Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spectre of the Gun

Spectre of the GunLike many of you, I have been dismayed and heartsick by what seems to be the cold-blooded murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. I won’t list the details here, but if you don’t know about it, please read this summary of the latest on Mother Jones. (Yes, I realize that Mother Jones is a liberal magazine; however, many of the statements made there and the general timeline of what has been happening is verifiable through other sources, including government records.)

This story is disturbing on multiple levels. First and foremost is that what by all accounts was a decent, loving young man is now denied the chance to make whatever he was going to make of his life. His parents have been denied his company, and that of his future family. It sounds like he was a good kid, and he is dead and gone. That is a tragedy, and anyone who thinks it isn’t is a pig.

Then there is the non-investigation of the shooter and the shooting; the patently obvious racism; Newt’s absurd criticism of President Obama for saying that if he had a son, his son would look like Trayvon (How is that causing racial division? It was a powerful statement, and it was also reaching out to the family. Shut up, Newt.); the incompetence and corruption of the Sanford Police Department; and Geraldo “What Are We Going To Find In This Vault” Rivera, who idiotically claimed that Mr. Martin’s hoodie was a contributing factor in his death. I guess Geraldo applies the same logic to rape victims and tells them that if they’d quit dressing like trollops, they wouldn’t get raped. That is such an offensive and lazy argument, a “blame the victim” mentality, and it’s high time that people stopped using it.

All these things are bothering me greatly, and others have written about them eloquently. What I am going to write about here is America’s strange and unreasoning love affair with the Gun. I’ve written about our strange obsession with guns before, in the wake of the shooting in Arizona that critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Gun suitApparently, those on neighborhood watch are told not to carry weapons or pursue what they decide are suspicious characters. George Zimmerman did both. He was exercising his right to carry a weapon, but can someone please explain to me when we are going to draw the fucking line at people packing heat? What is wrong with us that we have this bizarre cowboy vigilante mentality that we think it’s okay to confront people and shoot them dead? It’s like people have some sort of ridiculous confidence in their gun, that as long as they’re carrying one, they can do whatever they want, and they can just go all Harry Callahan on people and it’s perfectly okay.

It is NOT okay. A gun is not some sort of magical talisman that wards off evil...especially when you pursue the confrontation or provoke one. That is the true thug-like behavior in this tragedy, not Trayvon Martin’s behavior. Yet Martin is dead, and Zimmerman is free...and still free to carry his gun. That is fucked up.

In the short term, a grand jury has been convened to address this shooting. I am hopeful that justice will be done for Trayvon Martin and his family. In the long term, I am hopeful that President Obama, in his second term, will begin to address some of these insanely lax gun laws in our country. He has shown little to no interest in any sort of gun control (despite what those on the right say), but maybe it’s time to revisit that. When you can buy a gun at a garage sale, with no background check and no paperwork, I think we’ve got a problem. I’m also disturbed by the casual disregard for the seriousness of carrying a gun. Have we become so inured by movies and television that we don’t understand the full impact of such a responsibility? Perhaps. But I can separate fact from reality and I understand that life is not a movie. The last thing I want to do is confront anyone and pull a gun on them.

We need a major paradigm shift in this country, and we need to make an effort to get away from this cowboy mentality, this idea that any citizen, upstanding or not,  with a gun is capable of making life and death decisions in a split second. More guns is not the answer. It’s only going to get more kids like Trayvon killed, and that is something we all need to be concerned about.

Listen to me or I’ll sic the Fembots on you.

Machine gun bra

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Come on down!

Sheeba picksWe have our winners for the journal giveaway!

After a fun dinner out with Shane and Matt, we came home and Sheeba reminded us that we needed to take care of business and LIGHT THIS CANDLE!

Well, he didn’t really put it that way, but we knew what he meant.

I got the names all chopped up and into the hat (my leopard print hat...Sheeba approved), and Ken assisted Sheeba in the drawing of two names.

Without further ado, the two winners are [imagine trumpet fanfare in your mind] my Facebook friend Tim Ellis and none other than Cousin Shane! Oddly enough, they both entered the drawing TODAY. Coincidence?? Yes, of course it was coincidence.

Obviously, I already have Cousin Shane’s address (and I will probably just drive five minutes or so and deliver it in person), and I will be contacting Tim via Facebook to find out where to send his journal.

Thanks to everyone for participating, and I hope to do more giveaways in the future!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Freedom of religion or harassment?

Church miceThere has been all kinds of political craziness going on in the past week, some of it frustrating, some of it horrifying, and some of it just so batshit crazy you have to laugh. I’ve about had my fill of talking about Limbo and Palin, I laughed myself silly over Mittens’ newfound love of grits, and I need a break from Santorum’s unrelenting march towards Armageddon, so instead of any of that, I’m going to talk about a current court case that I’m interested in and watching closely.

David Coppedge was a scientist working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which operates at Cal Tech in Pasadena. Coppedge was terminated last year, and JPL maintains that he was part of a large layoff involving about 300 employees. Mr. Coppedge disagrees, and has filed a lawsuit saying that he was treated unfairly and terminated because of his views on religion and intelligent design in particular. (For CNN’s report on it, click here, and for a short piece from MSNBC, click here. They will give you a better grasp of the details.)

From what I can tell, Mr. Coppedge was indeed part of a large layoff, and although I don’t know JPL’s policies on seniority and termination, it seems that there had been problems with him before. Coworkers had complained many times about his discussions (apparently on work time--I think that part is key) with them concerning his religions views. He tried get them to watch videos promoting intelligent design, he debated religious topics with them, and he expressed his support for California’s Prop 8, which would define marriage as between a man and a woman. It seems that he received numerous verbal warnings, and one would presume that he also received written warnings; at the very least, I’m sure his verbal warnings were noted in his file.

Coppedge alleges in his suit that he was wrongfully terminated due to religious discrimination. JPL, of course, denies that, and says that Coppedge is the one who created a hostile work environment for his coworkers.

I suppose this does tie in a bit with the current right winger talk of the Obama Administration’s “war on religion.” This alleged war is complete nonsense, but it speaks to this strange persecution complex that we’re seeing from quite a few far right Christians these days. No one is trying to tell you that you can’t practice your religion in whatever way trips your trigger. Heck, go to church eight days a week if that’s what you need. I’m not stopping you.
No one is stopping you.

But here’s the thing: Mr. Coppedge has his right to his views on religion or on anything else. He can even state them in the workplace if JPL’s policies allow such things (many places do not allow discussion of religious or political topics during work time)...if he does not make others uncomfortable and if he does not use valuable work time to do so. As far as I’m concerned (I’m no lawyer, so I do not know all the technicalities of the law...I’ve heard there are a few, though.), his rights to religious expression stop when others’ rights to a productive and non-hostile workplace are violated. I would imagine that his views on Prop 8 could have made any gay coworkers feel harassed, and his frequent proselytizing would certainly have made me feel harassed. The fact that numerous complaints were filed leads me to believe that this was a chronic problem, and Mr. Coppedge refused to follow his supervisor’s edicts to stop doing this during work time.

If someone kept coming at me about this during work, I would definitely have a problem with it. First, I would say something to them and ask them to stop. (Although it would probably come out more like, “Don’t you have work to do? I sure do, and I think we should both get busy.”) If they didn’t stop, I would definitely go to my manager about it. I would find it disruptive to my concentration and to the work, and frankly, I would find religious proselytizing in the workplace to be inappropriate.

The CNN article states that “Coppedge claims he never forcibly compelled colleagues to accept his idea of intelligent design in the workplace.” Well, obviously you can’t force someone to believe the way you want them to believe; but the constant badgering in trying to get them to believe it is what constitutes harassment. It would be like trying to defend sexual harassment by saying, “Well, I never forcibly compelled her to have sex with me.” Perhaps not, but in the meantime, you probably made her work environment pretty damn miserable, didn’t you?

I’m watching this lawsuit to see what happens. I am genuinely curious to see if Coppedge and his lawyers will manage to convince the judge that he was fired unfairly. Since he was counseled several times on this and did not comply, I honestly don’t see how he can win this lawsuit. To add to the fun, the Discovery Institute, an organization that has tried for years to get intelligent design into the classroom, has taken an interest in the case (although I don’t know if they are committing any legal resources to it), as have other organizations promoting intelligent design and creationism (although I don’t know why I use ‘and,’ because they are one and the same).

This really is not a religious issue. It’s a workplace issue, and it’s about the concept of a healthy work environment for all. Mr. Coppedge did not contribute to a healthy work environment.

End o’ story.