Everything is impossibly complicated

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.

I thought it’d be fun to do a semi-regular summary of some of the interesting articles I come across (inspired by Challies’ A La Carte). Here are the articles I’ve appreciated recently:

 

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: OMG! This Man is Looking at Porn by Dawn Hawkins

This article illustrates one of the methods used by anti-porn crusaders to shut down free speech. Without exaggeration, this person (Dawn Hawkins) saw a man looking at porn on a plane with his iPad and she reports him since “it was probably child pornography.” No concern for truth, just trying to demonize her target using any plausible accusation she could grasp.

 

INFJ: Least Likely to be Who You Think They Are

Amusing and intersting article on the INFJ type of the Myers-Briggs personality system. Most articles on INFJs are like unique this, tortured soul that, beautiful unicorn blah blah blah. This article paints a more realistic (and occasionaly sarcastic) picture of the INFJ, while offering some useful insights (particularly for the INFJ’s relationship with logical thinking). [Note: I know Myers-Briggs isn’t scientific. That doesn’t make it useless; it just limits how seriously one should take it.]

 

The Democratic Party derailed Bernie: How the establishment has worked to discredit Sanders’ movement

Reveals that much of the online hullabaloo about “Bernie Bros” and other denigrating terms for Bernie supporters has been driven by the pro-Clinton Super PAC. This won’t be surprising to anyone who’s been the target of pro-Hillary troll attacks, but it’s good to have the whole story laid out in one place. And it contains a good take-away for everyone on any side of an issue, a quote by Glenn Greenwald (which can be true even for non-self-centered people):

Self-centered people always think their own group is free of trolls because they’re never targeted by them.

 

Democrats Embrace Secretive, Flawed Terror Watchlist in Fight Against Gun Violence

As unfortunately is usual, the Democrats have reacted to social problems in the wrong way, and are pushing for policies that will increase centralized power and make it easier to strip liberties from those who are disliked by the powers that be.

 

Sacramento Baptist preacher praises Orlando shooter, says all LGBT should be mass murdered

Per the quote from Greenwald above, it’s good for us to remember that it’s not only some members of Islam that call for violence against LGBT people (and others), but that there are Christians that do too. Our goal as Americans should be to oppose violence from anyone, instead of trying to stereotype one group as a shortcut while giving our own group a pass.

 

Parenting Is Now Officially Impossible

GREAT article from Time about how cruel and ruthless many on the Internet are towards parents who make mistakes. I can’t help but wonder what percentage of these outraged people actually have kids. Once a person has kids, you discover how impressively difficult it is to keep them out of harm’s way 100% of the time, yet people who want to “shoot the mother” of the child who fell into the gorilla’s pen (for example) seem to have little understanding of this. Maybe people who don’t have kids shouldn’t be allowed to have an opinion on how to raise kids.

 

Doable Homemade Doughnuts

We’ve tried to make donuts at home on several occasions, but they never came out great. This recipe for apple cider donuts was delicious and easy to follow!

 

Do You Suffer from Memory Blindness?

How sure are you that your memories are accurate? Do you think your memories can be manipulated by another person? This fascinating article describes how it’s possible to manipulate the memories of other people (and the implications for law enforcement).

 

Can Neuroscience Understand Donkey Kong, Let Alone a Brain?

An intriguing examination of the current methods of neuroscience as applied to a simple CPU. It turns out that applying those methods to a CPU tells us very little about the higher-order behavior of the CPU. When you see what kinds of conclusions about the CPU result from these methods, you gain a greater appreciation for how to weight the results that come out of neuroscience today.

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.

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.

I remember when W was being elected for the first time. The semi-fundamentalist community I grew up in was desperate for him to win. He was “our guy”, a true follower of G-d (determined using the fundamentalist superpower of being able to know who’s a “real” Christian on the inside), and just as importantly, a Republican, the chosen party of G-d. On the other side was Gore, who, if elected, would bring G-d’s judgement on America, and “probably wasn’t the Antichrist” (as we so reasonably conceded) “but would likely usher him in”.

The second time W ran was similar. I remember a woman at my university saying she’d probably vote for Kerry “to give him a chance and change things up”. She was in our Christian group on campus, and I remember feeling the default fundamentalist horror at someone who had deliberately blinded herself and was now walking in darkness. Kerry was evil, and if he got elected we would never escape G-d’s judgement on our country.

Things started to get weird with the Obama/McCain election (or possibly they were always that way but I finally started to see it). First, when Hillary was making her bid for the Democratic nomination, the fundamentalist email trains were aflutter with Biblical references to Deborah and grave pronouncements that a woman leader was a sign of G-d’s judgement on a country. But after Hillary lost the nomination and McCain chose Palin as his running mate, suddenly people were talking about their visions of bees (Deborah is Hebrew for “bee”) and praising her as a Deborah who would save us (what happened to the judgement?).

I also remember people struggling with McCain’s nomination, since the he had no kinship with fundamentalists. He was the one selected for G-d’s Holy Party, but he himself wasn’t holy (evaluated using the above-mentioned fundamentalist superpower). Someone else on this email train reported struggling over this very issue until she got a vision in which she heard “McCain, McCain, why are you rejecting My anointed?” (note that “anointed” is the English translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach, which is commonly translated “Messiah”).

That was the first time the whole thing struck me as odd. It made sense to me to vote Republican when the party nominated a “good Christian” like W–obviously any group would feel more comfortable with one of their own running the country. But McCain wasn’t one of us. Why would he be G-d’s “Messiah”? It could just as easily have been the Democrat in that case (although Obama, with his Arabic-sounding name, was being explicitly predicted to be the Antichrist by some of my friends).

Obama got elected, life went on, and then came Romney and with him the unbelievable attachment of fundamentalists to the Republican party got even worse. Romney was Mormon, a group that when I was growing up was synonymous with “infidel” (and was viewed in much the same way as Muslims are today by that group). Yet once again, the conservative Christians rallied behind the Republican former-infidel-now-brother as the savior of our country (though admittedly with less enthusiasm than I saw for Bush or McCain).

Now it’s 2016, and Trump is the front runner, and more and more evangelicals are falling in line behind him. This is insane. There’s nothing Christian about Trump. He uses people, he promotes immorality (via the “immodesty” of his beauty pageants), he’s on his third marriage (divorce was considered an unforgivable sin when I was growing up), and he obviously doesn’t even know the Bible! Yet Liberty University welcomed him enthusiastically, Jerry Falwell Jr called him a “servant leader” in the tradition of Christ (the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard from a Christian leader), and after Palin’s endorsement Christians are increasingly supporting him.

Trump is everything we despised growing up: an “obvious” unbeliever, an immoral and liberal businessman, and not a true conservative. The fact that he’s now being accepted as the chosen one shows that evangelicals are no longer even pretending to be choosing who to vote for based on their religious principles. They have merged with the “non-Christian” (their words) conservative culture and established that over their own religion and over the Bible. And consequently, they’ve lost their voice to talk about G-d in our society, and they’re deceiving only themselves with regard to what their political motivations are.

Enthusiastic Consent

Samantha Field, in her blog post titled Consent Isn’t Enough, argues that technical consent isn’t sufficient for having sex, but that sex instead requires enthusiastic consent–meaning consent given completely freely, without any pressure or sense of obligation.

On the one hand, I appreciate the position woman have been in for centuries (and still are today) of being seen as something to satisfy men’s desires, as opposed to someone with her own desires that deserve to be satisfied. I agree emphasis needs to be put on female pleasure and female comfort, and to get there from where we currently are requires emphasizing a woman’s consent in sexual activities, to ensure that the activities aren’t serving the one-sided desire of men.

But on the other hand, the post struck me as being rather overly idealistic. She mentions:

A long time ago, I watched a movie (I think it might have been Sunshine Cleaning?) where one of the main characters has sex with her boyfriend, and eventually gets so bored that she flips on the TV and starts watching something banal until he finishes. What I saw happening there wasn’t rape, but what I did see was a guy being a complete and total asshole.

I didn’t see this movie, and I don’t doubt that in the context of the movie that her assessment of the situation is correct, but on its own, I’m bothered by the all-or-nothing approach to sex that this represents. There’s nothing to guarantee that sex will always be mind-blowing, or even particularly striking. Sometimes sex is boring. If there’s consent, even if one person is bored, if both people accept it for what it is, what’s the problem?

Further, she says:

Sex should not be a “duty.” It shouldn’t be an act we feel obligated to perform for other people.

(which, to be fair, is then followed by “It should never be manipulated or coerced” which I’m not disagreeing with–the little things that bother me are intertwined with an overall argument that I appreciate). To this I wonder, why can’t sex be a “duty”? Two people in a relationship do all sorts of things for each other, and some of those things are going to be experienced as duties. Why can’t sex fall into that category for some people in some situations?

I grant that it’s entirely possible that Samantha would allow for the idea of sex-as-duty but didn’t see any reason to focus on it in light of the much more important point that inasmuch as sex being seen as a duty is the normal experience of females and not males, something is wrong and needs to be fixed. And with that I agree entirely. But I feel it’s important to remember, as we try to implement a fix, that sex isn’t magic. Sex is a human activity, and it enjoys all the benefits and suffers all the flaws of any human activity. The reason our society views sex so idealistically is precisely a side effect of having so many taboos around it–what’s forbidden gets elevated to something supernatural. As we learn to reclaim sex as a normal human activity and not a taboo one, we must also fully accept its normalness instead of expecting it to be a supernatural experience.

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.

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