Category Archives: politico

Discussion, Disagreement and Discord

I was raised in a family that was both loving and, at the same time, abusive.  There was physical abuse from my father which left its marks on me, most of which are long in the past and have been healed by the consensual play I've engaged in with Paul and others.  The ones that left the most lasting scars have been my mother's anger.  Disagreements with her were fraught events.  She never argued fairly and would say anything in moments of heated anger, expecting all would be forgotten and forgiven when the moment had passed.

I wasn't like that and would burn inside at the injustice, thinking of what I should have said long after, never feeling good about myself because of the personal attacks.  At the same time, politics and religion could be discussed civilly with disagreements encouraged and fair debate encouraged.  Needless to say, by the time I reached adulthood, disagreements left me feeling frightened.  Even though I would hide that fear and take on issues that mattered to me, I still felt inwardly vulnerable, wanting proof that disagreement wouldn't mean dislike or abuse.  For the first few years after I came out in the scene I avoided all disagreements with anyone in the scene, carefully sidestepping issues.  This was not easy as we were on Usenet, but I knew with regard to spanking I felt too vulnerable, would be too easily hurt.

Yes, I got past it, kind of.  But the discussion this week here and on Indy's site with Ludwig and especially Kaelah has reminded me my childhood is long past.  That one can disagree with passion and civility.  I appreciated their honesty and their thoughts, even while wishing I could convince them to side with me instead.  We're not close friends (really we're more friends of friends) but I didn't feel there was discord or dislike, rather that we were hashing out our positions, looking at the common ground and the disagreements, marking where each point lay and why it was there.

This isn't much of a blog post except to say that's a big deal for me. And I appreciate it.

On Monsters and the Election

stars-and-stripes

From Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman in his blog at the New York Times:

 

[F]or the past 14 years America’s political life has been largely dominated by, well, monsters. Monsters like Tom DeLay, who suggested that the shootings at Columbine happened because schools teach students the theory of evolution. Monsters like Karl Rove, who declared that liberals wanted to offer “therapy and understanding” to terrorists. Monsters like Dick Cheney, who saw 9/11 as an opportunity to start torturing people.

And in our national discourse, we pretended that these monsters were reasonable, respectable people. To point out that the monsters were, in fact, monsters, was “shrill.”
Four years ago it seemed as if the monsters would dominate American politics for a long time to come. But for now, at least, they’ve been banished to the wilderness.

 

Amen.  

 
I smiled this morning at the sight of an American flag and realized it was the first time I’d done so since the horror of Abu Ghraib.
 
Today I’m very proud of my country.  

I voted! Hopefully you did too.

voted-for-obamaHow did I vote? Over a longish period of time while sitting outside Coffee Bean (it was a long mail-in ballot that I carried in in person because I wanted to watch it go into the machine).

Among other things,I voted for Obama (I voted for him in the primary too).  I wish I could find the words to express the emotions that washed over me as I marked my ballot. Maybe later I’ll be able to express it.
Finally, but not in passing, I voted NO on Prop. 4  and No on Prop. 8.  I generally vote “no” on propositions on principle, but I feel very very strongly about the NO vote I cast on Prop. 8.  So much so, I don’t think I could even have a civil conversation with someone who voted “yes.”   The idea of people voting to take civil rights away from other people is obscene and shouldn’t even be legal.  If Obama wins tonight but Prop. 8 passes, I’m afraid my celebration will be bittersweet.
Anyway, hope you got your sticker!

O to be in England…

…and a terrorist.  Apparently there have been new orders made by Home Secretary John Reid.  Reports at TheSpoof.com are that

A total of six individuals are now known to have gone missing while under control orders, which impose a loose form of house arrest on those suspected of involvement with international terrorism.

The home Secretary has issued the next level of control punishment for these ne’re do wells who obviously don’t respond to being told to stay indoors. "I have been left no choice but issue a severe spanking order on these up to no gooders" said Mr. Reid.

The public have been asked to keep an eye out for these men as there aren’t enough policemen to do so, but under no circumstances are they to administer the spanking themselves, any flagellation required, will be carried out under strict police supervision.

Well that’s a relief.  I was wondering how British citizens would cope, what with Abel being out of the country and all.

Home arrest and / or flagellation by the police.  Either way, it beats being held for years on a base in Cuba. 

When Politics Meet Fetish?

Article Three
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any
time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned
persons:

  • (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds,
    mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
  • (b) taking of hostages;
  • (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
  • (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without
    previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording
    all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by
    civilized peoples. (from the Geneva Conventions)

Some of you who’ve read this blog for a while know that it’s not normally quite so focused on kink.  In fact, I began it so I’d have a space to write about politics and feminism and the like.  It’s kind of evolved into being about whatever is going through my head (scary as that thought might be). 

Reading Republican Rep. Christopher Shays’ bizarre comments calling the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse a "sex ring" — abuse that was "more about pornography than torture," I found myself wondering what Shays’ idea of "sex" must be like.  He later "corrected" or expanded on his comments saying,  "[o]f course, the degrading of anyone is torture. We need to deal with it."

Huh?  Can you repeat that again Mr. Shays?  Or then again, maybe not.

I’ve commented in the past that despite my love of role-play, prison and slave scenes aren’t my thing.  But even so, I do understand the attraction because I understand the fantasy of being helpless –of wanting to play a role that gives my partner total power over me.

That’s just it though.  While some writers in newspapers such as The Guardian might argue, as Adele points out here, that playing with images of torture for art (or just pleasure) is disrespectful and degrading to the victims as well as the photographic subjects, to do so (in my opinion) misses what real degradation is, and itself trivializes the reality of torture.   To denounce set-up fashion photographs, dramatic films or consensual BDSM play with the torture that happened at Abu Ghraib seems to be the ultimate dismissal of the real in favor of condemning superficial fictions.

What happened in  Abu Ghraib was torture and, again in my opinion, clearly about power.  There was nothing sexual in the guards actions or the pictures they took humiliating their prisoners.  The Abu Ghraib abuses were about real humiliation inflicted on prisoners who participated only because they feared for their lives.

Calling that sort of behavior a "sex ring" or the pictures resulting from it "pornography" is like condemning a rapist on the grounds that he’s committed adultery.  It trivializes and dismisses the reality of the crime.

Christopher Shays should be ashamed.  Sadly, his history leaves me suspecting he isn’t and that the point of why Abu Ghraib shamed America will forever be lost on him.

No, the blog isn’t dead.

Funny how sometimes these little quizzes get it exactly right.  If pressed, this is pretty much what I’d have said about how I feel about being American just now.  (And before anyone says anything stupid about "going back where I came from" I’d like to point out that I’m a 7th generation Californian and all four of my grandparents were born US citizens and I currently live less than 2 miles from the hospital where I (and all my siblings and mother) was born.  Love or hate me, this is where I came from.)

Though I do love the US, I find the idea of a sacred flag odd to say the least.  What I don’t love is the direction its leaders have been taking.  Let’s just say that for me anyway, Uncle Sam isn’t the problem.

You Are 40% American
America: You don’t love it or want to leave it.
But you wouldn’t mind giving it an extreme make over.
On the 4th of July, you’ll fly a freak flag instead…
And give Uncle Sam (make that Bush) a sucker punch!

Don’t you find it odd to think that it would have been easier for an atheist to be elected President in the late 18th century than it would be now in the early 21st?  I say this not as an atheist, but a semi-practicing Catholic.  As I read more and more work of the American Transcendentalists and their intellectual forebears, I find that thought — that with things they wrote about  religion, Adams and Jefferson couldn’t be elected today– running through my head constantly.  As well as this lovely quotation from Dwight Eisenhower

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels — men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, we may never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.

Well, I wish anyway.  Still, he was writing in the mid 20th century.  Sometimes it does feel like our society moves backward before stepping forward again.

A thought from a Republican

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

—-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, November 8, 1954

Was that only a little over 50 years ago?  Makes me shake my head in wonder.

Who would you call?

Yesterday Paul and I planned to go the Arclight see the film Shi mian mai fu (House of Flying Daggers), a nicely surrealistic martial arts film I’ve been wanting to see.  But as these things go we got stuck in traffic on Sunset and arrived 10 minutes after the film had already started.  As an alternate choice, Paul surprised me and asked if I still wanted to see Hotel Rwanda, a film I’ve wanted to see for several months, but that I thought I’d see alone as it isn’t really his sort of picture.

The film is wonderful in a way — Don Cheadle’s performance is fantastic.  It, the film I mean, suffers a bit through its effort to garner a PG13 rating.  I say suffers because we end up hearing about acts of horrific violence, but we never have that moment of crystalized horror (in contrast to the moment in The Pianist when the father in his wheel chair is thrown from the upper floors by laughing Nazis when his family says he’s unable to leave the apartment).  I’m not big on gore, but I know what happened in Rwanda and feel, despite its desire to raise the consciousness of the West who looked away from the horror when we should have interveined, it inadvertantly filtered a bit too much.

That said, one of the most thought-provoking moments was the scene where Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager and hero of the film, tells the 1000+ people he’s sheltering that they must save themselves, that the West and UN have forsaken them.  He tells them to make calls, to tell people that might be able to help them that if they cannot, that this is goodbye.  The caller and their family will be killed.  I found myself wondering on the ride home what I would do.  Could I help this person who reached out through the phone asking me to save them from death?  Who could I call on their behalf?  I’d try everything, even if I thought my effort was doomed as I suspect most people would.

These thoughts merged into a discussion I’d had earlier about the notion that one life is worth more than all the world.  That the individual life had to matter.  And so, why do I need a phone call?  I haven’t made calls, I knew what went on in Rwanda and, though frustrated at my nation’s inaction, I did nothing more than feel frustrated.  So many died.  Paul Rusesabagina has said repeatedly as he has received humanitarian awards that he only did what he thought he had to do.  He’s also commented that "never again" are the two most misused words of our century.  For indeed, genocide is allowed to happen again and again (witness Sudan) as our leaders discuss whether "genocidal acts" constitute "genocide."

So my question for myself, and for my small circle of readers is were someone to reach out to you/me through the phone begging for your/my help to save their life and you knew you were their only hope, who would you/I call?  Then having throught that and knowing the situation Darfur, why do we wait to be personally asked?

Dealing in death

It’s been a while since I’ve posted thoughts here. Maybe too long since I’ve had thoughts worth sharing. I’ve also gotten far too interested in watching the extras on our Lord of the Rings DVDs and re-reading the trilogy. Perhaps that’s why my first thought in reading an irate rant against today’s decision by the SCOTUS to disallow the execution of minors were this quote from Tolkien:

“Many that live deserve death. And some who die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

There hasn’t been much for me to celebrate politically in the United States for a long time. As anyone reading my blog might imagine, I’ve been a foe of the death penalty since I was a young teenager, arguing against it with my parents. Well, with my mother. My father has always been opposed to it. Though I’ve wandered far afield since my Catholic school days, this opinion of mine that it’s wrong for the state to take a human life, that such deaths are done in my / everyone’s name is definitely an outgrowth of my Catholic roots.

So today I’m celebrating a small victory for justice. Human rather than Texas style.

Oh, and did anyone else notice that all of the 18 states with laws on the books allowing the execution of minors were red? ::gloat::

At least they’re being honest

alberto-gonzalesI have no idea what the source of this is, other than the wonderful bookofdays blog where I found it. It may be a real screen shot (and god I do hope so) or it may be the product of photoshop.
But wherever it came from the picture has had me laughing for the past two days. Sure it’s bitter laughter, but laughter nonetheless. I know a lot of my readers (friends who I’ve begged) are in the uk or Austrailia, but for those of you that are trapped in the US with me, calling or faxing your Senator about filibustering Al would be a good thing.

I may have seemed wishy-washy in my first About Al post but latino or not, I sure don’t want someone who can turn his legal mind to defending torture to be the country’s chief law-enforcement officer. I’m trying to imagine him attacking LAPD abuses or looking into civil rights violations and wondering how he could have any credibility.

Okay, this turned serious. But, as Chris says, the picture is worth a thousand. What I say is maybe the only thing we can do to keep from crying is to laugh.