Monday, October 29, 2007

Obama Continues to Sink his Campaign

This is not how you shake up the primary.

He approached the subject gingerly at first. Then, just when the concert had seemed to reach its pitch and about to end, Mr. McClurkin returned to it with a full-blown plea: “Don’t call me a bigot or anti-gay when I have suffered the same feelings,” he cried.

“God delivered me from homosexuality,” he added. He then told the audience to believe the Bible over the blogs: “God is the only way.” The crowd sang and clapped along in full support.

The political implications of his performance are not clear. The concert-goers we talked with afterward were generally more focused on making allowances for Mr. McClurkin’s past homosexuality than on anything about Mr. Obama.

The Obama campaign had appeared to be caught off guard by the reaction to inviting Mr. McClurkin in the first place, and it may have been surprised tonight by the degree to which the singer focused on himself. The other speakers and singers had avoided referencing the controversy. Even an openly gay minister whom Mr. Obama had invited after the fact to try to appease his gay and lesbian critics spoke so early that few people heard him.

This should never have happened in the first place. A good campaign would never have even let this douchebag anywhere near a campaign event. Not being perceived as anti-religious and even bring religious people to support democrats is a good thing. However it can't come at the expense of embracing religious bigots. No more then Hillary should embrace David Duke in an attempt to appeal to Southerners.

Obama just caused himself dearly amongst many how could have done wonders to help his campaign. John Aravorsis for one, seems to have made it his mission to sink Obama. Not good considering he has an audience of about one million engaged and active dem voters. More then CNN one might add.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I was reading this article and it got me thinking. With few exceptions is something that men do to women and other men. Women, generally, do not seem to rape people. While there are some biological facts that make it somewhat difficult for a woman to rape a man, the impetus to even consider doing it just doesn't seem to be there.

First though its important to distinguish two main types of rape. While current thinking likes to argue that all rape is not about sex, but power, this does not seem to be the case. I am thinking specifically of date rape. Especially date rape that occurs after some level of sexual activity has begun. Here I think the main motivation is sexual release.

I am not saying that power is not at issue, it is, but it is secondary to the sexual motivation. Power comes up in the belief that one can, or should, be able to gain sexual pleasure from an unwilling partner. Whether that partner is unwilling by threat of force, or though the affects of substances. Nevertheless the belief that one can force someone to have sex, is problematic.

What I find interesting is why men, at seemingly increasing frequency are raping women, or who at least in theory find it ok to force a woman to have sex with them. Beyond that the increasing appeal of porn that degrades women, and overall attitudes that seek to demean and degrade women. You could add to this the rise of fundamentalist religion that argues for women to return to the traditional roles.

The answer I think is that women are winning. Whether its college admittance, entry-level jobs, or happiness with life women are beating men. They are going to grad school, getting better jobs, and gaining power. While the upper echelons of power are still(mostly) held by men, that seems to be more and more the final legacy of sexism.

From the stand point of masculinity that is unacceptable. We are supposed to be the ones in charge. It is our job to protect. provide, and control women. If you've gotten somewhat annoyed when someone turns down your help you can see where I'm going with this.

Men are told and encouraged to adopt this kind of masculinity. From media to parents we are shown an idea of masculinity that requires us to view women as somewhat childlike. Even when strong women are portrayed in media they eventually will require the rescue of a man. Torture porn being the most egregious example, but one can see it in many other forms. The strong, independent heroine is eventually placed in a situation where only a man can get her out.

The thing is, the world doesn't work like this. Women rarely need us men to come rescue them. While they welcome mutually supportive partnerships, many aren't looking for a protector to control them.

Beyond that men are increasingly finding themselves unable to compete with women. As mentioned early women are out pacing men in most fields. Again we have been raised to believe we are the one who should go to the good schools, have the good jobs, and be in charge.

A good case study of this is in South Africa. South Africa is experiences an epidemic of rape. Rape by young black men. As with the US, it's women, in this case black women, who are doing the best. In the post-apartheid world black women are earning the most, doing the best in school, and beginning to gain power.

Perhaps more so then in the US, South Africa is a very patriarchal culture. The myriad social problems this has cased, from AIDS to spousal abuse are too numerous to go into. However its clear that while patriarchy is still prevelent, the success of women is undermining it. A women with a steady job is not going to(willingly) take orders from an unemployed man.

Faced with this reality many (and I mean many) men in South Africa are responding violently. Brought up to believe they are entitled to have power yet lacking it, they respond by exercising the one power they have left, physical force. One of the surest ways a man can "put a woman in her place" is by raping her. It reaffirms physical superiority and the resulting trauma inflicted on the victim further reinforces ideas of superiority.

Back in the US, we are seeing somewhat the same phenomenon. From Girls Gone Wild, to the increasing accepetence of date rape, men it seems are responding in the same way South African men are. Women are in charge, we resent that, so we we respond by exerting our power in the only way we can, through force.

This is why I think that in responding to rape feminism has reached the limit of what it, as a womens movement, can do. The problem is not legal, or a matter of womens rights, studies, or the like. Its a problem of masculinity. Masculinity, as it has been defined is no longer able to function in society. It has to change.

Feminism broke the ground and has lead the way in how to do this. the reexamination of femininity that began with the rise of feminism has taken femininity into the modern age. The reexamination of female gender roles has not been wholesale of course. There are aspects of femininity that are still the same as they always have been. Whether its fashion, emotional sensitivity, or romance movies, many women still enjoy these things while being strong leaders in society. Of course many don't and thats ok too. Feminism has showed us that we can decide for ourselves how we construct our gender identity. Unless your a man.

this not, per se, a problem of feminism. It is not anti-men, nor has it purposely neglected men in its pursuits. However, no more then a man could tell women how to reform femininity, women can't tell men how to reform their masculinity. In fact in doing so it only fuels the problem were talking about. Masculinity is at the core of many mens sense of self and such things do not respond kindly to critique.

What is needed is a mens movement in line with the feminist movement. Men need to reevaluate what it means to be a man. Specifically we need to jettison the sense of entitlement brought about by antiquated notions of patriarchy. We need a maculinity that is acceptable in a 21st century egalitarian soceity.

This does not mean a complete rejection of masculinity. Just as feminism maintained many aspects of feminism, so to can our reevaluation maintain many aspects of masculinity. In some case aspects of feminism shifted from a subservient roles, to a role of equality and even power. For example the care ethic enjoys substantial popularity amongst committed feminists.

For example one element of masculinity is the chivalrous notion of defending the defenseless, more often the not cast as women. This motivation is not in and of itself bad. The notion of coming to the aid of those suffering is a noble and good thing. The problem is its entanglement with sexism. Just as femininity detached care from subservience, so too must masculinity detach defense from dominance.

There are some doing this work already, but not enough. More then that it needs to permeate the culture. Feminism was added in this by a political movement. There seems to be no such movement for men aside from destructive mens rightest who want to do the opposite of whats needed.

I am not sure how we can do this but it needs to be done. Not only will it, I hope, curtail instances of rape, but it will I believe better enable men to succeed in society. When we lose our sense of entitlement hopefully we will understand that our success in life is measured by our ability and hard work, not by the fact that we have a cock.

One way I know we can do this is by raising the next generation of men to view the world differently.

Tim Burgess's Jesus

This article gave me mixed feelings. On one hand I don't think the religious should be barred from serving in public office, though arguing against religion is no more bigotry then arguing against republicanism.  It also nice that his faith, for the most part, makes him have decent political beliefs.  However I am still uneasy when people's views are influenced by something so weird as faith.

While the article was so-so, this just made me mad:

When I left Burgess, he was very nervous about this column. About how Seattle voters might react to an entire article about his religious faith a week before the election.

It occurred to me later his worry may say as much about us as it does about him.

While I don't think one religion should matter when it shouldn't, i.e. most jobs, how can a person beliefs not be relevant in a campaign.  If we are to take Burgess at his word when he says this:

"My world views, my political views, my lifetime of working for equality and justice — I can't deny it's shaped by my religious beliefs."

Then how can we at least not analyze his religious beliefs.  Had he said his views were shaped by his commitment to Marxism no one would even think twice about questioning Marxism, even if his Marxism leads him to view points in total agreement with this City.  Its not bigotry to disagree with claims people make about the world.  I don't go around arguing with my religious friends about their beliefs, but if we are talking about religion, I'm not going to pretend that somehow I don't think its wrong.  No more then if we were talking about whether a movie was good or bad.  Bigotry requires at least some level of immutability.  For example race, sexual orientation, height, etc. Its not nice to argue that someone should be taller or to think that blacks aren't suited for higher office.  But to look at the religious doctrines someone chooses to accept especially when they readily admit they shape their decisions is just prudent.

And there in lies the problem with many on the left.  We have a habit of going after policy agreement at the expense of everything else. At the national level its people who think everyone should support Ron Paul or Kucinich because they say all the right things.  As if being president is about picking the right answer on a multiple choice test.  I am coming to support Clinton, not because she is the candidate I agree with most, but becasue she seems to have the right personality for the job.  I'm still at least partly behind Obama, but his recent actions have made me doubt he's up to being president, even though I agree with him more then Clinton. Hopefully the dem nominee will be president for 8 years.  I want someone who doesn't just say the right things now, but has the sort of temperament and worldview to do the right thing on issues I'm not even thinking about yet, or don't even exist. 

I'm not saying everyone who supports Burgess is doing this.  Elections are much more complex then that and Della is a tool.  What I am saying is that to maintain that the only thing we can consider is what a candidate says about particular issues is wrong.  We have to go deeper. A candidates faith doesn't disqualify them, but if we are to accept what they say about its power, then it has to at least matter. 


Friday, October 12, 2007

Parties and religions don’t exist absent people. They are products of people. I don’t think you judge a movement based on people per se, but you can judge it based on how its constructed by the people who make it up. The republican party of Lincoln is not the same republican party today, no more than democrats today are the same as democrats from the New Deal era. Sometimes this is subtle changes designed to attract new followers and other times it a whole sale shift in values such as democrats on civil rights or republicans on nation building.

With Christianity it’s no different. Christians today have little theologically in common with say Aquinas or even Paul. At a basic level they share some similar beliefs such as the existence of Jesus, but concepts such as the trinity, the nature of Jesus, original sin, and the method of salvation, have undergone wholesale revision from time to time. A lot of which has to do with changing understandings of morality and the nature of the world. For example, the idea of Jesus can be seen as a response to the growing difficulties with the sacrificial system of atonement. Remember in ancient Jewish society the way you made up for wrong acts was through the killing of ostensible innocent animals, and occasionally captured people. Like most tribal societies they had a god who enjoyed sacrifices, controlled events, etc. Not really different form Baal, Ra, or any other.

What Christianity added to the mix was the novel idea of a universal sacrifice. No more did one have to off some goats to appease god. The problem is that it relies on the same odd understand of how to make up for wrong doing. The idea that the suffering of the innocent can absolve the guilty is a crime itself. Not only that, but at a threshold level it just doesn’t make any sense. If you did something wrong to me, say stole my car, how would killing my kid, or, ostensibly, part of myself, in anyway absolve you from stealing my car.

Even if we grant that such suffering does absolve wrongdoing, Jesus just doesn’t seem to cut it. In a sense god took part of himself, a part that had always and would always be part of him and sent him to earth for an incredibly short period of time. Short from a natural history perspective and from a 30 years vs. infinity perspective. After a relatively happy 30 years he underwent a few days of admittedly painful torture, though not nearly as long or as a severe as others have gone through. He then was dead for three days before returning to Heaven. Again, how that makes up for others wrong doing, either before Jesus, or especially after, doesn’t really make sense. Instead it just seems like an easier way of being Jewish. No sacrifice, no weird dietary/clothing laws, no actual punishment.

Personally I only really care what people believe when it affects me or society. If someone wants to believe that they get to live forever because god’s kid had a bad weekend, that’s fine with me. However I do care when they use that to try and restrict the rights of my gay friends, force me to accept their beliefs, or suppress our efforts to discover scientific truths. Whether its Muslim fundamentalists or born again Christians both can’t seem to grasp that the rest of us are quite happy even though we don’t think as they do.

This generation has exponentially more access to knowledge than any other in history. If anything the effects of this are only beginning to be understood and so far I think people are underestimating them. The Barna study sheds some light on what’s to come though.

For example, I can right now access the entirety of human genome, read every scientific article ever published, and see all the pictures ever taken by the Hubble space telescope. I don’t accept evolution and big bang cosmology because an expert told me so, I accept it because I have seen the evidence myself. What was once the providence of god (weather, sickness, eclipses, the existence of life) now have explanations, and we are close to understand so much more.

This makes the job of religion ,with its simple stories of minor miracles, mediocre creation, and ancient fables, quite difficult. What might have impressed a stone age farmer, or even a 19th century peasant, just doesn’t impress those of us with access to the real knowledge provided by reason and science. Even though we might not ever understand it all, the wonder created simply by trying is so much more satisfying the complacency created by saying ‘god did it’.