25 7 / 2014

  • This seems about right; representation matters.
  • 1: Wonder Woman is too difficult to find a movie audience for-
  • 2: YO YOU LIKE BLACK WIDOW? HERE SHE IS IN THE NEXT CAPTAIN AMERICA MOVIE WITH A TON OF SCREENTIME AND MAJOR ASSKICKING SKILLS
  • 1: We can't allow the lesbians in Batwoman to get married in the comic, sorry.
  • 2: HEY GUESS WHAT WE'RE GONNA FEATURE A GAY WEDDING ON THE COVER OF AN X-MEN ISSUE
  • 1: The new direction for storytelling needs to be dark, gritty, mature and cynical.
  • 2: DUDE CHECK IT OUT LOKI GOES SPEED DATING IS THAT NOT THE BEST SHIT EVER
  • 1: After years of rumors, the Superman/Batman movie is finally coming, but with a new actor and suit for Batman and MAYBE a cameo from Wonder Woman.
  • 2: PHASE 2 MOTHERFUCKERS EVERYONE IS IN EVERYONE'S MOVIE AND THERE AIN'T NO STOPPIN US NOW
  • 1: We can try to add maybe one or two 'people of color' to our lineup...maybe...
  • 2: NEW MS MARVEL THAT'S MUSLIM AMERICAN, BITCHES.
  • 1: We feel no problem with Batman's vengeful personality being like wet cardboard.
  • 2: NEW LATINA GHOST RIDER WHO SEEKS VENGEANCE WHILE TAKING HIS AWEET LIL BRO FOR ICE CREAM
  • 1: We can't mention any superhero titles in our movies, that's ridiculous.
  • 2: FUCK YEAH YOU WANT A RACOON VOICED BY BRADLEY COOPER WITH A GIANT GUN? YOU WANT VIN DIESEL PLAYING A TREE? AMY FUCKING POND PLAYING A SEXY BALD SPACE PIRATE? HERE YOU FUCKERS GO
  • 1: Our fanbase is mostly white males, I'm sure our focus is-
  • 2: NEW SHE HULK LINE WHERE SHE GOES TO COURT THEN SAVES NEW YORK
  • 1: Wait-
  • 2: NEW FEMALE THOR
  • 1: I didn't-
  • 2: NEW BLACK CAPTAIN AMERICA
  • 2: TAKE ALL THIS COOL SHIT MARVEL BE OUTIE
  • 2: PEACE

24 7 / 2014

Being a shepherd is hot, tiring work. Not many people do it. Nowadays people even use helicopters to spy out where sheep get off to. But back in the olden days… In the olden days, a shepherd had to use his own two eyes. If a sheep wandered off, there was no help for it. He had to walk around looking for it, high and low. He had to go up the hills, down into valleys, over brambles, through hedges. He could call off the search if he got sick of it, but if he did that, he might lose a sheep which was a valuable investment.

The Book of Matthew speaks of someone who goes off in just such a search. High and low, near and far, and, thankfully, finally finds his sheep. Matthew points out that, of course, of course, he is very happy to find the one he’d lost. He’s more happy about the found sheep in that moment of recovery than he is about all the other sheep that are standing around safely in the pen. He’s happy because he didn’t want to lose that sheep, and upon finding it, he doesn’t have to lose it after all.

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What if that one lost sheep is a reminder of the relationships that we have at stake when there is conflict or harm between us as members of Beloved Community? There will be times that we will have to search for the valuable investment; in this case, the connection is to a relationship. How will we find relationship when there has been separation? The process of forgiveness and restoration isn’t always plain to see. Sometimes it’s words, like, “I’m sorry. You can count on me to do better in the future.” Sometimes it’s actions, such as, coming together to restore what has been lost, a broken toy, a scratched bumper. But if that relationship is at stake, and we want to keep it right and whole, then we must search for the way that will provide wholeness.

It may be that at times, there is no single action that will make things right. It may be that after a relationship is damaged, fixing or changing or doing will not give rise to forgiveness. If one way of thinking of forgiveness is that which allows us to let go of the harm, then we have another option. Why does it matter? Why does it matter what options remain, how forgiveness happens, or how relationships can be preserved or restored? It matters because the way we care for our relationships is equivalent to the way we put our faith into practice. After we are harmed, it is easy for us to write people off.

Just never mind them.

Well, if that’s how they want it…

I can’t believe they…

But beyond the hurt is possibility. If I admit my hurt and invite people to be accountable, then by the very practice of being in relationship, I say a few important things. One is that the relationship is important enough to work at; it is more than disposable. Another is that the hurt that I bear is mine, yes, but it was not created by itself. The way I feel is important enough to shine light on and for people with whom I am in community to consider.

The way we are together is the sheep I will not give up on. I will look high and low. I will be honest and direct about how I feel. I will claim responsibility for that which is mine and not for that which is another’s.

And when we come to the place where we both see clearly the harm and the relationship at stake, well, then, when no fixing or changing will heal us, we can take a deep breath and turn to wonder, as Parker Palmer encourages us, to, “[w]hen the going gets rough, turn to wonder.” He encourages us to wonder what brings others to their beliefs or what they could be feeling right now. In that open space, free of judgment, something new may arise: understanding, or perhaps forgiveness, or even insight. It is what lies beyond that interests me. Those are the gifts of being faithful in relationship, of holding on past the awkward, uncomfortable sweaty times. I will write more another day about the things I am holding in my heart that I want to bathe in wonder. For now, the possibility is enough.

07 7 / 2014

Lately, there has been a fair amount of buzz on the Internet against trigger warnings.  The latest I’ve seen is from J. Jack Halberstam, a respected writer and professor of American studies and of ethnicity and gender studies at the University of Southern California. The thing is that being an expert doesn’t free your opinion of problems. Let’s talk about those. I am writing in consideration of some of the points in this post.

http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2014/07/you-are-triggering-me.html

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1.            But it really is funny/cool/awesome. You’re just being humorless, uncool, and generally unawesome.

Halberstam brings up Life of Brian, as something politically incorrect that is funny/cool/awesome and would never make the cut today. The way that censoring for commercial films today works is such a highly politicized process that I don’t know that it is a good example of trigger warnings causing a problem. Rating films in accordance with their partisan politics or sexual politics is a means of silencing particular narratives, or centering the chosen story that the censors wish to empower.

The way movies are filtered can be helpful in a general way to allow viewers, or even parents of viewers, to make informed decisions about how specific content meets their needs. In this way, movie ratings may be similar to trigger warnings. However, a significant difference is that a trigger warning is ethically and successfully used as a way to ensure that robust dialogue continues, albeit, without participation of triggered persons.

2.            Some people had a fight and the outcomes were unclear. Some people liked that word; others didn’t.

Yes, I totally get that. Sometimes people fight and nobody wins. When it comes to words, there are definite dominant associations for which speakers are responsible. The word, “tranny” might be meaningful to some in a positive way, but there is no denying that it is a word that people have used to devalue and insult others. It has that history. When people ask for it not to be used, they have a legitimate basis for doing so. The people who reclaim words with ferocity have a legitimate position as well.

The real question, which Halberstam doesn’t pose, isn’t whether words should be used or not, but rather how it is that two groups of people, who find themselves describing each other as polar opposites can find common ground. He finds that organizing against reclaimed words is censorship. In this way, Halberstam closes down the dialogue instead of opening it wider. The history of the word is real. It isn’t changed just because someone tries to reclaim it. I say, “tries” because since the word is able to be found in current culture used as a weapon and a tool of devaluing, it cannot be said to be completely reclaimed, as could be said of some other word not in current use as a slur.

3.            Trauma isn’t as common as people assert. People are being trained to act traumatized.

Trigger warnings serve a specific purpose: to allow people to avoid harm to themselves from specific kinds of content. When Halberstam speaks of trigger warnings being used too generally, he’s not making it up. We can’t label every unpleasant idea that people may encounter in content. What we can do and expect others to do is label according to community standards and according to particular content categories. For example, Geek Feminism proposes the following manageable list:

  • graphic descriptions of or extensive discussion of abuse, especially sexual abuse or torture
  • graphic descriptions of or extensive discussion of self-harming behaviour such as suicide, self-inflicted injuries or disordered eating
  • depictions, especially lengthy or psychologically realistic ones, of the mental state of someone suffering abuse or engaging in self-harming behaviour
  • discussion of eating-disordered behavior or body shaming

(http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Trigger_warning)

As to people acclimating to trauma in a way that isn’t true to their own experience, this may also happen. It’s not the best case, and it’s not a consequence of people using trigger warnings incorrectly. It’s something that happens when the conversation around trauma is incomplete.

Where Halberstam and I have common ground is that we both believe that accountability is missing from the conversation. A lot of Halberstam’s narrative in use against trigger warnings is unspecific. Is it too much for trigger warnings to be used at all? Probably not. Trigger warnings are meant to allow people to self-select themselves for conversations. This is a way in which two things are happening at once: people can care for themselves in settings that would otherwise cause them harm, while robust dialogue on challenging topics can occur simultaneously.

When the warnings are kept to a reasonable number, related to things that can cause post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks or urges to self-harm, they can make a difference as to how and who can access community and advocate for change. (This is distinct from preventing people from feeling sad, which is probably not a reasonable standard.) This is not too much to ask. I believe that building specificity and reasonableness into the conversation for trigger warnings can make all the difference.

22 5 / 2014

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How do I hold everything at once? The answer seems to be soft hands, large heart.

Not complaining

I’m about to blog about the Brave Souls Over The Edge event at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, Providence, RI, 2014. I am not about to complain about the UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association). I am grateful for the UUA. I believe that it performs important functions that add to the vitality and success of Unitarian Universalist congregations. I believe that the tensions that arise from Unitarian Universalist polity, at once give the UUA roots and wings. As we build Beloved Community, we discover the strengths and limitations of each.

Not surprising

I believe that it is important for me to tell a fuller story, and to bring a voice, my voice, with a marginalized experience to the public discourse. This event, rappelling over the edge of the convention center, does not arise in a vacuum. While there are Unitarian Universalist positions on issues ranging from minimum wage to global warming to immigration rights, no single cohesive position is available from the UUA on disability rights. This is intentional; in recent times, I have heard more than one UUA decision-maker comment on the idea that disability rights and accessibility intentionally exist outside the UUA, leaving those decisions to the congregations. This structure is problematic in two pressing ways.

1. Disability rights are civil rights. For Unitarian Universalists to leave them to the side means leaving some important justice work unconsidered and incomplete.

2. Disability rights must be supported by UUA infrastructure. The administrative arm of the Unitarian Universalist churches has the means to hold capacity for the congregations to grow in access and practical inclusion. In practice, the UUA has defaulted to a medical view of disability—that is, if there is something different about people’s bodies, they should get that checked out by a doctor. In fact, some of the time, people are disabled by the situations and facilities they encounter. Ignoring this fact doesn’t make it any less true.

Not inclusive

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So, rappelling. In some ways, this post doesn’t speak to my current situation because I am doing a hospital chaplaincy internship for my ministry studies this summer. I can’t make it to General Assembly. And it is true that some people with limited mobility will be able to rappel, since gravity does a lot of the work (think: “controlled falling, with gear”), but even if I were there, it probably wouldn’t be a good choice for me. The reason is that I struggle with fatigue as a consequence of my disability. For people to expect that it should work out is placing the template of an able-bodied experience over my experience. It won’t match up. Expecting people with disabilities to do things in the same way as people without disabilities is one hallmark of ableism.

Some readers will worry that this means that people without disabilities would be prohibited from rappelling by this consideration. My reaction is no; or only if the very smallest spectrum of ideas is acceptable. If consideration of people with disabilities had been taken before the event was designed, people in community might have discovered an infinite number of inclusive ideas and celebrations of stewardship and risk. And this is where our lack of agreement on the place of disability rights in the faith movement brings us up short.

What if Principle 1b were that, Unitarian Universalists welcome warmly all kinds of bodies and lived physical experiences into our Beloved Community? What if our efforts to enjoy, challenge, and celebrate sprang from there? Do you see how that’s a completely different starting place?

One more thing before I go: I don’t actually want to be called brave. “Brave” ties in directly with the theology of disability that says that my body is pitiable (the source of remarks like, if I had your disability, I don’t know if I could deal with it). No. My body is good. It is good without regard to the things it does or doesn’t do. I know, I’m asking, imagining a lot. You have it in you, though, to be your best self. And please remember that I love you.

More info on fatigue and illness: The Spoon Theory

28 4 / 2014

q: what is subminimum wage?

a: a legal wage below minimum wage that is allowed to be paid to certain kinds of people.

according to the us department of labor,

individuals whose earning or productive capacity is impaired by a physical or mental disability, including those related to age or injury…”

q: is this fair?

a: no. one of the problems is that subminimum wage assumes right away that people with disabilities are less productive than non-disabled workers. doing things differently doesn’t always mean getting less done.

q: does the subminimum wage encourage employers to hire people with disabilities? 

a: actually, it doesn’t. the subminimum wage actually confirms to employers that workers with disabilities are less productive, whether they are or not. the idea that people get paid what their work is worth influences employment in this way.

q: what alternatives are there to subminimum wage for people with disabilities?

a: people with significant disabilities can earn at least minimum wage and receive wages that are competitive. this is real.

q: won’t people with disabilities lose their benefits if they are paid standard minimum wage?

hey, good question. let’s look at the numbers.  earning limits are $1,070 for people with disabilities who are non-blind and $1,800 for people with disabilities (2014).

there is a huge difference both in dollar income and in the human dignity of workers with disabilities between being paid pennies an hour to do repetitive tasks and working respectfully within these income limits to achieve win-win solutions.

bonus:

q: how can i help?

support efforts to end subminimum wage in your state and on federal levels.

if you’re on twitter, tweet @ uusc that #raisethewage should include wages for all people.

people with disabilities should not be earning subminimum wage; we are not subhuman.

07 4 / 2014

remember that I love you.

remember that I love you.

06 4 / 2014

I didn’t expect the film to remain in lockstep with the biblical text; a blockbuster that wouldn’t make. If I have only one critique of the film it is about a thread in the larger Noah narrative that would have made the story a little more human and a little less strange.

The one thing I would have liked to see in the film (not to be confused with the dozens I could have done without—Tubalcain eating a live lizard.) Only eight people ended up on the ark, but Noah preached about the coming flood for 120 years.

The film has Noah basically brushing people off, and telling them that there was no place for them in the ark. Wasn’t there? There is some support in the biblical narrative for the idea that Noah warned people about the coming destruction and they decided to ignore him. (2 Peter 2:5)

In the film, from the time his daughter-in-law discovered her pregnancy, Noah was, instead of a devoted follower of God, a homicidal, unthinking cultist. Part of what the story says is that God liked what he saw in Noah. (Genesis 6:8, The Message). There was nothing likeable about this Noah, not anything at all. I’m up for action and adventure, but I feel like the mercy that was missing made the film too cartoonish.

02 4 / 2014

shawnafoster:

I watched a clip of Colbert trying to remain in character as he talked about anchor babies, of women in Mexico giving cannonlike births to have their children anchor them over to the other side with the umbilical cord. I didn’t laugh. I was thinking of the 3,000 dead people found up in the border…

23 2 / 2014

TW: war rape, murder, suicide, moral injury


Steven D. Green served in the US Army in Iraq. While he was in Yusufiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, he raped a fourteen year-old girl and then killed her, her parents and her six year-old sister. And Green was arrested for these crimes in the middle of taking his grandmother to dinner and a movie. In late February 2014, Green hung himself in the cell of a federal prison. He died two days later. One of the things he is on record as saying is to the FBI agents who transported him: “You probably think I’m a monster.”

Green definitely did some monstrous things. He also saw some monstrous things and suffered some monstrous things. These are not placed together because they are cause and effect. Rather, one of the things we can do in response to Green’s crimes, his punishment, and his self-inflicted death is to ask ourselves some questions. What is our part in the world’s monstrous acts? What is a right response to monstrous acts?

Clearly, we must condemn acts against the humanity of others, including acts that may not be as violent as what Green did, but may harm someone just as much. Being in a war is one of the things that allowed Green to justify his actions. He is not alone. In almost any war zone, rape happens with some regularity, used as a weapon of genocide and psychological warfare. Steven Green acted in that environment, not just to end human life, but to desecrate it.

The United Nations has taken steps to identify and refute rape in war conditions as a war crime. But, a person reading the CNN article about Steven Green might tend to think that the issue is one that is personal to him, a problem that he had, psychopathy or immorality. These official positions against war rape came around 1990, so very recently, considering the history of war as the United States has participated in it.

While many soldiers do their jobs in war without breaking law as it is codified, they will struggle with the moral injury of war.

Moral injury can be described this way:

Veterans who have been a part of something that betrays their sense of right and wrong often find themselves grappling with what researchers are only now beginning to understand – something that PTSD doesn’t quite capture. They call it “moral injury.” It’s not a diagnosis, but an explanation for many veterans’ emotional responses to their experiences of war.

It requires both/and thinking, or the recognition that conflicting ideas can both be true at the same time, to hear how Green is on record describing moral injury as he experienced it (though not in those words) and to know how he inflicted injury on others, while holding that all of that is part of Green’s experience of being human.

One of our responsibilities is to prevent this from happening in the future in whatever way we are able. We are able to support diplomacy. We are able to support supervision and resources for troops. We are able to support peace. And when there is war, we can support efforts to prevent war rape, such as the work of the United Nations, the Red Cross, and Physicians Without Borders.

More is possible, in terms of preventing the loss of human life. More is possible in allowing each person to fulfill the potential of their humanity.

19 2 / 2014

shawnafoster:

Beyonce dropped her new album with no warning before the end of the year. A huge surprise that made her fans love her even more and people rave about it endlessly.

When we get surprised by the bad news that our plane has been canceled due to inclement weather, there is a little grumbling, sure….