Friday, June 19, 2015

COMMENTARY: Take down the Confederate Flag

My first job was working for the State of Oklahoma's Government Information Service. I got asked a number of interesting questions. One, in particular, sticks in my mind today.  I will do my best to recreate the conversation as faithfully as I can:

Caller:  Do you know that the Confederate flag is flying over the State Capitol?
Me:  Yes, Ma'am, (reaching for a brochure I have on my desk) it's part of the Fourteen Flags Plaza.*
Caller:  I don't think that's right...
Me:  Ma'am, the plaza's there to show the fourteen flags which flew over Oklahoma prior to statehood. The Confederate flag is just one of them...
Caller:  Do you think that's right?
Me:  Ma'am, I can't give my opinion...
Caller:  But, do you think that's right?
Me:  If you're asking me if I approved of slavery, my answer is no.  If you're asking me if I believe we should display our history, I'd want to remind you about some of the other nations whose flags are flying in the plaza. The Cherokees, for example, had slaves. The Spanish had the Inquisition. The French royalty treated their peasants so badly....
Caller:  I think they should remove the Confederate flag.
Me:  Ma'am, if you believe that, you should talk to your State Representative and Senator. The state's certainly spending money to keep them up and you could make suggestions for that money's alternate use....

I've never been one to shirk the unpleasant aspects of history. I liked to think we'd come a long way. After Wednesday's shooting of nine Black congregants during a Bible study, I'm not so sure we have. 

No, I emphatically do not believe this was an attack on Christianity. The shooter's words before he started killing people were:  “I have to do it. You’re raping our women and taking over the country. You have to go.”

The Confederate flag, which the attacker firmly embraced, is not just a reminder of our dark and ugly past to some. In the attacker's eyes, it's a rally to race war.

And it's time to take every one of them down.

"Like the Nazi flag, the Confederate battle flag has come to symbolize to large portions of the public extremely destructive attempts to promote racism. And in both cases, extremists use them as the potent symbols of racism they are in order to rally like minded extremists. As such, it does not deserve to be flown over any public building in these United States." David Kinne

Please note the Fourteen Flags display was removed from the Oklahoma Capitol grounds in 1988. The Oklahoma State Fairgrounds still has the Fourteen Flags Plaza, which shows the fourteen flags:

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, June 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

COMMENTARY: Sansa Stark Rape --- GET REAL

Monday morning, the internet was all abuzz over the Sansa Stark rape scene on Game of Thrones. I honestly can't remember this much buzz about a program since the cliffhanger on Dallas. 

I admit it,  I was surprised. 

Every single show starts out with a MA warning.  And we've needed it.  The rape scene was by far not the worst thing I have seen....I read the books and the "red wedding" had me shaking for quite a while after that. 

And, of course, there's far more violence I could mention....That brought me to several solid conclusions: 

ONE:  People are often immune to violence.  I've always been acutely aware of the effect of television violence.  Studies on children show that watching violent programs desensitizes children to violence and could lead to more violent behavior. Further, in adults it can also lead to a disproportionate sense of unease about society. 

Essentially, if you are what you eat, you also often are what you "consume" via the media. 

"You are the only censor if you don't like what I say you have a choice you can turn me off." 

Alice Cooper -- Lay Down and Die, Goodbye
TWO:  People don't complain effectively.  Oh, they'll complain loud and long--on the Facebook page of a relative stranger...But do they actually go to the right place?  When I suggested to a vitriolic complainant that they should perhaps write their treatise on violence in Game of Thrones to HBO or George RR Martin, the author of the novels, they were outraged. I pointed out there was no point posting it at some random person's page -- when the people making the decisions about future violence would probably not read it.

THREE:  People need to get real here. Where is the outrage about real rape cases?  I can name four serious situations that  I have come across in the news in the last day and I don't see as much discussion and outrage about them as there seems to be about a fictional character. 

Here goes: 

Rape's more prevalent than you think. A study of one college showed 18% of the freshmen girls either were raped or had an attempted rape. Just in one year:

"Affluenza" is real.  If this was a poor man, particularly a minority, he'd be in jail for much longer. You think this is going to stop Mr. Johnson from inappropriate behavior in the future? 

Samuel Curtis Johnson III, the billionaire heir to the SC Johnson fortune confessed to repeatedly raping his twelve-year-old step-daughter and what kind of sentence does he get:  four months and a a $6,000 fine.

Judges don't take child rape seriously.  The rapist of a three-year-old got a light sentence because his attack on the child "wasn't violent."

And a Baptist pastor got by with raping a mentally challenged twenty-year-old girl in Louisiana because the girl didn't know to fight him off?


So, what can you do? 

First of all, talk to the right people.  Get in touch with your elected officials and tell them you want stronger laws and sentencing against rapists and child abusers. 

Second, get in there and help.  Contact your local Rape Crisis Center or Women's Shelter and donate your items, money, or time to them. Literally, abuse victims can come in to the shelter with nothing more than the clothes on their backs -- these are real people in need of real help. If you've got outrage for these situations, spend it wisely.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, May 2015

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Un-Civil War Or My Faux News Family

Futurist and Science Fiction author, David Brin, states the United States is in their third Civil War. There's nothing "civil" about the political divide currently in the United States. I know far too many people who've lost friends, even family over the difference of a single opinion.

I've lost two family members, so far.

1.  Cousin V went from a moderate to a neo-con with the turn of the 2008 election. I knew her physicist husband voted for Obama. We had pretty honest discussions about politics.  He said he was going to since he'd done his research and noted that Democrats restore the economy and reduce the deficit where Republicans do not. We definitely needed some recovery badly in 2008.

That's when the emails started. Understand V has a Masters degree in Accounting and she knows the value of research. She obviously didn't do any when the emails agreed with her prejudices.

I snopes pretty much everything that comes in my email. I sent her corrections, which she ignored.

Seeing as she felt free to fill my inbox with her prejudices, I sent something to her regarding a statement of Glen Beck's which I disagreed with.

Her response:  "You are too liberal to be friends with anymore." 

Friends?  We were family before that. 

T, her husband, who was quite ill at the time with brain lesions, understood my reasoning precisely and said that he and I could continue talking via another email. So, I continued to send emails to him, but never got an answer.  He wondered why I wasn't corresponding. I advised him that I was. When I asked if V had access to the emails, he said "no." 

I continued to send get well cards to him, a couple a month, and I sent a sympathy card when he passed.  I hope he got the cards. I spent time and money trying to make sure he knew someone cared about him and was hoping the best. I never knew whether she gave them to him or not. That's on her. I tried.  V. never contacted me except once more.

She sent a completely fictitious email about President Obama. I didn't bother to Snopes it. At that point, I figured I was off her list anyway. Then, someone else on the list did fact-check and sent the correct information via REPLY ALL. 

Her response:  "I guess I wanted it to be true so I didn't bother to look it up...."

2. I knew Uncle H was a racist since I was six or seven. I remember a long ride back from my grandparents with him and my Mom back in the Sixties where he ranted about Dr. Martin Luther King and H. Rap Brown and wished both of them would get shot. He used language my mom said I should never use, but she never corrected her little brother and when I asked she said, "He's a grown man, honey, I'm not going to change him...You know better."

I don't remember exchanging more than cursory conversation with the man.  He talked to my Mom. If I answered the phone, he'd ask for her and I'd get her. He was busy and I got the feeling he didn't want to deal with someone else's kid, even if it was a niece. 

The emails started shortly after the election. I'm not sure how Uncle H even got my email. I can't say I'd send a thank you note to whoever provided it. 

I snopesed and sent him the correct information. For that matter, I even tried to engage him in conversation asking how his family was, etc.  He never replied. He just kept filling my email with stuff he hadn't bothered to research which -- from my sampling--was lies.

I finally emailed and said, "Look, if you want to talk about your family, about your experiences, etc., I'd be glad to listen. I'm not interested in politics, particularly if you are not going to do any kind of research..."

Half a dozen emails of the same ilk as before the next day.  I set his email on "JUNK" and walked away. 

It disturbed my Aunt J (his younger sister) that I'd done this.  I advised her, he wasn't sending anything personal to me.

"He's my baby brother and he's just always been kind of a brat," she said. I wondered then if his older sisters had called him on it if he'd have been so much of a brat. I don't know.  I could have asked Mom that or just about anything, but Aunt J was not in a state I could do that.

Nothing he'd even written, just forwarding garbage. Still it made her cry and I felt sorry I'd admitted it.  I did check the email at that time. Same old junk. Sadly, he sent the same email to me at least three times in some instances. I was just on a SPAM list. 

3. Cousin G is someone I admire very much. Okay, maybe not her research skills or her paranoia, but she walks the walk of her faith. She's served as a church organist, a Hospice Chaplain, and volunteer and done more work to help the needy than many folks I know.

The same emails started after the election. Heck, she even started her Christmas cards with: 

"I'm disappointed in the election...."

Yes, she believes every wrong word she hears about President Obama and the government. Sadly, she's let racist language slip, too.

The difference is, she actually reads the research I do and thanks me for part of it.  We're still friends and I think occasionally what I say to her makes a difference. She actually asks me questions sometimes and I do my best to research them and show her my work so she knows that I actually am not just spouting an unfounded opinion.

And -- I have told her what my Mom thought about a lot of issues. She always respected Mom as a well-educated and a thinking person and when she hears what Mom used to say to me back -- fifty plus years ago growing up some of her anger goes away. 

Yeah, I hate that we're dealing with the same issues and the same racism and hatred we dealt with when I was growing up. I have my Mom to thank for me growing up as a thinking person who does their research and believes in equality and justice. 

The one difference between Mom and me is that I am speaking out to my elders--her peer group--and saying what I think. Uppity, I suppose so, but do we change the world by being silent?  Sometimes we have to do it by presenting facts and not allowing people to just be "bratty" or "difficult."

R. M. Kyle, May 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fifty Shades of "Nay"

I do my best to keep in touch with my ninety year old aunt. She prefers "Auntie Mame" to her given name because she's a huge fan of the musical and it's her ambition to enliven the lives of the people she cares for, too. 

Auntie M:  Have you read this new book, Fifty Shades of Grey?
Me:  I only got through a few pages...the writing was terrible
Auntie M:  It's pretty sexy...
(I have to stop and take a breath here. Yeah, my aunt's been married three times, but she's ninety)
Me:  You're okay with that?
Auntie M:  No, not really...but the books were given to me by X...
(X is her daughter-in-law, the recent widow of her only son. She takes good care of Auntie M but I don't believe she would want my aunt to be uncomfortable or unhappy)
Me:  You don't have to read every book that's given...
Auntie M:  But she says it's really good...
Me:  Good is a matter of taste--not everyone has to like the same things...
Auntie M:  She and her girlfriend are going to take me out to dinner and the movies and we're going to see the film...
Me:  You want to see it?
Auntie M:  (pause) .... no
Me:  (gets out phone and looks up the Rotten Tomatoes rating for Fifty Shades of Grey.) It only got 25 on Rotten Tomatoes. That's not very good.
Auntie M:  I liked that movie...
Me:  Huh?
Auntie M:  The one about fried green tomatoes...
Me:  No, Auntie, Rotten Tomatoes is a rating group for movies. The rating's from zero to 100 with 100 being the best. Fifty Shades of Grey got a 25.
Auntie M:  It didn't deserve that much from what I'm reading...
Me:  If you don't want to finish the book...
Auntie M:  I've got the other two, they lent them to me...
Me:  You don't have to read stuff you don't like.  It's not like there's going to be quiz or something...
Auntie M:  But we're going to dinner and to the movie...
Me:  (looking at listings) There are several other films you could suggest to see instead. (I list them and tell her about them..)
Auntie M:  Maybe the weather will turn bad...
Me:  Why not just suggest another film?  Auntie M, if you're not comfortable reading the book, you're not going to like the movie much better....
Auntie M:  Maybe I'll get sick....
Me:  Maybe you'll just say "No thanks, let's go see another movie. That's what the girl should have said in the book...."
Auntie M:  It looks like snow....
Me:  The forecast would be better if it looked like NO!

No is a two-letter word, which is easy to say when we're two years old. It gets harder as we age. We don't want to be perceived as negative or fun-haters. We want to fit in.

Too many women are taught to please, to make the people we love happy without thought to our own happiness, let alone just plain comfort. 

The best thing we can learn to do is say, "No thank you," and make an alternate suggestion if there's something else we want to do.

R. Kyle, April 2015