Feminist in the making

I have no idea why I woke up with this memory going through my head but I did and thought it was worth discussing.

Trigger warning for content including abstract discussion of rape.

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Ender’s Game Movie “Review”

First some background information.

Ender’s Game is, for good reason, considered one of the best sci-fi books out there. Orson Scott Card (OSC) wrote the book in 1985 and it is what catapulted him into fame, despite the fact that most people who have read his fantasy work have told me that they prefer that over Ender’s Game. Personally I found Ender’s Shadow to be superior to Ender’s Game but thought both were good reads and a really interesting introduction to sci-fi. Card has continued to write in that universe and many others. However, he has also diverted off the path of just being a writer and is also using his name and money to support and promote other causes, primarily anti-LGBT and equality campaigns. His name is big enough, the amount of money he’s spent large enough and the timing of the movie is just right so that equality and LGBT activists have called for a boycott of any and everything that Card has touched. Really, Card has said a lot of stuff over the years and supported enough groups that are against the rights of others that I can think of very view people I know who wouldn’t offend Card. So then the question I must answer is why did I go to see the movie? Two things: The first is that he will not get enough money from my ticket to make up for me not wanting to support a new sci-fi film. We aren’t seeing enough of those coming from Hollywood and there’s a chance that if this one does well then they’ll look at doing others. Hopefully those others won’t include a writer who is as much of a dick as Card is. The second is that I was really curious to see if they’d be able to pull it off. Ender’s Game is such an internally driven book where few of the motivations can be easily played out by anyone and it would be ridiculous to have a character do voice over through most of the movie just to explain what’s going on.

For those like me who don’t like the idea of supporting Card much at all but do want to see the movie you can always donate money or your time to a GLBT/human rights group. You could do that even if you don’t go and see the movie, too.

Right, so the review part.

To get it out of the way – I did not like it as an adaptation of the book Ender’s Game. However, if it were just a standalone movie that took its cue from the book I’d find most of it to be pretty cool, good even. That was not the case though. Consider yourselves warned, there be spoilers beyond this point.

SPOILERS I TELL YOU! SPOILERS! (I hope that sounded as cool in your head as it did in mine.)

Ender Wiggin is not just smart, he’s a genius on par with Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark. Actually, all of the kids that were candidates for battle school are geniuses like that. It was never made clear in the movie that these kids are waaaaaaay more intelligent than their teachers. It wasn’t made clear that they were all expected to be able to fight as much with their bodies as their brains. It also wasn’t made clear that they spent a long time on the battle school. It wasn’t clear that these kids start at 5 or 6 years old and don’t leave until they’re between twelve and fourteen. Yeah, they had to compress some of that in the movie, okay, I’ll give them that. But there is no way in this world that they could have compressed it to fit into less than a year and that they had twenty eight days from the last Dragon battle to the start of the “real” war like what was displayed on their countdown timer of doom. That made the whole thing even less likely. That was the point that I decided they really didn’t know what they were doing.

Oh, it was never made clear either that these students were expected to be able to kill and that it was one of the things that got them into battle school, that ability to do so. Ender got in because he killed the first kid. He stayed in and was recognized as the person they were looking for because he killed Bonzo but hated himself from the moment that he realized he was going to do it. Bonzo didn’t trip, he was killed. If they had done those sequences right then the dialogue with Valentine where she tells him that he isn’t like Peter because he has to be able to love someone before he can kill them would make so much more sense. As it is they just sort of hang there.

Once the movie goes up to the battle school, we’re up there and never hear anything more about what’s going on down on the ground. There was so much politicking going on down there and Ender’s siblings were THE movers and shakers. They did so much and there wasn’t even a nod to it in the movie. Bah!

They decided to compress all of the “simulated” battles to less than a half-dozen, okay, fine, I can understand that. However, there was no reason whatsoever to move EVERYONE to a planet outside the solar system! They even threw around the word ansible and communication even if they didn’t explain it. Being closer to the fight meant nothing AND it got rid of the point that this whole damn thing had been planned years and years and years in advance. The *only* reason for making that change was so Ender could walk outside his little safe place and find the queen’s egg, which screwed up the ending in so many ways I can’t count them all. The way they showed Ender finding the random Queen egg just laying around WITH a dying queen to protect it did two things: showed that there were probably more formics living in other places and that Ender didn’t complete genocide and made the entire fleet appear to be entirely incompetent for not making sure the area around their base was clear, at least far enough that a kid couldn’t walk for a few minutes and run into a formic. You know, an alien that has a strong history of trying to kill humans without asking any questions? GAH! That was just bad. Bad, bad, bad.

A few things they almost got right – the relationship between Ender and Petra. I think Hollywood actually wanted to make it into a love thing but someone came by and said “no, that’s going to get you killed more than this whole Card thing is,” so they didn’t. Instead they made it borderline, which I can deal with. Petra rescues Ender, makes him look awesome and they work well as a team. Alai gets named and the lesson he teaches Ender about peace is there. Bean is mentioned though it’s more like the screenwriters were told to name one of the kids “Bean” and to make him smaller and spin around in the battle room.

Oh the battle room. You know, I will forgive them for how they portrayed it. Yeah, fine, they completely screwed up with the design of the school and how the battle room was supposed to look and how the whole gravity thing worked there. I never expected them to get it right anyway. However, I do think that the visuals we got from their version was pretty damn awesome and much more visually pleasing than the big white/gray/black room that I had from the book. I don’t think movie audiences would have been satisfied with a battle room that was true to the books.

I’ll even give them the few battles they showed. They did a lot better will all of that than I had expected them to. I hope to see some of the things they learned from filming those scenes pop up in other movies because it was really fun.

I’ve totally lost all my steam here, so I’m just going to leave it at my previous assessment. If I hadn’t gone in knowing it was supposed to be Ender’s Game it would have been a whole hell of a lot better. Generic space sci-fi movie gets 4/5 stars, Ender’s Game adaptation gets 1.5/5 stars. They intentionally got too many things wrong for me to give it any higher of a rating.

What is Wrong With This Way of Thinking?

I’ve been reading The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti off and on the last few weeks. It’s not something I can read for extended periods of time because I get pretty upset as I go from one point to the next. I despair for the generations of kids that have been taught so many lies-condoms don’t work, abstinence is the only answer, birth control is wrong, etc. I am angry, truly angry, at the legislatures and lawmakers who have decided they know more about human anatomy, physiology, conscious, and emotional well being than dozens of well respected organizations like the American Medical Society and other similar organizations of professionals. I want to shake the doctors, nurses and pharmacists who put their own “morals” above that of doing what is right by their patients. Medical professionals have no right, no right at all, to force a woman to a particular treatment and should not deny a treatment just because it is morally ambiguous rather than medically wrong. I’m sure some could argue that birth control or the morning after pill or abortions (mostly abortions) are medically wrong, but they would be arguing against their peers and would have less to stand upon than their damn morality argument.

However, the part that makes all of this worse is how destructive the entire culture we live in is when it comes to rape and any sexual violence. As I was reading a chapter that focused on this topic, I couldn’t help but remember an exercise I did in my high school home economics class. The chapter noted how as soon as drugs or alcohol are involved people are significantly less likely to sympathize with the victim and instead condemn them. The exercise from my class was a thought game where supposedly fictional situations were presented. In all but one scenario the possible victim of sexual assault was female. More often than not the majority of the class agreed on what scenarios were or were sexual assault/rape regardless of the presence of drugs or alcohol. The one that stands out the most in my memory though is when the teacher asked if a male teenager who was intoxicated and unable to walk straight was raped by a teenage girl who convinced him to have sex with her. I was one of three students out of 30 or so that said it was rape. Even the teacher said that if the guy agreed and was capable of maintaining an erection then he probably wasn’t intoxicated enough to have been raped. I was appalled at the double standard she presented as not two questions before everyone had agreed that if we switched the roles of the male and female it was rape. It doesn’t matter the gender of the individual who is being coerced into any actions that lead up to sex, including sex, it is and will always be rape.

Mind you in some ways I was happy that most of my class was able to recognize when a woman is a victim of sexual assault/rape. However, the fact that few recognized that men can be victims too, and that I argued with a teacher about this, just solidified my opinion that most people don’t actually know what rape or sexual assault is. Maybe I’m reaching, but it would not surprise me if the majority of the people in that class would not recognize a victim of sexual assault/rape when these things actually happen in real life where the information is not as clear and obvious as it was in those classroom scenarios. When we have everything presented to us by the media it requires more than just glancing at a story to understand what happened. We have to read through the perspective of the journalist and what is sensationalizing the story and actually try to understand what happened.

The most recent example of a rape case that received national attention (as of the writing of this post) was what has come to be known as the Steubenville rape case. The national coverage did not start until late into the case but that didn’t stop the media from reporting directly from what can only be called the victim-blaming pulpit. When the guilty verdict was finally read by a juvenile court judge the coverage from CNN epitomized the rape-culture of America. They sympathized with the rapists for the majority of the 6 minutes of their initial “breaking news” broadcast. The victim was mentioned twice, both times in passing. “Lives were destroyed” was stated multiple times by several different reporters but always in regards to the rapists. Never once was anything said about the victim and what she must have been experiencing, what she must have gone through or anything at all about how her life had been destroyed. Luckily, in my opinion at least, CNN received a huge backlash for how they reported on the verdict and their focus on the rapists. The reporters involved were extremely upset that they were accused of sympathizing with the rapists despite the fact that yes, that was what they did. (For more on the entire case go ahead and start here.)

How could two female reporters who do not consider themselves part of the misogynistic culture that is part of the American way of life end up in such a position? It’s really easy when you consider that most people don’t even realize that the way that they reported was possibly wrong. It was only after it was pointed out to them that this was wrong that they even stopped to think about it. Consider this – these two boys were charged and found guilty of accidental man slaughter or whatever the legal equivalent would be. It would be easy to say yes, what they did was wrong and they deserve jail time, even if it was an accident. There would be sympathizing with them, but the victim and the victim’s family would be mentioned and have just as much coverage as the two who were found guilty of that crime. However, the coverage of rape is always different. These two boys consciously chose to act as they did and used their victim as they saw fit. There was nothing about any of their actions that was an accident. They didn’t “accidentally” remove her clothes. They didn’t “accidentally” carry her from one party to the next. They didn’t “accidentally” take pictures or videos of her. They didn’t “accidentally” insert foreign objects into her body. None of their actions were accidents, but because the charges were for “rape” they were seen with much more sympathy than they otherwise should have been. We don’t want to admit that rape happens, that we all take part in this rape culture, or that how we view rape is skewed and wrong. We especially don’t want to admit that high school, star football players are capable of rape because it completely goes against our ideas of what “all-American” boy are and what they are capable of doing. That requires admitting that they can be wrong and that they are not perfect and that they are not the ones being led down the path of the dark side by the “wrong kind of girl”.

I must count myself as part of that culture too. I am aware and conscious of the fact that I was raised in a society that dehumanizes victims and disregards acts of violence against women (or men) if sex was involved. If I do not stop and think about what I am reading or hearing it is too easy to fall into that misogynistic and paternalistic way of thinking. My parents did a pretty good job of raising me in such a way that I question a lot of things I read, see or hear. While it makes me more aware, it doesn’t necessarily help when the society they are raising me in, as enlightened as Boulder County was, is still overwhelmingly full of negative messages for women, especially women who dare to step outside what has been designated for them, and elevating men, especially those who not only fulfill their role as men but “encourage” women to fulfill theirs as well. Awareness at least makes me wary and I can take my time to really think about what is going on and what I can do to help/stop/make others aware.

I hope the kids I grew up with in high school have had some of the same insights that I have as they’ve become adults. I hope that maybe they are able to recognize rape and sexual assault and who is the victim and who is the aggressor in real life. I hope that they don’t blame the victim getting raped after drinking or using drugs or wearing the wrong clothes or being out in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hope they are working with their friends and families to help be part of the slow change in our culture. I hope… it sounds so small when working against something so large.

Bits and Pieces of Thoughts While I Think on my Next Bit o’Fiction

First things first, or at least things that excite me – My English teach really liked my video game essay. There are a few teensy things I need to clean up, mainly a few awkward word choices and left over “on”s and things from my massive number of edits. Once I’ve done that, she wants me to enter it into an essay contest that happens at the school every year. The winner gets $50 and entrants get to put their name out there for teachers to get to know. When it comes to more subjective classes like English, psych, etc. I feel it’s important to have your name associated with the idea that you are a good writer before you enter a teacher’s classroom. Perception means so much and teachers are more willing to gloss over errors if they already “know” you can write, as humans are wont to do. Even my current teacher did something like that for my 2nd essay when I had two really bad cut/copy/paste-based errors. She didn’t take off points for those like what I would have expected her to because she knew that they were editing fails, not writing fails, if that makes any sense.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m going to use as my topic for my next argument essay, but haven’t really had anything stick out to me. Well, I’ve got two things, but I can’t decide if I really can argue either of them effectively because I am just a wee bit passionate about them.
The first is equal marriage rights. I’d end arguing for a case that would include marriage licenses being granted to two or more people above the legal age of consent who are willingly entering into the civil contract regardless of gender, sex, procreation status etc. Most people have an issue once the “more” part is added in, and to be fair, with the way current laws are written that affect civil marriage law contracts it would get really convoluted and tricksy. Especially things like inheritance and social security benefits and whatnot. Especially if the primary bread winner/head of house passes or decides to divorce one or more of the other parties. What happens to the rest of the contracts? Are they will that primary person or binding amongst all parties? Oy, such a headache and the primary argument against such marriages.
The second is abstinence only versus full disclosure sex ed. I (luckily) grew up in county that taught full disclosure sex ed by default and started in fifth grade. Yes, parents always had to sign permission slips to say “sure, teach my kid about sex” or “find them something else to do cause I want to be the one to educate them about sex” or not educate them as the case would likely be. I think I only saw maybe three kids not have permission to be educated in sex ed from fifth through twelfth grade. That’s pretty awesome in my opinion, especially considering that it was a requirement for every year of school up to high school and then was taught in bio and two or three other classes that were required for graduation.
Anywho, the point is that I feel pretty strongly about these topics, but think I could maybe argue either one of them. My teacher did give me the okay to write my essays on more divisive topics should I choose to because I could “handle” them maturely. On the other hand, this next essay is going to be sent out to the rest of the English dept. and I’m not sure that I want to write about anything so politically charged, no matter how well written, and be known as the student that is too opinionated/liberal/socialist/controversial at the end of my first semester of school.

On a completely unrelated note, I’m excited about the weather here. We’re supposed to get a pretty decent amount of snow between tonight and tomorrow night and I have nowhere to go and no one to meet until Wednesday morning, which means I get to just enjoy the snowfall. Huzzah! Pretty weather will be nice.

Play Video Games, It’s Good For You – An Argument Essay

This is mostly for Ed, but also for any others who would be interested/curious. Many, many thanks go to Jeff for editing and helping me to make it much better and spiffier than its previous incarnations.

Play Video Games, It’s Good For You

Video games have been accused of contributing too many acts of violence or aggression for decades. What the media misses is that video games have many benefits we haven’t found in any other media. Society should stop being afraid of video games and instead start looking forward to how we can best use them to benefit ourselves and our children. Anyone who doesn’t understand why needs only take a quick look at our society. Surveys have shown that 90% of children in the United States play video games. 70% of heads of households play video games, too. That leads to the average age of video gamers to be 33 years old (Bavelier, “TED”). Society is changing and non-gamers are being left behind.

Millennials, those born between 1978 and 2000 (Madland 1), grew up playing video games. Home video game systems (known as platforms) such as Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Playstation, and don’t forget computers, were well established before they began primary school. These young adults have participated in the rapid development of video games from the most simple of games like Pong, released by Atari in 1973 (Winter), all the way to games like the super-realistic BioShock Infinite, released across multiple platforms in 2013 (Take-Two). To play Pong players manipulated a wheel on a controller to move a white line (the paddle) up and down one side of their television screen to prevent a white dot (the ball) from getting past their paddle. The graphics were incredibly simple. By contrast, games like BioShock Infinite are action-packed, fast-paced, and full of realistic scenery and characters. There are dozens of genres of video games, but most can be split into several broad categories, the most controversial of which are “first person shooters”, also known as FPS. These games use the perspective of the character being played; pulling the gamer from the more remote godlike view frequently described as third person perspective. FPS games also have a focus on violent game play where the main objective Leroy Jenkins is to shoot enemies. Today’s young adults play many of these genres, including FPS, and have gained skills from video games that were never anticipated. Depending upon the type of games they play, they may have a greater ability to: track visual information, process and make quick decisions, focus and complete complex tasks.

Some of the most controversial video games are also the ones with the greatest potential benefits. Fast-paced, FPS like BioShock Infinite, Halo, Doom, Half-Life, Borderlands and third-person equivalents like God of War: Ascension, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Force Unleashed have all been accused of being too violent, but the benefits gamers gain from playing them are astounding. Researchers like Daphne Bavelier and C. Shawn Green have pwned been able to demonstrate in multiple laboratory tests that playing these fast-paced games increases a person’s ability to track multiple pieces of visual information and decrease reaction time. They also have worked with another researcher, Alexandre Pouget, and showed that fast-action games also decrease decision making time. Basically, these games have so much going on all the time that for someone not used to following and tracking so much information it can be overwhelming. Gamers have no trouble keeping up with this information overload. This essay was found on a blog and was used without permission, therefore it was plagiarized. The players are able to assess, make decisions and react quickly because they had to learn how to do so in order to play and advance. Here is a list of all the things they must keep track of for themselves, their allies and their enemies: physical place within the world, their objective, ammunition, health status, where they need to go, what obstacles are in the way and what objects may help. If they are playing by themselves they may have to give orders to their computer allies. If they are playing with other humans then they have to be able to communicate effectively with them while tracking all the other data. Oh, and they’re getting shot at while doing all this.

The typical human’s brain is completely incapable of coping with processing all this information. However, the brains of gamers adapt so that they can keep track of all the information they need to. Bavelier and her team found that a video gamer’s brain physically changes so that the player can process all of this information, and, most importantly, use it. A video gamer is capable of making accurate, informed decisions faster than a non-gamer with the same percentage of right answers. Bavelier and Green demonstrated that this benefit from fast-action video games sticks around for at least six months after a test subject has played only 10 hours over the course of 2 weeks. This means that every person can gain this benefit without actually being a gamer, as long as he or she is willing to put in a few hours a week to train his or her brains. This is really exciting because many of these changes have immediate benefits off with her head outside our living rooms, the most obvious of which is driving. When driving, the increased awareness, ability to track the many things going on around us and to make correct, fast decisions about likely outcomes of movements is invaluable in the prevention of car accidents. Playing video games has a huge impact on an individual’s brain and as a result has a direct impact on how gamers interact with and navigate our world.

Many gamers are told over and over that they have trouble focusing, and that they must have ADD because they do so well in focusing when there is so much happening on their screens all the time. However, exciting new research, again from Daphne Bavelier and her team, is showing that gamers’ attention and focus is actually better than that of non-gamers. They are capable of resolving visual conflicts faster, which is frequently used in the lab to determine attention and focus capabilities. However, video game detractors point to information released by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) regarding increased Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis rates since 1997 with growth rates as high as 22% between 2003 and 2007. They argue that more and more children are being exposed to video games and more and more educators and parents are complaining that their children are unable to focus on things like classroom instruction the female orgasm and homework (Klass). What has been found, though, is that these child gamers’ brains, as well as the brains of their already adult counterparts, are very capable of focusing and they can maintain the same level of performance in stimuli-rich environments like what we find in many video games like World of Warcraft, much of the Final Fantasy series, and the previously mentioned first person shooters for hours. Detractors like Dr. Klass actually point to this seeming contradiction as part of the causal relationship between ADHD and video game play. However, Gabe Zicherman, a leader in the development and application of “gamification” or how to apply video game concepts to real life, disagrees with such views. He suggests that it is adults that need to catch up and keep up with kids, not slow down kids to their slower pace:

Is it that our children have ADD or is our world just too freakin’ slow for our children to appreciate? … The evidence is found in the games that they play. Consider the video game World of Warcraft. When I was growing up the maximum skill that I was expected to display in a video game was simple hand-eye coordination, a joystick and like a firing button. Today’s kids play games in which they’re expected to chat in text and voice, operate a character, follow long and short term objectives, and deal with their parents interrupting them all the time to talk to them. Kids have to have an extraordinary multi-tasking skill to be able to achieve things today. We never had to have that.

It should then not be a surprise to discover that children who have become excellent learners in high-stimulus virtual environments may have trouble settling down into a sedate classroom with other children who are also conditioned to learning through video games. Tom Chatfield has written multiple articles and a book on how video games are the perfect education and motivation tools. He points out that children are constantly learning in a virtual environment where there are consequences to not accomplishing a task, e.g. losing a life, a tool, or not meeting a time requirement. There are also clearly stated rewards to completing the task as well as possible unexpected rewards that are doled out at calculated increments. Video game designers have been fine tweaking the ratio of difficulty, rewards and consequences to being a dumbass so that they know exactly how much to throw at a gamer at what level in each game in order to keep that person engaged and coming back for more. Educators could learn a lot from what these designers already know; children who are engaged and rewarded in an interactive learning process can and do give their entire attention and focus.

The fact that video games are a tool that can be used for education, and therefore do have an impact on the human brain, means we do need to be aware of what the potential negative impacts of those changes could be. What most every person has heard as an argument against video games is that they encourage violence and aggression in the people who play them. Multiple studies have been published on the topic, but when those studies have been reviewed and compared, it was found that they contradicted each other, and in many cases, used flawed methods to reach their conclusion regardless of the results (Mitrofan). Christopher J. Ferguson with Texas A&M University used meta-analysis to review 12 studies available to him at the time of his publishing (2008) and found that researchers often used flawed methodology, drew conclusions that were not supported by their evidence, or in general could find no link between video games and violence. Of all the research that I could find on the subject, the most conclusive causal link was that violent video game or media exposure does decrease a person’s response time to help someone after they suffered a violent event, if they noticed that something violent was going on at all (Anderson). If this were an effect that lasted for an extended period of time, this would be concerning to me. However, Holly Bowen and Julia Spaniol of the Dept. of Psychology with Ryerson University found that there is no indication that people who play violent video games have any long-term emotional desensitization to violence in their immediate surroundings. They do acknowledge that there may be a period immediately after playing these violent games that a gamer may be desensitized, but it is not an effect that could be attributed to an increase violence and aggressive behavior in those test subjects. Essentially, the evidence so far is showing that video games have a short-term impact on how people respond to violence and are likely desensitized to violence and possibly even reading for a short period after they play violent video games, but there is little evidence that there is a long-term impact. The heart of the argument against violent video games is based on the idea of a long-term, negative impact on gamers. Research just does not support that position.

Video games have become a part of our culture and a part of our lives in many ways. As a society we need to focus our energy and attention on is how to use them to make our lives better. We’ve already seen research that shows how video games can be used to help with several tasks with real world applications. We can use video games to increase our ability to track multiple objects and thus be able to monitor more of our surroundings while driving. They teach people how to be able to focus and maintain attention in situations where there is a lot of information to absorb in very short period of time. Video games can help us to better analyze what is going on around us and make quick decisions about the best action to take in a variety of situations. New research about the benefits of video games is coming out every year. It is time for us all to step forward and embrace the technology around us that has so many benefits and work together to mitigate the deficits that are present. Our society will not be ruined by this action, but will instead be enhanced further. There is one further thing we need to do. We need to sit down and pick up a controller. We leave ourselves at a disadvantage if we refuse to play out of false concerns regarding violence and aggression. Video games are here to stay.

Equality?

Today is a pretty important day in the fight for civil and equal rights for LGBT folks in the US. Tomorrow is too. However, it also looks like the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is completely aware of how important this issue is. They are also aware of the fact that it is only in the last year or so that the majority of people in the country support civil unions equivalent to marriage or marriage rights for LGBT couples. If they make a ruling about this divisive issue in the next few weeks they will be continuing the forward march for civil equality but also giving a new rallying point for those against equality.

Essentially, the justices really don’t want to make this decision until we’ve reached a greater than 60% majority in support. Or at least that’s how I’ve been reading it.

Some reasons for that assessment: The argument against Prop 8 (the California constitutional amendment from 2008 that banned marriage or civil unions for anyone besides a single man to a single woman) is literally only arguing against Prop 8. They are not arguing for sweeping, nationwide changes. They are arguing explicitly for the amendment to be overturned and made null and void. Justice Roberts verified the point with the Solicitor General of the Obama administration, “[Y]ou are willing to wait in the rest of the country,” Roberts said. “You’re saying [same-sex marriage] has got to happen right now in California, but you don’t even have a position about whether it’s required in the rest of the country.” I don’t believe that the court really wants to get involved in something so sticky as ruling one way for a state but ruling another way for the country, as could happen with the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) case they will be hearing tomorrow. There is a very high likelihood that they will defer ruling on Prop 8 and send it back down to the previous district courts (where there will be even more confusion about what to do next) because they will instead rule on DOMA.

What does this mean for the fight for marriage equality? That it’s not going to be so easy as having one or two hearings before SCOTUS. It’s going to continue to require a state by state battle to get equality of some sort. It’s going to require enough political action to actually get people to the voting booths, which is no small task. It’s going to require that we wait for older generations to pass on before the younger generations, where there is a clear majority of supporters, become the majority of voters. Or it’s going to require someone bring forth a clear, valid argument against a defense that could actually be valid long enough to be considered in court for why there should be sweeping, nationwide changes like what there was for Loving vs. Virginia in 1967. The repeal of DOMA and even overturning of Prop 8 are not going to make it happen, though either one being overturned will be a huge victory and add momentum to the equality cause.

I hope, I really do, that I am wrong. I hope that SCOTUS will rule in favor of overturning/repealing both. As much as it will be a rallying point for opponents of same-sex marriage and equality, it could be enough to convince those who have been waiting to see who the winner is going to be that they ought to throw their support in for equality. That would be super awesome and make me a rather happy camper.

Honestly though, I think it would be rather nice if the whole marriage vs. civil unions thing would be figured out. I have a few friends that really deserve to be married but are only just now being given the opportunity to have a civil union. It’s nice and almost there, but not quite the same idea. Now, if government decided to get their noses out of marriage in general and only have civil unions recorded and all that for state records for everyone, I’d be down for that. Religious institutions could figure out what the hell marriage is and what it means and who or who can’t get married, but that special snowflake definition would only matter and be recorded within that particular institution. I think that would totally be a win-win for everyone. The religious folks could get a civil union with all the legal and tax benefits that come with it and get married through their religious institution and life would be good. There are enough open and non-denom and “we just like to have community!” sort of places that even non-religious folks could still get “married” if they really wanted to.

But hey, maybe I just don’t care all that much because “marriage” has always been an odd concept to me and I’ve always found it to be rather controversial anyway. The history of marriage has never boded well for women, even civil unions never really boded well for women. I would be completely fine with something that came with less baggage and was more personal. But, marriage is important to some people, including my husband, so… *shrugs* I say we make it so that everyone who wants to get married can. *nods*

Sheriff Maketa: “An Injustice Against Our Citizens”

Sheriff Maketa: "An Injustice Against Our Citizens".

On Monday March 4th, 2013 the legislative branch of the Colorado House and Senate set a terrible, terrible precedent for how the citizens of Colorado and their concerns can be overridden and ignored in favor of politicians and party agendas. On a single day, Monday the fourth of March, five seperate gun control bills were set for public hearings by the state Senate. One day only was set aside for some of the most controversial bills that have been proposed in years. The next closest would probably be the Civil Unions bill that was passed without much, if any, fan fare this morning. While individual bills are scheduled for only one day of hearings, bills like these would normally be set on different days so that citizens have greater opportunities to make it these hearings and testify. Not everyone gets to, but usually it is a first-come, first-served deal. If you get there early enough, you’ll most likely be able to testify. Again, that was hot how these hearings were run.

Sheriff Maketa, a man who has reason to be very concerned about these bills and the legislative process, described what he saw on Monday. “…On numerous occasions, bills similar in nature were set for hearing on different days to ensure opportunity for anyone to participate in the deliberative process. On Monday, this didn’t occur. Instead, gun bills were simultaneously scheduled and of 25 plus sheriffs, only one could testify per bill. Hearings were split so bills heard simultaneously were on different floors, even though all were heard by senate committees. Rules for testimony changed three times from Thursday afternoon through Monday at 10:30 am, when hearings began. … Minutes after I signed up to testify, I learned a different process would be utilized and testimony was based on three categories: experts, preferred witnesses, and public witnesses.” (Emphasis added by me.) It seems to me that all these changes were specifically implemented to prevent citizens from voicing their opinions. They were blocked from representing themselves before their legislators. I would go so far as to say that the multiple changes in procedure, holding the hearings on the same day, and even creating different categories of speakers where committee members designated “expert” speakers were all designed specifically to prevent testimony against these bills.

“Later, I phoned a member of our legislature and expressed concern for what I had witnessed; changing of rules, time limits, new classification of speakers to establish priority and most of all the number of citizens who made the journey to the Capitol in hopes of being heard. I was told the rules did change several times and that this was very unusual. These changes were driven by the majority leadership, Senator John Morse, and the chairperson of the involved hearing committee.” I am appalled and ashamed at what the Colorado Democratic party, the current Senate and House majority, has done. I am a registered member of the Democratic party but am seriously considering severing my ties with them because of how they are treating the voters that elected them to office.

Maketa continued, voicing concerns that I truly believe we all should take a very close look at. “…I recognized the injustice that was unfolding before my eyes. Citizens of Colorado were prevented from participating in the legislative process. Their rights had been overridden by the agenda of a few members of the State Senate.”

I think what disturbs me the most of this entire process is that this is a new precedent that is being established by a party that I voted for. I helped to elect some of them into office and now am watching the government take large steps towards ignoring me and fellow citizens entirely, unless we agree with them. Did I go to the hearings on Monday? No, but it wasn’t due to lack of desire. I had classes that I could not miss and am now under the impression that it would not have mattered. My voice would have been silenced with the other estimated one thousand people that attended Monday’s testimony hearings.

Are there other methods for making my voice heard? Yes, I can email or call my representatives. I can attend town hall meetings. Would that have really made a difference here? No, because the representatives for the district(s) I live in are both Republican and voted against all five bills. I could have contacted other representatives, those I did vote for in previous elections for example, but they do not have to listen to me any more than other state representatives at the national Senate and House have to listen to me. I am not part of the slice of their state that they represent and therefore am not as important to them, at least not when we are talking about an issue that is so decisive and split down party lines like this.

Will I be making my concerns knows to all of the state representatives currently serving? Yes, I will. Again, the precedent that they have set is one which has the potential to lead to a government ruling class which is above the citizens they “represent.” I am aware that I am possibly using a slippery slope argument here, but I also believe that I am justified in being so concerned. I hope I’m not the only one. If you also believe that what has occurred here is wrong, please add your voice to mine and speak out against what has happened. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the gun control bills themselves. They are but minor players in this particular concern. I am much more concerned about my rights and my voice being ignored and silenced. I believe you should be too.

American Politics are… ugh

Aside

Ugh.

That is all I have to say about the most recent political “upheavals” in the US and Colorado. It is only Wednesday and yet there has already been enough going on to make me want to block my ears and eyes and count the hours until November.

The worst part is that I am able to tolerate the back and forth bickering and bitching and rhetoric from the politicians and reporters. That is expected and coming from the people who get paid to take part in such activities. I don’t like what goes on, but it’s something resembling tolerable and something which anyone who bothers to can see the purpose and the expected outcome. I’m not the greatest at seeing through all the points, I don’t pay enough attention to all the minute details or track what all the sides/parties are saying and responding to. I listen to NPR and glance through a few blogs and new articles as I come across them to get what bit I can tolerate.

The part that I have the most trouble stomaching is hearing and seeing the hateful rhetoric of “normal” people. An example is from one of George Takei’s facebook pictures.

Yes, it is a quote from Rush Limbaugh that I do not agree with and which I believe is willfully ignorant and intended to incite a reaction. That’s his job, it’s what he gets paid and advertising money to do. However, the hundreds of comments that anyone can read here are just horrible. The over abundance of ad hominem attacks upon Rush is, while also expected, saddening. The number of comments condoning violence and hate is disgusting.

The worst part is that I do not think most of the people who write such things realize what they are propagating. I may dislike Mr. Limbaugh. I may think that he intentionally spreads deceits, intentionally misconstrues a quote or interprets something so as to put his own very partisan spin on things and says many, many hateful things, but none of that is any reason for a person to spit (or in this case type) so much vitriol. Especially because it turns the very person saying such things into the hypocrite that they are raging against.

Now, I know it may be too much to ask, but is it possible for people to see people on the other side of the political spectrum as, well, people?

I do not believe we, as a country, will be able to figure out how the hell to pull out of this political tailspin we are currently in until we are able to discover the humanity in our fellows, regardless of whether they sport red, blue, purple, pink or polka dots. We are going to find ourselves in a nasty and dark place in the not to distant future if we’re not able to figure this out.

Personally, I’d like to avoid that. So… let’s go hug a Republican/Democrat. Or maybe start with a nice handshake? Or something along those lines.