Monthly Archives: February 2012

We’re all at least a little Bi

Labels are problematic, sometimes they do more harm than good. The fact is that we begin our labeling as babies as we sort our world into categories. As language is introduced, literal labels get attached along with our new experiences and sounds. We can’t help but organize and categorize everything that falls into our realm. Trying to talk about our social, fiscal, and political culture can be tricky because there are so many aspects and none of them neatly organized. This is how we’ve come up with the political labels of “progressive” or “conservative”.

They are totally inadequate. Continue reading

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Abstinence for Married Couples?

The birth control battle rages on. Rick Santorum’s campaign has been energized by the birth control debate. Obama made a decision about birth control that was objected to by the Catholic church, and Santorum used the opportunity to emphasize his socially conservative belief system. This in turn has rallied the social conservatives around the topic of birth control. Birth control is a problem for some folks.

So much of a problem that one State Representative makes the argument that abstinence works 100% of the time. She is basically saying that if you can’t afford birth control, you can always stop having sex.

From a socially conservative’s perspective, birth control is a personal responsibility and possibly faith issue.  A Puritanical leftover is partly to blame – sex is not to be discussed in the open or admitted to – a directive from a church’s hierarchy – like the pope – might also be a motivator. From a progressive’s perspective, it is a personal responsibility issue and a social responsibility issue. Progressive’s know that people are more likely to use birth control when access to it is easier and cheaper, so they want to make it available as widely as possible. The general reasoning behind this progressive viewpoint is based on the fact that the world has too many people already, they don’t want to pay for or deal with the problems added to society due to a child that is the result of an unwanted pregnancy, and women should have control over their own bodies and what’s happening inside of them.

Once again the social conservatives fall back on tradition and authority. Traditionally, women did not have control over their own bodies. Traditionally women have been raped, married against their wishes, sold, traded, beaten, killed – all around dominated.  Even though this is 2012, you do not have to look very hard for evidence of dominated, strictly controlled women. Even in liberal wedding ceremonies, we maintain the tradition of “giving the bride away” from one man to the next. Authority is paired with tradition when you have male authority figures (clergy, lawmakers) telling women how to behave . Otherwise known as a traditional authority informing you of proper tradition due to their authority. The layers are deep but repeat the same things – women cannot deal with cannot be trusted to handle their own sexuality or figure out their place in the community. It has been pointed out many times how congressional hearings on this topic did not include any women and indeed refused to let a woman supporter of mandatory b.c. coverage speak, instead the “expert” panel was filled only with religious men. The Huffingtonpost has the story here.

Progressives believe in being responsible with their fertility – that can be shown by the birthrates attributed to progressive women vs. conservative. In fact, around the world the more educated a woman is, the more likely she is to be progressive, the more likely she is to have less babies. Progressives take into account the incredible amount of time and energy needed to give birth and raise a child, so if a woman knows that she can’t handle the task, they want to give her the option to not take on the responsibility. Progressives believe that women can decide for themselves with or without the approval of a man, God, or other authority.

Now let’s talk abstinence and punishment.

Consenting adults get to have sex. It is one of the free-est funnest entertainment options we have. It can be a really healthy activity for your mind, body, and heart. No paperwork, no permission needed, minimal mess. Progressives celebrate this and appreciate the spreading of good will and empowerment. Social conservatives only celebrate this in the context of a marriage sanctioned by their religion – which often times also instructs them to avoid contraception.

For social conservatives, sexual activity outside of this sanctioned arrangement is sinful which brings us to another favorite tactic of social conservatives – punishment. In their worldview, sexual deeds done outside of a divinely sanctioned marriage call for punishment. Punishment should (and will ) be meted out by the authority – ultimately by God casting one into hell, but it also works if one of “God’s chosen” can get some punishing done right here on earth.  This is why disgust with the woman instead of compassion for her comes from social conservatives dealing with the issue of unplanned pregnancy. This is why social conservatives have such a problem with gay people and gay marriage – it takes their Godly prototype and throws the traditional order out of the window.  Taken to the nth degree, this is why Fred Phelps’ church (the “God Hates Fags” church) feels righteous when they picket with hate filled signs at military funerals- they are delivering a punishment that was brought on by sexual sin.

Social conservatives are trying to legislate their idea of morality and discussing American culture as if it was their own personal religious culture. Progressives might wish for a society that is more sexually and fiscally responsible, but they are want to work with what they’ve got – not what they wish they had.  Progressives recognize that birth control is empowering – not just for women – for all of us. We are sexual animals that have a basic lifelong biological drive to be sexual. In the past, the highest possible birth rate was desirable because it meant the continuation of the species. Today the highest birth rate possible actually threatens the continuation of the species and habitability of the planet.  It is not pragmatic to suggest that we only have sex when we actually want to procreate, most natural sex drives would have us copulating thousands of times for every one time that fertilization is successful. It is against nature to abstain indefinitely.

However, abstinence is a solution offered up even to married couples that struggle to independently afford birth control. This all fits in with the idea that punishment is deserved and appropriate for anyone that cannot live within the strict constructs of social conservatism AND that God (the ultimate authority for Christian conservatives) has already rewarded those he is pleased with, with ample money to provide for themselves.

If you want to shake things up, ask a social conservative about punishment. When they make a statement around some activity they disapprove of in politics or society, ask them if they feel that punishment is in order, why, and what is appropriate. If you are a social conservative, let’s hear from you – do you like seeing people punished for something you see as sinful? How about the progressives? Where does punishment fit in your worldview? It is interesting to hear the answers – probably just as much for them as it is for you.

Non-Violent Communication

Speaking – and understanding-  from a place of values is the key to practicing political framing. Once you can identify the authentic values from which you are speaking from (or being spoken to), the intellectual cat and mouse game stops and an actual connection starts to build between two humans, regardless of political viewpoint. We start to empathize with one another which makes dehumanizing put downs much more difficult.

When we speak from our values, it becomes more important to be understood than it does to elicit dramatic emotions in our favor. When we don’t speak in this manner, the words we tend to use become loaded and our discussion partner will likely grow more and more defensive, digging in even deeper to their original position. Another way of thinking about this style of communication is called “non-violent communication” or NVC. I only recently learned that NVC is a specific trained technique developed by a psychologist; the training can be extensive and much practice is encouraged  (and I am in no way an expert). The essentials of communicating in this way also gets at the heart of political framing, so I thought I’d share.

Whether you’re talking to yourself or with a partner and you have a conflict, there are basically four questions to ask of yourself/others. They center around these concepts:

1. What did I observe (that stimulated problem/joy)? “When I see/hear ___________”

2. What do I feel (around this observation)? “I feel _________”

3. What am I needing (around this observation that I am not getting/ am getting)?

4. What is my request of this other person? Continue reading

Big Oil = Small Penises

I recently screened part of the film “Bag It“, an entertaining documentary that examines the role of plastics in our lives.  There is great information about how human’s use of plastic is impacting our greater environment, but one portion of it is especially interesting from a framing perspective. The film discusses the impact of plastics on human health which brings up some complicated chemistry, but the bottom line is not good for any human, side effects from plastic usage can mean anything from asthma to cancer. One side effect hasn’t got as much play, but it should, it’s a side effect that might unite environmentalists with conservatives.  The side effect is endocrine disruption.

Endocrine disruption happens because very small amounts of certain plastic chemicals – like bisphenol A (BPA) and pthalates – can seriously interfere with our hormonal health. They can cause sterility, early puberty, reproductive problems, and small penises. That’s right, higher rates of exposure to endocrine disruptors in the womb correlate to shorter penis size. Continue reading

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Big Business, Big Religion, or Status Quo

The choices look like they’re boiling down to three right now, Romney represents wealthy business interests, Santorum speaks for conservative Christians, and Obama, the known entity that not many are super stoked about. It looks like another race heading into the “not voting for _______” (fill in the blank with objectionable politician) instead of being proud to vote for our preferred candidate.  This is a terrible position for a politician to be in, it means that their best traction comes only as a knee jerk response to an opponent. There is no inspiration, only revulsion.  As was demonstrated in George Lakoff’s book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, you cannot successfully run against an entity by only calling attention to that entity. Or, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Just try it now, do not think of an elephant. I’ll bet you failed. The fact is that when we were itty-bitty kiddies, we learned “elephant” at some point, probably through a cheerful picture or visit to the zoo. When you learn the word elephant in this country (where elephants do not roam around), we strongly tie this noun to an image of an elephant. We memorize the greyness, the long nose, the big ears, all of the distinctive features at the same time that we hear the word and later learn to read the word.As parents we repeat these simple lessons multiple times to insure our children can identify their animals, words, and sounds. All of our senses coordinate our visual, audio, and cognitive information and file them in the same folder. Later, every time we hear the word “elephant”, it does not matter what words surround it, we will briefly recall our own generic image of “elephant” that we have on file. Just adding the word “don’t”, “no”, “bad”, “crazed” or any other word will not prevent us from first recognizing and acknowledging the animal as we know it. Continue reading

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