Tag Archives: religion

Could be Tomorrow

Lungs

I’m off to Vietnam this week. I don’t know much about the country and its beautiful people, so I’ll talk about The Handmaid’s Tale instead. What a wonderful, wonderful adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s work (a Canadian treasure)! Good job, Hulu! What’s really interesting about the book and the show itself is that if there’s ever a more apt book to adapt for the times, it’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Being a work of “speculative fiction,” much like books like The Road or Blindness, it doesn’t need much fantasy in order for something to become our reality. In the case of The Handmaid’s Tale, religion and military dictatorship just needs to marry together, something which humanity has experimented with several times before.

And it’s not like we’re that far off from Ms. Atwood’s fiction. The world is becoming more and more militaristic. Many countries’ police officers are starting to look more like military forces. There’s a loud growing movement of conservatism with their adherence to religious dogma and a distrust of science and news media. And more and more, dictatorial rule seems to be coming back into fashion with many people blindly supporting strong men. Even my father pines for the days of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law and praises the likes of Duterte. The show did a great job of incorporating current trends and technology and making it part of the narrative. It almost screams at the viewers, “this could be you! You’d better do something about it” It’s not enough that we trust our collective goodness as a society. Our hubris, our confidence that several others will do good despite of our inaction, will lead to our eventual downfall. I’d like to believe more Americans are sensible, and yet Donald Trump and his ilk run the country. I was impressed at how friendly, welcoming, and seemingly sensible everyone was the last time I visited the Philippines, but they’re the same people who would deny their neighbors are being killed for their vices, even if it happens almost every day. My workplace is surrounded by people who yearn for the days of dictatorial rule in Korea.

It is scary. It really wouldn’t take much.

 

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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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Goodbye 2016

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2016 was not the most horrible of years, but it was one I’m not that very happy with. There are many celebrities who have died, but that’s all part of life, and I’m sure all years have their share of wonderful people dying that year. Personally, I happen to like Scott Weiland, but I can’t really blame 2016 for his death. There are disappointments over politics, but I believe the worst that the Trump election could be is still yet to come. He’s still a person with his own will and conscience. He can make the next four years good or as bad as people fear he would.

That and I have to remind myself that I am a Canadian. It doesn’t do me too much good to follow American politics too closely. I can disappoint myself with Canadian politics just as well. (Why did Trudeau have to approve that damned pipeline?)

I haven’t done too many art shows this year, but that’s a mixture of luck, with not many art shows coming my way, and with me not being as aggressive with my work. Work-wise, not much has changed. But I’m content where I am. I’m just glad I’m not struggling as many people are. And as for personal matters, I only have myself to blame for any failings last year.

I met a couple of scumbags last year too. Boy, were they scumbags!

As for good things, two nieces were born last year. My sister as well as my sister-in-law both had daughters. It’s good to see their families grow. My sisters are making sure their lives in North America are turning into a particular Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song. My good friend, Alicia, visited me last year.  We went to Japan with her and her boyfriend. It wasn’t without its bumps, but it was good to see one of my oldest friends. I happened to save someone who fell on the subway station while they were here too. I guess that’s something.

I also found one of the best beaches to go to last year.

Here’s hoping that 2017 would be better. So far, with Canada losing to the US in the Junior Hockey championship game yesterday, it’s not off to a good start. But perhaps that’s just an early glitch.

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Killing Catholics

Rat_King

The problem with Twitter is that it’s a vortex that gets you sucked in to arguments where you’re trying to convince people who have no interest in being convinced. This happened to me last night for the better part of an hour, arguing about the Philippines and their outrageous leader, President Duterte. The last time I visited the Philippines was 2011. Back then, like many people, the country’s problem with poverty is quite apparent. But the problem is not only that. At the time, I also noted that the country had a tendency to elect leaders based on populist appeal, with several people banking either on their celebrity appeal or regional political dynasties. I also noticed that there is not much concern about the separation of church and state, and thus some, if not the majority of people, don’t mind if religiously-inspired policies affect them negatively. So last night, I ended up arguing based on the Filipino Catholic background, the pretense of doing the purge for law and order, and the two-tiered justice system when it comes to Filipinos and their worship of celebrities.

I always found it very ironic that the only Catholic country in the Philippines would openly insult the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the representative of Christ in the planet. By condoning the extrajudicial killings, the president and his followers are going against the very teaching of Jesus Christ. Love thy neighbors, thou shalt not kill, etc. I’m not a theological expert, but I always thought that one of the foundations of the Catholic Church is the concept of forgiveness. And while many of the president’s supporters are quick to defend him and forgive him for his brashness and errors as a leader, they don’t extend that same spirit of forgiveness to victims of the killings. It would seem that the country is not as religious as many people would have you believe. After all, why would the country elect and give high approval ratings to a person who promised to kill several people and so far has made good on that promise. Duterte on his campaign had two major political goals: A) kill thousands of drug dealers and users and B) reform the country into federalism in order to spread the country’s wealth and resources among its different regions. So far, he’s only killed people. Killing people is not only against the Catholic Church, it also won’t put food on people’s plate.

Now, the president claims that he is doing things for law and order. He even mused about instating martial law to quell lawlessness. Forgetting the abuse of the Marcos regime and the horrors of martial law, his supporters say that martial law wouldn’t be a bad idea; after all, it is well within his rights in the Philippine constitution as the leader of the country. Looking at the Philippine constitution, it is well within his rights. Article VII, Section 18 states that he may take command of all armed forces and suspend habeas corpus to prevent or suppress lawless violence. That’s well and good. But the last time I checked, the Philippines is still quite orderly. There is no lawless violence. In fact, it is the president who is encouraging lawlessness with statements like, “Please feel free to call us, the police or do it yourself if you have the fun… you have my support. Shoot him (the accused) and I’ll give you a medal.” Article III, Section 1 of the Philippine Bill of Rights states that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” Yet, people conveniently shrug when people get shot without spending their time in court, examining evidence of their guilt, or facing their accusers. There is nothing lawful about this anti-drug campaign. And as for people saying that the murder are done by phantom “killers” and not by the government or the police, and that the president regrets such extrajudicial killings, let me quote that again, “Please feel free to call us, the police or do it yourself if you have the fun… you have my support. Shoot him (the accused) and I’ll give you a medal.”

When arguing these things, I got accused of being prejudiced against the Philippines, of seeing the country as some sort of backwards banana republic and not a sophisticated metropolitan society. The problem with prejudice is that it also applies to the poor and those with drug history. The killings only seem to apply to the poor. Doing a quick search on Google, it’s not that difficult to find Filipino celebrities with histories of drug abuse. I doubt if they would be affected by this anti-drug campaign. No one is gunning for them. Drug use is often brought on by poverty. And the prejudice against the poor leads to the rather nonchalant local attitude towards the killings. Crimes against the pretty people on this page (https://kami.com.ph/29157-filipino-celebrities-involved-illegal-drugs.html) would elicit national outrage, but there’s not so much outrage when the victims are poor, young drug users and their families have to deal with the aftermath.

The most inane argument I get is that I’m not a true Filipino; I’m not in the country and thus have no say in such things. I am not familiar with their problems. True, but I am also unfamiliar with the problems of impoverished family members of drug users. While my opinions might insult Duterte’s supporters, the unfortunate consequence of supporting Duterte is the murder of people. Their opinions and support kills people. One does not need to be a Filipino citizen to realize this. You don’t need to be in the Philippines to see the hypocrisy in regards to Duterte versus religion, the law, and prejudice. The thing is, I actually have high hopes for the country. There are even some things that I agree with Duterte about (his stance on contraception and birth control for one. And I actually think federalism would benefit the country. ). But this zeal for a strong man worries me. Civilization and law evolved as such. First there was the literal strong man in very primitive groups. This was the man who could physically implement his personal view of law and order in his small community. Then came more democratic tribes; this was when communities established rules and mores, and power was not centralized into one figure. Perhaps there was a council of elders and influential members of the community. Later on, law and order became more complex, and we now have the many checks and balances of current systems in different countries. This devolution to needing a strongman leader is a sign of a more basic urge, a return to a primitive way of looking at things, a need for simplistic solutions to more sophisticated, nuanced problems. This is not the Philippines moving forward.

Of course, with Twitter and the Internet, I find myself arguing against unmovable converts. The same goes with Trump supporters and proponents of Brexit. Ironic that in a platform which allows for the free access to different opinions, we all tend to gravitate to information and “facts” which reflect our own opinions. Perhaps, at the risk of sounding arrogant, this is Duterte’s supporters and the Dunning-Kruger effect.

And speaking of the Dunning-Kruger effect, but I believe true Canadians are immune to the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s not that Canadians are smarter than the average person, but compared to our southern neighbors, we’re not as adamant with our opinions. We tend to be more pliable. Just as Catholics have an enduring place in their hearts for guilt, Canadians have an enduring place in their hearts for self-doubt. It is the part of us that says, “I believe this, but maybe I’m wrong.” So with that in mind, maybe I’m wrong about the Philippines. But for now, it looks like a total disaster.

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Mommet Dearest

Octopus

My grandmother on my mother’s side is currently in a nursing home in Hawaii. She hasn’t been well for years, and we received a bit of a scare over the weekend. Last I heard, she’s recovering and is under observation. A relief, but for a couple of hours there I wish I was swept with strange emotions, but honestly, I really didn’t know what to feel.

I love my grandmother dearly, but I haven’t really been the best grandson to her. The last time I saw her was over eight years ago, that was when my mother died. Even then, a part of me resented her presence at the hospital. I was thinking, “I realize you’re weak and all, but my mother is dying. Can we focus all of the attention on her?” My heart and my mind wasn’t in the right place. And I’m not sure if it recovered after that. She lived in Hawaii, far from me, so I barely thought about her. The years after my mom’s passing, our family’s gone through so much without my grandmother, that I can honestly say I only remember her in passing.

Which makes the weekend strange. I felt somewhat like a bastard, like someone who missed the train (or someone who will soon miss it), and will forever be much less because he missed it. Even though I was upset, I felt like I should be more upset than I was. And the thing is, I don’t know what I was upset about. Was I upset about her, or more about me and how I’ve behaved? Or maybe I was just upset at the passage of time. Eight years…. What happened in eight years? What the hell?!

My best memories of my grandmother, we called her Mommet, was growing up and visiting her house every Sunday after church. I used to hang out with her and my great grandmother. I would help my great grandmother sew by putting thread through needles. The house back then had this great garden with different fruit trees. Mommet’s garden even had sugar apples. My sisters and I would recall her trying to feed us lucuma (chesa or dien taw)and none of us liking it. Weirdly, it was the place where I first saw my first salamander. It was also the place where I first stepped on dog shit. When I was a bit older, I remember discovering the Beatles at my grandmother’s house, when I saw my mom’s old records.

The series of Virgin Mary sculptures I made were inspired by my Mommet’s bedroom. It had a shrine of Catholic saints. I thought it was very pretty, and I made my series of sculptures inspired by the colors as well as the stories behind each and every character on that shrine.

Mommet used to be a bigger part of our lives, until finally she wasn’t, until she was in Hawaii and I barely saw her. I suppose it was better for her. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in Hawaii? It’s just a shame that in the process, I ended up losing a strong relationship with my grandmother. I’m relieved to know that she’s still with us, although it would seem that I’m writing an entry as some sort of eulogy. I’m not. I’m just ranting. I guess if anything, this is more of a eulogy for the dead part of me that wasn’t reacting properly over the weekend… or perhaps it is a precursor to how I’ll be devastated when the inevitable finally comes.

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A Few Thoughts Regarding Paris

Rider

So another horrible tragedy happened in Paris over the weekend. I’m sure most of the people on the Internet are already aware of it, so I’m not gonna explain what happened. I was going to write about something else entirely, but let me react to a few things regarding the recent tragic event.

Unfortunately, I think the world is playing exactly to ISIS’ plans. Politicians are now committing to close borders to Syrian refugees, increase surveillance of Muslim communities, and send more forces to the Middle East. What exactly does ISIS want? They can be quite vague with their calls for the downfall of the west, but like all terrorism in the Middle East, I believe all of their actions are fueled by their need for self-preservation, they need to justify their existence. They kill civilians, parts of the Middle East are bombed in retaliation, Muslims in the west are marginalized even further, resentment against western government increases, and ultimately more people join ISIS. The military might of western nations just plays into the victim mentality of the “oppressed” Muslim who finds himself/herself joining groups like ISIS.  These terrorist groups market themselves as revolutionary forces fighting against oppressive regimes, and for the past few years the United States and its allies have acted the part to fit the terrorist narrative.

Already, I believe the reaction to the attacks will fuel more violence. A Syrian passport was found among the carnage and people have used it to claim that the terrorists were gaining entry to the west as refugees. (As of this moment, some news sources believe the passport belongs to one of the victims) Because of this, several countries are rethinking helping refugees. People forget that these refugees are running away from ISIS. Not all of them are terrorists. Not all of them hate the west. Should Canada shut down its borders if one or two immigrants commit crimes in the country? A man was beheaded by a Chinese immigrant in Winnipeg a couple of years ago. The attacker was found to be mentally unstable. But there were no talks regarding mental screening for immigrants or an examination of the Chinese population after the attack. The Chinese community was not indicted for the crime. And yet for the Paris attack and the like, it is par for the course to indict the whole Muslim community. Inflammatory rhetoric does nothing but justify more hatred towards the west and divide people. Right now, the French Interior Minister is already calling for the “dissolution” of some mosques. Now, how is that gonna play in the minds of some Muslims?

Regarding immigration, ISIS doesn’t need to slip in operatives to countries. Even if they do, history shows we’re often looking at the wrong direction anyway. The 9/11 hijackers were mostly from Saudi Arabia. They were not from Iraq or Afghanistan. ISIS does a lot of recruiting online. They are converting people with their “oppressed by western powers” message. If there was to be another attack, it’ll probably be done by people who are already savvy enough to know the ins and outs of a particular country and community. It won’t be a fresh of the boat immigrant who barely knows the language, especially with the amount of focus the Syrian refugees are currently receiving from the press.  ISIS doesn’t want these people leaving Syria. They want them to remain in the country to be under their control. Them leaving and living decent lives in other countries goes against the narrative that ISIS is running a competent government.

Napoleon

A Youtube user, Thunderf00t, mentioned that the recent attack shows the effectiveness of using guns for terrorist attacks versus bombs. It is true, gun massacres tend to produce more casualties than bomb attacks. Guns are relatively easier to acquire and control; and the results are more predictable. Bombs on the other hand are much more complicated, and suicide bombers never get to gauge the amount of damage they cause. It is thus very disheartening that over the weekend, several gun rights proponents are saying that the massacre would’ve been less deadly if there were more people in the vicinity with guns. These people forget that while France doesn’t have as much guns as the United States, it also doesn’t have as much mass shootings. Gun control is actually something that can be done to fight terrorism. Controlling the runaway arms and defense industries is something that could be done to reduce violence. But as far as reactions to terrorism are concerned, this isn’t even in the picture. Guns will continue to be sold and find their way to terrorist hands, be it through sale within western countries or through “aid” the US gives out like free candy.

Knight

This brings me now to a couple of things that bother me to a lesser extent. First is hashtag activism. Now, I think it’s fine to show support to the victims by changing one’s Facebook profile pic to the color of France’s flag, but it doesn’t really put too much skin in the game. It’s very low cost and doesn’t really do much to affect change. Looking at the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, it didn’t really put an end to the atrocities in Nigeria. Boko Haram still exists, abducting and trading young girls. Now, I’m not saying that one should not support France by doing something as low cost as changing one’s Facebook profile pic, but I suspect it is often more about following trends and thus more about the person than it is about the cause.

And speaking of making it about themselves, Bono is a well-meaning idiot. He calls the attack the first direct hit on music. Now, I know what he’s saying. The attack affected freedom and a way of life that celebrates music. But the way he says it makes it seem like the attack was more against him and the music industry (Boohoo, a U2 concert got cancelled!) and less against France and the west in general. He means well, but he’s not doing himself any favor. He still sounds like a narcissist.

I could go on and on about the attacks, but I’m probably not the only person pretending to be an expert in Muslims and geopolitics. I imagine social media is filled with people like me, talking as if they know what’s really going on.  I’m writing my thoughts as an unknown person with very little influence. Unfortunately, there are people out there with far more influence but with incredibly more extreme (and violent) solutions to this growing problem.

I say be kind to your neighbors regardless who they are, and hug your loved ones. Right now, bombs are falling, guns are being readied, and more violence will probably be in the news in the future.

*Unfortunately, most of my work related to France have a militaristic theme.

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Time Traveling Via NPR

paratrooper

I’ve been listening to old ‘This American Life’ episodes. Over the weekend, I listened to ones that were broadcast right after the attack on the World Trade Center. Like a time traveler, it’s interesting to hear what people feel at the time especially their attitudes towards the US heading to war. As expected, I was annoyed at experts at the time, people like Rumsfeld, who are selling the war with a calamitous need for justice and assurance that America is going to battle in most well thought-out manner. He couldn’t have been more wrong about everything. It’s amazing that they still allow him on television as an ‘expert’ on anything these days.

What’s most interesting was episode 196, when the events of September 11 are examined through different perspectives. Much like the movie ‘Rashomon,’ stories change drastically depending on whose eyes you’re experiencing them through. Of course, people in the west were scared. They we scared of this nebulous terrorist threat. As a westerner, this was probably my default point of view. The west needed a target. It needed to get back at someone. Saddam Hussein has always been a “bad guy” through most of the 90s. Perhaps getting him would turn the scales back into a place of normalcy.

But then there’s also the Muslim point of view. In the episode, a Palestinian teenager explains about why the September 11 attacks doesn’t benefit the Muslims, but instead benefits the Jews in Israel since it puts the Americans into conflict in the Middle East, much like Pearl Harbor brought America out of isolationism in WWII. This of course is seen as anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from western point of views, and in my opinion, rightfully so. But to some Muslims, especially Palestinians and with the different biases between western and Muslim media skewering regional opinion, this could very well be a plausible explanation for the attacks. Another Muslim point of view is that of a former soldier from Iraq who had to reluctantly fight for Saddam’s army. Not a rabid supporter of Saddam, the man had to explain to his son why the normally pleasant and well-meaning Americans had to violently terrorize their city. Looking back on this now, if he had stayed in the Iraqi army, this man would’ve been out of job and perhaps forced to join ISIS by now.

Lastly, the show also looked at war from the point of view of some soldiers. Despite best preparations, war is hell, and things could turn bloody in any minute. It is always best to approach war with reasoned reluctance than with the zeal and optimism the world had back in 2003, when we were confident at shocking and awing the enemy into submission.

Episode 200 looked at the radio station set up by the CIA to help overthrow the democratically elected president of Guatemala in 1954, Jacobo Arbenz. It was an interesting examination of the power of radio back in the day and the way propaganda is used both during a conflict and long after, when myths cultivated. What I find most poignant however, is the comment by Prof. Nick Cullather, who says that while the US does have a responsibility to sometimes intervene in foreign countries’ affairs, it is far more difficult to face the magnitude of the task afterwards. It is quite easy to depose a leader compared to the difficulty of finding a suitable replacement. Just look at Guatemala after Arbenz, Syria in 1949, Iran in the 50s, Chile and the junta in the 70s. And now Iraq with the fall of Saddam has the whole Middle East in a quagmire.

Listening to old radio shows and “time travelling” is a nice distraction during my commute. However, I would’ve hoped our leaders had more insight to predict the future. Looking back now, we were all such fools back then. It is amazing that NPR had the courage and prudence to examine issues from different perspectives, especially with the national climate in 2001-2003. Unfortunately, being seen as an organization with liberal biases, I doubt that it or any other organizations like it would have their ideas taken seriously in the mainstream media.

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News Friday

A couple of things about the news:

Why are people surprised at the pope visiting a gay-hating bigot? The Catholic church, as progressive as the current pope has been on income inequality and environmental issues, is still a regressive institution when it comes to gender and women’s rights. The church still doesn’t like the idea of birth control and abortion (great idea for poor, overpopulated countries!). The priesthood is still a men’s club! The order of the world is still God > man > woman > children > animals.

A part of me tends to be nitpicky about the whole thing however. Growing up Catholic, I’m sensitive to the differences between Roman Catholics and Christians. Aside from Christians separating themselves from the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago, why would Kim Davis, a Oneness Pentecostal, be interested in seeing the pope and vice versa? Shouldn’t the two be arguing over the nature of the Holy Trinity and calling the other a heathen?

Also, why Kim Davis? Were the Duck Dynasty guys too busy for the Pope that week? What about the God Hates Fags people? At least I find them more logically consistent than Kim Davis. Like the Catholic church, they stand up against divorce , which really is the bigger threat against traditional marriages.

I can’t stand Obama when it comes to gun control. He rails against lawmakers and the NRA every time there’s a school shooting, speaking as if he has no power to makes changes. He’s the leader of the most powerful country in the planet! He can push his agenda if he wanted to. He certainly did with Obamacare. And he’s certainly trying with the Keystone pipeline. But when it comes to gun violence, police violence, income inequality, immigration, etc. it’s just one flower speech after another. Someone remind him that he’s not Maya Angelou. He’s the president. At least critics like Cornel West are willing to put some skin in the game and get themselves arrested in order to affect some change on important issues.

Why is the UN having talks against cyber violence? And why is cyber violence solely “against women and girls?” I understand things such as revenge porn is mostly aimed against women, but a lot of the vitriol on the Internet is aimed towards everyone. It’s not gender specific. I would even guess there’s more animosity against gays and lesbians on the Internet than there would be against women. In any case, the Internet, due to anonymity, makes it a breeding ground for general negativity. Women claiming that cyber violence does serious harm especially to women is a disservice to the strength of women and downplays the effect of cyber bullying on men.

Also, shouldn’t the UN be focusing more on REAL violence? This seems more like a sham show to support censorship in many countries.

Listening to some sweet Willie Nelson to calm down.

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Why, Richard?

protester

So this 14 year-old kid Ahmed Mohamed goes to school with a clock he made for a science project, shows it to several teachers, some of them say that it “looks cool.” Then one teacher gets nervous, thinks it’s a bomb and calls the cops. The school wasn’t evacuated, the cops say it wasn’t a bomb, and the kid was handcuffed anyway. Now, people are saying that this was a case of Islamophobia. And I would say yes, it seems patently obvious. I don’t think a box with wires sticking out of it in a school is any more menacing than a couple of people brandishing their AR-15s in a Walmart. Both are legal, only the second example is designed to elicit an example. Only the second example involves things that are actually designed to kill people.

And if you compare the incident to how predominantly white gun-carry advocates walk around the country unmolested, there’s a good argument that this is just as much as being a person of color in America as it is about being a Muslim.

I already talked about how Bill Maher sometimes loses me with his Islamophobia. It is one thing to be an atheist, but it is another thing to be an Islamophobe. The hysteria over the brown kid carrying a science project around school showed such an abandon of logic that I was hoping someone as intelligent as Bill Maher would not try to justify. I tend to be sympathetic to atheistic arguments, and I really don’t want to claim that there is religious persecution after many fundamentalist Christians cry wolf about their “suffering,” but when he said that people were reasonable to be suspicious of Ahmed Mohamed, this is exactly the type of light Islamophobia that results in children being handcuffed.

He is not alone in this either. Even Richard Dawkins tweeted that the kid was a fraud. He suggested that the kid passed himself off as an inventor and made a clock that suspiciously looks like a bomb. All of it just to get arrested, create a viral story, and later on get scholarship offers and an invitation to the White House. Bravo, Richard Dawkins. You’ve just become a Twitter nut job (at least in this case). There’s always the possibility that we’ve all been victims of this brilliant kid’s masterful hoax, but Occam’s razor suggests that it’s probably just a kid who made a suspicious-looking clock.

Steven Levitt once wrote about atheist books and the mysterious market for them. Who buys these books? There is a market for holy and religious books, after all, the religious need the books to enlighten themselves more about their faith. And the religious would never buy atheists books. At least, I imagine they won’t. Why would they? But what about atheists? If you truly don’t believe in the existence of God, then why buy a book to affirm your belief? You don’t need reinforcement on a non-belief. As Steven put it:

“So who is making these anti-God books best-sellers? Do the people who despise the notion of God have an insatiable demand for books that remind them of why? Are there that many people out there who haven’t made up their mind on the subject and are open to persuasion?

Let me put the argument another way: I understand why books attacking liberals sell. It is because many conservatives hate liberals. Books attacking conservatives sell for the same reason. But no one writes books saying that bird watching is a waste of time, because people who aren’t bird watchers probably agree, but don’t want to spend $20 in order to read about it. Since very few people (at least in my crowd) actively dislike God, I’m surprised that anti-God books are not received with the same yawn that anti-bird watcher books would be.”

I think Steven kinda brushed on the reason why anti-God books are selling recently. Conservatives hate liberals and would buy books that bash liberals. I’m guessing that some atheists actively hate the religious, or at least see them as intellectually inferior to some extent, and perhaps get some joy out of bashing them. Instead of adopting a liberal attitude about things and truly not caring about religion unless said religion affects them somehow, some atheists get trapped into a sort of game of one-upmanship the same way political parties do. Of course, this is not something truly unique to atheists. The same could be said about some of the religious.

And this is where Bill Maher and Steve Dawkins sometimes sink to. Yes, yes, religion is bullshit. But that’s coming from our “enlightened” bubble. Ethnocentrism is judging others based on their ethnic group, especially in terms of customs, language, and religion. Perhaps people find value in their religion in ways that I do not. Who knows? I’m not about to judge other people as long as it doesn’t affect me. Believe in God or don’t, just don’t make it my business. But when giants of the atheist way of thinking start bashing huge swaths of people, it sours the whole thing for me. It is lazy and misguided. The same way some current feminists are spoiling the movement by being hyper-sensitive, censorship-advocating, misandrists, some atheists are turning into outright bigots.

I’m not saying that the religious are being persecuted. I’m not, especially in terms of Christians in North America. But casual bigotry towards other religions makes cuffing children, not allowing refugees into countries, and outright bombing cities, a tad easier to do.

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That Drawing Sucks

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Everybody dreams. Everybody talks in their sleep now and then.

Little late, but congratulations Alberta! Perhaps there’s hope that Canada would be back to its pre-Harper form. With all the focus on oil and protected areas being opened to exploration, Canada is starting to look more and more like the United States. But out of nowhere, the most right wing and oil-rich province elected NDP to power after decades of voting Progressive Conservative (what a misnomer!).  There’s hope that yes, it’s not too late for Canada.

There’s been a lot of debate regarding drawing the prophet Muhammad and the difference between what Charlie Hebdo does and what Pamela Geller and her group has been doing. This is the difference: Charlie Hebdo is calling out all religions, Pamela Geller and her group is calling out all members of a religion and labelling them as savages. They are asking for moderate members of Islam to denounce the actions of the extremists, and without blinking an eye, calling every member of the religion a savage.  How can you get someone on your side when you spit right in their eye? There is no debating with this kind of rhetoric. They’re just as far gone as the extreme Islamists even though they are absolutely free to espouse any hateful sentiment and that people should not be killed for drawing anything.

What the shooters in Texas did is reprehensible. They might’ve done it over religion, but I believe that with their mental instability, they would’ve murdered for some other causes if the religion wasn’t there.

To call the incident as something uniquely Islam would be extremely dishonest. All religions have their sacred cows. To say that there is something about Islam which drives commands people to kill is not examining other religions or newspapers honestly. This is what makes Bill Maher’s take on the religion a little superficial. At the moment, drawing the Prophet Muhammad is the sacred cow for Islam. I doubt if most members of the faith would be driven to murder, maybe they would be insulted and annoyed, but extreme fundamentalist members of the faith see it as a hot button issue that would drive them to excessive action.  But this is not unique to Islam. Extreme fundamentalist members of the Christian faith see women practicing birth control as a hot button issue that would drive them to excessive action. Moderate members might be offended by gay marriage or contraception/abortion, but extreme members see it as a drive to murder. And if you look at the two sacred cows, one could even argue that a woman practicing birth control is more normal than drawing an ancient prophet.

Take the actions of Pamela Geller and her group. They intentionally goaded mentally unstable extremists by having a drawing contest of the prophet Muhammad. It’s intentionally mocking their sacred cows. And for what? Freedom? Not one person has ever had a birth control contest to goad mentally, unstable Christians simply for freedom. Commentators like to point out the urine-soaked Virgin or what not, and yes, no violence occurred. But there’s violence in other issues. Extreme members of the Christian faith are bothered by what people do out of necessity (birth control) or what people do out of love (gay marriage/adoption). Doctors just simply provide women the help they need, and news actors like Bill O’Reilly send insane followers to ultimately kill people like the late Dr. George Tiller. And then later, Bill O’Reilly rants about the dangers of Islam. It’s not a urine-soaked virgin, it’s doctors helping women.

That’s a mighty fine log you got in your eye there.

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