Friday, October 24, 2014

‘Men’s rights’ is a false cause

An article in an online magazine recently referenced a fellow named Paul Elam and the misogynistic web site he maintains. It’s devoted to the utterly fabricated cause of “men’s rights,” and it pretends that men – primarily white men – are besieged by evil feminist forces who want to oppress men. Primarily white men.

So, I went to check out Paul Elam’s web site. I didn't know whether to laugh at the absurdity of its content or cry because this bozo pretends to represent “men.” The web site is a monument to misogyny. As nearly as I can tell, according to Elam, womankind is out to oppress and dominate mankind. Woman, Elam would have us believe, wants to take her babies away from the man who so generously gifted his sperm to her just because he's an insufferable asshole. Elam admits that he was frightened out of his career as an addiction counselor by a woman who wanted to, as he puts it, "shove (the male clients') macho bullshit down their throats."

What he completely missed -- and this actually makes him pretty much unsuited for that line of work, so it's good that he ran away from it like a scared boy -- is the fact that macho bullshit is the crux of almost all male addicts' problems. Elam's too dumb to know that his colleague didn't want to take men's balls away, she just wanted them to stop thinking with them.

I don’t suppose anyone will ever be able to explain it to him, but Elam’s world view can never result in constructive thought or dialog because it is shot through with what I call “little boy syndrome.” This is the tendency of men to classify all strife as an us-vs-them struggle. As I scrolled through, I found horror story after horror story about men who allegedly suffered at the hands of crazy-bitch girlfriends and wives.

What I did not find was the inclusiveness that women’s rights movements invariably have. Websites urging people to join the effort to eliminate misogyny, which is not confined to violence but is a cultural failure to value female humans equally with males, almost always include acknowledgement that women are not alone in suffering oppression from dominating males in our society. And they always seek to enlist the help of men – indeed, some even make it primarily the responsibility of men – to change the societal rules that devalue the lives and minds of women.

Aside from the dubious credibility of the anecdotal horror stories that are the staple of Elam’s website, the overall tone is a loud “thunk!” I was raised to believe that “fair” doesn't always mean “equal,” and equality isn't always fair. Fair, I was taught, is better. While it is absolutely fair to pay two people with the same qualifications the same wage to do the same job (equality being the only fair thing in this case) it is ridiculously unfair to equate rape of men with rape of women as a problem in our society; the numbers simply don’t bear out the equivalency.

And in some things the physiological differences between men and women have to be considered to even approach equality. When was the last time you went to a major sporting event and saw equal-length lines in front of the restrooms? Major venue designers have finally figured out that, because of the design of their bodies, women need a lot more restroom space than men. It isn't funny, it isn't degrading, it isn't overly empowering, and it isn't a weakness. It is the reality of our physical beings and we need to recognize it and move on.

I’ll admit that women can be abusive and downright hostile to men, but I gotta’ tell ya’, that hostility is usually the result of abuse at the hands of … that’s right, men. Aileen Wuornos killed six men in cold blood, falsely accusing all of them of trying to rape her. That’s one angry woman. Of course, being raped as a child can make a girl pretty damn angry – or a poet laureate.

But these are extreme and rare anecdotes that Elam's website uses. While a handful of men suffer injury and even death at the hands of women they know and love -- Phil Hartman's murder by his wife in 1998 is an example -- these cases are so rare that they make big news. Besides, Brynn Omdahl didn't kill Hartman because she was a woman, she killed him because she was a deranged drug addict. Elam may want to delve into the history of what made her so. No one else has deigned to do so,  G'head, search the Internet until your brain turns to mush -- you'll find no account, credible or otherwise, of Omdahl's early life. One can only speculate about how such a gifted woman came by that lethal monkey on her back.

Elam’s website meticulously chronicles how every defense of women's dignity is an assault on men's rights. Some examples:

  • Domestic violence issues are twisted by women's advocates to be primarily a problem of man-on-woman violence.
  • Women banding together to claim basic human rights constitutes a conspiracy to deprive men of their civil rights.
  • Civil rights for women is really all about women being more comfortable as lesbians, especially after they've been bred and had all the children they want to have.
  • Women standing up to men in public media are actually ball-busting bitches who want to muzzle men so they can carry out their emasculating-lesbian-child-stealing agenda.

Elam's whole philosophy reminds me of the pathetic mewling of white supremacists who bemoan the passing of the old order because they no longer have an iron grip on power by virtue of their “race.” The privileged – the white male Protestant Christians of America – claim to feel threatened, pretend to be in “danger” of minority status because the people they have so long oppressed are learning where to find the levers of power.

As a man I’m here to tell you, we men are doing just fine, thank you very much. We've learned to think with that organ that is designed for thinking, and let our balls dangle stupidly from our bellies, performing the one thing they were designed for -- to distinguish us  from women. And I sure as hell don’t need Paul Elam or anyone else to fight for my masculine rights.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

History is not what you were taught in school

News Item: Hundreds of students walked out of classrooms around suburban Denver on Tuesday (9/23/2014) in protest over a conservative-led school board proposal to focus history education on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority, in a show of civil disobedience that the new standards would aim to downplay. The proposal from Julie Williams, part of the board's conservative majority, has not been voted on and was put on hold last week. 
Huffington Post Sept. 24, 2014

An open letter to Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board:

Dear Julie,

It appears that you are in need of a reality-based lesson in U.S. history. Having studied that history in every learning environment from grade school to graduate school, I offer this thumbnail sketch:

In the 15th and 16th centuries wealthy and powerful European kings wanted to increase both their wealth and power and so used conquest cloaked in religion to colonize newly-discovered land in what is now the Americas. Their agents established settlements and colonies in the Americas, exploiting the natural resources to send wealth back to Europe. After a time the colonists got tired of paying taxes to the European kings, or decided they wanted to be rulers themselves, or a combination of these, and they began separating from the European kingdoms. Some of the separations were bloody revolutions in which thousands of peasant farmers were persuaded to die for the wealthy landowners, thus securing independence. 

Once independent, the new American nations relied on slave labor to build their economies and on the eradication or violent subjugation of native peoples to gain access to the natural resources. This wasn’t just an American phenomenon, by the way; Europeans colonized great swaths of Africa, Australia, and Asia with the same practices, again often wrapped in the thin cloth of religion.

By the middle of the 19th century some Americans with consciences began to gain some power in the United States and at least ended slavery, although it took the deaths of hundreds of thousands more peasant farmers and urban poor to achieve this. The genocide against native people continued unabated until nearly the 20th century.

Having gained complete control of the continent, the European Americans finally began to build what would become the most powerful and wealthiest nation/state in history. Society in America, as everywhere else in the world, was composed of a few very wealthy people earning most of the money and owning almost everything and the vast majority of people earning and owning comparatively very little.

This process of building the United States of America required the destruction of hundreds of thousands of families and resulted in the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of peaceful people through violence, starvation, and neglect.

The old European empires, finally stripped of most of their colonial assets, began to exhaust themselves, first in a grinding, muddy, nasty war and then in a worldwide conflagration. The process, which took up nearly half of the 20th century, was the bloodiest time in world history. Mechanization allowed the generals to magnify the horror of war almost beyond comprehension. The United States, using its indomitable wealth and power, emerged from this period the unchallenged world power, a position it enjoys to this day.

In our popular culture, this is all covered with a veneer of idealistic concepts like liberty, equality, and independence and infused with religious justification in order to persuade the vast working class to provide even greater wealth to the wealthiest few. The veneer is often painted in bright patriotic colors.

Unfortunately, Julie, the rest of the world has the ability most Americans lack; they can see beneath the veneer to the reality underneath. We are no better, and certainly no worse, than any other empire that has come before us. But we are far from being John Winthrop’s imagined “city upon a hill.” The only thing truly exceptional about us is the mythology of American Exceptionalism.

Only by teaching our children the real history of the United States can we begin to mold future citizens into people with consciences who will make sure that the horrors of our own history never occur again.