Everything is impossibly complicated

Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Matt Walsh is Not A Christian

For some reason, this fellow named Matt Walsh is granted a lot of credibility as a Christian speaker and writer. This is a puzzling phenomenon because a cursory look at Matt Walsh’s writings makes it exceedingly obvious that he neither gives a damn about Jesus nor the Bible.

Take one of his pet peeves: abortion. The Bible says literally nothing good or bad about a woman choosing to have an abortion. The closest to a statement on abortion that it makes is a law that requires a man who accidentally hits a pregnant woman to pay a fine if her pregnancy is aborted as a result of the hit. This law is vitally important, since it demonstrates beyond any reasonable objection that the Bible does not consider a fetus to be a person–if the fetus were a person, the man who accidentally caused the abortion would be sentenced to exile to one of the cities of refuge, just like the man who accidentally kills a person.

The favorite Psalm of the anti-abortion crowd (Psalm 139) is no help to them either. Sure, it praises G-d that “you knitted me together in my mother’s womb“, but the reality is that G-d knitted everything, everywhere together, but that doesn’t give everything, everywhere the status of person! All the Psalmist is saying is that “whatever it is that I was when I was in my mother’s womb was yet another of the things that you, G-d, knit together by virtue of your status as Creator.” A goat is also fearfully and wonderfully made, yet that doesn’t prevent us from killing and eating goats (well, many of us, anyway).

Of course, we need go no further than the opinion of Jesus to decide if Matt Walsh is a Christian. What did Jesus say?

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

“I was hungry and on welfare”–and Matt Walsh took away their food. “I was thirsty because I live in Flint and my water was full of lead”–and Matt Walsh did nothing to give them water. “I was a stranger from Syria”–and Matt Walsh did not welcome them. “I was sick and in prison because of a marijuana offense that cops targeted me for because my skin is black”–and Matt Walsh did not visit them. Jesus is very clear what he thinks about Matt Walsh: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Matt Walsh is no Christian–just a small, angry snowflake lashing out at a society that no longer grants him the undeserved privileges he feels entitled to.

Evangelicals Are The Only Ones Who Want To Kill Babies

Evangelicals love to throw around the label “baby killers” for anyone who supports abortion rights. This, of course, is based on their alternative definition of “baby” (shared by no one else) as “fertilized human egg.” (Although even they aren’t entirely consistent on this point, since they don’t go around calling people who support and perform in-vitro fertilization “baby killers”, even though the process results in the discarding of fertilized human eggs.) Unfortunately for them, “baby killer” is a label that can only really be applied to them.

Let’s start with the Bible. In the Bible, G-d commands the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites: men, women, and children. That is literally killing babies, which they believe is a literal historical fact and a literal command from G-d. Proceed from there to the war on terrorism, which is literally killing babies through air strikes and drone attacks–which they enthusiastically support (often citing as support the verses about wiping out the Canaanites, since the groups we’re fighting are often also enemies of modern day Israel). And don’t forget Trump  (yimach shmo), who made a campaign promise to kill the wives and children of (male) terrorists–more literal baby killing. Finish by observing their rabid support of American police forces, who are literally killing children of color, and it’s very clear that there is indeed a group today that can be called baby killers, and it is none other than Evangelicals.

American Terrorists

Matt Walsh has written another outstanding article, this time about how the Charlotte protestors are terrorists. Of course, every rational person is puzzled by this assertion, given Walsh’s unwavering support for domestic groups that kidnap young women on their way to their dream jobs and beat and starve them until they die, groups that regularly engage in drive-by shootings of children, that ambush men on the roads and highways and shoot them in front of their children and wives, and engage in numerous other acts of ongoing terror against Americans.

I wonder if Walsh would be brave enough to call this man a terrorist:

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history.

(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Or how about the group of men who, because their government refused to acquiesce to their demands, took it upon themselves to destroy the private property of merchants, and then go on to write the following? Let Walsh be a man and call them terrorists as well:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these [rights], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

(American Declaration of Independence)

Unfortunately, Matt Walsh is beyond reason, being instead committed to a narrative that exalts white, nationalistic, Christian America high above all.

Sexist Medicine

Medicine has a long, sorry history of focusing on men. Happily, that seems to be changing, with a number of new studies coming out that examine how the medical experiences of men and women differ (and not just for the sexual differences). This article surveys some of the recent research on how the immune system of women differs from men. It appears that women tend to have immune systems that respond more strongly and quickly to infections, which is thought to perhaps be tied to childbearing (in order to protect a nascent life inside of you, your body has to be more aggressive in stamping out infection). Unfortunately, this may also be the reason that women suffer disproportionately from auto-immune diseases, which result from an over-enthusiastic immune response. It also appears to mean that women react to vaccinations differently than men, perhaps only needing half the dose (or so) that men need. As more studies are done on these differences, it’ll be interesting to see what comes up.

Democratic Posturing on Gun Control

What are we to make of the current Democratic furor over gun control?

First of all, I think it’s clear from this past Democratic primary that the Democrats are oligarchs who think that elites should pick an elite to rule us. Additionally, their approach to this current gun control thing seems really confusing, if your model for their motivations is that they want to make Americans safer. Do they want to ban literally everyone from having assault weapons? Even the police? Even the military? If not, then there are exceptions. Who should be exempt from the ban? Do we expect they’d exempt security guards, perhaps those who had a background check from the FBI first? The shooter in Orlando was both those things, and he was trying to become a police officer. So it’s not clear that any of their restrictions would have actually prevented Orlando. In that case, what’s the point? Unless as elites who want to choose other elites to rule us, they would like to make a class distinction between who should have these powerful weapons and who shouldn’t…

Further, they rejected several Republican proposals to increase gun control: a proposal to ban people on terror watch lists, but only after a court review, a proposal to only ban those on the no-fly list (which is about 1400 people), and a proposal to increase funding for background checks, which is one of the current shortfalls of the system: background checks are required, but there’s no funding for anyone to do them. Why did they reject them? Unless they’re more concerned about making a good show in an election year than actually doing anything.

Additionally, the Orlando police have admitted that a number of the casualties that night were due to the police fire. There were four or five officers who opened up at the shooter with their fully automatic weapons when he came outside, but unfortunately they weren’t very good shots. They killed several people when their bullets went through the concrete wall. Why did the police need automatic weapons? Wouldn’t a sniper have done a much better job? If the argument against assault weapons is that they only point of them is to kill a lot of people, since there was only one shooter, there’s no reason the police should have had assault weapons.

Even the military falls under this argument. We don’t fight wars against battle lines where you’re trying to kill as many of the enemy as possible. The wars we’re fighting now are against guerrillas, where we want to target one person out of many. What’s the point of assault weapons? If all they’re good for is killing a lot of people, no one should be using them any more.

So using the logic that many are trying to use against civilians having assault weapons, I don’t think the police or the military should have them either. If we want to ban them, let’s really ban them, but don’t turn a blind eye to police and military violence and then pretend you care about people.

Living a Fantasy

A study has been done that suggests that children raised in religious households are less able to distinguish fantasy from reality. This morning I was wondering how this could help me understand some of the particular quirks I’ve noted about myself in contrast to other people. Ever since I could remember, violence in movies has felt unsettling to me. Actually, unsettling isn’t the right word–the feeling is more that my existence feels fundamentally threatened. A similar feeling occurred also in English class when I started going to public high school (newly out of being homeschooled) and I had to read disturbing literature (like The Yellow Wallpaper or The Handmaid’s Tale). I remember after reading some of those things, I felt a black dread inside that I couldn’t shake and had no idea how to handle.

As I’ve gotten older, the reactions have mellowed (to the point where I kind of want to re-read The Handmaid’s Tale), but I still find it hard to watch movies or TV shows with cruel violence (either physical or psychological). Even with books, I generally find myself more comfortable with young-adult fiction than adult fiction, because I find the raw emotion in the adult fiction to be overwhelming (as an example, I thought I Am Legend told rather an interesting story in an interesting world, but it left something of a black feeling in me after I finished, with the result that a lot of time has to go by before I try reading something like that again).

I feel like my reactions to these things could come out of an extremely-delayed development of the ability to distinguish fantasy and reality (although it could partly or fully be due to other things, like being a Highly Sensitive Person or the like). I think perhaps due to my fundamentalist religious upbringing (combined maybe with my staying at my parents’ home until I was almost out of college), I’ve had a hard time distinguishing between “threats” to myself from horrifying situations in literature and media and actual threats to myself from the objective world. It’s not that I couldn’t tell any difference, obviously–that’s why I think I felt a conflict about these feelings. I knew there was no real threat, yet I felt like there was a real threat, and I didn’t know how to understand that conflict.

Potentially this inability to distinguish fantasy and reality could explain some of my other quirks that result in my being mocked in social situations, too. One that comes to mind was an instance when I had been reading about the bacteria that live in your mouth, and why it’s important to spit out your mouthwash after swishing it around (even if the mouthwash was inherently edible, e.g. oil pulling)–the idea is that you can harm yourself by loosening the bacteria from your teeth and then ingesting them.

Around that time, I ended up eating a rather large quantity of Swedish fish, and then I rinsed my mouth out with water to dislodge the pieces that stuck to my teeth. I was lazy, so after swishing the water around in my mouth, I swallowed it. Shortly thereafter, I developed an extremely painful feeling in my abdomen, and I had to leave work early. I told some of my coworkers that I thought it might be due to swallowing the water I used to rinse my mouth (instead of just blaming it on eating too much sugar at once, which in retrospect seems more reasonable). That haven’t stopped making fun of me for that since. I wonder why I stuck on that rather unlikely explanation at the time instead of putting more weight on the more acceptable idea that eating a large amount of sugar can hurt you–perhaps it’s a lingering effect of a delayed ability to separate fantasy and reality.

Is Bernie a Nazi?

A blog post on Bipartisan Soapbox implicitly compares Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to Hitler (illustrating Godwin’s Law with a rapid convergence time) by using the title “Bernie’s Brown Shirts”. The article rehashes tired arguments against Bernie by criticizing his supporters, while (as usual) giving the behavior of Hillary’s supporters a complete pass. It objects to Bernie’s policy proposals in rather Republican-sounding terms (complaining about single-payer health insurance, the proposal to raise taxes on the rich, and the desire to see justice done with the bankers who gambled with the financial well-being of America’s poor) while repeating the inaccurate claim that Bernie doesn’t care about or receive support from people of color (frequently with the implicit or explicit accusation that Bernie’s movement is only one of young white males).

There’s more than a little hypocrisy in the article’s criticism of the behavior of Bernie’s supporters, given that Hillary has many supporters who are just as vicious and who raise cries of sexism at the first hint of criticism of Hillary’s policies (as a cursory inspection of some of the popular pro-Hillary Twitter feeds will show)–all without a hint of disavowal from the Hillary campaign. Further, the idea of “Bernie bros” has been misrepresented by the media from the beginning. I myself saw when a prominent female blogger laid forth, then retracted, an accusation of sexism against Bernie supporters.

What happened was that this blogger posted in support of Hillary, and almost immediately received a flurry of sexist insults and harassments that she initially assumed were from Bernie supporters. On further examination, however, she discovered that the comments were actually from normal male internet trolls with no connection to Bernie. This, however, did nothing to prevent CNN, BBC, and even Bill Clinton from using this as evidence of the regressive and vicious behavior of Bernie supporters–in spite of the loud and clear protests of the blogger herself! The truth was ignored for the sake of the narrative, though a minimal amount of investigation would have revealed it.

What this article amounts to, then, is a furthering of the effort to portray Sanders as fundamentally bad (hence the allusion to Hitler), instead of acknowledging the validity of his policies in general while disagreeing with them in particular (i.e. civil dialogue). It represents an all-too-pervasive instinct for demonizing someone you simply don’t like. I don’t like Hillary or her policies, but I am careful not to demonize her, because such behavior is not appropriate or helpful.

Can We Not Talk About Modesty?

For some reason I seem to be seeing a lot of articles about modesty lately. I’m bored with hearing about modesty. Even in articles putting the focus on men’s gaze instead of women’s attire, it’s a lot of filth this, Playboy that. But it’s still demeaning to call undressed women “filth”. And the idea of modesty, of trying to never appreciate a woman’s form, just seems really pointless.

For the Christians, let’s consider the foundational verse on modesty, the one that says that if you look at a woman with lust in your heart you’ve committed adultery. It’s been a clear mistake to interpret “look at a woman with lust” as “look at an attractive woman at all.” It’s not lust to appreciate an attractive woman; it’s lust to want to own her. In other words: stop trying to own women.

So for those who aren’t trying to own women, but merely notice and appreciate them: you need carry no additional burden in this matter. And for those who use modesty to try to own women by shaming them based on what they wear or reveal: you’re a worse Pharisee (in the Christian sense of the term) than any actual Pharisee ever was.

“Just Don’t Run” Isn’t Good Enough

“If you want to live, just don’t run!”

That’s a line from a conversation I heard about police killings. It seems to match a common sentiment about Michael Brown: just do what the police tell you. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when they kill you.

From a practical standpoint, this makes a lot of sense. But practical issues aren’t the problem here. From a practical standpoint, “just follow the rules” works just as well in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, or in the areas of Mexico controlled by the drug cartels. “Just do what they tell you. Don’t cause any trouble.” This is the advice given to people in a hostage situation. It’s a way to try to maximize your survival when you find yourself under the control of an evil, violent person.

That is no excuse for police brutality, and it’s certainly no valid response to the protests against such brutality. In a free society, the police are not supposed to be an evil organization of thugs that we have to deal with in such a practical way. In a free society, you should be able to break the rules without being summarily executed (which is not to say there should be no consequences). “Just don’t run” is nothing more than an excuse for tyranny.

Ferguson and the Police

I feel like there’s more to the uproar around Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson than just the shooting itself. First off, there’s the problem with institutional racism that’s been widely raised: even if Darren Wilson was completely within legal bounds in killing Michael, there’s certainly a lot of suggestive evidence that laws are being selectively enforced against blacks, effectively making them subject to a stricter law than the rest of the population (take stop-and-frisk in New York, for example).

But further, I feel like there’s a widespread, increasing experience among the entire population of being mistreated by the police. I have a friend in a small town who was pulled over five times in three months for minor things (like crossing the double-yellow line as she got into a turn line, or not stopping satisfactorily long at a stop sign), which then caused her insurance rates to rise since she became classified as a “high-risk driver”. Adding to that the explicit, increased militarization of the police (like an armored car used to serve warrants for debt collection), and you start to get a general unease about the proportionality of the power bring used to “keep the peace.”

I think that Michael’s killing served as a focal point for the population who’s becoming increasingly concerned about all of these things, which is why it has exploded into a national issue.

On the other hand, conservatives, who seem to be dying to have a police state where everyone will be forced to live a conservative lifestyle at the barrel of a policeman’s pistol, appear to think that the failure of the grand jury to find any fault in Darren worth prosecuting should diffuse all the uproar, since that issue is what sparked the uproar. But even if everyone felt that the justice system had worked fairly in exonerating Darren (which is far from the case), I still don’t think the uproar would quickly fade, because all the other problems with the police still remain.

Failing to understand the complexities of the issue makes it hard for us to talk to each other. One side feels that there’s continuing injustice that’s not going addressed, and so wants to continue to protest. The other side thinks they’re just being boneheaded by refusing to accept the “objective” grand jury decision. I don’t think the focus on this single issue will ever get anywhere. We need to talk about the bigger issues of what we want our police to look like. Given that police are people with biases who makes mistakes and even abuse their power, how much power should they have, and what kind of checks and balances should there be on their power?

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