Forward Together, Not One Step Back: Moral Monday Returns To Asheville, NC

Yesterday I attended Asheville’s second Mountain Moral Monday, a movement that started in Raleigh in 2012 in protest of the extremist policies of the NC General Assembly, most of which have been signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory. Early estimates put the number of attendees at about 5,000-6,500 people-down from last year’s 10,000, but an impressive turnout nonetheless.

Mountain Moral Monday in Pack Square, Asheville

Mountain Moral Monday in Pack Square, Asheville

The Moral Monday movement’s organizer and state NAACP chapter president, Reverend William J. Barber, was in attendance. Barber and hundreds of others have been arrested for peaceful protests in Raleigh and vilified by the far right. The Moral Monday movement has been reported on by national outlets and versions of the movement are beginning to spread around the country. A short clip of his speech can be found here. I hope to add the full video when it becomes available.

Yesterday’s rally focused on voter registration and bringing public awareness to the continuing struggle for equality, environmental protection, quality education and support for teachers, immigration reform, and healthcare for all. There were several speakers directly affected by recent legislation: a doctor from a rural community, a single mother, an undocumented immigrant, a teacher, a gay minister who wants to marry her partner…

Those who attended the rally carried signs that addressed issues important to them.

Medical Cannabis Advocates

Medical Cannabis Advocates

Frack Off Gasholes!

Frack Off Gasholes!

 

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Veterans for Peace

Veterans for Peace

Since Republicans won a super-majority in the General Assembly in 2012, NC legislators have succeeded in pushing forward the far-right’s agenda, such as Amendment One-a Constitutional amendment which bars recognition of same-sex marriages. The earned income credit is expiring this year, as are several deductions and exemptions that will result in a higher tax burden for the working poor and the middle class.

In 2016, the new voter ID law will require voters to show a photo ID to vote. Early voting days have already been cut, and several polling locations have been closed, leading to longer lines and more difficulty casting a vote, especially for minorities.

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Legislators have also voted to fast-track fracking and criminalize the disclosure of the chemicals used in the process. This law, the so-called “Energy Modernization Act,” was passed without public notice or time for public comment-a tactic which has become par for the course in NC. 2378

Restrictions on reproductive rights, unemployment and Medicaid cuts, immigration issues, and tax cuts for the rich  may also be added to the laundry list of grievances about which NC voters have become increasingly concerned. North Carolina has become a test lab for all of the regressive policies that tea-party driven politics have wrought.

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For decades, the far right has claimed to be the moral voice of “real” Americans. Their so-called Christian values are the source of their morality and the reason for the positions they take on everything from gay marriage and women’s rights, to their draconian stance on the refugee crisis at our border. But some Republicans are finding the courage to speak out against what they believe are immoral acts by the government. Reverend Barber recently joined forces in Washington, DC with Adam O’Neal, the Republican mayor of Belhaven, NC, who had just walked 300 miles to the capitol to bring awareness to the health care crisis that that has occurred as a direct result of not accepting federal funds for expanded Medicaid. “For me and the mayor, it’s not about partisan politics,” Rev. Barber said. “It’s about what’s right.”

Externalities

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.-Genesis 1:28

An offshore natural gas rig is burning out of control today in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf has seen more than its share of natural disasters, but drill, baby, drill! If and when the fire is extinguished, gas will still continue to spew from the well, ready to ignite again. A relief well must be drilled to intercept the gas flow, which could take weeks. 

By nature we are very arrogant beings. Most of us go through our days fulfilling our own desires. That’s okay, as long as we don’t harm others. But our participation in society as a whole makes us unwitting co-conspirators in the defiling of the earth and the destruction of our environment. I am supporting slave labor in Bangladesh. I am the Hypocrite driving my car everywhere I go, drinking out of a plastic water bottle, shopping at Wal Mart…

Economics and unrestrained capitalism have been elevated to the level of religion. Objectivism and the Virtue of Selfishness are on par with The King James Bible. The strange mix of American Christianity and greed as a moral imperative is in evidence daily on every level of government and politics. It’s God, Guns, and Green. The slide toward fascism is gaining momentum, perpetuated by our own desire to be comfortable. We are numbed by the inanities of daily life.  We are BORED, despite constant stimulation. We are disconnected from nature, from community, and from ourselves. Our 24-hour news tells us nothing new. The increasingly shrill voices from the left and the right makes us plug our ears. 

It makes me tired and depressed to even think about it. What can I do, besides type on a keyboard? My days are filled with repetitive tasks and child-rearing. I eat, sleep, work, and worry….always worry. What kind of world will my children and grandchildren inherit? As far as I can tell, not a better one. 

Forgive my maudlin babble and please watch this video. Perhaps I will have a better attitude tomorrow. 

Traditional Mormon Sexual Purity Lesson Contributed to Captivity, Elizabeth Smart Tells University Audience | Religion Dispatches

We wondered, just like everyone else did: why didn’t Elizabeth Smart run?  There she was, wandering downtown Salt Lake City, right in our midst, the veiled captive of a madman.

But we also recognized something in that paralysis, that deadly quiet. We recognized something of ourselves.

Now, Elizabeth Smart, continuing her elegant and courageous adult self-realization, tells an audience at a Johns Hopkins University event on human trafficking that a very traditional Mormon culture object lesson on sexual purity contributed decisively to the paralysis that kept her a captive.

She recalls that a teacher once held up a chewed up piece of used chewing gum and compared it to a young woman who lost her virginity. And after surviving sexual assault during her captivity, Smart recalls:

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”

Continue Reading Traditional Mormon Sexual Purity Lesson Contributed to Captivity, Elizabeth Smart Tells University Audience | Religion Dispatches.

I don’t know much about Mormon religious teachings on sexuality, but I know a lot about Christian teachings on the matter. I know very well the shame of falling from grace, how worthless and dirty I felt. My purity sacrificed, my honor forever stained…why should I expect a decent man to love me? And it wasn’t just my Christian teachers who instilled that sense of shame. My mother taught me from a young age that my privates were dirty and she teased me mercilessly when I began to mature. Her attitude and ridicule reinforced the teachings of my pastor and teachers that the flesh is evil.

Women are also taught that they are to submit to their husbands, sexually and in all other aspects of their lives. It is only recently that laws have been passed to protect women from being raped by their husbands. The concept is still baffling to some. How can a man rape his own property? Women are blamed for their own victimization.

Dean Saxton, University of Arizona

Dean Saxton, University of Arizona student, thinks women who dress provocatively are “asking for it”

No one deserves rape. No one deserves to be shamed and treated as property. There are so many facets to the problem of sexual abuse. We cannot ignore the fact that religion often plays a role in both creating the problem and in covering it up. The shame instilled in a child when he or she is sexually maturing can create the very monster that we fear. It can also cause an abused child to keep it a secret. Even worse, it can lead to the covering up of the crime itself if and when the abuse comes to light. Many times, the victim is not believed, or is blamed for the abuse. So many of them turn to drugs and alcohol to numb their pain. Often, they continue the cycle by choosing partners who abuse them, because it is all they know or feel they deserve.

I so admire Elizabeth Smart for speaking out on this subject. After all she has been through, she could easily have isolated herself and hidden from the public eye. Instead, she uses her horrific past to help other children who don’t have a voice. She has her own foundation that fights child abuse and exploitation and teaches kids that they have value, no matter what happens to them. 

Idaho Teacher Investigated for saying “VAGINA” In Optional Human Reproduction Science Class

A Dietrich science teacher is being investigated by the state’s professional standards commission after a complaint from parents over his teaching methods.

Tim McDaniel is being investigated after a complaint was filed by a handful of parents who objected to how McDaniel taught the reproductive system, Dietrich Superintendent Neil Hollingshead said.

“It is highly unlikely it would end with his dismissal,” Hollingshead said. “Maybe a letter of reprimand from the school board.”

According to McDaniel, four parents were offended that he explained the biology of an orgasm and included the word “vagina” during his lesson on the human reproductive system in a tenth-grade biology course.

via UPDATED: Full Allegations in Complaint about Dietrich Science Teacher’s Human Reproduction Lesson.

It would be an injustice if this man gets even a letter of reprimand. Reprimanded for using the word vagina during a science class on reproduction? What should he have called it? Vajayjay? Mystical orifice that cannot be named? This is just ridiculous! Is there any wonder about why the region in which he teaches has one of the highest pregnancy rates in the state? 

Human sexuality should NOT be a mystery for teens to figure out on their own. Refusing to even say the WORDS for sex organs fosters shame about those parts and the feelings surrounding them. Sexual desire is normal and healthy. Knowing what’s going on biologically is the first step in making good decisions about sex. 

Growing up, I was kept in the dark about my body and sex. I learned on my own, in secret, feeling ashamed about my curiosity and my feelings. I was taught that sex is dirty and shameful. By extension, I was dirty and shameful for thinking about it. My first sexual experience was awful and demeaning. I was disappointed in myself and could feel the eyes of God on me, judging me almost as harshly as I judged myself. It took a very long time for me to learn to enjoy a healthy sexual relationship, though the lessons I learned when young still affect me. 

I will not allow my own children to live in ignorance and shame. I will be and have been very straightforward about sex and I answer their questions whenever they have them. Teaching them respect for their own bodies and valuing themselves will, I hope, keep them from making poor decisions. If and when they decide to have sex, I will make sure they have access to birth control and are very clear on the risks of pregnancy and STDs. One photo of genital warts is worth a thousand words!

**EDITED to add: Mr. McDaniel has a Facebook petition event online. Visit to show your support!

Sources: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/03/high-school-sex-ed-teacher-being-punished-saying-word-vagina/63617/

http://magicvalley.com/news/local/state-investigates-complaint-about-dietrich-science-teacher-s-human-reproduction/article_47dec69a-963f-11e2-a856-001a4bcf887a.html

No Time For Blogging, Voltaire Says it Better Anyway

voltaireThose who can induce you to believe absurdities can induce you to commit atrocities. (Voltaire)

Thank you, Voltaire, for expressing my feelings about politics, human rights, and war. My time is entirely devoured by work and my obligations as a mom and a caregiver. My husband gave me a gift certificate for a two-hour massage for Christmas. It expires at the end of March, so I have selfishly decided to redeem it this weekend, despite my desire to shed at least ten pounds before allowing a stranger to run her hands over my flesh. I’m barely okay with my husband viewing what childbirth has wreaked upon my poor, abused frame and he is the reason for its state! An option available is the “ashiatsu” massage, in which she uses her feet to relieve pain and tension. On her site she has a picture of herself administering this treatment to a client. The client has a “sumo” covering that is basically a rolled-up towel covering her asscrack. I will probably pass on that treatment. I am the type that gives herself a pedicure BEFORE going to get a pedicure. And if I had the privilege of having a maid, I would clean before she came over. Anyone else have these stupid quirks? And I realize this has nothing to do with Voltaire, but now you have a view into the mind of a woman who likes to ponder the riddles of life and the foibles of men, but must function as a domestic slave in the real world while dealing with personal insecurities. But a little luxury awaits me on Sunday…

BUSTEd can             Surely she will have seen and kneaded far worse!

Turning the Tables: Why Conservative Christianity Bears the Burden of Proof — [D]mergent

Please take time to read an article that really resonated with me. I long ago turned away from Christianity when I began to feel that it was at odds with my interpretation of the teachings of Jesus. The people who professed themselves followers of Christ were more quick to judge and condemn than be paragons of virtue and loving kindness. While many evangelical Christians believe in biblical literalism, it seems the one thing that many don’t take literally are the words of Jesus. The message of love and inclusion, caring for the poor, and turning the other cheek is absent from American evangelical Christianity. Instead, they deny scientific evidence of climate change “because GOD.” Drill, baby drill, because God gave man dominion over the earth. Men were justified in raping their wives because God gave husbands dominion over their wives. Republican Jesus would turn  away from the poor children who wanted to touch his hem, away from lepers who sought his healing touch, away from the very poor whose company he preferred, according to the Bible.

As a child, I attended a very conservative Christian school.There were many things that were deemed “Satanic.” Rock and roll music, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons were “of the devil.” Pretty much everyone, including Episcopalians and Catholics, were going to hell. While it wasn’t exactly as extreme as the Westboro Church, I would say the intensity and fear factor was pretty freaking high. We would read about the flood, the trials of Job, the almost-sacrifice of Abraham’s son, and all the other terrifying stories of the Old Testament one day, then learn about the saving grace of Jesus. I couldn’t logically reconcile the two sides of Christianity.  What I soon noticed was that we were Old Testament Christians. Jesus was someone we had to believe in to be saved, but we lived by Leviticus. Jesus was love, but God was vengeful, angry, and jealous. The messages were pounded into my malleable mind when I was very young. When I went to sleep at night, a terrifying deity watched me carefully for transgressions. 

While conservative candidates must profess their total devotion to Christian ideals, their stated platforms and legislative actions undermine the spirit and intent of Jesus’ teachings. Conservatives have consistently and vociferously condemned homosexuality, women’s reproductive choices, and helping the poor, elderly, and mentally ill. Liberals are “godless,” although most liberal causes are in lockstep with Christ’s teachings. From the article:

What I want to challenge is the persistent and difficult-to-kill assumption that conservatives occupy some kind of religious and ethical high ground, and that any deviation from a particular kind of conservative orthodoxy isn’t merely a matter of interpretation, but is tantamount to initiating hostilities against God, motherhood, and the flag—all of which, interestingly enough, are conflated in some people’s minds. But that’s another article.

The smug certainty with which some conservative religious and political types believe not just that they occupy the side of truth on every issue, but that they occupy the side of God’s truth is alarming—not because they believe these things of themselves so uncritically (self-righteousness is a time-honored religious and political posture on both sides of the ideological divide, after all), but because so many in the culture agree to cede them this authoritative land of milk and honey.

I have recently discovered a group called “red letter Christians,” who take as “gospel” the teachings of Jesus, best represented by his “sermon on the mount,” found in Matthew, chapters one through three. Some of the greatest hits of this sermon include the beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer and the penultimate Golden Rule. This philosophy is echoed through ALL of the major religions of the world from Buddhism to Scientology:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

So simple, yet so profound. And yet, the hardest rule to follow, it would seem. So many things that Republicans are fighting for these days, not least of which is putting guns in the hands of almost every American and waging unending wars all over the world, ensures that our country will be cursed by our own actions. For surely that which we sow, we shall also reap. 9/11 was a harbinger of that terrible harvest. And rather than learn from that horrible day, we have clung ever more desperately to God and guns. We lament the war on Christmas as our sons and daughters die far away from home, fighting a war that we brought upon ourselves. Some return home, minds and bodies broken, finding that they are forgotten as soon as the Purple Heart is pinned to their chests. The pious applaud the degradation of women who struggle to feed their children, deny them contraception and condemn them for wanting to have control over their own bodies. They advocate for the unborn, but would abandon them after birth. The undocumented among us would be left in the street to die rather than give them free care, and the falsely pious would call themselves righteous. Worker protections are slowly eroded, safety nets consistently threatened as more and more families struggle. All these things are justified by the same interpretation of the Bible that caused me to reject all the trappings of religion. 

I feel that perhaps I gave up too soon. Why did I surrender my faith to those who make a mockery of the teachings of Jesus? My own philosophy can be directly attribute to the Red Letters. This is not so easy for fundamentalists in the right wing:

  • I’d like to see a fundamentalist defense from scripture of such policies as cutting taxes for people who already have enough for several lifetimes. How does one “literally” read the prophets or the Gospels and come away thinking that protecting the ability to purchase another yacht or vacation home at the expense of those just struggling to feed their children is something Christians ought to have any stake in?
  • I’d like to see someone defend from scripture fighting for a healthcare system, the chief motivation of which is to figure out ever more ingenious ways to deny coverage to those who can least afford it.
  • I’d like to see a scriptural justification for treating undocumented workers not with Christian hospitality—if not as potential friends and neighbors, then at least as fellow children of God—but as an insidious threat to “our way of life” (in which “our” refers to American and not Christian).
  • I’d like to see how scripture works as a legitimator of arms stockpiling in the service of military adventurism in other countries (see, in particular, Iraq).
  • I’d like to see how the bible comes to the aid of those who would stand idly by while LGBTQ kids endure the dehumanizing and often deadly effects of bullying.
  • I’d like to see how the bible can be put to use defending the belief that our ultimate loyalties to flag and faith are interchangeable, that to have invoked one is ipso facto to have named the other.

via Turning the Tables: Why Conservative Christianity Bears the Burden of Proof — [D]mergent.

These are just a few of the things I too would like to see justified scripturally by those who have hijacked a radical and yes, LIBERAL philosophy. The Red Letters cannot by any stretch of the imagination be used to justify leaving an undocumented immigrant to die in the street for lack of health insurance. They are in direct contradiction to a guns in every hand. Jesus would weep to see a woman forced to bear the child of a rapist, then humiliated for seeking help to feed that child. 

In a court of law, using the Bible as the Rule of Law, and most specifically the words of Jesus upon whose name Christianity is based, I contend that Republican Christianity would be judged  a perversion of the Red Letters. Throughout history, war, violence, persecution, slavery and injustice has been justified by religion. Ancient texts dictate modern policy, but the most transcendent and resonant words are ignored. Isn’t it time to hold these conservative Christians accountable? It is time to stop allowing them to define what it means to be Christian. It is time to force them to justify their cruelty in biblical terms and explain why their version is in direct contradiction to the words of the man for whom their faith is named. 

THE SKY IS FALLING! AMERICA IS DEAD. And other political news…

You guys may think the drama is over, America has spoken. But, no! If the internets and FOX “News” are correct, Obama engineered Hurricane Sandy to make himself look all heroic and shit, just saving him from certain defeat.  New Jersey governor Chris Christie dared to say NICE stuff about Obama and in so doing LOST the election for Romney!  Instead of voting for THIS GUY: 

Grabbed from my Facebook feed

We chose a liberal Muslim from Kenya who hates ‘Merica!

Our first openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, was elected. Tammy Duckworth, who lost her legs in Iraq and dared talk about her service, defeated true hero Joe Walsh to represent Illinois in the House of Representatives. Pot was legalized in Washington and Colorado. Maine, Maryland and Washington has now joined several other states in supporting marriage equality. Claire McCaskill shut that whole Todd Akin thing down and legitimate rape suffered a terrible blow. To some, this spells progress. But to others, it means the end of the world as we know it. My evangelical friends are quoting Bible verses predicting Armageddon. The more militant types are talking REVOLUTION! 

The post-Obamapocalypse hellscape that only Jee-sus can save us from! Look how white his fucking shirt is! Where did he find a surviving dry cleaner to starch and press his shirt?! Ever the elitist.

Beleaguered Christians everywhere are celebrating  lamenting the destruction about to rain down upon an evil nation. They have fought the good fight. They did their best to elect a good cultist Mormon to office to stave off certain doom, but the minions of the Devil were too mighty in this battle. 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-10 (From the KJV: The ONLY “correct” Bible!)

5 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

Everyone’s favorite billionaire, Donald Trump, is trying desperately to warn us. The hoi polloi are destroying AMERICA! WAKE UP and smell the TEA BAGS!

THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY! A democracy is only counting the votes of WEALTHY WHITE LANDOWNERS!

So, this is not over folks. This was not some mere election. This is the future of the human race! Gather your children, get your guns, buy lots of duct tape and hunker down. Jackbooted thugs are around every corner. As my friend pointed out, the Mayans must have been right all along!

Mayanese for “Obama gonna kill you!”