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Today, on Facebook, I saw a viral post several times on my Newsfeed about President Obama with a coffee cup in his hand while saluting a Marine standing by his helicopter.   The comments were predictably knee-jerk from both conservatives and liberals.  Most conservatives claimed he was being deliberately disrespectful to the Marine, some even going so far as to say he was never taught how to act properly in public as a child. (It boggles my mind the thought processes some people have, so quick to jump to conclusions and make up stuff they have absolutely no knowledge about.)LatteSalute-298x300

Just as predictably, some liberals responded with this similar image of former President George Bush during his presidency.

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But most people, both liberal and conservative, missed the point.  Though neither Obama, nor Bush gave a proper salute, I give them both the benefit of the doubt that neither man meant to be intentionally disrespectful.  It’s a perfectly fair and reasonable assumption that doesn’t require one to like either man nor agree with their politics.

More to the point,  it’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. We can’t allow the media to manipulate us into getting all worked up over minor matters that distract us from paying attention to the major matters that should concern us. The media gets off on stirring up crap and fanning the flames of the “Us vs Them” mentality.  And, all too predictably, too many people fell for this tactic, hook, line, and sinker.   We need to stop falling for this kind of distracting and divisive nonsense and stop making mountains out of molehills.  Imagine what could be done if people got this indignant about things that really matter.

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It’s that time of year again.

Peace on Earth and good will toward all?

Unfortunately, no, not for everyone.  For some conspiracy-minded conservative Christians, both pious and merely political, it’s time to resurrect the dead horse they refer to as “The War on Christmas”.

In the last few days on Facebook, I’ve seen a particular meme repeatedly that expresses the sentiment:  “It’s not Happy Holidays, It’s Merry Christmas!!!!!”   Such posts are accompanied by typical comments expressing the view that to give the greeting “Happy Holidays” or its cousin “Season’s Greetings” is to somehow take Christ out of Christmas and to persecute Christians who wish to celebrate Christmas.  They assert that Jesus’ birthday is the (sole) reason for the season.  They also take great umbrage at anyone who dares to refer to a Christmas tree as a “holiday tree”.  Some relate anecdotes of how they loudly proclaimed the sentiment in the meme above to unsuspecting cashiers in stores who had the effrontery to wish them Happy Holidays.  One, presumably young, woman expressed this sentiment, “” I don’t live my life to please others and if I offend you then oh well. ”

Seriously?  Is this what they think the season is all about; arguing about word choice when wishing someone the joy of the season?  Do they think that such a childish and peevish attitude accurately reflects the Jesus Christ they claim to champion? Don’t they know that such an attitude totally defeats the purpose of giving such a greeting, which is meant to wish joy and goodwill to the recipient?  Do they think anyone will want to become a Christian after being berated in such a petty manner?

“Love thy neighbor”, indeed.  Pardon me for a moment while I roll my eyes.

Some young and not so young people apparently have the mistaken impression that the terms Happy Holidays and Seasons’ Greetings were recently invented within the last ten years just to annoy Christians, which couldn’t be further from the truth. These greetings have existed all during my 54 years on the planet  and existed well before I was born.

These terms simply acknowledge that there is more than one holiday at this time of year and they were meant to cover them all.   When I was a kid in the 6os, “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” were commonly used as a catch-all term to give wishes for both Christmas and New Year’s Day together and were often seen on greeting cards.  In public situations with strangers or those one did not know well, it was a handy way to wish the goodwill of the season when one didn’t know which religious holidays an individual might celebrate, if any.   Among family, friends, and those whom one knew reasonably well, one said Merry/Happy Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Solstice, or whatever applied and, again, no one got offended if they got the “wrong” greeting.

For those who think “Happy Holidays” is a bit of  “political correctness”, let me point out that no one was politically correct in the mid 60s or before.  Back then, it was simply known as “good manners” and “common courtesy”.

No nefarious purposes were intended, and no one at all was offended by such greetings, even conservative Christians.  People graciously accepted such wishes of goodwill in the spirit they were intended.

To those who assert that the season has “always” been about Christmas and that the birth of Jesus is the sole reason for the season, most Christian scholars agree that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but rather in the spring or summer.  Pagans had long celebrated the winter solstice at this time in December, so early church leaders picked this time to celebrate the birth of Christ and  re-purposed the Pagan celebration by appropriating several Pagan traditions along the way, hoping it would make it easier to convert Pagans to Christianity.  Decorated evergreen trees, holly, mistletoe, Yule logs, giving and receiving holiday gifts, the dinner feast, are all borrowed from Pagans. The original “reason for the season”, then,  was the Earth’s axial tilt; the solstice.
It’s also interesting to note that Puritans in Colonial America even banned the celebration of Christmas from 1659 to 1681, well cognizant of the Pagan roots of many Christmas traditions.

Personally, I don’t care which greeting anyone uses with me, as long as it’s sincere and meant to wish me goodwill.  I’m just happy that someone took the time to give me the good wishes of the season.   This time of year isn’t just about me; it’s about everyone.

There are real problems in this world. Whether a person says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays isn’t one of them — it’s a petty, first world “problem”. There are people in this world who don’t have enough to eat, a home to live in, and are dying of curable diseases. People need to take a moment and think about what really matters.  A little bit of tolerance and goodwill goes a long way this time of year.

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I recommend this excellent blog post written by a Christian in response to those Christians who are offended by the use of “Happy Holidays”:  Happy Holidays and Other Four Letter Words.

 

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Recently, I’ve been reading news stories about a woman who was prevented from boarding an American Airlines flight because the airline objected to what she was wearing.  Judging from the headlines alone, one would be led to believe that the airline had objected to the woman’s T-shirt simply because a pro-choice sentiment was printed on it.  Searching on Yahoo for articles about this incident, I found several headlines that conveyed this idea:

Woman Kicked Off Plane For Wearing Pro-Choice T-Shirt 

Women Kicked Off Airplane For Pro-Choice Shirt

American Airlines Rejects Female Passenger Because Political Pro-Choice T-Shirt Is ‘Inappropriate’

Woman in a Pro-Choice T-Shirt Not Allowed to Board Her Flight

And so on.

Naturally, such an incident would generate widespread ire among pro-choice advocates and those advocating free speech in general.  Indeed, the sharing of articles about this incident has gone viral on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and has no doubt inspired many blog posts.

But when I clicked on such articles that included a photo of the t-shirt in question, I immediately saw that the headlines had been misleading:

Seeing the T-shirt makes it rather obvious that the problem American Airlines had with the shirt had little or nothing to do with the sentiment expressed, and everything to do with the F-bomb in the middle of it.  Indeed, after seeing the word “fuck”, they probably didn’t bother to read the rest of it, as that one word was enough to make it offensive according to their guidelines.

Thus, the headlines are misleading because she was not denied entry to the plane because she is pro-choice, but, rather, how she chose to express that opinion.

It still could be argued that this is a free speech issue, but I’m guessing that a headline reading, “Women Kicked Off Plane for Wearing F-Bomb T-Shirt” wouldn’t have generated anything near the amount of ire and publicity that using “Pro-Choice” in place of “F-Bomb” did.  After all, too many people would be able to understand the airlines’ position then, as many people traveling with children would have no doubt been offended by seeing the F-Bomb on someone’s clothing,  It’s reasonable that the airline would choose to avoid such a problem.

I think it’s wrong to mislead people as to what the actual issue is.  If people want to protest that she has a right to wear a shirt printed with expletives on a plane and in other public places,  that would have been fine.  But let’s give readers the real story, so they know just what they’re arguing about, fully informed.  As a pro-choice liberal, I resent being manipulated and I especially don’t want to give anti-choice conservatives any ammunition to use against us.

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Rush Limbaugh’s recent example of foot-in-mouth disease, where he referred to Sandra Fluke as a “slut”, is a classic example of the Madonna/Whore complex.   This is probably one of the most schizophrenic types of sexism, in my view, because men who display this attitude are ultimately screwing themselves.

It would be safe to say that nearly all heterosexual men enjoy having frequent sex with women.  Yet, through religion and other means, they have stigmatized women who are as eager as they and who approach sexual matters in the same fashion as most men do.

For thousands of years, women have been divided into two categories.  There were the “good” women who restrained themselves sexually and who were celibate when single.  These are the type of women such men seek to marry and whom they bestow what they consider to be respect.  The problem with this has traditionally been that many such women who have played by the rules and squashed their sexual desires have often, in years past, remained inhibited even after marriage.  Quite a few women found it difficult to “flip the switch” once they had that magical marriage license in hand. Many saw sex mainly as a duty; something that’s necessary to have children and to keep their husbands appeased.   Though much less prevalent now than in centuries past, it still exists often enough to  be worth commenting on.  This phenomenon is the source of the trite, sexist quotation, “Women give sex to get love; men give love to get sex”.

Then there were the “bad” women; basically the ones who have approached sex like men do and enjoy it for its own sake and those who openly viewed it as a commodity. These are the women who have engaged in non-marital sex, whether or not there is a possibility of a future marriage with their partners. For a sizable minority of men who bought  into the Madonna/Whore complex in centuries past, this even included married women who initiated sex with their husbands instead of  following his lead and seemed to enjoy it “too much”.  Most “bad” women were typically the prostitutes and mistresses and married women who had affairs.  But even women who had been raped or those who had been seduced by  their suitors who then declined to marry them, were considered “ruined” and no longer marriageable.

The original reasons for restricting the sexual expression of women are correlated with religion, but probably were for mostly practical reasons relating to ancient humans settling down into farming communities and the introduction of the ideas of private property and inheritance.

That is, ancient men wanted to make sure that the children they passed their property down to were actually theirs.  Because there was no reliable method for determining paternity in the ancient world, the only way to do this was to restrict the sexuality of women.  This is why women have traditionally been punished for having sex with any man but her legal husband and men have been mostly winked at for straying from their marriage vows.

Naturally, such a system had drawbacks for men, too.   With wives culturally required to regard sex as a duty and with no reliable birth control, horny men who wanted more sex, more lusty sex, and/or who wanted to limit their family size, for whatever reason, had to find other outlets.  Add to this, that many men had the idea that it was wrong to subject their wives, the ones they respected, to passionate sex.   Single men who wished to avoid “ruining” a “respectable” woman also had to find an alternative as well.

Thus, they turned to prostitutes and mistresses.

And this is where the schizophrenia comes in.  These were the women who provided a service for men, who provided a release from the corner they’d painted themselves into when they’d imposed rules to restrain the sexuality of women.  One would think that they would have been grateful to such women for providing a ready sexual outlet.

But, instead, they have reviled and scorned these women; women who gave them what they wanted, even knowing that the alternative would mean much less sex for them.  On the flip side, they “respected” the “good” women, but that didn’t stop them from dallying with the “bad” ones.  It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

One would also think that the fact that the original reason for restricting the sexuality of women no longer exists, now that we have effective birth control and can reliably determine paternity, would have extinguished the Madonna/Whore complex.  Granted, it has lessened to a great degree since the 2oth century.   And it would seem that men with any sense at all would fervently support the wide availability of cheap birth control, not wanting to ever return to the days where every sexual encounter with a woman was playing baby Russian Roulette.

But Limbaugh and others of his ilk, have proven that the Madonna/Whore complex still has a lot of life in it yet, despite its utter lack of logic and sense for both sexes.

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Now that  we’re well ensconced in the 21st century, it’s astounded and disheartened me that not only are the right wingers continuing their campaign to chip away at abortion rights, as they’ve been doing since 1973; they are now targeting birth control as well.

The Virginia legislature has passed a bill that would compel women seeking abortions to undergo a medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound.  In my opinion, the purpose of this unnecessary penetration is simply to induce shame and humiliation, in the hopes of discouraging women from getting an abortion at all.

Similarly, fetal “personhood” bills have been introduced in a few states that would give a fertilized egg full human rights, which would have the result of making some forms of birth control illegal.

To get an idea of the mindset behind these campaigns, billionaire Santorum backer Foster Friess said in defense of Santorum’s opposition to birth control, “This contraception thing, my gosh it’s so inexpensive. Back in my day they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives, the gals (sic)  put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Seriously?  Someone is making comments like that in 2012?

Perhaps the most chilling thing was last week’s House hearings about insurance coverage of birth control, at which no women were able to testify; who are the only people who would be affected by such a law.

And in the most recent example of anti-woman batshittery,  Indiana Republican Rep. Bob Morris has attacked the Girl Scouts.  Yes, the Girl Scouts, a hundred year old girls’ organization long respected by nearly all Americans, regardless of their political beliefs.  Voting against a resolution that would honor the organization on its 100th anniversary. Morris said the Girl Scouts were a “tactical arm” of Planned Parenthood, and are “bent on promoting communism, lesbianism and subverting “traditional American family values.”   Shades of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson much?

So far as abortion and birth control are concerned, one would think that someone who deplores abortion would support birth control because the proper use of birth control drastically reduces the number of abortions, as women who use it don’t get pregnant in the first place.

The birth control pill is also used to regulate a variety of women’s health issues, some of which can be debilitating if left untreated — it’s not just to prevent pregnancy.  Planned Parenthood also offers preventive measures against STDs as well as treatment, with only 3% of its budget going to abortion services.

But opposition to abortion and birth control isn’t really about saving babies.  Rather the unstated goal is to remove a woman’s control over her own fertility.  Much of the discrimination against women has generally been based on the fact that, until the 2oth century, women were at the mercy of their reproductive systems for much of their adult lives, which gave men an excuse to discriminate against them in activities that took them away from their roles as mothers.

After World War II and especially after the 1965 Supreme Court ruling that removed bans on contraception and the 1973 ruling that made safe abortion legal, the skids were kicked out from under most of the reasons for sex discrimination.  Those on the right wing quickly understood that the key to the independence of women and the freedom for women to deal with men and society on their own terms rested on the ability to control their fertility, hence the push to remove this control.

What some of them don’t realize though, is that there’s a downside to this for men, too.  I can’t imagine that many men are keen to return to the days when any sexual encounter with a woman could result in a baby.  And this isn’t just the men in bars seeking one night stands.  It’s the married fathers who can’t afford to support another child, and the ones who, along with their wives, have decided that they just don’t want more — or any at all.

In a faltering economy on a planet groaning with overpopulation, to restrict or deny women access to contraception or abortion isn’t just sexist, it’s shameful and irresponsible.

Similarly, Bob Morris’ condemnation of the Girl Scouts indicates that  he hates them because they teach girls to think for themselves and that they can grow up to be whatever they choose to work to be, instead of indoctrinating them into being future Stepford Wives. It’s also interesting that he’s not accusing the Boy Scouts of turning boys gay, but that’s the old double standard at work again.

At this point, I’d not be surprised if they tried to have a woman’s right to vote rescinded next.  To those who think this is totally farfetched, I will leave you with a quote from Ann Coulter:

If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president. It’s kind of a pipe dream, it’s a personal fantasy of mine, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

I’m guessing she’s thinking they’d make an exception for her or that she doesn’t consider herself a woman.

In any instance the bar for batshittery seems to getting lower all the time.

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Recently, the actress Cynthia Nixon, from Sex and the City, made the comment that she has chosen to be gay.  She said:

“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

This has predictably angered many gay rights activists, who believe that being gay is not at all matter of choice; that it’s an inborn trait.  Reactions from the gay community pointed out that Ms Nixon’s comments played into the hands of right-wing anti-gay activists, who believe that being gay is always a choice — and that it’s a choice that a person can and should “correct”.  Some have made the observation that after having been in relationships with both men and women that Ms Nixon is actually bisexual.

This all may be so, and I’m inclined to agree with the notion that being gay is largely inborn, but it’s beside the point of this blog entry.

I believe that in putting the focus on the idea that being gay is inborn, gay rights activists are operating from a defensive position and that they are allowing the right to frame the terms of the issue.  They are offering a reason to justify why they are gay, when they really don’t owe anyone an explanation at all in order to deserve equal rights in our society.

Let’s compare it to religion.  What one believes, if they choose to believe in anything at all, is completely a choice, and the right to this choice is guaranteed in this country.  No one has to justify why they chose one religion over another, or not to believe; it’s a private matter.

So it should be with sexual orientation.  It’s a private matter that does not affect the rights of others to do differently.

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