White Privilege Memes Reemerge as Tea Party Revs Up For November

I don’t update The Meme Collection too often anymore aside from an occasional tweak here and there. When I first started it back in the summer of 2009, I wanted to create a clearinghouse for the kinds of ideas conservatives and libertarians use to articulate their anti-social justice messages. I obviously wasn’t using “meme” in the way the Internet has embraced it, but it seemed an appropriate word for the the underlying themes that inform privileged arguments. The message transforms and gets passed around, but the substance of the meme doesn’t change much.

I’ve noticed that the memes ebb and flow, and lately a few memes have reemerged as quite prominent talking points, particularly among Tea Party conservatives around race. In an attempt to reject accusations of racism, conservative leaders like Glenn Beck and Joseph Farah of World Net Daily have embraced an addictive new blend of the “Reverse Discrimination“, “Colorblind,” and “Friend/Expert” memes that only accentuates their white privilege.

It looks like this: You call us racist? We support all people, and the proof is that people of color stand with us. We are the ones under attack by your false accusations! You’re the racists.

Two weeks ago, I got an email from Joseph Farah entitled, “Have Dems re-enslaved blacks?” He quoted Kevin Jackson of the Black Conservative Coalition defending the Tea Party, claiming that reducing the size of government would amount to “another Emancipation Proclamation” and “This time, even the white folks get freed.”

Farah goes onto say that affirmative action has hurt blacks because their promotions no longer have to do with merit “welfare-style redistribution schemes” have hurt blacks by creating greater dependency and less self-reliance; and that all of the accusations of racism demonstrate that the word is losing its power and meaning.

Essentially, he’s trying to blame the left for racism. He wants the black community to see conservatives as allies but wants the white conservatives to feel like the real victims because of how their precious money has been wasted. After you make sense of his motives, his words become that much more obvious:

In many ways today the black community is less functional than it was during the worst days of the Jim Crow era. Back then, the family structure – the very building block of community – was still intact. Today, the white family is disintegrating the way the black family did following the manipulations of paternalistic government policies.

In effect, it seems, the Democrats, “progressives” and leftists are trying to put whites in bondage to them and government the way they re-enslaved blacks.

It’s absurd, and of course he’s still hawking that preposterous “Negrophilia” book I wrote about before, which is the epitome of the Expert meme: a black man making money off the black community by throwing them under the bus for the rich whites.

Last week, I got a promotion for World Net Daily’s Whistleblower magazine, entitled “Obama and the New Racism.” Echoing Glenn Beck’s accusations of Obama’s racism, this magazine tests the limits of the Reverse Discrimination meme. The first nine words of the promo should be a huge red flag:

America – without question the least racist nation on earth – is witnessing an outrageous upsurge in hardcore racism during the administration of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president.

Yeah. The United States set the bar high with its truth and reconciliation commissions. Blacks, Latinos, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans have full respect and equality, Central American immigrants are perfectly welcome, and Middle Easterners are just as free to worship anywhere as any other group. Right.

And Joseph Farah has no hesitation when it comes to showing that he has no clue what social justice is about:

Martin Luther King Jr., dreamed of a colorblind America.

Ummmm… no. That’s what white people who don’t want their white privilege called into question dream of.

Whistleblower’s editor, David Kupelian, really steps in it with an irony too genius even for him to see:

We’re witnessing today a textbook example of the rotten totalitarian tactic called,‘Accuse others of the evil you do.’ Thus, not only do the Obama administration and its media propagandists accuse good and decent Americans of being racists just because they object to having their country stolen. But those currently in power – in pursuit of the twisted Marxist notion of ‘social justice’ – have adopted an utterly racist modus operandi for running the affairs of the nation. This betrayal of the dream of Martin Luther King, and of all decent Americans, is a story that needs to be told.

They’re pissed that whites don’t have as much power as they used to, but that doesn’t make them racist! In case you weren’t sure, both Farah and Kupelian are quite white.

Glenn Beck recently “amended” his comment about Obama being racist; Beck now says that Obama practices “liberation theology.” Given how little Obama has actually talked about his own faith, this seems to be quite a stretch, and honestly just another codeword for “Marxist.” (At least liberation theology is Christian, not Muslim.)

Beck’s recent Restoring Honor rally showed just how prevalent the “Colorblind” and “Friend/Expert” memes are becoming. Much of the message of the day was sugar-coated in platitudes about freedom for all. Of course, you have a bunch of white people there to say something needs fixed restored, so it’s a tricky message to navigate. It helps them, though, to have folks like “Dr.” Alveda King there to disgrace the work and words of her uncle. A quisling if ever there were one, she gives the Tea Party a false sense of validation, just because they have one more black person speaking on their behalf. They never point out that all the black people who speak on their behalf (Alveda King, Kevin Jackson, Erik Rush, etc.) all make tons of money for what they say.

In fact, the few black people that show are celebrated at Tea Party events, because the white people are just that insecure that they might be racist. Take a look at this clip:

At the end of the day, there are several serious problems with this approach. First, it’s white people saying they understand race relations better than anybody else. I’ll admit that I’m a white person talking about race, but I’m not trying to tell people of color what their experience is; I’m telling other white people how wrong they are. Second, it’s a painting of race as a white-black issue, ignoring all the inherent racism in the Tea Party’s immigration platform and libertarian politics in general. Third, it continues the distortion of white privilege and the enabling of real racism in our country.

The only way to counter this nonsense is with education. Privilege is not easy to understand nor can it even be fun to talk about. Nevertheless, we must try to make clear the hurt that Tea Party racism causes. I hope that my little Meme Collection can be helpful in this regard.

As far as I’m concerned, America is still one of the most racist countries on earth.

Someone at HRC Needs to Take a Psych Class, and Stat!

[Update: Michael Cole, HRC’s Press Secretary, said today that Target and Best Buy would be removed from the Buyer’s Guide:

Because we understand the impact of leaving Target and Best Buy on the various products associated with the Buyer’s Guide, both companies will soon be removed from it.

HRC will not encourage people to shop at either store and believes that consumers should make their own decisions after careful consideration of all of the information available to them.

No word on whether their CEI ratings will be docked any points as their current criteria allows. HRC also stops short of supporting a boycott of the stores, though given HRC’s weak political tameness, one wonders whether they would ever support any kind of community activist tactic like a boycott.]

Okay, folks, let’s review, and I’m going make this REALLY basic for ya’ll:

» The Human Rights Campaign maintains a Corporate Equality Index (CEI), updated annually, that evaluates the employment practices of over 300 U.S. businesses in regards to LGBT issues. The criteria includes: non-discrimination policies, diversity trainings, trans-inclusive benefits, partner benefits, LGBT working groups and diversity councils, respectful advertising and marketing, and “responsible behavior toward the LGBT community” (for which 15 points are deducted if the company does something “to undermine LGBT equality”).

» Data from the CEI is used to inform the HRC Employer Search and the Buying for Equality guide released every November, which has an unabashed goal of harnessing the LGBT community’s buying power (estimated at $709 billion in 2009) toward supporting pro-equality companies during the holiday shopping season.

» The Target company has maintained a CEI rating of 100, which qualifies it for HRC’s list of “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

» Empowered by its new corporate freedom thanks to the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision earlier this year, Target gave $150,000 to MN Forward, an organization in Minnesota supporting a “vehemently anti-gay candidate” (Joe Solmonese’s words) for governor.

» HRC stepped in and demanded that Target similarly give $150,000 to pro-gay candidates to offset the damage they’d done.

» After a couple days of talks, Target said, “No.”

» HRC committed to giving $150,000 of its own money to offset the costs.

First of all, how great is it that HRC is sitting on that kind of money that they can just dump it out without flinching? Man, the LGBT movement is just rolling in it!

Anyways, so let’s say you have a friend that you really like. One day, your friend beats the shit out of you. You tell your friend to stop beating the shit out you. Your friend says, “No.” What do you do?

I don’t know about ya’ll, but having been through middle school (as a nerd), I stop calling such a friend “a friend.” In fact, I might concoct a plan to take that jackass down a few pegs.

So what is HRC doing to punish Target?

Nothing. What is Target’s rating on CEI? 100. As groups like MoveOn are calling for boycotts (you know, to harness that spending power of the LGBT community and its allies), HRC has taken no position on boycotts. In other words, if HRC was saying a month ago that we should shop at Target, it isn’t saying it any less today.

This isn’t speculation. This is according to Fred Sainz of HRC on Michelangelo Signorile’s Radio Show yesterday.

Sainz said that it is hard to change the CEI criteria and that HRC is trying to “grapple” with the Citizens United changes.

Uh-huh. And what about those 15 points you can dock when a company isn’t being a “good corporate citizen”? It’s already built into the criteria. But guess who still has a 100 on the CEI?

Someone at HRC needs to take some Psych and Research Methods classes. You don’t continue to cheer for a friend once the friend is a bully. There’s this thing called conditioning and this other thing called codependency, and you don’t want to… oh forget it. Also, if the test you apply produces results that aren’t valid then… ugh, why am I wasting my time talking about education?

The problem here is that this is not about equality, it’s all about money. Michelangelo made this point pretty compellingly:

Let me just add that the bigger problem here is HRC offering a “buyer’s guide” at all. You’re not an ad agency for corporations; you’re a civil rights group. I know other groups do it, but it will always run into trouble. If you’re going to do it you need to be able to quickly fix it, such as in a situation like this.

It’s fine and good to list companies based on workplace practices and they should be letting LGBT people know what are the best companies to work for. But telling people to spend their money at these companies — and then HRC taking donations from these companies, as they have done with Target — puts your group in a bad position. It appears as if the reason for the buyer’s guide is to get donations from the companies in return for sending LGBT consumers to them. And the reason HRC is now “grappling” and trying to figure out what to do is because they’re worried about other companies in their index, some of which no doubt also give to antigay causes or candidates. If they remove Target they’ll have to remove others. They shouldn’t have been in this position — or should be able to react quickly and change the buyer’s guide immediately when a problem arises.

HRC only wants to guide our community’s buying power when they can benefit. HRC only wants to hold companies accountable if they have nothing to lose.

What does HRC stand for?

If the best they can offer is some heated rhetoric, they stand for nothing. This sounds so familiar… who else is really good with words but never expends any capital on behalf of our community…?

Oh right, the President. And guess who’s been #1 at Obama’s table on behalf of LGBT issues… oh, that’s right: HRC!

It seems like HRC really wants to look like it’s doing things for our community without actually accomplishing anything. While the President’s strategy is surely motivated by politics, HRC’s is motivated by money. And while the President’s inaction is bad for our community, HRC’s continued siphoning of our community’s money seems downright despicable.

What does HRC stand for? Today… not my rights.

A Brief Word on President Obama’s Responsibility for Persisting LGBT Discrimination

Pride month has come to an end, and we got a lot of lovely words from the Oval Office, but ultimately, another month of inaction.

Say what you will about GetEQUAL—they’re not a perfect group—but they have done much to raise the spirit of the queer equality movement. They have reminded us that it’s not enough to rely on corporate lobbyists to achieve our rights. Even if I’m not always 100% thrilled by what GetEQUAL does, I still feel like they do much better at speaking on my behalf than groups like HRC do.

And as I’ve pointed out (here, here, and especially here), the most important thing that direct action has done is place responsibility on our leaders, and in particular President Barack Obama. Stepping away from GetEQUAL, Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. James Pietrangelo are continuing the effort, announcing today that they are subpoenaing the President as part of their defense for chaining themselves to the White House fence (read more at Politico or Pam’s House Blend).

Their claim is novel and by no means bogus, and raises multiple questions. For example, is the President ever not the Commander in Chief? It cannot be denied that on multiple occasions he has instructed gay rights advocates to pressure him into action. Choi and Pietrangelo were not only following orders through their demonstration; they were also taking actions to “prevent a greater harm.”

The accountability falls back to President Obama. He has said we should pressure him. Did he mean only a little? He has said we should hold him accountable. Did he mean only if it’s convenient for him? We assume he meant that as a result of this pressure, we would see change. Was this just a ruse?

It’s not so far-fetched. President Obama has nothing to gain by advancing gay rights (except a potentially historic reputation as our hero, which seems unlikely at this point). He only benefits from the support of the LGBT community. So it doesn’t matter if he actually effects change; his only concern is that we buy in—literally—to the notion that he wants to effect the changes we want to see. It seems his game is catching up with him.

On yesterday’s Queer and Queerer Podcast, I mentioned Monday’s blog post by the Palm Center’s Chris Neff, urging the gay community to thank the President. Neff touts the fact that the President has stood by us despite our heckling, protesting, and blog-trashing, and we should be grateful that Obama is “fighting for equality.” Few (if any) of the comments on his post were positive. My own reaction was, “thankful for what?”

Thankful for affirmation? Done. I thanked him with several campaign contributions, which was no small feat for a student affairs graduate student. Where’s my action? Where’s my equality? Where is the change I caucused and voted for?

We are always moving; we are never still. When the President ignores us, we move backward. Words no longer move us forward. Now, only actions will suffice. And if he will not act, we must hold him accountable for his inaction. He, himself, has said as much.

I applaud Choi and Pietrangelo for their innovative strategy and look forward to its results.

Mr. President, you’re running out of opportunities to prove yourself to us. Demonstrate that you have the courage to support the convictions we hear from you so often.

Supreme Court Saves Washington State From Becoming Police State

Now here’s some good news. I’m not going to linger on the issue, because I’ve certainly written enough about it before (on August 13, August 28, September 11, and October 15).

Think back to last year’s election in Washington State when Referendum 71 was on the ballot, threatening the marriage-like domestic partnership law. Ultimately Ref. 71 passed, preserving the almost-equality the state had achieved. But there was another problem.

Protect Marriage Washington wanted to hide the names of all the people they’d gotten to sign the petition that put Ref. 71 on the ballot, claiming they needed “protected.” I guess they were scared the gays were going to come after them with pitchforks and dildos or something; I don’t know.

The case made it all the way to the US Supreme Court, who ruled today 8-1 in favor of transparency.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said it is vitally important that states be able to ensure that signatures on referendum petitions are authentic.

“Public disclosure thus helps ensure that the only signatures counted are those that should be, and that the only referenda placed on the ballot are those that garner enough valid signatures,” Roberts said. “Public disclosure also promotes transparency and accountability in the electoral process to an extent other measures cannot.”

I couldn’t agree more. The subject of this post might sound a bit harsh, but I think it reflects the true importance of such transparency. If people can initiate legislation with no accountability, then there won’t be any check on majoritarianism. If we start allowing citizens to legislate from the shadows, then groups like Protect Marriage can start taking away people’s rights left and right without having to explain themselves.

Unfortunately, Justice Thomas doesn’t seem to be concerned:

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the court’s opinion.

“In my view, compelled disclosure of signed referendum and initiative petitions under the Washington Public Records severely burdens those rights and chills citizen participation in the referendum process,” Thomas said.

You know what? It should chill citizen participation. If you aren’t willing to stand by your signature on a legislative petition, you shouldn’t be signing a legislative petition!

Well, Justice Thomas never fails to disappoint us, but I’m glad to see the rest of the Court saw the importance of the transparency.

This decision seems to put the kabbash to the whole “irreparable harm if the names are released” nonsense. Yeah, we’ll boycott you and maybe even protest you if you actively participate in discriminating against us. Welcome to democracy!

If you’re interested in reading the full decision, the PDF can be found here.

While the issue in this case wasn’t specifically LGBT-related per say, today is definitely an important victory for LGBT equality.

Guess What Won’t Stop The Oil Spill: Sitting Around Being Introspective

Lawmakers in Louisiana are rightfully concerned about the impact the Gulf of Mexico oil spill started at Deepwater Horizon will make on their state. If only there weren’t so many gays in New Orleans, perhaps God would have been less cruel to the Big Easy.

That’s why state Senators designated today (Sunday, June 20) as a day of prayer.

“Thus far efforts made by mortals to try to solve the crisis have been to no avail,” state Sen. Robert Adley said in a statement released after last week’s unanimous vote for the day of prayer. “It is clearly time for a miracle for us.”

The resolution names Sunday as a statewide day of prayer in Louisiana and calls on people of all religions throughout the Gulf Coast “to pray for an end to this environmental emergency, sparing us all from the destruction of both culture and livelihood.”

Because that will make a big difference.

Seriously, I’m sure that oil will stop gushing almost immediately with the force of all those prayer vibes.

Except of course that it won’t. In fact, the situation is getting worse, as oil is now leaking directly through the seabed.

I would argue that not only is a day of prayer utterly ineffective, but encouraging such nonsense is counterproductive.

Let’s be clear here: This oil spill is our fault. It’s not a natural disaster; it’s not an “act of God.” This is the result of human greed, plain and simple.

And every single time I see a Sarah Palin or Rand Paul type figure saying “accidents happen” and defending off-shore drilling, I just feel sad for them, because they are part of the problem. They want corporations to reign supreme.

This is my biggest beef with American conservatives. Democrats are willing to criticize the government, but Republicans (and teabaggers) are never willing to criticize big business. In fact, they do everything they can to obfuscate controversy to protect the corporations’ reputations and unrestrained freedom to abuse our land and people for their own benefit.

Today’s call to prayer is part of this obfuscation effort.

As always, prayer is being used here to avoid responsibility. As the resolution’s proponent, Sen. Robert Adley, said, “Thus far efforts made by mortals to try to solve the crisis have been to no avail.” His suggestion is essentially that since we have not been able to stop it, we should stop trying. It’s out of our hands. We should just curl up in the fetal position kneel in the prayer position and literally hope for a “miracle.”

Guess what? God’s not going to stop the oil. (Besides, isn’t it part of God’s plan? Why would God put the oil down there if he didn’t want us to try to get it, regardless of the consequences?)

Let’s say that 50% of Louisiana’s citizens spend just ten minutes praying for an oil spill miracle today. (I made those numbers up.) Surely those 2 million people could spend ten minutes actually doing something to help with spill recovery. I don’t know much about oil spill recovery, but there are always ways to help. Instead, these folks will waste ten minutes not helping with recovery, because they’ll be busy communicating with a voice inside their head.

Another reason this prayer plan is a bad idea? It’ll make people feel better. Yeah, prayer is meditative (so is meditation, by the way) and might help bring hope to the people of Louisiana. What an awful idea. We don’t want people feeling good. We don’t want people feeling relaxed. We don’t want people thinking that God’s going to take care of this.

We want people pissed. We want people demanding accountability. We want people ready to take action. Hell, we want people taking action now.

So come on, Louisiana lawmakers. How about we stop wasting time pacifying citizens and protecting corporations with constitutional violations and actually rally people to help with the recovery?

So You Want To Be a Teabagger: Hiding Prejudice Behind Capitalism

Let’s imagine starting a new society, a whole new humanity. We’re playing SimEarth or Civilization here or something; just imagine it with me. We start it knowing everything we know now. We know there’s nothing to substantiate prejudice based on sex, gender, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Those identities all present naturally and in no way impact individuals’ ability to contribute to society or live upstanding lives. We remove all such biases from our new society; the idea of such prejudices do not even exist.

Then, we give our new society a free market system in which to function. Does our new society make sure that everyone has what they need to survive?

If they’re human, I doubt it. Humans naturally have a tendency toward greed; it’s just how psychological conditioning works. Even in a society without any context of identity-based prejudice, there would still be people who succeed and who enjoyed their success enough to not care about those less fortunate. A free market doesn’t mean everyone has the same chance of succeeding; it simply means that theoretically, everyone has the same opportunity to try. But even after one generation of our hypothetical new society, there would be people who have more and people who have less. So, even though there is nothing restraining equality based on identity, there is always inherently inequality, because you’re burdened or blessed by the circumstances you’re born into.

Still, we like the idea of a free market. Psychologically, it helps society move forward. There is reward for creativity; there is reward for hard work. People can be individuals and follow their passions. Despite its inherent inequality, there is also an inherent freedom, theoretically. This holds true so long as the divide between the haves and have-nots doesn’t become such that the haves control the have-nots and the have-nots depend on the haves to live their lives.

What should the goal of our society be? I think the freedom is important, but shouldn’t there also be a commitment to all people’s quality of life at a basic level? I don’t think a society is very successful if only a small proportion can prosper. So what happens when that divide widens? A growing portion of the population would not have enough, while a shrinking number would have more than enough. But in our hypothetical society, wouldn’t we want everybody to have enough? Since we’re controlling the dynamics of everything, I think we’d want to say to those rich folks, “Congrats on acquiring so much, but come on, you kind of have more than you need and a lot of folks are struggling. We’re not punishing you for doing well, but we’re going to ask you to sacrifice some of your excess so that everyone in our society can at least have enough to live a life at a certain baseline quality of life.”

The teabaggers say no.

Flashback now to the reality of the United States 2010. Every big problem we’ve dealt with lately has been at least partially the fault of corporate greed. Companies like Halliburton and Lockheed Martin have financial interests in our wars. Our economy collapsed because of the greed of corporate execs like those at Goldman Sachs. Our healthcare needed reformed because of the greed of insurance companies. We have an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico thanks to corporate mismanagement.

But the teabaggers fervently defend corporate power. They don’t see the inherent inequality in an unregulated system. They actually believe everyone has a fair chance if they just try hard enough. They’re blind to all forms of inequality and don’t care that they perpetuate them. They don’t blame corporations for anything. Iraq’s been liberated. The economy is recovering on its own. Banks don’t need to be regulated. Healthcare doesn’t need regulated. We don’t need environmental regulations; accidents happen.

It’s bloody naïve, I say.

They complain about big government, but the government, for the most part, isn’t responsible for all these problems. Is there government corruption? Sure, and I’m not defending that. But to give corporations a free pass on everything is irresponsible and misguided.

And now, let’s revisit the point I made at the very beginning. In addition to the inherent inequality of a free market system, we live in a society where many other inequalities persist. Male privilege, White privilege, Heterosexual Privilege, and Christian Privilege make it so that not only are we imbalanced, but the imbalance targets certain identities. These privileges are systemic. They cannot simply be erased; they must be overcome from generation to generation. When we recognize forms of discrimination, we have the opportunity to resist these systems of oppression.

Teabaggers are committed to letting inequality persist. They so buy into the myth of the American Dream (which itself is an allegory for promoting greed—we should aspire to be wealthy) that they don’t want any regulation of the economy. There should be no limits on the haves, the have-nots be damned. There should be no hand-outs, no efforts whatsoever to counteract the inherent inequalities in the system.

And this means allowing identity-based inequalities to persist as well. Take a look at these numbers from a University of Washington poll and what they tell us about true teabaggers:

74% of Tea Party supporters agree that “while equal opportunity for blacks and minorities to succeed is important, it’s not really the government’s job to guarantee it.”

78% of Tea Party supporters disagree that “over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve.”

Even 46% of Tea Party supporters agree that “if blacks would only try harder, they would be just as well off as whites.”

Ever wonder why you really only see White people at Tea Party events? It’s because they don’t care about resisting white privilege; in fact, they’re more than happy to reap its benefits.

They also don’t want anyone else getting a chance at their American dream:

54% of Tea Party supporters agree that “immigration is changing the culture in the U.S. for the worse.”

88% of Tea Party supporters approve of “the immigration law in Arizona which requires police to question people they suspect are illegal immigrants for proof of legal status.”

63% of Tea Party supporters disagree that “we should not single out Muslims or Middle Easterners for airport security stops.”

They’re also incredibly concerned about keeping this country in the control of breeders:

Only 18% of Tea Party supporters agree that “gay and lesbian couples should have the same legal right to marry as straight couples.”

52% of Tea Party supporters agree that “compared to the size of their group, lesbians and gays have too much political power.”

Some good it’s doing us.

It’s getting harder and harder to separate teabagging from prejudice. And even in the absence of identity-based prejudice, the Tea Party platform is blatantly selfish. Members of the Tea Party are more concerned with their own well-being (or even their own perceived potential well-being) than to worry about anyone else. America is the country where I can succeed, regardless of anyone else who suffers as a result.

The Tea Party is dangerous, and their ideals are ill-founded. The mere fact that their platform has popular traction does not mean they are ideas we should be respectfully considering. They are clearly intent on maintaining as much inequality as they can.

If we want to protect the ideal that we are truly all equal and entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then the Tea Party should be our archnemesis. We need to hold them back or they will literally rewrite our history (and it’ll be rife with spelling errors).

(Kudos to this Tumblr for the photos.)

Happy Memorial Day From a Pacifist

It’s hard to be a pacifist in a fiercely patriotic nation. So often, the language of patriotism hides an underlying current of pro-war values. “Support the Troops” means “support the wars/domination of the USA abroad.” “Defend our borders” means buying into a smug, often racist, anti-immigration perspective. And when people say they’re “proud to be an American,” they often imply a blind devotion to their own privileged experience of American life and a sense that it must apply to everybody in just that way.

There are many days I despise the United States of America. There are many days that the last thing I want to see is the stars and stripes. Don’t even get me started on the Pledge of Allegiance. As PZ wrote yesterday, patriotism—like religion—demands an unflinching obedience, which “opens a door to unthinking authoritarianism” that “always leads to oppression.” When I refuse to salute the flag, you should be proud of me, because it’s the freedom that our country was founded upon that allows me to do that. Truly, nothing should be more patriotic than criticizing the United States.

I hate war. I never see a point to it. It’s usually fought over stupid reasons (usually differences in religious beliefs). I get that it happens; people are stupid. Sometimes we Americans go sniffing for it, though. Sometimes we think we know what’s best for others, and even though we claim to not be interested in controlling the rest of the world, we act like that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. We’re so insecure, we get paranoid. We throw around language like “homeland security” and “preemptive strike” and then wash our hands of the consequences. “Oh, we never thought that would happen.” The truth is: despite our prosperity and prominence, we act like we’re backed into a corner because one attack makes it to our soil. We have no clue what it’s like to live in areas where there is conflict on a daily basis, but some of us act like they do because of one horrible day nine years ago.

And so today is Memorial Day. We honor those who have died serving their country. It’s an important day, and yet not. For some, it’s just the beginning of the summer vacation season, and I think that’s a good thing. Let me explain what I mean. Memorial Day is important because yes, people did sacrifice themselves so that we could have the freedom we have today. They died so that we might live. We have to honor that. But, we also must not celebrate that.

What defines patriotism? I worry that often it means “dying for your country,” or at least being willing to. But there’s a difference between honoring those who sacrificed themselves and admiring martyrdom. That is dangerous territory, and demonstrates the parallel between patriotism and religion. Those who blindly buy into a sense of American superiority are on a course to zealotry. It might not present as radically as it does through religion, but I think the effect is largely the same. Those who do not buy into the message become “unAmerican” and are ostracized. What should be a unifying force becomes a very polarizing one.

And that’s why I’m glad that Memorial Day is really not that meaningful for many. They put out their flags and go to their picnics. It’s lovely, it’s quaint, it’s peaceful. Some might say that if you aren’t taking time to honor fallen troops, you’re missing the point. I say nothing honors the troops like a day spent enjoying American freedom, peace, and prosperity.

So Happy Memorial Day from a pacifist. Please, enjoy your picnics. Have a lovely day. And if you truly want to honor those who died so that we might be where we are today, imagine a world where they never again have to die (or kill) to defend our nation and the great freedom upon which it was founded.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Unabashedly Punishes Whistleblowers

People probably have different opinions on whistleblowers. While all might not be as memorable or infamous as Deep Throat and Linda Tripp, there is a general sense that whistleblowers are important. Particularly in these economic times, if there is wrongdoing happening in corporations, we want to know about it, and we have many laws that protect individuals from repercussions if they “blow the whistle” on their companies. Where would we be without Jeffrey Wigand, Karen Silkwood, or Sherron Watkins, just as examples?

Under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, however, the military has a policy of punishing whistleblowers. I’m talking, of course, about those who simply try to honor their respective codes of conduct and are unfairly discharged for doing so. These are individuals who speak out against the discrimination enforced by Congressional law who are then discharged merely for attempt to demonstrate their own integrity.

Speak out against wrongdoing? You’re fired, thanks to the wrongdoing you called out. You get punished for not living a lie.

I was particularly troubled by the story this past week of Sara Isaacson. She had a full ride through Army ROTC at UNC Chapel Hill, with aspirations to became an army doctor like her grandfather. Then, this past November, thanks to the identity development she experienced during three years of college, Isaacson realized she was a lesbian, and decided to come out to her superiors. She describes why this was important for her:

Soldiers need to be able to mention their spouses and loved ones when interacting, Isaacson said. Those significant others need to be able to use the military’s support network if they’re stationed away from their loves ones. And those soldiers need to be able to name their partners as their next of kin, she said.

“Being in the military is hard on families, and those support services are there for a reason,” she said.

This seems admirable.

Not only has Isaacson been recommended for discharge, but also to repay the $80,000 worth of educational expenses that, so far, her ROTC scholarship has covered.

This seems abusive. Isaacson didn’t know she was lesbian when she enlisted; she was taking advantage of an opportunity open to all young people. Simply because she did not know then she was lesbian and now refuses to live a repressed life, she is being viciously punished.

You think the armed services will help you get an education? Sure, so long as you’re not gay.

Where is the protection for people who speak out for their own protection? Where is equal opportunity? Where is compassion?

DADT is so severe that the Army cannot honor its contract with Isaacson, as if to suggest they were conned. When we agreed to pay for your education in exchange for your service, we were under the impression you were a heterosexual. Now that you’ve matured enough to realize you’re not, we want it all back.

It’s the armed services that are conning us. And since we now know the President’s drop-in of DADT repeal in the State of the Union was a farce, the White House is conning us too. They’re the ones discriminating. They’re the ones abusing power. They’re the ones that need to be held accountable.

How many have to speak out without protection before the government takes responsibility? My hat is off to Isaacson and the many servicemembers who are making sure the President knows their stories. If the government won’t defend your right to stand up against their injustice, it’s up to the rest of us to support you.

The Cycle of Uncritical Thinking in the United States

I found this amazing comic on CampusProgress yesterday, and I just want to say a word before I share it.

This “circle of stupidity,” as the comic is called, is exactly why I write this blog. It is exactly why I unabashedly challenge religion at every opportunity. Critical thinking is sorely lacking in our society on all fronts, and it is the same thinking that keeps people buying into religious beliefs, superstition, astrology, homeopathy, and all the other bunk that’s out there.

The end result, as the comic demonstrates, is injustice. The only way to move forward is to force people to think for themselves instead of mindlessly accepting what they’ve been spoon-fed since birth for generations.

If this comic or the things I write on this blog offend you or if you vehemently object, please read it anyway and share your objections. Let’s at least have some healthy dialogue so that together, we can break the cycle.

Click to embiggen:

Check out more from Jen Sorensen at Slowpoke Comics.

The first Circle of Stupidity can be found here.

Why Be Pissed At Obama and/or HRC?

Yesterday’s town hall was interesting, but not surprising. In my opinion, it was an important event, but it ultimately didn’t really accomplish much, except to reveal just how out of touch HRC really is (and, might I add, how pompously self-righteous Joe Solmonese is about his organization).

There are two significant points to take away. 1) It really doesn’t matter how much you lobby Senators and Representatives if the President isn’t putting his support behind something. 2) The Obama administration has really been strong-arming our advocacy efforts to keep them from moving forward.

These are no longer beliefs or attitudes; we can now call these truths.

Take some time and read these two latest posts over at AMERICAblog Gay. They tell you everything you need to know.

Sen. Levin says White House and DOD don’t want him to act on DADT this year

Initial report from Signorile’s Townhall; White House ostracizing SLDN

Fierce advocate? No. We’re all just pawns… same old, same old.