Monday, October 6, 2014

Ben Affleck, Bill Maher, Sam Harris, and just how crazy the fangirls can get.

So, straight up, a bit of coming clean:  I don't like Bill Maher.  Not since "Religulous," and the pissy way he he baits and misleads and sets folks up to be comedic foils.  The way he misrepresents doctrine in order to make it as ridiculous as possible.  There's no reason to do that--it's already ridiculous, there is no reason to twist it about for comedic effect.  I try to remind myself that he is, after all, just a comedian, so of course he's going to do that.  But for me?

It's personal.  Because *I* am also an atheist, and when this guy's sneering mouth utters that snarky anti-Arab (anti-GMO/anti-vaccine/anti-Muslim/anti-Palestinian/pro-Zionism/anti-woman/anti-breastfeeding) bullshit, and does so as a perceived representative of atheists, I get pissed.

I do have to give Bill credit.  Until I found myself in his sights, I thought he was funny.  I thought he was mean, sure, but in a GOOD way because his nastiness was dovetailing nicely with my ideas.  So thank you, Bill, for teaching me how it feels to have some half-informed stand-up comedian use snarkiness and condescension in the place of knowledge to tear at my ideas.

It was a lesson I likely needed.

As for Sam Harris, what a disappointing fount of prejudiced urp.  Thankfully, I don't do atheist heroes, so I wasn't so disappointed.  Hubby was pretty bummed, though.

Here, let me quote Sam, give you a taste:

"It is time we recognized—and obliged the Muslim world to recognize—that “Muslim extremism” is not extreme among Muslims.  Mainstream Islam itself represents an extremist rejection of intellectual honesty, gender equality, secular politics and genuine pluralism. The truth about Islam is as politically incorrect as it is terrifying: Islam is all fringe and no center. In Islam, we confront a civilization with an arrested history."

Because, it would seem, Muslims are fair game.  Like overweight women and atheists, they're one of the last "hey, have at" targets out there.  It was nice to see Ben Affleck go a bit nutty on Bill and Sam, taking them to task for their sweeping generalizations.  See, I'm particularly sensitive to that whole "big, broad brush" thing because, all too often, people look at Bill Maher, then judge ME as part of that broad atheist group.

All atheists are not Bill Maher (or Sam Harris, or Hitch, or Dawkins), and all Muslims are not ISIS. Thank you, Ben, for championing that simple, obvious point.

Now, on to the "fangirls" I mention in the title.  This would be the atheists who are so enamored of whichever "atheist heroes" that they embrace their positions without really examining them with an objective eye.  Not all atheists are like this, but there are some, and they are loud.  Loud, and ravening.  They leap like a pack and tear dissenters apart.  Logic and reason fly out the window in favor of a competitive race to outdo each other with snarky nicknames, personal attacks, unrestrained ridicule, and off-topic nitpicking.  You know, like Sam and Bill repeatedly arguing that "Islam isn't a race, and therefor we're not racists."

What?  That's your defense?  You can't deny the charges, so you'll do the semantics dance instead?

How intellectually dishonest of you.

Again, I don't do "atheist heroes."  Many atheists don't.  But I understand why those who do, do. Because there are SO many out there who condemn atheists.  Who say we're un-American, evil, awful, worse that rapists and child molesters.  And there are so few of us who are prominent and willing to "come out," to risk ourselves in the spotlight.  So when someone relatively intelligent and unafraid to be open and loud shows up, it's natural that some atheists would rally around him (I say him, because so many prominent atheists are also, unfortunately, misogynistic).  And sadly?

That makes for some crappy heroes sometimes.  Some are brilliant (and some, like Maher, are just comedians), but even the brilliant ones tend to have fatal flaws, be it Islamophobia (which includes an inability to differentiate between Islam and being Middle Eastern), Zionism (I know, right?), misogyny, or a cold, Ayn Rand-style social Darwinism (this is where some smug heathen will leap in and argue that Rand's dance was "objectivism," not social Darwinism)..

Now, I'm not arguing that atheist "stars" are any MORE messed up than the general public.  No, not at all--in fact, by virtue of their disbelief, I'd say they have one less flaw than the average person. What I'm saying is that they're just folks.  Sometimes incredibly intelligent folks, but not infallible by any stretch.  And yet, so often, crowds of adoring fans gather 'round to lend support for statements that maybe don't, on objective consideration, merit that sort of cheerleading.  And that cheerleading?

Is often of the mean, nit-picky, ugly variety I spoke of above.

So Mr. Affleck?  I know you don't remember me from the first Project Greenlight, but I remember you.  And boy, what a man you've grown to be.  I applaud your bravery here, and bravery is what it is, because it takes a lot of guts to go up against Maher's caustic sarcasm and Harris' plodding anti-Islam narrative.  So thank you.  I hope we hear more from you.  I hope they didn't scare you off.


And now, for those who might be thinking it:  I have zero use for Islam.  No more (or less) than for other religions.  I am by no means a champion of Islam--it's theism, I think it, like other theistic faiths, is inherently harmful.  I think it, like other theistic faiths, lends itself to oppression and intolerance.  My problem is when people hold it up as somehow MORE damaging or MORE scary than any other.  That's just not true.  What makes Islam SEEM more violent or more awful is simply Western intervention.  The Middle East was not a roiling puddle of violence and extremism before Western colonialism.  What makes for extreme Islamic groups is outside interference, military interventions, oppression, occupation, and invasion.  You'd think we'd have learned this by now--devastation, destitution, and oppression are what makes for fanatical responses.  If we would sink money, no strings, into their infrastructure, economy, and education instead of into invasion, devastation, occupation (by us and by our "special" allies), and overthrow, there'd be no "need" for religious zealotry and violent resistance.  

I know, I know--what if it didn't work?

That's easy--what we're doing now clearly isn't working; it's creating ever bigger and badder violent groups.  Worst thing that could happen is that being nice for a change wouldn't work, either.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Dueling Obits

You know, doing what I do, I traffic in obituaries.  Between Find A Grave and handling the "who died" archive for my high school, I find myself looking at a lot of death notices and memorials each day.  Today, I came across a curious and distasteful phenomenon.  Something I've come across before.

Dueling obituaries.

It's more common that you'd think (hope), and I find it awful.  What are dueling obits?

Oh, that's when one part of the family hates the other part, and so they excise them from the obituary. The excises part of the family publishes their own obituary, often (but not always) excising the other family members.

For example, today A.B.'s family (likely his children) posted a long obituary for their deceased loved one.  A lot of information about his dead wife, his loving children, his amazing grandkids.  All by name.  What they left out was "the love of his life," his long-term, live-in significant other, who, apparently, they dislike enough to omit all mention of her many happy years with him.

And A.B.'s significant other?  Well, she published her own obit for A.B., one that mentions her, her daughter, and all of his grandchildren by name.  And his kids?  Mentioned, but not by name.

Of these two, clearly the children are the worse offenders, as they completely cut her out of his life.  But hers was a bit petty, too, only mentioning "sons and daughters" instead of by name.  Who started it? Probably the kids, but that's not my point.  My point is, what a crappy tribute to someone you loved.  Clearly, you caused him astounding grief with your childish behavior before he died, must you carry it over to his obituary so it's now glaringly obvious to the world?

This isn't the first--or even the 30th--time I've seen this.  Sometimes it's been family vs friends, often it's new wife vs kids from first marriage.  I know one woman (known her since I was a child) who, when her husband died, listed herself (she was the second wife), his siblings, her family, their PETS, and then, as a last, tag-on scrap, "he was also survived by children from a previous marriage."

BAM!  WHOA!  And worse?  She didn't even call those kids to let them know their father had died. I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "What a trashy, low-rent creature."  Actually, she's a wealthy woman, a prominent attorney.  And she carried a grudge over into her husband's obituary, leaving his children with that last, final jab as a lifetime reminder that she never could manage to get along with her step-children.

Do yourself a favor.  Do your family a favor.  Do your dead loved one's memory/legacy a favor and check your bickering and grudges at the door when it comes to writing up that obituary.  Unless your deceased family member was Josef Mengele in a housecoat (if that's the case, absolutely be honest if that's what works for you), the obit is the place for memorializing, not carrying on family feuds.  You may think you're getting in that final, grand smack, but what you're really doing is making yourself look like a creep of the first order.  And if you're doing it because you know THEY'RE going to do it?

Don't.  Be the better person.  What better revenge than coming across looking like the good guy?

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