Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Idiocy Bandwagon

Wow. I think I finally figured out why our country is such a mess right now. So many of our elected officials are idiots. I don't know why it took so long for me to draw that conclusion with so much proof swirling around.

First off, anyone who's visited here a few times probably knows that I'd have to weigh in on this. I've railed about civil rights, gay rights, human rights, right of way, what have you. But this is probably the biggest 'right' (so far). It should also be noted that I'm usually way left of right.

Of all the issues that have piqued the public curiosity, first and foremost the economy, I would've thought rape was fairly far down on the list because it's so obviously wrong, period-end-of-story. But Senate hopeful Congressman Todd Aiken (R-Mo.) brought it to the fore. Here's what numbnuts said:

"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," said Akin said of pregnancy caused by rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist."

And this man is married? To a woman? By the way, according to studies, pregnancy from rape occurs about 5% of the time, the same frequency as pregnancy occurs from consensual sex.

Aiken's comments made it clear that he doesn't have clue one about women, biology, psychology or what's involved in winning an election against a female incumbent. (She could be Cruella Deville on crack and still beat him.) But before we get into his mind-bending faux pas, I want to state my views clearly and for the record. I believe rape has no qualifier. Just like one can't be almost pregnant, or sort of black, rape doesn't come in degrees. A person is either raped or not. There's no such thing as "legitimate" or "forcible" rape. Rape is rape. Rape is defined as sexual intercourse by one or more individuals with another party against their will. There's no legal or moral distinction between "date rape" and "anonymous rape". Rape has been classified as a "crime against humanity" and a "war crime" in certain circumstances. The way a woman dresses or behaves has no bearing on whether unwanted sex perpetrated upon her is "justified" or her fault. That's it. No gray area.

I guess one has to admire the Republican party for their sorta-kinda support of Aiken. Republican Vice Presidential wannabe Paul Ryan distanced himself from Aiken immediately and then was called to task when it was revealed that he and Aiken co-sponsored legislation that would allow abortion only in the case of "forcible rape". Forcible rape. I thought to myself, "As opposed to what?" Ryan also referred to rape as "another method of conception". Let the backpedaling begin, Mr. Ryan.

Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate Tom Smith also distanced himself from Aiken but stepped in his own pile when he affirmed that abortion should be illegal across the board, even for rape victims. Then he planted his other foot when he said pregnancy by rape is comparable to getting pregnant out of wedlock, as his daughter had done.

Apparently Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tx.) believes that women are more interested in important issues like economic prosperity and jobs. Rape and abortion rights? Bah! And lest we forget Mike "Chick-fil-A Day" Huckabee, who rallied Baptist clergy to remind us that "(...)Congressman Akin represents the mainstream of our values. He is the mainstream of our values." Um, not mine.

Then there's the political action committee Republican National Coalition for Life which endorses GOP candidates who advocate a strict no-abortion platform and are "unconditionally pro-life". So far, 40 House and Senate candidates have been endorsed by the group and, with months until the election, that number could go up. Akin-defender Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) made the list, though he admitted he'd never personally known a rape victim, pregnant or not. But way to support the cause, Steve!

On the other side of the road, former Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist supports, and has even joined in, the backlash against Aiken's comments. And, of course, the Republican party has vilified him as being "self-serving and overly ambitious". Toe the party line, bully for you. Step on it, and you're screwed.

Like so many other powerful terms in the English language, the word "rape" has been usurped by the public consciousness and used in ways that diminish it. Sports: "Omigod, he was safe! He was so raped." Business: "Dude, your bonus sucked! You were so raped!" Environment: "People, this land has been raped." (Yes, even green-minded people are guilty of misusing 'rape' to further their agenda.)

But in the context of humanity and civil rights, rape has but one meaning. There's no "well, let's look at the circumstances" issue here. Men can be raped too, but for the purposes of this blog post, I'm talking about women. Women can only be raped one way. I don't have enough room in this blog to explain to the likes of Todd Aiken and Paul Ryan – and those who blindly and ignorantly support them – what that means. It just shocks and disturbs me that men – MEN, young and old – who were lawfully elected to public office are so dense that they could take the stance that they have. And it shocks and disappoints me that there are women out there – regardless of religious or political affiliation – that either support these neanderthals or are seemingly indifferent to the ramifications of these views. (Apologies to neanderthals.)

Aiken is an idiot. That's obvious. Ryan is a somewhat smarter idiot because he's done everything he can to distance himself from Aiken and the "forcible rape" legislation that they co-wrote. Smith and Huckabee are just plain scary. And Kay Bailey Hutchison? You're a woman. How is any of this okay with you? And my female Facebook friends – how are you okay with this?

There's been an uproar ever since Aiken's comments went viral. What frightens me is that there's nearly as much support as there is outrage for the things he said. He claims he "misspoke", but people continue to support his allegedly misstated point of view. What does that say about us as a nation of humans? We Americans, as a philosophy, are still convinced that we're somehow superior to pretty much everyone in pretty much every way. Our economy is in the crapper and we're no longer a true super power. As inconvenient as those things are, they're recoverable. But what about our moral fiber?

I'll speak out to the Republicans because they're the ones who have freely put their heads on the chopping block (the smartest dumb thing they've done in a long time). Have any of you thought about the individual as opposed to your political rhetoric? Do any of you know a rape victim who had to struggle with not only her attack, but the far-reaching physical and emotional consequences? I haven't. I've known women who have been raped, but as far as I know none of them got pregnant as a result. I can't think of any circumstance that would allow me to feel comfortable or righteous enough to tell them what to do with their unborn baby if they were pregnant. Like abortion in general, I think it's too personal a decision to be left up to a mostly male government whose goals are increasingly self-serving.

If a woman is raped, she should be allowed to have a legal abortion. Congressman Aiken and Vice Presidential hopeful Ryan, I ask you: What is forcible rape? And what isn't? And how are women supposed to live with your interpretation?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Don't Wait for the Weight

Call this a cross-promotion. (TV shows do it all the time -- Magnum appeared on Simon & Simon and vice versa. They weren't super-great episodes, but it was still fun to watch Rick and A.J. duke it out with Thomas.)

My girlfriend Christy and I are trying to lose weight, and we're gonna do it. And it's not just about weight-loss, it's about eating and living better. We started a heart-healthy lifestyle last year but sort of, um, slacked. So we're re-doubling our efforts. I think it's a good thing and it's not as difficult or as restrictive as you might think.

So, to that end, I'm actively inviting (read: encouraging) you to visit Christy's blog – and take a gander. A few of us have vowed to make a difference in our own lives and, hopefully, in yours too.

Take a look, set a goal, and see if you can achieve your New Year's Resolution before New Years. Hey, it's a win-win. If you lose a little weight by Dec. 31, you can actually have fun on Dec. 31! And you won't have the pressure of setting a resolution on that penultimate day of the year that you're going to feel guilty about not keeping come Jan. 1!

Come on, it's a blog. If you cheat or choose not to do it, who's gonna know? But if you accept the challenge, you've got bragging rights in, like, August!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Yep. Here we go again...

I've come to realize that I question how many people actually understand the true definition of prejudice and discrimination. Through repeated exposure to images and ideas of discrimination, have we become desensitized to what it actually is? I realized that of all the people I've ever known in my life, I've known very few who were overtly prejudiced or discriminated against in any way. Chick-fil-A chief executive Dan Cathy's recent Christian-based anti-gay comments at first pissed me off in a there-they-go-again kind of way. The resultant furor over his comments encouraged me at first. Yay! This is pissing a lot of people off! And then I was appalled at the support he, and the restaurant chain, have received. Appalled and plain old disappointed. I'm disappointed in how narrow-minded and intolerant so many people in this country still remain. People seem to cling to ignorance (and stupidity) with a fierce determination that, to me, lacks explanation.

I discovered that many people I liked and respected are, in fact, hate-mongers with as little tolerance, compassion and sense as Nazi Germany at the height of its power and influence. Perhaps I've indulged in a little self-delusion because the reactions I've seen, on Facebook for example, took me a bit by surprise. The comments people have made made me think that they really have no idea what it's like to be discriminated against, or been a victim of bigotry or prejudice. I wondered how honest, God-fearing Christians could think it was okay to jail somebody because of their sexual preference? Granted, the Catholics had their Spanish Inquisition, and the Nazis had the Final Solution, Americans had slavery because blacks were inferior, women weren't allowed to vote; and hell, everyone was dumped on in this country during the Industrial Revolution. So, yeah, there's a history of egregious wrong-doing that was eventually righted. The Catholics got screwed in the U.S. right up until the 60s, and then a bunch of sick priests further sullied their reputation. Hitler lost, the slaves were freed, and women can vote. And Italians, Jews, Russians, Albanians and the Irish continue to fight amongst themselves (but they all seem to balance one another out in a sort circle-of-life thing).

So how is it, in this day and age, that we still haven't learned tolerance? How is it that so many seem to have forgotten the past and have no foresight toward the future? People continue to foist their twisted belief systems on others and hide under the white hood of free speech and the First Amendment. The First Amendment doesn't absolve you from having to think about what you say. Having the right to espouse bigotry doesn't make it right. And having the right to say whatever you want isn't the same as having the right to take action. When are people going to learn to be as respectful of other people's beliefs as they would have them be of theirs? When I read about either the gleefully ignorant ("Go Chick-fil-A!"), or the ignorantly apathetic ("I don't agree with their views, but I like their food. Go Chick-fil-A!"), I wanted to puke. It made me realize it's a lot cooler to be known as an American than to actually be one.

I don't think a lot of these people even know what the hell they're supporting. They're just jumping on the bandwagon like good little sheep and not even thinking about the actual, real-world ramifications of the words and actions that they're supporting. They're thinking of actual, flesh'n'blood human beings that their actions are affecting in a strictly abstract, academic sense. "These are other people who deserve what's comin' to them. But I don't know any of them."

History will demonstrate, as it has time and again, that the put upon and downtrodden will prevail and that their persecutors will be seen as the ignorant, provincial thugs that they are.

If all the groups that have been targeted for hate in our nation's history received the sanctions their persecutors sought, there wouldn't be anybody left.