I am Charlie.

Protesting the massacre at Charlie Hedbo.

And you should be too.  The only way to fight people who are willing to kill you for insulting their beliefs or their imaginary friends is to insult their beliefs and imaginary friends.

Protesters after the massacre at Charlie Hedbo.e massacre at Charlie Hedbo.

Do it from hiding if you must, but do it.  Ridicule them into non-existence.

Protesters after the massacre at Charlie Hedbo.I am Charlie.

(I don’t know who deserves the credit for these pictures.  If you know, please tell me in the comments.)

 

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Click Bate Headline Fails

I am so very sick of click bate headlines. You know the type. They are structured as a statememt of an event or situation, followed by “you won’t believe what happened next.” or “but what he did is incredible.” or (after a short cruise down Facebook) “See This Dog Running? You’re Never Going To Believe What He Does… I Can’t Believe What I Just Saw And You Won’t Either.”

I’m at the point where I refuse to click on these things, just because they are so badly written, such lazy copycat writing. These people need to sharpen their hooks.

The Christian right also comes out with horrible click bate headlines, a la “Atheists couldn’t stop this flash mob.” or “Atheists are shocked by this proof that God exists.” or “Atheists are furious about what this woman did.” As if atheists give a flying frog about the content of the story.

But now the skeptics have struck back with their own version: “God is on the ropes: The brilliant new science that has creationists and the Christian right terrified”.  This is beyond stupid as a headline.  Not only is the “new science” not particularly new, the idea that any scientific information would worry a creationist is absurd.  I’ll let PZ Myers explain.

“As for the claim that creationists will be terrified by this discovery…excuse me, but I have to go off somewhere and laugh for ten minutes or so.

Creationists don’t understand thermodynamics. Heck, they don’t understand basic logic. You think an obscure bit of theory by some brilliant wonk, written up in journals they’ll never read? My dog, man, I’ve still got creationists asking me, “If man evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” and you think they’re going to be stunned into silence by a technical paper in a physics journal on entropy, heat dissipation, and molecular self-organization? Look at England’s paper — it’s got math in it. The only thing that’s going to terrify the religious right is the prospect of reading the thing.

Creationists are always predicting the imminent death of Darwinism. Let’s not emulate them by predicting the imminent death of religious conservatism…and worse, attributing it to one isolated analysis by one guy working in theoretical physics.” – PZ Meyers

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You’ve Got a Good Family, My Trans Nephew.

Over the holidays I learned that one of my many nieces is no longer a niece, but is now a nephew.  This came on the heels of the horribly sad story of (Leelah) Josh Alcorn, the young trans woman who killed herself after years of psychological torture by her Christian parents.

Naturally my first thought was for the mental and physical health of my nephew.  He’s a female to male transgender, which I understand is far more difficult surgically than the other way around.  I learned about this from my sister, a Christian,  the boy’s grandmother.  After she told me the news,  I told her about the tragedy of Leelah Alcorn and sent her this message.

Dear S___:

Here’s a link to the article I told you about.

This is such a sad story, S____.  We’d better all make sure L___  gets the support he needs.

Love

Darwin Harmless  (Not the name I use in actual correspondence)

Her reply really warmed my heart:

You’re right that this is a terribly tragic story.  But saying all Christians believe this crap is a bit like saying all Muslims are terrorists.  As far as I know L___  has not met with this kind of cruelty from any member of our family and as far as I know you are the only non believer but this is off the topic.

I do not know how anyone can harbour that kind of ignorance in this day and age but sadly I know they do.  L___ had the courage to come with his Mom to tell me how he felt, we had gone through the I am gay stage and I think that is because he did not know what the real issue was. I can not imagine the confusion these kids must feel.  We humans are very visual in our perception.  What we see in the wrapping is what it is to us.

When L____ told me his greatest fear was that the family would push him aside we all assured him that even if we did not understand all the issues he would face no one in the family would withdraw our support or love.  Your cousin, K____,  is probably the most educated and understanding.   The rest of us will try to relate and support him anyway we can.  I have asked L____ to also understand that the older the family member or friend is the harder it will be to understand how difficult the transition will be for him. I have asked him to take shock or ignorant questions as a lack of knowledge not rejection of him,  that whether people understand or not he will always be loved and can come to us if he needs to hear that.

So far everyone has supported L____ –  a few raised eyebrows but no one is inclined to be cruel.  I think L_____ is very lucky.  My heart bleeds for the ones whose family think punishment is going to cure someone of who they are. Aside from that, K____ and I have had many discussions about this issue.  I really want to be sure that this is who L____ is because from an early age his parents, both wanting to make sure he was raised without gender identification, made it seem that identifying as a girl was a negative thing.  I have seen his father ridicule anything girly. K____ feels that even with that kind of programing it would not be possible to change your natural instinct.  Hope she is right.

L____  has gone through about three years of counselling and seems to be very happy with what he is doing.  I guess the proof is in the pudding. As a girl he was a most annoying child, nasty in fact.  Since he told everyone what he is doing he seems to be much happier and has become quite pleasant to be around.  My only wish is that he finds his place in life and can cope with the issues that will arise.  Whether we like it or not the human race is the nastiest beast on earth.  We are capable of extreme cruelty and I doubt that will ever change.You can be sure that L____  has the support he needs.  We do not need to completely understand what he is going through to stand behind him and up for him.  Anyone being mean to L____  will deal with a whole wall of angry people.   I am not surprised but very glad that you and R____ will stand with us.

Love S____

To which I replied:

I have never been prouder of you than I am at this moment.

You are just a fine human being and I’m so happy that you are my sister.

If you have an email address or facebook contact for L_____, I wouldn’t mind lending my note of support.

Much love

Darwin Harmless  (and R____)

P.S. I am sorry for the anti-Christian bias of the article I sent you.  The fact is, the intolerance that drove this girl to suicide seems to be more associated with devout religious belief than otherwise, and in this case religious belief was a direct cause of the girl’s suffering.  But I’m aware that most Christians would find that behaviour misguided and wrong.  Some of my best friends and most, if not all, family members identify as Christians.  I love them all.  I just can’t connect with the belief system.  It just doesn’t make any sense to me, as if they are talking another language when the dogma is explained.  That may well be my failing.  It’s been described to me like somebody who has absolutely no appreciation for music.  Trying to explain music to such a person would be a waste of time.

And a final note from my sister:

Hi Darwin Harmless:
I do not have a media contact for L____.  He decided sites that Grandparents and old people use are just to tacky for him, but I will certainly pass on your support the next time we speak.
I am so glad that he has such support from family I can not imagine the pain of rejection that so many people suffer.  I still have great fear of suicide in this case because even with all the support the world is a cruel place and I fear he will not have an easy life. Family support may not be enough.  I hope that love and support at home will give him the strength, courage and self confidence to thumb his nose at discrimination.  I hope that in the future he will find someone with the dedication and love to withstand the discrimination they will suffer as a couple.  There are so many issues ahead of him that have not yet been breached.  I try not to look too far forward.  The world is changing so fast and there are far more people coming forward with transgender issues.  Maybe at this time and in the future he will find more acceptance than in the past.  Can you imagine what he would have suffered when we where teens.  I did not even hear of transgender until I was a much older adult.  Being a teenager is such a difficult time.

Love you both

S____

And as always, I’m giving myself the last word:

Hi S____:

There is hope.  We have a friend, actually an old friend of R____’s, who is a male to female transgendered.  The funny thing is she’s still attracted to women, so she’s a lesbian.  Go figure, eh.  Anyway, she has a beautiful girlfriend and the two are just crazy about each other.  She’s also surrounded by very supportive friends, mostly slightly older people who are all misfits to some extent themselves.

Like you said, the world is changing.  Happiness is possible, even for those who have the hardest path to walk.

Much love

Darwin Harmless

And there you have it.  It feels so good that my family stands in such stark contrast to the loving Christian family that couldn’t accept Leelah Alcorn.  And perhaps my family is more the norm, even among Christians.  We can hope.

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It’s all About Communication

spinach caught in teeth

Shelley Berman did a comedy routine back in the sixties in which he described being on a date and every time you go to kiss the girl she turns her head.  Then when you get home you look in the mirror and find a big piece of spinach RIGHT  HERE.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if such a scenario were impossible.  In my perfect world it would be, because people would talk to each other.  Like this: “You know, I’d really like to kiss you but you have a big chunk of spinach in your teeth and it’s grossing me out.  How about we get rid of that and try again?”

Is that really so hard?  Why don’t I live in that world, instead of a world in which people identify with and laugh at Shelley Berman’s story?

And given that my perfect world doesn’t exist, can we do anything about this?

 

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The Rehab Industry

Drug-Testing-Table-SignIt’s quite possible that the “war on drugs” is winding down now.  Finally.

Washington State in America has made the purchase of recreational marijuana legal, following the lead of Arizona.  Both states are now raking in the tax revenue and everybody’s happy.

We are seeing more effort and money put into rehabilitating drug users, and less going into enforcement.  This is an improvement.  But of course the war on drugs had a very heavy economic component.  Lots of people were making money off fighting the “crime” of drug use.  That economic activity must be replaced by something if our economy isn’t going to tank.  Enter the rehab industry.

It’s just a cynical as the war on drugs was, maybe more so.  If you have a job that is thought to require a clear mind, which could be just about any job, then you must never admit to having even tried drugs.  Ever.  Not even once.  Because if you admit that you once tried drugs, you become suspect.  Next thing you know you’ll be paying for drug testing every week to make sure you are not currently using.  That can get expensive.  That can get VERY expensive.

Here’s a link to a British Columbia drug testing company, CDS Drug Testing SErvices of B C, Inc.   If you follow that link you will see that this company has more ways than one to make a buck. They offer reasonable suspicion training or how to recognize employees who likely to be using, and employee assistance programs, read rehab.  Some of these costs will be born by employers, but often the employer can insist that the employee pay for his or her testing, which can go on for months.  All it takes is reasonable suspicion, and you gave them that by being honest and admitting that you smoked weed back in university.

Some of this makes a certain amount of sense.  We don’t want stoners driving our taxis or working in our hospitals.  But the reality is that a joint the night before at a party is not going to fuck you up for your next shift the following morning.  It will show up in a blood test though, and that could get you suspended or fired.

The world is making adjustments to the more tolerant and intelligent attitudes toward drug use, especially soft drug use.  But what is really happening is that the white businessmen are planning on making a shitload of money doing what they have been putting poor black kids in jail for, and at the same time catching the recreational drug users in the rehab system.

The war on drugs isn’t really over.  It’s just shifted to a war on drug users.  Grab some popcorn and sit back to watch, because this is going to get interesting.

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Trolls, Attention Whores, and the Streisand Effect

Here’s a situation.  A misogynist YouTube blogger puts up a sexist and disgusting video that generates outrage.  A prominent feminist blogger writes him an open letter politely asking him to take down his offensive video and rethink his attitudes.  She invites everybody to share and reblog her letter, which all friends, supporters and allies do.  Misogynist sexist douchebag gets a metric shitload of traffic to his offensive video.  He then puts up a video revealing that it was all a social experiment designed to bring attention to a very worthy cause and thank you all for reacting the way you did; am I not a true hero of the Internet.  Many people dismiss his rational, some accept it and consider him clever, but the end result is that he’s suddenly well known.

Is he an attention whore douche bag or a clever activist genius?  I’m having a hard time deciding.

If we object to a message being put out on Yourtube, or any other site, how can we publicize our objection without driving traffic to the person we would like to shut down?

Laci GreenThis actual scenario played out recently when Laci Green put up an open letter to Sam Pepper, politely asking him to reconsider his attitudes toward women and take down, or cease making, the kinds of videos he was putting up on YouTube.  I’m a fan of Laci Green.  I never would have heard of Sam Pepper if she hadn’t written the open letter to him, and invited me to reblog it.  Actually, the chain of events is longer than this.  I’m a fan of PZ Myers at Pharyngula, and I first got the Lacy Green letter story from that site, which linked me to the Lacy Green site.  And it was in the Pharyngula comments that I learned about the “reveal” video that Sam Pepper had posted.  Also a link to Ophelia and Steve Kelly and Fay Strang atMirror.  Wow.  I’d say this was a successful self promotion campaign in spades.

Sam Pepper

All of this activity seems to have played right into Sam Pepper’s plans.  If attention and fame was his goal, and it’s hard to imagine him having any other, despite his proclaimed desire to bring attention to men who suffer from assaults, we have all delivered exactly what he wanted.  I feel tricked and used.

I also feel a tiny bubbling of admiration for this shameless self promoter.  I mean, one has to admire success.

I now intend to go back to my previous practice of not commenting on the buzz of the blogosphere but sticking to issues I feel something about directly.  I don’t want to be a part of the Is-Sam-Harris-Sexist-Is Dawkins-a-Douche-Is-Thunderfoot-an-Asshole imbroglios.  I don’t really care who is wrong on the Internet and all I could ever add to the discussion is my opinion.  There are certainly enough opinions floating around.  You all can live without mine on these issues.

Now that I’m back up and running, maybe I should look at my drafts and see if there is anything worth posting.  I’ll get back to you.

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Time to Shut Down Sam Pepper

I haven’t been posting for a long time.  Something was wrong with my WordPress.  I couldn’t see what I was typing in.  Rather than fix it, which would have taken a lot of time, I just backed everything up and stopped blogging since all the previous posts were visible.  But apparently the latest WordPress updates fixed the problem, though I’m not happy with the new layout of my blog (I wanted the sidebar on the side, not under the posts but oh well). It’s been a nice break.  But now I’m back.

A Youtube “comedian” has been posting “funny” videos of himself pinching women on the butt and expressing great amusement at their discomfort.  Lacy Green wrote him an open letter, very politely suggesting that this was not good behaviour and asking him to stop.  I don’t know how this works, but apparently reblogging her letter somehow adds my signature, so here it is.

Sam Pepper as dumb as he looks.

Sam Pepper as dumb as he looks.

*******************************

Open Letter from Lacy Green to Sam Pepper

Hi Sam!

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter.  As fellow YouTubers, we have much respect for others who put so much hard work into building their channel.  It’s not easy, and you should be proud!  That said, we’ve noticed that in your success, there has been a lack of respect in return…namely, for women and girls.

You may have noticed that your latest video “Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank” has garnered considerable negative attention.  In this video, you sexually violate a number of unsuspecting women on the street, many of whom are visibly confused and upset at being touched by you without permission.  One woman even says “I don’t like that!” while you proceed to laugh and touch her more.  In “How to Make Out with Strangers”, made a year ago, you pressure women on camera to make out with you – again, many of whom are visibly uncool with it.  Confused and caught off guard, they painfully follow through with your requests, clearly uncomfortable.  In “How to Pick Up Girls with a Lasso”, you physically restrain women on the street with lassos – many of whom look alarmed to be restrained by a stranger.

You’d probably be alarmed too, wouldn’t you?  Imagine someone on the street comes up and rubs their hand on your bottom, or a girl walks up to you with a camera and forces her mouth onto yours while you’re trying to figure out what’s going on.  Imagine walking down the alley alone, when a guy much larger than you physically restrains you with rope and pulls you toward him.  You probably wouldn’t like it, right?

People don’t like to be violated and they don’t like to see their friends and girlfriends be violated either (hence the group of men that tried to beat you up in the lasso video).  And yet, history suggests that perhaps you find this humorous.  It is very disturbing that we live in a world where the violation of women and girls’ bodies is not only funny, but profitable, and can garner considerable notoriety and views on YouTube.

We are deeply disturbed by this trend and would like to ask you, from one creator to another, to please stop.  Please stop violating women and making them uncomfortable on the street for views.  Please stop physically restraining them and pressuring them to be sexual when they are uncomfortable.  Please show some respect for women’s right to their own bodies.  While it may seem like harmless fun, a simple prank, or a “social experiment”, these videos encourage millions of young men and women to see this violation as a normal way to interact with women.  1 in 6 young women (real life ones, just like the ones in your video) are sexually assaulted, and sadly, videos like these will only further increase those numbers.

We realize that people make mistakes, and that sometimes it’s hard to see the ripple effect of one’s actions.  We really hope that you will take a step back and consider the power you have to be someone who makes the world a better place.  It’s not too late to make a change!  We invite you to join us in ending widespread bodily violation that takes place in so many forms all around in the world.

Thanks so much.

Laci GreenMeghan TonjesTyler OakleyTomSkaViHartALBRoss EverettMatt LiebermanMeg TurneyTom FlynnTyrannosaurus LexArielle ScarcellaDan at NerdCubedRachel WhitehurstHannah Witton, Jefferson Bethke, MusicalBethan, Kaleb Nation, Chris Thompson, Michael Buckley, Jared Oban, Liam Dryden, Sanne Vliegenthart, Bryarly Bishop, Nicola Foti, Chescaleigh, Grace Helbig, Wheezy Waiter, Morgan Paige, Nathan Z., MumboJumbo, Miles Jai, Adorian Deck, Alli Speed, Matthew Santoro, Jaclyn Glenn, Hank Green, Rosianna Rojas, Grayson, Taryn Southern, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Adam Hattan, Drew Monson, Josh Sundquist, Mamrie Hart, Strawburry17, Catie Wayne, Hannah Hart, Catrific, Connor Manning, Emily Graslie, Sarah Weichel, Jack Howard, Louise Sprinkleofglitter, Mr. Repzion, John Green, Rob Dyke, Dean Dobbs, Charlie McDonnell, Wil Wheaton, Mitch & Greg at AsapSCIENCE

[MORE COSIGNERS TO COME.  SHARE/REBLOG TO SIGN!]

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A Believer Being Right for a Change

Neil at Australian LutheranThere is so much annoying nonsense coming from religious believers, it’s tempting to dismiss them all as unreasonable idiots.  But it’s important to give them some credit when credit is due.

Neil writes at a blog titled Lutheran Church of Australia: In My Opinion. He is trying to single handedly reform the leadership of his church when it comes to LGBTQ issues.  He’s good.  He’s worth reading.  He’s entirely too intelligent and reasonable to be a Christian, but he insists that’s what he is.

The leadership of the Christian Church in Australia including the leadership of my own church enjoy a position of real power and influence in this country. They have, for decades, in a coordinated and well-funded manner spoken against our LGBT brothers and sisters labelling them as sinful, disordered and diseased.

But things have changed. Others have voiced their support for LGBT rights and equality and have begun to publicly question the Church. Some have even gone so far as to call the church*s views bigoted and homophobic.

The churches response? Rather than entering into genuine dialogue with those who have been hurt by their teachings,  the Church have pulled up the drawbridge, manned the ramparts, dug deeply into their persecution complex storehouse and cried *Discrimination.*

You’d almost think PZ Myers was his ghost writer.  His latest post is one of his best.

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Religion on Thin Ice

This is a daring, even dangerous, sign for a church to put up.  The only logical result of thinking about doubt is atheism.

Thinking? Dangerous ground for religion to explore.

As secularism gains critical mass, we can expect the churches to become more tolerant of atheists and even doubt, questioning, and yes, thinking.

My domestic partner and main squeeze has started to attend a church on Sundays.  It’s a church in which even I feel comfortable, the First Unitarian Fellowship, a United Universalist church.  The sermons could only be described as secular, with few if any mentions of a sky faerie, and the intellectual environment is several cuts above any other church I’ve ever been in.  They welcome everybody, including atheists.  The stories they read for the children are things like “The Everything Seed” by Carole Martignacco which presents a seed from which came everything as an analogy for the big bang, like an atheist creation myth.  I think a good part of the draw for my partner is a chance to sing in a choir, but she also appreciates the welcoming atmosphere and,  as advertised, the fellowship.

PZ has a post about how we can’t expect churches to go away.  They will adapt and evolve.  We can see this happening already, especially when a church invites us to think.  Of course they want certain conclusions from the thinking they encourage, but that’s only to be expected.  Dream on, you guys.

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Too Much Information

I’ve always hated that phrase, too much information.  It’s usually said by somebody who is squeamish about body functions or your personal and disgusting habits.  But we all have body functions and personal disgusting habits.  I have no problem with people telling me about theirs.

But I’ve found that too much information is really hurting me now.   I thought I knew all about the effects of infant male circumcision.  I didn’t.  I recently found this video, and it explained why my ejaculation is, as she describes it, an “on off switch” rather than a smooth ride to orgasm.

Interesting.  Upsetting. The more I learn about the results of circumcision, the more I personally feel a deep and painful sense of loss.  I wish I could simply ignore her description of the sexual act for an intact man as opposed to a circumcised me, but her description of what sex feels like to me is too spot on.  That’s what it feels like to me.  No smooth ride to climax, but hard humping waiting for something to happen and then, okay, here I come.  An on off switch.

Masturbation has now become at times painful.  I feel like I have to beat the little prick to death to get him to spit it out.  Again, it’s an on off switch, not a smooth ride to the top of the roller coaster.

I’ve never before wanted to be ignorant about anything, but sometimes I wish I had remained ignorant on this subject.  I’ve always loved sex.  It’s been good enough. No, not just good enough, it’s been great. But now as I get older, I find problems that obviously come from having been circumcised and if I were ignorant they wouldn’t have the same sting.  If I were ignorant, as I assume are most circumcised men, I’d just accept it as the way it is with being human.  I wouldn’t feel so cheated and fucked over.

If you are a circumcised man, and I’m now making you feel cheated and fucked over, sorry about that.  But join the campaign.  This kind of thing has to stop.  It was done to us, but it doesn’t need to be done to any more helpless babies.

Fucking doctors with their anti-sexual Abrahamic religion backgrounds, their smug assumption that they can fix things with surgery when no fixing is needed.  Fucking parents with the smug attitude that they can do whatever they want with their baby, even cut off part of his genitals just to make him look more like daddy, though apparently that wasn’t the situation with my father.  My father never allowed me to see his penis.  He had a huge lump of body shame and I never even saw him in a bathing suit.  I found out recently that he wasn’t circumcised.  I’d love to know who sold him on the idea and how a smart man like him could accept it.

Ah, baggage.  Let it go, Darwin.  Let it go.

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