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Archive for the ‘bias’ Category

Recently the library where I work finished installing new carpeting  as well as upgrading the building in other ways such as moving shelves around.  In that three month process we, myself and the other librarians, wound up moving the books numerous times; over here, over there, over here again, then over somewhere else.  In doing so I got to see in more detail how our books were organized.   And it got me thinking.

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Let me start those thoughts with what I encountered when moving the African American fiction.  While doing that move I came across a book that had not only the author but who it was edited by, which gave me pause.  I had never seen a book, a novel, which had an editor’s name attached to it also.  In looking at it I found that The Bondswoman’s Narrative, by Hannah Crafts, edited by Henry Louis Gates, is the first novel written by a black women slave.  It is the only novel by a fugitive slave woman.  And it was written sometime between 1853 and 1861.

My first thought was to ask why this was put in African American fiction.  I would think this would be something that people beyond just African Americans would enjoy.   While a novel and fiction, it was based closely upon events that the writer actually experienced as well as the experiences of other African American slaves.  Although very much a product of its times, it is fascinating reading, both intellectually and, more importantly, emotionally.

I am not going to review it here, other than to say that if you are interested in people, the effects of slavery on people, and the human condition, then this is a book you should read.  Just as the Diary of Anne Frank’s appeal goes far beyond Jews and being a Jew in Nazi Germany, so too does this book have a message beyond just being a black slave.

And that is why I wondered why it was buried under African American fiction, where its light could not shine for those who may need to read it the most.

Then I came across Toni Morrison.  The Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award winning writer. The Nobel Prize winner.  A writer who I greatly admire and whose works I have enjoyed.  Why is she in African American fiction and not among the broader category of novels?  As if what she wrote could only speak to African Americans and not to all of humanity.  As if writers have to be first and foremost categorized by the color of their skin rather than the quality and scope of their writings.  As if blacks and whites and Asians and Native Americans and Hispanics, as if people, do not have a shared core created by all of them being human.

Now, I know that there are reasons, and some good ones at that, for having a separate African American section.  But, I think those two books also show the limitations and problems that doing so creates.

There was one other categorical head scratcher for me that I think worth mentioning. That was when I found Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karina” when moving the Romance books.  I know that the plot contains some elements of romance, but come on… Anna Karina is considered to be one of the best novels ever written.  Would you classify Romeo and Juliet under Romance?

But, there it was, with a call number of ROM TOL on its spine.

My thoughts on this paralleled that of finding Morrison’s and Craft’s books in African American fiction, how limiting.  But in thinking about it I began to wonder.  Would more people be  willing to pick up and read Anna Karina in the category of Romance than they would if it were in the category of Classics?  Instead of limiting the potential readers of Anna Karina, could this categorization of it., instead, expand the number of readers?

If true, then Anna Karina being categorized as a romance would be a good thing in that it would expose this novel to more people.  With Toni Morrison and Craft though, the opposite is happening.  Not many people other than African Americans look at the African American section, limiting these books potential audience.

Which got me to wondering how best to balance these needs, categorizing works so that those who are interested in one area but not the others can still easily find works that interest them while, at the same time, providing those who are just looking without a fixed goal in mind, a chance to read something outside their norm.

The problem with the easy answer of not having categories is that categories are useful.  There is a reason they come about.  If I am in the mood for a Science Fiction book, I really do not want to spend time finding the science fiction novels amid all the mysteries, classics, African American novels,  mainstream novels, romance, westerns, and religious novels.

Besides, creating and dividing things, and people, into categories seems to be a basic human trait, one that is not going to be going away until humanity is gone too.

That being said, the real question then is not how to get rid of all categories, but rather how do we create and maintain categories?   How to do so with the recognition that, like life, there is considerable overlap from one category and another, that the same book can be categorized in many different ways, and that all categories share the trait of being novels.

For example, in the library, perhaps it would be better to have all novels grouped together, but have the call labels be color coded to designate African American, Romance, Classics, Science Fiction, Mysteries, etc.  Yes, people would browse looking for the color code of their interests, but in doing so they have a better chance of seeing something, seeing a novel or author, that they might not have ever noticed before.   Proximity creates opportunities for something new.

The downside of doing it this way though is that those who come in and want to read only mysteries are now going to have to go through and look at those books that are not mysteries too, and in the process of using up precious time, you might not find that one mystery that would have made your year.  The upside is that they will have to go through and look at those books that are not mysteries, and so perhaps come across a treasure that they never would have encountered otherwise.

To me, since we live in a world that offers only imperfect solutions to societal issues and problems, this trade off would be a good one.  We need to learn to re-categorize things in order to grow.  We need to also learn that there are few hard and fast categories.  Instead, categories, especially as they relate  to humans  are fluid and overlapping.

For fun, here are the links to two videos, video one and video two, that highlight the fluidity and overlapping nature of human categories.

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With so many political posts lately I had thought to make this one about religion.  After all, a blog titled Bad Atheist should be discussing religion every now and again.  However, instead, I wrote another political post.   Why?  Because, as the saying goes, shit happens.   And that shit is Trump.

This week Trump started confirming my worst fears about him.  While it is hard to pick and choose which of his executive actions was the worse, since he has provided us with a full, rich smorgasbord  of terrible decisions and actions to choose from, I am going to talk about his latest one.  The one where he stopped and banned all migrants and refugees from seven countries from entering the United States, even those who hold permanent resident status.   These countries were supposedly picked due to their failed nature, terrorist activity, and violence.

This sudden and drastic action reeks of so many things – fear, hatred, ignorance.   This action, and Trump’s and his supporters justification for it make it seem as if there is no vetting of these travelers, as if we just say “yep, come on in” without doing any sort of check.   Trump and crew seem to believe that we have avoided a terrorist attack from the citizens of these countries due solely to the grace of God.

The reality is that we do check them, each and every one.   Some more than others.  But none are given a free pass to just come and go without any scrutiny.  And you know what?  It seems to work.

Consider this fact – a true fact and not an alternate one that Trump and his followers are so fond of – none of the attacks carried out in the United States were done by a citizen of these seven countries.  Not one.

Consider this fact too, none of the attacks carried out in the United States were done by Syrian refugees.

Finally, consider this fact, and it is one that Trump’s defenders are making a big to do about; all of these seven countries were identified by the Obama administration as posing special risks for visa status.  In other words, the situation within those countries are dire and rife with terrorism and violence.

And yet, with just the procedures we have now, none of its citizens who have traveled here, go to school here, work here, and live here have committed any attacks against the hnan_and_lian_fadi_kassar_5758bdbd2e3fc99559b93f42d7bf4d69-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000United States here.    Despite being from high risk countries.

Seems like pretty good evidence that we are doing something right.  And that sudden, drastic measures such as those Trump engaged in, are not necessary or needed.  Examining those procedures and tweaking them, possibly so.  Full out stop – no.

An analogy from my own background might be useful here.  If I have a productive piece of equipment that, although not giving me zero defects, does do well and whose defects are well below our goals, I am not going to shut it down to examine it in order to find ways to improve it.  Instead I will let it run while I look at improvements, or even replacement.

Now, if the same machine were to malfunction and we had more defects than good product, or, even worse, someone were injured or killed, then yes, shut it down and fix it.

Our immigration system from these seven countries was working well, as evidenced by the fact that we had no terrorist attacks from anyone from these countries on our soil.  Agreed, some from those countries have engaged in terrorist acts in Europe, but Europe is not the United States and the dynamics and situations are different.  The situation in Europe is a cause to examine our system by using what is happening in Europe to see how it could be improved.  However, it is not cause to shut it all down to do so.  As I said, our immigration system for these seven countries so far has had zero defects.

Moving on, let me point out one other fact of interest.  Refugees are going to come from high risk countries with high levels of violence and terrorists.  If it were all nice and peaceful they would not have uprooted themselves from home and family and fled their country.  What this means it that in using the criteria of not allowing people in from high risk countries Trump effectively blocks entry to this country to those who need its safety the most.

So, what does this tell us about Trump and his administration?

That they are, tactfully speaking, not deep thinkers.   In fact, they are not thinkers at all – they do not analyze and try to understand the situation and system before making changes.  Instead, they are reactors.  They react and then try to justify, often with alternative facts and denial of actual facts.  Think of them as being the proverbial bull in a china shop, only with the ability to speak.

Next, they don’t care.  They do not care about the hardship that this imposes on people and families – on their livelihood, on their jobs, on their goals and plans.  They  don’t care that many of these people are in productive jobs in the United Sates and that their absence impacts American businesses. They don’t care that some of these people are engaging in important research that could have a potential impact on our medicines and healthcare.  They don’t care that their actions may even cost people their lives.  They don’t care.  They x_lon_syriaboy_170129-nbcnews-ux-1080-600reacted and damn , that felt good.  The rest – they don’t care.

Moving down the list of things we learned from Trump and his administration.  They don’t like to communicate. Nor do they like to coordinate.  A small group wrote this up without input from anyone.  The normal vetting of this executive order to ensure it does not violate laws and the Constitution, that it does what they want it to without unwanted complications and consequences, was not done.  But of course, Trump knows it all anyway and so doesn’t need to worry about that.  Which, come to think of it, is why he so often seems to live in a fantasy world.

This last trait, not vetting it (and isn’t that rather ironic), along with not communicating it in advance and planning on how to best implement it with those who are charged with actually implementing it contributed greatly to the chaos and uncertainty that followed.  That with, of course, the fact that this was a bad, very bad, hugely and bigly bad executive order.

A bad executive order done badly .    Trump and friends managed to get nothing right about this.

All for what?  National security?  To make out country safer?

This does not do that.  Not even a little bit.  In fact, it does the opposite.  It provides evidence for the radicals claim that the US is waging war on Islam and Muslims.  That our words about freedom of religion are nothing more than hollow hypocrisy.  Trump and company’s actions have the potential to increase the effectiveness of the terrorist’s recruitments efforts.

I know, I know.  Many of those supporters of Trump would pooh pooh my claims that Trump’s actions here actually help the terrorists and radicals rather than hurt them.  This despite the fact that the reasoning is sound and is supported by actual events.

There are currently several  Jihadist groups who are hailing Trump’s piece of ant-terrorist action.  One even said that Trump was “the best caller to Islam”. Why?  Because it shows that what the terrorists and radicals have been saying about the United States, that it is at war with Islam and has no true freedom of religion, are true.  It turns what had been their lies into truth.

Or consider the citizens in Iraq.  We, the United States, are working with them to defeat ISIS.  But we won’t let them in?  What message does that send – hello, we think you make fine cannon fodder but don’t really want to have anything else to do with you. Other than help you become good cannon fodder.

Even worse, the message this executive order sends to the American Muslim community is that the United States does not care about the ideals of religious freedom.  That Muslims are second class at best.  Especially when they consider that now Christians will get preferential treatment over all other refugees.

Which brings us to another question being asked – is this a ban on Muslims?  Trump did call for such a ban during his campaign.  Add to that former New York City mayor Giuliani stating during a Fox interview on Saturday that Trump had tasked him with finding some legal way to make a ban on Muslims happen.  Then add to the pot Trump’s order giving Christians priority.

While this is not conclusive, there is enough here to cause extremely justified suspicion that it is indeed a ban based on religious belief.  A ban on Muslims disguised… rather like how laws to discourage black voting back in the good old days were disguised as literacy tests.  And if somehow it is not, then it gives every appearance of being such with all the accompanying issues and problems that such a ban would create.  Including providing aid and comfort to the terrorists.

Not good

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Moving to another one of the interesting questions being asked – why these seven countries?  Yes, President Obama had them on a list.  But, it was not for the sort of actions Trump is engaging in.   Since Trump is busily doing everything he can to undo what President Obama has done, then why not add countries who have actually had some of their citizens attack us on our own soil?   Why not add Egypt and Saudi Arabia to the list?  Or Turkey?

Hmmm, let’s see.  Trump has significant business interests in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey.  He has none in Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

While not conclusive, it is suspicious.  Add to that the fact that he continues to refuse to release his tax returns and divest himself of his business holdings, or even put them in a blind trust, and I think we have a grand cause to investigate.  Is Trump trying to benefit, or at the very least, trying to protect, his business interests through the office of the Presidency without consideration on whether that is good for the United States or not.

Finally, despite all of this, the facts and the reasons, the protests and the pain it is causing to good people, I see many of his supporters still trying to justify this order and support these actions.  In reading some of the articles and in my discussions with them, some do it out of hatred of Muslims and Islam.  To those people I can only say go to hell cause we are not going to let you create one here in the United States.

Others though are doing so out of fear and ignorance.  To them I say, heal yourselves.  While your intentions may be good, ignorance and fear turn even the best of intentions into terrible actions.  They are the bricks used to line that road to hell.

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I had an interesting and enlightening conversation the other day with an older black woman.  I found it so because of the light it shines into one reason why so many blacks distrust the police and our justice system.

This woman is, as I said an older black woman.  She has grandchildren, one of whom is 27.  She was married to a man in the Air Force and did quite a bit a traveling until he died unexpectedly in the 90s.  She has a degree in Social Service and Political Science.

During the course of our conversation she related this story about her father.  Or more accurately, her father’s murder.  It happened when she was 13.  And it happened here in Texas.   And it happened in a sundown city.

For those too young or who may have never come across this adjective before, a sundown city was a city or town that had posted a sign stating some version of the following:

“Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Set On YOU In [Insert name of city here]”.

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There were over 10,000 of these cities across the US up until the late 60s.  The city where I currently reside was one such, and, at least until the late 90s, was still a prime area for the KKK.  Today I still see a large number of confederate flags around.  These cities though were not limited to the south but extended to Glendale, California and up to Levittown, NY.  Indeed, most of the towns in Illinois were Sundown cities.

In fact, there were so many of these cities, and so many areas where the Jim Crow laws were strongly enforced, and so many areas where police were more threat than protection for blacks, so many areas where blacks just disappeared, that a book called the “Negro Motorist Green Book” was published annually from 1936 through 1966 by a New York travel agent named Victor H. Green.

This handy book was for blacks traveling in the United States.   This book warned the black traveler of the worse areas (at least the known ones) and about the specific dangers of that area.  It also provided the names of hotels and restaurants that would not serve blacks, and of car repair shops that would not fix their vehicles.

Just stop for a moment and try to imagine this; the country into which you were born, the country of which you are a citizen, the country in which you live and work and raise a family, this country that is supposedly yours too being so dangerous for you that you need a guidebook to help navigate its perils in as much safety as possible.  A guide for traveling in a dangerous country.  One not needed for its white citizens.

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And all of this going on until the mid 1960s.

Just stop and think of that too.  The mid 1960s is not ancient history.  It is not something from our founding.  It is recent history, a history of which millions of Americans (including myself) have personal memory of.

As does this black woman I met.

Which now brings us to what happened to her father in the not so distant past, a past that is recent in fact, recent in both years and memory.  What happened to her father when she was 13?

Or to ask another way, what happened to blacks who were caught in those sundown towns after dark?  If they were lucky they were picked up and arrested by the police, then either escorted out or jailed, and possibly roughed up.  If they were unlucky, then much worse happened; as happened to this woman’s father.

He was found the next morning strung up by his ankles from a tree.  He had been gutted and his intestines soaked the ground under him.  But that was not all.

His penis and testicles had been cut off.  But that was not all.

His penis and testicles were not near him as his intestines were.  They were missing entirely.  The sheriff told this woman’s mother that they were probably fed to the pigs.

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This happened within living memory.

Yes, we have changed laws and processes to reduce and de-institutionalize these more overt forms of racism and bias.  But, do those who would deny that racism plays any significant role today in hiring, in education, in justice, in law enforcement, in society; do those who would argue that there is no real racism in our institutions other than what is being played up and stoked up by trouble makers and liberals out to make political hay; do those people really believe that such deeply embedded institutions, deeply held beliefs, deeply held hatreds, do they really believe that these can be changed as quickly and as easily as a law?

Really?

Laws change more easily and more quickly than attitudes.  Laws change more easily than institutions.

The 1960s were the start of significant and needed changes in regards to race in our country.  But a start is not the finish.  To pretend that it is, to deny this basic fact is then to work to undo that start and push us back to that a different version of that recent past.

The vast majority of blacks realize that the changes needed to enact true and equal justice for all regardless of color is still only in its beginnings.  They have the stories of their still living mothers and fathers, the stories of their still living grandmothers and grandfathers, the stories of their still living uncles and aunts and cousins to tell them so. Stories of loss, of denial, of pain and suffering, of injustice backed by government and institutions, stories of death.

Stories that are reinforced and proven true in their daily lives today.  And by the fact that

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so many whites deny them the lessons of both their personal history and their own current experiences.

They have good reason to be distrustful of police, of the justice system, and of our government overall.   It has been changed, but not totally reformed.  And they remember.  As should we all.

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Today in Dallas, as I write these words, at least five law enforcement officers are dead and another six are wounded.  They were targeted and murdered by what, as of this writing, appear to be black men.

This occurred at the end of a peaceful Black Lives Matter march protesting the needless deaths of Anton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in St. Paul Minnesota. Two black men killed by white police officers, both seemingly victims of racial bias, whether open or unconscious.

This juxtaposition of Black Lives and of Blue Lives seems to me representative of the action  – reaction cycle that we see over and over again.

The Action

A police officer kills an unarmed or restrained black person.   An act that occurs more often to blacks than to whites.  This, along with the racial inequalities in our justice system overall, our economic inequalities, and our educational inequalities combine to justly anger the black community who then take action.  The vast majority of those actions are peaceful – demonstrations, petitions, speeches and letters, getting out the vote, and creating organizations to keep this issue before the public eye and create the needed pressure for actions to be taken to change the system.

A few individuals though take it further.  In Dallas, they killed law enforcement officers.

Let me be clear here.  This racial inequality and bias embedded in our law enforcement and legal system does not excuse their behavior.  These men are murderers and should be caught and held fully responsible for their actions.

This bias and inequality doesn’t even fully explain their actions since the vast majority of those protesting who have suffered the same bias and prejudice do not kill, do not loot, do not destroy.  But this inequality is still one of the root causes of their actions and must be addressed if we are ever to free ourselves of such crimes.

Reaction

The bias and bigotry that sits unnoticed in too many people’s minds becomes confirmed and strengthened.  Blacks are violent.  Instead of seeing the person, they see a skin color and fear and distrust it. Blacks are violent.

People walk with wary eye upon seeing blacks.  People cross the street to avoid the threat.  Police see a threat based solely on the color of a person’s skin and so react in lethal ways when lethality is not called for.  Jurors at the trial see the black skin and agree that the officer was justified in his fear.

Less lethally but more common, police go hard line when hard line is not called for, they stop persons when such stops are not called for, they follow persons when following is not called for.

A black person is unfairly treated and the resentment, the anger, the frustration grows. And with this, the cycle completes and continues.

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I opened this piece by mentioning the peaceful protest by demonstrators in Dallas.  What I would like to mention as a possibility of hope is that these protests were so peaceful that the police were posing with the protestors for pictures.   To me, these photos provide hope that we can together work out these problems, these grave problems, to create a better society.

We have come a long way since the days of the Civil Rights marches and the Civil Rights Acts they inspired.  Progress has been made.  But the easy progress is over.  Now comes the more difficult work of ridding our law enforcement and justice system, our economic and educational system, our society of the biases and prejudices that are hidden, that are unconscious.  So hidden that too many deny they even exist.

But hidden or denied, they exist and have real effects.  Effects that result in the tragedies of Anton Sterling and his family and friends, of Philando Castile and his family and friends, and of all those officers killed on the streets tonight whose names I would list if they had been released now and their families and friends.

While many things need to change to break this cycle of pain and suffering, of injustice and death, admitting the existence of these biases and then working together to rid our society of them is one of the more important and basic of those needed changes.  Without seeing the log in our own eyes justice and peace can never be fully attained.

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Yesterday I came across an article from American Military News titled “Transgender Boy Dominates Girls Track Meet – Girls Rightfully Lash Out”.  Never one to shy away from other points of views and new information, naturally I clicked on it and read the article.

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What I read and found out was fairly disturbing.

A teen boy, that self-identifies as a girl, was allowed to compete in a girls’ state championships in Alaska. The boy, Nattaphon Wangyot, dominated the competition and will advance to the finals with All-State Honors In Girls Track And Field. The decision to let the student, that is biologically a male, compete in girls’ sports has caused an uproar in the community. An organized protest to prevent teen girls from competing against students that are biologically male has been launched in response.

Nattaphon Wangyot was allowed to participate in the girls’ competition due to a state law that allows each individual high school to determine whether or boys can compete in individual girls’ events. The Alaska Dispatch News reports that boys do not need to go through hormone treatment to be eligible to participate, the only requirement is that the boys self-identify as girls. The policy states that school officials will consider several intangible qualities to determine whether or not the student truly identifies as a female.

……..

Wangyot advanced to the state finals in the 100-meter and 200-meter events. He won fifth place in the 100-meter dash and third place in the 200-meter. He beat out several biologically female student athletes to advance to the finals. Wangyot has a history of competing in female sports. According to the Alaska Dispatch News Wangyot also plays on the school’s girls’ basketball and volleyball team. Unfortunately for Wangyot this doesn’t mean much to several of the biological females who believe Wangyot’s biological status as a male gives him a clear advantage.

 

Oh my, to quote something I heard from somewhere or another.  I agree that if this transgender was actually still a biological boy that would give her an unfair advantage.  And I wondered, what was this school thinking about in letting this happen?  And because when I wonder about things such as this I usually investigate to find out, I did so here.

Fortunately, unlike  many other publications of a similar nature, they actually put a link that led to the original newspaper article from the Alaska Dispatch News titled, “At Alaska state track meet, a transgender athlete makes her mark“.

The first thing I noticed is the difference in headlines between the American Military News and the original article in the Alaska Dispatch News.  The Alaska Dispatch News did not sound alarmed or bothered by this boy participating in girls’ sports.  In fact, they even called him her!  And did so throughout the entire article.   Hmmmm.

From that article:

Alia Bales, a freshman from Homer who watched the heats Wangyot was in, said she didn’t know a transgender athlete was competing.

“I didn’t notice it,” she said.

Few would have. Tall and lean with long black hair and an easy smile, Wangyot didn’t look much different from any of the girls she raced against.

…..

When she competed in girls volleyball and girls basketball earlier this school year, her participation drew little notice.

 

But wait, the American Military News headline sounds as if the students were up in arms at this presumptuous boy.   Reading the original article further though I find that actually the protests were not started by the students, but by “Jim Minnery, president of the conservative group Alaska Family Action”.

 

And while there are some students who don’t think Wangyot should compete in girl’s sports, many others support her.  From the Alaska Dispatch News article:

 

Anchorage Christian senior Tanner Ealum is the defending champion in the 100 and 200, and she registered dominating preliminary times in both events. Ealum, who will run seven races in two days this weekend, said she wanted to wait until after her final event Saturday before commenting on the participation of a transgender athlete.

“I want to focus on my events,” she said.

Bales, who was the sixth-fastest qualifier in the 100 and the eighth-fastest qualifier in the 200, said she didn’t think it was unfair for Wangyot to run in the races.

“If Tanner can beat her, anybody can have a chance to beat her,” she said.

….

Kaleb Korta, a Galena senior who placed second in the Class 4A boys 3,200-meter race, said he welcomes Wangyot’s participation.

“It’s cool she’s got the confidence to be here,” he said.

The fact that the outcry against Wangyot die not originate from the students and that little notice taken while she was playing girl’s volleyball and basketball makes me believe that this was not a big deal for the great majority of the students.  That it only became an issue for some after Mr. Minnery got involved.  This belief is backed up by the tone of the Alaska Dispatch News article.  It was more of a human interest story then an outraged outcry.

I also discovered something else that you would not know from reading the American Military News.  In fact, when I pointed this out in the comments on this article another person challenged me on it saying that it actually contradicts the American Military News article.

In the Alaska Dispatch News was another article titled, “Transgender student in Southeast Alaska sets her own path” that provides more information about Wangyot’s life.  It is a good article and shows how and why she made the choices she did.  Among many other things though I found this, “She takes female hormones and additional drugs to suppress her body’s testosterone.”

However, reading the American Military News you would think that she was not taking hormones and testosterone suppressing drugs.   They did not actually say that she was not, but it was strongly implied.

Shame on you American Military News. Spreading lies in the name of morality.

In addition to the hormone therapy, this article was also an interesting read because it detailed the accommodations the school made for her in regards to the dreaded and fearsome bathroom question.

Ice [Wangyot] said she uses a single-occupancy bathroom at the school and arranges for shower time when the other stalls aren’t in use, while a coach makes sure nobody will interrupt.

This sounded familiar.  The Fort Worth School District also recently came out with a transgender policy that has gotten a lot of protestors concerned about boys declaring they are girls and just walking into girl’s bathrooms and changing areas.  Guess what though? If you read the actual policy and take a look at what they are actually doing, it’s the same as this Alaskan school.

My point here?  Too many people are being freaked out by schools and other groups creating protections for a small population of students and adults.  A small population who are too frequently bullied, harassed, and sometimes killed.  The American Military News, its readers, and too many conservative politicians are creating scary scenarios that too many people are unthinkingly buying into.  Scenarios that have no basis in reality.

I found it informative reading the original two stories on Wangyot from the Alaska Dispatch News and then examining how they were twisted and slanted in the American Military News.  And then at how the commenters bought into this twisted “news” lock, stock, and barrel.  This is a textbook example of how too many conservatives are creating fear and panic among people about something that is not a threat.  And by doing so, denying protection for our citizens who are among the most at risk of violence.

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On Friday President Obama delivered a speech at Hiroshima Japan.   For a couple of weeks before this visit I had seen news items from some of my more extreme conservative friends about how President Obama had either already apologized (interesting that they were not informed enough to even know that President Obama had not gone to Japan yet) or was going to apologize for the US dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R), flanked by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, delivers a speech as the atomic bomb dome is background  after they laid wreaths to a cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

On Friday, President Obama delivered his speech.  And contrary to the claims of these conservatives, he did not apologize for Truman’s decision to drop the bomb.   From a New York Times article

 

“People in Asian countries that were brutalized by imperial Japan had warned that a presidential apology would be inappropriate. President Obama not only did not apologize, he made clear that Japan, despite a highly advanced culture, was to blame for the war, which “grew out of the same base instinct for domination, for conquest, that had caused conflicts amongst the simplest tribes.”

 

Having seen the reactions of these conservatives before President Obama had made his speech I was curious to see how they would react to the fact that he did not apologize for the United States dropping the bomb on Hiroshima.  I wish I could say that I was surprised, but sadly I was not.  They ignored reality and instead stated that President Obama was apologizing for dropping the bomb.

 

Since they have written several articles on this subject and are a favorite “news” source for the extreme conservatives I will use an article from Breitbart as an example of such conservatives thinking.  From Breitbart, “Obama Dishonors Memorial Day at Hiroshima

 

“At Hiroshima, Obama was silent on the question of American sacrifice, American valor, and American virtue, but eloquent on the issue of American guilt.

What Obama did NOT do in his speech in Japan was to praise America’s fallen warriors, the men and women whose bravery and sacrifice saved the world from nuclear war over the 71 years since that first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.”

 

This quote is the gist, the heart of all the radical conservatives’ denunciation of President Obama’s Hiroshima speech – he did not laud American virtue and praise our fallen warriors.  He did not expound on the wonders of the United States.

 

However, that is what Memorial Day is for.  This was not Memorial Day and the purpose of this speech was different.  Its purpose?  From an interview President Obama had with the Japanese news organization NHK World,

 

“My purpose is not to simply revisit the past, but to affirm that innocent people die in a war, on all sides, that we should do everything we can to try to promote peace and dialogue around the world, that we should continue to strive for a world without nuclear weapons”

 

……

 

“…that I do not expect to provide a very long speech but rather, I think, some very humble reflections about my views on how we can forge a better peace around the world, and how we can use the model of relations between the United States and Japan as an example of how we can move forward.”

 

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His purpose was not to dwell on the past but to use it as a way to reflect on how we can create a better world.

 

So, what did President Obama say in his speech?  Here is a link to the entire speech.   You will find no apology in it.  You will find no remonstration against the decisions made by our nation then.  Not even indirectly.

 

“Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.

Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.”

 

This is no apology.  It is a statement of fact.  A “terrible force” was unleashed.  One that showed humanity had grown in knowledge to such an extent that humanity could now “destroy itself”.  This speech used the fact that in all wars innocents die to urge us to now grow in wisdom as we have in knowledge.  And then used the example of Japan and the United States to illustrate how that wisdom can happen.

 

“Some day, the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.

And since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope. The United States and Japan have forged not only an alliance but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war. The nations of Europe built a union that replaced battlefields with bonds of commerce and democracy. Oppressed people and nations won liberation. An international community established institutions and treaties that work to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.”

 

But read President Obama’s speech yourself and see with your own eyes and create your own understanding based on what he actually said and not what others say.  I will say that unlike the radical conservatives here  in the United States, the Japanese people see no apology.  That fact alone should give the conservatives pause since how can there be an apology to someone if that person does not see it as such?

 

Now before going over why these conservatives argue with a devil of their own making, I would like to point out two pieces of irony here in their strident criticism of this speech.

 

The first is that in his speech President Obama prominently and favorably talked about our Declaration of Independence.

 

“My own nation’s story began with simple words: All men are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Realizing that ideal has never been easy, even within our own borders, even among our own citizens. But staying true to that story is worth the effort. It is an ideal to be strived for, an ideal that extends across continents and across oceans. The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious, the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family — that is the story that we all must tell.”

 

 

The other piece of irony here is that these conservatives are so concerned with how President Obama has dishonored us, even to the point of calling on Congress to censure him, that they have totally overlooked the fact that he honored the memories of 12 American pilots who were being held captive in Hiroshima when the bomb dropped.

 

He not only mentioned these pilots in his speech, he embraced a Japanese survivor of Hiroshima, Shigeaki Mori who was 8 years old when Hiroshima went up in atomic fire.  The reason for the embrace?  Shigeaki has spent decades not only researching the fates of these American prisoners of war but rescued their memories.  Had he not done this research today we would still not know what happened to them.  Part of a good memorial is knowing the fates of those who died – how and when.  It is why the Vietnam War is still so fresh for so many who still do not know the fates of their loved ones.  It is why President Obama embraced Shigeaki.

 

Now we come to the question of why are these conservatives are creating and then believing in these delusions?  The answer is why I titled this blog “A Memorial Day Observation”.

 

Part of the reason why they are doing this may be a genuine inability to understand what President Obama said.  They are concerned only with looking back and justifying every action the United States has done.  They are focused tightly upon the honor of the United States, with making sure that our national pride is unhurt and unharmed that they interpret all things according to that measure, even things that have no bearing on that issue.  They want to ensure the world knows that the others are at fault and we are the virtuous ones in all ways and all actions.

 

Which may be one reason why this speech so confuses them – it looks forward. It uses the past, dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, as a jumping off point to look forward.  It looks to what can be done to prevent such decisions from ever having to be made ever again, from people having to suffer that devastation again.  The fact that statements explicitly stating that Japan started the war, that they committed brutal acts against not only soldiers but civilians,  and that our bombing of them saved American troops  were not needed nor the subject of this speech seems to be beyond their ability to comprehend.  The fact that President Obama used Hiroshima for something other than rubbing the Japanese faces into this muck and elevating our own stature by strutting has caused  them to overlook the fact that President Obama did NOT apologize for the United States dropping the bomb.

 

They are stuck in the past and so cannot comprehend an honest look at what could be.  All such views, to their mind, must first denigrate our opponents and laud our greatness.  They are rather like a two bit wrestler in this.

 

Of course, this is only part of the reason why these conservatives do this.   The other part is that they are so blinded by their hatred of President Obama, so bent by their bigotry, and so blinkered by their ideology that they can no longer recognize what is true or false about what President Obama did, does, and will do.  All such actions must be broken down, twisted, and bent into something that will pass the filters of their hatred, bigotry, and ideology.  Even at the expense of truth and reality.

 

And this leads me to my Memorial Day Observation.

 

Our soldiers have died to protect our freedoms – our freedom of religion, of speech, of association and all the others.  They died to protect such freedoms for all Americans, whether wise or foolish, whether ignorant or informed, whether hateful or empathetic.

 

But, while they died to protect the freedom of all, wouldn’t it be a better memorial to the sacrifice they made to have your view of the world be realistic, rational, and concerned with the well- being of all?  Wouldn’t it be a better memorial to their sacrifice for us to be working towards creating a world in which no one would have to make such a sacrifice ever again?

 

And that was what President Obama’s speech was about.

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Sometimes some points can best be made with stories. They can provide both some distance while also providing an emotional connection. Here is my attempt at doing so through a parable.

 

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a planet, Vegaria, which was the envy of the galaxy. Vegaria was a rich planet with plenty of resources and a high standard of living.

Twenty years ago, Vegaria was viciously attacked by one of the planets in a nearby solar system, OOminia. Fifty million Vegarians perished on the day of the attack, which leveled an entire continent. Vegaria had launched a counter attack and exacted revenge upon the OOminians. Vegaria then focused itself on rebuilding, and now there is little trace of the attack left, except in the memories of the Vegarians.

There are 6 planets in the OOminian solar system, all of them inhabited by OOminians. While the inhabitants of some of the planets in the solar system are very aggressive and violent, most OOminians are peaceful.

Now, thanks to the successful counter-attack from Vegaria, the OOminians are pretty much confined to their own little solar system. The aggressive OOminians have overtaken all the planets in their solar system. The peaceful OOminians, who allied themselves with Vegaria after the attacks, now live in a continuous war zone, afraid to even step outside of their homes for fear of being conscripted or, worse, of being imprisoned and killed.

Other planets in the galaxy have tried to help the peaceful OOminians, helping them to escape and providing a place of refuge for them. Some of the refugees have even made their way to Vegaria and been granted admission as refugees. At the same time, however, the aggressive OOminians have been sneaking out of their solar system and launching guerrilla attacks on other planets. Citizens of Vegaria fear that OOminia will launch another attack upon them.

Two OOminian refugee families have settled in a large city on Vegaria. They both have found jobs and are trying to make a home for themselves and their families on what is to THEM an alien world.

It is very easy to identify OOminians. While Vegarians are quadrupeds with heads at the end of an expandable neck, OOminians are amorphous blobs that ooze from one place to another by means of extending pseudopods from their bodies. OOminians are also very slimy, and carry slime applicators with them wherever they go to keep their skin from drying out in the atmosphere of Vegaria.

One of the OOminians, Poth, finds a job with a company that has a diverse group of employees, including many other aliens. The other OOminian, Jav, finds a job with a different company that doesn’t hire many aliens. All of Jav’s co-workers are Vegarian.

Poth feels very welcome at his company. Poth’s manager tells him that she isn’t familiar with the OOminian culture and that she will depend on him to help her learn about it. At staff meetings, she makes a point of asking Poth how certain situations would be addressed on OOminian planets. Poth is frequently invited to dine with his co-workers, and he sometimes joins them after work for drinks. He even joins the company basketball team, where his ability to extend his pseudopod to great heights makes him a very popular player.

Four times a day, OOminians have to do a ritual called spreading out, where they extrude several limbs from their bodies as far as they can and then slowly re-absorb them. The ritual takes about 20 minutes. After trying to complete this ritual quietly in the limited space in the men’s restroom, Poth talks to his manager who secures permission for Poth to perform his spreading out in privacy in a large storage area.

Jav’s workplace is different from Poth’s. Her coworkers make a point of wiping their hands after shaking hands with her pseudopod. Sometimes they hide her slime applicator—when Jav mentions this to her manager, the manager tells her that the co-workers are just kidding. A couple of times at staff meetings, Jav tries to make suggestions based on her experiences on OOminia, but her manager quickly shuts that down. “We are not on OOminia,” her manager says firmly. “You need to learn how we do things here.”

Jav also has a difficult time finding a place to perform her spreading out ritual. Co-workers complained after they walked into the women’s restroom when she was performing the ritual, so she asks her manager for ideas on where she could go. The manager shrugged. “I have no idea,” she replied. “I’m not even sure we should be letting you do this on our property or on company time. I’ve heard complaints from the others that you are getting special treatment. Maybe you should clock out and go home to do your little thing.”

Not wanting to cause trouble, Jav starts leaving at lunch and goes home to complete her ritual. She doesn’t really mind because no one ever eats with her anyway. Everyone moves away from her when she enters the lunchroom, and if she tries to sit next to someone, they quickly get up and leave. Her manager tells her it’s because of her body odor.

Because she can only clock out of her job once during the day, Jav performs her spreading out ritual 3 times a day instead of 4. It makes her uncomfortable, especially since her co-workers still hide her slime applicator on a regular basis, so her skin frequently develops large dry spots.

Meanwhile the aggressive OOminians continue to attack other planets, including some in the Vegarian solar system. People on Vegaria become very concerned about the possibility of another attack from Vegaria on their own planet. Some people demand that OOminians living on Vegaria be registered and put into special camps, or even exiled from the planet. Random groups of armed Vegarians begin standing guard outside of houses where OOminians live, keeping armed weapons pointed at the doors. “We’re keeping an eye on the oozers,” they announce loudly. “They can’t bomb us if they can’t leave their houses.”

Poth’s manager talks to him about it. “How are you and your family doing?” she asks with concern. “I know things are pretty unpleasant right now.” Poth confides that he had to walk through a group of armed Vegarians that was stationed outside his house when he came to work that morning. He had actually kept his kids home from school because he was concerned for their safety. The next morning Poth answers a knock at his door to find a group of his co-workers standing outside. “We’re taking you to work,” they say. “And some of us will make sure your kids get to school okay. Those wingnuts will have to go through us to get to you.”

Jav, however, steps out of her house on the same morning and is also met by a group of armed Vegarians. To her horror, she recognizes some of her co-workers among the group. She steps back inside and calls her manager to let her know she can’t make it in to work. The manager tells her that she won’t be paid for the day.

Jav hesitantly tells her manager that some of her co-workers are part of the armed group surrounding her house. “They are on their own time,” the manager says curtly. “They took some vacation time. They have a right to do whatever they want on their own time.”

Jav hangs up and goes to her computer to look through her messages, including several from friends and relatives left behind in the OOminian solar system. She reads through them, answers and deletes them in turn, except for one from a distant cousin. He has been estranged from Jav’s family for years as he is a member of the OOminian military and has been a key figure in several of the recent attacks on other planets. However, she finds herself reading his message over and over again. “Hi cuz! I hope you are okay. I hear things are kind of uncomfortable for OOminians on Vegaria right now. If you are having any problems, let me know. I might know some people who can help.”

Jav nervously extrudes a pseudopod and reabsorbs it several times. Then, slowly, she begins to type. “Dear Cousin, thank you for your note. Things are very scary here right now. I would really appreciate your help.

Six months later, Jav’s manager stares bleakly at what is left of the building where she used to work and shakes her head at the reporter. “I can’t believe it was Jav,” she says. “She was always so quiet. She had a couple of problems when she first got here, but once she settled in, I never heard anything from her.”

“What about her co-workers” the reporter asks. “Did she get along with them?”

“As far as I could tell. They were always joking around with her.” The manager bows her head. “I just can’t believe they are all… gone.”

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