The Importance of Protests

This past weekend millions of people around the world took to the streets to protest the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump.  Many on the Trump side called the protesters “sore losers” or for them to “get over it” as they had won.  One called it a “hissy fit” and I saw a post that called it a “tantrum”.  All of these people obviously were just born and forgot how Obama was considered by many to be an illegitimate President.  The “not my President” was in full effect by conservatives, the same ones who say we should “get over it” cause we lost.

But snide comments by me aside, here’s the thing: All Presidents have protesters.  All of them!  The key here is that President Trump drew record crowds, just not where he wanted them.  Do people really not remember all the protesters of the Affordable Care Act?  Do people really not remember that the Tea Party was founded essentially in opposition to Obama.  The Tea Party has moved the Republican Party further to the right, and they were just protesters (with significant backing from conservative groups, but still).

Protests are an important and integral part of our democracy.  Here’s what I think protests in general, and specifically the Women’s March, accomplish:

They allow others to know they are not alone in their beliefs

More than anything the marches on Saturday were about letting women around the country know that all the effort and progress of the last 8 years was not going to be given up without a fight.  If you think women’s rights are not under attack just remember that no one is voting on men’s reproductive choices and whether or not birth control can be covered by health insurance (especially since many are prescribed birth control to regulate other things than births).  Protests let the LGBT community and Muslim Americans know that, “you are not alone”.  It let the world know that America doesn’t stand lockstep with our president.  That is an important message to send.

They give a visual to people in power

People in power or in office do not care what you tweet or post on Facebook.  They don’t really care about your moveon.org petition.  They care about votes.  That’s why it is more effective to call or write an actual letter to your representative.  Likewise, a politician who sees people mobilizing in their district, coming out in droves to speak on an issue (for example, at a town hall about health care), lets that representative know, these are voters and your constituents: you may want to listen.

The same goes for businesses.  They don’t care about a boycott that’s announced on twitter, but if you flood their phones with calls, they will.  If you flood networks with calls to stop showing their ads, they notice.  If you gather thousands of people to march outside of their headquarters, they notice.  One individual can rarely affect change, but thousands, millions, that is a voice that has trouble being silenced.

They can lead to more active participation in politics for regular people

Hopefully the people who marched will heed Obama’s message and get involved.  It can’t end with marching it must be followed up with voting and activism.  It must be followed up with new people running for office to unseat congressmen and senators.  It must be followed up with calls to representative’s offices and floods of mail.  It must be followed up with holding people to account and donating to good causes.  The Tea Party started as an opposition to Obama and the Affordable Care Act, the women’s march should have the same goal: to move Democrats further to the left and hold those accountable who don’t.  To run candidates in the primaries against those candidates who fail liberal values and elect those who will stand for liberal values.  The march is merely the beginning, but it offers hope to those who see the next four years as a roll back of progress.

Protests can do more than this, but these three things are what many hope to accomplish.  I hope to see many more protests, but more than that I hope to see a new wave of liberals running for every office from school board to Governor.

The Linus of the 2nd Amendment

I move to begin calling 2nd Amendment supporters Linus.  Hear me out.

I recently participated in the #cocksnotglocks rally.  I work for the company that supplied the dildos and warehoused others sent from supportive companies.  (Read my company’s stance here) When I first read the story, the day Jessica Jin posted the event, I immediately texted my partner Shannon and we were in touch with her before the weekend was through.  We knew we could supply the dildos and possibly drive a little business our way.  The idea of the protest was to fight absurdity with absurdity. It is absurd to freely walk around (or conceal carry) a weapon that can kill people, but if you carry a dildo out in the open…misdemeanor.  Until the company I work for, Dreamers, overturned the Sex Toy Ban you couldn’t legally sell a dildo, except by the same convoluted logic that head shops sell “water pipes”.  There is a reason all stores, and the industry as a whole, calls them novelties, because we couldn’t (and in most of the country still can’t) call them sex toys.  Marital aids is another popular euphemism.  So this absurd treatment of guns versus dildos is what the protest hoped to show in stark relief.

That point was missed by the majority of gun enthusiasts.

Screenshot_20160829-150358

Most of the responses in various comment sections (when not just being outright idiotic) centered around “why shouldn’t I be able to defend myself” or “good luck defending yourself with a dildo when some maniac begins shooting at your campus”.  Not to mention flat out threatening other people.  #notallgunlovers

This belief that at any moment you could be John McClane and need to defend Nakatomi Plaza is delusional.  I hate to use that word because of the connotations attached to it, but that is literally the definition of delusion: to believe something despite reality contradicting it.  This is the SAFEST TIME IN ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY to live. I encourage you to google that phrase.  Better yet, read Better Angels of our Nature by Steven Pinker.  If you live in the United States you are seriously safe!

from factcheck.org

I’m not saying no one is in danger of dying, but ALL CRIME in the U.S. has decreased.  Almost every type of crime has decreased in Austin, including murder and aggravated assault.  In 2014, there were only 34 murders in Austin, a city that has a little over 900,000 citizens, and only 30 in 2015.  We have a lower murder rate per 100,000 citizens than Houston and way lower than places like Detroit or Baltimore.  So why so scared?

If you are a white male living in Austin you are at a higher risk of dying of nearly anything other than murder.  You have better odds of having a beer with Matthew McConaughey after which he pulls a gun and kills you. Seriously.  Texas Monthly said of Austin in their crime report when referring to how safe it is to live in Austin, “Austin is basically a fairy tale land populated by elves and hobbits..”

You’ll notice a lot of people in comments and in defense of open carry or concealed carry talk about defending themselves.  During the democratic debates Webb made a comment about Obama and Hillary having armed guards.  “Why can’t ordinary citizens defend themselves?” he asked.  Um, maybe because we’re not in constant mortal danger?  Obama and Hillary probably receive death threats on a daily basis, maybe even hourly.  If you are receiving death threats, you probably should carry a gun, or have a bodyguard, too.  That makes sense.  People threatening to kill you or posting your address on the net means your fears are not unfounded.  If you live in Austin and NO ONE has legitimately threatened your life, you have unfounded fears.  The gun makes you feel safe when you are not actually in any danger.

Which brings me to Linus.  You remember that character from Charlie Brown always walking around with the blanket.  Guns are nothing but glorified security blankets.  I’m sure you can point to someone somewhere defending themselves with a gun, but that doesn’t disprove my point.  Just because someone used a gun to defend themselves (and there is no way to know if they even needed the gun), it still doesn’t change the fact that YOUR odds of being in mortal danger have not changed.  We are ridiculously safe right now.  One of my favorite comments about Cocks Not Glocks was this one (which clearly illustrates the delusion of threat)

FB post 1

If someone tries to rob me at gunpoint I’m just going to hand over my wallet (I don’t carry cash and can cancel each card within the hour) and my phone is insured.  Why would I pull a gun and escalate a situation that is already deadly and increase my chances of being shot? Why?

Also, what idiot would try to mug you with people around?  I know muggers aren’t the brainiest people, but still.

Here’s some more of the delusion.

fb post 2That second one is my favorite.  I assume he walks around with a defibrillator (735K heart attacks each year) and oxygen tank (130K stroke deaths).  Reminder murders per year: FBI data for 2014 showed 13K nationwide and again last year in Austin: 30.  You should be defending yourself against red meat rather than rogue gunmen.

Since 2013 there have been 191 campus shootings, but that stat includes every school.  There are 4,409 colleges across the country, 98,706 public schools (k-12) and 33,740 private schools.  That equates 136,855 schools and 77 MILLION students.  Which again, if all those shootings happened last year, as opposed over 3 years, colleges and schools would still be some of the safest places to be.

And I do believe it is true, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.  I, however, believe that is why my tax dollars go to arm the police, FBI, CIA, and Military.  These organizations may not be perfect, but they are made up of other citizens of the United States and if you believe that some random citizen with no training is better than any of the groups I just mentioned, well that’s something to tackle in another blog.

Finally, I know it may not seem like it but I am not anti-gun.  If I had a little more disposable income I might actually own one and go to the range on weekends.  I grew up with guns and was taught to respect the weapon.  I don’t think guns should be banned and I’ve written three different times about how NO ONE WILL EVER BAN GUNS!  But I don’t think they are necessary.  That’s what this entire post has been about.  Just say you like guns and leave it at that.  Stop trying to make the patently false argument that you need it for safety.  Because unless you’re driving the safest car and also have a state of the art alarm system in both your car and house, and have your house outfitted with nearly bullet proof windows, then safety isn’t really what concerns you.

You should also ask yourself, where is this fear coming from?  Why do you need the security blanket?

There is no War on Christians in America

Look religious persecution is a real thing, and it is horrible when it happens.  However, there is no war on Christians in America.  How do I know.  Because I’m an atheist.  The problem is when you are religious you don’t notice all the little religious symbols, phrases, and themes around you.  You can’t see how pervasive things are.  America may not be a “Christian” nation officially, but it pretty much is, just ask a Jew or Muslim when the last time everyone took the day off work for a holiday that represented their faith.  At the University of Texas at Austin Good Friday generally meant a half day of classes.  Don’t see that for other religions.  Sure you can take a religious holiday off of work, but only Christmas is a federal holiday.  Also, try being atheist on Easter.  Seriously, I have to overpay for toilet paper and can’t shop at Best Buy (wait, I don’t shop at Best Buy regularly).

Also, do you realize how many places of worship there are?  I live across the street from a church, and I pass by multiple churches on my way to work.  I have a 15 minute drive and pass at least 4 christian churches.

North Austin Church Map
These are just churches in north Austin.  Every red dot is a church!

My sister once dated a guy who honestly believed that Christians in America were being persecuted.  We began to discuss it briefly in my childhood home, which is LITERALLY a stone’s throw from two churches.  I don’t mean figuratively, I mean I can literally throw a stone and hit two churches.  There is one on my block two houses down from where I lived, and if you go through my back yard and cross the neighboring property, there’s another church.  There are 11K people in my hometown and I know of at least 5 churches I’ve visited and according to churchfinder.com there at 18 Christian Churches (it probably doesn’t list the little revival churches of which there are plenty).  Even without the revival churches that’s still one church for every 600 people.  That map above shows churches in Just North Austin.  Liberal bastion of Texas, Austin! No matter which route I take home, I pass a church.  Even if you ignore the church across the street from me, I couldn’t pick a route home that kept me from passing a church.  If this is Christianity on the run I assume unchecked there would be a church in my home.

Forget Churches, how are people suppressing their religion?  The place where I buy breakfast Kolaches from plays the Christian Music Station.  For a while at the place where I would buy breakfast tacos, the woman would say, “Have a blessed day!”  I doubt she meant Mohammad should bless me.  You can’t run for political office unless you’re Christian.  Some Christians say that these politicians aren’t real Christians, but that doesn’t matter, they still have to lie and say they are to have any chance of winning office.  No President has ever been (openly) atheist.  The recent Republican debate had question that asked what God thinks of tax plans.

Bill O’Reilly and others on FOX claim there is a war on Christmas, but every year people still celebrate Christmas!  And if it is persecution to not acknowledge someone’s religious holiday…then I guess America persecutes Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoist, etc.  If saying Happy Holidays is a war on Christians, then not saying Happy Hanukkah is a war on Jews.  It only follows.  Seriously, the only reason stores are decorated for the holidays is because the “holiday” is Christmas!  Also, if Christians were being persecuted, would they be allowed on television on the highest rated cable news network!

Try being an atheist for a day and see if you can avoid religious symbols.  You can’t.  I have a billboard for a theology degree that I pass every day on my way to work.  That’s some persecution if you can openly advertise for people to become experts in your religion.  I’ve been meaning to start an art project where I photograph all the religious billboards I see in Texas.

Atheist Community Center
Just one atheist center. One.

Frankly, if you think you’re being persecuted and you attend a church every Sunday with hundreds of others, you should really look up the word persecution.  When I drive around on Sunday mornings and pass these churches, they have cops directing traffic to help them exit the church.  They’re not there to protect people but to help ease the traffic caused by churchgoers leaving because there are that many of you!

So, let’s stop with this ridiculous rhetoric and save it for people who are actually persecuted.  There are people in other countries actually dying because of their faith.  There are people in this country who have their property vandalized because of their faith.  Just because someone doesn’t say Merry Christmas to you doesn’t mean you are in the same boat.

What will it take?

I haven’t written in a while, but I haven’t stopped writing in my head.  I guess I just had to get angry enough to feel the need to write and publish.  I like many people watched the video of the cop from McKinney, TX , my home state (Buzzfeed, who broke the story, has great coverage), wrestle a young girl to the ground and then sit on her.  It disgusted me.  As I watched it I knew that those on the right were going to find some way to say this was deserved.  I just hoped I wouldn’t see it since I don’t watch FOX.  I hoped if I had to see it, I would see it being made fun of on the Daily Show, so my anger would be mitigated.  Nope, saw it on my Facebook feed, then saw people who I assumed were intelligent agree with something Breitbart posted.  Seriously, Breitbart.com.  If you follow politics, you know Breitbart is not legitimate journalism.  It’s a right-wing website.  Unashamedly.  It’s anti-choice, anti-climate change, anti-Obama, anti-democrat.  Remember the ACORN “scandal”, with the ridiculously dressed “pimp”, that was Breitbart.  So, of course, they would claim this was justified, and the fault of the black teens. Continue reading “What will it take?”

What our democracy needs is voters

The mid-term elections are over and per tradition the party not in charge of the White House picked up seats.  There will be, I’m certain, lots written about what this means.  What it means to me is, not enough people vote.

I’m from Texas.  A very RED STATE.  Here’s what bothers me, not that Greg Abbott won (though that annoys me to no end), but how few people actually voted for ANYONE!

By the numbers:

  • Population of Texas: 27 million (source)
  • Registered voters:  about 14 million (source)
  • Population who voted for Texas Governor: 4.7 million (source)
  • Number who voted for Greg Abbott: 2.8 million (source)

So what you have is:

  • percentage of Texans who voted for Governor: 17%
  • Percentage of registered voters who voted for Governor: 34%
  • Percentage of registered voters who voted for Greg Abbott: 20%

This is why the vocal minority wins.  Most people favor liberal policies but most people don’t vote.

By the numbers:

  • Percentage of people who believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances: 21% (source)
  • Percentage of Americans who believe gun laws should be made LESS strict: 14% (source)
  • Percentage of Americans who take the Bible literally: 30% (source)
  • Percentage who think government favors the less well off: 26%
  • Percentage who oppose raising the minimum wage: 31%
  • Percentage who think minimum wage should be lower: 13% (source for last 3)

These people are highly motivated to go to the polls, middle of the roaders…not so much.  While there may have been a better than average amount of voter suppression in Texas, it didn’t keep 9 million people from voting.  Apathy did that just fine.