Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bits of Wisdom

Tolerance is like money. Most people want plenty of it for themselves but they don't like giving it away.
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Some people have nothing to say, which would be all right if they didn't say it at such great length.
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I often think of how the Titanic was built by a team of experts and the ark was built by a single amateur.
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Try always to do the best you can, not the worst that you're allowed.
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No one ever made a greater mistake than doing nothing because it was only possible to do a little. Edmund Burke
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Meddling with another person's folly is always thankless work. Rudyard Kipling
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God, give me the grace to see the barren misery of the heart where You are not adored but desecrated. Flannery O'Connor
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We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would do us harm. Winston Churchill
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Your capacity to pay attention to someone is directly proportionate to your capacity to love. Robert McMahon
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A true friend is someone who sees the pain in your eyes when everyone else believes the smile on your face.
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Reasoning with an idiot is like playing chess with a monkey. No matter how good you are at chess, the monkey will throw the pieces at you and think he won the game.
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I cannot tell how the truth may be; I say the tale as 'twas said to me. Sir Walter Scott
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He hates him that would upon the rack of this tough world stretch him out longer. Shakespeare
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To one with faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
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You may not like guns. That is your right. You may not believe in God. That is your choice. But if someone breaks into your home, the first thing you're going to do is call someone with a gun and pray they get there in time.
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I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe. Marcus Cole
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If you want your opinions treated with respect, you have to provide opinions worthy of respect.
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Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, then are shocked and offended to discover that there ARE other views. William Buckley Jr
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You could program a robot to abide by the rules of political correctness, and it would be a very polite robot, but politeness is not the same as goodness.
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To be persuasive we must be believable. To be believable we must be credible. To be credible we must be truthful. Edward R Murrow
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Nobody thinks the tracks they leave in the sand are deep enough.
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If you allow censorship to succeed because you hate those being targeted, you lose the ability to defend the rights of those you like.
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Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Benjamin Franklin
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You know who your masters are by who you are not allowed to criticize.
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The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Yes, Hate Speech IS Protected by the First Amendment

More years ago than I care to remember, I was walking with my father in Central Park and we saw a man, literally up on a soapbox, with a megaphone, screaming about how great the Soviet Union was and how terrible the United States was. My father's face turned purple, his jaw worked, you could see how furious he was. My father was a Korean War veteran and he had fought for this country and I totally expected him to lay into that man. Instead he turned to me and said, "That's the difference between America and Russia. In Russia, that guy would be taken out and shot if he spoke against his country like that. Here in America, we let people talk." I'm married to a Russian immigrant who grew up in the Ural Mountains under communism. I asked my husband if what my father said was right. My husband said the common people would beat someone to death if they stood up in public and said bad things about Russia and communism, and if the police or the KGB showed up, they might save the speaker. Maybe. Or maybe they would let the people finish the job. That was the Soviet Union, and I felt grateful to be living in America where we have the First Amendment and people are allowed to speak their minds.

At least, people used to be able to speak their minds. In Charlottesville, neo-nazis marched to protest the planned removal of a statue of Robert E Lee. Whatever you think of Robert E Lee, the Civil War, or white supremacy, the protesters had a legal permit to march. They were United States citizens, exercising their rights under the First Amendment. This is not about who agrees with what. I hate neo-nazis as much as the next person, but that's that the point. The point is that everybody, including neo-nazis, has the right to march and protest, as long as it's peaceful. According to witnesses on both sides, the protest became violent because the police did not do their job. They allowed the protesters and counter-protesters to mix it up until the violence became horrific and a car attack mowed people down, killing one young woman.

What's troubling is the large numbers of people who are claiming the counter-protesters had the right to break up the protest. White supremacists have been publicly identified in the hopes they will get fired and/or evicted from their apartments. Yet no one has anything to say about this counter-protester.

flame-cropped.jpg

Is this what we do in America now? Allow people to use flamethrowers on someone waving a flag they don't like? Remember this protest?

Image result for martin luther king jr protest march

Remember how Martin Luther King Jr and his marchers were attacked with dogs and guns and fire hoses, and how they were beaten up? The violence didn't come from the protesters, it came from the people who wanted to shut the protesters up. We can't let protesters be lauded when we agree with them, and silenced when we hate what they're saying. The civil rights movement succeeded because of the First Amendment, because as Americans, people had the right to stand up and speak out for what they believed in. In Charlottesville, neo-nazis tried to exercise that right, enshrined in the American Constitution. They were not allowed to have their protest. As Americans, we should all have a problem with that, no matter how much we hate what they wanted to say. A quote often attributed to Voltaire, actually attributable to Evelyn Beatrice Hall, goes "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." We must defend everyone's right to free speech, no matter what we think of it, or free speech will disappear for everyone everywhere.



Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Lessons of the Stanford Rape Case

It’s all over the news. A young woman went to a party at Stanford University and wound up being a rape victim. Her rapist, Brock Turner, was captured by two good Samaritans who witnessed Turner on top of her while she was unconscious and partially naked. Her statement in court has been viewed online millions of times, it was read in full on CNN, Representative Jackie Speier read it aloud on the House floor. Turner’s six-month jail term and three year probation has touched off national outrage at the lightness of his punishment, and Stanford students are planning a protest at graduation against the school’s handling of sexual assault cases.


It’s good that the rapist was caught and punished. It’s also good that the victim’s statement is garnering so much attention, and that students are concerned about the safety of their school. What’s not so good is that there are a couple of points I haven’t seen mentioned in the news, points that would do more to keep schools safe than any number of protests and tearful readings by newscasters and politicians.


The first point is that, unlike far too many times, the police were called in this case. Right at the outset, the police were brought in and were able to arrest the suspect, gather the evidence, get the statements, and ultimately put together a case that secured a conviction. Turner got a light sentence but will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Is that a fair punishment? Did the victim get justice? The truth is that no rape victim can ever get justice. Justice would be going back to the person that they were before the rape, the person who didn’t think rape could ever happen to them. That will never happen, and the harshest punishment of the rapist cannot come close to making things right for the victim. That’s not to say rape should not be harshly punished. My personal feeling is that a rapist should be imprisoned with no possibility of parole for the rest of their life, but that’s not how our laws work. Right or wrong, a first time offender with no criminal record is not going to get a heavy punishment.


Turner got off light, but he did get punished. He will be marked for life. Other women that he might have victimized in the future will be safer because this is one less unknown predator roaming the streets. The system worked. It didn’t work perfectly, it didn’t even work as well as it should have, but it did work. The victim may not want to call the police. The victim may be more comfortable going to the college authorities, who work from a very low standard of proof and will probably expel the accused without any evidence at all. However, the feelings of the victim are not the only consideration in a rape case. Those feelings are important, of course, but they can’t rule the case to the point that the police are not called, no investigation is done, and the accused is punished without a fair trial. And this is not just a concern with the finer points of law and order, or the Constitution, or the rights of the accused, all of which may seem too esoteric for some people. This is a concern for the safety of everyone. A young man accused of rape and expelled from college has suffered too harsh a punishment if he is innocent, and no punishment at all if he is guilty. Imagine Turner going free, completely anonymous, able to stalk and rape at will, because the victim didn’t want the police. First lesson. CALL THE POLICE. It’s better for the victim to take the attacker to court. The victim will know that everything was done to punish the attacker, and at the very least, there will be a permanent record.


The second point is harder, not to make but to take. The victim was drunk. She was unconscious when paramedics arrived, unresponsive to pain stimulus, and vomited without regaining consciousness. She didn’t even wake up until hours later in the hospital, with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.12%. Doctors estimated her intoxication level at the time of the assault to be 0.22%. If the good Samaritans hadn’t stepped in, she might well have been raped and left naked on the ground without ever knowing who had attacked her. Bringing up these facts will draw a charge of victim blaming, and shrill cries that no matter how drunk she was, that doesn’t give anyone the right to rape her, and those cries would be true. If a woman goes to a party and drinks until she passes out, no one has the right to touch her. Sadly, there are a lot of people in this world, a lot of people, who don’t care at all about the rights of others and some of them go to college parties just to find girls who drink until their judgement is impaired. So, second lesson. DON’T DRINK TO THE POINT THAT YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON. Like I said, a hard point to take. Women have been told they have the same rights as men to party and have casual sex whenever they feel like it, and for some reason, there seems to be a perception that having the right to do something means that you’re safe to do it.


The world doesn’t work that way. If every man at a college party was a nice fellow who would never ever take advantage of a drunk girl, it would be perfectly safe to drink until you’re face down on the floor. I don’t see the appeal in such behavior, but if that’s what a woman wanted to do, it would be safe. Everybody at a party is not a nice person who would never take advantage of such a situation. The vast majority of accusations are related to drunken hookups at parties, where someone wakes up the morning after regretting the night before. There was a time when a woman who regretted having drunken sex chalked it up to experience and resolved never to do it again. Now, two people getting drunk and doing the wild thing can turn into a rape case whether or not rape actually occurred. When I was a young woman in college, the girls would share safety tips. There was no entitled feeling that we could get drunk and everybody was supposed to treat us with the utmost respect. We were very conscious of the fact that if we were too drunk to know what we were doing, there was a guy around who would take advantage of us. Now it’s called victim blaming to say that women should be aware of their surroundings and take steps to keep themselves safe. It’s not victim blaming to say women should protect themselves.                                                                                                                                         

So there it is. If you’ve been assaulted, if a person has forced you to have sex either through sheer physical violence or with verbal threats such that you feared the consequences of your refusal, call the police. Go after the bastard with everything you’ve got. And protect yourself by staying sober enough that no one can take advantage of you. Remember, the people telling you that you have the right to drink until you pass out are not the ones who have to live with the consequences if you get attacked. You don’t want to wake up in the hospital with some sympathetic health care professional telling you that you were raped while you were unconscious. Avoiding getting drunk at parties, and calling the police if there is an assault-these are two things that can help make schools safer in the future.



Tuesday, December 29, 2015

College Men Accused of Rape Have Rights Too

2015 has seen some important milestones in the fight for due process for college students. Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE)  distributed a flyer on California campuses with sage advice for young men who may face the possibility of a false rape charge, warning them to beware of sexual encounters with women who have had even one drink; counseling them to save conversations with sexual partners; and reminding them that not deleting correspondence on Twitter, on FaceBook, on their cell phones, may provide necessary evidence of consent from a woman determined to bring a false charge of rape. Harsh advice, but necessary in today's culture, where a young man can be accused at any time of rape and expelled from college with no evidence from the woman, no due process from the authorities, and no chance to confront his accuser or even present his side of the story. Indeed, going into 2016, the atmosphere on far too many college campuses encourages reporting alleged sexual assaults to campus administrators rather than to the police. Still, FACE was able to get that flyer out, and by encouraging young men to adhere to campus policies and alerting them to the possibility of false accusation, there is reason to hope that students in the coming year will avoid false accuasations of rape and unjust expulsions from college.

There are other hopeful signs. State Represenatative Matthew Manweller plans to introduce a bill in the Washington State Legislature that would provide students accused of non-academic offenses the right to hire lawyers. This right would apply even in cases based on accusations made by one student against another. Representative Jared Polis (D-Co) apologized for his remark that private colleges should automatically expel students accused of sexual assault even if there is only a 20 percent chance that they are guilty. The sponsors of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act are beginning to pay lip service to the importance of fair hearings for accused students. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La) has raised due process concerns. And Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has disupted the idea that calling the police hurts the investigative process, pointing out that without a victim cooperating with the police, there can be no legal case.

Going forward, organizations such FACE will continue reaching out to college students, warning them of the new danger young men face on campuses as women are encouraged to report alleged sexual assaults to college administrators rather than to the police. There will be more resources to assist students if they are falsely accused of rape, and encouragement for young men who need help to obtain a fair hearing under the law. Students accused of rape are beginning to find their voice, a voice that calls for justice under the law and protections guaranteed under the Constitution. 




Thursday, September 3, 2015

Transexual or Sexual Predator?

Mike Huckabee ignited a firestorm of criticism when he joked about wishing he could have said he was transgender in high school so he could shower with the girls. At least, he was partly joking when he said he would have found his feminine side and asked to shower with the girls. He was also making a pretty accurate, although politically incorrect and unpopular, assessment of the laws that allow people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. The LGBT community leaped to the defense of transgender people who want to use the bathroom they are comfortable with, damning Huckabee for a transphobic bigot who didn't appreciate the courage it took for a transgender person to come out with their own special identity. It was all very predictable, but I really didn't think much of it at the time because I didn't think that any school would tolerate a transgender boy showering with the girls anyway. Was I wrong!

Enter Lila Perry, of Hillsboro High School, Hillsboro, Missouri, a young man who's decided he's a young lady and who wants to use the girl's bathroom and the girl's locker room. As near as I can make out, this youngster thought he was gay for a while, and now he thinks he's a girl. The school, in an effort to please him, made a unisex bathroom available to him, which seems remarkably like sense to me. Lila doesn't feel like a boy, so he doesn't want to be in the locker room or the bathroom with the boys, and the girls shouldn't have to put up with a boy in their private space no matter what he calls himself. A reasonable compromise is to accomodate the young person with a private space of his own while he sorts out his inner self. Problem solved, no?

No. Lila decided his own private bathroom was not good enough. He wants to be in with the girls. He wants to go to the bathroom with them, and he wants to shower and change with them. He insists he is a girl and he doesn't want to be made to feel different from the other girls and he doesn't want to be segregated, comparing his situation to the kind of discrimination blacks once faced when they were not allowed to use whites-only bathrooms. While I commend a teenager knowing history, I question the logic. Nobody was offering blacks their own private bathroom with an outpouring of support at how brave they were for being black.

A number of students staged a protest when Lila insisted on using the girl's facilities, walking out of school. A few supported him using the girl's facilities. Parents demanded a meeting with the school administrators, insisting that the girls had rights too and that one student should not be allowed to dictate to the entire student body. And once again, the LGBT community has leaped to the defense of the transgendered, calling the girls transphobic bigots who don't appreciate the courage it takes for Lila, a teenage boy, to be in the locker room with a bunch of naked teenage girls.

It's very confusing. If this were a college campus, a man strolling into the women's locker room would get him branded a rapist and very probably expelled from school with a record as a sex offender. Rape culture dictates that all men are misogynists and that they are just looking to hurt women every chance they get. The words manspreading (a man sitting with his legs apart) and mansplaining (a man explaining something) have entered our vocabulary and those are bad things because men are doing them. A woman can spread out over three seats on the subway with her purse and her laptop and her umbrella, but that's okay. And a woman can explain whatever she wants, in as many words and in whatever tone of voice she likes, and that's okay. There are many more examples of a pervading dislike and distrust of men to be found in the news every day, but Lila seems to have found a way around it all. He's not a man! He's a girl, and entitled to all the attention and accomodation he can garner.

I don't know this young man or what his mindset is, but I do know that I am deeply suspicious of a boy who is using his sexuality to make his female classmates uncomfortable. While a large number of girls are protesting Lila using their bathroom and locker room, I haven't been able to find any accounts of trouble before he invaded the girl's private space. Even Lila, in his numerous interviews, hasn't said anything that I can find about longstanding trouble at his school. It seems like he was treated with tolerance and understanding and acceptance. Maybe that wasn't enough attention for him, or maybe he is a sexual predator who has found a way to ogle naked classmates without having to drill a hole in the wall of the girl's shower like the guys in Porkies. I should think the best thing to do would be to go back to the sensible compromise of having the boys in their private space, the girls in their private space, and Lila in his private space. He won't be happy with that solution, but it seems more reasonable than letting one student dictate to a whole school, particularly when young girls are unhappy about a young man in their private space. If Lila is a predator, the girls deserve protection from him. And if he's just an innocent kid who can't figure out where he belongs in the world, he deserves the life lesson that the world is not always going to bend over backwards to accomodate him. Either way, I'm just glad I don't have a daughter who goes to school with him.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What The *@&^)! Is With The Language?

I often feel myself out of place in the modern world. People are loud, and don't respect other people's privacy, or boundaries. Children run roughshod over their parents and everyone else in sight, college students start indignant campaigns against anyone they think is committing a microagression, feminists claim that teaching young women safety tips to avoid rape is victim blaming. The POW-MIA flag is declared racist, senators are forced to apologize for saying all lives matter, minorities are declared to be worse off than in the days of actual slavery, and dead lions are more important than dead babies. There's a kind of Alice in Wonderland quality about it all and I am alternately outraged and amused by the madness of the world we live in.

One thing I can't get used to is the cursing. The everyday, casual cursing where F-bombs and the N-word and every other foul word is used in everyday conversation. I'll hear people talking in my apartment building using words that I associate with blood about to be spilled, and they're just talking. What to me would be the filthiest of insults is casual everyday conversation between people who don't seem to have any vocabulary at all. They use the F-bomb the way Smurfs use the word "smurf." The F-bomb is constantly dropped, it's a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, they dangle the participle and split the infinitive and use it as a shout out, and I'm just waiting for it to show up on prime time TV.

I hate it. I'm not a prude. Obviously I hear a lot of swear words, and I've used them myself on occasion. I'm not going to pretend to be some prissy holier-than-thou type who never uses impure language and looks down on people who do. The Bible says there's a time and a place for everything under the sun and I have long believed that goes for cursing too. There's a time and a place for cursing, even casual cursing. I understand that when somebody's team loses a point, or they hit their thumb with a hammer, a few well-chosen words can relieve an awful lot of pain. But when you can't tell the difference between two people about to kill each other and two people talking about their day, I think it's going a bit overboard.

It's gotten to be so much overboard that even in restaurants, people drop F-bombs all around them. I was in Hometown Buffet today with my husband and chose a booth next to two older men in dress shirts and slacks. And we had barely started eating before I was shocked to hear these two men throwing around F-bombs, right next to a table with a young couple and their four children. The young couple looked pretty uncomfortable but didn't speak up. Me, I asked the waitress to do something about it. She got the manager, the manager addressed their phraseology. Unbelieveably, they pretended not to know what the manager was talking about. Swearing? What swearing? The manager politely but firmly told them their language was not appropriate for a family restaurant, gesturing at the children at the next table. Oh, their language! But they weren't being loud! No, the manager was still firm. No F-bombs. The men finally agreed to tone it down, the manager went about his business, and the young mother looked at me and mouthed Thank you.

Mind you, these men were still upset. The new topic of conversation was how Hometown Buffet wasn't a nice restaurant and they should be able to talk any way they wanted in such a cheap place. One of them took a phone call about a test drive for a car he was thinking of buying. He made it a point to say, more than once, that the car was $70,000, as if he was emphasizing what a high class person he really was. The other one was still stewing and called the manager back over. He found it a little difficult to come to the point, asking about Hometown Buffets in other towns, then finally told the manager he was offended at being asked to tone down his language. The manager took it in stride, pointing out that it was his job to address customer complaints, repeating for I don't know what time that it was a family restaurant and there were children around, and that language had to be appropriate for a family setting. They finally let him go and laughed about the stupid people in the restaurant who got offended at what they were saying. No more F-bombs, though.

I just don't get it. Maybe it's our repressive society, where no conversation of substance can take place, especially on college campuses, without being branded a microagression or racially insensitive. Bruce Jenner proclaims himself a woman and Twitter sprouts a bot designed to correct anyone who uses a male pronoun to refer to Jenner, even though he's still a man down to the smallest strand of his DNA. Prominent scientist Tim Hunt gets fired for joking about working with women in the lab. No one can say anything anymore without the threat of an Internet rage mob cutting loose and lynching them, and I don't mean in the virtual sense either. It used to be said that loose lips sank ships but now the wrong words can destroy your life. Maybe under such enormous pressure to conform and be silent except to agree with the mindset du jour, people need to be able to cut loose and curse. I just would like to be able to eat in a restaurant, even if it is just Hometown Buffet, without hearing the kind of language my father would use if he was working on a car and it fell on him.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

In Defense of the Confederate Flag

No, not the Confederate flag that flew over battlefields where brave men struggled to settle the question of slavery once and for all. Not the Confederate flag in the hands of Dylann Roof, who waved it on his website before he shot up the Emanuel African Methodist Church in downtown Charleston. I'm talking about defending the Confederate flag on top of the General Lee in the show The Dukes of Hazzard.


The Dukes of Hazzard is a TV show that came out in 1979 and ran until 1985. The main characters were Bo and Luke Duke, a couple of country boys who were on parole for running moonshine and lived on the family farm with their Uncle Jesse and their cousin Daisy Duke. And they drove around Hazzard county in their Dodge Charger, which they named the General Lee and had a Confederate flag on the roof. They weren't racists. They didn't hurt people. Quite the contrary, the Dukes were considerate and compassionate people who helped everyone who needed it. They even helped and protected their enemies Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe P Coltrane. The younger Dukes said "Yes, sir," and "No, sir" to their uncle Jesse. They knew how to say please and thank you as well, and they were also adept at taking personal responsibility for what they did. Seems like every other episode the Dukes were raising money for the local orphanage, and the show is notable for its lack of gunplay. The Duke boys were not allowed to have guns because they were on parole, so they used bows and arrows. They never shot a person with an arrow. They went to church and prayed before eating and tipped their hats to ladies and gave back to their community. They were good people in every sense of the word.

The Dukes of Hazzard provided endless hours of family fun, first for me growing up and then in later years when I was raising my son. We would watch the show together, and discuss such points as the younger Duke's respect for wise old Uncle Jesse, their kindness to strangers, their willingness to extend a helping hand to all in need. We also discussed the Duke's work ethic, because that was a big part of the show. The boys worked on the farm and took other jobs as needed to pay for what they wanted. Daisy worked at Boss Hogg's place, the Boar's Head. Like I said, these were people with a strong sense of personal responsibility, as well as family and community.


Does the Dukes of Hazzard deserve to be labeled racist because of the Confederate flag on top of the General Lee? I am aware that some people look at the Confederate flag and see nothing but the symbol of a people who wanted to preserve slavery in the United States. Such people seem to think that white American southerners invented slavery, no country before or since has ever had slavery, and that the Confederate flag can mean nothing but what they say it means. To many southerners, the Confederate flag is a symbol of their heritage. They have ancestors who fought and died under that flag. That doesn't mean they support their ancestors fighting to preserve slavery. Southerners understand that you can deplore the history of slavery in the south and still be proud of the courage of your ancestors who fought to defend their homes. It's a nuanced viewpoint, I admit, but a valid one.

There's nothing nuanced about the Dukes of Hazzard, though. The Dukes weren't attending KKK meetings. Uncle Jesse was not a Grand Wizard of the Klan. They had black as well as white friends, the toughest and most competent sheriff on the show was a black man, and even the guest-star villains were usually a pair of men, one white and one black. The General had the Confederate flag on his roof as a symbol of regional pride, nothing more. The Dukes were proud of their heritage as southerners, which included Dukes who had fought for the North. And for more than thirty years, the General sported his Confederate flag without a problem, because anyone who watched even one episode of the show knew perfectly well that particular flag did not symbolize anything but a strong loving southern family.

Now the thought police have decreed that the Confederate flag is unacceptable no matter where it turns up. I can understand taking it down from official government settings. It's not the flag of the United States of America. It's the flag of a defunct nation that went to war with the United States of America. It is entirely right and proper that it should be removed from official buildings and symbols. But to take away a TV show? A TV show that never hurt anyone, that millions of people have watched and loved for decades? Whatever will be next? Will the Dukes reappear with a sanitized General with the Confederate flag digitally edited out, and will the thought police next decide that the cow horns on Boss Hogg's car have to be taken out because they might offend Hindus who have literal sacred cows in India? Will the social justice snowflakes then want to cover up Daisy Duke's spectacular legs because the image of a woman in short shorts might offend Muslims? Will Boss Hogg have to be digitally slimmed down, lest the obese be offended? I'm afraid if the politically correct are not stopped, they're going to insist that in Civil War reenactments, the soldiers on the Union side use real bullets.