I just read this entry on DailyKos about how the Political Radical Right is using prejudice and bigotry against gay people to fuel their money machines. Ok, the post was about what kind of people Terry Schiavo's parents are selling their supporter list to. But what caught my attention was the use of the bigotry. But from a framing point of view, something else was also noticeable: the radical right wing extremists almost always capitalize 'Homosexuals' in their communications to their "base." Always. It's Homosexuals. Never 'homosexuals.' Even though as a matter of grammer, if the word doesn't appear at the begining of a sentence, it should not be capitalized. So the question is why is it? Is it an accident? Accidents don't happen every time. Is it just a style they use? Well, do they always write 'Women' or 'Children'? Nope, that's not it. What I believe it is is a very calculated and directed move. You see, capitalizing in written communications gives it a special effect. It's depicted like some kind of an artificial organization (all organizations, by definition are man-made, and therefore artificial), instead of a natural group of people. It's like 'Republicans' or 'Democrats' or 'Christians' or 'Al Queda' or 'Ku Klux Klan'. Capitalization is applied to a well-defined group that some people decided to put together when one did not exist naturally. This serves a purpose: reinforcing their claim that 'Homosexuals' are a crazy special interest lobby group in Washington, DC and capitols around the US and more importantly, not actually natural, normal people. Yes, of course this is misleading, but that's the point. This all serves their agenda perfectly. The radical conservative right (or the Radical Conservative Right) is in trouble if their "base" starts perceiving gay people as people. They know as well as anyone that Americans are a compassionate people, and once people start realizing that gay people are real people just like themselves who wake up in the morning, drink coffee, go to work or school, have families, care about their loved ones and are contributing members of society, there will be no place of bigotry. This happened during the women's rights movement, and more recently the civil rights movement. Americans are predisposed against injustice, and objectifying - the tactic used against both women and blacks (and really, all colored people) - is the only way the Radical Right Bigots (yup, you guessed it, the capitalization was intentional) can continue to push their agenda. In this way, they are no different from those who opposed women's sufferage (some of these wingnuts still do), or the KKK. Once you objectify, it's easy to institutionalize. So now the gay people are the 'Homosexuals' who are a lobby that is well funded and "powerful" (where the hell do they get this stuff anyway? Oh yes, as Al Franken would say, they pull it out of their butts) and are working against the beliefs of conservatives. This obscure distant lobby organization wants to dismantle the family. They want to poison your kids' minds. They are monsters who are destroying America. And the whole bashing list goes on and on and on... But, there is more to it. And this is probably more important than the written frame because talking heads are talking ALL THE TIME! Look at spoken word (as opposed to written) the word 'homosexual', which is what the right wing always uses to the complete exclusion of the term 'gay people' or the term 'LGBT' while speaking. Why? Because that use humanizes the people of minority sexual orientations, and the Radical Right's agenda is to demonize them. 'Gay', 'lesbian', 'bisexual', 'transgender' are all nutral, rather than inflamatory, terms, and all of them, in the public consciousness, differentiate but do not demonize. On the other hand the use of the word 'homosexual' (I have no problem with the term) invokes a religious and cultural connotation, a negative one - especially for the right wing base, but also for most other Americans. This is because of the sexual reference, and most people don't like the idea of homosexual sex (well duh! most people happen to be heterosexuals), and it disgusts people by triggering off the frame of sex. Therefore, it instantly makes it about the sex, and never about the people. It's also entrenched in the public consciousness - which, incidentally, the right wing has framed for 40 years - the public frame. So there you have it, decoding the 'homosexual' frame, both in written and verbal form. So the job of progressives and liberals who are interested in justice is now to (1) be aware of this frame, (2) reframe by using words like 'gay people', 'LGBT people' (always keep the focus on people), (3) once you have broken the frame of sex and got back to the frame of people, start emphasizing justice, fairness, and equality as deeply held values, and (4) turn the table on the right wing by calling them (whether in so many words is your choice) bigots, anti-justice, and yes, thereby anti-American. At least, that's my idea of it. What do you think?
The young people of this country is the future. And it is a mistake to think that "kids" will be kids in the sense that they can easily change their worldviews after a certain age. One of the biggest issues in all societies - including the American one - is tollerance vs. hatred. In order to build a society that is worth the name of civilization, young people - from a very young age (3 or 4) must be taught the virtues of acceptance. I say acceptance and not just tallerance, because one should learn to accept and celebrate cultural, racial, sexual and all kinds of human diversities. And when I say young children must be taught, I don't mean give them a book about diversity and acceptance. I mean that parents at home and teachers in school must lead by example. They ought not be talking about or promoting intallerance, discrimination, or hatred. Yes, I am talking about the civil rights struggle of our time: lesbian, gay, transgender, and bysexual people's rights, place in society as people, and acceptance. Today, in large parts of the United States, children are taught, by way of example, that it's ok to hate certain groups of people, namely gays. That somehow it is Godly or good to demean another human being. Parents and teahcers who set these examples either by directly acting out of hate themselves or by condoning such behavior are not just bad guardians of our future, but bad citizens. Teaching acceptance and celebration of diversity ought to be a proud thing. It is a human value to accept and respect everyone in society. At least everyone who is non-violent. Gay bashing, or physically demeaning gay people makes the person doing it an inhumane monster, as they do not understand the basic tenets of humanity. It is a crime against humanity in the worst order. To teach one's children is an even more henious act. Those to teach, preach and spread hatred are traitors to their own faith, and are a menice to society. Young adults are starting to understand the complexities of the world as well as themselves. If they are not given the opportunity and education to become inclusive, broad and fair minded individuals, it's a failing of society of epic proportions Children and young adults are capable of being kind or cruel, and they are capable of observing far more than meets the adult eye and of absorbing far more than adults realize. The model presented to them must be one of kindness not cruelty, acceptance not discrimination, love not hate, and equality not division. If we are to live up to the name of a great society, all of its members must be treated equally, with fairness and freedom. And that's what parents and schools need to teach our children. And too often, they fail at this important aspect of preparing our future leaders and citizens.
It seems the FEC is trying to regulate the Internet. This is a scary thing considering that they seem to have very little understanding of how the Internet is revolutionizing communications, information sharing, and politics. Without the basic understanding of this revolution, they will inevitably, if with the intention of doing good, get it wrong. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against common sense rules like requiring bloggers to disclose it if they are being paid by a campaign, even if they are not being paid to blog. By the way, the same rule should apply to every TV reporter, Radio reporters, and newspaper journalists. However, putting the Internet and Bloggers under the arcane rules of non-Internet communication is simply ridiculous. Look at the kind of things they are talking about. Judging the value of a link posted on a blog or website, and counting that as an "in-kind" contribution. Forcing bloggers to open their sources against the rules of journalistic integrity. Restricting what a blogger can post as far as political campaigns go. The Internet - or the InternetS, as Bush would say - is a place where the first amendment comes together. The freedoms of speech, press, and assembly are intertwined on the Internet. I can go wave a sign that says Kerry/Edwards or Bush/Chenney out in the public and nobody tries to count that as an "in-kind" contribution. "Journalists" can write flattering or damning articles about candidates, and those don't count against campaign finance rules. I can go to a rally or a protest and that doesn't count as an in-kind contribution. These three are respectively examples of the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly. But in the real world, it is rare that all three happens at the same time. You don't protest and write and publish it all at the same time. You don't wave a sign and publish articles at the very same moment. The Internet makes the simultaneous excercise of ALL 3 of these rights. On the Democracy for America Blog, or on Daily Kos, there is a user community and bloggers who at the same time: post stories of relevence on the blog, say whether they like that or not, and instantly get it out to the world. The world instantly responds with their own information, agreements and disagreements. Until this dynamic is understood completely, it is a terrible mistake to try to control the Internet. If a labor union or a business PAC holds a fundraiser for a candidate, that can be regulated as contribution, and fairly so. However, when a website directs people to go to a web page and donate directly to the campaign instead of having to go through that extra loop, what do you do? The donor donated directly to the campaign out of his/her own free will. Yes they were referred there by a blog, but if you hear about a campaign from a friend, should the FEC make your friend file paperwork for a PAC? So you see, the Internet is where the power of the people to organize and share information manifests itself in the best of democracy. Advocacy is at its best, while eliminating a middle man. Being referred to donate to a campaign from a website is really more like a friend with the website telling you about the candidate, and far less like a PAC raising money for a candidate. It's really quite futile to try to draw parallels between the offline campaign laws and online scenarios. If you want to set rules for the Internet, write a new set of guidelines that is completely different from the rules of the offline game. Trying to extend the same rules that exist offline on blogs is stupid, since it's an entirely different ballgame. If the FEC messes with this, I do hope the Congress does step in and exempt the Internet (for now) from the Campaign Finance laws.
I want everyone to remember that here, I am speaking as an Indian native, who was born into the Hindu religion, and as someone who seldom agrees with the Bush II Badministration. But in this case, I agree 100%. Recently a lot of stir has been caused by the US denying Visa to Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujrat, a province in India. The Indian central government, which interestingly came to power by defeating Modi's party at the national level, has issued a statement expressing their outrage at the fact that a Constitutionally elected Indian official has been denied Visa to the United States. And therein lies the first tragedy. The mere fact that this creep would even be a Constitutionally elected official in the largest democracy in the world is shocking. Modi played a large role - as his party, the Vartiya Janta Party often does - behind the scenes in the slaughter of thousands of Muslims in Gujrat's riots last year and the year before. He and his party encouraged and strengthened the fascistic and fundamentalist Hindu elements in India to cause riots, kill Muslims, etc. Granted, there were people on the Muslim fundamentalist side as well, but Modi's job as prime minister is to keep peace, and stop the slaughter of innocent citizens, regardless of their race, creed, or religion. And he instead aided the slaughter of thousands of his fellow citizens. This henious crime against humanity should have landed him in jail a year ago; instead he still occupies the post of Chief minister in a province in India. This reflects quite poorly on India. The Indian central (federal) government needs to get off its high horse and prosecute those commit genocides against innocent civilians, not get their back. It's disgusting. Then there is some in the Indian business and other communities and elements of similar Hindu radical groups in the United States who are protesting the State Department's decision to deny Modi a Visa to the US. These people reflect badly on the Indian community and should be ashamed of themselves for taking a stand against what is just. All they can think of is filling their own pockets with money from business opportunities in Gujrat. They don't care about the plight of the ordinary people, or the slaughter and genocides being allowed by Modi even today. What they care about is their own fat bellies and pockets. That is inhumane, corrupt, and goes against everything both India and the United States stand for as democracies. Some even claim that Modi has a right to a US Visa. Bull. No one has the right to enter the United States other than US Citizens, Permanent Residents and those who have been legally issued a Visa. Modi has not, thank Goodness, and he has no right to enter the US. In my judgment, the only places he has a right to enter are: jail and hell. So, yes I am proud to say I fully support the actions of the US State Department in this regard, because here, they did the right thing.
Don't be fooled by names like "Traditional Values Coalition," or "Family Research Council" or things of that nature. These are extremist groups akin to the KKK full of hatred and intallerance. Yes I called the Traditional Values Coalition and Family Research Council akin to KKK. You can take that to the bank. They are lucky I didn't call them Nazis. What is their mission? Despite their names, their mission is to destroy the American family, and to install hatred in place of morality. These are groups who are opponents of marriage. Same-sex marriage, to be exact. But that distinction is unimportant, if you look at the underlying values they support and oppose. The values they support are: discrimination, hate, exclusivity, and prejudice. The values they reject are red, white and blue American values: responsibility, community, inclusiveness, equality, love and commitment. To them, it is not about marriage as a concept. To them, marriage is only about one man and one woman. To them, marriage is not about love, about commitment, not about mutual responsibility and shared community, it is not even about children. It is only about the visible characteristic of opposite sex couples. For those who are married, are living with a life partner, or hope to some day, ask yourself, is your marriage only about the genders of yourself and your partner? Of course not. In fact it isn't even mainly about that. Your marriage is about sharing in each other's emotions and feelings, caring for each other, loving each other, a deep commitment to each other that you made of your own free will. These dangerous extremist right wing groups would like you to hate your neighbor; they'd savor in the destruction of the American community where all of us are responsible for each other; they want to destroy the fabric of the great American society where everyone is equal and where justice is blind. In order to further their political agenda, they'd divide people, pit one Ameircan against another, appeal to the worst of the animal nature instead of the best of the American ideal. They will do everything un-American in the name of protection. If you are disgusted, you should be. Those people do not believe in America, or in the American journey. Extremists seldom care about human aspirations and human communities. It is dishonorable and un-American to try to deny people equal rights under the law, to discrimate, or to try to tear down America's social fabric by driving a wedge between people. These groups seek to weaken America. The decision by the San Francisco superior court that equal rights and equal treatment under the law can no longer be denied to same-sex couples was a not just a victory for the equal rights movement, it was a very correct one in American philosophy. From its inception, the United States has expanded rights. Not that it has never discriminated, it has plenty of times, to be sure. But the United States always ended up on the side of justice. We freed the slaves, gave women the right to participate in our great democracy, ended segregation in our schools, all in the great American tradition of justice and equality. To deny loving and committed relationships the rights of and to marriage simply because of their composition (both of the same sex) is arbitrary, illogical, and unjust. To deny such a couple the social recognition that everyone else is entitled to is discrimatory. To deny them the rights and responsibilities is cruel. This is every bit as much about human rights as it is about civil rights. Surely, the opponents of the American community will use this ruling to try to divide and conquer. One of them said that the court hates marriage and Californians. No, Sir. It is people like you who want to discriminate against people based on their sexuality that hate America and its finest traditions.
The ongoing social security debate has caught everyone's eyes and ears by now. People don't like what Bush is trying to do, and rightly so. Bush's plan is essentially this: when you are in financial trouble, get a new credit card! He and the Republicans have never liked it and they want to get rid of it, plain and simple. This is their starve the beast plan, which wouldn't be so bad, if the beast weren't the society you and I live in. I want to propose a somewhat of an unorthodox solution to the long term problems that may arise in social security. First you have to address how SS revenue is collected. Currently you pay 6.2% of your income - up till about $90,000. This means that the social security tax system is regressive and millionires don't have to pay their fair share. That's wrong. So proposal one: get rid of the cap. Extend the personal portion of the tax to unlimited - whatever your income is. This is fair and just because the rich live in a society that allows them to be more fortunate than others and they, like everyone else, have a social responsibility to give back. Second, cap benefits at a reasonable limit. Adjust it yearly for cost of living increases. This is probably already done. You will notice that in the first paragraph, I only spoke about the personal part of the social security payroll tax, and that was intentional. Currently, your employer also pays another 6.2% of your wages in social security, also up till $90,000 a year. Here is my third and probably most controversial proposal: eliminate the employer contribution in social security taxes. Employers should not have to pay social security taxes on their employees' wages. Why such an idea? Think self-employed people and small businesses. It's extremely hard being self-employed if 12.4% of your income - no matter how little - goes in a tax that must be paid. Small business who don't make huge amounts of profit are stuck with having to pay 6.2% of their employee wages in taxes even if they don't make any profit or take a loss. Small mom-n-pop businesses ought not be forced out of business because of a program that is designed to help people, not hurt them. Small businesses have to limit hiring, or take losses because of the mandatory social security taxes that disregards whether the business made any money. So if we do that, there will be a HUGE amount of revenue loss, since almost half - the employers' contribution - of social security revenues would be eliminated. How do we make it up? Part of it is made up from the first proposal - taxing millionires at the same rate as poor and middle class Americans. The rest can be made up by proposal four: a seperate social security tax on profits of corporations, and income above a certain amount (say $100,000) for self-employed people. In this case, the self employed person who makes $1 million a year would pay 6.2% on the first $100,000 of income and 12.4% on the next $900,000. Profits - make that gross profits, that is profits of a corporation before any employee (including but not limited to executive) employee bonuses, loans or debt forgive's, and vacation packages for executives - when there are actual profits for companies, it can be taxed without risking the corporation going under (in cases of small businesses) because of the social security tax, and it will make sure that large corporations pay their fair share while also ensuring that an environment of entrepreneurship and small innovative businesses is fostered.
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