Thursday, August 02, 2012

Chick-fil-A, gay marriage, and humanity

The recent ruckus over Chick-fil-A and gay rights has me a bit perplexed. After all, it hasn't been a secret that the company donates massive amounts of money to groups that oppose gay marriage, including a notable hate group. I found this out years ago, and since then have significantly limited my CFA spending to almost nothing.

Then, recently Dan Cathy spoke out specifically against gay marriage, announcing that gay rights supporters are "inviting God's judgment on our nation," and suddenly everyone who has been ignoring the financials for years decided action was needed. Talk of a boycott starting bouncing around again (for about the hundredth time in recent memory), and then Mike Huckabee was all this is just more hatin' on Christians and boycotters are bullying us and decrying the intolerance of people who don't like their money being filtered to anti-gay hate groups, and suddenly its an issue.

First of all, this isn't really news. Where have you all been for the past few years? Boycotts of CFA have been happening for at least a few years now. I can only guess that the reason for CFA Appreciation Day as a response to this most recent call for boycotts is because it is an election year, with an incumbent Democrat, in a political climate that has been divisively (and dangerously) polarized by (in my opinion) the rise of Tea Party extremists.

Secondly, this isn't about CFA being boycotted for being Christian. Ever since I can remember, CFA has been closed on Sundays, and nobody has said word one about a boycott. Most people I know, including many who boycott CFA, do not give even a single crap about the religion of their favorite restaurant's owner. Sure, Christians might be more likely to go eat dinner at their church friend's restaurant, and LGBT people might be more likely to patronize a "family-owned" establishment. Hell, most of the LGBT people I know are Christians, and might fall into both of the above camps! But for the most part, I've never met anyone who quit eating at their favorite Chinese restaurant because the owners are Buddhist. When I go out to eat at a local place, I don't ask for the owner's personal tithing records before I place my order. Good food is good food, and most of us like good food. Saying that this is "an attack on Christian values" makes you look silly, unless I missed the part where Christ encouraged us to judge others and donate thousands to groups that try to link an entire group of people to criminal behavior in which they do not participate.

Third, this isn't a free speech issue. The first amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Again, unless I missed the part where our government stepped in and shut Chick-fil-A down for its owner making some public statements and for company donations to questionable nonprofits, this isn't a free speech issue. Free speech means the government shall not impede your right to have free speech. It doesn't protect you from the social and financial consequences of what you say. For the record, it also doesn't protect you from being offended by what someone else says. Saying that a Chick-fil-A boycott is an attack on free speech makes you look like you need to re-read the Bill of Rights.

Fourth, Cathy's right to free speech (and its consequences) aside, Chick-fil-A participates in discriminatory business practices that are legally questionable. The parent company has been sued 12 times on charges of employment discrimination. Muslim workers have been fired for refusing to participate in prayers to Jesus Christ, and employees are regularly screened for meeting the "Christian values" litmus test before being hired. If you don't want me to discriminate against you as a private business owner based on your religion, I'd love it if you'd not discriminate against potential employees based on their religion. If you're running a church, mosque, synagogue, or other explicitly religious non-profit, then I understand a need to have like-minded employees. Otherwise, you have no business discriminating. We do not live in a theocracy, and our country has laws against workplace discrimination.

Fifth, there is a difference between a business owner expressing an opinion that does not directly harm potential customers, and a business owner expressing an opinion that does directly harm potential customers. If I, as a woman in a heterosexual marriage, walk into a store and see a sign saying that they support gay marriage, this has no direct impact on my marriage. They aren't encouraging people to take away my rights. Their sign is not trying to invalidate my marriage, and I won't get a letter in the mail saying that my marriage has been dissolved by the state if gay marriage passes. If, on the other hand, a committed same-sex couple walks into a business and sees a sign opposing gay marriage (or reads interviews in which the business owner opposes gay marriage, blames gays for God's wrath on our entire country, and only supports the "biblical definition of the family unit"), this does directly impact them. They have every right to not spend their money there, as do those who stand in solidarity with them.

Sixth, let's just explore the "biblical definition" of marriage for a minute.

So, really, it's not really biblical marriage being questioned; it's anti-gay sentiment.

Seventh, we don't live in a theocracy. Our government should not be defining marriage based on one religious tradition's definition of marriage. Plenty of Christian churches worldwide (and in the United States) bless same-sex unions, as do many non-Christian religious traditions. To not allow two consenting adults from one of those religious traditions to enter into a loving, committed legal relationship abridges not only their civil rights (setting them aside as an inferior class not deserving of the same rights as heterosexuals), but their rights to religious freedom. If the government is going to be in the business of registering marriages as a legal contract for tax and other governmental purposes, it needs to do so in a way that does not discriminate with regard to religion. Two people whose religious tradition blessed their union should be able to walk into the courthouse, hand over their paperwork, and have their union documented just the same as any other Americans. And for the love of the one you call Savior, please don't say things like the government shouldn't redefine what God has already defined. Unless The Almighty Himself revised our Constitution, church and state are still separate. The government shouldn't be turning to religious texts to define legal contracts in a secular democracy, anyway.

Eighth, did I mention that Chick-fil-A helps fund a known hate group? The Family Research Council, however well-intentioned, "often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science." Click the link for a few direct quotes. How many more LGBTQ kids have to die, either at their own hands or the hands of their abusers and bullies, before we realize that what FRC and similar groups are proposing isn't working, and isn't Christian?

Ninth, spending your money as a consumer in places that support your beliefs doesn't make you a bully. It's a sign of integrity. While I found the outpouring of support from the conservative community yesterday to be sad and reflective of how far modern Christianity has strayed from Jesus's teachings, I completely support and respect their right to put their money where their heart is. I likewise, work to regularly put my money where my heart is. Choosing not to spend my money at CFA doesn't make me a bully any more than you choosing to eat some waffle fries would automatically make you a bigot. How 'bout we stop the name-calling and respect our differences?

Yesterday, I knew there would be people coming out for "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" at the CFA at our local mall. I chose not to be a part of any vocal or visible protests, and instead invited a few friends to join me down the hall at a small, locally-owned pizza joint. The owner, Alfredo, is very much Italian, and (from what I hear) most likely Catholic. I'd bet he probably doesn't personally support gay marriage. I could have chosen to have my dinner somewhere else, at a business that is known for being liberal, or owned by a gay family. Ultimately, though, I chose Alfredo's for a few reasons. Alfredo welcomes everyone. no matter who you are. He doesn't use his business as a vehicle for shaming people, blaming them for society's ills, or taking away their rights. He's about the pizza.  And given the accusations of "anti-Christian bullying" (which I think are ridiculous anyway), it was important for me to personally demonstrate that most of us don't choose boycott (or not) based on someone's religious or personal beliefs; we do so based upon whether or not they use their business as a front for promoting one worldview to the detriment of others, funding hate groups, or taking away others' civil rights. I will gladly eat at a business owned by someone whether they support my views or not, as long as they don't use their business as a vehicle for spreading and supporting injustice towards minority groups. I don't know where Alfredo stands on these issues, and it doesn't matter to me as long as he conducts his business in a way that is welcoming and has integrity.

This is the crux of the matter. Justice vs. injustice. Acceptance vs. judgment. Hate vs. love.

It's pretty simple, really.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm alive!

ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVVVVVVVVVE! (Say it in your best Dr. Frankenstein voice)

Just a quick update! I have half a billion projects in the fire right now, in different spheres of my life.

Kids are great! Oldest starts high school next fall, all honors classes, marching band, scouts, yada yada. Second just got accepted into our district's self-contained program for highly gifted kids, scouts, step team, blah blah blah. Third has come out with some jewels of reflection lately that have forced me to re-evaluate my understanding of who he is, scouts, etc. All three are in To Shin Do, progressing nicely. All three really starting to explore spirituality in new ways.

Twins are perfect, beautiful, mischievous little impish troublemakers who inspire me. Cute little mister asked me today if I was a princess (I was wearing a dress), and then if someone was going to dance with me. The girly girl is a beautiful little "slinky head" who loves to join me when I pray or meditate. They love to dance, chase birds, climb trees, and sprinkle joy.

Hubs is perfect as always, my rock, my perfect match, like some cosmic planet burst into two, whose halves, while different, still fit together perfectly, and whose atmosphere (energy surrounding both) melds and glows. He has a few projects in the works, but those are his to tell.

And me? Better than I've been in YEARS. Honestly. It is amazing. I have a massive personal transformation underway that began in earnest with the start of the new year, and which is now in full swing. I put my memoir writing project on hold last fall, but reopened an old writing project, began years ago, and am now probably 1/3 of the way through. We're going to be homeschooling over the summer-- just a wonderful, child-driven bout of research and mind-expansion-- and I've been busy writing curriculum for that.

Things are busy, no doubt, but in that wonderful whirlwind of creativity and joy sort of way that I don't mind so much. Maybe eventually I'll get back to regular posting, but for now, I've been too busy living life fully to think much about blogging, which is good for me.


Peace be with you!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips-- Guaranteed to work!

Passing these helpful hints along that I learned in training today.

1) Don't put drugs in people's drinks in order to control their behavior.
2) When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!
3) If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them.
4) NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.
5) If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON'T ASSAULT THEM!
6) Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry. Do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.
7) USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.
8) Always be honest with people! Don't pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don't communicate your intentions, the other person might take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.
9) Don't forget: you can't have sex with someone unless they are awake!
10) Carry a whistle! If you are worried that you might assault someone "on accident," you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

And ALWAYS REMEMBER, if you didn't ask permission and then respect the answer the first time, you are committing a crime-- no matter how "into it" others appear to be.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

If I Were a Rapist...

If I were a rapist-- a serial sexual predator bent on destroying as many women's independence and control over their own bodies as possible-- and an omnipotent one at that, with the power to create my custom rapist's utopia in which I could move and act freely, I can imagine the sort of society I would create.

In my imaginary society, women would be trained from a young age to disconnect from their own needs and feelings, and to focus instead on meeting the needs of others. They'd learn that what they really want in life doesn't matter so much, and that they always have to be polite and nonconfrontational, and that it's better to let someone else be "right" than to be too assertive. I'd make sure they saw plenty of examples of assertive, independent women who look out for their own needs being labeled "bitches," too, to remind them of what happens when women step outside the meek and accommodating mode and learn to stick up for themselves. Just to make sure they got this message loud and clear, I'd make the popular media be full of caricatures of women-- hard, assertive, mean characters, and modest, pleasing, timid characters. Maybe then they'd never figure out that real women can be both strong and vulnerable, both assertive and compassionate, both humble and accomplished.

I'd make sure women didn't know how to discern and protect their own boundaries. From the time they were small, I'd hope for their parents to make them kiss and hug relatives they don't want to kiss or hug-- "Awww, come on, kiss Aunt Ruth goodbye-- don't you want to be a nice girl?" "I know you think he's weird, but it would really make Uncle Keith feel a lot better if you gave him a hug." I'd want their caregivers to dismiss their feelings, making them believe that children's emotions don't really matter and aren't really real-- "I'll give you something to cry about," and "Quit whining-- it's just a toy." The younger we begin to teach kids to disassociate from their feelings, their pain, their discomfort, the easier it will be to maintain this training all through the rest of their lives.

By the time they were teenagers, their boundaries might be so completely blurred and unstable that they'd be primed to begin to engage in consensual, but unwanted, sex, having sex they don't want to be having for reasons ranging from "he expects it on the third date" to "she'll leave if I don't do this" to "if I do this, he'll know how much I love him." They'd continue to have sex that leaves them feeling empty, whether or not it is truly enjoyable and pleasurable and fun for them. I'd make sure that our society sends them messages letting them know that they're doing the right thing by being "sexually empowered" in having sex frequently, doing my best to obscure the part of the message that "empowerment" involves claiming power, not giving it away. And to make sure they were left feeling further confused and isolated, I'd want society to send messages of shame and judgement, so they'd know that they were doing something dirty and secret, that they were "sluts" for engaging in risky sexual behavior, and "bitches" if they made it about their own sexual gratification, and "prudes" if they wanted sex to be about real love and connection.

I'd make sure that married and partnered women and men knew that putting out on schedule-- some arbitrarily assigned number of times per week-- was part of their "job requirements," whether they felt like having sex or not. Then, they'd be more likely to continue the pattern of dissociating sex from passion and pleasure that was begun in their youth. And just for kicks, I'd pound into their minds the belief that you can't be raped by your spouse-- that he has "rights" to your body because of marriage or past sexual encounters, and that you don't have to consent or agree for him to take you when he wants.

I'd make sure that entire classes of people could be oppressed, and that all of us would be culturally trained to see other types of people as "less than." Further, I'd make sure we were all so scared of being labeled "prejudiced" that we'd be scared to even examine or admit our areas of judgment, staying blissfully unaware of how we contribute to the problem. I'd want a society that sees sexual harassment and battery and rape used as a instrument of subjugation, in military and war and corporate settings. I'd want a society that uses ritual degradation as a rite of passage or entry, like a form of hazing, because once degradation of another human becomes a norm, the door is open for sexual degradation to be part of that ritual.

I'd want every child who comes forward claiming sexual abuse to not be believed, because a child who is not believed will learn to expect that nobody is there to protect him, that nobody will believe her, that there is nothing that can be done to stop violence and violation and betrayal. I'd want grandparents to side with family members who are abusers rather than with the victim, so the kid learns that speaking out results in people turning their back on him. I'd want parents to tell the kids to quit making up stories-- that there's no way grandpa could be an abuser. I'd want parents to be so ashamed that sexual abuse may have touched their family that they'd refuse to report it to law enforcement for investigation, hesitate to get their child needed counseling and treatment, and live their lives in a false world in which nothing ever happened and none of it exists. Kids who are abused and ignored learn that being ignored is what happens when you try to make something of it-- I'd bet they'd make prime targets for me once they are older.

In my rapist's utopia, I'd make sure that women's bodies were used to sell EVERYTHING, and that half-dressed women in sexy poses, airbrushed and photoshopped to perfection, were on the covers of almost all the magazines in the stores. Then women would compare their bodies to the women they're seeing on the magazines and TV commercials and movies, and realize they could never measure up. Thin, beautiful women might work excessively at staying thin and "beautiful"-- doing everything they could to look like the women in the media, hoping to gain some sort of acceptance, while all along learning to use their beauty and superficial sexuality to make gains in life, win attention, and make life easier. Then they'd come to view themselves not as whole women, competent and with great potential, but as shells to be polished and presented, whose worth depends completely on a specific set of ephemeral physical qualities that may or may not last through life. I'd make sure that women who don't fit that narrow definition of socially approved physical "beauty" doubt themselves, and constantly think that nobody could ever find them sexy, so that when they are offered less than ideal sexual experiences that are degrading, devastating, or dismissive, they'll readily accept, having been taught that to be found sexy and attractive is an ideal to aspire to in and of itself, with or without the empowerment that comes from having your sexuality honored by a caring and attentive partner. And I'd definitely want children to see these media images from a young age, so that little girls learn that their value comes from their ability to use their sexuality, and little boys learn that women are objects to be used.

If I were a rapist, the concept of the sex industry would THRILL me as a key component of my utopia because it sets the precedent that women's bodies and sexuality can be bought and sold, and anything that can be bought and sold is fair game to be stolen. I'd want strip clubs galore, where young women barely out of their own childhoods and still experiencing the poor judgment of adolescence would come when they felt that they didn't have options, to take their clothes off for men of all ages. I'd make sure that there were no other entry-level jobs in my society that pay very well, to ensure a steady flow of desperate young women who know they can't make as much money in any other business. In the strip clubs, they'd see that they can make more money based on the degree of graphic nature of their performance, and that the more they DID, the more they'd MAKE. They'd probably end up meeting up with a girl or two who did pictures and videos, and these porn stars would be glamorized! Every "feature" dancer brought into the club would bring in a huge crowd, and be fussed over like a celebrity based upon appearances in a number of magazines and movies. So the girls might branch out into some nude pictures or "soft" video porn.

Eventually, they'd discover that if you go beyond pole tricks and lapdances, you can move into working for escort services and prostitution. The pay would up the ante, with sex itself (instead of just sexuality) being the commodity, opening the door for sex to be stolen. Women in prostitution would learn that sex is sex and that empowerment is empowerment and that pleasure is pleasure, and that they rarely ever go together, lowering her expectations for what sex should be. She's already learned how to suck it up and engage in a sexual act while dissociating somewhat from her own pleasure and sensuality. At some point, she realizes that exchanging sex for money brings a level of attention and identity that she may have been missing before. Perhaps this is the first time she's really been shown a lot of attention, or made to feel sexy, or whatever. Perhaps she has been doing soft porn, and discovers she can make even more money based on what she's willing to do on camera. So, she may branch out into harder porn, eventually engaging in sexual acts that she herself might find offensive or undesirable, simply to make money and "protect" or promote herself in some way.

If I were a rapist, the sex industry would be like an exquisite, gift-wrapped present at Christmas, bringing me precisely the kind of cultural phenomenon I would need to make potential victims have no real connection with their own true power, drive to be empowered, and genuine sexuality; all while making potential bystanders and accomplices learn to see women as bodies, as sex acts, as personal gratification, instead of as sentient, intelligent, independent beings with emotional needs and dreams and desires. The sex industry, particularly the parts of it that encourage violence or brutality as norms, would serve to desensitize my entire utopia to the objectification and victimization of women. I guess if I'm really omnipotent, I'd make sure that thinking people who object to the objectification of women were portrayed as anti-sex, or crazy, or not in touch with reality.

In my imaginary society, people who wanted to "justify" their sexual domination of another person could travel out of country, so they could take advantage of foreign, "different" children, and still consider themselves to be upstanding citizens, because they don't hurt "real" women or children. I'd make sure that every school child in my society was taught about the "end" of slavery, and how awesome our current society is for not allowing slavery, while ensuring that they never learn about the illicit sex slave trade that is alive and well, even in our society. I'd do everything I could to make sure that rape, and child sex abuse, and prostitution, and sex slavery were all things that we could not speak openly and comfortably about in our society, so that more and more people would remain unaware of what was going on in their own families and communities-- right underneath their noses.

And these same qualities of my imaginary society that would make women ideal victims would also serve to make men ideal victims. After all, if women are constantly portrayed as weak, sexual objects ripe for the taking, thus making them easy victims, men are portrayed as strong, unemotional conquerors. What man who has been assaulted and raped wants to admit to being in the same league as weak sexual objects? Men who have been raped are even less likely than women to come forward, to demand justice, and to admit what happened to them.

With all these pieces in place, I'd be damn near guaranteed that I'd have an unlimited supply of victims who would ignore their boundaries long enough for me to make a move, who would have mixed expectations about their own sex lives, increasing their accessibility and vulnerability to me for acquaintance rape. And when I committed a rape, acquaintance or stranger, extremely violent and brutal or simple and straightforward, this utopia would make it extremely unlikely that victims would come forward. Some might not even define what I did to them as "rape," afraid that it implies some degree of ignorance or self-blame on their part. Some might consider it rape, but worry deep down inside that others wouldn't believe them, would blame them, or would say they are lying. After all, these "others" have been seeing the same societal messages, received the same cultural training, and heard the same rape myths. Some might know it was rape, want to come forward, and still feel shamed into submission. Some might come forward and have well-meaning but ill-informed friends, authorities, and professionals question what they did to cause it-- after all, we have all been trained to mistrust the inherent wisdom of women's bodies and to doubt that women are capable of understanding the truth about their lives, much less speaking honestly and directly about their sexual experiences.

If I were a rapist, this is exactly the kind of society that would lead me to feel safe weaving in and out of different circles of people, always being able to hone my craft, never truly worrying about getting into any situations I couldn't talk my way out of. This is exactly the kind of society that I know would be more likely to blame or not believe my victims.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Praise God!! GUILTY!!


It doesn't feel as good as I had hoped it would. Janet's still dead. There are still two beautiful, thoughtful girls who now have to begin to face up to and live with the reality that their father murdered their mother in cold blood. There are still a mother and father, two sisters and a brother, nieces and nephews, who have to live with the loss of their daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. There are still those people who were extremely close to Janet, to whom she confided terrible, sad, tragic details of her life with Tim, who will always be left to wonder what they could have done differently.

I hugged his neck they day after she died. It still feels gross to think about it. Some people just have no real conscience, and do not deserve our pity or compassion. It's been a long 4 years.

Rest in peace, Janet Lorita Harper Tillman

Friday, October 16, 2009


In the spirit of accountability, here it is. The periodic tracker of how I'm getting myself back into ass-kicking shape.

Days since I last cried: 2
Days since I've engaged The Beast (aka my own self-destructive drive): 2
Days since I've wanted to punch somebody: 1
Consecutive days of GRE study in the last 9 days: 9
Time since my first hooping class: 1 week, 1 day (remember my bucket list?)
Total "flight time" since (and including) first hooping class: 15 hours
Total "flight time" yesterday: 2.5
Pounds from my good and healthy weight: 22
Pounds lost since March of 2009: 23
Days I worked last week: 6
Days I'm scheduled to work this week: 6
Days I'd like to be scheduled for each week: 4
Time since I married my best friend: 9 years, 10 months, 5 days
Time since I kissed my best friend: about an hour
Days of Rape Crisis Center companion training until training is done: 6
Current favorite song(s): Everything in its Right Place (Radiohead), Kiss of Life (Sade), Say Hey I Love You (Michael Franti)

I'm not going to commit to posting the Ass-Kicker-Tracker daily or weekly, but expect a check-in every now and then. I'm getting back into fighting shape.

And regarding the hooping classes, it's a hippy-ish, dance/spiritual, fun thing in the town where I live (and spreading with pockets of interest all over). Here's a video of one of the local hoop instructors rocking it out:

Here's the other local instructor:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Currently, I'm in love with...

...being in love with the most incredible person I've ever met.