About the Name of this blog

This blog's title refers to a Dani fable recounted by Robert Gardner. The Dani live in the highlands of New Guinea, and at the the time he studied them, they lived in one of the only remaining areas in the world un-colonized by Europeans.

The Dani, who Gardner identifies only as a "Mountain People," in the film "The Dead Birds," have a myth that states there was once a great race between a bird and a snake to determine the lives of human beings. The question that would be decided in this race was, "Should men shed their skins and live forever like snakes, or die like birds?" According to the mythology, the bird won the race, and therefore man must die.

In the spirit of ethnographic analysis, this blog will examine myth, society, culture and architecture, and hopefully examine issues that make us human. As with any ethnography, some of the analysis may be uncomfortable to read, some of it may challenge your preconceptions about the world, but hopefully, all of it will enlighten and inform.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Structure of Racism


Yesterday, my friend Marc posted a fascinating article about how Reverse Racism literally cannot exist because of the actual meaning of Racism.  (You can view the original article here.)  It unleashed a firestorm of vitriolic commentary on Marc's news feed that included a mind-blowing comment that I will reprint in full, because it floored me so much.

            "See I'm being discriminated racially right now.  Proof that blacks have too much power:              we haven't rolled into the ghettos in force to make them stop their genocidal war against              whites."

Seriously?  The Blacks in America are conducting genocide against white people?  The 1950's called and they want their racists back.   

But this horrific outpouring of venom displayed by some of the people in Marc's feed got me to thinking about things that I haven't discussed in a blog post in a while.  Being the quasi-social scientist that I am, I felt the need to write about this because people today conflate two different terms. This conflation further inhibits any valid  discussion about race or privilege. 

To begin, I would like to summarize some of the points of the original article and expand on them.  The author makes the very correct point that there is actually no way that "reverse racism" can even exist; the term shows complete ignorance of what racism is, which is a system, as opposed to prejudice which is a personal trait.  Further a person who is a racist is both (highly likely) prejudiced and a subscriber of the system of racism, much like a communist believes in communism.  And to further hammer home the point, "ism" is a suffix that denotes a ideological system, therefore, racism is a system of racist beliefs.

On the other hand, prejudice (derived from the Latin prae-judicium or literally "judgment before the facts") occurs when one individual or group pre-judges another, typically a minority or otherwise un-empowered group. It can be used to create a prejudicial stereotype, as we have seen in abundance in all groups. 

Prejudice can exist in anyone, and in fact most people have some sort of prejudice in their personal make-up.  Whether they fight this impulse or act on it is up to them, but the core of prejudice is there in a wide range of the population.  Further, prejudice can lead to discrimination on an individual basis or in a systematic manner.  Regardless of this, prejudice can be seen at it's base level as a personal failing, and one that can be held by anyone regardless of their status as majority or minority.

The article, however, did not address prejudice, it discussed racism.

Racism is the systematic discrimination of a group of people based on an actual (as in skin color) or perceived trait. (as in religious orientation.)  Racism holds that one group is naturally superior to another, by right of something inherent in their genetic makeup.  Although this concept predated the understanding of genetics, it came into full bloom at the end of the 1800's, when science discovered genes.  Taken further, racism, at it's most extreme leads to Eugenics, which is the attempt to excise the inferior "genetic material" from the gene pool.

Further, although this is not addressed in the article, Racism can hold two flavors, although they are often intertwined.  The first type of Racism is Systematic, where one group is specifically targeted for differential treatment.  Police racism, as seen in the "Stop and Frisk" policy that is so controversial, falls into this typology. 

"Stop and Frisk" is a perfect example of Systematic Racism.  Certain people, namely young black males, are determined to be a group that is more likely to commit a crime, and therefore should be stopped and searched any time they are doing "something suspicious," like buying an expensive belt at Barney's in New York City.  Muslims are also the victims of systematic racism when they are profiled as terrorists.  On the other hand, white people, even when actually doing something suspicious, are rarely stopped by cops.  Further, they are even less likely to be taken in for questioning, charged or convicted.  Because of this, a disproportionate number of people in prisons are African-American.

I would also like to note that Systematic Racism is more closely rooted in prejudice and stereotype than the other type of racism.  It often derives from sweeping generalizations such as, "young black males are far more likely to commit crimes" or "Muslims are more likely to be terrorists."  Sometimes there is a small shred of truth at the core to justify the beliefs, which is then thrown out as a justification of Systematic Racism.  But it should be noted, even when there is some truth present, it usually is distorted and taken out of context. 

For example, while white boys commit as many crimes on average as black youth, they are far more likely to get probation or juvenile hall where their black counterparts are often sent to adult prison.  Similarly, while there are quite a few Muslim terrorists today, in the 80's the world's largest and most powerful terrorist organization was actually the I.R.A., so by the reasoning of a certain group tends to terrorism, people with red hair should be subjected to much more intensive searches than any other group, including Muslims.  Further, since so many people in this country helped the I.R.A., Americans should be suspect whenever they travel abroad. 

The second sort of Racism can be termed either Institutional or Structural.  This occurs when the entire system is structurally set up so that a minority group is denied the opportunities afforded to the majority.  Although prejudice can inform this type of racism, it is generally rooted in a sense of entitlement; "I am better than you, so therefore it is natural and appropriate that I have more opportunities than you do."  Most of the Deep South is founded on a Structural Racism core.

What is interesting about this fact is that there may not always be direct prejudice in this system.  When I lived in the South, there were many people I met that did not claim any sort of prejudice to African-Americans, and yet vehemently defended the system that kept minorities politically un-empowered.  The typical answer when confronted with the atrocities of the system was, "You have to understand, that's just how things are done here."  Another statement that I heard a lot was, "I'm not racist, some of my best friends are black." while they voted for politicians who kept the discriminatory apparatus locked in place. 

However, if you support a system that is Structurally Racist, sorry, but by definition, you are a racist.  What you are not necessarily is prejudiced; you're just entitled and oblivious.  And yes, you can be racist without being prejudiced. 

To return to Structural Racism, it is very clear in the educational system in many places in the South.  The schools down there have re-segregated, and have done so in a way that cannot be easily undone.  There will not be an ability to forcibly desegregate them, and have the National Guard enforce it, as there was in the Civil Rights Era.  The reason is, most of the white people have pulled their children out of the public school system and placed them in private schools, either religious or secular.  The ones who can't afford this option are more and more resorting to home-schooling.  This leaves the public school system overwhelmingly populated by "minority" students.

This is even worse than the old "separate but equal," where a thin veneer of comity was attempted.  Now they just pull the kids out of the public system and defund it so that there is little actual education left in the schools.  The public schools have become poorly funded warehouses and day care centers where only the most basic skills are taught.  In no way does a public education in many places in the South prepare students for any sort of higher education.

And this is where the Institutionalization of Racism can be easily seen.  Without the ability to get a quality education, doors to greater potentials are closed.  Not completely of course, there are always ways for the occasional lucky or brilliant kid to escape the trap, but for the most part, most of the children who start and end in the public school system are locked out of many opportunities, thereby not competing with the more entitled white children.  Worse, in this system, help for "disadvantaged" children becomes a form of patronizing charity, further embedding the structural racism into the scheme.

Now on to the reason why "reverse racism" cannot be a thing, at least for the most part.   Given that the system is not set up in such a manner that minorities have the ability to engage in systematic discrimination, there is not the ability to for them to engage in actual racism.  In other words, because they do not control the levers of power, they cannot set up an opposite system to block white people from achieving in life.  They do not block whites from good jobs, nice housing in safe neighborhoods or any of the other trappings of life that the entitled white population expects.  

As a side note, I do want to point out, there has been one group that has been able to actually create a form of reverse racism on the structural level, and that was the Irish.  The Irish, having all normal pathways to assimilation closed to them took over the New York and Boston Police Departments, and in doing so, blocked many non-Irish from entering the force, hence the stereotype of the Irish Cop.  They also took over the Catholic Priesthood in America, but that was a much less powerful position.   Through their power on the police force, they then insinuated themselves into the political machines of several major metropolitan areas.  By doing that, they forced the doors open for their brethren.   However, as I noted earlier, the Irish have long ties to terrorism, so this power play shouldn't be surprising.

Other that that instance, and quite possibly because of it, "reverse racism' has never actually taken hold in this or any other country.  Even when "minorities" are actually the numeric majority, they have not been able to move the levers of power in their direction, even today. 

Systematic and Institutional Racism are on full display today in the frantic efforts of the Far Right in attempting to disenfranchise minority voters through a host of laws designed to suppress the vote.  Cloaked in the sophistry of "voter fraud" these laws are designed to make it harder and less likely for minorities to vote, thereby structurally maintaining a white majority in votes cast, even if the actual percentage of eligible voters skews the other direction. 

By weakening the number of votes of people of color, and concentrating those that remain into isolated districts, the white power system can continue to exert a chokehold on power.  And the worst part of it is, short of violence, it becomes almost impossible to weaken that grasp, as we saw in the 1960's.   Part of the reason that the Civil Rights movement turned so ugly at times stemmed from the need to shake the edifice of control down to its roots.  Even then, the institutional and systematic racism continued, albeit in a somewhat modified and cloaked form.

Therefore, by definition, "reverse racism" cannot exist, and even if the power structure flipped and African-Americans and Hispanics took control of the country, and further oppressed the white population the same way that we oppressed them, it would still be just plain racism, not reverse racism.  Racism can only really exist among the ruling class.

That said, what can, and does exist is prejudice, and it does exist on both sides;  I have met some minorities who were prejudiced against whites.  However, even though any form of prejudice is wrong, it is understandable that minorities might hold ill will against whites.  It is unfortunately a natural reaction to oppression that people come to hate their oppressors.  It is also natural to extend that hate via stereotyping and projection to everyone of that ethnic group.  When you are accustomed to being hated for what and who you are, you tend to hate everyone who is not like you.  However, this is not reverse racism or even reverse prejudice, it is simply standard issue prejudice.

To illustrate this, I would like to return to my experiences gained from living in Savannah.  While I was there, I witnessed the day-to-day, almost casual, racism that was on display there. I saw first hand the fact that blacks were shoved off into a school system that did not in the least prepare them for life, while white people sent their kids to private schools that did so. I saw cops stop and harass black people, who were doing nothing wrong, for the simple crime of being blatantly black in public. I witnessed people with advanced degrees working in menial jobs, simply because the color of their skin prevented them from attaining a better position.  I also saw people being told to "know their place and not try to rise above themselves."  Further, I saw people unable to leave this racist system because they had no economic ability to do so.

In addition, I saw people who were actually angry every time they saw a black person who did not wear shackles on there ankles.  I heard people say that they would like to see slavery put up for a vote among white people, because they would re-institute it in a heartbeat.  Worse, I found out that they still maintain lists in the South of who owns who, in the hopes that they can someday reclaim their property. THAT is racism.

As a natural response to this racist system, some people become very prejudiced against their oppressors.  I'm sorry if some of you get hurt feelings when a black person gives you a dirty look, or acts prejudiced towards you, but given what I witnessed with my own two eyes while living in Georgia, I can completely understand and support their position.

In my next post, I will examine how the discussion of "reverse racism" not only stops honest discussion of racism in America, but actually contributes to the problem. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Recipe for Revolution


Right now, the far Right Wing of the Republican party is sowing the seeds for a revolution in the United States.  It is not, however, going to be the revolution they think, nor want.  They want a revolution to eliminate the Federal Government, roll back civil rights, equal rights and gay rights, define Christianity as the national religion, and completely unfetter the financial markets.  But in short, they want a revolution that puts old white rich men inextricably in charge of this country. 

That is not the revolution they will get.

They might get it in the short term; the game might be rigged enough by 2016 to elect a President Cruz.  Riding high on his election, and the probable control of both houses of congress that electing him would bring, they will unwind all of the social safety net programs that they hate, disenfranchise millions so they can't protest, and try to set up a permanent hegemony in the governmental apparatus.

Even if they don't get the big prize of the presidency, they can work toward their revolution piecemeal, creating government shutdowns and debt ceiling threats so regularly that the Democrats eventually acquiesce to some of their demands, just because they are worn down from the fight.  And if you think this isn't on the horizon, Ted Cruz spoke in Iowa and claimed that his path was the path to victory.  This movement is not going to be derailed by real facts.  The Ministry of Truth will continue to feed the true believers delusions.

But this is were actual reality rears it's ugly head.  If they actually get their revolution, they will likely spawn a real insurrection.  History is our guide on this.  When people are utterly without recourse, they rise up against the government and attempt to overthrow it.  Most recently, this happened in Egypt and Libya, and is still moving along in Syria.

But before I talk about how this might happen here, I would like to take a moment to explore the policies of the Right that will lead us to the cliff.  (I am going to refer to them as the Right, not the Republicans, because not all Republicans are on the bus that the Right is driving off the cliff.)

First, they want to drastically cut, or in their wildest hopes, eliminate food stamps.  The problem is, a majority of people on food assistance are not the unemployed, they are actually working.  In short, they are not working for wages high enough to feed themselves, and still take care of the other necessities like shelter and clothing.

The minimum wage across most of this country forces people to make choices in their day to day life.  But the unfortunate reality is, those choices typically are things like, do I eat, or pay my rent?  The minimum wage is no longer a living wage, and people earning it must turn to government subsidies to survive.  Without food stamps, there would be a lot of employed, but still hungry, people in this country.

Which leads to the second thing that the Right wants to eliminate, the minimum wage.  Michelle Bachman, with her perfect grasp of economics, called for the elimination of the Federal Minimum Wage.  She claimed, in a bizarrely correct way, if we eliminated the minimum wage, we would drastically cut unemployment.  This is true in the sense that companies would be willing to hire massive numbers of people if they didn't have to actually pay them. 

The core idea of the minimum wage is that slavery is outlawed; people have to be paid for work.  Without it, do you really think companies are going to pay their employees well?  You will see places like Wal-Mart drop employee pay to pennies, because that will cut their overhead and raise their profits.  And then Wall Street will reward them for increasing profits by ballooning their stock prices, which will incite another round of pay cuts, that will be rewarded in turn.  Eventually, wages will bottom out at Chinese levels of compensation, which will be just a few dollars a day for most employees.

The third thing that the Right wants to eliminate is the Health Care Act.  While I disagree with the ACA because I don't think it went far enough because there is no public option, it is our only hope currently to try to get a handle on health care in this country.  Having Emergency Rooms be the primary care provider for a good chunk of the people in this country is very bad for the economy.  Yet the Right sees no problem with the Emergency Room handling the majority of health care.

But people need health care, or they will die, even from easily treatable things like infections or the flu or a broken leg.  Like food, heath care becomes an unaffordable luxury for millions of low paid people in this country.  The ACA helps get people medical treatment.

Finally, the Right is attacking pensions, not just Social Security, but actual Defined Benefit Plans earned through long term employment in a single place of employment.  (And in this one, even some on the Democratic side are complicit, for example Gina Raimondo, the Treasurer of Rhode Island) The primary target are those who are drawing government pensions, but the entire system is under attack.  Even social security, that once unassailable bulwark of the social safety net is being assaulted with things like the chained CPI and means testing.

The largest group of people in this country living in poverty are not minorities or single mothers, it is the elderly.  And unlike the other groups in poverty, these people are literally unable to work, even if there were jobs available.  A person with advanced Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease is not going to be able to hold down a job, so pensions and social security are there to take care of them at a point in their lives when they desperately need care.

To sum this up, if you make people be hungry, even when they are employed, cut the ability to work for a wage that might make ends meet, increase the number of people who die from easily treatable conditions and cause the elderly to live in squalor, you set the stage for massive unrest.  And to make matters worse, you are doing this to widen the profit margins for billionaires, a group that already is not one that people inherently  feel sympathy towards.

This sets the stage for rebellion.

Martin Luther King said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."  Even more, the arc of humaity bends towards fairness.  And it isn't fair when people see starvation in their lives, while the rich get richer; when people can't afford even the basics of life; when they watch their children die from simple health issues, while the wealthy get extraordinary treatment; then they watch their parents be unable to care for themselves, while the wealthy live in luxury.

I'm not here to give a moral debate on this, I am simply stating the facts, whether you think it is right or wrong, when people perceive this sort of inequality and unfairness, they become enraged.  And the worse the disparity, the worse the rage.  Both Roosevelts saw this and as a result, Teddy broke the Trusts and brought down the Barons, and FDR instituted the broadest social compact that we had seen in this country.

They didn't do it because they were Communists or even Socialists, they did it because they were pragmatists.  Not to say they didn't believe strongly in their actions, they did, but they also knew that action was necessary.  They both knew that if something was not done to change the course of the country, eventually, the disparity would lead to despair, and the despair would lead to revolt.  This is history's lesson that we have forgotten.

In the blind hatred of entitlements, we have ignored that, at the end of the day, it is far better for a government to be loved than feared. 

The reason that totalitarian societies fall is that the government is feared.  But fear cannot be maintained indefinitely, it may take decades, but eventually fear turns to anger and anger turns to hate.  Once people hate their government, it's all over.  They WILL rise up.  And this is another piece the Right does not get, they are stoking hatred of the Federal Government to get what they want, but once they have achieved their ends, they will have a country full of people who hate the government.  This will not end well.

Governments, by their very nature, do a lot of things that people don't like.  We generally don't like laws or restrictions or regulations, unless we see personal benefit in them  We all like laws against murder, but laws against Marijuana?  That is harder for a lot of people to see.  You have to step outside of your personal system to see a societal benefit in order to see good in a lot of the laws even a "good" a government passes.

So to keep people working together, and have a strong country, you have to get them to love their government, or at least like it.  In order to be viable, a government needs to produce tangible benefits for their citizens; they need to provide a service.  Otherwise, they have no reason to be supported.

The inherent nature of the human race tends also toward anarchy.  For the most part, we only work together well in small groups, because that is what our genetic programming designed us to do.  We function in larger groups because we have to, and we see the reasons to, not because we exactly want to.  We see the benefit of a State Level society, but many of us yearn towards a simpler life, with less interaction with large apparatuses of control.

So for a government to work, the benefits of it's existence have to outweigh the burdens.  And in America, that has always meant a government that stands up for the little guy, that protects the helpless, and provides actual help to people in need.  It builds roads and schools, keeps the peace, and provides for the helpless.  Without that, most people don't see any real reason to have one.

And this is where the Right has led us to a precipice.  They have gotten most of America to hate the government, for their own selfish ends.  What they don't realize is history's lesson.  When people hate their government, they don't make government go away, as the Right hopes, they replace it.  They may replace it with something bad, or they may replace it with something better, but they will force a change.  

This is what happened in Eastern Europe, and what is going on right now in the Middle East.  People hated their government, saw the government as a destructive force in their lives, and they overthrew it.  Simple citizens, often even unarmed, can do a lot of damage to the system when they put their minds to it.  If the system is extremely well armed, the conflict will drag on for years, as we are seeing in Syria.  But eventually, if people are determined enough, they will eventually win.

The reason that Egypt fell so quickly was not arms or even that the military abandoned Mubarak; it was because of the sheer size of the population that rose against the government.  In a country of 80 million people, the military cannot enforce the system for any length of time.  It would be even worse in a country of almost 400 million.  Short of carpet bombing our own citizens, there is no way any sort of martial law would stop a revolution in this country.

Wise leaders like the Roosevelts knew this, and made government a force for good in people's lives.  That is enlightened leadership, and for two centuries, it was the guiding force in this country: how can we make life better for people?

Once government stops doing this, the stage for revolution is set.  And the ultimate irony is, the Right is dismantling government to increase profit margins, but the worst thing for profit is revolution. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dead Man Walking


John Boehner is in an absolutely no win scenario; no matter what happens in the coming weeks, he WILL lose his Speakership.  Let me examine the possible scenarios and look at why this is going to happen.  The Tea Party, and the magical thinking crowd are driving the bus, and they want no compromise.   For his part, Boehner thinks that going along with them will preserve his station as Speaker of the House,  so he is refusing to buck them. 

Of course, this entire post is predicated on Boehner's pride, and desire to retain his Speakership.   There are other possibilities: his family is being held hostage, and he has been informed that if he refuses to play along, they will be killed; he has a REALLY nasty skeleton in his closet that they are using to blackmail him with; or they have some sort of equally horrendous thing that they are holding over his head to get him to do what they want.  There is another possibility, that he is actually crazy himself, but I tend to discount this, because, as bad as he is at his job, he has still seemed fairly rational, and not ridiculously hyper-partisan.

So to look at how this could all play out:

Scenario 1: They blow up the Debt Ceiling and it is as bad or worse than the experts believe it will be.  At the moment, this is unfortunately the most likely scenario to happen.  (And I hate to say that, but the rhetoric on the Right seems to really want this to happen)

In this case, there are two further possibilities.  First, we are plunged into a world wide Great Depression that will make the one in '29 look mild.  In this case, everyone in leadership will be expelled from Congress in the next election.  We might even have recalls for the senators not up next election, and maybe even an impeachment.  (Not that I think it would be Obama's fault, I'm just saying how we would likely react to this.)  In this case, Boehner is out in '14.

The second possibility here is even worse, that the Debt Ceiling Breach actually spurs a revolution, rebellion or national breakup.  This could happen quite easily as well, because if the country can't pay the military forces, we are headed to implosion.  We saw this happen in the Soviet Union, (albeit for a somewhat different reason) and there is no reason it can't happen here as well.  In this case, no one is Speaker, but most notably, John Boehner isn't.

Scenario #2: We breach the Debt Ceiling, and it isn't the end of the world.  Although this is highly unlikely, if we patch it fast enough, perhaps we wouldn't spark another Depression.  Still, the breach would, regardless, spur high interest rates, and likely high inflation as well, because the value of the dollar would fall.

This is a scenario we have seen in the past, during the 70's with Stagflation.  In that case, President Carter, and a lot of other Democrats, paid the price for the country's financial woes.  This time, the blame would be placed firmly at Boehner's feet, and trust me, the discredited Republican Party would throw him under the bus to save themselves.  They would claim it was all Boehner's idea, and he is at fault for the mess.  Again, Boehner is no longer Speaker, and he also get Tarred and Feathered by his (former) compatriots.

Scenario #3: Boehner capitulates and allows for a clean debt ceiling vote.  This is also a possibility, although one that I put at less than 50% right now.

In this case, Boehner is excoriated by the Far Right and the Rightwing media as a traitor to the cause and country.  He will be primaried by a Tea Party candidate who will likely win the primary, and then possibly lose the General.  We have seen this happen time and again.  Although the Tea Party can motivate enough people to win a Primary, they tend to do poorly in a general election, unless the district or state is an utter conservative stronghold like Utah.  The mainstream Republicans are not likely to vote for crazy, especially after going through this shutdown.  They will very likely quietly vote for the Democrat, and move on with their lives. 

This scenario will likely ripple across the country, destroying any moderate, or sane conservative Republican who votes on a clean CR and Debt Limit.  This actually will lead to an additionally difficult problem, because most of the Republicans who will be left in Congress after this are likely to be as crazy as Yoho and Cruz, so we will have one functioning party, and a group of people howling in the wilderness.

And as before, Boehner does not return to the House.  And further, Nancy Pelosi likely returns to the Speaker's chair.

Scenario #4: Obama and the Democrats capitulate and give in to Republican demands.  Unfortunately, this is also a high likelihood, given the past performance of the Democrats. 

This scenario would seem to be a win for Boehner, and the way to preserve his job, but that is doubtful, because several other things would play out in this scenario.

First, it would galvanize the Republicans, who would be seen by both their constituents, and the media, as being at the height of their power.  Second it would demoralize the Democrats, who might even sit out the next election.  Regardless, it would greatly strengthen the hand of the Republicans going into the next election, and they would see it as vindication of their agenda.

This means they would probably run more Tea Party candidates, because the Far Right would be empowered.  Even if the Democrats were pushed to fight to win back the house, the media narrative would be against them, just as it was in 2010.  In this scenario, Boehner might be Primaried, but he would certainly be challenged for the Speakership by a Tea Party type, because they were at the seeming apex of their power.  And given that Boehner is not popular, even in his own party, he would likely lose to his challenger.

So no matter what, Boehner is highly unlikely to keep his position, therefore, out of love of country, he should let it come to a vote.

The problem with this entire situation is, when you hold the government hostage, like the Republicans are doing, and then the other side capitulates, like Obama might, you set the stage for this to become common practice.  This time, Obama gives in on the ACA, next time, what will it be, a complete ban on abortion?  An end to Welfare? Defunding of the Department of Education?  Once you open the door to these types of threats, there is no closing it.  And it won't matter who the party in the driver's seat is.  You could have a Republican President and Senate, and a Democratic House blowing it up unless they put into place a single payer health care system.

And even worse, once the bullet is in the chamber, it will eventually be fired.  If not this time, then in the future.  The demands become ever more extreme, and sooner or later, the bomb will be dropped.

We saw this with the hijackings of the '70's.  As much as it pains me to say this, if they had attacked the first hijacked plane, and risked the lives of everyone to end the hostage situation, it is unlikely that there would have been any more hijackings, because the technique would not have been viable.

The same thing here, if this hijacking of democracy succeeds, expect it to become a regular occurrence.  If it fails, it is unlikely that we will see it again.

If Boehner actually cares about democracy more than he care about a position that he will not hold on to in any case, he needs to allow a vote.

Unless, of course, they actually are holding his family hostage.  Then at least his behavior might make sense.  Otherwise, it doesn't. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Authentically Divine


In my previous posts on this subject, I have introduced the idea of the Divine Supplement, and touched on the question of the authentic in religious experience.  I would now like to fully explore this important question: which experience is the authentic, the Divine or the Human?  To partially answer this question, I would like to examine two aspects of Christianity, the Crucifix and the Miracle of Transubstantiation.  In the process of doing this, I will also examine whether each of these things are in themselves authentic.

The Crucifix is a very interesting and complex artifact.  It is a symbol, a metaphor, an allegory wrapped up in a concept of being a holy object, and ultimately a fetish.  As such, this object cannot be easily classified or fully understood through a single frame.

First, I will examine the symbolic nature of the object.  Each crucifix, which is made by people, typically in factories no less, is still a manifestation of the True Cross upon which Jesus was crucified.  It is a symbolic link to a physical object that (probably) was destroyed almost two thousand years ago.  (I’m not going to get into the idea of relics of the True Cross here, I am simply going to assume that it was probably destroyed once it was finished being used.)

As a symbol, it represents an actual object without actually having a physical tie to that object.  In this aspect, it is certainly not authentic, because it has no direct connection to the original.  It is not even formally connected, because the crucifix is much l smaller than the source, nor is it normally made out of wood.  It is only a representation of another object, a reminder of it.

It is also a marker, a form of positional good, marking a person’s position in society as a Christian.  In this manner, it becomes somewhat more authentic, because it signifies something specific about a person.  (A Star of David does the same thing.)  In terms of absolute authenticity, it shows that a person follows a belief system, and an honest display of fact can be considered to be authentic in at least a certain sense of the word.  This makes the Crucifix authentic in the human world.

The second role that the Crucifix fills is that of a metaphor.  It represents an entire conceptualized worldview.  It communicates a myth of a Father God who sent his only Son to Earth to die for the sins of mankind.  I am using Lakoff’s interpretation of metaphor here, where a metaphor is verbal shorthand that we use in society to communicate a much larger concept in a manner that everyone in that culture understands.  Even non-Christians know the story that the Crucifix represents.

In this sense, the cross is authentic, albeit, again in the human realm.  It is representational of a shared myth, although not necessarily a shared belief.  The authenticity of the object is absolute here, because this object is a functioning metaphor for virtually everyone on the planet.  Even if they do not believe, they do understand the metaphoric content.  (I do realize that there are some people who wouldn’t recognize it, but they are also typically removed from many of the other shared aspects of a global society, so this does not impact, in my mind, the authenticity of the object as metaphor.)

Then we move to the idea of the Crucifix as an allegory.  An allegory is similar to a metaphor, but it is a literary device that communicates a complex idea or concept.  In this case, the Crucifix becomes allegorical for the New Covenant, as laid out in the New Testament.  It becomes an allegory for Salvation.

In this aspect, we finally see the Crucifix as representing authenticity of the Divine Experience; it becomes a symbol of personal Salvation.  It connects the person who wears it to God, and I would like to note, a person wears it as an article of faith, and not purely as a positional good.  In this regard, it is Internalized Hierophany, as I outlined in the previous post. 

I would also like to note here, the wearing of the Crucifix is an outgrowth of the Reformation.  Prior to Martin Luther, a Cross was forbidden to a non-ordained person; it was viewed as an utterly sacred object.  In fact, in Scotland, in the 15th century, the pentagram was often worn as an article of faith, because it was viewed to represent the 5 wounds of Christ.  The Divinity of the Cross was absolute up until that point.

This leads us to the idea of the Crucifix as a holy object.  Even when worn by a person outside of the church hierarchy, and in that, profane, the Cross retains its sacredity.  To destroy a cross, or any holy object for that matter, is an act of desecration.   It would be highly offensive, even to some people outside of the religion.  (We can see this when Christians and Jews become outraged at the burning of a Koran)

So in this case, the Crucifix has the authenticity of a Divine Experience.  Taken together, the idea of the Cross as metaphor and the Cross as allegory, mixed with the belief that the Crucifix is an actually holy Object, it becomes the Divine Supplement.  It represents God, both as a metaphor and as a line of connection.

So in the end, is the Crucifix actually authentic?

The answer in this case is contextual.  If the Crucifix is an object worn as a positional good, to mark someone’s standing, to show off in a certain way, it is not actually authentic.  This is because it only exists in one dimension of authenticity, that of being a symbol, and an empty one at that.  A Cross around the neck of a person who does not actually live the allegory of what that Cross substitutes for renders it inauthentic.

On the other hand, a Crucifix worn by a person who devoutly believes in what it stands for, and further lives that belief system daily, is an authentic object.  The Divine Connection renders it authentic.

I have looked at the authenticity of an object, now I would like to examine the authenticity of a ritual, that of Transubstantiation.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, Transubstantiation is the miracle that occurs in a Mass.  In this miracle, the wafer literally becomes the body of Christ, and the wine literally becomes his blood.  (They still taste like paper and cheap red wine, because apparently the Savior was not particularly tasty.)

In this sense, there is no symbolism here; this is literal, not symbolic, ritual cannibalism.  I realize that I may upset some people with this, but this is the actuality of Catholic Communion.  I would like to also note, the Protestant faiths, who on the whole don’t have Transubstantiation, engage in symbolic ritual cannibalism.  Because this is literal, there is also no metaphoric content, at least in terms of the religion.

This means that there is no authenticity on the overtly human level, as there is with the Crucifix.  The human authentic does however exist here in the sense of tying the community together.  It becomes a shared experience for the congregation, and through that shared experience creates an identity for the participants.   

However, despite lacking symbolic or metaphoric content, Transubstantiation is still allegorical.  It communicates a whole host (pardon the pun) of concepts.  At its core though, this is a Theophany, not a Heirophany, if the miracle is believed.  The intercession of the Priest actually causes Holy Spirit to manifest in the bread and wine.  As with the Crucifix, at the core is a Divine Experience, and in this case, a miracle.

However, as with the Crucifix, the authenticity is based in intent.  For a person who does not believe, there is no authenticity here, simply a bunch of mumbo-jumbo.  It might tie them to their community, make their parents happy or a whole range of other things, but at the core, if there is no belief in the miracle, it is simply a wafer and wine.  It is a fake.

So through this exploration of both of these, I would like to propose an answer to the question I posed earlier, which experience is authentic, the Human or the Divine?  The answer is neither, at least in isolation.

The Divine is not authentic without the Human, and the Human is not authentic without the Divine.  A Crucifix worn without living the belief system is just ornament.  However, a Crucifix in isolation is divorced from the world.  Similarly, Transubstantiation without belief in the miracle is simply a silly ritual, but without the community sharing in it, it is equally hollow.

You must have both sides for the authentic.  You must have connection to each other, and you must have connection to the Divine.  You must have the authenticity of the human experience, and the authenticity of the Divine experience.  In this we see two of the aspects of the role of myth as outlined by Joseph Campbell, Man to Man and Man to God.  However, in this we also connect Man to Self.  By understanding the former two relationships, the last relationship is better understood.

And this is the final core of authenticity in religion; it must tie all three aspects of our relationships together.  If it does, then it will resonate and be authentic, if it does not, it rings false.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Inconvenience of Reality


The truth does not set us free, it typically just makes us uncomfortable.  A prime example of this is the rampant racism in this country.  Despite, or more likely because of, electing a black President, bigotry has not declined.  Tangential to this is the strong uptick in sexism that runs parallel to racism.  This is the uncomfortable truth that we face.  However, rather than just complain about the phenomenon, I would like to try to examine some root causes of the behavior: shame, fear, and identity.

The first driver of prejudice is shame.  For generations we literally enslaved blacks and we oppressed women.  Both were treated appallingly by the power structure and denied recourse to protest that repression.  Black men were not counted as people until after the civil war, and then it was a further 100 years before they truly earned the right to participate in the democratic process.  Women didn't get a universal right to vote until 1920, although some states adopted suffrage before that.

This is shameful, and any rational person in 2013 should recognize how appalling that truth is.  However, people don't always react the same way to shame.  Some people, and I would hope the majority, although recent events make me question that assertion, use the shame as a driver to guarantee that those mistakes are never repeated.  Shame has been used throughout history as a powerful method of discipline in a social structure, and therefore is often corrective.

Unfortunately, some people cannot correctly process shame.  Instead they refuse to see their behavior as inappropriate, and actually transfer the shameful behavior onto the actual victims.  You see this in a number of events recently.  President Obama being constantly criticized as un-American, arrogant, uppity, and a host of other epithets that condemn him for the audacity of becoming President.  You also see this in the Trayvon Martin case, where the black teen is de facto guilty, and judged to be in the wrong automatically, even though, if he did fight back, he was acting under the same principle that allowed George Zimmerman to legally murder him.  And even further, you see this is the repeated refusal to acknowledge rape as an actual crime, and the pushing of the idea that women contribute to their own rapes through their bad behavior.

In all of these cases, shame is being transferred off of the person who cannot accept it, and it is being placed on a person or group who in way have any guilt in the matter.  This is unfortunately a common behavior pattern among people who lack the maturity to face a horrible reality.  Part of the problem here is that since they did not personally engage in those behaviors, they feel that they bear no responsibility.  Further they feel that assigning them responsibility for the actions of people in the past, or other people in the present, is utterly wrong.

This is correct as far as the individual goes, but there is another layer at play here and that is societal guilt.  Societal guilt is not personalized, but belongs to a large group of people and is the method of mitigating bad behavior by a culture.  A prime example would be the Holocaust; only a relatively small percentage of the German population actively participated in the atrocities, but a wide swath stood by and watched it happen.  In this, they became complicit, is not directly guilty; and that is what societal guilt is meant to address.

Even though the Civil War ended almost 150 years ago, and the Equal Rights movement ostensibly came to an end 30 years ago, much of the bad behavior is still being perpetrated.  But rather than acknowledge it, the guilt is off-shored and placed on the people who do not deserve the blame.  The racist attitudes justify the ill treatment of minorities and women, by essentially blaming them for their own condition.  In doing this, the racist and sexist attitudes become fully justified in the mind of the person who holds them, and removes the burden of shame.

And to address another elephant in the room, there is a genuine phenomenon of reverse racism and counter sexism, where minorities and women turn the tables against white men.  However, it should be noted that this phenomenon is distinctly different from traditional racism and sexism.  These are response behaviors, basically stemming from the idea, "You hate us, so we will hate you back just as much."  Although it drastically increases the problem, it is a natural response.  However, since is it such a different imperative from traditional racism, I am going to leave it out of this discussion.

The second driver is fear.  As I have discussed in previous blog posts, the fear-anger-hate chain is powerful and ubiquitous.  But the root imperative is fear.  With racism and sexism, the fear is both extremely simple and highly convoluted.  The root cause of the fear is the idea of loss of privilege, white men have essentially run the show in most of the industrialized world for centuries.  Losing that basic power structure is deeply troubling. 

White men have been on top for so long that we literally do not know how to function in a world where we are not the ultimate power.  You see this in the repeated meltdowns over President Obama.  He is going out there and acting just like a white man, asking for motorcades, for marines to hold an umbrella over him, traveling the globe and talking to world leaders as an equal.  How arrogant of him.  To many who fear the loss of their influence, he is the ultimate harbringer of their doom.

The convoluted part comes in the realization that ye shall reap as ye have sown.  The comedian Patton Oswalt talks about using a time machine, and how it would be great to use it to visit the past, because there never has been a time when being a white man hasn't been awesome.  However, he cautions against using it to go to the future, because what we have done is going to catch up to us, and the future is "gonna suck."  We are going to eventually have to pay for our millennia of bad leadership decisions.

This fear drives both racism and sexism.  They are the dying gasps of trying to stave off an inevitable future where the white male has, at best, limited ability to control events, and at worst will become the oppressed minority.  The fear of what might happen to us makes it imperative that we keep everyone else down, by whatever means are necessary, and bigotry serves that very well.  In fact, through careful application of it, we can even get some of the oppressed people to buy into the story.  Allen West and Phyllis Schaffley are perfect examples of this.

Add to that the second layer of fear, the fear that we are not superior.  Much of racism and sexism is supported by the indisputability of the superiority of the white male.  We view ourselves as smarter, more talented, better leaders, and generally better people than either minorities or women.  And every time one of the other groups does an excellent job in a "white role" it undercuts that certainty.

This is also why President Obama gets described as lazy, ineffectual, and incompetent.  And unfortunately, to be honest, it comes from both sides of the white political spectrum.  The issues of complaint about the President may be different, but underlying both sides is this hidden message that a white man could do it better.  The lionization of Bill Clinton by both side proves this idea.  I should note here, there has been significant criticism of the President from the African-American community, but it is fundamentally different in tone, and often echoes the idea that he isn't doing enough for their community.  However, given the issues surrounding his Presidency, he would only make it worse and heighten the racism, if he actually did more.  Notice the furor over his  relatively mild statement regarding Trayvon Martin,

The last piece of the racism puzzle is identity.  For much of human history, the world has revolved around ideas of us and them.  We define ourselves by certain identifiers, race, religion, and culture.  The ideas of what make us, "us" are very powerful and form the basis of a racial identity.

The vampire mythic sequence illustrates this very well, we are both drawn to and repelled by the other.  In the older vampire stories, the monster wanted to seduce our women and steal them away, which meant that he had to be destroyed with a stake through the heart.  This symbolized the need to strike at the core of the dangerous other.

In today's world of "sparkly vampires" we want to mate with the vampire, not to embrace the other, but to subsume the other.  The ultimate message of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight is that we need to make the vampire more like us.

This returns to the issue of bigotry.  We can accept a black man if he is more white than the average white man.  In fact, most of my white friends who have the one black friend typically describe them as "the whitest black guy in the world."  By taking on a "white" identity, the otherness becomes neutralized and they are save.  Even if they are a different skin color, they do not challenge the predominant white identity of our culture.  They become "neutralized."

The same goes for women.  If a woman acts girlish in the work world, she is basically a threat to the cultural identity of what an employee should be.  If she cries, or talks about "female problems" or in any way breaks the mold, she becomes a danger.  Basically, to function effectively in the work world, a woman must be indistinguishable from a man.

However, there is a double standard for women that does not exist for racial issues.  It is OK, and even expected, that a woman fill a traditional role in the non-work realm.  That is also part of the identity issue, a woman has a specific role to play in our cultural structure.  She can step outside of that at work, but not outside of work, and that is part of what is expected.  However, a minority can never step outside of the "white" role, or they instantly become a threat.

The problem with this arises from the fact that we are not allowed to talk about these issues, and that acerbates all of them.

If we were allowed to address the issues of shame, we could talk openly about the atrocities of slavery and Jim Crow and try to make some sort of peace with the past.  We cannot fix what has gone before, but we certainly can acknowledge that we have done horrible things and commit to never repeating them.  Germany engaged in this purging of their societal soul after World War 2.  They did not eliminate the Nazi movement, but they served to marginalize it to the point that only the most extreme racists would embrace it.  In this context, shame becomes a powerful tool to cleanse out the festering rot of bigotry.

Second if we could openly discuss our fears and our insecurities, we could meet them head on.  Most of the time, fear is unfounded, and in this case, it is particularly so.  If we were allowed to have open discussions that made people realize that another group's success does not in any way diminish our own, we might come to terms with our fears.  Just because white male influence is waning does not mean that we have become reviled.  However, if we do not address this issue, our fears will become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Finally, we need to stop defining our identity by race, sex or creed.  Even defining identity by nationality can lead to problems, but that is a more natural division.  At lease, if kept in check so that it doesn't devolve into extreme nationalism, it can become a tool to unify people.

At the end of the day, we need to realize we are all Americans, whether we are male or female, white black or brown.  Only then can we begin to move past this mess we have made for ourselves.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

God is a Bullet


I am going to be blunt here, Trayvon Martin was murdered.  I don't care mental contortions what a racist jury in the South had to tie themselves into, he was murdered by a man who unfairly profiled him, stalked him and murdered him in cold blood.  I lived in the South for close to five years, and I knew that there was no way that Zimmerman would be found guilty of killing a black man.  I also know, from living in the South, that if Zimmerman had killed a white teenage boy named John Martin, he would be facing the death penalty. 

But wait, you say, he was half Hispanic, he couldn't be guilty of a racially motivated crime.  And to that I say, bullshit.  Just because he was also a self-described minority does not absolve him of racism.  Racism does come in all forms and among all people.  Just because Zimmerman was not lily-white does not mean that he did not target Trayvon Martin based solely on the color of his skin.

Zinmmerman had a long history of calling 911 and reporting people for the "crime" of being blatantly Black in public.  He also called 911 on the night of the murder, and even though he was told to let the police handle it, he still stalked and killed Trayvon.  The facts show that he put himself in the position to have a confrontation; he escalated the situation rather than diffusing it.  Further, he escalated it when he did not need to: at the time he began stalking Martin, no crime was being committed; no one was in danger; and the only thing happening was that a black teenager was cutting through a neighborhood.

A black teenager walking through an affluent gated community, obviously that is a crime that deserves execution.  And Zimmerman appointed himself, judge, jury and executioner.

But wait, you say, Travon Martin attacked Zimmerman, and he shot the teen in self defense.  But, even if that is factually correct, Zimmerman put himself in the position in the first place.  He could have followed the police directive and LET THE COPS HANDLE IT.  Sorry for shouting, but that is a critical point.  HE DID NOT HAVE TO BE THERE, ZIMMERMAN MADE A DELIBERATE CHOICE.

But, lets go a little further.  Zimmerman was acquitted based on the "Stand Your Ground Law," that is basically a get out of jail free card when it comes to murder.  Flip the situation around again, and imagine that Trayvon had killed Zimmerman on the exact same grounds of self defense.  How do you think that would have flown.  Trayvon would have faced murder 1 charges and would probably have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

And still further, lets look at the situation from Travyon's perspective.  He is walking home from the store, having gotten a bag of candy, and takes a shortcut.  He then gets stalked by an older man, which could be considered "stranger danger."  He's in a situation where he doesn't know if he's going to get mugged, raped, (Yes it does happen) or killed (Which did happen)  He "Stands His Ground" when the crazy old guy pulls out a gun, and defends himself.  And for defending himself, he is killed.

Everyone talks about Zimmerman's right to defend himself, as a white adult man, no one talks about Trayvon Martin's right to defend himself, as a black teenager. 
If you are going to have a law like Florida's, then both parties have the right to "Stand Their Ground," when no crime is being committed, and none was that night, except for Zimmerman stalking an unarmed teen.

By the way, I want to nip something else in the bud here, Hispanic is an ethnicity, like being French, it is not a race.  You can be white Hispanic, Cuba, black Hispanic, Dominican Republic, Asian Hispanic, the Philippines, or Meso-American Hispanic, Guatemala.  I have a good friend who is Hispanic, and he has red hair and the last name of Gordon, but he is still Hispanic, and identifies himself that way.

To return to the point, Zimmerman put himself in a situation, by his own choice that threatened the life of a young man, who may or may not have tried to defend himself.  If that is exactly what happened, it shows the danger of laws like the one Florida has, where it is essentially a license to kill someone with impunity.  If Trayvon did not even try to defend himself, then Zimmerman killed him in cold blood.

And that is the definition of murder.

And now begins the crowing of the Right: Trayvon deserved to die; Trayvon was a racist because he used the word "cracka;" that Zimmerman was unfairly prosecuted.

And again I call bullshit.  No teenager, who is just walking through a neighborhood, even if it is a gated community, deserves to die.  So what if he used the term "Cracka?" That is in no way shape or form anything like the term "Nigger."  It does not carry anything of the evil of the N-word, which in my opinion is the single worst word in the world, no term is more belittling, racist or vile than that word.  And just to satisfy Godwin's Law, the N-word is the Hitler of language.
And finally, Zimmerman was fairly prosecuted.  Given the circumstances, if I was the prosecutor, I would have sought first degree murder charges, given that he stalked the teen.

The vile rhetoric of racism spewing from the Right makes me ashamed to be a white American, for fear that my non-white friends might just think that I agree with some of this hatred.  Many people thought that electing our first black President would stem the flow of hatred in this country, when in fact, it has done nothing but acerbate it.  The hate in this country is hitting a crescendo, building vile inequity upon hideous innuendo, demonizing an innocent teenage boy, and blaming him for his own murder.

However, the single worst thing I have heard is what Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'mara said, that if Zimmerman were black, "he never would have been charged with a crime."  Really?  In the South? A black man killing a white boy would never have been charged?

He would have been executed next week.

There's a green plaid jacket on the back of the chair
It's like a moment frozen forever there

Mom and dad had a lot of big plans for their little man
So proud!
Mama's gone crazy 'cause her baby's shot down
By some teenage car chase war out of bounds
It was the wrong place wrong time wrong end of a gun.
And its sad, sad, it's sad!

Shoot straight from the hip, yeah.
Gone forever in a trigger slip
Well, it could have been
It could have been your brother.
Shoot straight shoot to kill, yeah.
Blame each other, well, blame yourselves, you know
God is a bullet have mercy on us everyone
-Johnette Napolitano

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I Do Not Think This Word Means What You Think It Means


It would be nice if the "Pro-Life" movement actually cared about life, not just about fetuses.  Instead, the movement is actually one of the most evil things I have ever seen, and is absolutely antithetical to actual life.

I know these are fighting words, but I am sick of the use of the term "Pro-Life" when it is obvious that they care nothing about actual living babies.  The same people who are trying to ban abortion are also cutting food stamps, child health care, universal preschool, education in general and anything else that would actually help babies survive and thrive once they are born.  A true "Pro-Life" position would mean that you wanted a baby to have the best opportunities in life.

If you really want to reduce abortion, several things should happen.

First, make sure that all people have access to high quality, free medical care.  This would ensure the health of both the mother and child.  The United States has one of the higher infant mortality rates in the Industrialized World.  This is due to the economic rationing of medical care in this country.  If you are rich (and probably white) you have excellent medical care, in fact some of the best care in the world.  If you are poor, your medical care is similar to that of the developing nations.

Second, lifelong medical and life care must be made available to disabled children.  One of the most heart wrenching decisions that middle and lower class families must make is what to do when a fetus is found to have severe disabilities.  You can see this in the vast reduction in the number of babies born with Down Syndrome.  Parents without the financial resources to care for a child who will need life-long assistance are frequently choosing abortion.  This is not necessarily what they wish to do, but they must make a calculated decision based on their resources.

As the government slashes programs to help these parents, they frequently have no other option.  A disabled child means that one, or maybe even both parents must leave the full time workforce in order to provide child care.  Even worse is the realization that once the parents are gone, there may be no one to care for their child.  Accordingly, abortion is terrible choice that they have no option to avoid.  I have had friends in this exact situation, and they were essentially forced to terminate the pregnancy, not out of desire, but because they had no financial capability to care for the child.  The only other option would be to abandon their baby to the state system, condemning it to a life of institutions and foster care, given that very few people want to adopt a special needs child.

In the worst case, North Dakota has banned abortions based on disability, while simultaneously cutting all of the social programs to help the parents of a disabled child.  I'm just going to call a spade a spade and say this is pure evil, to force a family into economic ruination and condemn them to a life of privation.

Next, cutting Food Stamps and other social safety net programs often forces a woman on the financial brink to consider an abortion.  Most people do not want to bring a life into the world without the ability to care for it, and the social safety net provides that ability.  Also, I will give a hard truth: although it is very chic for white people to adopt babies from Africa or Asia, it is not so chic for them to adopt a minority baby from Louisiana.  That is harsh, but true.

Next, providing universal preschool would help parents re-enter the workforce earlier, in order to be able to provide for their children.  Then, access to high quality education would set the children up to improve their standard of living, and rise in economic class.  By limiting these opportunities, children have few, if any, avenues to escape poverty, or even move out of the Middle Class.  In fact, it creates a generation that has a high likelihood of falling below their parents' economic station.

Giving every child the opportunities to succeed, guaranteeing medical care, and providing a strong social safety net would go a long way to reducing abortion.  Until the conservatives take these steps, I will not accept the term "Pro-Life."

So what is going on?  Why the massive rush to ban reproductive choice? 

It is helpful to understand what is actually under attack.  It is not just abortion, but all freedoms of women to control their bodies that is being legislated.  Planned Parenthood, Emergency Contraception, and even the Pill are being threatened.  Everything that has given women economic freedom is being systematically dismantled.

When women have control over their reproduction, they have the freedom to enter the workforce, the freedom to chose marriage or single life, and the freedom to chose to start a family on their own terms.  This is Biblically unacceptable, and given that the most vocal anti-abortion campaigners are Fundamentalist Christians, it begins to make sense. 

Colossians 3:18 states it very clearly: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord."  A woman with reproductive freedom is in a position to clearly control her own life.  Turning back the clock means that women are forced to make a choice, marriage and family or the single life and a career.  Further, it returns babies to the status of punishment for sex outside of marriage.  It enforces abstinence.

So in the end, the draconian attacks on reproductive rights become a form of social engineering, attempting to lock women into the roles they occupied at the beginning of the 20th century.  There is no actual concern about the lives of the unborn, because if there was, they would be instituting other child and family friendly policies.  Since they are not, I will stick by my position that this is simply an underhanded effort to wind back the clock on equal rights.  And until they start actually promoting other causes that are actually promoting life, please stop buying into the "Pro-Life" term.

Call it what is, "Anti-Woman."