Thursday, June 16, 2016

What To Read, 6/16/16: Hillary Clinton And Sexism, Donald Trump And The Authoritarian Personality, Whole Foods And Wholeness

Today's date is neat!  6/16/16

This post is in lieu of* a proper (exciting, creative and short!) piece because of my writer's block.  It's about two longer articles, both well worth reading, and about one shorter economics piece, just to make this post into a list.

1.  First, Michael Arnovitz at the Medium gives us his thoughts about the possible role of sexism in the low approval ratings of Hillary Clinton over the ages.

As you may remember, I've asked if an otherwise identical but male clone of Hillary Clinton, with the exact same history, the same policies and the same statements, would have met with exactly the same public treatment and the same approval rates.  For the want of that guy clone we cannot tell.

But Arnovitz tries, by posting the above graph of Hillary's approval and disapproval ratings over time and by arguing that the graph shows this:

So what do we see in this data? What I see is that the public view of Hillary Clinton does not seem to be correlated to “scandals” or issues of character or whether she murdered Vince Foster. No, the one thing that seems to most negatively and consistently affect public perception of Hillary is any attempt by her to seek power. Once she actually has that power her polls go up again. But whenever she asks for it her numbers drop like a manhole cover.

What do you think about that theory?  I find it interesting.  Some years in those trend lines seem to support it, such as her improving ratings when her role was pretty much the oddly traditional one of being the long-enduring woman with the philandering husband or when she quit her presidential race against Barack Obama, thus accepting defeat.

But the earlier reaction to her announcement to run for president in 2008 appears too anemic if the public is reacting to inappropriate power grab attempts by a woman.  That, after all, is the really big attempt to seek power.

In any case, the piece is well worth reading for the historical background it offers.

Monday, June 13, 2016

More on The Orlando Massacre. What Motivated the Killer?

So who was the butcher of Orlando, one Omar Mateen?  What motivated him?

His ex-wife tells us that he abused her, cut her off from her family and friends, didn't like gays.  We get a picture of a domestic abuser with sudden leaps into tremendous anger.

His ex-colleague tells us that he made openly racist comments and also openly misogynistic comments:

Daniel Gilroy, a co-worker at G4S Secure Solutions — formerly known as Wackenhut — told NBC News that Mateen was a "very conscientious" employee who was often early for work and was fascinated by law enforcement.

He was also loud, "very excitable" and racist, Gilroy said.

"He was scary in a concerning way," he said. "And it wasn't at times. It was all the time. He had anger management issues. Something would set him off, but the things that would set him off were always women, race or religion. [Those were] his button pushers." 

Working with Mateen was so difficult that Gilroy said he requested a transfer.

"I needed to be out of that situation," he said. "I described it as being toxic."
Mateen "always referred to every other race, religion, gender in a derogatory way," Gilroy added. "He did not like black people at all. That was mentioned once or twice, but more so was women. He did not like women at all. He did like women in a sexual way, but he did not respect them."
 His father believes that seeing two men kissing was what triggered his anger at homosexuality.

All through these stories are signs of mental instability, of anger management issues, of the characteristics of an abuser or a stalker, even if reported by only a few observers.  Yet Mateen was able to acquire the weapons he used for the massacre, and acquire them legally, and this despite having been investigated for terrorism by the FBI in 2013.  Because the investigations cleared him, he was as able as the next potential mass murderer in the US to buy an assault weapon!

Those are some the ingredients in the stew that made up the mind of Omar Mateen, with the necessary added sprinklings of extremist Islamic thought, the justification he himself appears to have applied to his butcheries by swearing support for ISIS, though whether he actually was a radicalized Muslim, in the sense of deep beliefs,  or whether he just used religious justification for acts he would have committed in any case is not clear.  To me it looks like he had his hatreds all neatly in a row and then looked for some type of blessing for them.*

The political reactions to this stew on the net are mostly predictable, and best understood by looking at what the two sides of the US political aisle are already for or against.  Thus, the right warns us about the dangers of radical Islam (it's everywhere!) but is also against any attempt to regulate access to assault weapons, and somewhat agrees with the extremist Islamic tenet that homosexuality is a deplorable sin, though not one that deserves the death penalty.**  On the whole the US right isn't terribly concerned with the potential for general anti-Muslim bigotry that the talk about religious wars and general Trumpery can support***. 

The left, according to the usual rules, picks the positions that are exactly opposite to those the right has picked.

I am with the left when it comes to concerns about using cases like the Orlando massacre as a justification for making the lives of hundreds of thousands ordinary Muslims more difficult.  That is wrong and must be condemned.

I am also with the left when it criticizes the wanton access to murderous weapons in this country or the money-starved mental health care sector.  And I'm with those who point out that the vast majority of mass killings in the United States are carried out by men and not by women, even though women are equally able to get hold of assault weapons, equally likely to suffer from mental instability, and equally likely to listen to extremist preachers.

Where I diverge from some on the left is in my determination to criticize all religious teachings I disagree with, whether they crop up in Catholicism, fundamental Evangelism or conservative Islam.  I believe the criticism of ideas is crucial, unless we wish our gardens of philosophical and religious ideas to be taken over by the most noxious of weeds.

I also believe that we must very clearly distinguish between criticizing extremist ideas and attacking people who belong to (or nominally belong to) various wider religious groups.  Doing the former and avoiding the latter are both equally important, and we should be able to do both simultaneously.

*  I have written a rant on the Orlando massacres in another post.  That was my emotional reaction to the use of religion to justify deeds of utter horror, the way a stamp of approval can be applied to the most horrendous of human crimes by interpreting them as merely the ordinary day jobs of god's little executioners, just carrying out god's will.

We must erase that stamp of approval, and the job must be done by the preachers inside the religions and their sects.  Outsiders cannot achieve that erasure, but outsiders can demand it, must demand it.

Though of course it is the need for the label of an 'outsider' which is inherent in many of these religious dilemmas.  Your god or mine?  Let's see which wins.  And yet any real god(s) there might be is (are) silent as the stones are.

**  Seven countries have, at least in theory, a death punishment for homosexuality:

According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) seven countries still retain capital punishment for homosexual behavior: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria.[67][68] In United Arab Emirates it is a capital offense.[69][11] 
*** This is necessary reading in that context.

Where Is Evil? First Thoughts on the Orlando Massacre.

A continuously updated list of those who died in Orlando, Florida can be found here.

Tell me, you with your holy books*, where is evil?

Is it in the needs of two men I know, men who love each other, who serve each other, who care for each other, but who have also adopted a child whom nobody wanted, who love that child, who tend that child, and that child, he flourishes?  Is it in their small family that I should look for evil?

Or is it in the life of a woman I knew who loved other women?  Is she the Evil One?  Does it weigh so heavily on your scales that her love was for women?  Heavier than her anonymous funding of two college degrees for needy students?  Heavier than all the coins she donated to AIDS research? Heavier than the coffin she paid for to bury a neighbor who had nobody left to pay for her funeral and nobody else left to attend it?

Tell me, you who are so heavy with your religious knowledge, how do you measure evil?  A stone of violence falls into the dark, murky waters, yet you seek ripples elsewhere, seek for borders violated, look for rules broken, even when those rules deserved to be broken, even when that breaking hurts no-one but helps someone to finally breathe fully, to finally be fully human, to even make a willing difference for good.

You measure your evil with a magnifying glass, carry your petty findings to a vindictive god you have imagined into being, while real evil rolls over the landscape of humanity, a dark, menacing cloud of wars and violence. 

And it is that dark, looming cloud you watch with approval and admiration, it is that dark cloud you want to rain down blood and pain, to wipe out those small imaginary crimes you so treasure, because they are not your crimes, because you are not one of the sinners you have defined!

No, your crimes are the declarations you make, the way you choose yourself as the judge, the jury and the executioner, the way you interpret your imaginary warlord god's desires to stomp, to destroy and to keep oppressing those always oppressed, the way you usurp the role of a divine power, interpreting the languages you hear in your head as the commands of your thunder god.

So tell me, you with your holy books, why is some love evil?  This world is dying, its flowers and trees, even the very grass is dying, because of our insufficient love for it, because of our inordinate love for power and for greed and for our tribes,  and, yes, because of our inflamed love for having the exactly correct ancient letters and words obeyed without a question, to silence those questions, to win, for our tribe, for our created gods, for ourselves.

It is that lack of love which is killing us all, not the love between two women or two men. 

*  This 'you with your holy books' is not meant to be a religious person or a person who believes in some divine power.  Those are not the people I address my rant to.

They are the people who gather together all available data about the cultural rules and norms which prevailed two thousand or fifteen hundred years ago, who decide that those cultural norms are some god's everlasting law for all humans and who then decide that those who disagree with these beliefs should be put down because the odd god thus imagined would want it, because that odd god finds pain and blood and the eradication of humans less insulting than loving the wrong person, with kindness and with care.

The 'you with your holy books' is not the person responsible for the massacre in Orlando, Florida, and my rant doesn't argue it or explore the role of mental illness or the role of guns available as freely as candies. 

But anyone interpreting ancient writings literally falls guilty of the crime of abetting, of justifying and of glorifying violence against the innocent, just as anyone interpreting ancient writings literally also falls guilty of the crime of misogyny and the oppression of women.