“Raining in Baltimore”

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As if things weren’t bad enough.

I spent much of the weekend watching footage of Kathmandu, Nepal literally crumbled to pieces by a 7.8 earthquake.  There were occasional reports on the volcanic eruption in Chile, and I’d switch to other news which really wasn’t much better.  Fire, war, murder–in other words, the usual.  I thought things were relatively okay in Baltimore, in spite of this being the location of the latest death of an unarmed* black man in police custody.

Today shows me just how wrong I was.

I don’t know much about the arrest, injury, and subsequent death of Freddie Gray.  Frankly, neither does anyone else except for the arresting officers and the late Mr. Gray.  The mystery of how he was supposedly walking and talking when he was put in the back of the van and ended up with a nearly severed spinal cord and crushed voice box is one that has not been solved yet.  But the investigation has been fairly swift, and, since it involves the Feds, looks like it will be thorough.

The Baltimore PD has already essentially admitted they screwed up.  The brass has also made it pretty clear that the officers involved not only made mistakes, but that there will probably be criminal charges of some sort.  How do I know this?  Because the line when something like this is usually, “We believe our officers acted appropriately, and we stand behind our brothers in blue.”  But by saying that mistakes were made, and that further investigation is warranted, the department is throwing these guys under the bus.  One of the six officers involved has pled the Fifth, which tells me something really bad went down.  While the anger of the citizens of Baltimore, especially the African-American community is fully justified, I think all they had to do with this one is wait a couple of weeks.  I don’t know that charges will come down, but it looks like things are leaning that way.

Peaceful protests were held, but things started going downhill.  Today, after Gray’s funeral was held, rioting broke out on the streets of Baltimore.  There has been looting, police vehicles have been burned, and at least seven officers have been injured.  Who knows how many civilians have been and will be hurt. Tonight’s baseball game was postponed due to the rioting.

I get the anger.  Like I said, it’s justified.  But violence never is.  And looting businesses that didn’t have anything to do with any of this bullshit is really unnecessary.  The only people harmed by rioting are the people who are rioting and the innocents who happen to be in their path.  Baltimore has pretty much turned into a war zone, with stupid people taking advantage of genuine problems to create havoc.  If only rain were the only thing happening in Baltimore today.

*It’s been reported that Freddie Gray had a switchblade knife on him, and that’s what precipitated his arrest.  But a switchblade against the firearms of six policemen really doesn’t count as a serious threat to me.

“Short Shorts”

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I don’t particularly like this song, but it seemed appropriate considering the content of today’s rant.

That’s right, boys and girls.  I’m getting out my soapbox, and gearing up for some righteous indignation.  Well, maybe irritation is a better word.

I read this article over at Slate today, and I was kind of flabbergasted at the way dress codes for women and girls had evolved.  Or, to be fair and accurate, devolved.  Right now, in the United States of America, we are edging closer and closer to Sharia-style edicts for how the female sex should dress and appear in public.  I don’t mean that ladies will be wearing burkas as part of the new Fall fashion lines, but that the idea that women must dress modestly because some man somewhere might have an impure thought about her is becoming the norm.  Women and girls are being told not only that they are responsible for how other people react to them, but that they should be ashamed of their bodies.  School girls are being subjected to “fingertip” tests (where the length of their skirts or shorts must extend to the fingertips of their outstretched arm–which, IMO, is pretty damn short).  They’re told that their bodies are so distracting to boys that they must hide themselves.

Newsflash, folks: no one is responsible for the thoughts of another human being.  I occasionally wonder why teenage girls want to go around dressed like prostitutes, but those girls did nothing, other than offend my fashion taste, to warrant my rather narrow-minded and judgemental feelings.  I think shorts and boots look stupid together.  I think pants sagging down to a guy’s kneecaps is even more stupid.  But I’m not the one wearing those clothes, and I don’t have to look at anyone who does.  How you look, within the public decency laws of your municipality, is your responsibility.  How someone feels about and reacts to it is their responsibility.  Period.

This whole idea, that a woman could be held somehow responsible for how a man reacts to her appearance, came up a couple of years ago when an Iowa dentist fired his assistant because she was too attractive.  He was having some amorous and carnal thoughts about her, although he hadn’t done anything.  As far as I know, her work was satisfactory and there were no complaints from patients.  His wife hadn’t made any demands that she be fired.  The woman had worked for him for years, but because he was thinking and feeling certain things that his church would disapprove of, he fired her.  The Iowa Supreme Court found unanimously that he was within his legal rights.  (I suppose he was; most work in the U.S. is “at will,” which means you can be fired without cause.)  legal though it may have been, it still sent out the message that a man can do whatever he wants to a woman because the way she looked made him react the way he did.  If that sounds familiar, it’s because it was used as a justification for rape for many years.  Still is, come to think of it.  And it’s still cowardly and distasteful.

I’m not uniformly against dress codes.  I think there ought to be some rules.  (No shirt, no shoes, no service has always been a good philosophy to me.  Unless you’re at the beach.)  But dress codes must be common sense and equally enforced.  There shouldn’t be rules that hold one group responsible for how another group reacts.  FYI, I feel the same way about supposedly “offensive” t-shirts–the ones with the not-very-funny jokes or political/religious slogans not everyone shares.  Who gives a flip what someone else wants to emblazon on their own chest?  It’s their right to look like morons in public.

 

 

“Alienation’s for the Rich”

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I guess I’ve just got money on the mind right now.  It might be all that money I sent to the government yesterday.  It might be my piddling paycheck.  It might be that we’re going to have to pay off the contractors in a couple of days.

I’ve always been middle class–although if my mother wasn’t here helping with my bills, I’d probably be destitute.  And I never really used to have anything against rich people.  They earned it.  Or inherited it.  Either way, it’s their money.  And they’re allowed to do whatever they want with it.  If they want to spend it all on parties, drugs, and ugly shoes, well that’s just peachy.  Whenever I have extra money, it goes to music, books, and socks, so I’m not really one to judge.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how much class and financial equality is tied to so many things it shouldn’t be tied to–things like sex and race.  Poverty is a generational problem, distinctly linked to so many factors that aren’t in the control of the poor that I don’t even know where to begin.  So many young African-American men are depending on their bodies instead of their brains because sports is one of the only ways to break the cycle of poverty so many of them feel trapped in.  But that’s just one of the mythical traps that powerful people sell to the powerless to keep them from questioning the real problems of inequality.

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  Never mind that you never got the same opportunities.  Never mind that your school was inferior because funding has always been linked to property taxes, which were artificially depressed in your neighborhood because all the financially secure white people moved out the minute a family of color moved into the area.  Don’t even think about the fact that your professional opportunities were taken away when corporations moved all the factories to other countries because they would’ve been forced to pay a living wage here.  Ignore the fact that housing and healthcare costs have skyrocketed, but the federal poverty line (you know, that magic number that determines eligibility for social services) is still calculated according to the cost of feeding a family of four.  (Which also fails to take into account all those families of more than four.)  And of course, even if you are eligible for SNAP or Section 8, or any other social safety net designed to help raise the poor out of poverty by increasing their standard of living, you can’t get enough help or you go on long waiting lists because programs like this have had their budgets slashed into near non-existence.  And never, ever, ever mention things like mental health, addiction, domestic violence, or child abuse.  Those topics are still taboo.  Just get off your lazy ass, and get to work.

Your corporate masters, of course, are allowed to pay you a criminally low wage.  And they can cut your hours to below full-time so that they don’t have to offer you insurance (which they charge too much for anyway).  They’re also allowed to prevent you from unionizing, donate as much as they want to their political causes, and a myriad of other things that are meant to keep you dependent on them for everything.  They’ve rigged the system so that not only can you not pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you can’t even afford to buy bootstraps.

The tax system is rigged to favor the rich, just like everything else.  You’ll hear stories about how much certain politicians pay in taxes, but that’s for show.  Stories like that are put out there to keep people from asking how much CEOs pay (not much).  So here’s a lament for everyone who’s realized just how hard it is to overcome this system.

Ranty Friday

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I use the word freak pretty liberally.  It means a lot of different things to me.  Sometimes, it’s in the dancing/partying/naked fun times sense (not that I’m currently participating in any of those activities), like Rick James’s “Superfreak.”  Sometimes it’s in the “ooh, that’s scary” sense (ex: “I was so freaked out by The Blair Witch Project, I slept with the lights on for a week.”).  Sometimes it’s an affirmation of the glorious weirdness that makes up the human race and the world of music; that’s why I started Freaky Fridays in the first freakin’ place.  (As you see, it also makes a nice substitute for cussing.)

But then there’s the times like right now.  When the only way I can even consider using “freak” is as the worst sort of insult.  I apply it to people who are so far outside the norm, even for me, of human behavior that they are unable to be considered as members of civilized society.  They are the bad kind of freaks, people who have done something abominable that I cannot wrap my brain around.  I’m going to mention a football figure soon, but this isn’t about football. This is about a little boy.

The 2-year-old son of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has died (allegedly) as a result of being beaten by his mother’s boyfriend.  If this is true (and I’m pretty sure it is), that man, Robert Joseph Patterson, is the worst sort of freak there is.  That isn’t spanking; that’s abuse.  That makes you the worst, most pathetic excuse for a human being there is.  You’re not even fit to be called a cockroach, because cockroaches have more sense than to beat their young until they die.  (Yes, naturalists, there are incidents of male animals killing the young of other males, but I think that’s reprehensible, too.  Even though I know it makes no sense to attribute morals to an animal.)  I cannot abide abusing children; killing them is so disgusting I can’t see straight.

Do whatever it takes to prevent child abuse.  Intervene if you think a family member has gone too far.  Call the cops next time there’s screaming from one of your neighbors.  Here’s the National Hotline if you need a place to call (I’m sure there are hotlines around the world; learn what yours is).  If it’s not abuse, it’ll get straightened out.  You might look stupid, and you might be embarrassed, but think about how you’d feel if some kid died because you didn’t want to look stupid.  I don’t know if there was a history with 2-year-old Adrian Peterson, Jr. *, but if there was and nobody said anything, then they’re evil freaks, too.

*I mistakenly identified this as the boy’s name.  Reports say that it was not Adrian Peterson, Jr., but the child’s name has not been released at this time.