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The mote in our eye

Ladies and gentlemen, my first blog post in almost four years.  Did I miss anything?

Hopefully you all will not be waiting another four years for the next one.  As you might be able to tell from the content, it was not external political matters which kept me away — although I’ll admit that those have had a toll on my spiritual and mental well-being from time to time.  Please feel free to leave comments, as before.

There’s been a bit of pearl-clutching on this side of the pond over an opposition candidate in the upcoming Russian Presidential election, Alexey Navalny. Navalny is a reformer, and has made combatting corruption the centerpiece of his campaign, with strong and reasoned policy points concerning the economy. Of course, one of the weak points of modern Western democracy is that policy is a very distant concern among observers of his campaign, and many aren’t even looking at it at all. That’s human nature, of course, but it is amplified by media reaction. On that side, Russian media is essentially an arm of the Vladimir Putin campaign and ignores Navalny. They will get around to ridiculing him later, if he gains any traction with his campaign. (This is not a behavior that is confined to Russia, as I’ll discuss later in this article.) To Western media, Navalny has become a cause celebre because he seems to be the only reform-minded candidate running against Putin, and Putin has been transformed into something of a Blofeldian caricature in the U.S. Continue reading

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I’m Going to Say Some Unpopular Things About Leelah Alcorn

First of all, what a terrible tragedy.  What we know is that she felt trapped in her body, she went to her parents for help, and they decided that the help she needed was ‘therapy’ to make her feel male. When she realized that it would be too late for her to transition gracefully if she waited for legal autonomy, she killed herself, leaving a suicide note on social media asking that her death bring about help for teens like herself.  Her mother didn’t acknowledge either the suicide or the transgender identity when she announced her baby’s death.

I understand the outrage at the parents, I really do.  They did completely the wrong thing, they bought snake oil medicine, and when their child died they couldn’t (publicly) face the fact that their actions had something to do with it.  They still call her “Joshua”, and she will undoubtedly be buried under that name and in a suit.

The thing is, the parents of a suicide often have trouble acknowledging it.  I had a forty year old friend who took an overdose of medication for his chronic pain, and his mother couldn’t acknowledge it was suicide – even in a situation where there was no blame implied.  How could you expect Carla Alcorn to come to grips with the death of her child when her child blamed her for it?

I want to fix this, really, for all future Leelah’s.  I just don’t see how attacking her parents does that.   They attempted to get their child psychiatric treatment, they went to doctors they believed were reputable, and the depression deepened.

We certainly can say the mental health professional they took her to failed dramatically.  Ohio was on it’s way to banning conversion therapy last year, but that effort crashed and burned in the spring.  The fact that she didn’t get any help for suicidal depression is another BIG data point in favor of the ban.

But the truth is, even if she had gotten appropriate therapy (which I would guess would have been a combination of depression treatment and gender conversion therapy) there is no guarantee that she would have lived.  We will never know.

So let’s all respect Leelah’s wish, and do what we can to make the world better for Transgendered teens (and adults as well), but please, if we can, let’s do it without demonizing her family.  They have enough pain to deal with, and changing their minds won’t help the next Leelah.

Looking for men

discusIt’s impossible at this point to avoid the Facebook discussions, memes, “teachable moments”, and other posts concerning the shooting in Santa Barbara and the attempted shooting in Stockton, both of which followed a similar and disturbing pattern. It is equally impossible to avoid being a participant in them. “All men” and “all women” are being invoked pretty much constantly, and their hashtags and accompanying invective litter the Internet; there are multiple self-appointed representatives speaking for you through your gender.

My response could probably fill an entire blog, not just a blog post, and it is in fact still evolving as I consider new facts, and different points of view. There is a lot of nuance to it…but a few things are clear, and need to be said. And, in doing so, I also incidentally claim the right to say them, in the way I feel I must. A great many posts are circulating which attempt to explain how I may and may not argue as, for instance, a member of my gender. Demands of that sort will be politely ignored.

My first response to the shootings was to consider them the work of mentally disturbed individuals – not, as was claimed by some feminist columnists, the product of rampant institutionalized misogyny. I still feel that way in a general sense; however, I now don’t believe it is wholly adequate to describe the situation. There is something behind this unbridled rage at women, both in the acts themselves and the inexcusable, indefensible hate speech men have concocted to comment upon them. I’m not going to pretend I know precisely what it is, but something more is happening, it has roots within our identity as men, and it is very clearly wrong.

I do know, however, that women cannot define this problem for us, and women cannot solve it. Continue reading

The world without them

death and sufferingRecently, the usual crop of nonsensical conservative pundits spoke out in objection to an advertisement by Coca-Cola, featuring “America the Beautiful” sung in a variety of languages, most of which I have heard spoken in this country by fellow Americans, either naturalized or otherwise, during the usual course of my life.  The reactions of these pundits, as well as many random fellow conservative Twitterers and commenters, are stereotypically fearful, and when you are in fear, you don’t necessarily make a lot of sense.  Glenn Beck’s take, as an example, was how “in your face” and “dividing” the commercial was.  A whole bunch of different people getting together and praising the United States and its beauty in song is…”dividing”.  This should tell you all that you need to know about Glenn Beck.  (For more information, consult the book 1984, by George Orwell.) Continue reading

The more effective evil

love-that-demThe gubernatorial race in Virginia drew a great deal of attention from my friends thanks to the proximity.  There was no Green in the race, nor obviously could I vote, but I was still the recipient of a lot of advertisements about it, and a great deal of the usual justifications trotted out by rank-and-file Democrats that make up the majority of my base of friends for their actions.

A local Maryland Democrat and a great friend who is somewhat sympathetic to my political viewpoint, posted a message from Planned Parenthood in Virginia on an online forum we frequent concerning the election.  It was a congratulatory message that they “KEPT KEN OUT!”…which I considered painfully apropos to Democrats in general.  The race was considered to be between a Republican and “someone else” – who suddenly became vital to vote for given no other considerations as a purely defensive measure.  A discussion ensued in which I was led to discuss my own view on the matter – and while I don’t generally do this, I thought it might be illustrative to reproduce it here, with a minimal amount of editing to take out some references to other friends and family members.  I began: Continue reading

Shutting it down and walking out

evil fanboys on looseSharp readers of my usual blather know that I do not pull punches when it comes to the Democratic Party.  Whatever problems our country has, it is abundantly clear, time and time again, that voting Democrat will not solve them.  Most of my readers are Democrats, and this upsets them, but I’d rather be right than conform to other people’s ideologies and accept their obvious flaws.  Their cognitive dissonance isn’t something I ever wish to explore.

Having said that, there are a number of narratives going around about the government shutdown and impending debt ceiling decision which hold the Democrats in contempt, or responsible, for both of these manufactured crises.  The Republicans, of course, blame the Democrats completely.  Some media outlets and other political actors take the tack of “a plague ‘a both their houses”; even my own party has recently made statements to this effect.  Placing the blame in this way is pretty easy, and it isn’t usually wrong…but again, if I’m standing on conscience, then it needs to be said: the former is absolutely ludicrous; the latter is just misguided. Continue reading

Quick and painful

ImageA few quick notes on the government shutdown which has just taken place, in no particular order:

1. I’m always a bit chagrined about being right.  As I have mentioned elsewhere, I was and am in favor of Medicare-for-all as a health care solution for the U.S.  Barack Obama clearly was not, and was quite willing to go to the wall not against the Republicans to pass his plan, but against progressive Democrats in removing the “public option”.  The loyalist Dems who supported anything Obama said or did – quite a few – painted that as a necessary step in order to secure Republican support.  The GOP, they attempted to reason, was far too obstructionist, and only those who were politically “naive”, like the Greens, would think they could just push something through without their approval.  Even after gaining zero Republican votes from either house in passage, which should have negated that argument, they continued to triumphantly celebrate the obviously superior political skills of their nominally liberal President.  All part of the plan, we were assured…the necessary stepping stone on the way to single-payer. Continue reading