The Presidential Election

I’m amused by the grand pageant that is a presidential race. I follow along halfheartedly, thinking of the various personalities as characters on some TV dramedy, and just trying to see where the story goes. There are some I like more than others, and many I truly despise.

That said, I’m not voting. I haven’t in many years.

Now, knowing that any political post is quickly followed up by people saying “Oh, but you’re wrong!”, I’m going to write about this anyway.

The foundation of my decision not to vote is that participation in an election is entrusting one’s authority to make decisions to another party. Voting is giving sanction to the government, telling them by casting a vote I endorse the form of government and its ability to make decisions in my place. Voting is also taking on responsibility for the actions of the government. If I had voted for a senator who voted for the Patriot Act? I’d have given them the authority to do that. Voting is giving away the right to self-determination and taking responsibility for the theft of that right from others.

A further reason for not voting in a presidential race is that the President of the USA is the commander of the military forces of the country. As a pacifist I cannot say, “Oh, I’d like this person to be in charge of the murder of people.” No. I will not choose the person who has access to that little red button. I’ll settle for nothing less than the destruction of that button. I won’t try to choose someone who will use their military might with restraint. That is a sanction of the use of said force AT ALL. I won’t compromise.

Is Dubya a psychopathic warmonger? Yes. Without question.

Was Clinton better?

Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.

Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world.

Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.

I want to explain why I have decided, with the unanimous recommendation of my national security team, to use force in Iraq; why we have acted now; and what we aim to accomplish.

Bill Clinton, December 16, 1998

Sounds like a familiar justification to me. Less psychopathic? Yes. Still evil? Yes.

In keeping with the pacifist reasons for not voting, years ago I came to realize that the central principal of any form of government is violence. There is very little difference between Capitol Hill and the Mafia. Deviate from approved behavior and we are met with thugs threatening or using violence. Refuse to pay for protection (is there a difference between taxes and protection money?) and the thugs are at our door, stealing and brutalizing if we don’t comply. Choosing nicer bosses for the thugs does not change the centrality of violence to government, and sanctioning government by voting is saying that this violence is okay.

I’m not going to offer up my power to make decisions, my power to work for good in the world. I’m not going to say that violence is okay when the majority agrees on who should direct it. No. Not me. I will not vote.

This is why I can't stand Tyra Banks (from touchyourself.org)

I sat down this afternoon to have a bit of lunch and I turned on the television to see what was on. Tyra Banks was on her talk show interviewing an 18 year old porn actress, and that sounds like some good TV to the Gabe.

The girl was discussing her first scene and how it was with a man in his 50s. Tyra was absolutely shocked. Scandalized! The girl continued that it was a fellatio scene (Tyra: “Oral sex?”) and the guy was telling her all the things he wanted to do to her, but that she couldn’t understand what he was saying due to his Italian accent. She looked at him and told him he could punch her in the stomach if he wanted.

Again Tyra with the shock and scandal.

Tyra: “He hit you in the stomach?!”

Porn Girl: “No, he didn’t.”

Tyra: “But you wanted him to?”

They moved on to talk about her limits in what she does, and she said “No children and no animals,” to which Tyra responded, “You have anal sex?”

She answered in the affirmative, and again Tyra started with the shock and scandal, along with a heftier dose of looks of pity toward the girl. Women in the audience were shown with mouths agape, unable to believe that someone would do this sort of work.

Tyra decided she was going to commercial because she “needed a minute to recover from that.”

Go to hell Tyra Banks, you pathetic hypocrite.

She is sitting there making out this girl to be someone deserving of pity and as someone who does things no decent person would do because she sells sex, but this is from someone who built an entire career on selling sex! What, it’s okay to strut around in your underwear turning people on, but it suddenly becomes bad if you touch someone else?

And to make matters worse, when they cut to commercial they showed a promo for tomorrow’s show with Tyra in a low-cut shirt displaying her assets for our approval. The first words out of her mouth were “It’s all about the boobies!” Apparently the show is all about how best to show off tits and ass.

All these shocked and dismayed looking women want to be sexual creatures, but when they encounter someone who puts that into practice in a way outside of their experience they they’re belittled and treated like a charity case! On one show you want to treat sex like something to be ashamed of and to be hidden and surely not something to be done for money! Then the next show you want to show people how to spend money so that they can be sexualized more easily.

Do you not see the disconnect here?

This is why I can’t stand Tyra Banks.

Hierarchy, Scarcity, Beauty and Love (from touchyourself.org)

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. My last semester of undergrad work, and probably my last semester of college overall, has just gotten underway and I’ve been getting back into the swing of things with school. I walk a lot, and the past couple of days I’ve been listening to the audio version of Crimethinc‘s manifesto, Days of War, Nights of Love (buy the book or download the audio) and the discussion on capitalism, competition and a scarcity economy sent me off on a tangent. The authors write:

The truth is that there are simply not enough job openings for everyone to be a rock star or a syndicated cartoonist; somebody has to work in the factories to mass produce the records and newspapers. If you don’t become the next world-famous basketball star, and end up selling athletic shoes in a mall instead you must not have tried hard enough… so it’s your fault if you’re bored there, right? … Rather than all competing to be the one at the top of the corporate ladder or the one in a million lottery winner, we should be trying to figure out how to make it possible for all of us to do what we want with our lives… Thus capitalism centers everyone’s values around what the have rather than what they do, by making them spend their lives competing for the things they need to survive and achieve social standing.

In so much we do we take on the mindset that “there’s only so much X to go around, so I have to get the most I can. I have to get as close to the top of the hierarchy as possible, or else someone else will get more and use it against me.” It’s a competition and scarcity-economy based mindset. Living in a capitalist and materialist society where “stuff” is the primary god and “stuff” is finite, it is easy to see why this mindset is in place. When worth is determined by hierarchical status and acquisition of “goods” (how good are they?) then the competitive drive is what pushes you toward survival and beyond to comfort. As much as I dislike it, I can understand why such a view of the world can be beneficial within our system.

But so often we don’t limit the hierarchical/scarcity worldview to the realms of material possessions. It bleeds over into abstract concepts and emotions. You love Jim, so you can’t love Jane. That would displace Jim from his place in the hierarchy and take away the finite amount of love he gets. I don’t think anyone really believes love is finite, but when it comes to sharing love beyond the elevation of the single person to status of lover, then the hierarchical/scarcity mindset automatically kicks in. Fear takes over and there is a scramble to stop this loss of the good of love and maintain the place at the top of the love hierarchy.

It’s asinine.

And of course it doesn’t stop there. I remember telling one of my friends how physically beautiful she was to me, and she was flattered, even though she did not trust in her own beauty. Over time she became aware that I find extraordinary amounts of beauty in extraordinary amounts of people. When we came back to the topic of my finding her beautiful she remarked that it meant very little since I thought so many people were beautiful. By finding X, Y and Z beautiful, I was taking away from the amount of beauty L had, at least in her eyes. Beauty is valued, and since we are so conditioned to think hierarchically then the one who is beautiful is at the top of the beauty pyramid. When the definition of beauty, or rather, the recognition of beauty is expanded, then there is no pyramid to be on top of. In the hierarchical/scarcity mindset, this devalues the beauty of any one person by not making it the pinnacle of beauty. To this way of thinking, something is only valuable because of its rarity.

Love is valuable because it is.

Beauty is valuable because it is.

Neither can be ranked. Neither is finite! As long as we keep applying this pyramid scheme to things outside our economy all we will do is hurt ourselves and damage each others self-worth.

Come to think of it, that’s what we do when we apply it within our economy as well.

Real, fake and Grace (from touchyourself.org)

Listening to this week’s crossovers between Melissa Gira’s Whorecast #11 and Ellie Lumpesse’s Bedroom Radio #9 was quite an experience. Ellie’s little break in Whorecast was lots of fun, a bit of levity in an otherwise heavy podcast. And Ellie’s reaction to the clip of Whorecast she played was certainly powerful. Though Ellie apologized to her listeners for what she thought was an unprofessional show, I found her honest, emotional reaction to Melissa’s words did nothing but pull me in and make me love her that much more.

Melissa was discussing the idea of real vs. fake, particularly in the sex industry. She pointed out something many of us are guilty of; we look at the people on stage, on screen or wherever as somehow not real. We see bleached hair, augmented breasts, french manicures (see, even writing this I have to consciously not type “fake tits and nails”) as signifying that the person with those characteristics is somehow fake themselves, she’s not a real woman, not a real person.

As a guy who is primarily attracted to darker-haired, thicker women I know I’ve been guilty of referring to those women as “real women” over the Barbie-Doll looking women that are so often in porn. Melissa points out quite rightly that this view of them as less-then-real is the first step toward dehumanizing them, saying that they don’t matter. I can’t argue with that, and being so directly confronted with my own prejudices and the effects they can have was a sobering moment.

This is going to be something I’ll have to work on.

I think so many of us were force-fed this ideal of beauty and sexiness that when it didn’t fit with our own senses of beauty and sexiness that we rebelled not against the ideal, but lash out at those who fit or are attracted to that ideal. That’s ridiculous and puts us in no better position than those who tried to enforce their own ideals. No, women with wide hips and meaty thighs are not more woman than those with flat tummies and saline breast implants.

People have blamed the Barbie ideal for self-esteem issues girl’s face. The problem is not the ideal, but that it’s presented as the ideal and not an ideal. Perhaps if we were willing to accept that people have different ideals of beauty and desirability we could stop demonizing those who either do or do not fit it.

But there I go saying what “We” should do. No. I need to focus on what I should do.

It’s tough to see each person I encounter as a valuable, autonomous, whole person. When I start adding in ideas of real and fake people, that’s only going to make it harder.

I’m in the process of reading If God Is Love by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland. It’s a phenomenal book about how Grace can and should effect those who accept its power. The authors’ first book, If Grace is True laid out their beliefs about universal salvation, that there is no eternal damnation for those who don’t follow the right theology. The second book shows how that belief, that there is no eternal “other” among our fellow humans, changed the way they interact with others. It forces them to see everyone as equally valuable and to remain open to their experiences as equally valid, and perhaps more valid. It’s a difficult way to live, yet it’s one that is most in line with the teachings of Jesus. It’s a life of grace, our own and God’s. If no one can be written off because they are going to hell, rejecting God, living in sin or in some other way being “other” then many from the Christian tradition have to reevaluate they way they interact with everyone

Reading the book I was able to see my own failings as well as those of the authors. They wrote:

Having said all that, there are occupations we should probably abandon. Work that inherently diminishes our worth or the worth of others should be avoided. I encouraged the woman in our church who was dancing in a club to seek other employment. I’ve also asked people employed in manufacturing bombs and tanks to reconsider their vocation.

Here the authors state that both dancing or stripping and building bombs are inherently demeaning. Okay, my own prejudices lead me to agree with the bomb-building portion. There’s no gracious way to kill people, especially en masse. But is it so shocking to think that people working in the sex industry can be in the business of building people up and not tearing them down?

I’ve known people with major esteem issues who danced and for whom the experience was probably harmful overall, but dancing is not inherently degrading any more than being a janitor is. And believe me, I’ve had years of experience in janitoring. Even in churches (which I will never, EVER do again). The authors even go on to discuss Henri Nouwen cleaning the toilets of the retreat where he lived and worked as an example of living graciously in a seemingly ungracious environment.

Perhaps it would do the authors well to listen to Melissa’s latest podcast and hear her talk from the frontlines about what is real and where emotional connections can be made and how people connect with one another on so many levels, including in the sex industry. Can grace be shown by a peep-show girl? Obviously so. You can hear it in her voice as she records her show from work.

And then perhaps the authors of the otherwise outstanding book can ask themselves what effect writing off an entire industry as degrading can have? Who can that demonize and turn into the “other?” What does viewing the sex industry as inherently diminishing worth do to people’s view of those within it? Can it make it easier to not confront issues like safety and health care for those involved? If the industry is somehow inherently flawed, does that make it easier to resist organization of the workers for their own betterment? I would say probably so.

So, readers, help me out here. If you notice me saying someone or some grouping is somehow not real or less real than another, call me on it.