Tag Archive | rightwing

Why do American right-wingers hate trains?

“Mmmmmmmm... must build more cares. NEED MORE CARS.”

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I was reading a very interesting blog post elseweb (discussing yet another post somewhere else on another topic) where one of the regular commenters asked in response to some off-hand remarks in the other post and related comments, “What is it that American right-wingers have against trains?” And several other people (a few of whom I know aren’t from the U.S.) gave some answers that contain parts of the explanation. I typed a really long comment going into great detail based on debates I’ve been having with fellow Americans (of varying degrees of being more conservative than I) on the topic. I realized a really long comment doesn’t belong in someone else’s blog’s comments when I have my own place to publish it. So I copied the text out and posted a much shorter summary there. Now, with additional editing, it can be a posted here.

As I said, this comes from years of debating issues such as bus service, various ballot measures to build or extend light rail or commuter train service and related policies. It’s also grounded in my own experience growing up in rural and suburban U.S. communities.

For a bit of cultural context: to graduate from high school in this state back in the year I graduated one of the courses you had to complete was a Civics class. And there was an entire chapter in the state-approved textbook my high school was using at the time called “America’s Love Affair with the Automobile.” I very distinctly remember that there was an essay question on one of the tests in which we were to describe the procedure for changing a flat tire.

This knowledge was considered to be of the same level of importance as how to register to vote, read a voter’s pamphlet, and fill out a ballot.

So, to get back to the question about trains…

Cars represent self-determination and self-reliance. They are seen as being more flexible than trains, because they aren’t limited to running on a track. Cars are also perceived as being the responsibility of the individual owning it. You choose how often to buy a new car. You decide what kind of (and how costly a) car you want to own. You pay for your gas and maintenance. And so on.

On the other hand, all types of mass transit are perceived (at least by those of a more conservative bent) as being primarily for the use of people who are too poor to afford a car of their own. Transit is therefore perceived as being paid for primarily through taxes, and specifically the taxes of folks who are not so poor as to need public transit. Add in another myth popular with that crowd—that the vast majority of poor people are only poor because they are lazy, immoral, or both—therefore taxpayer-funded transit being used mostly by people who don’t deserve it.

Whenever I have tried to point out that virtually all roads which cars drive upon in this country are built and maintained entirely by the taxpayer, people are unpersuaded. Because of another myth—this one is believed by people of virtually every political stripe—which is the myth that roads are paid for by taxes on gasoline. Therefore, it is believed (incorrectly) that people who own gas-burning cars are paying for all of the roads all by themselves.

While it is true that most gas taxes are spent on highway projects and the like, what people fail to grasp (or fail to remember once it’s explained to them) is that gas tax revenue is not sufficient to pay for highways, and none of it (at least not in any state where I have lived) is ever used for surface streets within towns and cities. The portion of highway costs that aren’t covered by the gas tax comes from the general tax revenue, of course. And all other road construction, likewise, is paid for by all tax payers, not just the ones buying gasoline.

On the very rare occasion that I have convinced someone in one of these discussions on the latter point, we get to yet another myth that is widely held by conservatives in this country: poor people don’t pay taxes—at all. Again, while if one makes less than a certain amount of money, one does not pay federal income tax, that isn’t by any means the only taxes there are. If you are earning a paycheck so small that there is no federal income tax withheld at all, one still pays social security tax, medicare tax, and state unemployment tax

And that’s still not the entire tax picture. Most states have a sales tax. So everyone who buys things pays those taxes. Most states have property tax, and if you don’t own the property yourself, your landlord is charging you rent to cover those property taxes, it’s just indirect. Depending on the jurisdiction, there are many other taxes that folks who earn too little to owe federal income tax do, indeed, pay.

I’ve skipped over another bit of the issue, though it is implied in one of the earlier points. A lot of right-wingers (because they believe that the only reason one is poor is because one is lazy, immoral, or both) adhere to the firm conviction that any service which makes life less than completely miserable for poor people simply encourages them to continue being poor. Therefore, buses, light rail, commuter trains, and so forth are seen as things that encourage laziness and immorality.

There are a lot more aspects to all these misconceptions. The idea that cars are more flexible than trains overlooks the fact that roads are no easier to move than train tacks. And that most cars aren’t suitable for extended off-road use. Even for those care which are, most car owners would not be happy with what extended off-road use does to their paint job. And since 80% of the population lives in cities, the only way 80% can get more flexible than existing roads is to drive through other people’s yards. Not a good kind of flexibility!

The above misunderstanding about gas taxes also contributes to why so many right-wingers sneer at electric cars and hybrids, for another instance.

And so on.

But, really, most of it comes down to that dogma I talked about near the beginning: cars represent self-determination and self-reliance, while mass transit (especially trains) are perceived as a tax-payer giveaway to people too poor (read lazy/immoral) to afford a car.

And thats why right-wingers in America hate trains.

Weekend Update 4/4/2020: Lying liars, flip flopping, and one funny suggestion

Once again it’s time for some news that either came in too late for this week’s Friday Five, or is a new development in a story I’ve commented upon previously, or otherwise didn’t quite make the cut before. As you can tell form the title of the post, I’m going to be talking about a lot of bad people here. If you would like a laugh, instead, scroll down to the bottom and click on the video. And learn something while you’re at it!

First up, you remember that there are a few Senators and Congresspeople who made suspiciously timed decision to sell of stock after getting classified intelligence briefings on the coronavirus threat? There is a bit more news on that front: U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s most recent financial disclosures show that millions of dollars in stocks were sold on her behalf at the same time Congress was dealing with the impact of the coronavirus. She continues to insist that these transactions were carried out by her financial advisor without any discussion with her, but the more news comes out the less credible that seems. She and her husband (who happens to the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange) didn’t just happen to sell off stocks in industries sure to take a big hit when the pandemic hit U.S. shores, but they also coincidentally bought up a lot of stock in companies that manufacture medical face masks and the like.

Right, coincidence!

Even though we now know that she had been briefed on the grim statistics of how quickly the disease would spread, how many millions would eventually get sick, and how high the death toll could go, she was making public statements to constiuents and donors that there was nothing to worry about.

Even Fox News’ most notorious liar isn’t buying it: Tucker Carlson: Sen. Kelly Loeffler Should Resign if She Knew About Stock Trades.

Resignation is the minimum that should happen.

Moving on…

Critics Pile On After Kushner’s Virus Response Lies, Federal Website Edited To Make Him Appear Truthful. Kushner claimed that the federal stockpile of medical ventilators was never intended for the states, but rather, “they belong to us.” Just who does he thing us is?

The Strategic National Stockpile of critical medical equipment was created by an Act of Congress in 1998. And the act specifies that the purpose is to make sure those critical medical supplies are ready to be deployed to any state or territory where a critical public health crisis arises.

“Gangsters don't hire family members because they're qualified. Gangsters hire family members because they're less likely to talk to the FBI.”

“Gangsters don’t hire family members because they’re qualified. Gangsters hire family members because they’re less likely to talk to the FBI.” (Click to embiggen)

I know he’s an idiot. No, seriously. He’s what certain types of really stupid people think is a smart person. Which means he’s good at lying on his feet and using words that sound like he knows what he’s talking about. But he’s an idiot and a con artist, who couldn’t pass a basic security check and is in office (in violation of The Federal Anti-Nepotism Statute) because Trump wants him there. His motives are not public service, his motives are always his own personal gain, and the personal gain of his patrons. And ordering someone to change the government website that describes the reserve doesn’t change the law.

Remember, Kushner is the idiot who did this: Inside Jared Kushner’s coronavirus research: A wide net on a giant Facebook group. That’s right, he had access to all the experts at the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and so forth, but what did Jared do? He called his brother’s father-in-law who happens to be a doctor.

The stupid, it burns!

Moving on!

Texas Christian radio host ‘Doc’ Gallagher gets 25 years for bilking Christian investors out of millions. Not only isn’t he a registered investment advisor (for which he was fined previously for falsely claiming), he’s not an ordained minister, so I the headline can’t call him a scamvangelist (even though that’s what he is). I’ll just quote this:

“He took advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. He targeted elderly investors and individuals attracted to his Christian ideals and then stole from them.”
—lead prosecutor Alexis Goldate

Yeah, great Christian values, there.

Okay, enough about bad people. Here is a helpful video for those who need a face mask for their next excursion. I hope it at least makes you chuckle:

Tuesday Tidbits: No joke, some people don’t understand…

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Some of these links almost ended up in a Weekend Update post, but I wound up going with some more upbeat news, instead. Let’s look at some news that broke after last week’s Friday Five that ought to be covered now rather than wait for Friday.

So, first, up, a drunk Fox news host!

Saturday night Judge Pirro’s show started a bit later than usual supposedly because of technical difficulties. Once things got going, well… Was a Disheveled Judge Jeanine Pirro Tipsy After Fox News Show Delayed for ‘Technical Difficulties’?. I’ve watched the video. Slurred speech, incoherence, at least one point you could see her putting the glass down… she was frikkin’ hammered.

Of course, she can’t admit the obvious that every single person watching saw, instead she screamed “haters!” on twitter all day Sunday: Jeanine Pirro responds to critics of appearance on Fox News show – Pro-Trump anchor appeared late and apparently disheveled on Saturday night, leading to social media speculation. I get it, she was broadcasting from home, had to do her own hair and make-up and didn’t have a teleprompter. But why does that cause her speech to be slurred, and his facial expression to have that classic drunk-off-her-ass look?

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Meanwhile, let’s check in on the super hypocritical evangelical most famous for strange relationships with pool boys.

What’s he been up to lately? ‘He’s Going to Do Whatever He Wants’ – Jerry Falwell Jr.’s decision to reopen Liberty University’s campus amid the coronavirus pandemic has sparked anger and confusion—even among those usually sympathetic to him. That’s right, while other universities have switched to online classes and urged students to practice social distancing, Jerry insisted that students come back to campus! Don’t worry about the virus, he said! I’ve talked to several health experts and local government officials, and they are thanking me for insisting that all of you have to come back or forfeit tuition and room and board fees!

Except all of those experts and officials tell a very different story: Jerry Falwell, Jr. Lied About Who Supported His Decision to Re-open Liberty U.

Why is he doing this? You may remember in previous coverage of the pool boy scandals, that there is a lot of evidence Falwell, his wife, and kids have been using University resources to finance not just his lavish lifestyle but also a lot of questionable real estate deals. So, of course: Liberty University is resisting pressure from students to refund room and board costs during the coronavirus crisis.

All of which leads to the inevitable: Multiple Students Are Sick At Reopened Liberty Campus.

And never forget that Falwell Junior has never been a paragon of virtue:

Let’s move on…

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The conspiracy-spouting scam artist

So what about the man who makes money spouting off conspiracy theories, including claiming that children killed in school mass shootings never existed, and how his “vitamin supplements” can cure literally anything: Google Store Finally Bans Infowars App Over Virus Lies – Apple kicked Alex Jones out of the App Store in 2018. The Google Play Store has finally followed suit.

The two uses of the word finally are definitely called for. But there’s more…

(Click to embiggen)

So there is a temporary hospital being built in Central Park in New York City. Sounds like a much needed facility, right? Well, there is one very big problem: Group Behind Central Park Coronavirus Tent Hospital Demands That Volunteers Support Anti-Gay Agenda. It’s Franklin Graham and the associated ministries behind this. And it is a very old trick of the bigots: pretend to do a charitable thing, but contrary to the teachings of the Jesus they claim to follow, they want to put conditions on the charity.

The entire point is to rub the message in the face of every faggot: “we hate you, you’re going to hell, and we think you deserve to die.” The only reason to add this kind of thing to the volunteer application is to get applauded for what they’re doing while most of the people doing the applauding don’t even look at the statement. It’s a chance to make clear they have the power to do this, the privilege to help those they deem worthy while spitting in the faces of their favorite enemies.


That’s enough news about deplorable people. Let’s close out with some sobering facts to remind us why we should be taking this pandemic seriously.

Oregon’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” campaign:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Weekend Update 03/07/2020: Men with more money, hate, and self-loathing than sense

It is time once again for another of my Saturday posts where I talk about news stories that either broke after I finished this week’s Friday Five, or a story having been linked and/or commented upon in any of my previous posts has had new developments. Let’s go!

So, yesterday I included a link to a story where a guy who is frequently on CNBC as a financial expert said that it would be better for the economy if everyone just got sick the people who are going to die from COVID-19 just did so and got it over with so the rest of the world could get on with business. He didn’t literally quote the line from A Christmas Carol where Scrooge tells the two well-meaning gentleman taking donations for the poor that people who would rather die than go into the debtor’s prison that, if they would rather die, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population,” but he came close. Well, since then he has tried to backpedal a bit: Rick Santelli Sorry He Said You Should Get Sick And Die, For The Economy. Of course, since this is hardly the first time he has said that we shouldn’t care about people who have had bad things happen to them, I rather doubt his sincerity.

Let’s move on.

Earlier in the week I logged into the blog to work on a post, and I saw that my clicks were way, way up. So I looked at the list, and two old blog posts about disgraced former Congressman Aaron Schock (and self-loathing closet case) were getting a whole lot of hits. I had already seen the news stories where he finally came out of the closet (again, I’ll get into that), so I shouldn’t have been surprised—yet I was. Anyway, because one particular old Weekend Update post on the subject always gets lots of hits whenever Schock is in the news, I have taken to adding updates to the bottom of said post rather than keep making new posts just for him. I did so again. I’m gonna just quote it here for starts:

Update 7: Now, here it is March 2020, and Schock has decided to really come out. He means it, this time, because there is a really long post about it on his Instagram. As Joe Jervis notes on Joe.My.God: “The post goes on for several self-pitying pages.” He still doesn’t apologize for all his anti-gay votes and campaigning. The closest he comes is saying if he were in Congress today he would vote differently on LGBT issues. But he also reaffirms several times that he still supports the rest of the Republican agenda. In the self-pitying parts he blames his anti-gay votes on feeling the need to fit in with his Republican colleagues, which I’m going to give myself a silver star for, as I have predicted on this blog that Schock would eventually come out and blame the pressures of being closeted for all his hateful speeches and votes.

Since making that update, I keep seeing news outlets carrying the story of Schock coming out, and a lot of them are reporting it as if it’s just a sort-of-famous person coming out and isn’t he brave? Except, of course, he isn’t.

Those self-pitying pages of his really long Instagram post are filled with, “woe is me, my bigoted parents/friends/former colleagues have all rejected me” since he was caught on camera making out and groping guys in public, and his really bad attempt at coming out last August by actually asking a couple of other gay republicans to pretend to leak some of his pictures and conversations trying to hookup with men for sex online (and then renouncing it).

Millions of queer people have been rejected by family members. Some of us even had close family members threaten to beat us or worse (even if we came out after moving out on our own and becoming productive members of society). But most of us didn’t run for political office on extremely anti-gay platforms, vote against LGBT rights, give hateful speeches in Congress and on the campaign trail calling for rollback of what rights we had clawed out in some jurisdictions at the time. And most of us weren’t so comfortably well off that we could afford more than one multi-million dollar homes. I’m sure he’s not quite as wealthy as he used to be, but he has the funds to go to across the continent to attend the music festival where he was groping those guys, and later to Mexico where he was videoed putting money into the g-string of a male stripper. So I’m having trouble feeling sorry for him right now.

During each of the six years he was in Congress (from 2009-2015), several hundred kids were bullied because people suspected they were queer to the point that they committed suicide. Even more kids each of those years were thrown out on the streets by religious parents. Speeches Schock made in those years and votes he took contributed to the hostile homophobic environment that causes that bullying and rejection. So he has to do some atonement before he’s entitled to any sympathy.

I’ll let someone else say it: A Message to Former Congressman Aaron Schock — Welcome, I guess?

I will admit, at first I wanted to rant, “Girl, bye. Take your Republican, anti-LGBTQ ass outta here and go rub suntan oil on some WeHo dummy who doesn’t know he’s sleeping with the enemy.” But I thought better of that. I thought, “No, I should take the high road. What Aaron needs is help, because attractive, rich, gay, white celebrities never get help.”’

…So Aaron, I want to help you. I want to offer you the help you don’t deserve and that you never gave anyone else you oppressed. Privilege, right? It’s great.

It’s funny, and he has some good suggestions.

And now, for a different kind of self-loathing gay man: Ex-Judge Guilty Of Buying AR-15 For Nazi Boyfriend. I tried to follow the link that is inside that story to read the longer piece at the Pittsburgh Gazette, but the website asked me to whitelist the site to proceed. So I did, and in order to whitelist you have to then refresh and guess what, they then tell me that I have exceeded my free stories for the month. That is a really badly programmed paywall. Anyway, to avoid a paywall you can get some more details here: Retired Judge Admits To Buying AR-15 For Felon With Nazi Obsession.

It’s not crazy enough that a retired federal judge, of all people, illegally bought at least one semiautomatic rifle for the convicted felon who also happens to be a neo-Nazi. It’s that the judge, who is a man, and the neo-Nazi, who is also a man, are in a romantic relationship. Why do so many self-loathing gay white guys embrace Hitler? The original Nazis hated the gays (please go google “night of long knives” and “history of the pink triangle” if you’re not familiar). And neo-Nazis hate the gays, too. WTF?

The feds found a rather large cache of weapons, ammunition, and Nazi memorabilia. Some people just have way more money than sense, I guess.

Anyway, I wanna close this by quoting a hilarious tweet from more more than a year ago which explains why the image I linked above recommends composting rather than eating the rich. Take it away @Foone:

friendly reminder since this is going around again: DO NOT EAT THE RICH!
it’s called bio-magnification, people! the rich are at the top of the food chain, so they accumulate toxins from their food at a greatly increased rate.
Instead, /compost/ the rich.

Weekend Update 02/22/2020: Scout’s honor and the price of abuse

It’s time for another post about news which either didn’t make it into this week’s Friday Five, or is an update to a story included in a previous Friday Five or Weekend Update, or is otherwise related to some stories I’ve commented upon previously.

You may have heard that the Boy Scouts have filed for bankruptcy. Depending on where you heard it, you might believe that this is related to plummeting membership since the organization changed its code so that kids won’t be kicked out just for admitting they are gay (in a half measure policy the automatically kicks them out as soon as they turn 18, and makes it very easy to get them excluded for quite flimsy reasons). Because the rightwing anti-gay organizations are all screaming that that is what happened.

That is absolutely not what’s going on.

Scouting membership has not dropped since the rule went into effect in 2014. Both the national organization and local chapters are doing well financially.

The problem is that more than 2700 former scouts have come forward about being sexually abused by scoutmasters for many decades—long, long before anyone was contemplating letting openly gay kids into the organization. Sexual abuse lawsuits against other large organizations who failed to protect kids from sexual predators (such as USA Gymnastics) have resulted in large settlements. The national scouts claim they are filing for bankruptcy in order to set up a victim’s compensation fund and protect the assets of local chapters.

There are a few problems with that: For sexual assault victims and local councils, Boy Scouts’ bankrunptcy poses tough questions – On Wednesday, rival lawyers for Boy Scouts of America and 2,700 alleged victims met in federal court in Delaware. One being that when these kinds of cases get settled in bankruptcy court, victims wind up getting far less money, and the organization can continue to function as before. Whereas the goal of the original lawsuits are to get money to help cover the therapy and related costs the victims have already paid, but also to force the organization to learn from its mistakes.

On the other hand, the news of the bankruptcy bid has prompted more victims to come forward: Boy Scouts bankruptcy bid prompts other sex abuse victims to step forward – One Louisiana man, who kept his abuse ordeal secret for 60 years, reached out to a lawyer Tuesday to tell his story.

As a former scout myself I have a some sympathy for letting the local chapters continue to function. There are a lot of kids in these troops who have a lot to gain from its continued existence. But, as a former scout, I also remember that the Scout Law includes the lines: “Try to help others be happy” and “Do what you think is right despite what others might be doing or saying.”

They now know that thousands of people that were in their care are miserable and traumatized by things that happened to them within their organization. Their lawyers are saying to take this legal tactic that limits the consequences they will face for misdeeds. Other organizations have used the bankruptcy courts in the same way. How can someone who has taken the Scout Oath and studied the Scout Law possibly believe that dodging some of the cost this way is the right thing to do? Is a way to help others be happy?

And I’m hardly the only person asking this question: Did the Boy Scouts violate their own honor code by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy?

The problem is bigger than the Boy Scouts of America. Large institutions, particularly hierarchical organizations tied to the notion of patriarchy, enable abuse. Other parts of the Scout Law urge scouts to obey the rules of their troop, to respect and obey leaders, and to put the needs of others ahead of their own. Those principles can easily be used by manipulative abusers to convince victims that it would be wrong to come forward. If you’re not the victim, your instinct it to protect the organization when you hear any rumors or allegations. If you know and respect the person accused, you’re much more likely to disbelieve the accuser.

And so on.

Religious institutions also attract certain types of people that become abusers. Let’s not forget that the Boy Scouts are a religious organization, the Scout Oath begins, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law…” One of the reasons that there are so many closeted gay priests and pastors in the most anti-gay churches is that when those priests and pastors were young men struggling with their sexual orientation, they saw doing god’s work as a way to make a bargain: I’ll become a priest, lord, so you can take these feelings away. Similarly, if someone is sexually obsessed with children. Same bargain: I’ll dedicate my life to god, surely he will make these feelings go away?

There is a lot of tragedy in every corner of these messed up situations. But I think it’s most important to focus on the children and young people who were victims of the abusers. The assets of the organization, and the future financial well-being of the organization, should not take a priority.

And to those wingnuts who are trying to make this bankruptcy story somehow the fault of people advocating for the rights of gay kids, how about an organization that is still just as anti-gay as the wingnuts? Harrisburg (PA) Catholic Diocese Declares Bankruptcy After Sex Abuse Lawsuits – In 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report detailing the abuses that took place in six of the state’s eight dioceses. They published 884 pages of damning information that implicated hundreds of priests.

Exactly.

Confessions of a former self-loathing closet case

“Homophobia Kills. Homophobia can lead to a slow and painful death. Homophobia seriously harms people around you. Homophobia in the familiy can lead to teen suicides.”

Quit being a homophobe (click to embiggen)

There are people who firmly believe that because of the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” that the only aspects of homophobia that cause harm are actual physical assaults, targeted arson, and the like—and that any of us who push back on anything less than a physical attack are overreacting. Not just overreacting, they say that us calling out the homophobes is worse than the original homophobia. And that’s just bull. Pointing out that a person is acting or saying bigoted things is not worse or somehow less civil than the original bigoted actions, comments, or policies. Facing blowback for things you do and say, especially in the public square, does not make you a victim. And while it is possible for a reaction to be disproportionate, there isn’t a simple, objective way to measure that disproportionality. But what I can say with certainty is, if you’re one of those people who have ever used that “sticks and stones” philosophy to excuse someone being a bigot, you have no right to criticize any words that are sent back to the bigot as being out of line.

All of this is true even if the bigot in question happens to also be a member of the community the bigot is expressing bigotry toward.

I’ve started a blog post with this title several times over the last two years, and then trashed most of it—usually extracting a small part out to use as the basis of a slightly less provocative blog post. A pair of news stories crossed my stream within the last week that got me thinking about this again, and once again I pulled this out of the drafts and tried to start writing it. I am not going to link to the news stories in question for reasons I hope become clear. The reason I have toned down previous blog posts on this topic can be summed up by something I saw this morning on twitter from Alexandra Erin, a writer and satirist I follow, in reference to a completely unrelated topic: “…when you put something out in the world, you are responsible for how it lands.”

Erin is talking about satire and how easily it can be misunderstood, but the principle applies to all writing. It doesn’t matter whether I intend something to hurt someone else, if it hurts them, it is still my fault. That doesn’t mean the intention doesn’t matter, it means that intentions don’t negate the fallout. Here’s a simple example (which I think I first read in a blog post on tumblr, but I don’t remember for certain): say you’re an adult tasked with watching some small children playing on a playground. One kid, in their excitement, inadvertently bumps into another kid, who falls off the jungle gym and skins their knee. Do you run up to the crying kid with the skinned knee and lecture them that they shouldn’t cry because the other kid didn’t mean it? No. You clean up and bandage the skinned knee, you comfort the hurt child, you caution the other kid to be more mindful of what they’re doing, and you have them apologize for their carelessness.

I’ve written more than once about self-hating closet cases who cause harm to our community and whether they deserve our sympathy. The whole reason they are self-hating is because of the homophobia they faced growing up. Our society is steeped in toxic notions about what is and isn’t acceptable for one to be interested in depending on one’s gender. And also steeped in just as toxic notions about mannerisms—including how one talks and walks—that are acceptable depending on your gender. Not all queer people are obviously gender non-conforming (and not all gender non-conforming people are gay), but gender non-conforming kids are bullied and harassed. Even the gender conforming queer kids are hurt by that, because they know that if anyone finds out about their same-sex crushes or whatever, that they will be subjected to the same kind of hatred from some classmates, some teachers, and some family members.

We are taught from a very early age to loath ourselves and to expect loathing from others. For many of us, the need to deflect at least some of that loathing causes us to denounce and participate in the shunning and bullying of others. Because if we denounce the faggots loudly, no one could possibly believe we’re queer ourselves, right?

Which means that I feel a lot of guilt for some of the things I said and positions I endorsed in my early teens.

So yes, I feel a lot of sympathy for kids who are living in terror inside those closets. The sympathy starts to go away when those kids grow up, are exposed to examples of how life can be better out of the closet, but they continue to attack other queer people even while cowering inside their own closet. There is a bit of pity, sometimes, but the longer they are exposed to better information (sexual orientation isn’t a choice, all those stories about health issues for queers are myths, queer people can live healthy and happy and long lives, et cetera), they less they deserve our consideration.

And that doesn’t change if they happen to come out of the closet but still insist on vilifying and otherwise attacking their fellow queers. A young man who comes out of the closet but lends his voice and face to campaigns to deny civil rights to his fellow queers—who goes on national news shows and records political ads saying, “I’m a gay man, and I agree with these people that think gay people don’t deserve equal rights” isn’t simply expressing an opinion. He is contributing to the hostile environment that sometimes literally kills other queer people.

Because we’ve long had proof—from medical studies first conducted by a Republican administration—that contrary to that sticks-and-stones saying, words do hurt. All that anti-gay rhetoric leads to the death of hundreds of queer and gender non-conforming kids every year, among other very real harms.

So-called homocons who assist anti-gay organizations in oppressing other queer people should not be surprised when they face blowback. Queers and allies standing up for themselves in the face of that oppression are not bullying. It isn’t a both sides thing, it’s self-defense. Particularly in a case where, say, the adult homocon who has already appeared on TV more than once to denounce gay rights campaigns, then leads a bunch of haters in a loud protest angrily chanting anti-gay slogans at a children’s event. That isn’t a “morally ambiguous transgression” it’s despicable—plain and simple. Especially when you go on TV again to defend your actions.

When other people call out the bigotry, that’s not mob violence, that’s consequences. Maybe you should have thought about that before agreeing to go on TV. Again.

Yes, when we say things we are responsible for how they land, regardless of our intentions. But that’s a two-way street. And when a self-loathing queer who assists bigots has been given a number of chances over a few years to reconsider his hateful words and deeds, there comes a point when there is no one to blame for any of the consequences except himself.

Weekend Update 1/11/2020: Bitter lies, obscured truths, and the failure of “fairness”

“Firing a $70,000 missile from a $28,000,000 drone flying at a cost of $3,624 per hour to kill people in the Middle East living on less than $1 per day.”  “We live in a country where if you want to bomb somebody, there's remarkably little discussion about how much it might cost. But then you have a discussion abut whether or not we can assisst people who are suffering, and suddenly we become very cost-conscious.” —Prof. Andrew Bacevich

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“Firing a $70,000 missile from a $28,000,000 drone flying at a cost of $3,624 per hour to kill people in the Middle East living on less than $1 per day.”

“We live in a country where if you want to bomb somebody, there’s remarkably little discussion about how much it might cost. But then you have a discussion abut whether or not we can assisst people who are suffering, and suddenly we become very cost-conscious.” —Prof. Andrew Bacevich

Time for another of my Saturday posts where I talk about stories that either broke after I finished this week’s Friday Five or have had new information come forward after being linked and/or commented on in any of my previous posts. Let’s go!

We’ve reached a new high in journalists bending over backwards not to report that water is wet: Amash accuses Trump of selling military support to Saudi Arabia. The problem with this headline is that word accuses, because inside the story, Trump himself is quoted as saying in an interview on Fox. “We have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia. I said, listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us. They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.” So no one needs to accuse the alleged president of selling troops, the guy is bragging about it!

Warren: Reasonable to Ask if Trump’s Iran Strike Is a Distraction From Impeachment. Reasonable is an understatement, especially when we learn that TRUMP ARGUED SOLEIMANI STRIKE WOULD BE POPULAR POLITICALLY, SAID IRAN WOULDN’T ‘DO ANYTHING TOO STUPID’.

Is there anyone on the planet less qualified to speculate about other people doing stupid things? This is the guy who, when warned not to look directly at a solar eclipse because it could burn the retinas in his eyes, went out of the balcony of the White House with a zillion cameras and reporters watching, and turned his head up to look directly at the eclipse! This is the man that we have seen doesn’t know how to fold up an umbrella! This is the man who went on a rambling rant proving that he doesn’t know how basic plumbing works, when discussing a drought. We can keep going… but there are other things to report.

Picture of a homeless man sleeping on a park bench, using newspapers for blankets. Headlines about soaring corporate profits and a surging stock market are visible. “We need to stop measuing 'the economy' by how well rich people are doing.”

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Here’s why the stock market is surging to records after an Iranian missile strike threatened to erupt into war. Yes, the Dow is surging to record highs… and I’m trying not to be superstitious here, but we’re entering the 2020s, right? And during the 1920s the stock market just surged and surged and surged and anyone who could afford to invest seemed to be making a killing and everything looked wonderful (at least if you believe the popular media at the time), until the market literally crashed and then we had the Great Depression.

And things aren’t looking good for much of the workforce as it is now: Low unemployment isn’t worth much if the jobs barely pay. “In a recent analysis, we found that 53 million workers ages 18 to 64—or 44% of all workers—earn barely enough to live on.” The New York Times: After a Decade of Hiring, Plenty of Jobs but Raises Are Tiny. Again, I realize that most of you don’t need me or these stories to tell you that wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living. I think it’s useful, though, to have these facts to share when necessary.

“I'm sick of seeing 'are [we] ready for a woman president.' I'm sick of seeing 'are we ready for a gay president.' Don't remember being asked if we were ready for an incompetent, racist, homophobic, traitorous, cheating bastard, reality TV president, yet one is currently in the [White House].”

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Many Iowa Democrats are paralyzed by fear of choosing the wrong candidate to take on Trump. On any day I could find dozens of headlines talking about which Democratic candidate is in the lead in the early state polling or the national polls, and everyone of them included comments about how whoever has the lead is going to face trouble with this or that constituency. And I’m frankly more than a little tired of them.

In part because they’re stuck in the same kind of horse race mentality that threw the election to the guy who lost the popular vote by a couple of million last time. Somehow we have got to get the not-Fox press to stop falling into the trap of essentially shilling for the Republicans and White Nationalists under the guise of applying one standard of coverage to the Democrats, and frankly ignoring the problems of Trump and his ilk.

But we have one more topic to cover before I draw a conclusion:

“I believe Donald J. Trump was sent by god.” “Why? Did you run out of locusts?”

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Some quickies to establish the Plague of Destruction:

Gay Trump supporter trying to gaslight the LGBTQ community into supporting our own destruction.

Conspiracy Theorist: If Trump Isn’t Re-elected, Christians Will Go To Jail.

This Brilliant New Ad Highlights the Hypocrisy of Trump-Loving Evangelicals.

The Trump economy is hurting most Americans.

I’ve already spent so many pixels lamenting that fact that the people who most fervently defend Trump are the ones who are either getting most hurt by his policies, or are failing to recognize the hypocrisy inherent in that support. He’s the most anti-Christian president ever. He lies. He cheats. He steals. For his entire career! He has actually gotten out of one lawsuit from investors that he bilked out of tens of millions of dollars by arguing that they were are fault for not researching him enough to realize that he is a fraud. I’m not making that up!

And news outlets trot out those very people, sometimes literally the same dozen white trump-voting angry white people who claim to be “independent voters” and get them to parrot trump’s talking points even when they contradict the truth those people are living in.

We’re stuck in this asymmetrical situation where one side does outrageous criminal or immoral or unethical things—blatantly and sometimes bragging about it—and it is only the other side that is admonished for not being civil, for not being fair, for not compromising. And it is literally killing us! We have come to expect this from Fox News and Breitbart—they have made their pro-White Nationalist, pro-Dominionist, pro-Wealth agenda clear. It’s the remaining news outlets who think they are being fair who keep giving in to all these false equivalences in the interest of fairness.

  • You don’t need to quote formerly Republican Amash as say he accused Trump of selling the troops: come out and say in the headline that Trump admitted he did (or even better, that he bragged about it).
  • You don’t need to quote billionaires and their lapdogs when they spout lies about how the economy works: come out and say that the ultra-rich are hoarding wealth and wrecking the economy; report about the fact that the only thing that creates jobs is when ordinary people have enough money to spend on things other than minimal basic survival.
  • You don’t need to try to claim that minor quibbles on one side of the political spectrum are the equivalent of the racist, homophobic, genocidal and corrupt policies of the other side: come out and say that the Republicans promote the exploitation and even death of middle-to-low-income people in order to move more wealth to their billionaire buddies.
  • You don’t need to repeat Trump’s side’s blatant lies as if they are just one side of an opinion, while calling basic fact-checking an accusation: come out and say that Trump’s policies are hurting workers, killing people by taking away their health care, killing children by locking them up in cages, taking rights away from many Americans.

Start reporting the truth. Truth isn’t a bitter drink, it is a delicious tea!

When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly face…

Some years ago I found myself in a weird conversation, trying to explain what it was about a certain kind of holiday movie that my Mom loves—she records dozens of them off of certain cable channels and likes to re-watch them. They make my skin crawl, and when I was trying to explain why, the friend kept pointing to a lot of Christmas movies I love that, to them, induced the same sort of eye-rolling they experienced when I described the ones I don’t like.

There were a couple of reasons for the communication mismatch, but I’ve since realized that the biggest one was that I hadn’t correctly identified what was fundamentally common to all these movies that bugged me: most of them are built around some variation of the premise that the only place where people who truly love and understand you is the community in which you grew up.

And for a whole lot of us—especially queer people—that is the absolute opposite of truth.

The real truth is that, here in the big city far away from any of the small towns I grew up in, I am far less likely to have a stranger react with obvious disgust if I introduce my husband as my husband—let alone have them immediately correct me that Michael is my friend. But that’s the reaction I often get not from strangers, but from people who claim to be friends back home.

So, I want to be clear: I have a lot of fond memories of my childhood. There are many people I knew back that that I genuinely loved and admired at the time, and many for which I still feel fondness. But for too many of them it is at best a bittersweet fondness. Because when a person who formed a big part of my life refuses to accept that the person I love and have committed my life to is my spouse—when they claim to still love me yett disapprove of the person I love (not because of who he is, but because of his gender), when they vote for politicians who want to take away what legal rights I have, when they openly talk about how legalizing my relationship is going to result in hellfire raining down on the land—it’s more than a little difficult to believe in their love.

I love my mother. I love my sister. I love my aunts and many other relatives. But I also know that to varying degrees they don’t support my right to live my life openly as a queer person. When I visit the small town where many of them live—the place where I graduated from high school and attended the first part of college—I feel on edge and defensive. And it’s not me being paranoid. From the anti-gay bumperstickers to the casual political comments, it is very clear that some of them only tolerate my presence so long as they don’t realize what I am.

For many of us, our families of origin remain what we might generously call a demilitarized zone—a place where a kind of cease-fire is enforced, though a cold war continues, and unmarked minefields abound.

So that’s why certain holiday movies and songs don’t quite resonate with me the way they do to some. The towns where I grew up aren’t where I’m most likely to find the sunshine of a friendly face. Our blood relatives are not where the light of unconditional love gleams.

So for many of us, the home sweet home is the place we went to when we escaped those communities. The people with whom we are happy in a million ways are the friends and found family we have assembled since growing up and leaving behind the narrow-minded denizens of our communities of origin.

I can get as sentimental and schmaltzy as can be about the family I have found and built since learning to be my true self and live openly. And that might induce eye-rolling for some, but it is not, by any means, something that makes one’s skin crawl.

Let’s think about what we’re putting on the holiday menu, metaphorical or otherwise

For several years while blogging on LiveJournal I would post a survey asking about food people were making for Thanksgiving dinner. Half the fun in these polls were the conversations that would happen in the comments about the differences in what we thought of as traditional holiday foods. The first few Thanksgivings after this became my primary blog I constructed similar polls… but no one responded (there were occasionally be a couple of comments, but not many votes). So it hasn’t seemed worth it to construct a poll here.

I do think talking about the foods we loved as kids can be a great way to share memories and get to know each other better. But sometimes I have to remember that not everyone has great memories of holidays spent with family. And even some of us who do cherish a lot of those memories have a lot of bad memories associated with the holidays.

Because my dad insisted that, if at all possible, we spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with his parents, that meant that for most of the Thanksgivings and Christmases I experienced before the age of 15 he was on his best behavior. It was like being in a magical zone where bad things couldn’t happen to you. He would transform into the Good Son™ his mother expected, and therefore none of us got slapped, beaten, or yelled at. On the other hand, my paternal grandmother was a different sort of abuser, tending toward emotional manipulation and gaslighting. So it wasn’t that the holidays were perfect.

And then, when one is queer and closetted, whether family members are abusive or not, the holidays are an opportunity to be reminded that one is different. I preferred to hang out in the kitchen and help with the cooking, for instance—but if certain extended family members were there I would be scolded for not playing with my male cousins or at least hanging out with the adult men watching football. One particular a-hole uncle loved pointing out every one of my behaviors that he saw as being a sissy, for instance.

And then there are the questions about whether I had a girlfriend. Which got worse once puberty hit. Because no matter what your answer was, there were always those self-assured declarations, “Just you wait! When you meet the right girl…” and so forth.

And then there were the political conversations. In a sense, I’m sort of thankful that gay rights didn’t start being in the news with any regularity until my twenties.

What got me thinking about all of this was this amazingly horrible story: Junior’s Contest: Ruin Thanksgiving To Own The Libs. That’s right, Donald Trump, Jr, is daring his followers to intentionally goad your liberal relatives into having an argument. And of course all the trump voters are sharing it as if this is a great new idea.

I have a few responses to this:

First, once again we must thank the Republicans for demonstrating that they firmly belief hatred is a family value. While arguing at the holidays is a tradition in lots of families, it isn’t a good tradition. Taking delight in ruining to day of someone you claim to love? On a holiday that Republicans insist is a religious holiday, to boot. Way to show how will you understand the teachings of Jesus, guys.

Second, conservative relatives, in both my experience and according to a few studies on the matter, have never been shy about spouting off their controversial/racist/homophobic beliefs especially at holiday dinners. They don’t need any encouragement in that matter.

Third, those of us on the progressive end of the spectrum already have a lot of practice at biting our tongues and avoiding arguments at the holidays. See my second point. Now, it has been argued that disasters like the election of Trump might have been avoided if more of us had confronted our racist relatives more often at previous holidays, but I have my serious doubts in this reasoning. At least in my personal experience, arguing at family gatherings has never changed anyone’s mind. It was the one-on-one conversations outside the group situation that has been more successful.

Fourth, the libs in most families are far more likely to bite our tongues and roll our eyes with stuff we disagree with come up. The meltdowns are almost always from the racist uncle going off on an angry rant because of some fairly innocuous thing someone says.

It’s true that the last few years I’ve just been avoiding the awkward/angry conversations by simply not spending time with the trump-voting relatives at Thanksgiving, and limiting my Christmas visit to a day before the actual holiday. There is something about the gathering together that seems to bring out both the dysfunctional behavior and the need to assert their xenophobic-dominionist-racist-homophobic opinions. It took 23 years after I came out of the closet for some of the family members to stop saying some of those homophobic things to my face. Once again this year I don’t get to eat Mom’s Mistake Salad for Thanksgiving, but my husband and I are doing just fine with our pear and ginger pie, turkey, savory sweet potatoes (like Great-grandma S.J. used to make), green bean casserole, scalloped corn, and my Insane Relish Tray. And the downside for them—I’ll probably get comments as I have the last few years from several of the extended family because the variety and quantity of olives and pickled things on their relish trays never match what I used to bring down every year.

I much prefer our Peaceful Queer Thanksgiving to anyone else’s HaHa Trigger the Libs Holidays.

They aren’t even going to let us cook the turkey before they trot out more War on Christmas nonsense

I wasn’t going to write about the so-called War on Christmas until after Thanksgiving. But some people just cannot let a day go by without claiming that they are the victims of wholly fictitious campaigns. I actually entertained the notion that these stories might go away. I mean, Trump said in more than one of his speeches that he, personally, had brought “Merry Christmas” back—I don’t know where he thought it was, but then his sentences are so often just word salad that you start giving up trying to decode him.

But he proclaimed that the War on Christmas was over because he won it! And his supporters, which include the same idiots who scream about the War on Christmas every year usually believe every word he says. Despite overwhelming evidence about each lie he tells. So I thought maybe they’ve give it up.

Nope. If you want a summary of at least a couple of the blow-ups (along with a lot of snarky commentary), check this out: Seems Like The War On Christmas Starts Earlier Every Year!

Of the three incidents they talk about in that story, the one that really pisses me off is scamvangelist Jim Bakker going on his show and talking about that time, just a few years ago, when it was actually illegal to say “Merry Christmas.” Until, he said, his viewers called people and got the law repealed.

At no point during Jim Bakker’s lifetime has it been illegal anywhere in the United States for a person to say “Merry Christmas.” That’s just a fact.

There have been moments in history when celebrating Christmas was against the law—but it was over 300 years ago. The Puritans were quite opposed to Christmas and well, pretty much any fun at all. In Boston, for instance, Christmas was banned from 1659 to 1681.

Celebrations of Christmas had been banned in England for a while, before that, also because of Puritan influence. In 1644 the British Parliament banned seasonal plays, traditional Christmas games, the singing of carols, the hanging of holly, and so forth. Businesses were required by law to be open on December 25. Other forms of merry-making and partying were also legally discouraged year-round, but Christmas seemed to really annoy them. It was not a time when the phrase “Merry Olde England” had much meaning. Those laws were repealed in the year 1660, but that was only in England. Various U.S. colonies kept the laws on the books.

The Puritans were not atheists. They considered themselves very devout Christians. Christmas, they said, was not a religious holiday. In fact, the Puritans objected to the notion of all religious holidays:

“THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath.

Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.”
—the Westminster Directory of Public Worship

Christians (well, Protestants, anyway) of that time would be horrified to find out that modern day Christians consider the Christmas tree a religious symbol, let alone that Christian leaders would get outraged in a governor referred to such a decoration as anything other than a Christmas tree.

So it was Christians who banned Christmas back in the day, not atheists or pagans or Jews or Muslims. And even the modern so-called War on Christmas was initiated by Christians, not non-Christians.

I’m not old enough to have been around when Christmas was banned in Boston, but I am old enough to remember the campaigns by fundamentalist Christians in the 1960s asking businesses to stop using the word “Christmas” in their advertising and marketing materials. They thought it demeaned the story of Christ to have the “Christmas” applied to things as sordid and mundane as store wide discounts.

Now you have so-called Christian organizations like the Liberty Counsel complaining that that a clothing store chain that made their “nice list” only as some Christmas items in their inventory at Christmas time. Another chain is scolding for saying “Happy Holidays” in one part of its advertising mailer, despite having the “Merry Christmas” and “Christmas” plastered many more times on every single page.

When I was about 10 years old my mom told me that if I wasn’t sure what someone’s religion was, that I should say “Happy Holidays.” At the time she had said, “Because you never know if someone is Jewish.”

There is no law, nor any plot to pass such a law, forbidding people from saying the phrase “Merry Christmas.” We do have a tradition, going all the way back to the Founding Fathers, of a separation of Church and State, so sometimes when citizens sue, the courts have ruled that certain government agencies can’t do things that appear to favor one religion over others. That gets under some people’s skin. It doesn’t matter than every single person who has ever been elected President in this nation has been a person who proclaimed themself a Christian. It doesn’t matter that at least one Christian holiday is an official federal holiday. It doesn’t matter that in many states there are restrictions are what sorts of business activities can take place on Sunday, the Christian sabbath.

They still feel that any recognition of beliefs which differ from theirs is oppression. It’s irrational and paranoid. And I don’t know if any amount of reasoning is going to persuade them away from their delusion of persecution.

"Slow down!! Let's eat the damn turkey first!"

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