Your New Boyfriend Is an Asshole, and You Know It: a Fable

Here’s the thing: your friends warned you when you started dating this new guy that he was bad news. They told you stories about the stuff he’d done to mutual friends. They told you the kinds of things he was saying about them. But he promised he was going to take care of you and give you nice things and how important you were to him. So you told your friends they just didn’t understand. He had a different sense of humor. He was a little blunt, sure, but they were blowing everything out of proportion.

You continued to believe it when he went to court to force the Sanchez family to tear down the pool they always let you use so he could build that eyesore of a fence between you. When he blew off taking Gran to her heart transplant surgical consult because his friend Josh needed to have a corn removed. RSVP’d “no” with a Bible verse to both Lance and Henry’s wedding *and* little Hannah Goldman’s bat mitzvah.

You told Fatima she was totally over-reacting when he made that comment about wanting her to take a few laps around the block before coming in so she wouldn’t stink up the place. And while you and he were the only ones who knew where Celia and her son moved, there’s no way he told her abusive ex how to find her — even if her ex is an investor in the firm.

Yes, out of town clients got wasted when they came over, but it’s not *his* fault they retaliated against the Johnsons’ noise complaint by vandalizing their house.

No, you aren’t your new boyfriend. And he may be sweet as all get out when you’re alone. But at this point, it’s time to stop pretending you don’t understand why the Johnsons turned their noses up at your basket of apology muffins. Why the Sanchez family won’t answer the door even though their cars are in the drive. Why Lance and Henry returned your wedding gift and they and the Goldmans and Celia and Fatima aren’t returning your calls. You know why, just like you know why Gran gets a “tone” when you use unpaid time off to take her to the doctor.

On My Being, Political

It is once again the time of year when people in my social media feeds start posting about Not Removing Friends Over Politics. I’ll paraphrase here, but given the content is pretty much of a piece, I’m all right boiling it down to variations on one or more of these:

Friends are more important than simple politics.

We have to be able to have intellectual discussions about political issues.

If you ‘unfriend’ people, you’re choosing to cut off thought in favor of emotion.

The problem with all of these is that they insist on characterizing “politics” as an emotionless, intellectual debate. If it’s political, it’s just an idea, after all. Except that in this case the ‘idea’ up for debate is the actual humanity of another person.

I’m not sure if this “politics is ideas” thing is intentional gaslighting or a profound lack of understanding, but it’s infuriating in either case. If it’s the latter, I have serious concerns for the posters’ ability to navigate the world, since apparently they think people are severing ties over things like interstate highway routes and the taxes on a fresh strawberry. Which means they’re completely missing the part where people’s RIGHT TO EXIST is up for debate. In which case: yes. We need to be talking to those precious little flowers, because there is a whole lot of reality that’s not getting in.

In the former case, however, someone is well aware that one side of the debate is “I exist and deserve the same level of humanity as everyone else,” and the other is “It makes me uncomfortable if you exist, so could you maybe stop doing that?” I mean, yes, one side is existential, but the others side is an actual person. Saying that someone who is already fighting madly to gain or retain their humanity must also put up with having that humanity turned into something to be puzzled over like it’s choosing which Jenga piece to pull is just gross.

Trust me, I wish that the very fact of my gay existence weren’t political, but right now it is. People are debating whether I deserve service, whether I deserve employment, whether I deserve to marry, raise children, inherit. For a lot of people of marginalized identities, politics isn’t something they get to choose to enter or exit. Everyday interactions, from going to work to just holding hands, bring their very self up for scrutiny such that daring to draw breath becomes a political act.

Look, I absolutely agree that, in the case when the marginalized have the emotional energy to engage, that engagement is invaluable. However, it is also profoundly unfair to insist that people who are already assaulted by the world must engage, and must engage in all venues and on all platforms, and must engage with the same emotional distance that someone whose humanity is a given has the luxury of maintaining. That kind of insistence, whether willfully or ignorantly blind to the reality of the imbalance at work, winds up being just another abuse. It’s one more damn thing someone who’s struggling to survive has to worry about before they try to scrounge up the resources to actually enter the fray.

And anyone who’s standing around making pronouncements about understanding ought to make sure they understand that first and foremost.

Missing by a Hair’s Breadth

I’ve started to hear a lot of applause for Bernie Sanders’ “no nonsense” response to a question about Hillary Clinton’s hair coverage by the media:

When the media worries about what Hillary’s hair looks like or what my hair looks like, that’s a real problem. We have millions of people who are struggling to keep their heads above water, who want to know what candidates can do to improve their lives, and the media will very often spend more time worrying about hair than the fact that we’re the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people.

It looks good on its face, I suppose: Sanders is, in general, running on a platform that he’s not putting up with the media circus because there are stakes which deserve better than spin and calculation about the best news cycle. “Hair questions” are silly.

The big problem here is that I think someone who thinks that way ought to have more than enough insight to realize “Do you think it’s fair that Hillary’s hair gets a lot more scrutiny than yours does?” isn’t about hair. The media focus on female candidates’ appearance is the least painful symptom, surely, but nevertheless a symptom of gender inequality.

This was, then, a prime opportunity for Sanders to discuss the way women’s health is a political football or the pay gap between men and women (and, for extra intersectionality, the even larger gap for women of color).

Yes, Sanders mentions both financial distress and health care in his dismissal of the question, but because he flatly ignores the gender element (even after the interviewer explicitly says this is about gender) the whole thing winds up taking the unfortunate tone of some kind of #AllLivesMatter tweet.

Then again, in the same interview, Sanders expresses his surprise at having Black Lives Matter activists interrupt an event that was to feature him, pointing to his record on civil rights. Said record is good. I’m not trying to impugn anyone’s efforts here.

I am saying, though, that maybe the reason activists come at Sanders are the same reason a reporter who happens to be female thought she could ask him a not-particularly-coded question about gender inequality and he wouldn’t need it spelled out for him: because the people most likely to help, by signal boosting or allowing for their own errors or checking their privilege, are going to be those who’ve done so in the past.

And if we can’t get them to recognize the ongoing issues, how the hell can we expect to move the needle when it comes to those firmly entrenched in opposing rhetoric?

Never Lock Your Doors

My father is a retired police officer. Which, let’s start out, doesn’t qualify me as any kind of expert on law enforcement. We’re not playing that game. However, it does mean that I heard more than once the following ideology (paraphrased, because it took a lot of forms, and I can’t promise the veracity of a direct quote): you don’t lock your doors to keep the criminals out. You lock your doors to keep out the honest people.

That’s always stuck with me. Folks can bust in just about anywhere, to get just about anything, if they’re bound and determined to do so. But a reasonable set of obstacles will stop quite a few people from bothering. It’s kind of a compromise with nihilism, I suppose, which may be why I enjoy it1. And with all this NSA eavesdropping nonsense, it’s found itself a new purpose.

I hear a lot of folks just sort of shrugging, admitting the inevitability of data mining both corporate and governmental. If you want to be able to function in ye not so olde Internet Age, you can’t pick and choose your way out of the mining. I get that. And in that case, they’re going to get it anyway, so why bother worrying about it, right?

For the same reason I still lock my doors. Are the unscrupulous going to remain unscrupulous? Of course they are. Are they likely to try to scam what they want from you no matter what? Yes. But that doesn’t mean you have to make it easy for them. You can try to hold a foot or two to the fire. Especially when those feet belong to your government.

Privacy is a massive push and pull, especially in the ever-expanding overshare that is the Internet. But if no one pushes back … let’s just say I’d very much rather read Aldous Huxley and Ray Bradbury and Margaret Atwood than play a part in one of their novels. Which is why I enjoyed The NSA Video

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go visit my Twitter feed…

(via Upworthy)

1. Here I picture Nihilism, locked in a room with his cousins Practicality and Optimism, and told they’ll none of them be getting out until they stop squabbling so much. Which Nihilism says is just fine with him, until he’s heard Optimism’s effusive praise of the decor and Practicality’s plan for setting up a self-sufficient society in the room and a trade agreement with the kitchen, at which point he falls to the floor and begs for mercy.

McMath

There are a lot of points worth discussing in the ongoing debate about the minimum wage, especially as it relates to the nation’s fast food workers. But when faced with questions about wage policies, what’s the response of the company’s president?:

“I’ve been here 40 years.”

Let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt, and take his response as an actual answer. He must, then, be trying to let the 10 year employee asking the question know that the real income growth comes in the next 30 years. So, let’s see: our questioner is making $8.25 an hour. If we assume she’s actually getting a full 40 hours a week, that’s around $17,160 a year she’s making now.

According to Bloomberg, Stratton’s predecessor made a clean 2.15 million for a salary. It’s likely safe to assume Stratton’s making somewhere in the same neighborhood.1

So, good news, Nancy! Over the next 30 years, you should expect raises of about $71,000 a year. Amazing! Everyone needs to shut the stuff up about McDonald’s: they have the sweetest deal ever. Manage to make it through a decade in poverty, and you have super-awesome money just waiting. Jeff Stratton just revealed the real secret sauce.

(via Upworthy)

1. Given that Stratton has the advantage of that extra bit between the legs that earns someone about 25% more each year, he’s likely making more than his female predecessor, but for the sake of argument, we’ll pretend that’s not relevant

The Natural State of Idiocy

And there once again came a time when attempts to bend over backwards for new ways to say “gays are icky” and mask it as intellectual debate turned into this, from an interview with Cardinal Francis George:

We didn’t invent marriage. The church didn’t invent marriage. The state didn’t invent marriage. Nature gives us marriage. The Chinese are not Americans, and they’re not Catholic. They know what marriage is. Where did that come from?

This goes in so many directions, I think this one’s got to be another rapid-fire response. Form of: ravenous rant!

I know it’s a tad confusing, since we call ourselves “The United States of America ,” but we aren’t the only state in the sense you’re using it. The fact that the Chinese are not Americans, besides being a ridiculous amount of duh, does not mean that they didn’t have a state to establish their marital rites and institutions. Actually, the fact that you’re calling them Chinese, and thus labeling them with a collective national identity, pretty much means they have a state. If you’re going to prove that marriage isn’t a state construct, you’ll need to do better than just picking a different state.

If your go-to for proof that marriage is universally defined by a monogamous, heterosexual paradigm is to say “everyone else thinks so, too!” you’re more than a little off, there. Even if you want to argue the historical accuracy of reports of societies which allowed for same-sex unions, multiple societies have historically and unambiguously supported polygamy. If it’s some kind of universal constant that everyone recognizes, I’m missing how those societies aren’t part of the statistical set?

And just so we’re clear, let’s be honest about the fact that historically, even in Judeo-Christian nations, marriage was far more often a matter of property exchange in the beginning. Dowries weren’t just super-generous gifts. They were payment, whether the man was buying the woman or the family was paying him to take her. They also served to bolster relationships between nations, but that would suggest the state-that’s-not-America is involved, and that’s a false logic, right?

But enough about that. Let’s buy everything else you’re selling here and go right to the heart: Marriage comes from nature? From nature? You mean, the nature where male seahorses gestate children? Where hermaphroditic earthworms 69 each other? Or did you mean like bees, where the queen essentially reproduces via orgy? Well, let’s at least look at mammals, I suppose. You know, where monogamy is actually one of the rarer mating behaviors, and same-sex behaviors have been observed?

I know! Primates. Primates are the part of nature which is closest to people (though we should stop short of using any word that sounds like evolution, just to be safe). Primates must clearly be the example of marriage that nature has given…What was that? A gorilla male can have how many females spawn his offspring? A female chimp mates with how many males when she’s fertile? Oh! Oh, my.

Well, I suppose you can at least be happy you didn’t have to pay for that chimpanzee slut’s birth control, huh?

(via Joe.My.God.)

When You Aren’t Even Looking For It

I’m doing research on The Americans with Disabilities Act and similar legislation as it pertains to prison inmates, since it relates to a recent epiphany I had about a character in a story. I think I’ve found what I was looking for in that regard, but while I was looking, I stumbled across a Department of Justice ruling from May of this year regarding violations by a prison in Pennsylvania:

[T]he Justice Department issued a findings letter detailing the results of its investigation into the use of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Cresson in Cambria County, Pa. The department found that Cresson’s use of long-term and extreme forms of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness, many of whom also have intellectual disabilities, violates their rights under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

There’s a lot to digest from that opening paragraph alone. Because this isn’t just a ruling about the use of solitary confinement in a prison. It’s a ruling about using it on mentally-ill inmates. And not just folks with mild sociological trouble, but “severe mental illness.”

That there is one person suffering from severe mental illness in a prison is fairly disturbing to me. That there are multiple prisoners hits me as even more wrong.

And, the statement goes on to discuss, this case is leading to a widespread investigation of Pennsylvania’s prison system in general as regards prisoners with severe mental illness. So it’s not like the Cresson institution is unique. There are apparently enough “severe mental illness” inmates across the state to warrant a statewide investigation.

It’s a frightening reminder and implicit condemnation of the state of mental health care when there appears to be a basic assumption at the federal level that prison populations throughout any state are apparently characterized by multiple, severely mentally ill inmates.

You know, when I read about Arkham Asylum, there’s also a guy who dresses up like a bat to serve justice. I just don’t expect this kind of thing in a world without Harley Quinn and The Penguin.