Category Archives: justice

Putting a Face on Creepy

Dead_Rabbit

I’m not a big fan of conservative politicians in general, but I find what’s happening to Tony Clement a tad unfair. Setting the hypocrisy of being a conservative, married politician fishing for young women online aside, I think people forget that he is a victim in this as well.

To recap Tony Clement, was caught sending lewd messages and inappropriate nudes online after it was learned that in at least two occasions, he has been extorted by people pretending to be willing adult recipients. Later, several surfaced and detailed Tony Clement’s behavior and calling it creepy. Apparently, he’s looking for extra-marital trysts with young women and would often boldly “like” women’s sensual pictures on Instagram, sometimes deep-diving into a user’s history of pics and liking them. This, apparently, is “creepy.”

Well, let me try defending a creep.

First off, I believe he should be disqualified for any leadership position, not for any of his behavior, but simply because he lost the confidence of his peers. Tony Clement is first and foremost a politician, and regardless of how unjust the way he lost his political influence and became toxic, you cannot have a leader which others would not want to be associated with. It is all simply politics. It has nothing to do with ethics, morality, or hypocrisy. No one would want him in the room. That’s not a leader.

Second, I believe that the “sin” of cheating on his spouse is solely between him and his wife. Anthony Weiner’s repeated escapades never really bothered me. I thought he was a good politician despite his crippling addiction to sexting. It wasn’t until he got caught for inappropriate communications with a minor that I got off the bandwagon. No one really knows what was happening in his marriage, no one except him and his wife. For all we know, his wife might have been okay with the whole thing. We can’t call it a sin if it isn’t a sin in their eyes. I can’t really judge what Tony Clement did to his marriage since we really don’t know what the nature of his marriage was at the moment. We can judge it for hypocrisy, yes, but it’s very difficult to call it a betrayal when we’re not privy to his marriage.

Just recently, 700 Club’s Pat Robertson proclaimed that viewing pornography is adultery. That is him judging everyone else’s marriages, marriages that he has no idea what the husbands and wives are okay with. I wouldn’t want to be like Pat Robertson and make assumptions on Tony Clement’s marriage. For all we know, his wife was okay with him messaging women. Maybe she thought it harmless. Men and women do things that others might consider infidelity but their partners are okay with. I’m sure many of the men who go see strippers have wives at home who are okay with that occasional behavior. Turning a blind eye to such activities is sometimes a pillar to many marriages.

And speaking of harmless, deep diving into someone’s Instagram gallery is harmless. It truly is. When a person’s pictures are out on the web, it is there for everyone to see. The harm or the “creepiness” that Tony Clement did was leave evidence. He let the women know that, yes, he did look through their pictures. He “liked” several of them. People are pretending that people, strangers, don’t do this. If your pictures are out there, people will look through them. Men do it. I’m sure women do it too. What Tony Clement did however is that he brought a face to that stranger looking through women’s Instagram history. He made the invisible stalker visible. Now, perhaps it was boldness on his part, or perhaps it was him simply being inept with the platform, but let’s not pretend that what he did was especially creepy. People do what he did all the time, they just don’t boldly “like” the pictures.

As for sending lewd messages and pictures, I don’t see anything wrong if it’s between consenting adults. As far as I could tell, the pictures he sent were towards consenting adults. And I could be wrong, but I haven’t seen any stories of him harassing women online by constantly messaging them. Sure, he would comment on people’s selfies and perhaps annoy, confuse, or make them feel a bit weird, but I don’t think that’s necessarily harassment. It’s weird and unusual, but he wasn’t on a campaign to menace people. It sounds more like he’s inept, if not socially then in terms of technology and security. Some of the women who have surfaced post rather sexy material online and appear to be open to online admirers. I am not placing blame on them for being harassed nor am I conceding that what Tony Clement did to them was harassment. But if total strangers online can make comments about a person’s half-naked pictures, why is it so wrong for a famous person to do so? Does it depend on the type of person who liking the pictures? What if it was some more attractive Hollywood celebrity instead of a conservative Canadian MP? And I don’t really buy into the fact that there is an unfair power dynamic since he is a famous politician. In fact, the recipients of the “likes” and messages had more power over Tony Clement since they were in position of what could possibly be embarrassing and politically damaging for anyone in government.

Again, Tony Clement is a victim of extortion. Let us not forget that. He is still being sex shamed after being a victim of what is comparable to revenge porn. He has made some women feel uncomfortable online, but he has not broken any laws. Everyone needs to calm down on the schadenfreude over his downfall.

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On Wonderful Canada and Much-Needed Marijuana Legalization

Triangle Man

Congratulations to Canada for being sensible enough to finally end senseless marijuana prohibition. Most people who have had experience smoking marijuana know that it is much less dangerous compared to drinking alcohol. I remember back in university, one of my first presentations in sociology class was about the how smoking marijuana and the US’ war on drugs have created this unjust more against marijuana despite the fact that alcohol, which is completely legal, can cause aggression and is involved in roughly half of all murders, rapes, and assaults. Compare that to marijuana. When was the last time you saw an aggressive person high on marijuana? It can cause a bit of paranoia, of course, but more often than not, its sedative effect is the most common experience.

I think most people who want access to marijuana in Canada already had access to it prior to legalization. It’s not that difficult finding marijuana in Canada. I remember back in university, marijuana tends to find you instead. The problem with marijuana is its legal consequences and how that affects people. Fortunately, Canada is planning to release and perhaps clear the records of felons caught with a certain amount of cannabis. However for some, it may be too late already.

People sometimes say that marijuana is a gateway drug. You start with marijuana and you move on to more potent illegal drugs. However, I saw how the prosecution of marijuana possession is the gateway to more serious crimes. One of my best friends in school tried selling and even growing marijuana when we were in high school. I remember he even asked me for advice for effective growing methods, but what do I know? Anyway, he was caught with possession or with possession with intent to sell and was sent to juvenile detention. I was already in university at the time and was spending time with a different circle of friends. I did hear from him and about him occasionally and learned that he later got involved with harder drugs, manufacturing methamphetamines, and even breaking and entering. The last time I saw him, he was out in a rough part of town, looking worse for the wear.

Even with marijuana being legalized, it would have still been illegal for him to be possessing drugs at such a young age, but both the stigma and the allure won’t be there since the drug would be legal. It would almost be akin to hiding a pack of cigarettes. But I believe his detention got him in the wrong path, not the drugs itself. He wasn’t poor back then or anything. He was raised in a middle-class household with both parents. It was simply the allure of drugs that got him in. Compare that to the rather mundane allure of legal cigarettes and alcohol to young teens.

And that’s just with teens. I know someone with a suspended sentence for possession of marijuana, not for recreational use but for her cancer-stricken husband’s medical use. With legalization, there would be less stigma and no more need for unintended grief for those who need the drug. It’s good to have a bit more sensibility in the current world where more and more things seem to stop making sense as the days go by.

Well, hopefully with legalization and taxation, there will be a growth in industry and government revenue across Canada. This will also hurt gangs and the illegal drug trade since one of their cash crops has now effectively become public domain. And with the wide availability and the proper monitoring by the government, hopefully people would not have any need to find and experiment with stronger drugs. If anything, I expect Canada to become more of an attraction to our southern neighbors. I remember occasionally finding young American crossing the border on their past their 18th birthday in order to legally drink alcohol, party in bars, visit strip clubs, and take advantage of the relatively low Canadian currency. If cities and the government play their cards right, we might just become North America’s Netherlands.

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On Khashoggi and Distractions

Aquarius

I never thought I’d ever see a live minstrel show in my lifetime. But that’s exactly what Kanye West did in the oval office in front of Donald Trump. He performed as a “black supporter,” a minority supporter whose years where he was hailed as a celebrity and an icon by the black community would be weaponized to delegitimize all complaints against the Trump administration. “Maybe Black Lives Matter and Colin Kapernick are just over-reacting! Kanye West, a prominent black celebrity, is out there hugging Donald Trump. They must not be well-versed on the issues as much as Kanye, the genius that he is.”

What’s shameful is that they let Kanye just go around and hurt himself by letting him speak nonsense. Doesn’t he have relatives or people that care about him? Doesn’t he have anyone to tell him that talking about multi-verses in the oval office in front of cameras make him look like a fool? Why are they letting him advocate prison reform specifically for one person, who is probably one the least-deserving of presidential pardons out of the millions of people locked up in the US? Is Donald Trump so desperate for black friends (and celebrity friends) that he would willingly exploit someone who clearly needs help? Kanye’s rant in SNL a couple of days ago was embarrassing. He held everyone hostage while he indulged in his narcissistic lectures. Trump just magnified that a thousand times and turned the whole country into SNL.

Kanye West is a distraction, a disgrace, and dumb moron. Call him a musical genius if you want, but don’t forget to include “musical.” Being called a genius in one field doesn’t give one carte blanche authority on every other subject.

Long live Taylor Swift.

Saudi Arabia is out of control. The presumed assassination and disposal of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is the stuff of mafia movies. The United States is now getting a taste of what Saudi Arabia did to Canada a few months ago. Fortunately, we have a leader who is willing to stand up against Saudi Arabia. As for the US, Trump said it plainly, the Saudis are buying way too many weapons for the US to be concerned about one presumably dead journalist (who is just a US permanent resident, not a citizen). It is disgusting.

I said it before. MBS is Kim Jung Un with oil money. He behaves the same way as Kim Jung Un. The only reason why he is not ostracized by other countries is because of his country’s oil wealth. He is no reformer. If anything, he appears to be more dangerous at his young age than his predecessors. And unfortunately, with Trump unwilling to go against Saudi Arabia, this reckless behavior will only continue to escalate.

In a few weeks, people will forget about Khashoggi. Even in this page, I wrote about the distraction of Kanye West before I wrote about Khashoggi which arguably has greater consequences in the future. There will be greater distractions, and people will focus again on hating Iran instead of the Saudis. The US and the rest of the world will forget and let the Saudis do whatever they want. After all, if they can get away with 9/11, what’s that compared to one missing journalist.

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More on Kavanaugh, the #Metoo Movement, and the eternal youth of white people

Kangaroo

The Judge Kavanaugh defense is a shameful farce on all fronts. First off, the preemptive strategy of selling him a great basketball coach and father to two daughters, surrounding him with young girls when they initially presented him was very suspect. They never did that for Judge Gorsuch. Also, it was very suspect that the Republicans had a signed testimony from 65 women who attests to Gorsuch’s good character in high school well-prepared prior to the allegations about him attempting to rape women ever surfaced. Why was there ever a need for such a document? Does Gorsuch have a similar document at the ready during his confirmation process?

The most common defense, which something Donald Trump has echoed, is that the women are liars, that they are confused or that they have an agenda. This is the oldest, most sexist defense of all. Tucker Carlson, in his most un-self-aware moment of television, even compared the whole unfolding fiasco to the Salem witch trials, to which, if I remember the play correctly, involved women being falsely accused and foregoing reason in favor of a moral panic. It is doubly ironic because at the moment, Republicans in Congress don’t even want to investigate the women’s allegations. So no investigations… they are simply all liars, and the poor judge is a victim of hysteria and political assassination. The Salem witch trials seem more thorough in comparison.

But what’s more disturbing is the now growing defense of letting boys be boys. The judge was seventeen at the time (and his accuser was 15). Boys will always be aggressive, and men should never be judged for their actions as children. Forget that the action in question was attempted rape. And as time passes, it would seem to be a pattern of organized attempted rapes and sexual harassment. CNN, in an effort to be non-partisan, has been parading women defending the action of boys, poor boys who are merely acting on their hormones. Besides, what happened was more than 36 years ago. If it did happen, it was far too long ago, and the good judge has grown to be quite the upstanding citizen, so upstanding that he’s earned the nomination to be the next Supreme Court judge.  But let me count the ways on how awful this defense is.

  1. Minority children are often never afforded the same courtesy of being young and immature. They are more often prosecuted as adults and described as menacing. Look at what happened to Trayvon Martin. He was shot for walking in his neighborhood. He wasn’t attempting to rape anyone. And closer to Donald Trump, look at the Central Park Five which he campaigned to be sent to prison despite being proven innocent of gang rape. They were 15 at the time. Being young and innocent is often a white privilege. Minority children are treated as grown men way too soon while white men are treated as men way too late. Want proof? Look at Don. Jr. He’s a grown man with kids, but he’s often talked about like a bumbling teenager.
  2. Saying that boys will be boys, that these things happen, and that groping is as innocent as snapping bras for teenagers is basically admitting to the fact that the judge probably did what he was accused of doing. If so, that would make him a liar, wouldn’t it? A teenage boy who sexually harassed women and attempted to rape them in his “youthful innocence” is far from the straight-laced Christian he is selling himself as. Also, that would make him someone who lied in front of Congress. People get disqualified applying for jobs when they openly lie in front of their potential employers.
  3. It is never okay to attempt rape at any age. It is not a teachable moment. And when the judge’s supporters say that the #Metoo movement makes every man a target, it doesn’t. It makes every rapist a target. It makes everyone with sexual harassment or assault in their past a target. I don’t have any sexual harassment in my past whatsoever. I’m not intimidated by the #Metoo movement at all. I have not come close to what the judge is being accused of doing. I’m sure a lot of men have nothing to fear from it as well.
  4. Consent is key and it should be within context. The women accusing Kavanaugh say that they never gave consent especially as minors. I would hate to live in a world where a minor consenting to sexual relations is judged as valid as consent from a grown adult, especially in a setting as a high school party filled with drugs and alcohol. That’s a horrible setting to assign a legally-binding consent. Now, contrast this with the way Kavanaugh treated the relations between President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, two consenting adults.
  5. The whole notion of restorative justice relies on the fact that the perpetrator of the crime admits to the crime and has reformed and is no longer a threat to society as a whole, making amends to those he/she has wronged in the process. When people say that the events took place long time ago and that the judge is now reformed, they ignore the fact that the judge has never admitted to anything. No confession, no apology, no restorative justice. How can there be justice when the very existence of a crime and yes, even victims, is simply denied? If anything, the whole fiasco reeks of a separate crime in itself, a cover-up.

What is interesting is that Kavanaugh recently admitted to being a virgin in high school in order to disprove the rape allegations. He is willing to say that he was a popular student and an athlete who never had a sexual encounter in high school rather than admit to being a tad too aggressive and admitting to mistakes. Instead of being weak and human, he chose to go to an even higher moral pedestal. Boys and girls, not only was he richer, smarter, and more popular than you, Jesus also loves him more. Of course, it is much, MUCH easier to admit to being a virgin in high school and taking on its stigma after so many years has passed, now that you have nothing much to lose from it. Compare that to admitting you were an attempted rape victim back then and taking on death threats.

I initially though that Kavanaugh will ultimately be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, but the events of the past few days had me rethinking my initial prediction. I could still be correct, but there is a growing possibility that he would not survive this and that he could very well lose his district judge position. Here’s hoping that he does lose everything. The world is a dumpster fire at the moment, which is why I still think he could still become a Supreme Court judge, but I really wish in a few days, there would be one less rapist in a position of power.

After all of this is over, what would leave a bad taste in my mouth is how allegations of sexual misconduct is still treated pretty much the way it was in the past, even after the #Metoo movement. It’s very reminiscent of Saudi Arabia, where the victim faces a tremendous hurdle for proving a crime has been committed after overcoming the sometimes impossible hurdle of admitting a crime has been committed, and even then, both the victim and the accused face consequences. There is still victim blaming… what was she wearing, why was she there, what time was it, what was she drinking, etc. Ignoring the fact that biggest factor in being raped is to be in the midst of a person who happens to be rapist. We still haven’t learned anything.

Ugh. As I said, the world is a dumpster fire, and it still must suck to be a woman sometimes.

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#MeToo and an Idiot with Clean Hands

Odd Feeling

About a month ago, a prominent progressive politician in Korea was accused of raping his assistant in at least four incidents. This rocked the country’s left wing base since Ahn Hee-Jung is quite the popular figure and was even being groomed to be the next president after Moon Jae-In. The accuser claimed that she couldn’t refuse his advances and was in fear. Ahn however, claimed that the relationship between the two was consensual. Despite only being accused, the damage was already done. Ahn was removed from his position. It is very unlikely that he could resurrect his political career. Some people on the left however, despite being early proponents of the #MeToo movement are now starting to question the whole thing, thinking that some accusers weren’t really raped. Perhaps they were paid off by political opponents? Perhaps they were expecting a payoff in the end? Why did it take so long for many of the country’s accusers to come forward? The latest high profile celebrity brought down by the #MeToo movement in the country had accusers calling back to incidents ten years ago. People are wondering if these women are truly acting honestly, and whether they truly have clean hands.

The doctrine of clean hands state that those looking for equity must have equity as well. An accuser must have no unethical agenda and should act in bad faith. The defendant has the burden of proof to prove that the accuser is not acting with clean hands. The onus is not on the accuser to prove that they are acting with clean hands.

Absent of prior investigations, legal judgments, or evidence contrary to the fact, I tend to side with rape accusers automatically simply because it is difficult to prove  that it happened or not, and despite this difficulty, an accuser would be willing to stake his/her reputation in the name of justice. I think this is truer in a country like South Korea where the stigma of being a rape victim would have more lasting and deeper consequences than it would on the west. Being a spinster or a divorcee still has negative connotations in the country. I could only imagine the burden of being a known rape victim.

With the Ahn case, many suspect the accuser of acting on bad faith simply because it happened four times and she “allowed” it to happen. I believe this is a case of blaming the victim. It is simply arrogant to think claim that a person would act differently should they be in the same circumstances, not knowing all of the circumstances at all. We were not the victim. We were not in her head. Also, as Ahn’s supporters, the onus is on them to prove that the accuser was acting on faith, and not the accuser.  And I have to say there is hypocrisy in them saying that the accuser was not being sincere, when I suspect they wouldn’t be so willing to attack accusers if they were claiming foul play by members of the opposite party. This makes their distrust of the accuser politically motivated. They are not acting with clean hands.

In this scenario, absent of evidence, I believe there are two possible realities with two camps in each. One reality is where the accuser is telling the truth. To believe her would be a marriage of two goods: an accuser with clean hands and supporters of victims believing them with no motivation whatsoever other than justice. To not believe the accuser when she is telling the truth would either be blindness or just an act of political tribalism.

The other reality is where the accuser is lying. She has been paid by Ahn’s political opponents. And those who innocently and truly believe her, regardless of whether they are in the same side as Ahn or not, are fools. They are idiots easily manipulated by the #MeToo movement.  Those who do not believe her when she is lying look wise to be critical of what seems to be falsehoods. However, they also risk crucifying a victim for their “wisdom” and preventing others from coming out.

The people who do not believe Ahn’s accuser, absent of evidence, are hoping that they are wise enough to see through the accuser’s lies, and that they are indeed lies. I would rather believe the accuser and risk being a naïve idiot, a naïve idiot with clean hands.

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#MeToo on Atwood

flowers_tentacles_spikes

I’ve been watching Margaret Atwood’s ‘Alias Grace.’ It’s a bit of a slow burn, but after some time, it’s turning out to be a compelling horror story. Horror. It’s a horror being a woman in the not-so-distant past, even in a country like Canada. The story is about a white, Irish immigrant accused of murder and the events that led to her supposed crime. A white woman… granted, she’s an Irish immigrant back in the day when the Irish were suffering from discrimination, but imagine how much more horror there would be should the story be about a woman of color, say an Aboriginal woman in Canada.

This reminds me of the Louis CK joke; that time travel is only suited for white males. Women and minorities do not have the luxury of going back through time and not being in danger of being persecuted. History is too often a horror story for us. It can be very risky if not suicidal to revisit the past.

That’s not to say things have changed much in some cases. Minorities still feel the bitter sting of racism, and women are still constantly victimized by powerful (and even not powerful) men. This #MeToo hashtag has prompted public confessions and accusations regarding sexual harassment. Almost every other day, I see another prominent person being accused of being inappropriate. And that’s just the ones making the headlines. There are of course confessions from ordinary people about what happened to them as well. It would seem that the world is still occasionally a horror story for them as well.

The movement started with women speaking out, but it would appear that it’s not so much as women being victims, but about men taking advantage of their power because there have been confessions and accusations regarding men sexually abusing other men. It would seem that people being in power, who are most often men, is the problem. It’s the power. I guess that’s why it’s often said that rape is not really about sex, it’s about exerting power over another person.

This brings me to what happened to me back when I was fifteen. I was working part-time in an office, taking phone calls. After working in an A&W restaurant, I was glad to work in an office environment, even though I was just taking calls for most of the day. Things were going smoothly, and I was starting to really get used to the routine after school when my supervisor, a woman who was roughly twenty years older than me, leaned close and asked if she could sit on my lap while I worked. I just smiled at the suggestion and acted as if it was all a joke. But I never did return to that place. I wouldn’t want to know where that would lead. I was a child, I was fifteen.

I taught fifteen-year-olds before. I taught sixteen, seventeen, eighteen-year-olds before. I would never make such a comment or say anything that would be confused as such.

So, I guess that’s my #MeToo. Nothing really serious happened, so it didn’t bother me much. I remember I was more in disbelief at what actually happened. In any case, I count myself lucky that that’s the “worst” that happened to me at my most vulnerable in the workplace. I’m guessing most women would have a worse story to tell. In some ways, some people still live in Margaret Atwood’s dark imagination.

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Missing Vietnam

Mosquito

Vietnam is a great place. The people are friendly, the architecture is charming, it’s amazingly safe, and the beaches are wonderful. It rained half the time I was there, but it was not so bad that I couldn’t explore the city. What surprised me about the trip was how cheap everything was. Food and drinks were cheap, especially compared to Seoul and other places I vacationed before. It was just insanity. I could see myself retiring there if my measly pension would not allow me to live in Seoul or Canada.

Another thing that surprised me was how safe I felt despite walking around in dark streets. I didn’t feel like I was gonna get mugged or kidnapped or anything. It’s more dangerous walking around in downtown Winnipeg. I was staying in a rural, touristy area, but compared to the rural areas I stayed at in the Philippines, my wife and I felt so much more secure. We felt fewer eyes looking at us.

What bothered me, however, was the apparent prejudice against Korean tourists. We stayed at Hoi An, the Old City. The place being a UNESCO heritage site, it is protected and needs maintenance. This requires funds from tourists, and some walkways welcome donations or have signs that ask people to present their tickets prior to passing. This policy appears to be enforced lackadaisically, as people just come and go without presenting any tickets or being asked to buy them. That is, unless you’re Korean. My wife and my sister-in-law’s family got asked to present their tickets, but not once was I asked. We also observed other tourists pass by and they don’t seem to be bothered by city officials. My wife and I thought it might be a colonial attitude, where white people are not hassled but other ethnicities are. But I wasn’t hassled, Chinese tourists weren’t hassled, it’s just the Korean tourists who were being asked for tickets. And we’re not crazy. We observed close by while having drinks. It seems like a scam, feels unjust, and was the only thing that really left a bad feeling in me.

That and the countless mosquito bites.

 

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The Message with Sally Yates

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I was going to write a love letter to Manitoba, but recent news has got me upset. What happened with Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was not the Saturday Night Massacre. Nixon was more subtle by comparison. The Trump administration had the constitutional right to remove Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates from her position for not following Trump’s executive order to ban Muslim immigration from seven countries, but there is absolutely no reason to tar and feather her by saying she “betrayed” the country and that she is “weak on borders and weak on illegal immigration.” The statement they issued was petty and vindictive, and they flaunt their authority over the justice system, completely ignoring the federal court orders to have the immigration ban stayed. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates cannot act on the executive order when federal courts are against it and the Supreme Court has not made a ruling on its legality.

As the top lawyer of the United States, it is not the attorney general’s job to agree with everything the president does. To do so would make the position technically moot. This also isn’t the first time an attorney general or a deputy attorney general has acted against a sitting president’s orders. James Comey famously went against the president’s wishes just a few years ago. Of course, many attorney generals go along with the administration’s wishes. After all, they get their by the administration’s recommendation. Eric Holder was extremely partisan and didn’t go after the big banks after the Obama administration mentioned that they weren’t looking to prosecute them. But while they are partisan appointees, their job is to uphold the law and make sure that the executive branch acts within the scope of the law. It is not the attorney general’s job to do something which they believe is illegal or somehow bend the rules to make them legal. They definitely can, and can be rewarded for being loyal partisan actors, but it’s blatantly unethical to relieve someone of their position for not doing something which they believe is illegal.

This constitutional duty to not blindly follow the leader but to follow the letter of the law as well as what is ethical is what allows me to sleep at night despite knowing that Trump has the nuclear codes. He may order a country to be bombed simply because a citizen there annoyed him on Twitter, but it is the officer’s as well as everyone else in the hierarchy’s duty to not follow his order if they deemed it illegal, immoral, or unethical. It is their civic duty to do so; and to follow the president’s order in such a case would be a dereliction of duty. This is what Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to do, to carry out an act which is in her opinion, an opinion based on a lifetime of working for the justice department, is both illegal and indefensible. It was her duty to refuse the president. And for that, she got sacked.

But really, what choice does she have. The Muslim ban is clearly a disaster and several federal court orders agree. It was an executive order that was hastily made without consultation from the president’s own top advisors. His own Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, does not support the order, and believes it endangers the troops he’s been recently made in charge of. As far as I can tell, the only people who were certainly in the room when Trump drafted the order was Stephen Miller, a young political operative with a racist history, and Steve Bannon, a publisher of a Web site frequented by neo-Nazis. They’re not exactly the people with the most expertise regarding immigration and national security. But then again, neither is Trump. The woman Trump fired had more years serving the public, more years keeping the country safe, than Trump.

And to those defending the Muslim ban, calling it a mere travel restriction, even Trump calls it a ban. And whatever name you call it, and even if you only limit it to those seven countries, it still affects Muslims. It still goes against the notion of having no religious test for the country. It flies in the face of common decency. The measure doesn’t make the US safer. It makes it harder for the military to gain allies in those seven countries and serves as a great recruitment tool for ISIS. But then again, what do expect from the great military expertise of Trump, Miller, and Bannon?

Sally Yates’ firing goes along with the message that the Trump administration is sending out. From journalists and employees at the National Park Service, to long-time government employees and officials- if you’re not with the Trump agenda, you should be fired. This is an amazingly flagrant display of authoritarianism.

It’s been a really dark few days. Even Canada has not been immune to Trump’s brand of intolerance. Quebec has been marred with tragedy, with the shooting of a mosque. And while some detractors will point out that Quebec has had a history of intolerance long before the Trump phenomenon, the shooter has been a part of the same alt-right movement which supports Trump.

It’s going to be a tiring few years. I believe the wave of bigotry will continue to wreak havoc long after we stopped getting daily bad news from Trump. There will be frequent protests and frequent outrages. Luckily, it is exactly during these times when people can become heroes by fighting injustice. Sally Yates will now be remembered as a hero. Honestly, I doubt if many people knew her name before she stood against Donald Trump. Now it’s time for people to go against him, take advantage of the growing rage against the US government’s recent actions, and make a name for themselves. If not because it is the right thing to do, but it is also good politics.

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Pizza and Theater

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There’s a reason why people would rather watch Marvel movies than documentaries. Marvel movies, despite their mythology, is far easier to digest and is made more interesting with its fantastical storylines compared to most documentaries. Just the word “documentary” itself would turn off most people. It speaks of the mundane. It almost sounds like homework.

That’s the problem right now. Everywhere, it seems like conspiracy theories and fake news are winning over actual, mundane truth. Call me naïve, but I actually believe basically the story that ‘This American Life’ did on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, that she is basically not very tech savvy and that the whole e-mail scandal thing is due to her need to keep using just one machine, an outdated Blackberry. The story is not very exciting, but it actually fits what I see in real life: older people not being tech savvy and clinging on to things that they’ve gotten used to.

Unfortunately, right now, #Pizzagate is trending on the Internet. According to Internet sleuths, John Podesta’s love for Italian food, as made apparent by the e-mails Wikileaks posted, is actually code word for something else. Because liking pizza is too mundane. It has to mean… I don’t know… something connected to an underground sex ring that the rich and powerful indulge in, along with pizza. Depending on how deep you get, there’s also talks of pedophilia and devil worship.

I like ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ and I actually think it’s the best Kubrick film despite starring Tom Cruise, but these conspiracy theorists can’t just leave an innocent love for Italian pastry alone and had to mix it with some Kubrick. Also worth noting is that this is the second time I’ve heard of Hillary Clinton being accused of actual witchcraft.

You see, Kubrick films are far easier to digest than watching Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible.’

The same thing is happening in Korea. Instead of actually talking about the real plausible crimes the current president is suspected of doing, there have been too many stories about secret affairs, hidden surgical operations, children out of wedlock, etc. What is happening right now is interesting enough as it is. We don’t have to spice it up with added narratives.

Even in the Philippines! I argue with people online about Duterte encouraging mass murder. And some people would say that the murders weren’t being done on his behalf, and that they were done by “bad people.” WHO? Who are these phantom bad people? Why are they doing this? To make the president look bad? The president is definitely not looking for any of these “bad people.” Why are some people resting easy with the explanation that “bad people did it”? Is ignorance truly that bliss?

The thing is, following the truth is actually a lot like homework. It’s not very sexy. And like homework, we rarely get what we want. Looking at Trump, instead of the media looking at his dealings with Indian business men or his $25 million settlement with the victims of Trump University, the media was more focused on the sexier, easier to digest story of Pence being booed at Hamilton. Then people start speculating that maybe Trump sent Pence to the theater himself to distract from his own issues. Another conspiracy theory. And again, instead of looking at the homework that is the business dealing s and lawsuits, we all obsess about easy to digest stories and conspiracy theories, then bicker about them until we the real issues are forgotten.

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On Fear and Admitting It

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I know where President Obama was coming from when he made the speech to commemorate the Sept. 11 attack. It was a good tribute to the victims of the attack as well as their loved ones. He used the moment to try to unite people into a common purpose, much like after the attack, when Americans were united, so much so that George Bush had a great approval rating.

What got me however when he said, “…as Americans we do not give in to fear. We will preserve our freedoms and our way of life that make us a beacon to the world.” This is simply not true.

While there was courage displayed after the attack, especially with the first responders, there have been so many actions which can only be described as being inspired by cowardice. Iraq was invaded due to fears of phantom weapons. Americans have surrendered their rights to privacy due to fear of terrorism. Airports have been a security nightmare. People have been tortured and locked up indefinitely because of fear. The Middle East has been destabilized exactly because of fear. It caused a ripple of nationalism and xenophobia which crossed over to Europe. And right now, a megalomaniac is close to becoming the president of the United States, running on fear against Muslims and immigrants.

You cannot say Americans do not give in to fear. Americans buy guns in exceedingly high numbers exactly because of fear. They fear terrorists. They fear gay people. They fear minorities. They fear their neighbors. They fear their government. Police officers shoot black people immediately because of fear. Fear is big. And as tragic as it is that 3,000 beautiful lives were lost on 9/11, because Americans were afraid, thousands more died in the Middle East afterwards.

What happened in 9/11 was a great tragedy. Out of that tragedy are stories of courage and strength of spirit. Unfortunately, there are far too many other stories of cowardice and cynicism. This cowardice and cynicism has a persisting and pernicious effect that adapts and evolves. It touches the lives of a greater number of people than the glimmer of bravery that shone in the face of 9/11. There were several great virtues shown after the attack, there were moments of true bravery, but you cannot honestly say that Americans do not give in the fear.

Americans gave in to fear, and the whole world felt it.

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