Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When I think of sexism...

I do not think of a woman. I think of a man, a boy. Strange, I know. But that's just what I think of. I'm not really into trying to be a victim or create my own victim-meta-narrative, but I can't help thinking..

I think about how the preponderance of both rapists and rape-victims are men.

I think about how men are rarely, if ever, allowed to be fathers. And when they are? They're stereotyped as incompetent. They can't be baby-sitters, because they're dangerous. They can't take kids to the playground because people might get the wrong idea.

I think about how boys are falling behind in school and almost nobody seems to care amidst all the work trying to help girls succeed... despite the fact that they're already succeeding in school.

I think about how approximately half of all domestic violence victims are men, but there are virtually ZERO resources to help them. Most of the time men refuse to even admit they've been abused by their significant others. The rest of the time other people are telling them that even when they're victims they're still abusers.

I think about how men of color and LGBTQ men suffer systemic abuses because of their gender, their race, and/or their sexuality/sexual identity. I think about Matthew Shepard. I think about Trayvon Martin. I think about the kids in my PE class who were called "fag" or "wetback."

I think about the billboards showing immaculately cut bodies, muscles rippling, deeply tanned, and hairless. Always hairless. Men who look like action figures, like mannequins, and I... I look like a pasty piece of pulp. You think men don't have body issues? Just take a glance at the body-building selection in the grocery store magazine section.

I think about how I am never encouraged to show my emotion, or even have emotions. I think about how if I am placed into a difficult situation, I am expected to solve it myself without asking for help.

I think about how most violent crimes happen to men.

I think about how most of the prison population is comprised of men.

I think about how despite all the bullshit about sexism, the sexism I think of when I hear the word is the kind nobody ever talks about. I don't see this as a zero-sum game, or as some kind of Oppression Olympics. But what I do see, frightens and angers me because people don't seem to care. Instead, the focus is always on others, even in forums built specifically to address these issues.

When I think of sexism, I think of being falsely accused of rape, of having dealt with it myself. I think about people calling me stupid, retarded, a dumb guy, making assumptions about what I can and cannot do because of my gender. I think about how all my life I've lived in fear of upsetting people with my experiences as a man rather than sharing them in order to end all forms of sexism.

Maybe this is a start? Maybe.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why Raising Taxes on the Wealthy Works

This should rightly be titled, "Why taxing the rich at equal levels of real-income to the poor works." But that's a BIT long. Regardless, this blog is a mini-intro to why taxing the rich their fair share is good for the economy.

1. The rich do not "create" jobs. Demand creates jobs. So when the rich say they won't create more jobs (or when they say they'll fire people who voted for Obama) because of higher taxes... they're not only lying, they're being childishly punitive.

I have no doubt that the Papa John's owner is sad he has to treat his low-wage workers better for making his objectively shitty pizza, but trust: for every person who says they won't start a business or market a product because they have to pay fair & equitable taxes, there are hundreds here and abroad who will gladly do it, and maybe even do it better.

2. Historically, when taxes on the rich have been high our country has generally experienced more prosperity, especially for the middle-class. True, this privilege was not shared by marginalized groups (e.g. Blacks, Latinos, LGBTQ, religious minorities, and others) but this is not due to the fallacy of taxes but due to systemic oppression. (Which is a separate topic for another time.)

3. In summation, higher (read: fairer) taxes on the wealthy will produce a strong economy. Why? Because then the wealthy need to invest, expand, and grow their business in order to maintain their obscene amounts of money. This translates into more jobs, including associated jobs (i.e. vendors, suppliers, etc.) which provides more people with money to spend in the market which creates more jobs in those fields. And the ripple just keeps on reverberating from there.

This is important because for capitalism to work there cannot be gross concentrations of wealth. Why? Because without money in constant flow, there is no demand and no capital to spend to support people's jobs. This is even more poignant in an increasingly consumer-based economy such as ours where, without people having money to spend, the places they go to buy stuff suffer and lay-off their staff.

Hopefully this has been educational to... some of you.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Stories from my life: Chapter 3

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out on Nintendo 64 in North America on November 23, 1998. I was 12 years old when I begged my Mom to buy it for me for Hanukkah. Back then, we alternated holidays between various relatives' houses. This Hanukkah was being celebrated at ours located on the "spice streets" of Costa Mesa.

I remember being SOOOO excited when I got the game, tearing through the wrapping paper like it was cheap toilet paper. And thrown away just as fast. I raced to my room, put it in the slot and turned on the console. I remember my grandma and nieces came in to watch for a time. We were all just hanging out, pretty much.

Then, my Uncle Joe came in. Let me tell ya... I have few good memories of my Uncle Joe. He was always the... "physical type," the kind of guy who couldn't really articulate his emotions and always acted younger than he was. He also grew up in an abusive Chicago Irish family. And he always seemed to think everyone else had it so easy that they almost needed a little abuse.

I remember when stretch at his house with my Aunt while my Mom was recuperating from chemo. I was 8 and not wanting to get up for school in the morning. Instead of doing the adult thing and grounding me, giving me a lecture, no food, or other consequences. He decided to dump me out of my sleeping bag (slept on the floor) and onto the carpet. From shoulder level. He's about 6 foot. I fell on my neck, nearly broke it, and blacked out for about 5 minutes.

But back to 1998. So I'm playing my brand-new game that I am SOOOO excited about. I get to this part where I unlock a Great Fairy cave to get some power-ups. While the cut-scene plays Uncle Joe starts making fun of my game. I tell him to stop but he just keeps ragging on it, on me, and he won't let up! I tell him to stop again and again but eventually I just get so mad that I scream out, "WILL YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP?"

The next thing I know his hand is around my throat, my back is to the wall by my bed, and I can't breath. I can vaguely see/hear my Grandma and nieces shouting behind him. Meanwhile, Joe's trying to give me some kind of lecture on how you talk to adults and how dare I use that language because in his day kids had the shit beaten out of them for that. But I can't really focus because I can't breath. My Grandma starts shouting even more, saying, "JOE stop it!" My younger niece just starts crying. My older niece, the older niece just stares.

After his spiel, Joe let's go of me and storms out. I choke on the sudden rush of air into my lungs. I'm so scared I can hardly think to cry. Mostly I'm just in shock. But finally, like most people who've been attacked, I run and hide somewhere.

Meanwhile, as I found out, my Mom rushed Uncle Joe, my aunt, and my cousins out of the house before anyone could find out what had happened. My older brothers were pissed. So was my Dad but we did not tell him for a long time. (My parents were divorced.) As for me, I vowed never to let anyone hurt me like that again. My Mom tried to play peace-maker and decided we wouldn't have family gatherings like this as much. We never celebrated Hanukkah at our house with the whole family ever again.

To this day I look back on the sight of my Uncle Joe's long, hairy arm stretched out to thick fingers wrapped around my skinny throat and... I think about what it felt like to be young and helpless. I think about bullies, about standing up for yourself, about adults versus kids, about abuse, about my family. I think about a lot of things but the most important thing I think about is how I never cried, how I never backed down, and how I, to this day, refuse to give in to bullies. It's one of those things that makes me proud of myself, even as the memory of those bullies infuriates me.

As for my Uncle Joe? Well, let's just say his life is a sad excuse for a joke. And mine has really hit its stride. So I guess that counts for something.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Conspiracy Theory #158,697

The Sovereign Citizens Movement is a collection of "American litigants, commentators, and financial scheme promoters. The U.S.'s FBI classifies "sovereign citizens" among domestic terror threats as anti-government extremists. This is because many "sovereign citizens" typically espouse views of armed insurrection, fear of any infringement of the 2nd amendment, and extreme mistrust of the government.

Self-described "sovereign citizens" take the position that they are answerable only to common law and are not subject to any statutes or proceedings at the federal, states or municipal levels, or that they do not recognize U.S. currency and that they are "free of any legal constraints." Of course, this is ludicrous; if are a citizen of this country who partakes of the rights and privileges thereof, then you are legally/ethically/morally required to be answerable to its laws.

"Sovereign Citizens" especially reject most forms of taxation as illegitimate, typically due to an extremely ignorant perception of tax law and the Constitution's power to tax the citizens. Participants in the movement argue this concept in opposition to "federal citizens" who, they say, have unknowingly forfeited their rights by accepting some aspect of federal law. This topic frequently creeps up into a closely related topic of "Federal Reserve Conspiracies," which can be easily debunked here.

 In 2010 the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) estimated that approximately 100,000 Americans were "hard-core sovereign believers" with another 200,000 "just starting out by testing sovereign techniques for resisting everything from speeding tickets to drug charges."

In my own experience, "sovereign citizens" tend to be a mixture of ignorant conspiracy buffs, bigoted armchair academics, and tinfoil hat peddlers. Many are criminals. Others are one-step away from becoming Jared Lee Loughner, whose own ideology is frighteningly similar to that of many "sovereign citizens."


Faxlore is a sort of folkore consisting of humorous texts, poetry, art, and urban legends circulated -- not by word-of-mouth -- by fax machine, copy-machines. Photocopylore is a popular alternative. Typically Faxlore is subversive and mocks typical workplaces/values. It promulgates at the grass-roots level, person to person, similarly to email chain letters.

The "Blue Star acid tattoo" legend is a notable example of Faxlore. The fax states that a temporary lick-and-stick tattoo soaked in acid/LSD and made in the form of a blue star (the logo of the Dallas Cowboys is often mentioned), or of popular children's cartoon characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Bart Simpson, is being distributed to children in the area in order to get them "addicted to LSD."

The legend possibly originated from the fact that an LSD solution is sometimes soaked in blotter paper and sold. The flyer lists an inaccurate description of the effects of LSD, some attribution (typically to a well-regarded hospital or a vaguely specified "adviser to the president"), and instructs parents to contact police if they come across the blue star tattoos. No actual cases of LSD distribution to children in this manner have been documented.

While the growth of the internet has significantly reduced the prevalence of Faxlore, especially as chat-rooms, instant messaging, social networking sites, and other venues provide more popular methods for deploying the typical fare of Faxlore. Nonetheless, Faxlore exists in small amounts, usually for nostalgic enjoyment.