bigotry

Rand Paul and Offending… Almost Everyone

Rand Paul is a self-proclaimed libertarian, and most of the time, his policy platform reflects this. He’s not a fan of government interference in private lives. He loathes the NSA. He’s far more isolationist than his peers in the race. He favors simplifying the tax code down to a flat rate. And, much to the delight of stoners everywhere, he’s a fan of legalizing marijuana. While many of the GOP contenders shy away from the subject, not wishing to offend traditional members of the base nor isolate Millennials, Rand Paul has no problem standing loud and proud in the name of weed. As the Denver Post reports:

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s trip to Colorado this week includes a first for a presidential candidate: a fundraiser with the marijuana industry.

The Republican is raising money Tuesday at the Cannabis Business Summit in Denver in what an industry trade group is billing as a history making event. “Never before has a major-party presidential candidate held a reception at a cannabis industry event, and NCIA is proud to host Senator Paul,” the National Cannabis Industry Association said in an email promoting the event, which was first reported by Yahoo News.

The minimum donation to attend the Tuesday event is $2,700, according to organizers.

Taylor West, the group’s deputy director, said the private “VIP reception” is designed to let marijuana insiders hear from Paul, who supports legislation to legalize medical marijuana and give the pot industry access to banking.

Paul’s position may be popular with young voters and consistent with a libertarian worldview, but it’s another example of the uncomfortable demographic straddle he’s facing. Scaling back on practices associated with a police state and legalizing marijuana are incredibly appealing to younger voters, but on issues like access to abortion, he’s way out of sync. Apparently when he says small government, he means small enough to fit in my uterus.

And then there are issues where adherence to a libertarian philosophy of governance makes him unpopular with the majority of the electorate on both sides of the aisle. Paul’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality is the perfect example of this. While the rest of the GOP field issued condemnations that ranged from curt to incendiary, Paul had to take it a step further, arguing that the government should get out of the marriage business altogether.

There are certainly good reasons to keep the government out of marriage. After all, preferential treatment in the tax code on the basis of relational status is arbitrary and unfair to those engaged in alternative relationships, and arguably cheapens what marriage is intended to mean. But in his op-ed for Time, Paul manages to offend basically anyone with an opinion on the matter, affirming his support of “traditional” marriage before going on to state:

The government should not prevent people from making contracts but that does not mean that the government must confer a special imprimatur upon a new definition of marriage.

Perhaps the time has come to examine whether or not governmental recognition of marriage is a good idea, for either party.

Talk about stepping in it. For those who oppose marriage equality for religious reasons, Paul’s characterization of marriage as a matter of contract law is an offensive minimization of what they view as a holy union. For those who believe in marriage equality, his steadfast commitment to the whole “marriage is one man and one woman” way of thinking is narrow-minded, antiquated, bigoted. And frankly, when considering historical context, it’s a classic, transparent form of marginalization that dates back to the days of separate but equal — a work around for those who oppose same sex marriage but don’t want to be accused of intolerance. Plus, while it might treat all potential unions the same, it also serves to reinforce class-based privilege. As Amanda Marcotte writes for Slate:

Paul’s plan to privatize marriage rather than share it with gay people is reminiscent of how segregationists reacted to Brown v. Board of Education. Rather than allow their children to go to school with black students, white people throughout the South started private, often religious schools, nicknamed “segregation academies.” It wasn’t just schools, either. As my colleague Jamelle Bouie explained recently, the decline of the public pool is also a symptom of this reactionary urge to privatize an institution rather than share it with people who conservatives consider undesirable. That the same logic is being whipped out by Paul is no big surprise. This is a man who famously opposed the Civil Rights Act that made the “privatize instead of share” goal harder to achieve.

But although this strategy has a lengthy conservative pedigree, it’s hard to imagine it really taking off as a way to shut gay people out of marriage. If the government really did stop issuing standard marriage contracts and couples were forced to write their own contracts, all that would do is make marriage a privilege of those who can afford lawyers. It wouldn’t preserve marriage as a right for straight people—it would just turn it into a benefit for the wealthy.

This is the challenge Paul faces as a Libertarian. When he sticks to his guns, he turns off the Conservative base AND alienates social issue voters on the left. It’s also representative of the dominant problem with Libertarian ideology. While the “hands off” approach to governance is appealing in theory to both small government enthusiasts and “live and let live” progressives, it doesn’t work in reality. Greed guides business. Privatization serves as a proxy for discrimination. Self-interest leaves the most vulnerable among us to fend for themselves on an uneven playing field. We don’t live in Utopia, which is why government intervention is often necessary, if imperfect.

Paul is unlikely to abandon his Libertarian ideals anytime soon. Unfortunately for his presidential bid, that leaves him in a precarious position with the electorate. But who knows? Get the nation stoned enough, and maybe he’s got a chance.

Advertisements

The Confederate Flag Needs the Indiana Treatment

Earlier in 2015, Indiana did a very stupid thing. Despite the rising tide of support for LGBT rights, they passed a law enabling business owners to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, thinly veiled as protection of religious rights. The response was swift. People from around the country exploded in outrage. Municipalities and states indicated they would no longer fund travel to Indiana. Scheduled national conferences threatened to cancel their events. Leaders of major corporations threatened the same, with prominent figures publicly chastising state leadership for their actions.

It didn’t take long for Indiana to backtrack, adding provisions that would protect the same community they had set out to marginalize. Why? Because money talks louder than ideals in this world, unfortunately. It’s not enough for something to be the right thing; there has to be a cost for doing the wrong thing.

In South Carolina last week, we were reminded that there is something very, very wrong with the way racism is tolerated in this country. A young man who had been incredibly vocal regarding his racist worldview ended the lives of nine black parishioners at the historical Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in an attempt to start a “race war.” His views, despite violent rhetoric, had not raised any alarms until it was far too late. The proud bearer of the Confederate Flag had already completed his murderous mission.

In the wake of this brutal attack, South Carolina also did a very stupid thing. Well, arguably, they had been doing said stupid thing for years: flying the Confederate Flag along with Old Glory at their state capitol. With the Stars & Stripes at half mast, the antiquated Battle Flag stood unmoved but by the wind, and people across the nation cried foul. How tone deaf and cruel to fly the symbol that had represented the Charleston shooter’s hatred at full mast while the mourning had only just begun?

In rapid fashion, #takeitdown began to trend. Politicians who had initially come off as ambiguous or defensive on the matter found themselves needing to backtrack as backlash mounted. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley started by dismissing the matter out of hand until she, too, found herself calling for its removal.

Those who wish to see the flag remain present arguments just as transparent as those embraced by proponents of Indiana’s “religious freedom” law. It’s a symbol of heritage, they say. It’s a celebration of history, they say. It’s emblematic of Southern culture, they say.

These arguments are neither new nor persuasive. One need only contemplate whose heritage it celebrates (hint: certainly not that of the Black enslaved lives which prompted its creation) to recognize that this line of reasoning is privileged garbage at best and explicitly, disgustingly racist at worst. The basis of the argument is also ironically incorrect from a historical standpoint, as the prevalence of the Confederate flag technically surged in the 1950’s in response to mandated desegregation — another act of racially charged rebellion in the South. It’s really just bullshit no matter how you slice it. The same folks claiming “Southern Pride” as a justification for embracing the Confederate Flag would be appalled by Germans flying swastikas in the name of historical.

Well, for the most part.

Despite the heat facing South Carolina, though, the take down of the Confederate Flag is far from a sure thing. Its removal would require support from a supermajority in the legislature, and given that politicians are always looking to the next election, this issue gets tricky. 73% of White people in South Carolina — a demographic which makes up more than 68% of the state — want the Rebel Flag to continue to fly. Politicians taking a stand against that big a swath of the electorate would be gambling with their futures.

But revisiting battles earlier this year, let’s remember that money talks. It’s time to give South Carolina the Indiana-treatment.

Boycott South Carolina. Stop traveling there. Cancel those vacation plans today, and tell the venues WHY. Stop giving money to companies with a hub there. End your services with Verizon, skip Denny’s, get your new appliances from anyone other than GE, and tell them all WHY. Hey Angie’s List? Salesforce? Where you at? Seattle? No more travel, alright? Collectively, we can pull the purse strings tight enough to make tolerating a symbol of bigotry as a matter of public policy an untenable position, just as was done with LGBT discrimination in Indiana. It works. And it’s time.

Let’s get it done in South Carolina, but don’t stop there. The Palmetto State is far from the only offender in terms of Confederate imagery. Hell, the Confederate Battle Flag is ON THE STATE FLAG in Mississippi, with other variants present in state flags of Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina. In Maryland, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia and Tennessee, states profit off of the sale of Confederate Flag license plates. Let’s turn up the heat this summer, shall we?

But beyond your wallet, make sure you bring your beliefs with you in the voting booth. Demand that your candidates, at a minimum, oppose the governmental use of the Confederate Flag and vocally indict its personal display. For the record, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum all fail this test. They’ve said it should be up to the people of South Carolina to determine its appropriateness. You know, the people who favor its continued presence at the Capitol. Don’t cast your vote for someone who would tolerate that sort of bigotry. I mean, really, even Mitt Romney got this one right. It’s not that difficult.

It’s not enough to use a hashtag. It’s not enough to be saddened or outraged. Put your money and your vote where your mouth is, because it’s overdue. If you can honestly look at the events of the past two years and say with a straight face that racism is not a current, widespread, urgent problem in this country, you’re either delusional, a liar, or a proponent of racism apologia yourself. The time for tolerating emblems of racism under the guise of culture never really was, but it certainly isn’t today.

We can’t just take it down, folks. We have to take it all down. Even that only scratches the surface of the work to be done in this country on the issue of race, but it’s a start. So let’s begin.

A Mother’s Lament

As a mother, I struggle. I look at my daughter – joyful, smart, strong-willed, independent, opinionated – and I am overcome with equal parts love, pride, and fear. I know other parents get it. You care about that kid so much that you want to give them the world… but then you remember what a scary place that world can be.

I struggle with how to teach my daughter to love her body and herself in a healthy manner.

I try to prioritize physical health and strength. I do my best to demonstrate love of my own body with all its stretchmarks, lumps, and bumps, choking back whispers of shame that stem from a world of photoshopped expectations. But there’s a line, right? How do I teach her to prioritize health without leaning on the language that has propped up those expectations for years?

I dream of a life for her where she feels empowered to own her own sexuality when the time comes, but I don’t want her to hide behind it instead of engaging in emotional connection. I’ve seen the damage associated with placing a high premium on sexual “purity,” and I’ve seen the self-inflicted pain of turning off feelings in the name of sexual expression for principle’s sake. How do I encourage her to embrace her sexuality in the face of headwinds that will push her to put up walls around her feelings for one extreme reason or another?

I want her to view her body as her own without caveat, but I know I need to teach her about the dangers that too often lurk behind a corner or a friendly face and their callous dismissal of that truth. How do I help keep her safe while refusing to plant the seeds of cultural victim blaming?

I worry that I’m teaching her the wrong things without saying a word. Does she notice the time I spend each morning, carefully cultivating the appearance required to precariously balance between professional, frumpy, bitchy, and woman? Is she learning to hold herself to the same standards?

I’m a single mother, and she doesn’t meet the men in my life. I promised myself a long time ago that my personal decisions would not impact her stability, and that she would never view having a man in her life as essential to being “complete.” But is the lack of healthy relationship modeling going to haunt her later?

I look at the statistics and the news reports and the lack of news reports and the bullshit legislation and the jaw dropping court decisions, and I am terrified by the trends that dehumanize my gender to the point that our organs are commodities subject to the regulation of men (and some women) who don’t understand how they work. I am heart-broken and tired. How do I help her to understand why these rights are important, the magnitude of the work that’s been done by those who came before us, and the challenges that are rising ahead of us when these feelings are the last thing I want for her and I don’t have the answers?

I see her fascinated by science, reveling in math, reading voraciously, and am buoyed by her love of learning. How do I encourage her to take pride in her mind and go after whatever her dreams may be, while preparing her for the discrimination and harassment she will face as she makes her way?

I hope to see her grow into a young woman who is unafraid to express herself. I don’t want her to dress or act in a certain way because it’s what’s expected by the world around her, but knowing how the world reacts to such audacious agency, I feel compelled to keep her safe from the cruelty. How can I possibly teach her not to run from herself when I know first hand the kind of pain that comes with running head first into a wall of public opinion?

But I don’t want to raise a self-centered daughter, either. I want her to understand what’s happening in the world around her, and be driven to make it a better place.

As the white mother to a white daughter, I don’t even know where to begin explaining the state of race relations in this country. I want her to understand the bloody sins of our past, the structural discrimination they generated, the state of inequity today, the extent to which we’ve turned a blind eye to the poisoned fruits of our stubborn refusal to acknowledge white privilege. I recently had to correct her when she came home proclaiming Columbus a hero. How in the hell do I undo the continuous whitewashing of American history our schools are designed to reinforce without getting her in trouble with standardized teachers, tests, and administrators?

As the straight mother to a daughter who has yet to express or really explore gender or sexuality (outside of her proclivity for playing the role of badass princess in “Let’s Pretend”), I want her to feel safe to define herself as she sees fit. She’s grown up with a cadre of gay and lesbian “aunts and uncles” from my circle of friends; she doesn’t see a different from their love and hetero love, and I’m grateful for that. But even with the legal system and public sentiment swaying in the direction of equality, there’s still a long road in front of us before people who are not straight and cis have equal footing. How do I send her out to walk her own path and be an ally for those she loves with such hateful battles raging on either side of her?

As someone who manages bipolar disorder on a daily basis, I know the strife and stigma associated with mental illness, and I work hard to break down the assumptions our culture broadcasts about those with diagnoses and not. I am pretty open about my illness with those in my life, though we don’t make a big deal out of it at our house. Mommy takes medication; I don’t hide that. When she asks questions, she’ll get answers. But how do I teach her to understand and empathize with the struggles someone with a mental illness faces when these battles are often buried under the burdens of privacy and shame? Given that she is statistically much more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder at some point, how do I steel her for the antiquated notions about mental health that still prevail as the norm? Hell, before we even get there, how do I prepare a little girl on the autism spectrum to filter the bile that an ignorant society spits out?

As an admittedly privileged mother to a surely privileged daughter, I stand unsure of how to explain privilege and its ramifications. I’ve known poverty, known gender related harassment and discrimination, and mental illness stigma, but I’m not arrogant enough to say I understand the experiences of those who reside at different points in the privilege spectrum, nor can I dismiss that my present circumstances require ongoing reflection to combat inherited privilege. I do my best to listen and learn and use my voice to make a difference when possible, but I am fallible, and sometimes I’m just as much a part of the problem as those I’m trying to reach. I struggle with how to advocate without assuming to speak for a group or hijacking the narrative. How do I teach her to be an ally when I’m not even sure what I’m doing?

As someone who has experienced one of the many possible intersections on the privilege spectrum, I’ve grown to understand that the infinite combinations of personal history and inherent traits create a complex network of unique experiences, all of which provide the context necessary to understand and combat the inequity present in the world around us. The experience of a wealthy or middle-class white woman is not the same as the experience of an impoverished white woman, nor is it the same as that of a black woman, or a Chinese immigrant woman, or a Latino male, or a Muslim practitioner, or a gay indigenous person… the list goes on. Navigating these distinctive experiences to better appreciate and address the culture they combine to create isn’t a simple task, particularly with a cacophony of privileged voices in the background demanding a linear explanation for the chaos they’re a part of sustaining. How do I show her how to see the world in prismatic fashion when black and white are still the trendy colors du jour?

As a mother, I struggle, and I will continue to struggle. None of these questions have easy answers, but one thing is clear: I have to continue to seek them out, because, if we want a less scary world for our kids, it is up to today’s parents to make sure we raise our children to be good, self-aware, socially conscientious people. I love my daughter, and I will gladly wade through the uncertainty and stress and mess of it all because I believe in her… and I know all of our futures depend on her and her peers setting right what we’ve done so wrong for too long.

But for today, I will find strength in her smile and her laugh and her 437,298.5 questions an hour, and find hope in the twinkle of her eye that says we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.