Donnie Darko

Blogger-friend Keith wrote this short post that needs no intro from me … it speaks for itself. Please read! Thank you, Keith!


We have a new President, so we wish for him the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job. Yet, we may need to wish for some of Ronald Reagan’s optimism.

I say this as his inaugural address painted a very dark picture of America. I have been saying for more than the last two years, what country are you talking about?

The one I live in has an unemployment rate of less than 5%, the fourth longest economic growth period in its history and record high stock market. The one I live in has over 20 million more insured than before the ACA. The one I live in has moved forward in renewable energy as a world leader.

Of course, we have problems, but we are not as desperate as portrayed in this dark speech. I would add that retrenching into a jingoistic nationalism is counter to the economic…

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Filosofa Rants … Again

Disclaimer:  This is a rant.  Filosofa is angry and disgusted.

We fear that which we do not understand.  This is the source of much of the conflict in the world and always has been.  It is the root cause of every single form of bigotry.  Last year when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, there were radical and irrational responses across the nation.  The outcry has only intensified since then.  Why?  Because many people fear homosexuality, just as many fear blacks, Muslims, Jews, and other who are ‘different’.  When I was a child, I was left-handed, and I learned at a very young age that people feared left-handed people.  I went to Catholic schools where the nuns would rap my knuckles with a ruler every time they caught me writing with my left hand.  I rebelled (surprised?) and remained a ‘southpaw’ until a broken arm forced me to change my writing hand.  Most prejudices are stupid.  S-T-U-P-I-D. There are two ways people can respond to their fear of a person or group they perceive as being different.  They can: a) make an effort to learn about that person, that group, find some common ground and attempt to understand the differences, or b) they can express their fear as hatred and contempt, attempting to either force the ‘different’ one(s) to conform or attempt to eradicate them.

The federal Equality Act of 2015 is a bill in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate that if passed would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system.  Currently in 31 states people are at a risk of being fired, evicted or refused service just because they are LGBT.  That is the wrong that this bill seeks to set right.  Although the bill has not been passed, and the likelihood of it being passed before next year is slim, there is an ongoing uproar and a number of states are scrambling to pass state laws that counteract the federal bill before it becomes law.  The most ludicrous, vicious and inane reaction has come in the form of public restroom discrimination.  I have had, and still have, no desire to write about this topic.  It is beyond my comprehension why and how this even became an issue, and I have thus far chosen not to waste my time on it.  Filosofa is busy and has much weightier things to think and write about.  But alas, rather than settling, this issue is becoming a raging inferno and even otherwise intelligent people, sadly including some of my own friends, are reducing themselves to blathering idiots.  Let us consider a few facts:

  • When was the last time you saw a LGBT person in a public venue? Probably every time you go out, but since they look exactly like anybody else, you had no clue.
  • When was the last time you were in a public restroom with a gay or transgender person? Again, you have no idea because they look exactly like anybody else.
  • LGBT people are far more likely to be harassed than they are to be harassers.

targetThe mega-retailer, Target, recently announced a non-discriminatory restroom policy that would allow transgender people to use the restroom that matches their gender identity.  Two thumbs up to Target for this policy.  However, there are those who are dead-set against such progressive, tolerant thinking.  Some of those people have formed a coalition and are circulating a petition to boycott Target.  The petition has already gained more than 550,000 signatures.  First of all, the new ‘hate laws’ passed by North Carolina, Mississippi and others, make it illegal for a transgender person to use the restroom of their current gender identity.  Meaning … somebody would have to visually inspect the genitalia of each person entering a public restroom in order to ensure that person used the ‘proper’ facility.  I am much more offended by even the thought of such an inspection than I would be the thought of sharing a restroom with a transgender person.  Second, WTF does it matter?  Some of the comments I have seen bandied about are that people are afraid transgender people will sexually abuse their children.  WAKE UP!  99.9% of ALL people, transgender, gay, straight, black, Muslim … ALL people … use a public restroom because they need to ‘take care of business’.  They do not go there to molest children.  Pedophiles exist and the vast majority of them are not LGBT people.  Third, and this applies more to women than to men, there are stalls with doors in public restrooms.  I can honestly say that I have never in all my years of using public restrooms seen a person with their pants down in a public restroom!  Why does anybody care?  In fact, I have actually gone into men’s restrooms before … no, I do not make it a habit, but a couple of times I have mistakenly entered a men’s restroom, and on one occasion I was ill, there was a line at the ladies, so I went into the men’s.  The only thing that happened was a gentleman was kind enough to stick around and make sure I was alright.

I avoid public restrooms whenever I can, but not because I am afraid of the people I might encounter.  I avoid them because I have a limited immune system and avoid germs as much as possible.  However, I have no fear of using a public restroom, I have no fear of encountering a gay person or a transgender person in a restroom, public swimming pool, or any other venue.  As much as I like any retail store, I like Target.  I am there at least twice a month to purchase cat food, toilet cleaner, paper towels, deodorant, toothpaste, and other household/personal items.  In fact, I was there yesterday.  I will continue to shop at Target as long as their prices remain competitive.  I do not shop at Wal-Mart, as I object to their employment and import policies, not to mention that their products are sub-standard. However, I have not circulated a petition, nor do I criticize others – I simply do not shop there. If you don’t want to shop at Target, fine … it won’t be as crowded when I go there next Saturday.  But what is the point in yelling it to the world, in signing a pointless petition, in trying to bend the world to your close-minded way of thinking?

Feelings are what they are and are neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’, they simply are.  But actions will be judged as being right or wrong, proper or improper, acceptable or unacceptable. Those who honestly fear encountering a gay or transgender person in a public restroom should probably avoid public restrooms altogether.  It may take time, but ultimately this nation is moving toward tolerance for all.  Slowly, but surely.  There are so many serious issues in this world that should demand our attention, our consideration, demand that we use our voices to speak out against injustice.  The whole issue of who has a right to use which public restroom is not one of those critical issues, it is only being made to seem so by the masses.  I do not have time for this, and neither should anyone else.  Go worry about how to take care of Syrian refugees, how to end racism, how to feed starving children, how to save our environment.  Next time you find yourself thinking about who should use which restroom, go plant some flowers to help the bee population.

Please read Target’s response to the public outcry.

End of rant.

Time to End the Academy Awards? Maybe …

What, really, is the purpose of the Academy Awards, aka the Oscars?  Though I have not watched the Oscars for several decades, I always thought it was about recognizing the best in the film-making industry, and giving special honor to best actors, actresses, directors, cinematographers, editors, writers, etc.  This year, however, it seems to be a breeding ground for conflict, and not for the first time.  A few examples of past controversies:

  • In 1940, Gone With the Wind actor Hattie McDaniel won the best supporting actress award for her role as Mammy (well-deserved). She was also asked to sit at a segregated table at the back of the room. Even that appears to have been progress. Producer David O Selznick had to ask for special permission to allow the woman who was to become the first African American Oscar-winner, to even enter the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles, a venue with a usually strict “no coloureds” policy.
  • Elia Kazan’s appearance before the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952, at the height of the McCarthy era and the Hollywood blacklist, had left him a divisive figure. The director’s decision to name former acting colleagues Morris Carnovsky and Art Smith, as well as playwright Clifford Odets, helped destroy the Hollywood careers of all three, and ruined Kazan’s reputation with liberal friends and colleagues. On Oscars night in 1999, a frail 89-year-old Kazan, whose credits included A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront, was introduced by Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro and given a standing ovation by Warren Beatty, Kathy Bates, Meryl Streep and Helen Hunt. Yet dozens of other stars, Nick Nolte and Ed Harris among them, remained seated and did not applaud. Outside the theatre, more than 500 protesters gathered to denounce the Academy’s decision to honour him.
  • Before 1973, sending a proxy to pick up your Oscar was acceptable, but when Marlon Brando deputised a Native American activist, who then rebuffed the award, it led to the practice being outlawed. Presenter Roger Moore was left clutching the best actor prize as Sacheen Littlefeather explained Brando “regretfully cannot accept this very generous award” due to “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television and in movie reruns”. Littlefeather was recruited by Brando in response to the Wounded Knee incident, which saw about 200 Oglala Lakota occupy the South Dakota town in protest at their treatment by the government. Her speech was off-the-cuff, after a producer told her she’d be ejected if she tried to read out Brando’s 15-page statement. Littlefeather was met with boos and applause, but her speech continues to highlight the issue, and was even credited by some for persuading federal authorities not to send in the troops at Wounded Knee.
  • In 2013, the conflict was of Seth McFarlane engaged in a series of misogynistic remarks and antics. 2014 saw a number of petty squabbles, and in 2015, Time Magazine said “everyone is mad about something at this year’s Oscars. Almost every nominated picture has stirred up controversy and protests at one point or another during the awards season.”

(Source: The Guardian, 28 February 2016)

Which brings us to 2016 and perhaps the most controversial year for the Oscars yet.  Along with the question of which movie will take the “best picture” award, the overriding theme for this year’s Oscars will be the Academy’s failure to recognize non-white actors for the second year in a row, according to Variety.  Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Spike Lee, all highly talented and respected members of the film industry, committed to a boycott of the event.  The host this year was Chris Rock, who led off with “I’m here at the Academy Awards—otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards.”  I heard much criticism of some of his remarks, but if things are to change, then people need to speak up and say, “Hey, this is wrong … fix it or lose it”.

It seems that the time has come, or perhaps came a long time ago, to either make some changes to the way the award nominees are selected, to do whatever is necessary to ensure diversity, or else bring the Academy Awards to an end altogether.  This is supposed to be entertainment, just as the films it is awarding, but if it reeks of racism or bigotry, then it has no right to be called entertainment, it has no place in today’s world.  I have often stated that our country is moving backward in the area of civil rights, of tolerance vs intolerance, and this is just one more example of that phenomenon.  In the ‘70s and ‘80s there was a push to bring African-American roles out of and away from the stereotypes that were prevalent in the ‘50s and ‘60s and previous decades. I knew we had not yet mastered that, but I thought we had come a long way.  Maybe, maybe not, but apparently the Academy has not.  It is time for an overhaul or a cessation.

Again, I do not have any particular interest in the Oscars, rarely watch movies, so I have no real connection, and thus my only knowledge comes from news and other media sources.  Many of my readers could probably expound on this better than I.  But I fight vociferously whenever and wherever I see inequalities, racism, and intolerance, and this is a very popular venue … the Academy should know better and I would suggest that we should all boycott these awards next year if big changes are not made before then.  I can only wonder if the culture of bigotry that is so dominant in the political scene today has spilled over into the Hollywood scene?  If so, it is a dark day, indeed, for the entertainment industry as a whole. Perhaps, just as we need the “wall of separation between church and state”, we also need to build a “wall of separation” between politics and entertainment.

No Women Allowed … in Starbucks???

The story about one Starbucks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia banning women caught my eye (link below):

Like most westerners, the headline at first angered me.  Surely in the 21st century. this is not acceptable!  But then I read the story and took a few minutes to step back and digest it.  True, this would be considered totally unacceptable in the U.S., indeed in most of the western world.  But this happened in the Arabic world, a world with an entirely different set of cultural norms than those of the west.  In the Arabic culture, women do not eat or socialize in the same room as a man.  Initially, Starbucks had a wall segregating families (including women) from single men, but the wall fell down and until such time as it can be replaced, the restaurant, out of respect for the local culture, is not allowing women to enter.  It isn’t wrong … just different.

A century ago we didn’t know nor much care how people lived in other parts of the world.  It was difficult enough to find out what was going on at the other end of your state, let alone somewhere across the vast ocean that most had only read about.  There was no internet, no telephone service nor television, news travelled slowly and was no longer news by the time it reached us from the other side of the globe.  Besides which, the vast majority of people were too busy taking care of their own businesses, farms and households to have much time to worry about how others lived.  As we have moved technologically forward, we in the western world have also moved forward culturally.  We have given up the notion that people are inferior based on the colour of their skin, their gender or their sexual orientation.  We promote equality for all (though I do sometimes think that even here in the U.S. we tend to take one step backward for every two steps forward).

The Arabic culture is one that is unique and mysterious to many westerners.  Turn the tables, if you will, for just a moment and imagine a woman from their culture coming to this country for the first time and seeing teenage girls wearing shorts so short that their posteriors leave nothing to the imagination!  Heck, I have spent my entire life in the U.S. and I am yet shocked by so much of what I see in public venues today!  I know a number of people living in this country who came here from the Middle East, and every one of them have made the effort to assimilate into our culture.  Many of the women, though they still cover their head as is required by their religion, wear blue jeans and tennis shoes when they go out in public.  In part, this is due to the wave of Islamophobia that has washed over much of the nation, but more, it is an attempt to fit into their new community.

I hear people put down the idea of “political correctness”, but what does it really mean to be politically correct?  In my book, it means to respect the cultural values and norms of other cultures, religions, races.  Sadly, in the last few years there have been many lies and rumours spread, mostly by politicians and religious leaders, that distort this notion of what it means to respect another’s culture.   Being politically correct does not mean that people in this nation need to change their language, religion, morals or beliefs.  It simply means that we need to “live and let live”.  The United States became what it is today because of many individual and distinct cultures coming together, sharing communities and lives.  We learned from each other about the rites and rituals, the foods, the clothing, of our neighbors and because of this sharing we became a better nation, a better civilization, we became who we are today.  Modern technology has given us great capabilities for learning about the rest of the world, for helping people less fortunate than us in other parts of the world.  But that does not mean that we have the right to force others to share our values and beliefs.  Respect, privacy and modesty are three very important values in the Arabic world.  They are, I think, good values and perhaps values that we in the west are letting slip away from us.  This is not to say that we should segregate public places as they do in the Arab world, but just that perhaps we have taken personal freedoms to such a level that we are no longer able to respect different views.

The Arab world is culturally rich and its history much longer than our own. The effects of globalization and technology that began in the 20th century have often led to cultural tensions, but also to a sharing of traditions and values that, if we let them, will add to our own national culture.