Abortion Debate? Let’s cut it out…

The terribly insensitive title was a bit attention seeking I’ll admit, but it speaks to this notion that abortion is still a divisive issue for so many people and it’s frustrating amid a spectrum of social problems that require much of the activism and discourse that is wasted on what I feel to be a open and closed issue. Let’s simply and quickly breakdown the debate from the three most popular perspectives and I’ll add one caveat at the end.

Not a solution to unsafe sex-This idea that men and women actually consider the relative “ease” of “taking care of” the potential result of their subsequent sexual encounter before they engage in intercourse is quite hilarious. No one reaches the critical moment of decision and is comforted by the possibility that an abortion will solve the dilemma that having sex might bring about. So, why do we punish young women by arguing, “Hey you should have thought of this before. You don’t get an easy way out.” Well, we are past that point if she is already pregnant and we know that outlawing abortion would not act as a deterrent so therefore, that argument of “It shouldn’t be an option to erase a mistake” is unfounded because it’s not viewed as an option before the mistake is made, it’s viewed as a choice (a very difficult one) for someone who is already pregnant. Abortion is not an easy way out, it’s not a time machine that transports someone back to before their moment of conception, nor is it murder.

Religious Argument (God’s plan)-If it is murder, so is masturbation, sodomy, oral sex, homosexuality, wet dreams, protected sex, birth control…All of the potential sperm involved in those instances are being preemptively restricted from “babymaking” it’s just cutting out the middle man.  The idea that God treats conception differently because it’s “meant to be” and therefore that fetus is immediately a person means that every person who uses in vitro fertilization, a surrogate, or adopts a child is defying God’s plan because if he wanted them to have kids then he wouldn’t have forced them to be in their childless predicaments in the first place. I mean Jesus Christ, Mary and Joseph didn’t have sex (or so they told the town) and they had the son of God so he can make that stuff happen if he wants it to right? That fetus is a result of sperm fertilizing an egg, not some divine intervention.

Roe v Wade reversal-This is a popular harping point for a lot of right wingers. It’s funny, if you actually study politics you’d realize that the reversal of Roe v Wade would be incredibly detrimental to the conservative base. As it stands now, it is a rallying cry that segues into family values, religious traditionalism, and us v them galvanization that resulted from the Culture Wars of the 1970’s and 1980’s which catapulted Reagan into the Presidency. The idea being, find what people perceive to be integral to their lifestyle among a certain homogeneous base (the South in this case) and latch on to an event or decision (Roe v Wade) that exemplifies the heavy hand of the government telling that base that their way of life was inferior or that the government knew better. The republicans rode the coattails of the Culture Wars to win three consecutive elections from 1980-1992 and their next two term representative in the Oval Office was George W. Bush who ran a campaign based on? You guessed it, family values and liberty with an emphasis on religious freedom. Any republican who wishes to reverse Roe v. Wade is suggesting opposition to the true party line which benefits greatly from using that decision and this issue to further their propagandized mission to convince “the real America” that their religious and family values are antithetical to the aims of a left winged Federal government. Sorry, but it’s all bullshit.

Furthermore, the idea that Roe v Wade is recycled as a point of contention to rally the conservative troops around the “core” issues explains why people have such a visceral reaction. It’s programmed. Pro life is just a response born out of fear and fear-mongering in this case. It is a convenient argumentative position that directly opposes the pro-choice (which actually speaks more towards liberty and freedom despite the party connotations) movement while giving religious backing in order to degrade and judge women who choose to do what’s best for their bodies and their lives. I contend that we shouldn’t care as much as we do and I’ve outlined the reasons why so many think they should but few actually sit down and think about it. If you would, you’d be like me and you’d just want everyone to cut it out. Simply put, I do not feel I deserve the power to tell someone what they can and cannot do with their body. I have no right nor do I have a place. God has nothing to do with this and legally there could be few more restrictive laws than one that would outlaw abortion (which will never happen). So, can we just give up and focus on things that matter? People protest, they drive vans with obscene images of dead fetuses, they hound young women who enter abortion clinics and tell them that they are scum. For what? Where is your right? And don’t say, what about the baby’s right to life? Well, again, life is a result of a sperm and an egg so unless you advocate that every sperm is sacred you have no basis there. Let’s cut it out, protect our rights, and fix real social problems.

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Michael Sam: The First Gay Gladiator

Welcome to a seminar on sexual orientation and the workplace…Let’s begin. I’ll spare you the agonizing b.s., but what if your workplace is a football field? Better yet, what if much of your workplace activity revolves around following and debating things that happen on a football field? Well then, chances are you know the name Michael Sam by today.

The Missouri graduate is eligible for the NFL draft this May and he is gay. Players are and have been gay while earning NFL paychecks but they never have entered or at any point in their career been open about their sexuality until now prospectively. The media seized the opportunity, and rightly so, to publicize this heroic announcement for Sam. The question quickly arose: How will this affect his draft stock? Unfortunately, that’s a valid question due to the culture of the sport in question but also the fanaticism attached to that culture.

The NFL is a physical game, a sport that glorifies toughness, strength, even anger. It is a sport of intimidation. Some might accurately call those primal characteristics, while others are fans of the sport because of this gladiator worship. But, this news story framed against the backdrop of the NFL’s image of brutality brings about a meaningful discussion of abhorrent stereotypes associated with homosexuality. Let’s examine a few

Gay men are weak: Michael Sam lead this SEC in sacks this past season at a position that demands physical strength.

Gay men are a locker room distraction: Why? Because once everyone hits the showers they are just going to rape the enitre locker room? This idea is homophobic, born out of fear by heterosexuals. Being homosexual is not equivalent to being a sexual predator. Get over yourselves straight men. What makes you think you’d even attract gay men?

Why does a gay athlete have to be open about his or her sexuality? This comes from a starting point of bigotry. The only reason this is news is because we are such an intolerant people and worship traditionalism even in the realm of sports which is such an asinine ideal that sports deserve some sort of sanctity. Michael Sam didn’t have to come out before he becomes an NFL player, but he felt it was important that he did so that there could be a shift in the NFL status quo which I find admirable.

Now, more importantly, consider the reverse of some of these stereotypes. Why is it assumed that masculine male athletes in the NFL are heterosexual? I think this is important because there is an association that develops. Masculinity=glorifying the gladiator mentality which is celebrated therefore gay men are excluded yet that assumes that we are to take gender cues and subsequently sexuality clues from this primitive idea of the male athlete (hero). This is a huge issue because we want our boys to play sports and compete and emulate their pro athlete role models but why must that encouragement be reinforced with the idea that this is the only way to be a man? Michael Sam is a gay football player. There are straight ballet dancers too but yet our associations tell us that those caricatures are to be gawked at. This comes from an unexplored place in our culture that has everything to do with gender when it doesn’t have to. Our love affair with the NFL has adverse affects when it comes to ideas about how the next generation of men should behave. This is extremely problematic and ignorant. You are not more or less of a man if you tackle other men, or if you have a “mean streak”, or if you play the piano, or tap dance. This big news about Michael Sam is big news because of our tendency to compartmentalize and stereotype but we often do not consider that this mistake permeates to subsequent generations who will do the same unless we teach them tolerance and openness when it pertains to gender and sexuality. The NFL is so mindless, the gladiator mentality so pointless and impractical, so why should we allow it to be so prominent in what we think a masculine man should be? Why do we strive to emulate that archetype? There were Michael Sams before and there will be more gay athletes and the way Michael Sam is accepted or rejected will have a lot to do with how comfortable those athletes are in sharing their true identities with the unforgiving sports world. We all should reflect on why it has taken this long and prioritize what is truly valuable if anything about the NFL while realizing that it’s reach extends further than we acknowledge it does.

The Martin Luther King Legacy: More Than a Monday in January?

I am not a holiday person. Christmas is religious only in its lustful devotion of consumer materialism. July 4th is weighed down by ignorant patriotism and distracted by fireworks displays. Valentine’s Day is usually disappointing no  matter what your relationship status is. Columbus Day is an atrocity (We still call Native Americans Indians. See Louis C.K. stand-up). Anyway, holidays are hollow. As I talked to people yesterday and today concerning this holiday, Martin Luther King Day, I got some pretty surprising reactions. “Why is this a holiday?” “He accomplished what someone else would have.” “This doesn’t deserve to be a Federal holiday.” Cue the about face for me, the holiday hater. Jesus Christ, of all of the stupid things we celebrate, this day has some potential. How can we appreciate what MLK went through? How can we honor his legacy?

I like the general skepticism when it comes to anointing Dr. King as the second coming, but he was this country’s most successful social activist in the past half-century. But, we all know his accomplishments and his trials and tribulations along the way. After today, I’ve become more interested in his legacy and how we have seemingly taken his persona and made it into a universal truth. I think this is dangerous. Before the Civil Rights movement, realities that we can’t imagine were the norm. It is hard to fathom what it truly took to break down those pillars of injustice and restore a foundation of liberty and tolerance. It seems as though many people are sick of MLK posthumously getting so much credit, but his experience was far from ordinary. He was a revolutionary and died for his cause. Viewing his legacy in a vacuum with a defined start and end point undermines the fight he waged. Civil Rights and the broader cause of battling social injustice is an eternal struggle. We cannot rest on our laurels and assume that his fight ended in victory.

King said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” That is his legacy. “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked ‘insufficient funds. But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” Since that monumental speech echoed off of the Washington monument, more oppressed people have arrived in Washington to cash checks of equality and justice and the funds are still very much insufficient. We have come a long way in terms of civil rights for African Americans and others, but each instance of hate and persecuted group should not require the effort and struggle given by Dr. King. We should not live as Americans waiting on the next hero to accomplish King’s goal of a world where people are judged solely on the content of their character.. We are the silent, but good people who should be appalled by our own inaction.

Gay rights, poverty, declining education systems, hostility toward immigrants, residual racism, and other issues plague our brothers and sisters and we tend to seek comfort in our ignorance and insulation. I am heterosexual and can get married, not because I made a choice but because I was born into a majority, so I don’t care that, because others fall in a minority by also not making a choice, I should allow bigots to make a choice to restrict their liberty? I accept that fewer people in this country get richer while the overwhelming majority gets poorer? I accept that because I can afford to live in an area with high property values, my kids will get an adequate education and the children in the neighboring city will go without textbooks? I pretend that my immigrant heritage is any different from someone who cannot speak English? I accept that Civil Rights laws were passed so racism must also have ended? Our world is full of social injustice and we discuss it constantly, but we do so in whispers. We don’t make enough noise to drown out the disharmonious tones of prejudice and hate. We are so busy feeling sorry for ourselves that we forget that others aren’t asking us to feel sorry for them, but merely to stand in unity and fight for their just cause.

I think it’s all very simple. Live your life with the desire to make the world a better place than you found it. Nothing else really matters. As Dr. King so aptly stated, “And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” There are many checks to be cashed and there is plenty of money in the bank of social justice in order to make the world a better place. But, we cannot be afraid to cash in on what is right and true. We cannot wait for a leader to inspire us to fight, because that leader already did so and that is what we should take from today. Martin Luther King’s legacy is not about not getting mail one Monday in January or even necessarily about just civil rights for people of different races, but it is about recognizing and defeating injustice. Right now is the time and plenty is the cause. Whether it’s marching, voting, speaking, or listening, we cannot be docile in this battle anymore because our brothers, sisters, and forefathers can’t afford to suffer the tranquilizing effects of gradualism.

American Hustle needed more, well, hustle

The talented and established foursome of Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper were poised for a smash hit when they released American Hustle, a tale of con artists, the Mob, and the FBI. I left the theater feeling like this film was full of unfulfilled potential however.

Christian Bale is a ’70’s mystery man who dabbles in laundromats and ponzi schemes. He meets Amy Adams, an attractive loner herself, and the two begin an affair that incorporates Adams as the frontwoman in the couple’s simple con to entice desperate investors and collect on a non-refundable down payment. Bradley Cooper enters their office one day playing the part of one of those desperate investors, but is setting the two up for Federal charges. As a part of a deal to secure their freedom, and partly to appease Cooper’s consuming ego, Bale and Adams agree to aid Cooper’s FBI career in entrapping politicians in bribery and extortion charges. Cooper wants the best con artists to help in his con on the part of the government agency in order to bust corrupt public servants. The movie proceeds in a twisted web of “who’s conning who” which thankfully avoids the ever popular “got-ya” ending but the pace is far too slow.

Many of the background stories that were necessary to explain characters’ ambition, motivation, and propensity for trust vs. conning were very much underdeveloped. Many times the audience was asked to accept that a certain character would trust another just because an aspect of their backstory had been enumerated one sentence before such as when Christian Bale uses his Bronx roots to gain the trust of Camden native, Mayor Carmine Belito, to convince him to take a bribe that he had moments earlier vehemently turned down and was appalled by the notion altogether. Because of three lines of dialogue, his tune changes completely and the plot continues. It just lacked authenticity by its own standards at times.

I’ll spare details but I would not recommend paying to see this movie in theaters. The acting is very good however. Jennifer Lawrence was infuriating which “made” her character. Amy Adams was seductive and convincing. Bradley Cooper was pathetic, enraged, and erratic which differed greatly from Christian Bale’s calculated, small scoped approach to conning, providing for an interplay between these two lead characters which should’ve been expounded upon. Overall, wait until this movie hits cable networks and see what you think but save your Christmas money this month and pass on American Hustle. It is a movie that couldn’t find its identity. It lacked hustle if you will…

Nelson Mandela and Phil Robertson: What does tolerance mean to you?

The two most significant news stories of the past few weeks include the death of one of the most dedicated freedom fighters the world has ever known and a comment made by the patriarch of the nation’s premier family when it comes to making duck calls. Both general storylines involve tolerance, persecution, and hate. They involve a minority and a majority, anger and love, popularity and dissent, freedom and expression. The world on one hand mourned the loss of Nelson Mandela in South Africa recently as we were reminded of his struggle for personal freedom, for equality for his people through the abolition of apartheid, and his support of nonviolent means to accomplish his peaceful and tolerant ends. On the other hand, many Americans are bemoaning the fact that a reality TV star in an attention grabbing interview likened homosexual practices to fornicating with animals citing the Bible as his intellectual foundation for that relationship. Which one of these happenings affected more Americans and sparked more discourse? Sadly, an unintelligible duck call entrepreneur…

So, because so many people are making Phil Robertson’s bigoted and ignorant comments a religious issue let’s fight fire with fire. The bible calls homosexuality and bestiality an abomination. In Leviticus, the bible also  claims that you can’t eat anything from the sea that lacks fins or scales. The bible dictates that if you are widowed by your husband you must live with his older brother and submit to his every demand so that he will take care of  your family. The bible decrees that meat should be prepared a certain way from clean parts of an animal. The bible claims that God is a murderer (the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus). Do these seem oversimplified? Absolutely. But, Christians, including Phil Robertson, apparently have the ability to pick and choose when the nuances of historical and cultural change apply to ancient texts and when those same words should be taken literally. Based on his logic, all of the following things are the same as homosexuality in God’s eyes:

Eating Bacon

Eating Shrimp

Eating Lobster

Eating Crab (ok you get it)

Masterbation

Anal Sex

Oral Sex

Gambling

Remarriage outside the family

Consuming alcohol

Being rich

All of a sudden I’m feeling like super gay guys. Come on, let’s be serious here. Christians don’t live their lives like they or their beliefs are being persecuted because they aren’t. But, when something hits the newsprint such as this story they are up in arms about how their lifestyle is being infringed upon along with their freedom of speech because of the growing tide of political correctness. Jesus taught about love, tolerance, humility, and caring for your neighbor. How does an unprovoked bigoted attack on homosexuals constitute the way of God? And, if it does, why would you believe in him or worship the teachings that are supposedly infallible that support those hateful conclusions Phil Robertson espoused. Christians in this country are not in the minority, they never have been. Just because they are jealous of the growing support minority groups receive when they are singled out by intolerant Christians doesn’t mean the prescription to cure that situation is to claim persecution. It’s so weak and if your only defense is “read the bible” then ok, do it. You’ll find that no one lives up to this ill-conceived hodgepodge of requirements for Christian life. We live in 2013 and it should be different than 200 B.C. but when our thought processes are so primitive it’s hard to see a marked difference.

Furthermore, something important in the name of tolerance did happen recently. Nelson Mandela’s life is a blueprint for how people of all colors and faiths and orientations can come together for what is progressive and good. Ending apartheid for black South Africans mirrors the fight against true persecution that many have fought and are fighting including homosexuals around the world. Why stifle their efforts by latching on to outdated references that are divisive and bigoted? Madiba spent 27 years in jail for his cause and you are mad because Duck Dynasty has a bad reputation. Ask yourselves, what is persecution? What is tolerance? What is religion’s purpose if it brings about hate instead of love? Next time you order the bacon wrapped scallops and God doesn’t smite you, remember that the bible was a book written a long time ago by people who were very possibly intolerant and misguided. God doesn’t require us to emulate their path of hatred, but instead, we can make the world a better place by fighting hatred with the nonviolent methods Nelson Mandela employed in his heroic campaigns.

I’m Grey on Black Friday

As another Thanksgiving weekend winds down and the stampedes at every Target, WalMart, and Best Buy are slowing to reveal their trampled victims, I’m a bit less in awe of all that is Black Friday than I have been in the past. People camped out for several days, they went without sleep, they devised strategic plans that actually involved them choosing to stand in the bitter cold or in endless lines, but something else happened: the people not participating bitched incessantly. As someone that enjoys doing that when it concerns an ideology or practice I don’t like, I think it’s a bit shallow this time. If you want to put yourself through that Black Friday insanity, that’s fine with  me. If you think taking a week off from work to pitch a tent in your local Best Buy parking lot in order to save 50% on a TV, Ok. But, saddling up your high horse to dispute the tenets of consumerism and preach the merits of a family holiday one day out of the year is truly disappointing. Everything you are saying is legitimate. People shouldn’t care so much about material objects, they should take more time to relax and enjoy the company and fellowship with family, and the advertising cycle that we are confronted with is unfathomable. I concede, I hear you.

However, where is your message when you aren’t a part of a unified front trying to stem the tide against the Thanksgiving night shoppers? My concern is that the message is lost because it’s only being broadcast in a reactionary fashion. Consumerism and our incredibly corrupt economic foundation is egregious but that is just as true the day after Thanksgiving as it is the day after and the one after that. Using the emotional appeal that family is the reason that people should use to supplant their urge to Black Friday shop is fairly weak considering it’s our “family” tradition that requires us to buy every new gadget and toy for one another just to survive the Christmas season which coincidentally begins on Black Friday. I don’t know, I think I’m as sick of the Black Friday bitchers as I am the Black Friday shoppers. Black Friday is just every other day in concentrated form so if we choose to get uncontrollably upset for these amplified reasons that are perceivable every single day then shame on us. We lose our right to complain if it’s just simply a convenient platform from which we pass judgment. I’m not making an argument here, I just noticed more bitterness this year and it made me realize that it is quite detrimental to the underlying point that should be made on Black Friday and every other day. We don’t need smart watches, 10 Christmas gifts, or to have a week of our lives carved out based on a percentage discount, but we also don’t need critics who perpetuate, 364 days a year, the issue that they are criticizing.

NFL Week 12 Picks

Bad bad week last week. 1-3-1. Overall: 28-26-1

Green Bay minus 4.5 v Minnesota: Tolzien has played well and Minnesota’s defense is horrendous. Pack win 34-20

Chicago plus 1.5 at St. Louis: Battle of backup QB’s. Bears run D will have to stop Zac Stacy but Clemens won’t be able to win this game for the Rams. Bears 23-17

New York Giants minus 2.5 v Dallas. Who knows with these matchups but the Giants have won a few in a row and the Cowboys don’t win big games especially not on the road. Giants 31-27

New England plus 2.5 v Denver. Brady won’t lose two primetime games in a row. This one is at home and Denver is a little banged up. Patriots 35-34

New York Jets plus 3.5 at Baltimore. The Jets are terrible on the road but hey, they got blown out last week, so I’m sure they’ll bounce back right? That’s how it has been all season. Jets win 23-14.

NFL Week 11 Picks

Last Week: 3-2 Overall: 27-23

New York Jets minus 1 at Buffalo: Woods and Johnson are both out for Buffalo and Manuel looked bad next week. Jets win 20-17 unless Geno gives it away.

Washington plus 4.5 at Philadelphia: Philly doesn’t win at home. Washington has had a long week with extra time to prepare. They fought back in the second half of the first matchup and the offense last week was fine. Desperation mode brings out a win for the ‘Skins 31-28.

San Francisco plus 3 at New Orleans: The 49ers looked bad at home last week so what better time to go on the road against a team Kaepernick plays well against? Niners behind Kap win 34-31.

Denver minus 7.5 v Kansas City. Primetime game in Denver brings out the best in Peyton. I don’t think this is close. Denver 34-13.

Jacksonville plus 8 v Arizona: Second week in a row I’m going with the Jags but what makes you trust Arizona on the road? Cardinals win 23-17.

5 Songs You Should Listen To (if you want to, you’re allowed to hate them too)

This post is not to overshadow the suggestions/preferences of my fellow bloggers nor is this list meant to discourage the future posting of theirs concerning the vastly divergent topic of musical choice. For me, music has been a part of life from experience at home, performing, and “mirror” concerts that produce a brand of karaoke I wish to keep between myself and the man in the mirror. My mother’s career and education heavily involves music that deals with the preferences of older adults and the correlating genre/era of music they tend to enjoy and remember. My upbringing involved a heavy influence on church and, as a result, I participated in church choir for 14 years. I sang in school, in chorus and in musicals, as influenced by my two older sisters who did the same before me. All five of my family members sing and we have performed in family recitals, weddings, funerals, church, and so on. Growing up with so many talented musicians and especially vocalists I learned from an early age that the art and technique involved with producing music meant nothing if you couldn’t enjoy it or take something away from it. But, most importantly, all I could do with my family was sing and recreate what someone else already had. Loving music is appreciating how unique each of those creations are. Embrace the variety, keep your standards high, give the lyrics the credit that they deserve, and try to appreciate music as an art form not a product. You do not ask Van Gogh why the cloud swirl in Starry Night looks the way it does…I try to approach music the same way. I love these five songs for completely different reasons so that’s exactly why they are all on one list.

1. Alt-J Breezeblocks

2. Billie Holiday-I’ll Be Seeing You

3. Feist-Gatekeeper

4. Fleet Foxes-Montezuma

5. Radiohead-Jigsaw Falling Into Place

NFL Week 10 Picks

Last Week: 4-1 Overall: 24-21

Jacksonville plus 13 at Tennessee. The Jags have lost every game by double digits but hey, if they lose by 10, they cover. Tennessee 24-14

Pittsburgh minus 3 v. Buffalo. E.J. Manuel is back but has been out for several weeks and the Steelers are a desperate team at home. Steelers beat rookie QB’s. Pittsburgh 30-23.

Cincinnati minus 1.5 at Baltimore. Traditionally, the Bengals struggle on the road and Baltimore dominates at home but Baltimore is just bad right now. Ray Rice can’t run and Flacco passes very well to the opposing team. I think the Bengals will have just enough, 20-17.

Carolina plus 6 at San Francisco. This was a tough game to pick but Carolina has a defense now. Newton will make enough plays to keep this one tight. S.F. wins 27-24

Indianapolis minus 9.5 v St. Louis. The Colts are at home coming off of a poor performance and the Rams still don’t have a quarterback. The only way the Colts don’t perform well is if Zac Stacy wins it by himself but he is banged up and questionable. Colts 28-13.