The Alt What?

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In the comments section of the last post thetinfoilhatsociety pointed out that calling someone a white supremacist instead of a white nationalist is a defamatory thing. So first off, apologies if I unintentionally offended anyone.

That was a really interesting distinction to me, and the more I thought about it the more it snowballed into a larger issue I realized I wanted to discuss. A while back I was researching some things so I was reading a lot of white supremacist/ neo-Nazi websites. I listened to a ton of speeches from well-known leaders in the movement and I was very surprised at many of their positions. And the truth is, although we lay-people will tend to think of them and say “supremacist” it would often (although certainly not always) be more correct to say nationalist. As with any ideological movement, there will be a spectrum of beliefs, from those that are almost indistinguishable from mainstream views to ideas that are so extreme as to sound deliberately exaggerated to provoke horror and outrage.

Some of what I am going to say may sound like I am being an apologist for these groups, but believe me their positions are all out there and public. They make no secrets of their positions, and you may be as surprised as I was to discover how wrong I was about many things. Or, it will confirm what you already knew. Either way, what I am saying is that I am not trying to advocate for any position, only to clarify and educate. If you want to check for yourself anything I say, feel free… I have no dog in this fight.

I guess the biggest thing to do is define terms. A supremacist is someone who believes he/she is better than someone else because of the color of their skin. (For the record, you can have a white supremacist, black supremacist, and I assume any other type of supremacist as well. I’m quite certain that most groups have members who not only think theirs is the best, but can tell you without a doubt exactly which other group is the worst… Sometimes this is conscious and sometimes not. I grew up hearing Polish jokes, despite never having met a Polish person in my entire life. They are pretty much blond jokes, but the fall guy in the joke is always a Polish person. When I met my British husband these jokes made no sense to him, which was weird to me, because *everyone* *knew* about Polish people, right? But then at some point I began hearing Irish jokes from British people. Same jokes, but here the punchline is Irish people. And guess what? I didn’t get it, because what did I know from Irish people? But to British people these jokes were hilarious. And at that point I got it. This stuff was not objective Truth. It was mean-spirited comments passed off as humor. And If you grew up with it as a fact of life you might never question whether it was based in fact. But it’s all part of the message. My group is better than your group. So hahaha. What rubbish. Anyway…)

A nationalist is someone who has a tremendous sense of pride. Again, you can have white nationalists, black nationalists, nationalists of other races, and certainly nationalists of any country. A white nationalist is more concerned with uplifting his/her own race than putting down someone else’s. Because they often prefer to keep to members of their own race- and this is crucial, so please hear it- not out of hatred for other races but out of a desire to associate with those they see as having more in common and being more likely to have interests that will coincide with their own, they are often labeled as hate-mongers and worse. But someone who is a true white nationalist (as opposed to someone who merely hides behind that label as a cover for racist activity) will treat other races with dignity and respect, and want nothing but the best for them- just as they want for their own race. Wanting to be separate doesn’t imply dislike. I have a lot of friends I really like a lot, but I would never ever want them to live in my house with me. And there are plenty of people I don’t mind being around, but I respect them zero. So the two things don’t always go hand in hand. It is not hypocritical for a white nationalist to say here are the values and ideals I want for my family and my community; I don’t expect you to uphold those same standards if you don’t choose to, but please make your choices for your own community. For the record, white nationalists can be found in lots of places helping on the front lines any times they are needed (sometimes openly as white nationalists and sometimes as private citizens) during times of unrest, catastrophes, weather events, etc. Just food for thought.

With all the recent discussion about whose lives matter, it is interesting to note that the only people who are accused of being outright racists are the white lives matter folks. I have heard the argument that only white people can be racist, since only they have the power to truly commit acts of racism, and that isn’t an argument I intend to regurgitate here. I will, however, say for the record that I find it both hypocritical and disingenuous to allow certain groups preferential treatment when it comes to their rights to protest and their coverage in the media. All human life matters. End of statement. Full stop. To shade the point with pithy semantics, in the end actually DEVALUES lives instead of elevating them. Nobody should abuse another human being, nor condone the abuse of another human being, nor advocate the mistreatment of another human being.

What I was quite surprised to find out was just how many supposed “hate mongers” (i.e. white nationalists, white separatists, and so on) actually call for no such things. Yes, there are people who use the “N” word and say hateful disgusting things, no doubt. The internet is rife with speeches filled with the most vile rhetoric you can imagine (by people of all stripes and agendas, to be fair). But if you are willing to open your mind you may find there is more you don’t know than you thought. I certainly realized that was the case.

Then again, the older I get, the more I realize that is the case with most things in life.

And that’s my deep thought for the day😉

Welcome To Leith

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Here is a multiple spoiler alert:
#1 I am going to give away most of the plot of the documentary by this title, and
#2 This post is about a topic that is guaranteed to upset people who are easily offended.

I am not writing it to be deliberately provocative, but if you are the type who gets riled up at the mere mention of sensitive topics, I suggest you skip this post.

I have watched the documentary called Welcome to Leith multiple times. The issues it raises about civil liberties are really profound, and if you can get past your own biases enough to examine them objectively, they are quite interesting to discuss.

In VERY brief (and I may do somewhat of a hack job of explaining this in the interest of brevity, so please forgive me if I don’t get things exactly right and just go with the spirit of what I am saying…)- a well known white supremacist got a very interesting idea. He would buy land and property in a small town- so small in fact that it had about 25 residents. So small, in fact, that if he could move in enough of his friends they could control a majority interest in the local government and thus democratically vote in their own officials and vote in their own policies. So small that he could create his own white supremacist enclave out in the middle of nowhere (actually in Leith, North Dakota), and they could live how they wanted, not bothering anyone.

The problem was, it bothered the residents of Leith.

And the problem was, on a visceral level, white supremacists bother a lot of people.

So perhaps if it had been a group of vegan pacifists who had wanted to go and vote in peace, love, and happiness, nobody would have cared too much. Or had it been a group of people who wanted to form an artist colony where folks could paint and sculpt and make collages, that would have been okay. But the white supremacist thing got people’s hearts racing- and not in a good way.

All of the land purchases were done legally and above board. No attempt was made to hide anything or be secretive. And to their credit, the original plan was to make use of perfectly legal means to control a government.

But then things went kind of haywire. People started protesting the supremacists being in Leith. The citizens demanded the racists leave. But it isn’t so straightforward to demand that a law-abiding homeowner leave somewhere just because you don’t agree with their political views. The original racist brought in other groups to speak on his behalf. protesters came from far and wide to “support” the original citizens of Leith. Threats were exchanged and petty harassment against the racists escalated to outright acts of aggression and vandalism. Police seemed a little lackadaisical about protecting the racists against the harassment, and eventually the racists took things a bit too far.

They grabbed some guns and went on patrol. Had they merely stayed on their own property, this may have been okay. But they did a walkabout around the town. And they seemed to be looking for trouble. They made several provocative comments, almost wishing someone would provoke a confrontation with them so they could escalate into violence.

The two men who did this were arrested and charged with various crimes, among them some sort of terroristic threats. Though a series of legal ball-dropping and either correct or incorrect (depending on your position) application of the laws in question, the charges were dropped and the men went free. There was a cascade of fallout, which it is worth watching the documentary to see (I highly recommend watching it for many reasons).

But the overall question which I find fascinating is: should people with controversial (some would say abhorrent) views, be allowed to democratically control a government? And I guess the corollary to that is, should unpopular views be allowed to be silenced just because they are unpopular?

If you can suspend your dislike of white supremacists for a moment, let’s do a quick swap. What if a town decided that Catholicism was disgusting and completely contrary to American values? Would it be okay to run Catholics out of town? To deny them the right to buy property in a given place? To silence their voices in a democracy? Because we don’t agree with them in one area does that negate their right to have opinions or their ability to be seen as intrinsically valuable in other areas?

Could we envision for one moment a white supremacist who is also a philanthropist? What percentage of a person has to be “bad” before we discount the whole person? Can you have a Nazi humanitarian? A wife-beater who works for doctors without borders? A volunteer at the humane society who is also a sexual sadist?

Eventually the residents of Leith drove out the white supremacists, but it raises interesting questions about what we say we believe (free speech and free expression) versus what we really believe (you are free to say and express what you believe as long as I don’t find it too distasteful).

Personally I find it useful to do a gut check every once in a while to see if I am truly living in concert with my own principles. Do you?

I’m Judging How Much You Judge Me

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My son recently joined a gym where they place a certain amount of emphasis on not judging other people. In theory, I think it’s a nice idea not to be judgy (especially in a gym, where people could be intimidated to work out if they feel like people are watching them and sizing them up).

But as with most things, what starts out as a nice idea can take on the force of religious fundamentalism if one isn’t careful. ‘Hey, don’t comment on someone else’s weight’ too easily slides into things like,

“We’re sorry but we overheard you telling someone that you liked their t-shirt. Unfortunately we have a no judgement policy here, and that was a judging statement…”

In real life we have the power of discernment. When used correctly and judiciously (such a judgy word!) it helps us to navigate the world more successfully. It is quite appropriate to make decisions about things, from what cutlery to use with which course in a restaurant to whether or not to give money to a homeless person based on your judgement. Without judging there would be significantly more traffic accidents (and fatalities!), less if any people hired for new jobs (or at least many less successful candidates), and probably a whole lot of frustrating relationships with the wrong people.

Judging serves so many useful purposes and we do it so many times each day I’m surprised it was ever allowed to get such a bad wrap. It’s as if someone said to everyone in America (or the Western World) “Blinking? That’s just horrid and offensive! People shouldn’t do that! Especially in public and especially around other people!” And everyone en masse jumped on board and said “Yes!! We heartily agree! Blinking Baaaaaad!”

I understand that it is bad form to be a judgemental idiot. But I think that in polite society that sort of goes without saying. Along the lines of yes you can drive but not on the sidewalk and not where there are pedestrians. Yes you may curse in your home if that’s what you do but not in public and not around other people’s children. Yes you may eat stinky food but please brush you teeth and don’t breathe directly into someone else’s face. That sort of thing. Can’t we all just get along?

And for goodness sake, stop judging me!

 

 

Why I Won’t Get A Flu Shot

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Believe it or not I have no desire to be controversial. In my last post I wrote a disclaimer (I actually said these very words, which I have cut and pasted; you can go back and check: Let me be clear. I am in NO WAY minimizing the horror of genuine attacks against women. I am ABSOLUTELY in no way whatsoever saying it is EVER okay to force any woman to do anything against her will.), which was apparently so invisible that people still accused me of being pro-rape. But okay, onward and upward.

This past week I got a ridiculously high fever. Like 125 degrees high type of fever where you would be afraid you might spontaneously combust, if you could actually think straight, except that you are so feverish you think your dog is your child and your child is an astronaut who has come to bring you a magical space potion to cure the disease that is turning your bones into powder. Luckily I had moments of distraction from the fever where I was able to focus on the shattering pain in my head and the absolute agony going on in my throat.

My fever finally broke some time on Saturday, and with it went most of the headache. But the sore throat hung on like a high school girl with a boy band crush. Luckily we are blessed in my community with an old tyme doctor who makes house calls. So on Sunday he came over to run a strep test. He looked at my throat and said I had a raging infection, but the test came back not strep.

Okay, fast forward to today. What does that have to do with now? Nothing. But it’s interesting? Right? It’s a fun story. Kind of sucks you in as a reader, huh?

Many people ask, “Do you get the flu shot?” And what’s funny to me is that an abnormal number of people I have actually known who have gotten the flu shot (this is real, not anecdotal, and I don’t have statistics…) have actually gotten the flu after getting the shot. Sure medical professionals will say they would have gotten it anyway, or they will get a milder case after the vaccine than they would have had otherwise, but I believe that to be statistically unlikely and probably bogus. At the very least it’s speculative and CYA…

Now here is my disclaimer for this post, and please read it carefully: IF YOU HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION, OR ARE MEDICALLY FRAGILE IN ANY WAY, OR ARE UNDER THE CARE OF A DOCTOR OR MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL OR SHOULD BE- PLEASE CONSULT WITH THEM. DON’T LISTEN TO ME. I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. WHAT I AM SAYING IS MY OWN OPINION. THIS IS WHAT I DO AND WHY I DO IT. I AM NOT GIVING YOU ADVICE. I MAKE DECISIONS FOR ME AND MY FAMILY. YOU SHOULD DO THE SAME. I MAKE NO CLAIMS TO BE ANYONE I AM NOT.

Okay? Is that clear? I’m happy to share what I do and why. I think what I do is sound and rational. I am not ashamed of any of the decisions I make, but I certainly don’t want anyone confusing what I do in my case with what someone else should do in theirs.

The bigger problem I have with the flu vaccine though is the vaccine itself. If the vaccine was just water being injected into your vein and by placebo effect some people would presto! not get the flu I would say great maybe more people should get the shot (or perhaps I would still not get it for my family and still think it was dumb and mind my own business mostly…), but if you look at the shot itself it is troubling in a number of ways. I’m not suggesting you go to anti-vax conspiracy websites. If you look at places like the CDC (Center for Disease Control) or even the inserts of the vaccines themselves, you will find some pretty horrifying things. The list of ingredients is quite eye-opening. From aluminum (thought to cause Alzheimer’s), to formaldehyde (used to preserve dead bodies), to mercury (people have been urged to remove dental filling containing mercury because it is so toxic)- the list goes on, but these are substances that are problematic in general and in vaccines they are being injected directly into a person’s BLOODSTREAM. Years ago there was controversy over an ingredient called thimerosol, alleging ties to autism. Although it was “disproven” thimerosol was removed. But those lawsuits get the largest chunk of settlement money from the pot of money from vaccine settlement cases. And in a bunch of cases thimeresol was quietly snuck back in.

Also with flu vaccine the batches are mixed up the previous season based on which strains they think will hit the following year. So let’s say last year they thought this year they thought this year we would get hit with strain A and R and J. They put those three into a batch- even though in nature, by the way you will never find a mutation of ARJ- and then have a whole load of ARJ. But what if the flu this year was actually AMT? So when you get vaccinated at BEST you may only have a 1/3 chance of it working even if the vaccine works perfectly and it doesn’t make you sick… Or a 0/3 chance- but you think they tell you that? They just need to get through that batch! So they offer gift cards and meal vouchers and oh you good Samaritan we will even give a free vaccine to a poor kid somewhere for every vaccine we put into you!! You big hero!! (By the way, have you seen these new ads for the HPV vaccine? With the sad eyed kids asking their parents- the viewer- “Mom? Dad? Why did you let me get cancer? How come you didn’t vaccinate me?” Oh gee, maybe because it’s a relatively new unproven vaccine and I would rather have 10 million safe sex talks with my kid before I would roll up their sleeve for your vaccine? Anyway…)

The point is that vaccines are always a cost benefit analysis. My grandma’s father died in the flu epidemic of the early 1900s. She grew up petrified of dying of the flu. You could pretty much ask her to inject bleach into her veins to prevent the flu and she would do it. So in her nursing home when the doctor makes his rounds and asks if she had her flu shot she nods in that trusting way that only very old people do and smiles trustingly into his very young eyes and says, “Oh yes, Doctor!”

And when anyone asks me if I’ve had my flu shot I shake my head derisively in that way only someone of my generation would dare to assume is weighted with meaning and say, “You’re kidding, right?”

Because I would pretty much never vaccinate.

Is This Offensive To Women?

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There is a giant statue of this famous photo at a large intersection in a city near where I live:

legendary_kiss_v-j_day_in_times_square_alfred_eisenstaedt

The other day on the radio I heard a debate about whether or not this statue should be removed due to its OFFENSIVE nature.

Say what?

Yes. This famous photo, published in Life magazine in 1945 (after WWII) shows the exuberance of a soldier returning home from the war. It captured the spirit of happiness and joy in the air at the end of years of war and stress, and the gladness of our soldiers returning home.

Can you guess why this might be offensive? I searched my half-asleep mind for an answer. It’s a game I sometimes play when listening to talk radio. I attempt to riddle out what the guests might say before they say it. But this one had me genuinely puzzled. Was it just an anti- military sentiment? No. Was the man armed and it was anti-gun? No. Was the woman immodestly dressed (although that shouldn’t raise any eyebrows, especially in the summer, but I was really stretching…). No.

Apparently there was a level of concern that this statue would encourage sexual attacks against woman.

That’s right. If there is a prominent statue of a man GRABBING a strange woman and kissing her, it might encourage random man to just GRAB random women and not only kiss them, but perhaps ravage them in other ways.

Let me be clear. I am in NO WAY minimizing the horror of genuine attacks against women. I am ABSOLUTELY in no way whatsoever saying it is EVER okay to force any woman to do anything against her will.

But to suggest that this rather innocuous statue would incite a man to a sexual assault seems a bit thin to me.

It reminds me of other examples in society where there is “zero tolerance” of things that become absurdities.

The child who gets kicked off the school bus for making a shooting gesture with his hand because the school has a no weapons policy and there is zero tolerance. As if a hand can ever be loaded or confused with a real gun…

The kindergardener who gets expelled under the sexual harassment policy for kissing a girl on the cheek rather than spoken to and educated because there is zero tolerance for “sex crimes”- oh, and the police were also called on that one because that is school policy and a report had to be filed…

The list goes on, and unfortunately there are many real ills in society. But to treat everyone like a potential criminal element just waiting to be unleashed on the population is a bit of overkill I think. It’s sad that we have to be so vigilant about such things. But in this case I think people have gone overboard.

I’m really curious to know what you all think. Is this statue objectively offensive, or is the PC patrol working overtime?

Fields Of Sunflowers- If You Plant Them They Will… What?

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The City of Oak Park (oh the infamous City of Oak Park…) over the last several months has planted dozens and dozens of fields of sunflowers. I desperately wanted to take at least one photo of these sunflower plantings to put on the blog, but I kept not posting waiting for the photo, and finally just decided to go ahead and write the post without it. I wish I had an idea of how much tax money went to this MASSIVE undertaking, which involved a huge commitment of heavy machinery to tear up perfectly good plots of land all over the entire city, the hiring of many many workers to plant the actual flowers, squazillions of gallons of water repeatedly used in the blazing heat of a Michigan summer to water these massive sunflowers (way higher than corn plants, which during my garden scandal were pointed out as singularly offensive plants), and hours and hours of labor to continue tending to these plants, which although thriving, seem to have no use at all except to obscure traffic visibility in certain locations and to entertain some birds and squirrels.

So the city which once tried to ban actual food, which then talked about community gardens, at some point made an actual affirmative decision (meaning there must have been discussion around it and a conscious decision to move forward) to sink vast amounts of money and resources into a project that, rather than feeding hungry citizens (and believe me, Oak Park has more than its fair share or people below the poverty line and on one or more food assistance programs)has decided to feed crows. Oak Park has devoted land, not to Church groups or urban farmers or to food pantries, who would have been able and delighted to grow food on that land, but to sunflower patches.

Oak Park could have been a shining example to the country or a city that had an innovative program about how to take unused pieces of public land and put it to amazing use to help all of its people. It could have done something for almost no cost to the citizens but tremendous payoff for the common good. With the spirit right now of how everyone is willing to get on board with these types of projects and kids in schools are doing exactly this sort of community garden stuff and senior citizens are growing food for leisure and people are on fire with passion for growing food- and to see these sunflowers, which are pretty and fun as an add-on maybe to other things… But in lieu of what could have been flourishing there?

It truly breaks my heart.

It’s a waste of opportunity and a waste of potential.

So sad.

Again, Oak Park?

Burkini Bans- Or How Many Fools Can You Fit On The Head Of A Pin?

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There is an issue that has wound its way up through the French Courts about whether Muslim women in France could wear something on public beaches known as a “burkini”.  This garment, which looks remarkably like a tunic shirt and leggings, would not be offensive by anyone’s standards, and if the political climate right now was not overly prickly toward Muslim terrorists (and with very good reason), I daresay there would be no issue at all.

Some people would argue that, NO! This is a defense of women’s rights! No woman should be forced (!) to cover any part of her body at all! Women should be free (!) to let it all hang out- both literally and figuratively. And any covering of any part of any woman’s body is a sign of oppression of women.

This makes several critical assumptions, of course. One is that the women who are covering are in some way being coerced, either subtly or outright, into wearing these burkinis (whose comparison to a burka is laughable). One is that a state of semi, or nearly total nudity implies freedom, and is not evidence of its own coercion- either by a significant other, or by societal pressure. That caving into the prevailing fashion of baring one’s flesh in public implies that you are free to follow that trend and not that you feel pressured to capitulate to that trend. And the final assumption is that even if one woman would be truly oppressed by having to cover herself against her will, then that would somehow have implications for every other woman and her status as a free and equal functioning member of society. Which of course if no more true than saying that if one person has to give up caffeine because of migraines then it will put Starbucks sales in jeopardy for the rest of the nation. Preposterous.

It’s an interesting commentary on society that it is almost inconceivable that a woman might actually WANT to cover up a bit. That a woman may prefer NOT to be a spectacle when she is enjoying a beach outing. That perhaps, just maybe, she might want to go to the beach, alone or with her family, and enjoy the breeze and the waves and the water and the calm and not have to be ogled by every man within 500 yards of her as she walks around. Am I saying that all men are gross and predatory? No, of course not. But a beach trip shouldn’t have to feel like a meat market, and if a woman feels more comfortable in whatever she wants to wear, why should someone PROHIBIT her from wearing what makes her feel relaxed? As long as it doesn’t pose a threat to safety, who cares? If it was a white woman in a sarong, would anyone have said something? If it was a teenager in a sweatshirt and shorts, would anyone have minded? Does a maxi dress with a cardigan raise alarm bells? Or an actual tunic top with leggings?

The point is that once again, in the guise of protecting people from themselves, do-gooders have actually attempted to strip people of their rights. Under the heading of protecting women, the French government instead would infantalize woman and say that they are incapable of acting in their own best interests. That it is a more enlightened and wise decision to get naked (or practically so) along with the other French citizens, and to not do so implies a level of backwardness and threat to the moral and civic order which simply cannot and will not be tolerated.

For now, the burkini has been protected. This is a victory for Muslims, yes. But more important than that, it is a victory for people who value their individuality on French beaches. Truth be told, I never let my kids take off their shirts at beaches- for modesty, for sunburn, and honestly, whose business is it why?  It’s my family and if we want to wear ski gear on the beach that’s our darn business. As long as my kids won’t drown in the water we should be able to wear portable igloos or tutus or rainbow body glitter. And the government should mind its own beezwax.

That’s just my 2 cents.

 

 

 

 

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