Elephant Ocean

Our culture is fucked up. Profoundly and irrevocably so. For reasons I cannot fathom (perhaps my mind isn’t closed enough or my heart not small enough) our culture has an unnerving and a disturbing habit of blaming and shaming victims of violent crimes, particularly of rape. As a woman and a mother this is unsettling to me on so many levels.

We live in culture that teaches our daughters to not get raped rather than our sons to not rape. We live in a culture that teaches women to fear being alone at night, to not wear certain styles of clothing for fear of attracting a rapist, to not drink at a party or flirt with a man because it might invite him to rape us. Never mind the facts. Never mind that nearly half of rape victims are children. Never mind that the majority of rapists are acquainted…

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Elephant Ocean

They fear it. The misogynists and the patriarchists, at least most of them do. They are anti-woman and they fear the power of vagina because thoughts of it consume their brains, because they lack the personal fortitude of stronger, more open-minded people, to control their sexual thoughts and urges, they seek to own and control the vagina and, by extension, the women to whom said vaginas belong.  This is not because they do not want to enjoy sex, they just want to be the ones to decide when and where to have it and to ensure that the vagina, like a plot of land to which they have laid claim, remains theirs and theirs alone.

They cannot have liberated women running around, popping birth-control pills, daring to choose their own sexual partners and the number thereof, and  having the audacity to decide if/when they become wives and mothers. This would…

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Chick-fil-hAte: Religious Freedom Has Nothing To Do With It

By now we’ve all heard about Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s stance on gay rights and the subsequent outrage in response to that stance. For many of us the anti-gay beliefs espoused by Mr. Cathy and his company came as a bit of a surprise. Out of nowhere, or so it seemed, social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, were abuzz with posts and comments about Dan Cathy’s statements to The Baptist Press regarding the company’s support of  ”the biblical definition of the family unit.” For others, this news was far from out-of-the-blue. In March of last year, the LGBT rights group, Equal Matters published a report about the fast-food chain’s support of adamantly anti-gay groups, like Focus on the Family and Family Research Council, the latter of which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In May and September of last year,  LGBT rights activists protested the opening  of Chick-fil-A restaurants in Chicago and Hollywood, respectively; and in February of this year, students at NYU petitioned the university to close its Chick-fil-A franchise.

While, on the surface, the official position of Chick-fil-A and Mr. Cathy regarding gay-rights is, in the opinions of many, antiquated and unethical; dig a little deeper and that position moves from out-dated and wrong, to down-right fucking crazy-scary. Dan Cathy doesn’t just believe in the concept of traditional marriage (whatever the hell that means), he believes that we, as a nation, are inviting the wrath of his God for having the audacity to offer equal protection under the law to all of our citizens regardless of their sexual orientation. Or, as he puts it, for our “prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is.” Dan Cathy isn’t one of those misguided but otherwise benign Christians who is simply of the personal opinion that marriage should be between one man and woman until death parts them…No. He is one of those sinister and twisted Christians, like Robertson and Falwell, who honestly believes that there is some vengeful, wrathful force in the universe that will destroy us all for daring to treat people who differ from us with respect and dignity. That’s some scary shit right there, folks. Scary shit.

Now, to take matters from the scary to the mindbogglingly terrifying (yes, I am this freaked the hell out by this next bit), Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A are not merely funding groups that oppose same-sex marriage, (oh if only it was that bad) the two are funding a group that appears to support the systematic murder of homosexuals. In 2010, Family Research Council (FRC) gave $25,000 to lobby Congress to vote against a resolution, dubbed  ”Res.1064Ugandan ResolutionPro-homosexual promotion” by FRC, that would denounce Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill. Now, it would be disingenuous to insist, without irrefutable evidence, that Dan Cathy or the rest of the company knew about the FRC’s efforts to influence Congress’ vote on the resolution; but given that FRC is on the SPLC’s list of hate groups and considering that stories about the FRC’s lobbying efforts have been on the internet since 2010, it seems unlikely that Dan Cathy was unaware of it.

Contrary to what some people, particularly supporters of Chick-fil-A, might think, the outrage being expressed does not merely pertain to Dan Cathy’s statement to The Baptist Press, nor is the boycott indicative of an anti-Christian plot to destroy religious freedom. Yes, for those of us who understand that sexual-orientation is neither a sin nor an abomination, the position of Chick-fil-A and its president is offensive; but our outrage actually goes deeper than that. A lot deeper. We’re not just angry that some religious, rich dude disagrees with same-sex marriage, we’re angry that he thinks the rest of us need to agree with him. Dan Cathy believes that same-sex relationships and our support of them are going to cause his God to destroy this nation. Dan Cathy believes that his religion should get to define marriage for us all. And Dan Cathy and his company have provided substantial financial support to organizations that not only aim to impose theocratic laws on us all, but that appear to support policies in foreign countries that would kill gays and lesbians.  This is why we’re outraged.

We’re not telling anyone to change their opinions, we’re telling them that under no uncertain terms do they have the right to use their personal beliefs to dictate how other consenting adults live their lives. Just as they want to be free to believe whatever’s floating around in their head, so too do those of us who have different beliefs or positions. If one expects one’s personal beliefs to be respected and protected then that person *must,* as a member of a democratic and secular society, extend that same respect and protection to everyone else.

I want to make something perfectly clear to the religious right, to Dan Cathy and his ilk, and I’m asking the rest of the reasonable people in America to do join me in saying it: We don’t want your world; it’s a sad, lonely, hateful place. Personally, I don’t give a flying-monkey’s ass what anyone believes or thinks. Have at it, it’s your life. I do, however, care when your ilk tries to tell me and those whom I love and respect how to live their lives. Then and only then do your beliefs become my problem. Your beliefs are your beliefs, nothing more and nothing less. Keep it that way.

(Originally written by Karen Lyn for Elephant Ocean on August 2, 2012. © Karen Lyn, 2011-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author(s) and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

Vote Responsibly

Folks, it is now June, voting day is now FIVE months away. This election, like every election, is important. It is time that we all begin to start seriously considering for whom it is we are going to vote. Luckily, the era of the internet has made this task quite simple and there are now a plethora of sites that compile useful information about politicians to assist us in making well-informed choices.

I will not attempt to sway any of you toward any particular candidate; although, I am not above encouraging you all to take a left turn. 😉 I will, however, offer a bit of advice that I think is useful and deeply important; as you research the voting records and personal stances of the candidates, both incumbent and non, also look into from where and from whom their campaign contributions are coming. If we as a nation can learn anything from Scott Walker‘s governorship, and recent victory, is that politicians who receive financial support from big business, especially those with long histories of being anti-Union (Walmart and Home Depot, for example), are going to vote anti-Union and anti-workers rights because that is what their owners –ooops I mean donors– want them to do. And this is true for all politicians: if one has received significant support from Wall Street, they will then represent Wall Street; if from the oil industry, then they will represent the oil industry; if from the corporate food industry, like Monsanto or Conagra, they will represent the corporate food industry.

Therefore, research each candidate’s campaign finances, as this, along with their voting records, will tell you everything you need to know about where his/her loyalties will really lie once they are in office. Chances are that the candidate with the least amount of money raised, especially from corporations and banks with a track record of greed and corruption, is going to be more loyal we the people. Just remember, though, that while whomever it is you choose come November is up to you, your vote effects the whole; so choose wisely and whatever you do, VOTE.

Vote because it is your duty as a citizen, but vote responsibly. It is your duty to your fellow Americans to vote not for the person who raises the most money or flings the best insults, but for the person who, upon research on your part, is best suited for the job. Who cares if they have an R or a D along side their name, or neither? No one should really because what matters most is what donors appear under their names, as this is a tell tale sign of who a candidate will truly be representing. The more millionaires, billionaires, corporate CEOs, and Wall Street bankers you see, the more likely it is that, once in office, we the people will be forgotten as the newly elected politician bows to the whims of his or her corporate sponsors.

It is essential that we put an end to the corporate puppet show in DC, and our respective home states, by voting responsibly come November. It is important that we take the time to remember those in Congress who have done right by the people and carefully research those running to replace those in Congress who have failed us. If we all do this, if we stand together, we have a far better chance of succeeding in reclaiming the political power.

Below you will find links to websites and articles that are designed to assist voters in making informed and responsible decisions.

This site provides the personal stances and voting history of each candidate and present office holder:
http://ontheissues.org/default.htm

This link provides information on which corporations own whom:
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2010/09/congress-corporate-sponsors

This link provides the personal finances of some of Congresses top members (this speaks volumes as to where their loyalties have and will lay):
http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/

This link provides information on campaign contributions:
http://www.opensecrets.org/

And this link allows you to not only view the political stances of candidates and office-holders, it shows you the bills and the votes each Congressperson gave to said bills.
http://votesmart.org/

© Karen Lyn and Take Back America, 2011-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author(s) and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn, author post authors as listed on this blog, and Take Back America with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Message to Congress

Dear Congress,
For far too long we have been ignored, marginalized, and exploited. We have watched as our homes have lost value or been taken away. We have watched as jobs, via free trade agreements designed solely to benefit the rich, have been sent overseas. We have watched as our schools, natural environment, and infrastructures have taken a back seat to subsidies and other economic breaks for the richest amongst us. We have seen the cost of living skyrocket while earnings for the majority of us have plummeted. As we, the 99%, struggle to make ends meet, send our kids to college, pay our medical bills, and buy food and other necessities, the rich have continued to make exponential gains. And, to add insult to injury, we have watched, despite all of our hopes, as you, our elected officials, have sold out us to the highest bidder.
It ends now. This is, as per the US Constitution, the very document that you are sworn to uphold and protect, a nation of, by, and for the people. You are our public servants. Act like it, or be replaced.

Please, feel free to send this letter to your own Congressperson (Senator or House Rep., as well as to your state reps in your state’s General Assembly).
Also, please visit and participate in 
Take Back America’s Facebook event, “Occupy Congress and General Assemblies.”

From Thoughts to Action

A few people wanted to know, what made us start Take Back America ? Well, here’s what motivated it:

This citizens’ movement, which is still a very small, fledgling movement, began  just a few months ago as an idea. Well, as a series of complaints, really, which evolved into an idea. I was sick and tired…of so many things really.

I was sick and tired of listening to the crazy, yes I said crazy, extreme right, the Palins and the Bachmanns and the Becks and the Bartons, making outlandish and non-factual statements about America and what our founders intended. They know nothing about our history, and even less about what the founders intended. I wanted to find a way to help my fellow Americans understand our rich and complicated history. To understand that we cannot know for a fact everything the founders “intended” and that, for the most part, we should not completely care because it is one thing to learn from the past, it is another thing entirely to live in it.

What we DO know is that the founders did not intend for this to be a Christian nation, as the Christian right would have us believe, hence the First Amendment. They did not intend for the Constitution to be a dead document, static and unchanging as many on the right, like Ron Paul, would have us believe. What they DID intend was for this to be a nation of, by, and for the people, not a nation of , by, and for corporations; hence the wording of the preamble of our very own Constitution. What they DID intend was to build a nation that would grow and change with its people, not a nation trapped in time but a nation that was timeless; hence the Amendment process. What they DID intend was for Congress to put the needs and rights of the people, whom they’re meant to serve, before all else; hence the wording of Article 1 Section 8 of  our Constitution: “Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.”

Our founders, though flawed, were wise enough to know and understand that society is not static, that its needs change over time and that a strong government changes and grows along with its people.

I was also sick and tired of those same extreme conservatives claiming to be the voice of America, the true patriots. Pro-corporate, anti-choice ideals are NOT the American legacy. At the time of its founding, The United States of America was the greatest experiment in political progressivism the world had ever seen, and, in many ways, we still are. We were built on the principle that all men, or as we now think of it, people, were created equal. That each citizen has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That every American is free to worship, or not, however many gods, be it one or many or none, that he or she sees fit; a promise which America is still among few nations in all the world to give. We are a nation founded by and built upon the idea of moving forward, always seeking a new outlook and new way of being, a chance to be have more and to be more. We have never been perfect, and we have made more than our fair share of mistakes along the way, but we have never stopped moving toward the next horizon. You don’t get more progressive than this.

I was also sick and tired of watching Americans, hard working and seemingly intelligent Americans, voting against their own interests: in with the Democrats, then out with them and in with the Republicans, over and over and over again. Yet, no matter which one we put in power, we still seem to lose. I wanted to find a way to inform voters that we HAVE other options. You are NOT throwing away your vote if you vote for the candidate whom you believe WILL best serve US.

Furthermore, I was sick and tired of watching voter turn-out shrink with each passing election season. I wanted to find a way to get Americans to understand that our votes are our voice! We must, each and everyone of us, vote in every election, from local to federal. Do not, for a second, underestimate the importance of political involvement. Politics, “of, for, or relating to the citizens,” is literally about the people, and it affects EVERY aspect of our lives. From the goods and services to which we have access to the quality of our education to the fact that we can stand up and demand better.  So vote, but do not think your duty ends there…No, this is the moment at which it actually begins. We did not get where we are now by the greed of corporations and the corruption of our politicians alone, we got here by our own complacency, more so than anything else.

For too long we have remained silent, even lazy. If we want to take back our country, if we want the political system to work in OUR favor, then we must work for it. We must make the ultimate sacrifice, that of our time and energy. We must take responsibility and we must take action. The rich get the attention because they make the most noise; they have lobbyist who make phone calls, write letters, and make meetings. Yet, the rich make up only 2% of the population, this means that there are over 294 million of us and only about 6 million of them. Imagine the force we the people could be if all of us performed our duty as citizens, if we each voted, wrote letters, made phone calls, or sent emails to our state and federal representatives every month. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so lets be the squeaky wheel.

Which leads me to my final issue…I was sick and tired of watching us fail each other, of watching us allow ourselves to be divided. We sit and we finger point and we blame the “welfare mom” for sucking at America’s teat, we blame the Mexican immigrant for stealing our jobs, we blame our out of work neighbor for being lazy…Why? They are in the same boat as the rest of us…struggling to make ends meet, trying to survive while their hopes and dreams turn to smoke and fade away. We need to stop looking for scapegoats among ourselves and start acting like a united front. We need to stop fighting WITH each other and start fighting FOR each other.

So, I took my complaints to some friends. And they agreed. And I asked them, do you think we have something here? Do you think our fellow Americans would agree? Do you think there is anything we can do? And they said, it’s worth a try. And so, together, we started Take Back America, and here we are. We don’t know where this group will go, but we know who we are, we know what we want: We want to reclaim our country!

We know that sitting back and hoping for change is not acceptable. We know that we are done waiting for our elected officials, our servants for all intents and purposes, to have a sudden change of heart and become ethical. We know that America is only as strong as its poorest, its least educated, and its sickest citizens. We know that we’re failing our children when possession of marijuana can land you in prison for longer than molesting them can. We know that access to healthy food, clean water, clear air, and health care are all  human rights. We know that public programs like social security and education have made America strong, and that they have improved the financial well-being of millions of Americans. We know that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is a violation of their civil rights and that our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered citizens are no less American than your or I. We know that in order for America to live up to the vision it has of itself, a nation of liberty and justice for all, we must pick it up and carry it forward.

We know that change begins with the people. We know we must start with our votes…If our representatives, from our towns to our states to our nation‘s capitol, are not working for us then they must be voted out of office and never let in again. We know that it is up to us, the people, to make this nation work. “Of, by, and for the people,” should not just be seen as a promise for fair government, it should be seen as call to duty…a reminder that the power of politics lies within our hands. This is politics, all of us right here and now, living and working all across America…It is US, we alone have the power to make it work or let it fail.

© Karen Lyn and Take Back America, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author(s) and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn, author post authors as listed on this blog, and Take Back America with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.