The Virtual Coffeehouse: Political Real Talk

Meet Armchair Bureaucrat! Abe and I met in 2007 at college, through a mutual friend, and we quickly became good friends. The foundation of our friendship was one of the old university stereotypes: hours spent at a local coffee shop discussing politics, philosophy, literature, history, and just about everything in between. In the beginning, our only commonality was a love for coffee (for the most part). He was about as conservative as they came, and I, of course, was a liberal feminist.

Unlike other friendships that reached across party lines, we didn’t avoid talking politics. In fact, that was one of our favorite topics–but we always respected one another, and we always listened, really listened, to what the other had to say.

Once we graduated, those discussions ended, and I really missed them. Abe did too. I had a thought–why not publish our discussions for all to see? Abe thought it might be fun to try, so here it is. I had a lot of fun–I hope to do this again.


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Kentucky Needs Better Protections From Bullying

This is why we need HB336 to pass. Now.

“A 15-year-old high school student took her own life this week. Her parents said she was the victim of bullying.

After the teen’s untimely death, other parents have come forward, saying their kids have also been bullied at Livingston County Schools and they’re calling on the school district to make major changes.

They said the school is failing when it comes to protecting their kids and they want new and stricter policies to stop bullying. They also want better counseling services, so that no student has to feel like suicide is the only option.”

My heart breaks for this young woman. It didn’t have to end this way for her.

You know the anti-bullying bill, HB336? It was rejected by the committee on March 13th, less than a week before the young woman from Livingston County took her life. She’s not the only teenager in Kentucky to do so.

“Sam Denham, 13, an eighth-grader from a Northern Kentucky middle school, and Miranda Campbell, 14, a high school freshman from Hopkinsville, committed suicide in the past five months to escape bullying, they said.”

No one deserves to be bullied. No one deserves to be harassed. Or assaulted. Or terrorized.

And you know what? If we’re not going to allow these kids to defend themselves from bullies without getting punished right alongside their attacker, then we (and I mean EVERYONE here) have to do everything we can to protect them.

“Rep. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown, said the state already has sufficient laws against bullying. He expressed doubt that any additional laws could help.”

Clearly, we don’t.

Here’s the list of the House Education committee members. Contact them to let them know that we won’t let this go. Contact the members I’ve tagged below, in particular, to let them know how reprehensible their comments are.

A Glimpse into the Future?

Amanda Ching has written a brillant short story that you need to read. It’s speculative fiction, imagining what the U.S. might look like if we keep incrementally rolling back reproductive rights.

This story answers the question that the naive citizens of a free democracy always ask: how do totalitarian regimes happen?

Go read it. Now.

As a writer, I can tell you that this is one of the best short stories I have ever read. Let me tell you, speaking from experience, writing a short story is hard. Amanda makes it look easy. I am extremely jealous of her talent.

As a feminist, this story scared the ever-loving shit out of me. It provides a hell of a lot of motivation to fight every single rollback of human rights, because this story highlights how, though human rights violations may start in one area, they always spread into other areas, until everyone’s rights are gone.

A Gun Owner on “Stand Your Ground”

I don’t like “stand your ground” laws. I understand the sentiment–if I have the right to be in a space, I also have the right to be there and be safe. I have the right to be free from harm, from being a victim of a crime. I have the right to defend myself.

I have the right to defend myself.

That is why I don’t like “stand your ground” laws. I already have the right to defend myself.

One concern many people have for new (or old) gun owners is that gun owners will get overconfident–they’ll feel invincible, because of the power that comes with carrying a deadly weapon. As a result, they’ll become careless. They’ll escalate tense situations. They’ll be too quick to draw their weapon. They’ll draw their weapon when they have no intention of really shooting, just because they’re feeling out of control, and they want that control back.

Those are reasonable concerns, to say the least.

I’ve said before that drawing a deadly weapon like a gun, in self-defense, should be a last resort. What I haven’t said, but implied, is that every possible attempt should be made to deescalate.

I believe gun owners have a duty to try to deescalate.

If deescalating means removing yourself from the situation, if that’s possible, then so be it, your right to be in whatever location you’re in be damned.

Because it’s not about your right to be occupying a space, it’s about your right to be alive, to be safe, to be free from harm and injury.

(note: I’m not talking about castle doctrine here. I’m not referring to occupying your own living space, or your car, for instance.)

The right to self-defense is more than adequate for gun owners to protect themselves from attackers, wherever you are.

Stand your ground laws only protect irresponsible rogue-cowboy-wannabe gun owners from being prosecuted, not to mention encourages them to go on with their rogue cowboy fantasy.

This costs a lot of innocent people their lives, and that’s unacceptable.

Little Bits of Freedom

Last night, at work, I burped. And I didn’t excuse myself.

“Gross! Say excuse me!” One of my coworkers said.


“Why not?”

“I won’t apologize for natural bodily functions.”

This drew everyone’s attention. One coworker argued that “excuse me” wasn’t an apology. Another opined that it was the polite thing to do. Another asked me if I never excused myself. Later, when I burped in the gym, and excused myself, my coworkers that work out with me pointed it out, and praised me. I told them that, yeah, I do actually excuse myself sometimes, because that’s what society expects people to do, and there are some situations where you are obligated to follow cultural rules to the minutia.

In this instance, it seems totally absurd to refuse to apologize for–and be ashamed of–my bodily functions. I’ll admit it sounds like a childish rebellion.

But you know what else I won’t apologize for? You know what else I won’t be ashamed of?

My menstrual cycle. My body fat. That fact that I poop. The shape of my body. My sweat. Or anything else that my body does, or is.

I won’t hide my pad in a pocket when I walk to the restroom.

I won’t continually flush or play music to mask the sounds of the feces exiting my anus and dropping into the toilet.

I won’t rush for a paper towel when I start to sweat during a workout.

I won’t eat before I go out on a dinner date.

I won’t cover the scars on my arms, legs, stomach, and back.

I will not exfoliate or pick the calluses off my hands.

I won’t hold back a grimace or a groan when I fucking hurt, ow.

I refuse to stop using Icy-Hot patches to soothe my menstrual pain, just because I reek of menthol, and that’s just not how a woman is supposed to smell, good gawd.

I’m a human being, and I poop, pee, bleed, sweat, groan, and stink like everyone else. I have lived my life, so I have scars. I am a human being, so I have body fat, my own individual shape, and I eat when I’m hungry.

I refuse to hide all of that, just because of some stupid cultural, misogynistic expectations of women.

Christian Cries Wolf at LGBT Community’s “Intolerance”

So I came upon this trite today. To spare you, in the midst of some blathering about modernism, there was a whole lot of whining about the “intolerance” of Christians on the part of the LGBT community.

Here we go again.

First, a few points:

Christians and the LGBT community are not two mutually exclusive groups. There’s quite a bit of overlap between the two, actually.

Attempting to place Christians, as a group, within the societal model of “modernity” while at the same time, placing the LGBT community outside of it, or, generously, failing at it–is one of the most laughable ideas I’ve heard all week. Not to mention–this framing of the LGBT community as outsiders, as Other, or left behind as the world has shifted into modernity does give a wee bit of credit to the accusations of bigotry that the author is trying so hard to discredit.

This passage:

“To the extent that a society becomes “modern,” then, it will be packed with people who hold to widely divergent beliefs and values, any of which may be questioned. And the glue of this system is not that we all agree with one another but that we make a commitment to not always equate disagreement, or even disapproval, with bigotry.”

I notice how carefully the author has avoided making any mention here of just what is in dispute here, or rather, who.

What is being disputed here is the very existence of the LGBT community, and their rights as citizens in this society. Christianity, as the author has identified it here, has opinions on the LGBT community, and has, is, and will continue to try to structure our society so that the LGBT community is marginalized, unequal, and without protections, so as to be in agreement with Christianity’s beliefs.

That flies in the face of the pluralism, modernity, and tolerance the author is writing about. What Christians believe about God, their ethics, and their own behaviors are Christians’ business. What Christians believe about other people, the LGBT community, and their freedom, rights, and protections are everyone’s business.

You don’t get to believe things about other people, try to impose them on everyone, and then cry intolerance when you’re called a bigot. And, you know, intolerant.

The author got the first part right. A modern society is a plural one, and one in which the ideals and values of individual groups get to be questioned. He got the second part so very wrong. The glue that holds a modern society together is not that we don’t refrain from calling bigots, bigots, but that each different group respects the others, and that our society does not elevate one group over the other. The glue that holds a “modern” i.e. pluralistic society together is that we co-exist peacefully. That our structure is neutral, that all groups are equal, having the same rights and protections. That individual groups keep their traditions, their beliefs, their values focused on themselves.

And the minute one group tries to impose itself on others? They can expect push-back, self-defense, and yes, being called bigots.

Doctors Against Anti-Abortion Laws: the Beginning of a Movement?

Last week, in the midst of a heartbreaking story about a woman who fell victim to Texas’ mandatory ultrasound law, we heard about the unwilling doctor forced to do the procedure:

“I’m so sorry that I have to do this,” the doctor told us, “but if I don’t, I can lose my license.”

“When you come back in 24 hours, the legal side is over. Then we’ll care for you and give you the information you need in the way we think is right.”

Then on Saturday, PalmD at WhiteCoatUnderground posted this:

“Doctors are notoriously poor organizers.  We generally operate independently.  The AMA represents less than thirty percent of American doctors.  When it comes to protecting ourselves and our patients, we are often on our own.  When it comes to the latest abortion bills we cannot afford to remain apart.  We must all speak out against this violation of our ethics and our patients’ rights.  How this might work isn’t clear, but perhaps we need target certain states, one at a time.  When one provider is shut down for honoring their patients’ rights, another must be willing to step up, and another.  There is a nationwide shortage of abortion providers so this probably isn’t realistic, but even so, we must try, we must advocate for our patients, we must defend them from the depravities of those who would violate their basic right to ethical, respectful care.”

Finally, yesterday, Anonymous Doctor at John Scalzi’s blog called for doctors across the country to engage in civil disobedience and refuse to perform mandatory ultrasounds:

“It is our responsibility, as always, to protect our patients from things that would harm them. Therefore, as physicians, it is our duty to refuse to perform a medical procedure that is not medically indicated. Any medical procedure. Whatever the pseudo-justification.

It’s time for a little old-fashioned civil disobedience.

When the community has failed a patient by voting an ideologue into office…When the ideologue has failed the patient by writing legislation in his own interest instead of in the patient’s…When the legislative system has failed the patient by allowing the legislation to be considered… When the government has failed the patient by allowing something like this to be signed into law… We as physicians cannot and must not fail our patients by ducking our heads and meekly doing as we’re told.

Because we are their last line of defense.”

We need more doctors to take a stand–to speak out, to share their stories, to call for and organize action. While the most important voices in this struggle remain the women who are affected by this anti-choice, anti-autonomy, anti-woman legislation, we need our doctors to speak up as well. We’re in this together.

If you’re a doctor, and would like to share your story, or your own call for action, I am glad to offer this space for you to speak. Contact me at brittanyannwick AT yahoo DOT com, if you would like to share your story, or if you already have on another website, send me the link–I’d like to share it.