the others followed. The process was nowhere near done when I left school (and, for that matter, I don't plan to ever call it quits). But the dominoes had started to fall.

So do I believe in redemption? Of course. Not from sin, or evil spirits, but from ignorance and the callous bigotry that can arise from it; from the trap of closed-minded absolutism; from any scenario that shapes or ensnares us in a fashion contrary to our better natures and humanity.

Forgiveness is more difficult to define, in a sense, because there are aspects that are both external and internal. Then there's the intersection of memory, and how memory ensures that the lessons learned stay learned. It's not enough to "forgive yourself"; and not enough to seek forgiveness from those you've wronged. When I recall things I believed, and the  things I said and did -- not out of malice or a desire to do evil, but in genuine accordance with those beliefs -- I am still ashamed. Where possible, I have sought external forgiveness; and I know that I was not responsible for believing what I was taught from the earliest days of my life as absolute truth. I know that I made the choice to reexamine things I believed when I saw that they conflicted with reality -- a choice I could have ignored, when doing so would have been so much more comforting. I know that I subjected myself to a great deal of internal conflict and discomfort, because I truly wanted to find the truth, and do the right thing; when I could have chosen instead to be comfortable in ignorance. I realize that the process of reforming your worldview is complex and can be lengthy; I recognize that I stumbled on that journey more than once (and will probably do so again as it continues). I have made peace with the past, but I do not forget -- nor do I want to forget -- it. That includes the realization (and attendant feelings) that I was a part of something that I now recognize promotes a great deal of harm (conservative religion), and that the views I once held were, bluntly put, ignorant and harmful. Self-forgiveness, I think, is moving on, lessons learned.

So I don't think the concepts of redemption and forgiveness are limited to religion. I don't think everyone needs them, because I don't think humans are born broken. That's a religious concept, for which I've found no evidence. But where we err, certainly, they are applicable. When we are raised to be broken, to judge and hate and further harmful ideologies, redemption and forgiveness can be found. Not as a boon from the divine being who broke you in the first place, but as something to be found within ourselves and our fellow beings.

And our capacity to recognize our failings, to correct them -- and to want to correct them -- is, I think, more real and beautiful than anything supernatural ever could be.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Three young Muslims shot by atheist in what may have been hate attack

So I've been reading about an attack by an atheist against Muslims in North Carolina. Police are not yet releasing a motive for the shootings, in which three young people -- all Muslims -- were killed.

Links to the shooter's atheism are being noted by the media, and barring some personal grudge against the victims, it seems that religious hatred might well have been the cause here.

[Craig Stephen] Hicks, the alleged shooter, frequently shared links about atheism on what appears to be his Facebook page. One such post reads: “People say nothing can solve the Middle East problem, not mediation, not arms, not financial aid. I say there is something. Atheism.”

 The victims have been identified as

...Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Mohammad’s sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha...
 Whatever the motive, such violence is barbaric and should be condemned absolutely. If anti-theism was in actuality the deciding factor here, the case is perhaps even more tragic-- killing over God, or the lack of gods, is probably the most senseless reason for killing humankind has ever invented. Whether it is done by a religious person, or whether it is done by an atheist it is an absurd and obscene waste of human life.

My thoughts are with the families of the victims during this horrible time.

Update: details are still sparse, but police comments indicate that the shooting motive might have been an ongoing parking dispute...this doesn't mean that religion was not a factor, or even the primary  factor. More details to come as we learn more. It goes without saying, regardless of what the shooter's motivation, this is a horrible crime, and a senseless tragedy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show

Sad news, Daily Show fans...Jon Stewart is leaving the show. From Time:

Stewart announced his coming departure during the taping of Tuesday night’s show, and Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless confirmed it in a statement. It wasn’t immediately clear what Stewart’s next move will be, nor was it clear who would replace him or whether the show will continue.

There's not really much to say, except that this sucks, and I wish Stewart tons of luck whatever he does next. He's a brilliant comedian, and his fake news gig does a far better job than many of the real ones. Particularly the hacks from Bullshit Mountain, but others as well. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Message for Christians who Believe in Public Prayer

Dear Conservative Christian,

Thank you for joining me a second week in a row, friend, for this special Sunday message. Last week we covered Matthew 25, and the moocher nation. Today, at the kindly suggestion of DailyKos user zenbassoon, we shall return to Matthew. This time, we'll open our Bibles to chapter 6.

The topic is the hypocrisy inherent to open displays of religiosity -- and, dear conservative reader, I must give you fair warning: you may be a little alarmed by what your dear Lord and Savior has to say on the matter.

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Alright, I trust you've had sufficient opportunity to pick yourself up off the floor after that shock? Good. So, let's dive into the substance of this piece. What is Jesus saying?

Well, in a nutshell, that insisting on praying in public is hypocritical showmanship. Boasting about how charitable you are is too. The prayer rallies, the public prayers before meetings, the national days of prayer...all this religiosity in the public square, that conservatives insist must happen for the sake of our nation, is actually hypocritical and runs contrary to the will of God. People who do that do not actually garner God's good will. I mean, at least if you take the word of the radical speaking in Matthew 6 as truth (who was that guy again?).

The right way to pray is to do it in private, in seclusion, without audiences (and cameras and publicity). I know, that's can you show off just how much the Bible means to you, if you're forced to act like you believe it?! Still, according to the Bible, it's the people who pray in secret who can look forward to rewards from heaven; the hypocrites who have to show off as they pray are out of luck.

And that, beloved, is our Sunday message. Check back next week for another – and thanks to all who offered suggestions!

Have a wonderful day,
This humble atheist