Archive for the ‘social commentary’ Tag

Don’t they know this is America?   Leave a comment

There’s a poem I think most of us know the last four lines of at least. I’ve been thinking about it lately. It goes:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

That’s what I think of when I hear the words “United States of America”.

At least, it was.

You see, I have been here for four and a half years. Not very long, all things considered, but long enough to have encountered a problem with this ideology.
People here – and I do mean here, where I am living right now – seem to feel that huddled masses are all ok… as long as they are white, English speaking, and christian. I hear things all the time. A 50 year old women mimicking Cantonese. The word ‘chinks’ used in polite conversation. ‘Go home’ shouted from a car window as a woman in a turban walks along the street.
This is normal. Somehow the idea that America was founded on the ideology of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness seems to exclude those who conform to a different norm. I hear ‘Don’t they know this is America?’ a lot. I may be an outsider, but from my perspective the problem is that these people who use such casual racism have failed to realise that they are in America. The melting pot. The country founded with colonies and immigrants from the world over. Many places have strong cultural differences that they have kept from the very beginning.

This America is a place built on the ideal of ‘E pluribus unum’ – from many, one. America was founded on many ideals, the principle of which was freedom. A freedom which many Americans seem to feel only appropriate if it is the freedom to speak, look, and believe as they do. This seems so far removed from the America that Americans themselves have been selling for generations that I find it hard to reconcile the ideal with the fact.

Why is it so easy to dismiss those who are different as less? Why is it ok to joke, insult or even harass them? I find it sad. America is supposed to be more. It could be more. It should be more.

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Why do you care..?   Leave a comment

So this came up a while ago, but I felt like it deserves to be said again.

A conversation occurred way back in May wherein I was criticized for judging “Cry it outas wrong while there are a great many worse things like rape, or murder, that occur. Besides the obvious flaw here, as I was drifting off that night, it was still going through my head. So why do I think CIO is so important? When I find my motivations questioned, I like to ask myself why I feel the way I do. Well, I think I figured it out. It has to do with something else I see as terribly, terribly wrong despite worse evils – slut shaming.

The two are not, on the surface, related. Where I see parallels is how they function in society. You see, lots of things make it easier, psychologically, to rape or murder a woman. One of these things is removal of person-hood and making women a thing (“I need a woman”) and all women as ‘women’ (“Why do women…”/”That’s women’s work”). Another way to make it easier is to make the crimes the victim’s fault in the mind of the perpetrator. This is achieved by creating circumstances which the victim should have acted a different way to avoid their assault, thereby making it their fault.

Slut shaming does all of this. Women must behave, act, and look a certain way or they are sluts. Sluts are women who lose their person-hood and become objects. Often in the common perception, ‘They deserve bad things because _________’. ‘It’s terrible, but it wouldn’t have happened if she had…’ ‘She was asking for it’. ‘Doesn’t she know she’s ruining his life?’. She is a slut. She is less than a person. Throughout a lot of history and in the minds of many today, woman must protect herself against being seen as s slut less some poor man be overcome when he looks at her. If this happens then she’ll bring shame on herself and her family. While the implications for this as a victim of an assault are terrible, it goes further than that. Slut shaming creates circumstances for permitting or excusing rape, and sometimes even murder… and the worse the shaming in a society, the more common rapes and murders are. I know ending all slut shaming wouldn’t end rape and murder, but if we remove slut shaming (and with it victim blaming) it makes crossing that line harder. Right now excuses like failing to understand the severity of one’s actions and failure to understand consent are common… including in bystanders.

So, how does this relate to CIO? I find CIO dehumanizes babies. In the same way slut shaming removes the person-hood of a woman, so to do CIO and other similar practices deprive babies and children of their person-hood. Their wants and needs are set aside as unimportant. Their means of communicating distress are treated as an annoyance, and their need for closeness as an inconvenience. Their needs are secondary to their parent’s desires – they are not persons. Parent are feel as though they know the needs of the infant better than the infant themself, and the infant as though they are  creating difficulty by communicating their needs and seeking closeness. They are treated as though they need to be trained, like a pet. They are dehumanized. Their parents conditioned to be desensitized to their distress; to not respond. Their emotions, and developmentally appropriate (indeed, immensely biologically important) needs marginalized and set aside.

We make this OK as a society. We make it OK to ignore children’s distress as infants, desensitizing ourselves. Then as they grow older, we make it OK to commit physical violence against them, for the same reasons. To train them. Using the same ways of thinking. Further removing their humanity and marginalizing them as persons. We treat children as property, objectifying them. As a society. I feel that this creates an atmosphere where some people can excuse their actions in the same way some people excuse their actions against sluts. It may seem a little thing, unimportant when compared to everything else that could happen – but nothing happens in a vacuum. Small things can and do contribute to larger ones. That is why, my friends, I feel so strongly about CIO (and other child related socially acceptable neglect and violence).