Sunday, October 5, 2008

Putting the "fun" back in fundamentalism.

I don't quite know how we got here, but if I hear the word "fundamental" one more time, I'm going to buy thesauri and mail them to each candidate.

Perhaps it's just due to Obama's "Change" platform combined with McCain's "maverick" reputation. But there has been an intense focus on a "fundamental change" in Washington. 

I'm not complaining about that. Actually, I rather enjoy the fact that the election campaigns have been about something deeper and more abstract than just tax cuts/Iraq/health care/abortion. This "fundamental change" encompasses more than what Congress writes on paper-- it is a manifestation of the current identity crisis affecting Americans as a whole. And I appreciate that the campaigns recognize this, even if they aren't effective at talking/debating on that level.

It's the cavalier attitude towards the word "fundamental" that irks me. After 9/11, the word "fundamental" was consistently branded with Islamic radicals, and essentially became a euphemism for "terrorist." Because the word is still familiar, and perhaps in part due to McCain's use of it immediately preceding the financial crisis, it is in heavy rotation with regards to our own beliefs. I don't necessarily think it is out of context, and I can embrace the successful re-branding of the word in the public consciousness, but I am quite thoroughly sick of hearing it.

This focus on our national identity and how it affects our decisions and laws makes for a pretty heavy election. I feel quite energized by the fact that this has finally come to the forefront, and I think this makes all of us look at ourselves and question our focus.

Which is why it is all the more insulting when the campaigns go out of their way to bring this heady intellectualism down to the people. The constant references to the Wall Street/Main Street dichotomy and the actual use of "Joe Sixpack" just pulls the rug out from under those of us who had faith that we were being treated like thinking adults. If this election is really about choosing our future as Americans (Do we use our fists or our words?), why are we being spoken to in the most narrow of terms (How much will taxes be? Will health care get more expensive?)? Concrete facts and figures are good to establish credibility and help bolster a platform, but should be used as evidence, not as argument. For all that we the people are currently trying to do to get beyond class warfare and partisanship, the candidates certainly aren't taking the first step forward.

Don't they realize that we are capable of thinking outside the box? That people who want to take home more of their paycheck understand the concept of being a "fiscal conservative?" That people who think we need to expand social security and medicare know these programs cost money, which comes out of their pockets? This is not to say that anyone is in favor of government waste-- which is an area requiring attention regardless of who ends up as President-- but that we realize the full scope of the words "fundamental issues." 

Our national identity crisis is a perfect opportunity to re-evaluate who we are and what we want this country to be-- and we've demonstrated how crucial this election will be. We don't just want a President who is your average person. We're crying for a leader, someone who is able to embrace a new mission statement, and all we're getting in return is condescension.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Don't ask me, I'm just a girl!

Of course, I must comment on Thursday night's debate. And Sarah Palin was actually successful-- in making me miss Hillary Clinton.

I have always been steadfastly in the "I don't trust Hillary" camp, but on Thursday night I realized how much she has done (and could still do) for the idea of Woman, and how thoroughly she was derided for it.

She was blasted for being a ball-breaker, made the subject of many sexual/sexist jokes, and generally portrayed as an ice queen. This is partly due to her political slickness, but also because she never toed the societal line and just acted like a woman.

Sarah Palin's performance on Thursday wasn't the fantastic failure I was hoping for, so much as it was a perfect curtsey. She stuck to the script and carried it out, but did not dare to break form and actually be her own person.

Her cutesy, submissive yet scolding tone was completely insulting. Perhaps that is how they debate in PTA meetings, but this was the real thing: a debate between two mature adults on serious issues. Rather than actually forget about gender roles for a moment, she made a sexist mockery of herself and thus undermined her own attempt to prove her leadership abilities.

There are several possible factors contributing to this, and I do not think any one specifically contributed to her behavior. Rather, I think of it more as a Perfect Storm:
  • she turned the Folksy dial up to 11 in order to play well with her fan base
  • intimidation-- it's easier to couch disagreement in cuteness rather than actually confront someone, demonstrating that she does not have command of the actual facts nor is she used to debating
  • the Mom factor-- makes decisions without accountability. Remember the universal Mother defense: Because I said so. The Mom factor gives the appearance of power without actually giving power, and thus is actually a submissive stance.
That might just be the way she is as well.

Rather than spoil her darling image, she did not actually rise to the occasion and give a debate. By debating, she could come off as too fierce and thus unfeminine (Hillary nutcracker anyone? On sale!), destroying the Republican attempts to brand her differently from Clinton. Women are allowed to be ambitious, but only allowed to play defense. And if there's one thing you can say about Hillary, it's that she played offense.

Now let's forget all our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Vegas odds favor Church over State

Two Constitutional sticking points have been recurring in my consciousness lately:

1. Sarah Palin's defense of religious freedom in response to Katie Couric's question during the recent interview. She recites the "separation of church and state" clause and then merely rephrases it in clumsy Palin-speak. She points to Thomas Jefferson's statement, "Never underestimate the wisdom of the people," as his defense against government-mandated religious practice. However, she neglected to comment on the people (or at least some of them) trying to mandate religious practice on the government. Maybe I'm just bitter, but the people are not always wise.

2. I was skimming through Thomas Paine's Rights of Man and came upon a wonderful quote that I regret not writing down. In short, the laws (of England, in this instance) had been in successful practice for hundreds of years, but were not written in stone-- nor should they be. As I read this, I immediately thought of the Second Amendment people who are stuck on "strict interpretation" yet love to cite contemporary authors as evidence. If Paine spoke out against strict interpretation then, I can only imagine what he'd think of the current state of politics. WWTPD?

3. And in a tidy fusion of the two, why is it okay to strictly interpret the Second Amendment while getting creative with the first one? 

Friday, September 26, 2008

And now for something completely different

As much as I try to keep this blog on a feminist path, I simply cannot resist commenting on something else. 

I'd been exposed to the word "flexitarian" several years ago, but merely brushed it off as some sort of clever joke. However, I have recently discovered that "flexitarianism" is not a joke. There is a group of people who actually describe themselves as "vegetarians who sometimes eat meat." This was most recently brought to my attention by the recent publication of a "flexitarian" cookbook (not the only one of its genre in existence). 

Once I was able to wrap my brain around this situation, I began fuming. 

Allow me to begin my diatribe by stating that, yes, I am a vegan-- but I am adamantly opposed to proselytizing. The decision to eat or not to eat meat is completely personal, and your diet is your prerogative. I take umbrage with the word "flexitarian" for lexicographical reasons.

A simple syllogism demonstrates the crux of my argument:
Omnivores eat both vegetables and meat.
Vegetarians eat vegetables, but not meat.
Therefore, someone who mostly eats vegetables but also eats meat is an omnivore.

This might distill the definitions down a bit much for some people. However, regardless of the reasons or frequency which someone may eat meat, the fact remains that they still eat meat-- thus making them omnivores. While there are many shades of vegetarianism, the difference between omnivores and vegetarians is a very clear line in the sand: meat versus meat-less.

On the same point, there are many shades of omnivore: people who avoid red meat, people who hate fish, people eat only fish, people who hate turkey but not chicken, etc. This is all personal preference, not precursor to a food movement. But they all still eat some form of meat, be it one animal or a variety of animals.

"Flexitarians" seem to avoid eating meat for health reasons, and not ethical reasons. I have no problem with this idea; if you acknowledge that eating meat is unhealthy, then there is no reason that you should eat meat. But if you just can't avoid eating pot roast at Grandma's or having turkey on Thanksgiving, by all means have a plate-- just remember that you're an omnivore.

On an abstract level, this implies that "flexitarians" feel the need to set themselves apart. They're trying to define themselves as a select group, without having any differences from the majority. 

The most amazing thing is that this has been officially recognized and become part of the public consciousness, with a number of media profiles and scientific endorsement. I am not saying that this is unhealthy or wrong, I am just saying that this is PR-style re-branding in hyperdrive. ("They've gone plaid!") The hip new healthy diet is... what you've always been eating. We just wanted to update our stodgy image to appeal to a new demographic.

It's amazing how we allow the term vegetarian to include eating meat, but omnivores aren't allowed to prefer vegetarian dishes.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

HSUS, you've just made the list!

In a shocking move, the Humane Society of the United States has just endorsed the Obama/Biden ticket.

What's even better is that they're doing so mainly because of Sarah Palin, as I discovered when I read my email today:

"While McCain's positions on animal protection have been lukewarm, his choice of running mate cemented our decision to oppose his ticket."

The HSUS is not an extremist organization by any means. They aren't PETA or Greenpeace, shooting at whalers or freeing lab rats from universities. They are very much a "work for change within the system" organization. And as they point out, "we've endorsed hundreds of congressional candidates for election, both Democrats and Republicans, we've never before endorsed a presidential candidate. We have members on the left, in the center, and on the right, and we knew it could be controversial to choose either party's candidate for the top office in the nation."

(NARAL has also recently executed a similarly uncharacteristic move, endorsing Obama after abstaining from presidential endorsements for 24 years. Granted, NARAL's decision was made before the VP nominations, but they certainly don't put a lot of faith in Gov. Palin.)

Several other non-"ecoterrorist" organizations are also backing Obama: The Sierra Club and The League of Conservation Voters. The Audubon Society is firmly sitting on the fence, according to a number of articles published in their magazine-- while Obama has done a lot for the environment in his short tenure, McCain has a history of Roosevelt-style conservation politics (see The National Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy have not taken sides either, but the NWF does provide a brief but nice side-by-side Q&A on environmental issues (

None of the above organizations have made mention of their feelings toward Sarah Palin-- although pretty much all of them (The Audubon Society in particular) have tangled with her over various wildlife and conservation issues.

Monday, September 22, 2008

--but don't take my word for it!

It's always sad when people don't do their homework.

Allow me a shout-out to Jonathan Trapp of the Concerned Women for America.

In my ever-increasing meanderings on the internet, I had the misfortune to come across this delightful group, who intend to "protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens-- first through prayer, then education, and finally by influencing our society, thereby reversing the decline in moral values in our nation." 

Sounds like a nice, tidy plan for world domination. Let's just hope that Pinky doesn't screw things up once again.

I admittedly did not poke around the site much, because I was distracted by this gem:

"The United States of America was founded with the intention that men could not be forced by the government to believe in a particular faith or worship in a particular manner. Indeed, the very reason the pilgrims sailed to the new lands was to find a place where their religious liberty would be protected. This founding principle was integrated into the language of the First Amendment to the Constitution and has remained a staple of freedom.

But now, religious liberty is being encroached upon. Decisions like the one in California (in Re Marriage Cases) infringe upon religious liberty because they mandate that priests, pastors, clerks to the court, and all other positions that perform marriage ceremonies are obligated to marry same-sex couples, even though the individual disagrees with the practice."

The editorial continues from there, however does not offer any more compelling evidence to support the thesis of religious persecution. (For those interested, it can be found at If you don't come back, we'll avenge your death!)

Something that never ceases to amaze me is the blatant ignorance of the pesky differences between legal and religious marriage. And this is ignorance in action.

The California law deals with--one guess!-- legal marriage.

But that would take some sort of mind-reading skill to learn, right?

If it pleases the court, I'd like to bring your attention to Document A, the California ruling Re Marriage Cases. Granted, this took skimming through over one hundred pages of legalese to find, and that's time that you, Jonathan Trapp, just don't have-- but never fear because I found the pertinent passage for you!

"--affording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs." (p117)

(The full document can be found at It's actually quite interesting-- very comprehensive and lively.)

Is it wrong of me to gloat like this?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bad hockey moms aren't born; they're created.

Perhaps, as someone who works in the animal care field, I'm a bit more sensitive to this issue than most-- but what exactly does the infamous "lipstick on a pit bull" joke mean?

Is it to mean that hockey moms, like pit bulls, have a bad reputation and are the subject of legislation (banning, public muzzling)?

Is it that hockey moms are a group which is commonly abused?

Unfortunately, the joke only functions on a plane of pure stereotype. Hockey moms are protective and aggressive; pit bulls are protective and aggressive; wow, the only difference really is lipstick!

All metaphor aside, do we really want the stereotypical hockey mom/pit bull representing the country in the international arena?

(wavy dream sequence lines)

Various world leaders are gathered around a table. The room is tense, as though we are coming in on the middle of an heated debate.

No, I really don't think that's what we want to do at all.

(jumps up, pumps fist in air, hooting)
Oh yeah!! That's what I'm talking about!! Take that!!!


I mean, these hockey/soccer/baseball/football/basketball/miscellaneous-peewee-sport moms are the ones who often have to attend anger management counseling in order to attend their own child's games, correct? They're also the ones who publicly supernova at said games, beating another parent or coach senseless, right?

And what if we as a country don't measure up to her standards? Will it turn into Mommy Dearest?

Unfortunately, the ones hurt the most in this are pit bulls, whose bad rap has once again surfaced in the public consciousness.