Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #10 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

I am not afraid of the bogeymen.

This summer, my landlord was arrested for possession of child pornography. My reaction was mixed. Revulsion, yes. Disappointment. Pity. That deep melancholy that accompanies a reminder of the world’s dark corners. I felt a lot of emotions, none of them happy.

But even on the day I found out, when I saw his pathetic mugshot and imagined how fundamentally unsettled the parents in our building must have been to hear the news, even when my blood was hottest, if you had asked me to grant the government wide-reaching powers to capture other people like my landlord… I would have said no.

Sexual predators. Pedophiles. Terrorists. These are the bogeymen they warn us of. “Beware,” they hiss, and they gesture at the dark, foreboding closet as their grip on our shoulder grows painfully tight.

I am not afraid of the bogeymen. What I fear is something else entirely. Continue reading

My mind is burning

I’ve decided that this summer, it’s time to stop being ignorant. I’ve had the privilege, as a white, straight, middle-class American male, to live a life fairly unburdened by worries of social inequality or injustice, but it’s time that I stepped outside that privilege and learned something.

I’ve hardly even begun thinking about making a reading list for the summer, and already, it feels like my head is on fire with all of it. Racism. Sexism. Capitalism.

It feels right now like the world is fucked up in so many ways. I recognize that might be a bit of an overreaction, but I also can predict I’ll be going further into a slump of that hopelessness the more I research and learn, until I can accept it and start figuring out what the hell to do about it.

Learning about this isn’t going to be easy. It’ll be tempting to just back out and retreat to my privileged position, where I don’t have to deal with the painful reality of what’s going on.

It’ll be my challenge to stick with it and make a worthwhile change in my life.

It’s going to be an interesting summer, that’s for damn sure.

Header image: “Sparks” by Daniel Dionne (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Big Brother
Exclamation point

Stale Content Alert!

This post was written a long time ago, and my views have almost certainly evolved since then. Please keep that in mind while reading, commenting, or sharing.

Image of Big Brother from 1984This isn’t really a post about my life, it’s (another) political post, so if you’re looking for something else, look elsewhere. This has been hanging over my head lately, and I need to get it out.

I’ve never before been as terrified by the state of American politics as I am now.

A lot of the time, when I’ve written about politics, it’s been about single issues. One of my earliest blog posts ever was about the proposed amendment to ban the burning of the American flag. Recently, I blogged about Net Neutrality (in response to an issue in Canadian politics, but relevant in the US nonetheless). I’ve been frustrated over individual cases here and there, but never in my life have I been so honestly outraged and frightened by the state of politics.

Maybe I’m just getting older and realizing how messed up things are, but I think there’s more. I think things have taken a nasty turn recently. I can’t pin a finger on it– I don’t know when it happened or what caused it– but its many symptoms are starting to make me wonder just how diseased the entire system really is. It’s at the point that I’m eager to leave next year, and I’m sincerely considering the possibility of moving away after college. If these trends continue, I don’t want to be anywhere near the US.

Put simply, I’m scared shitless by the amount of power the government is accruing, in whose interests it’s being used, and how little oversight or regulation there seems to be. Continue reading

Just this week, Canada approved usage-based billing for the internet. What’s this mean? Now, Canadian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can place caps on the amount of bandwidth subscribers can use, and charge them heftily for crossing that cap. While this may make sense in the abstract, the implementation is where it’s all shot to hell: Bell Canada is switching to an incredibly low 25GB monthly cap, and is charging almost $2 for each gigabyte past that cap. (The cost to Bell to deliver a gigabyte of data is far less than a penny, for reference.)

This is bad in so many ways. Continue reading

The leaders of Myanmar and Belarus, or Thailand and Russia, can now rightly say to us “You went after Wikileaks’ domain name, their hosting provider, and even denied your citizens the ability to register protest through donations, all without a warrant and all targeting overseas entities, simply because you decided you don’t like the site. If that’s the way governments get to behave, we can live with that.”

Clay Shirky, “Wikileaks and the Long Haul

Similarly, whatever a ‘talking’ wishing well may be, it obviously was a center of attention separate from the crèche.
Justice Blackmun, County of Allegheney v. American Civil Liberties Union (1989)

According to numerous sources, last night, outside a political debate in Kentucky, a group of Rand Paul supporters threw a MoveOn member to the ground, incapacitated her, and one person stomped on the back of her head.

You read that right. Stomped on her head.Political activist being stomped upon

So, let’s be clear here, America. Maybe there’s been some confusion as of late. Not many people have stood up and opposed this sort of behavior. We’ve kind of let it slide. Continue reading

A week or so ago, I sent an e-mail to Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley asking him to do what he could to oppose the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Today, I got a response!

Dear Spencer,

Thank you for contacting me to share your support for repealing the military’s current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. It is an honor to serve as your Senator, and I appreciate hearing from you.

Like you, I strongly support repealing this misdirected policy that prevents openly gay Americans from serving in the United States Armed Forces. I believe every American should have the opportunity to serve this country, and for too long, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has undermined that fundamental right. For this reason, I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (S. 3065), which would repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the armed forces.

The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy not only compromises equal rights, but it unnecessarily limits the capacity of our military to draw upon America’s best and brightest. For the United States to have the strongest armed forces in the world, we must recruit and retain those who have the knowledge and skills necessary to enhance military effectiveness. The private lives of our troops should have no bearing on their willingness or ability to serve. This legislation would overturn an injustice that has kept far too many Americans from serving our country.

This bill is currently pending in the Senate Armed Services Committee. While I am not a member of that Committee, I want to assure you that I will be closely following the progress of this bill. Please know I will continue to fight for the equal rights of all Americans on this issue and others.

All my best,

Jeff Merkley
United States Senate

While it sounds a little like a form letter, I greatly appreciate his response and his opposition to the policy. It’s good to see a clear perspective on this issue.

Three cheers for partaking in the democratic process!

Let’s say you’re a parent. Let’s say that one day, under pressure from a bunch of acquaintances who are convinced you’re doing something wrong by neglecting to do this earlier, you start giving your child dessert every night– not only that, but expecting her to eat it. You keep the practice up, night after night, and you see no harm in it, since she seems perfectly happy with it.

Your daughter grows up with this practice. One day, when your daughter is fifteen or so, a friend points out to you that expecting your daughter to eat dessert every night is definitely a bad parenting choice. It’s bad for her health, it fails to teach her how to act with responsibility– in short, it goes against many of the values you had when you became a parent. In light of this, you decide to stop making her eat dessert every night, and instead, to keep sweet options available without pushing them. Your daughter can choose to eat dessert, but you’re no longer pushing it on her. From your perspective, and from the perspective of an outside observer, you’re respecting her right to do what she wants, giving her options while remaining consistent with the beliefs you hold dear as a parent.

Your daughter, though, has grown up expecting this. She hasn’t been unhappy with it; her whims have been catered to for a good chunk of her life. She expects that you’ll provide her with dessert every night. To her eyes, what you’re doing is not an exercise in liberty, in fact she it as the opposite. She feels entitled to her dessert every night. What happened? She was given a privilege so long she began to view it as a right.

This, in a nutshell, is the National Day of Prayer. Continue reading