A deer in the headlights

I guess we should be grateful for small mercies in that these backwards, obstructionist, mendacious and pathetic politicians never learn. It’s a form of Darwinism that they keep taking themselves out of the running by speaking and speaking and even more speaking of subjects they are too stupid to realize they are not smart enough to address. 

Pity them a bit. Technology more advanced than a steam engine seams to baffle them.  Politicians, particularly the kind of repressive, oppressive types that embrace magical thinking (what little there is) fear of science and of all things being equal seem unable to grasp a certain basic fundamental of being on a campaign trail. One of which being: What you say can come back to you.

Almost every person evolves a bit during their lifetimes. Experiences and exposure to things change you, or should. So it is okay if a belief changes over time or is tempered by maturity and progression. People may over time come to have a different opinion on some things than they did in the past. The problem arises when those views change swiftly depending upon the environment or venue as in cases where a politician ‘flip-flops’. Or when those views and beliefs in spite of all evidence to the contrary will not evolve or progress beyond what they perceive as the norm in their insular frightened little world.

What the ridiculous samples of humanity, the Akins, Mourdocks and even the Romneys don’t seem to understand is that their statements, once uttered, do not fade away. They haven’t for years upon years. The time of campaigning when aspirants to office stood on the caboose of a train and speechified to a gaggle of miners in Kentucky is long gone. Politicians are not able to say one thing then fire up the boiler, leave the miners in their coal dust and ten miles distant vomit an entirely different set of promises to farmers knowing the disparate groups will never meet and compare notes.

Say one thing, assert another, promise something, dissemble another and millions, not a gathering of a few dozen, will know about it within minutes. They become caught like a deer  in the headlights of a on-rushing truck. The speech to a group of the like-minded will without fail will be shown to the world at large to be regressive, disgusting and exclusionary. Hypocrisy will be revealed, stupidity exposed, guilt under a harsh spotlight. These distinguished public servants are gobsmacked when the waiters at their millionaire’s luncheon spread their vile opinions via the internet. They are stunned when the waiters dare not to be deaf or blind robots but people with feelings and opinions. The politician who belittles more than half the nation in one generalizing sweep cannot comprehend that the message they spew in from of a camera will be seen by everyone who cares to look. In spite of what some media outlets attempt there is no technological or magical filter that ensures the public message reaches only the eyes and ears of the similarly minded.

Their fear of loss of money or power is almost comical. Almost inevitably the politician, shown to what a pathetic specimen they really are then back-pedals, performs an insincere ‘flip-flop’ or worse, reinforces through stupid false pride their previous statements. The system, however flawed, crashes against them hurting them, often fatally where it will cause the most damage. The campaign chest. Money dries up. Next comes influence and support as the other deer not yet foolish enough to make the dash from forest’s edge shrink away from the exposing lights. They bide their time, waiting for the road to clear, not understanding that every time they make the mad run out from cover the car is almost there, racing down the road to meet them.

So it is somewhat good these politicians do not learn from their mistakes. The more they speak the more they are outed and marginalized by the rational population. Eventually even those that do not believe in allowing people to thrive, those that adhere to some disgusting cult of suffering, those who desire nothing more than money and influence and sell principles and people to get it will have to change or pretend to. Each time they spew some ridiculous bigoted or ignorant rant the world reacts by healing and improves by relegating them to irrelevancy. Slowly, steadily, eventually they will fade away to be replaced by better persons who actually believe in liberty and equality.

Discrimination in the workplace

“The Sky Fairy is angered! Hide!”

In between lulls at work the clerks and cashiers, instead of doing prep work or cleaning, often stand around and chat. Eventually, one conversation veered into one of the taboos of workplace interaction: Talking about religion or politics.

Last year a clerk and cashier, who here I will call Cindy and Julie, began trading stories of their brushes with the unseen world. I was kind of half-paying attention while I audited the money of a cash drawer ensuring money coming in and going out balanced.

“I saw a ghost, once, too! It was so weird and scary. Yet somehow, I felt that I was being reassured.” Cindy said.

Julie’s voice became excited. “I know! See, I always forget to clock out for lunch until about a quarter after. Guess when my Grandma died? 15 minutes past two! It’s like she is here telling me something.”

Listening to their exchange caused me to roll my eyes so much I had to recount the cash. Without realizing it I was laughing. It took a few moments but Cindy and Julie realized I was amused by their conversation. They stopped their chat and directed their attentions towards me.

“What’s so funny?” Cindy was sounding defensive. Julie stared angrily.

“You didn’t see any ghosts. There are no such things.” I said, going straight into JREF-mode, still chuckling. Usually when I am exposed to an adult talking about the supernatural as if it were real I’m just kind of sad and disappointed. But today for some reason I found the idea hilarious. I tried to come off as rational and not condescending. I wasn’t very successful at the attempt. When the two repeated that they did see and experience a supernatural event I replied. “No, you didn’t.”

“Are you calling us liars?” Julie demanded. They were both becoming upset. I always have some prepared  statements in the mental file. The argument I put forth was perhaps lacking in tact itself. My mistake was in assuming the pair were open for a debate.

“You are either making it up, making connections where none exist or you are deluded.” I said. “Magic and the supernatural absolutely does not exist. If it did the evidence would be overwhelming. It would be everywhere. No one could dispute it. Without exception it’s all someone’s personal opinion. If it was factual, if it was real it could be recorded and measured in a form other than anecdotal.”

Julie leaned forwards toward me as if to emphasize he words even though we were several work stations apart. “Oh.” She said. Her voice was ripe with scorn. “What are you…an Atheist?”

That’s exactly how she said it. I could actually hear the italics. Total emphasis on the disgust. Yet what I took from it is she just wanted an uncomfortable conversation to end. It did, not because of the attempted put down or because she had an epiphany but because customers started walking up with their groceries to check out. For the rest of the day they both acted chilly and would not talk to me unless they had to.

Cindy let it go by the end of the shift, displaying a cool shoulder towards me probably in a show of solidarity with Julie. Cindy is young and has presumably has access to the internet so there is hope for her. I was over it immediately. But from then on Julie remained stand-offish and treated me like I had the plague. In her job as a manager, the same as I but with her possessing slightly less seniority, she would not address me unless she had no choice. Julie would call an adjacent work station and have them relay requests or instructions. She would not directly interact in person and would move people around to make sure she was a far from me in the row of check stands as possible. Sometimes she would swap 4 or 5 people and their duties around so she would not have to herself personally relieve me for breaks or for shift changes. If she was the designated person in charge of the shift that day I was passed over for opportunities or tasks that traditionally would be mine or excluded from the process of decision-making.

For my part I certainly didn’t hold it against Julie that she was a believer in the Unreal. She was competent at her job and that’s where my concerns ended. Julie was one of the few I worked with who did not adhere to the Culture of Half-Assedness that exists in so many work places. But Julie made it clear she had washed her hands of me. Julie employed a somewhat subtle form of marginalization and discrimination but it was there. It was particularly noticeable when comparing our work relationship as it existed prior to my taking on the role of Ghostbuster.

Julie used to ask my advice on how to perform certain tasks and duties. I was glad to help. She was one of those managers who because of tighter economic times was given minimal training and dropped into the job. It wasn’t her personal failing if she hadn’t been exposed to or given the opportunities others in her position had. Whenever she expressed frustration and not knowing as much about the job as other managers I let her know there is nothing wrong with that, just keep asking questions until you know everything. Something she accepted and I would presume appreciated at least as far as the job went.

In hardly any time at all I went from being a co-worker to The Enemy. If Julie had been in a higher position of authority or had more influence with the upper echelons of management it could have presented me with a problem that could have easily affected my employment. Not from our original conversation about ghosts but due to her trying to force me out of a job solely because I was, in her view, not fit to be around her sort of good people. This discriminatory practice against the non-devout and those with religions not in the mainstream is not rare and in some cases can be quite overt and extreme. Employment can and has been negatively affected. When Julie was transferred to a new work site it was a relief only because her behavior was getting hilariously absurd.  

To this day I don’t know what her personal religious beliefs are. I could hazard a guess based upon her actions and the way I was treated by her but I don’t want to speculate. I require evidence.

Great Scott

The big news in comic books this week is that a character based on the Golden Age Green Lantern,  created by Bill Finger and Martin Nodell in the 1940s, is gay. Pundits and groups have decried the decision to reboot Alan Scott, the old man and spiritual father of the Justice Society as a young gay man as nothing more than a publicity stunt. Maybe it is.

But that’s okay, really. As long as a positive message of diversity, no matter the intent, is disseminated and represented as much as possible then that ultimately helps people and lets them know they are allowed to thrive.

Few comic book companies have avoided presenting gay characters in their books though often they were hesitant or clumsy in their presentation (though not so misguided as much as it was well-meaning as most of the depictions of African-Americans in the comics of the 60s and 70s). Among the current higher profile gay characters are of course Archie’s Kevin, Marvel’s Northstar, who has been out for years and DC’s Batwoman. The latter two being good examples of characters the respective companies have been mostly at a loss since their creation as to how to portray them.

A few groups had issue with the news of Northstar getting married to his long-suffering boyfriend and the re-introduction of Alan Scott as gay. They claimed an agenda on the part of the comic companies and the usual tired old argle-bargle of the negative influence of comics. They have been mostly dismissed and marginalized by those motivated to be vocal about the issue. I’m cynical enough to believe that the only agenda Archie, Marvel and DC have is to make money. It is from the increased national discourse on homosexuality and the demands for equal human rights that companies like DC can comfortably exploit (and I mean that in the best way) sensitive political and cultural issues. That their savvy marketing direction can also positively add to the discourse in however a small way is a benefit.

In the 1970s Marvel  successfully tapped into the sentiment of the young on many hot-button issues, a trend that benefited the bottom line well into the 1980s. From the 1960s through the 1970s DC was the company that had the most precedent, albeit steeped in subtext, in exploring gay issues though this was found mainly in the pages of the various romance titles amd one had to read between the lines and ignore the conclusions to most of the tales to see it. Marvel, however, reveled in being relevant and routinely tackled social issues such as class and race. This was all about what the audience would accept and want. The same company that railed against “The Man” in the 70s was fully behind the institution of authority a decade or so earlier even in the progressive and socially conscious 1960s, when mainstream comic companies adhered to the idea of Camelot and the Cold War.

Both Marvel and DC had comical, if not insulting, missteps along the way concerning homosexuality. Marvel infamously managed to draw a lot of criticism over the stereotypical depiction of sexual predators as being gay in an issue of The Rampaging Hulk magazine. DC most recently appeared to be at loss of what to do with Batwoman after the initial PR interest in her being a lesbian faded. The Golden Age Alan Scott had a son who was a gay superhero/villain but he was rarely utilized and often was often depicted as nothing more than a menacing shadow haunting the headquarters of the JSA. Take that how you will.

DC also missed an opportunity to introduce the first openly gay Green Lantern back in the 1990s. When Kyle Rayner (whom I always thought of as bi-sexual) was injured he sent his ring for safe-keeping back to Earth to his intern Terry, a gay man. My expectation was that Terry would spend the next several issues using the ring, going through a steep learning curve and maybe experiencing some interesting character growth. That didn’t happen. The next issue Kyle reclaimed his ring and continued his adventures as if nothing had happened and it seems DC either dropped the ball or felt they dodged a bullet.               

However progressive a comic book might be it isn’t going to change the world in and of itself. Alan Scott being gay and Northstar getting married won’t change anyone into a homosexual anymore than the Teen Titan Spotlight book featuring Starfire ended Apartheid. What it might do, hopefully will result in, someone feeling better about themselves in spite of what the cranks, superstitious, evil and simply backwards have to say to the contrary. Being gay is not different. Being gay is not evil. Being gay is not wrong. It just is.

Civil Rights Wars: A New Hope

A long time ago

It is MLK Day and an important day it is. Hopefully, everyone took a moment today to reflect what the great man stood for and did something, anything no matter how large or seemingly insignificant to make his dream enter the waking world.

A few notable links:

Progress of the Martin Luther King Memorial from the CBS Early Show.

The official website for the MLK memorial. I donated and got a couple pins. I’d really like a small replication of the “Stone of Hope” statue itself for my dad but they will probably not be made available and I have no idea if they ever will be. I’d really hate to see cheap plaster paperweights of the statue sitting on card tables next to similarly made Statue of Liberty knock offs being hawked by street vendors.

The Speech