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.


I, too, am a feminist

Hopefully you’ve already seen this.  A couple days ago Emma Watson addressed the United Nations on the issue of gender inequality.  Well worth the watch, so I’ll wait.


I readily describe myself as a feminist, in much the same way I’ll not back down from describing myself as a liberal.  For me feminism is quite simple, to quote Joss Whedon, “You either believe that women are people or you don’t. It’s that simple.”

If you think there are not people who consider women as less, or second hand citizens, look no further than Ray Rice and his appeal to his indefinite suspension.  He can’t argue that he hit his wife, so he’s going to argue: I have no idea.  It’s his legal right to get representation and be defended.  It’s our moral right to ask that he never play football again.  Michael Vick was hated for dog fighting, but he at least served time in jail for what he did.  Rice doesn’t even want to serve a suspension.  I didn’t even mention Greg Hardy.

From CNN on Greg Hardy,

In May, authorities say, Hardy choked his then-girlfriend, dragged her by her hair and threatened to kill her. He was sentenced in July to 18 months of probation and a 60-day suspended sentence for the misdemeanors he was charged with.

Hardy said he is innocent and has appealed a guilty verdict.

He’s on the exempt list so he’ll still be earning his money.  He was CONVICTED of his crime. No dogs were harmed…so…probation seems cool.

But how did we get here?

I posted on Facebook a while back about a teenage girl who was, there’s no other word for it, sexually assaulted.  A student, after harassing her with a laser pointer aimed at her breasts, fakes apologizing, then grabs her ass going into her dress.  The school officials play it off as no big deal (seriously) “You should have ignored them.”  What do you think that leads to?  These boys felt no fear at what they were doing, and rightly so.  They were going to suffer no repercussions for their actions, until a different teacher went to bat for her.  This story I have not verified as real, but I’ve heard this story first hand from many other women.  I don’t know of a single woman who hasn’t been groped at one point in her life.

Not a single one.

I almost exclusively hang out with women, and to not have met one woman who hasn’t been groped is ridiculous.  That’s not even mentioning those that have suffered much worse.  There’s a reason we call it ‘rape culture‘.

Don’t think that behavior means anything?

After reading that post from Women’s Rights News, I read about a bartender who had her ass grabbed.  Huh, wonder where he learned that was okay?  Cool thing about this one is that we get the follow-up from the ass-grabber (it is the NY Post, but still):

“I’ve grabbed plenty of girls’ asses in my life,” Brian H. Lederman boasted to The Post. “But I’ve never grabbed hers.”


“I clearly remember making a joke when the girl said, ‘What would you like,’ ” he said. “I kiddingly said, ‘I would like you to go with nothing on it.’ ”

He said he was furious that she claimed he did more than spew sleaze.

“That f–king c–t, for her to do something like that is pretty ridiculous,” he told The Post.

Stay Classy!

Earlier this year I figured out that part of the problem is we tell kids to obey the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  The problem with this is that men and women are different.  A majority of men would love to be groped while out by women, ogled, sexualized.  They’re treating women how they’d like to be treated.  To these men it’s a compliment.  Most men, statistically speaking, would like to have sex at almost any moment.  So yeah, they don’t get it.

However, if instead we changed the Golden Rule to: Do unto others, as they ask to have done unto themselves (not sure about biblical grammar), then you’d have a better conversation.  You shouldn’t treat people how you’d like to be treated, but treat people how THEY want to be treated.  This will require finding out how that person wants to be treated, but guess what?  You’ll not be accused of rape or harassment if you find out that this person doesn’t like blond jokes, and though she may be friendly after a few drinks, that’s not an invitation to actually have sex, it’s just that she’s drunk. Likewise, you can let people know that at times you make inappropriate jokes and to let you know if you go too far or found something offensive.  Again, treating people as they want, not by your ego-centric standards.

I’m not saying that would solve everything, but it’s a start.  And we really have to do something.  I don’t want to have a daughter someday tell her friend about going to a club and having her butt grabbed by some stranger, or worse.  My daughter should be able to go out, get tipsy, and worry that the worst that will happen is she loses her phone or keys.

I’m going to do my small part to make that happen, hopefully others will too.

Office Kitty

Our office cat is really smart.  He has trained me to open the door for him.  Here’s how it usually goes (and just did a few minutes ago).

I call him Pumpernickel Jazzpaws.
I call him Pumpernickel Jazzpaws.

He will walk outside my office and begin to meow.  I walk into the hallway and he makes me open the door to our storage room.  I believe this is his way of making sure I know he wants a door open.  Once I’ve opened that door he will meow at me and begin walking towards the back door.  Our office is located in a house that is zoned for office work.  So we actually have a backyard.  The garage has been converted into a mini warehouse and we have a warehouse manager working in that office; this is where the backdoor is located.  He walks me all the way across the house, meowing and looking over his shoulder to make sure I’m following.  Then he walks to the door, sits down in front of it, and waits for me to open the door.

He does this almost every day.  Since it’s hot in Texas we can’t open it all the time, because we have to leave it open, so there are times when I have to tell him no.  I assume during these times he feels that I’ve forgotten all the training we’ve gone through and that he’s disappointed in me.

It’s funny because he doesn’t ask our warehouse manager to open the door.  Though she’s sitting right there, he walks across the house and finds me.

He will also occasionally walk across the office to get me and make me follow him to the “living room” so that I may pet him there. Seriously.  He will walk into my office, meow his “follow me” meow and plop down in the middle of the floor so that I may pet him.  He is very spoiled.  I also think he believes he is my boss.

Has anyone else been trained by their cats?  Do you have an office pet, and does he run things?

JBT – Paradise Lost

Joe’s Book Tour – John Milton’s Paradise Lost

These next couple books I can’t remember in what order I read them, but I know they were all in High School around the same year.  The first on this list is Paradise Lost.

I was raised Catholic, as I’ve mentioned before, and I read my bible and went to Sunday school and catechism on Wednesday’s in preparation for my Confirmation. Yet, I still base most of my ideas of The Fall, God, Satan, and even Jesus, on what I read in this book.

The impact it had on me came from the moment when Satan decides that he’d “rather rule in hell, than serve in heaven”.  You see there’s a moment when Satan realizes that he could ask God for forgiveness.  Even after all he’s done: waging outright war against God.  God would still forgive him.  That’s how god is (at least in the new testament).  God is all about love and forgiveness.

Yet, Satan knows that even if he were taken back, even if allowed to be at the left-hand of God again, he would just get jealous again.  Satan would want more.  So he decides, because he, like everyone else, has free will, to rule in Hell and see if he can stick it to God by corrupting he’s favorite creation, Humans.

What struck me most is I’d never considered that Satan might just have been an overly-ambitious angel, who just couldn’t admit when he’s wrong.  I’d never considered the idea that he might have regrets.

It’s also funny to think that in 1600 Milton must have known people who make mistakes and, instead of admitting they’re wrong, double down.

This influenced my thinking by not allowing me to simply say, “that person is evil and that’s why he does what he does.”  That line of thinking could no longer hold water.  If Milton in the 1600s could conceive that the master of evil himself could have explainable motivations, everyone could.  People have bad brain chemistry, bad genes, bad environments, or some combination of all of those and other things.  Evil actions exist, but EVIL doesn’t.  And, understanding why people do things doesn’t condone those actions but it can help us to actually solve problems.  You see, if you simply believe there is evil and some people are evil, there really isn’t anything you can do about it.  But if you understand that certain genes can increase the likelihood of someone being violent, especially when paired with certain environments, then you can actually reduce violence.  Understanding that a certain brain chemistry needs to be regulated by medicine to prevent either murder or suicide is much more helpful than simply saying “The devil made them do it.”

We all have free will, and some people do honestly choose to do bad things, but what this book taught me was that I can’t simply rush to judgement on anything without at least trying to see the other side.

That’s the great thing about good literature, you can find yourself exploring ideas that have very little to do with the original text.

Anyway, I’ve cut this short because this book actually brings up a ton of thoughts that go off in even more random directions. Also, as I mentioned in my post about blogger’s block I’ve been letting this keep me from moving forward.  So I needed to just get this out there and move on.

Hopefully, the next post comes out a bit quicker.


Bloggers Block

I get bloggers block, what I’m calling writer’s block for people who try to blog, quite often.  Usually it is a paralysis that comes from too many topics to tackle and not enough hours to write about them.  This time, however, I gave myself a series of blogs that would be about a subject that I have thought about for quite some time: The Books That Influenced Me Most.  Thought that would help keep me on track: I was wrong.

I’ve become stumped on one title.  I’ve written most of the blog, but feel I’m missing the point of its lasting influence.  The title is Paradise Lost by John Milton, and it is one of my all-time favorite books.  I’ll probably post it this weekend, but as I was writing I kept switching ideas and themes.  Which is good if I were writing a book on Paradise Lost, but not a blog post.

I know what other books are supposed to be a part of this series, so I figure I’ll write a few of them down here and maybe that will help get me going.  I’ve often heard when you have a mental block you should just push forward.  If you are blocked writing: just write.  Don’t worry about whether it’s good or not, just do it.

So that’s what this is.  Me just writing so I get something out there.

Here are some of the books I’ll feature in Joe’s Book Tour.

  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol
  • That’s Not What I Meant by Deborah Tannen
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • The Evolution of Desire by David Buss
  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
  • From Good to Great by Jim Collins

Hopefully the blog posts to go along with those titles will be coming soon.  Also, I may remember a few titles as I’m writing others so the list might expand.

JBT – Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

This is the first “banned” book I ever read.  It wasn’t banned at my school, and I didn’t read it for class, but I knew that this was one of those books that certain schools banned.  I knew it was banned partly because of the use of the “n-word”, but reading it then (and then I read it again for a class on banned literature in college) I was struck by how we re-write history to make it more tolerable to ourselves.  We want to erase the n-word from the book, but then we’ll forget just how pervasive it actually was in that time period, and I fear we’ll forget how ugly the word actually is.

We live in the supposedly more enlightened time of the 21st century and people still believe horrible stereotypes about gays, blacks, Mexicans, and others.  And I believe that books, and other media, that force us to see the racist beliefs we had, and still have, in stark relief are important.  Putting this book out without the n-word allows people to think that time period was better than it was.  When we consistently make movies that show gentle slave owners who secretly supported abolition, it blinds us to the horrors of amputations, whippings, rapes, and lynchings that were a “normal” part of plantation life.

However, I understand why many would like that word erased, and this is not about defending it’s use here.  What this post is about is what this book meant to me.

The scene I remember most from this book was this one moment when Huck Finn decides that he’s going to “go to hell” rather than do what society would say is right.

Society, and the law, demands, and he was raised to believe, that Jim, as a slave, was the property of Miss Watson.  He writes a letter to her telling her where they are.  Then thinks on how nice Jim has been to him, how he’s cared for him and told him he was “the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now” and he picks up the letter.

I took it up, and held it in my hand.  I was a-trembling, because I got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it.  I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell” – and I tore it up.

– page 207 from the Signet Classic Edition

That section has stuck with me all these years.  In preparing for this post I picked up my old copy of Huck Finn and I had a faded bookmark between those pages.  I read this book first in Junior High and that was the moment that I realized that sometimes the popular opinion my not be the right opinion.  That society as a whole could be wrong.  That laws themselves might be unjust.  That what you’ve been told all your life, might be wrong.

I was raised Catholic.  Sin is a real thing.  Eternal damnation is a real thing.  Yet, I cannot conceive to even believe that homosexuality is a sin.  That two people who seek to do nothing more than love one another, would be eternally damned to a lake of hellfire.

I, of course, also became an atheist so it’s not like religion guides my thoughts much, but it’s just another example of how I decided between what I was told to be true, and what I feel to be right.

I, like most people, would like to believe I’d have been an abolitionist if I lived during the Civil War era.  Considering I live in a theist society and claim atheism, I’m probably right.  I grew up in the patriarchal machismo south Texas and support Gay Rights and consider myself a feminist, so the odds are probably better than average I’d buck the system.

So that’s how the book influenced me.  It presented a time when people, a large swath of society, said one thing was right, true, and just, and the book counters, “Just because everyone is heading one direction, doesn’t mean it’s the right direction.”

As a historical artifact I also feel it’s necessary.  There’s a moment when Jim is talking about what he’ll do when free and talks of saving up money to purchase his wife back, and try to buy back his children, or steal them back if the slaver won’t sell them.  Huck Finn reacts with shock that Jim would speak so boldly, not with shock that he must try and purchase back his family.  That society is what Mr. Twain (or Clemens if you prefer) hoped we’d never go back to again.  A society that is shocked by speaking out against evil, rather than the evil itself.

That too is why this book is on this list.  The evils we must speak out against today may not rise to the level of slavery, but they are no less important to speak out against.  There may never be a time period where someone isn’t being oppressed or having their rights stripped, heck states are suppressing voting rights and it’s 2014!  2014 people!  So we must continue to speak out when required, and choose to “go to hell” rather than do what “society” says is right.

Thank you Mr. Twain for teaching a young boy that lesson.

Week off

I took a week off of the book tour because I went to lovely Playa del Carmen (near Cancun in Mexico). It was 90% business but the 10% fun was awesome. And since I enjoy my business, it was probably more like 100 percent fun. Such a great time and such great people. More energized than ever for the coming year. It’s going to be an amazing 2014.