gwynhefar: (great unknown)
I don't usually spend too much time expounding on political or social issues here. This is my journal, and most of what I post is, thus, related to me. So yeah, it'd be hard to read this journal for long without realising that I'm a liberal lesbian pagan geek with mental and physical health issues, but only because those things bleed through when I'm talking about, well, me.

But every now and then, the soapboxes gather. They're tricky things, soapboxes. They like to hide in closets and ambush you at your most unsuspecting.

So here it is.

I complain about America. I do. There are a lot of things about this country and this society that I don't like. I'm a cynical, glass-is-half-empty kinda person. And I've seen far too much social injustice to have a rosy view of our society. People could get the idea that I'm unpatriotic. But I'm not. I complain and I bitch and moan and get cynical *because* I believe in this country. I believe in the ideal of America. I believe in what this country *should* be, and so I am far too frequently disappointed by what it is.

And one of those things I believe in is free speech. Free speech is one of those things everyone says they believe in until they hear something they don't like. And both sides of the political divide are guilty of this. Free speech, *true* free speech, is tough. "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.[*]"

I am a librarian in an academic library at a state university. I am the selector for Biological Sciences, which means I choose which books to buy in that subject area, and I approve the addition of gift books in that area. Yesterday I approved the addition of a book to our collection that was donated by the author. It was a treatise on Creationism. The author has a Ph.D. The book itself was well-written and erudite. The science was a total crock. Personally, I view creationists like those little children who dance up and down with their eyes closed and their fingers in their ears singing "Na na na na, I can't heeear you!" when a parent says something they don't like. But I approved the book anyway.

Why? Because I am a librarian, and this is a library. Free speech means this author can publish his book of fundamentalist religious pseudoscience, and the principles of librarianship means that I cannot, or rather *should* not, censor materials based on my own opinions. I don't agree with a word that is written in that book, but if I had to agree with every book we had in this library it would be a much *much* smaller building. As a librarian, I have to make this person's views as accessible as any other, and trust the students to form their own opinions.

Today, I saw a tweet urging people to report the Westboro Baptist Church's Facebook page for abuse. If you're not familiar with them, these are the "God hates fags" folks, the ones who picket funerals. They are some of the most hate-filled despicable specimens of human beings I have ever been made aware of, and I despise everything they stand for.

But I did not respond to the call to pressure Facebook into taking down their page. Would I like to blot every shred of their existence from the face of this earth? Yes, definitely. Do I have a right to?


The Westboro Baptist Church has as much right to have a Facebook page as the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU, Focus on the Family, the NAACP, and yes, even the KKK. Because that is what free speech is all about. It means that if you want the right to stand up and voice your opinion, you have to allow others to stand up and voice theirs.

Now, excuse me while I go herd this soapbox back to its closet.

EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that the profile pic on the Westboro Baptist Church Facebook page is offensive. It definitely is, and it clearly violates Facebook's terms of service. I support their right to *have* a Facebook page, not their right to the offensive profile pic.

[*]Michael Douglas, "The American President" Great movie. Go watch it.

gwynhefar: (Default)
"But let us remember that at the center of every religion is compassion, love, and forgiveness and at the periphery of every religious tradition is violence, cruelty, and war. Our vocation is to keep the periphery as far from the center as possible, to keep the hijackers of extremism at bay."

--Ira Zepp, Pedagogy of the Heart
gwynhefar: (gay pride)
Here's an interesting article from the New York Times on the High Cost of Being a Gay Couple. Nice to see the financial aspects of same=sex marriage spelled out like that.
gwynhefar: (did you know you could fly?)
There are those moments in every generation . . . the ones that the world looks back on years later and asks 'where were you when . . .' Today was one of those moments.

It occurs to me, that those moments are almost always bad. Let's review, shall we. In my life we have:

Challenger -- 1/28/86 I was only 6 years old. I barely remember it. I don't *think* I saw the event live. I know I did see the footage not long after, but by that time I knew what was going to happen when I watched it. I think that was probably for the best.

Berlin Wall -- 1989-1990 I list this even though it wasn't really a single *event*. I do know that it did not become real to me until I saw the images of the dismantling in 1990. Hey, I was 10 when the border was opened, and I certainly didn't understand all the political maneuvering.

Oklahoma City Bombing -- 4/19/95 I was in high school. I was also a self-absorbed teenager, so I didn't really pay much attention to the larger implications of an act of domestic terrorism. I do know that what really got me was the day care.

Columbine -- 4/20/99 Only 2 days before my 20th birthday. My first thought was that I was thankful to be out of high school. Another was that those kids sounded a lot like me when I was in high school, which scared me, although my response to being an outcast has always been to turn inward and lock myself in my room, never to lash out. But still . . .

9/11 -- 9/11/01 That was the year I'd taken off between undergrad and grad school, and I was working at a credit union. We kept CNN on television in the lobby for people to watch as the waited in line, so it was on while we were all setting up to open. I remember counting out my drawer when I noticed the "Breaking News" heading and the picture of the towers. I stopped to watch just in time to see the second plane hit, although from that angle I hadn't noticed the plane, just the huge fireball. I called to my co-workers and we all stood glued to the TV for most of the day. One of the loan officers had a brother and a sister who both worked close to the towers, and he was unable to get in touch with them until almost closing, so that made it personal for us.

Katrina -- 8/29/05 This was the first one I didn't just watch on the TV. I lived it, and I won't go into detail because I already have many times. Just that there are two moments that stick out in my mind -- sitting on my bed up against the corner of the room with my knees to my chest terrified as the apartment literally shook around me, and that moment of relief after the storm had passed and before we knew that the levees had broken. For that one moment I actually had the thought, 'well that was actually kinda cool'. Then we started hearing about the levees, and 'cool' went out the window.

Virginia Tech Massacre -- 4/16/07 I went into work late that day and the first I heard of this was my mother calling me on my way into work to tell me that my brother was ok. My response was, 'well, why wouldn't he be?'. That's when she told me what had happened. I was pretty much useless at work that day, glued to CNN's webpage as the casualties started coming in. All I could think of was that I was so relieved that my brother hadn't had a class that morning, because he had classes in that building. This one hit so much harder than Columbine because my brother was there and it so easily could have been him.

Gustav -- 9/1/08 Ironically, I slept through the worst of Gustav, so I didn't feel my apartment shaking like in Katrina. By the time I was awake, the worst of the wind had passed. Bored with no power I went to investigate the voices I heard outside and spent most of the rest of the storm in the stairwell alcove of my building with my neighbours watching the trees whip by. Every half an hour or so one of my neighbours ran out to clear the drain in the parkinglot so the water didn't rise above the curb and flood the downstairs apartments. Of course it was the week without power and standing in line for hours just to get ice that was the worst of it.

Which brings us to today -- 1/20/09 Only the second positive thing on my list. Others have already said far better than I what this day means to them, and to history. All I will say is that I cried. And that I have hope.
gwynhefar: (Default)
Ok, this is hysterical!

Robin Williams on Obama Election
gwynhefar: (Louisiana)
Ok, with the final numbers in, my parish (what Louisiana calls a county) did in fact go for Obama (51%-48%) not for McCain like they were reporting last night. This makes me feel much better, ironically -- it certainly didn't make a difference in the whole state, but it's nice to know that I didn't really misjudge my city (although it was still closer than I expected).

Louisiana has 64 parishes. Of those, only 10 went for Obama:

Caddo (where Shreveport is located)
East Baton Rouge (where Baton Rouge, the capital, is located, and where I live)
East Carroll
Orleans (where New Orleans is located)
St. Helena
St. James
St. John the Baptist

Hurrah for the little islands of blue in the sea of red.
gwynhefar: (gay pride)
This is a wonderfully thoughtful and insightful post. Go read it. It'll help, really.
gwynhefar: (did you know you could fly?)
I am so fucking happy right now I simply cannot describe it. I had hope, yes, but I don't think I really *believed* it could happen. One of my hopes my whole life had been to live long enough to see a black President and a female President. I don't think I really believed either could happen before I was 50. Well I got one of them 20 years earlier than I ever dreamed. I am so proud of my country right now, and I'm not sure that is something I have ever felt before. I have felt proud of what my country used to be, of its history and traditions, at times, but never before have I been really proud of what my country is.

Not that we don't have a ways to go. The one shadow in my otherwise brilliant glee is the passing of propositions like the bans on gay marriage in Arizona and Florida (and quite possibly California, although I still have my fingers crossed), and the ban on gay couples adopting in Arkansas. I'm disappointed that my state and even my parish went Republican this time (the first didn't surprise me, but the second did).

On the other hand, I was happy to hear McCain's concession speech. It was gracious and generous, and more like the McCain that I considered voting for way back when. I think it was telling that the poor man had to remonstrate his own people for their much less gracious reactions to the outcome.

And President-elect Obama's speech -- I had tears in my eyes. It was powerful, and beautiful, and one of the most wonderful moments of my life to date. I think I had to be reminded that despite the truly horrendous track-record this country has had during my formative years and early adult life, it has really only been about 20 years since I was old enough to understand what was going on. I must remember that when my mother was born, African-Americans still had to sit at the back of the bus. The Civil Rights Act that outlawed racial and gender discrimination was not passed until she was 9 years old. Now we have an African-American President. Change *can* happen in one person's lifetime. So I now have a new goal. I want to die in a country that I am truly proud to have lived in. I have to believe it is not an impossible dream. We took the first step last night. Yes, we can. Yes, we will.
gwynhefar: (did you know you could fly?)
I will say a lot more tomorrow, I am sure. I just got home from watching the results at I.'s house. I only have two words right now.

Thank you.

I go bed now. I still have to get up for work in 5 hours.
gwynhefar: (defeated)
[ profile] truepenny has a wonderful post, detailing her general feeling about American politics. I agree wholeheartedly. Here is my comment to her post, which ended up being a treatise in and of itself:

Thank you for this post because I have found here an articulation of my opinion that I have never been able to get out clearly on my own. And I *love* the term yellow dog Democrat.

I only vaguely remember the 1984 election - I wanted my mother to vote for Reagan because I'd at least *heard* of him, and I'd never heard of that other guy (hey, I was 5). At the time I didn't even know what Democrat and Republican meant, but it was the last time I had complimentary thoughts about pretty much any Republican. By the 1988 election I was the only person in my 4th grade class (Missouri) who voted for Dukakis in our mock-election and that has sent the tone for the rest of my life. I was too young to vote in the 1992 or 1996 elections, and by 2000 I was living in the South, so I have never felt my vote was anything more than pissing in the wind.

All my life I have seen nothing but America backsliding further and further from what I was taught that America should be. My mother was in grade school during the Civil Rights movement, and while the very fact a struggle was necessary is an embarrassment in the supposed Land of the Free, at least she can look back and say we *won* that one. Or so it seemed. My own formative years have been punctuated by loss after crushing loss and a general return to the 'Good Old Days' of prejudice, fear-mongering, and theocratic sentiment.

Take all the amendments to state constitutions 'defining' marriage as between a man and a woman. Although both the states I have voted in have them, I can at least say I was not living in either state when the vote was passed (Louisiana passed theirs in 2004, the year before I moved here, and South Carolina, where I used to live, passed theirs in 2006, the year after I moved away). Every time the issue comes up, the idealistic child in me gapes in disbelief that so many states could choose to *write into their constitutions* a provision that has *no purpose* other than to deny a portion of the population their *basic rights*. Each time I have stared at the news in shock, the mantra in my head "This can't happen. Not in *America*". And nearly each time I am proven horrifically wrong. Whatever happened to "We find these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal"? I guess that only applies if you're white, male, straight, and a Christian. Well, shucks, I'm 1 out of 4 so I guess I only get a quarter of my rights, huh?

Wow -- this was meant to be a comment and look, it turned into a treatise. I'll have to cross-post this on my own journal :) Anyway, thanks for the inspirational (in a cynical sort of way) post.
gwynhefar: (Louisiana)
It's interesting the things you learn about your state on election day :) Apparently there's a saying that if it rains in New Orleans, Louisiana will go Republican; if it's clear in New Orleans, Louisiana will go Democratic. This is one of those superstitions that actually makes sense -- New Orleans is, and always has been, the Democratic stronghold of the state, and prior to Katrina, it was the state's largest city. Clear weather means more voter turnout - not many are dedicated enough to stand in the rain to vote - and greater voter turnout in New Orleans means a flood of Democratic votes for the state. Of course, post-Katrina this saying may not hold weight any more. The population of New Orleans has gone from almost 455,000 pre-Katrina to 273,000 at latest (2007) count. That's a 40% decrease, a loss that the Democrats can't afford to lose in this state. Of course, not all of them have left the state. Still, state-wide the pre-Katrina population was 4.5 million, and as of 2006 it was estimated at 4.3 million, a loss of 200,000 people, the vast majority coming from the southern parishes, and thus mostly Democratic. In a state that, in the last four elections, has swung evenly between Democrat and Republican, that's a significant enough loss to change the balance of power.

Today is sunny throughout the state. We'll just have to wait and see if New Orleans still has enough oomph to swing the state.

The other amusing thing I overheard was one of my coworkers taking a map of Louisiana and continuing the straight line of the Louisiana/Mississippi border north of New Orleans in a line west across the state. Everything below the line is Louisiana, he said. Everything above the line is South Arkansas. Sounds about right to me :)

I voted!

Nov. 4th, 2008 09:01 am
gwynhefar: (Louisiana)
The polls opened at 6am but I (non-morning person that I am) got there around 7am. The line was only about an hour long, which was better than I was fearing. Now I just get to bite my fingernails until the results are in. I still hold out a flicker of hope that the whole Katrina mess will have Louisianans dissatisfied enough with the Bush administration to vote Democratic, but I won't hold my breath. Pity 2005 wasn't an election year, or even 2006. Three years later the outrage, while not gone entirely, has mellowed. And of course the population of New Orleans, traditionally the liberal headquarters of the state, is vastly diminished. South Louisiana in general (far more liberal in nature than North Louisiana, ironically) has taken quite a beating these past few years, among Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike, and has seen a significant population exodus. We just don't have the numbers anymore to compete with the conservative North. *sigh*

I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Edit: Oh, and for those keeping track of such things I was ballot #93 at my voting place. I arrived around 7am and actually got to the booth around 7:45am
gwynhefar: (Ooops!)
Chaos as YouTube ordered to turn over all user viewing histories

I hope I'm not about to get sued because I watch fan-made music videos utilising clips from tv shows that I'm sure were taken without permission. What kind of idiot judge thought this kind of thing was fair? Talk about your privacy violations. And I don't see any mention of safeguards to ensure that Viacom only uses the information with regard to their own stolen videos.
gwynhefar: (Someone is watching)
Thanks to [ profile] ellen_datlow who brought this to my attention:

Olbermann's Special Comment

Finally *someone* is saying it.
gwynhefar: (Default)
Is it wrong that every time I hear anything about Mike Huckabee all I can think of is Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman in I <3 Huckabees? Don't know what I'll do if he becomes president. Although honestly, having a president I can't help but snicker at isn't something new, and at least with Huckabee it wouldn't be for some thing *he* did.
gwynhefar: (pagan)
This is a great clip about Religious Freedom in America. Far too many people out there just don't get it.
gwynhefar: (louisiana 1927)
So I'm reading another book on Katrina. That's what I get for starting a project like this. Anyway, they're talking about the conference call that was held the day before Katrina hit, in which a hurricane specialist spoke to the President. People have asked how the President could not have known there was the potential for the levees to breach and his people's response has always been that the hurricane specialist talked about the possibility of the levees 'topping' not 'breaching'. The book concedes that the specialist never used the word "breach". It then goes on to say: "But he did speak of inundation, and that ought to have been enough to indicate the deadly nature of the threat."

My first thought on reading this? 'Yeah, but 'inundation' is one o' them big words George W. don't know'

I'm so mean. But probably right.
gwynhefar: (dance)
Read this entry for a well-written perspective on the pro-choice/pro-life debate. For the record, I agree 100% with this woman.
gwynhefar: (pagan)
Happy Lughnasadh/Lammas everyone! Don't know what specifically I'm going to do ritual-wise tonight, but I do know that I'll be eating corn on the cob :)

Saw "An Inconvenient Truth" last night. Nothing in there that I didn't really already know, but some of the graphs and images shown were mind-blowing. In a "I knew it was bad, but I didn't realise it was *that* bad" kind of way. You should all drag everyone you know to go see it.

That's really all I have. Started Wintersmith last night. I love Terry Pratchett, and I've developed a real fondness for Tiffany Aching, so I'm glad to be able to read this one before everyone else :)

I've been having a pattern of insomnia that involves me waking up somewhere between 2am and 3am, and not getting back to sleep until somewhere between 5am and 6am. Since I get up at 6:30 for work, this schedule really sucks.

Also having bad sciatica pain this week. Thus endeth my complaining.


gwynhefar: (Default)

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