Happy National Impeach Day!

Today is national impeach day.

Via the astoundingly awesome Mirth:

On Saturday, April 28th, tens of thousands of Americans will be making their voices heard by putting the word IMPEACH! in front of the public eye.

As her most excellent co-hort D-Day noted yesterday:

Tomorrow is the day to get out your signs and if you can, attend a rally. (As Mirth posted about 9 days ago) April 28 is a day of Nationwide Impeachment Actions. Patriots from across the country are gathering where they can or posting signs calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. I hope all our readers can take part in some way.

In this link, you can find info about group actions taking place (hopefully in a city near you!). Use the interactive map approximately half way down the page to find out when and where people will be gathering (there’s contact info too).

If you cannot get out today, put up a sign tomorrow.  Or wait a week, and replace a sign that has been torn down with a new one.  Use the link to get contact info, and find out what’s next.  National Impeach Day is an invitation to action and involvement, and its open to everyone!  Bring your friends and speak up and out!

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Rape and Discourse

I went to high school in Framingham, Massachusetts. It was senior year, and I had managed to get myself into the closest class to philosophy offered, political theory. My teacher was a woman of rare substance, who managed to challenge and eke out strands of logic and thought many of us hadn’t previously met. I could go on about her teaching methods or her character in a post all its own, and perhaps someday I will. Today I’d like to focus on one particular story from her classroom. Earlier in the week, a student had been raped. A freshman girl had been forced into oral sex by an upperclassman (and member of some sports team). Those in the know had been expressly forbidden from discussing the matter. This wasn’t something that went into the papers, nor something which spread around campus quickly, like when we had our Columbine scare (which fortunately turned out to be a false alarm). What still sticks with me is Ms. F starting the class by closing the door stating this was a topic she was not allowed to bring up, but one we needed to talk about. The chairs were in a circle, and we started to talk. About the rape being covered up. About what we would do if it was us being forced. If it had been a friend in either position. About what rape itself was.

In that moment when Ms. F closed the door, she was trusting us. Trusting her students with her career. She saw the clamp down on discourse as antithetical to the schools mission to educate us, and to our own health as citizens. To discuss the rape was to discuss the culture it occurred in, and its failings. It was to discuss the fear of rape, and the fear that always accompanies incidents of rape, the fear of false accusation. I would like to discuss how the fear that surrounds rape relates to discourse as my contribution to Take Back the Blog.

In discussing rape, there are a few points I want to touch on:

  • How our culture influences and is influenced by rape
  • How the fear of rape affects us
  • How discourse can allow us to fight back

The first thing to realize is how our culture is one of rape. I’m not saying you see billboards advertising “Rape, Yay!”. What I am saying is that a few very important and in some cases formative aspects of our culture create victims and rapists, and create the perspectives we view the victims and rapists through. Nezua of The Unapologetic Mexican has written eloquently as a father about how we create rape victims (emphasis mine):

In this particular example, it teaches the little girl that her feelings and her personal boundaries are secondary to the feelings and wants of the person who wants to get some lovin’ from her. Years of this, and how easy will it be to say “no” to some guy with a boner who gets her alone after the prom? You know all the lines he’ll drop on her, and I bet they won’t sound too different than her parent’s. She’ll be inculcated from years of forced affection (“Give your grandpa a kiss…don’t be rude,” “Tell me you love me, now” “You’re hurting my feelings by not saying you love me”) and the idea that her own body and feelings are inconsequential in the face of someone else’s desires and wants. And then god forbid, should a day ever come when a man forces himself on her, or even coerces her when she’d rather say NO but doesn’t feel empowered to

It seems like such an innocent thing at first. “Say I love you”. “Say yes”. I’m sure many readers can remember those unwanted hugs and kisses at family get togethers. Where some large adult figure suddenly was squeezing you in an embrace that made you vow never to use that much perfume or cologne. The rasping kiss that made you realize even lips wrinkle and dry out with age. And when you pull away and make a face, admonishment comes. Perhaps not from your enlightened parents, but perhaps from a relative who had previously been watching the display of affection with a sighing approval. I remember seeing my little sister apprehended by perhaps the worst of the offenders, the cheek pincher. “Oh how young you are! How big you’ve gotten!”. So being the odd kid that I was, I walked right up to said relative, pinched her cheeks and remarked in my most emotional voice “Oh how old you’ve gotten!”. The look of surprise on her face was an amusement my sister and I shared the rest of the day. We weren’t bothered again. But that kind of reaction was so clearly out of bounds. It simply wasn’t socially acceptable. The idea that not all displays of affection are welcome, and that it is ok to want to avoid them is does not come up frequently in public discourse. I have no idea if it is in any books or articles on parenting. Honestly when I read Nezua’s post, it was quite startling.

Another startling point is that I think we create a culture that values rape.

Jessica at Feministing has a post up on pornography that centers around the humiliation of the woman:

And perhaps her most important point:

The realest thing about humilitainment porn is the way it buttresses long-held assumptions of women’s inherent inferiority, even if that’s not foremost on the minds of those who get off on it.

If we start wandering from porn into more mainstream culture, we can see this is a little more prevalent. There is a very pernicious idea that if you reverse the roles, sexual violence is funny. Take the trailer for My Super Ex-Girlfriend for instance. When the guy tries to break up with the woman, she slams him against a wall, destroys his car, attacks the woman he is with, and mentions at the end she knew he’d come back, which is why she didn’t kill him. Now imagine this movie with Superman and Lois. Lois decides she wants to date someone new. Superman slams her against a wall. He trashes her car. He tries to kill the new guy she is dating. He uses violence to get her back, and the threat of violence to keep her. How the hell is that a funny movie? Yet that is just what “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” was marketed as.

The problem is this normalizes violence centered around sex and relationships. It makes the reaction of the person being denied love/sex/relationship understandable. Suddenly Toby Keith’s very disturbing music video makes more sense. We expect people to get violent around a break up. This is essentially expected violence to result from being denied access to another person. This is mainstream. The unacknowledged side of this is a recent rise in humiliation porn. The idea that when you are with a person that their lack of enjoyment is a part of yours. Specifically sex is framed as being about a man enjoying himself, and a woman actively suffering in some way.  And if she denies herself to the man, violence is an expected result.

If we look at media coverage of rape itself, the results are even more telling. From a FAIR article on rape coverage in the media:

Few facts are given about the survivors of the assaults in these stories, except the victim-blaming detail that the women were reportedly drunk at the time of their assaults. (This is mentioned twice in the Times‘ story.)While there are conventions protecting the identity of rape victims, there is nothing to prevent them from being “humanized” at least as fully as their assailants. In neither of these stories was that even attempted.

In a special report on rape on campus (New York Times, 1/2/91), Celes suggests why the Times might show equal or greater sympathy for rapists than for the women they assault. “Sexual activity that goes too far and becomes abhorrent to the woman is not new among college students,” writes Celes. “But calling it date rape is,…defining sex between dates or acquaintances without the woman’s consent as a form of male assault rather than a form of female error.”

The idea of blaming the victim is nothing new, but the media in some cases actively excuses the perpetrator.

But helpful reporting on rape is the exception, not the norm. Instead of hearing the cries of survivors, the press is hearing the complaints of apologists; instead of condemning cruelty, the press promotes excuses.

When you hear bullshit about biological drives, or what the woman is wearing, you are seeing an attempt to frame rape as a natural occurrence. Perhaps it is a crime, but it is hardly anything to get worked up about.  Sexual violence is expected. What is left unspoken is that sexual violence is valued. It is a fantasy for some men, and at least an understandable urge to the rest of our culture. But above all it creates fear. It creates a fear that stops words and actions. That is why rape is valuable: because the fear of rape is valuable.

A little less than a year later I started attending UMass, Amherst. I almost immediately heard about the rapes that had occurred in recent years. The girl who had been raped by the campus pond in broad daylight. I heard for the first time that the trail connecting the Sylvan and Orchard Hill living areas was called “the rape trail”. It probably still is. College was a time when we were free to discuss, and acknowledge, but our words and actions still carried the scent of childhood. When we held “take back the night”, the campus would fix the broken callboxes and lights, and maybe add some more lighting, but for the most part things remained the same. Of course during orientation we were told to be careful. Women were advised on where to go and where not to go. Callboxes were pointed out, as was the escort service.

In all of this was an element of fear. Bitch Ph.D. has very illuminating words about fear:

And again: why would women fear this more than men? Random internet person develops some weird obsessive fixation on another random internet person, stalks and threatens him/her. I’ve seen this happen to both women and men. But guys don’t seem to fear it the way women do.

And what hit me suddenly–duh!–is that the only reason women fear this shit is because we are trained to fear it. And of course, underneath all that training is the fear of rape.

From the moment you walk on campus you are hit with a few facts: The prevalence of rape, and the need to take precautions to avoid it. You already walk onto campus knowing that you need to show affection even when you’d prefer not to, and that if you are raped it is likely your own fault for being drunk or dressing the wrong way. All of these thoughts create fear, and the result of fear is ice. Your words and actions become frozen. Fear doesn’t always produce fight or flight, it produces “oh shit, headlights!” and then roadkill.

So how do we combat this fear? One way to do it is through discourse. One obvious benefit is being exposed to new ideas, such as Nezua’s and Bitch Ph.D.’s respective posts. Another is that the act of discussing rape and the culture that surrounds it is itself of great benefit. The act of discussing rape and its implications allows us to go being the implicit and explicit notions of rape that pervade our culture. They also allow us to confront and move beyond the fears that surround sexual violence both personally and socially. When we had that discussion in high school, we covered how fear of violence itself was a form of violence. The fear that you or someone you know will be subject to sexual violence is partly one of our oldest fears, that of the unknown. Talking about rape is a direct way of diminishing its ability to frighten us.

Freedom from sexual violence is a basic human right, and a necessity in a democratic society. Fear of sexual violence is itself a form of sexual violence, and one we can start fighting right now. The more we talk about how we create victims, the less victims we will create. The more we discuss how we normalize sexual violence, the more we can recognize and call it out for what it is when we encounter it in popular culture. The more talk the more likely we are to find ways to promote safety without making everyone afraid to move, live, and be in our society.

Rape is a very violent, very personal, and downright terrifying topic. Don’t be afraid to bring it up more often.

Fundamentalists and Hate Crimes

The fundamentalists are roiling about H.R. 1592. So much so that they are resorting to pretty awful arguments, suggesting that this bill takes away their right to preach. From a World Net Daily post by Bob Unruh (via Pam):

“H.R. 1592 is a discriminatory measure that criminalizes thoughts, feelings, and beliefs [and] has the potential of interfering with religious liberty and freedom of speech,” according to a white paper submitted by Glen Lavy, of the Alliance Defense Fund.

This is a pretty poor argument. The bill itself simply adds sexual orientation to existing hate crime law. However, check out the severability section at the end:

If any provision of this Act, an amendment made by this Act, or the application of such provision or amendment to any person or circumstance is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of this Act, the amendments made by this Act, and the application of the provisions of such to any person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby.

So it clearly does not have “the potential of interfering with religious liberty and freedom of speech”. There is an exception built into the language of the bill. The bill simply recognizes that hate crimes perpetuated on the basis of sexual orientation have the same weight as those based on race, religion, gender, nationality, etc. It also provides funding and personel to assist with “the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes”.
So what reason could a political group that is well acquainted with the art of gradualism possibly have for objecting to this specific bill?

Perhaps they are afraid that passing a law which states homosexuals might have rights too could lead to other laws tackling rights and discrimination based on sexual orientation. Like marriage or adoption.

Sometimes people are willing to sacrifice others for their own bigotry. We saw this recently in Virginia. In this case that same feat is driving the fundamentalists to oppose protection against hate crimes based on sexual orientation.

We can help. Pam has some ideas:

Help pass hate crimes legislation.

[UPDATE: Rachel Perrone of the ACLU emailed me to say that the House Majority Leader’s office projects that the bill will go to the House floor next Thursday. It’s time to contact your members of Congress, because they have been flooded with correspondence from the fundies, some offices reporting as many as 500-600 constituent letters generated from action items spurred on by the likes of Wildmon, Dobson, Perkins and Sheldon on the other side.]

The Human Rights Campaign’s Take Action page leads off with this sobering quote:

One in six hate crimes are motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation, and yet today’s federal laws don’t include any protections for these Americans.

The debate over H.R. 1592 has nothing to do with freedom of religion or speech. It is a debate over whether or not we give the same legal weight to hate crimes based on sexual orientation we do to those based on gender, nationality, religion or race. It is about whether we let a few people who are afraid of homosexuals loving each other and marrying control the law in this country.

You Know Me and My Temper…

Toby Keith is a sick fuck.  From Jessica at Feministing:

This video, “A Little Too Late,” features Toby Keith singing to this tied-to-a-chair-in-the-basement-girlfriend. He threatens her with a shovel, then it looks like he’s going to drown her, or maybe bury her alive. It’s fucking sick and scary.

It was nominated for Best Video at the Country Music Television Awards. Nice, huh?

Via Fun with Feminism.

In the video, he ends up cantervilling himself.  He calls out to his wife.

You know me and my temper baby.  I didn’t mean anything by that honey, I just kinda snapped.

Cause that language doesn’t evoke domestic abuse at all.  Nope, not one bit.  From the video it is clear Toby’s character wanted to terrorize his victim and then her bury alive.

Oh, and don’t forget this classy line:

Can’t you take a joke?

I wonder if that line was addressed to his audience.  Because murder and domestic abuse are almost as funny as rape, aren’t they?

The country music television awards think so anyway.  Maybe because he was going to kill her for cheating, that made it ok in their eyes?

There is a lot about this video that is disturbing.  The woman is made to fear for her life while Toby tortures her psychologically.  But it is those last few damn lines…  Look at the way he delivers them.  His body language is contrite but in the “johnny just played a practical joke” kind of way.  His character’s tone resonates with that of the video in those last seconds.  He was just “joking”.  It makes the abuser character out to look like “just a guy”.

This video normalizes domestic violence as an understandable response to cheating, and it normalizes the excuses.

According to the CMT Music Awards site, Jeff Foxworthy is hosting for his third year, and it is returning to the “The Curb Event Center” at Belmont University.  It is presented by Verizon Wireless.

We can be heardWe can spocko Keith and the CMTA.

Who Do The Intelligence Agencies Work For?

I had thought, up to this point, for the American people.

Oops.

Charles Davis, a freelance reporter with Public Radio International, briefly interviewed Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) last Wednesday. Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, made this startling statement about how the U.S. government really functions:

mp3ROCKEFELLER: Don’t you understand the way Intelligence works? Do you think that because I’m Chairman of the Intelligence Committee that I just say I want it, and they give it to me? They control it. All of it. All of it. All the time. I only get, and my committee only gets, what they want to give me.

Below is the background to what they were talking about—which is truly a matter of war and peace and life and death for millions of people. Included is a transcript and mp3 of the entire Davis/Rockefeller exchange.

Johnathan’s post is titled (emphasis mine): “Amazing Statement Of Congressional Impotence By Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller”.  No kidding.
A real zinger comes from the comment section of the post, by Mike Meyer:

JUSTICE IS BLIND and so is Congressional Oversight, aparently.

Ouch.  This really strings because it is our oversight that is blinded.

I am breaking up with Chuck Norris!

Dear Chuck,

Our love affair is over man.  OVER.  I didn’t want to believe it at first.  Then it just slapped me in the face.  From your post on WND via Amanda (emphasis hers):

I believe those who wield the baton of the secular progressive agenda bear significant responsibility for the escalation of school shootings.

Blaming the “secular progressive agenda” (in baton form, no less) is fucking bullshit man.  None of your movies or fine literature can possibly make up for this.  Not even your action jeans.

We teach our children they are nothing more than glorified apes, yet we don’t expect them to act like monkeys. We place our value in things, yet expect our children to value people. We disrespect one another, but expect our children to respect others. We terminate children in the womb, but are surprised when children outside the womb terminate other children. We push God to the side, but expect our children to be godly. We’ve abandoned moral absolutes, yet expect our children to obey the universal commandment, ”Thou shalt not murder.”

A student with mental issues got a gun because of a fucking loophole in Virginia gun law.  He then killed people.  This isn’t about bringing religion back into our schools, our laws, and our government.

You might as well join the assholes who crawled out of the woodwork and blamed this on evolution.  Really Chuck, “nothing more than glorified apes”?  Just because we evolved does not mean humanity is thrown to the wind.  Or did everyone who actually passed freshman biology at your high school go on to kill classmates in college?  Do states with abortion have rampant child murder?

Perhaps we ought to look at how we alienate kids in this country.  Certainly looking at how we value people is always a good move, but it is clearly not the reason for the killing.  If we are raising our children so obviously incorrectly, why aren’t they all indulging in an endless orgy of violence?  Why aren’t kids killing kids in mass numbers every fucking day?  Could it be that those “secular progressive” values you shake your fist at are not to blame?

Perhaps we shouldn’t lose what’s left of our heads and blame the political opposition for a tragedy.

Best Regards,

Dan

Got Habeas?

Remember Habeas Corpus?  That foundational right of ours?

The folks at the ACLU are trying to get it back (Via McJoan at DailyKos):

The ad campaign, and the cartoon figure are part of an important intiative launced by the ACLU last week supporting its lobbying on restoring the right of habeas corpus gutted by the Military Commissions Act.

From the blog itself (via McJoan):

Remember, what is habeas corpus, the only ancient common law writ enshrined in the Constitution? It is nothing less than the last resort for those for whom the system has gone haywire. It is the primary bulwark against arbitrary executive detention. It is an integral feature of our dare-I-say-sacred system of checks and balances. It says to the president: “sure, lock these folks up and throw away the key, but we’re going to have independent courts looking over your shoulder, keeping you honest.”

In short, it’s heady stuff—it’s life and death. We won’t ever forget that.

Here is the link to the blog, and here is their take action page.

This online campaign will be a part of the ACLU’s regular lobbying efforts, which are going to include a massive citizen’s lobbying campaign in June. The RSS feed is here. It provides code for a button to put on your own sites and is asking that My Space members make Mr. Habeas their friend.

When Habeas Corpus dies, as Mr. Keith Olberman observed, the bill of rights becomes meaningless.