The revolution is virtual–and ongoing

It is day six for Egypt’s protesters, the death toll has surpassed 100, and the message is clear: Mubarak is out. Egyptians will tolerate no other outcome. And Mubarak knows this. His three decades of power are drawing to an ignominious close and in two last ploys for survival he has thrown his government under the wheels of the uprising and attempted to shut down the internet. Note to dictators: you can’t shut down the internet. Nobody can shut down the internet. You can try. You might even meet with a certain degree of success, depending on your country’s technological infrastructure. But information will get it out. Just ask the Iranians.

Though I’d say Mubarak has already done just that. The restrictive measures his regime has placed on internet access mimic the Iranian government’s panicked response to the public backlash that followed its controversial 2009 presidential election. In Egypt, as in Iran, video data has escaped the regime’s restrictions. For Iran, that meant the death of Neda Agha Soltan became global news. Egyptians do not have a Neda, but 100 people have died in the name of democracy and video evidence of police brutality is being released: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xWiBCIxjIkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55zw5oOmpF0http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phFd-Kgd7rg. And police violence is hardly new to Egyptians. This video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8KG5N_yq1s, was shot in 2007; this one was shot in early 2010: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7vwdIsXc4I. Those are only two examples of the evidence that can be easily accessed via Youtube. Forms of new media like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Youtube have joined instant messaging services as tools of the 21st century political dissident, yet these tools by themselves are not enough to achieve democracy. The backing of wealthier, more powerful nations can signal the ultimate success or failure of a movement.

Yet the US government has refused to offer its support to Egypt’s protesters, in a repeat of their reaction to Iran’s Green Movement. My theory is that the US is concerned about Islamist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood rising to power in the void left by the Mubarak regime. Mubarak is also an ally against Hamas. Yet if this is their concern I believe it is misplaced. To assume that a majority Muslim nation will prefer an Islamist regime over democratic elections reflects an Islamophobic attitude and ignores the fact that Egypt’s protesters are not calling for an Islamic state. They call for democracy, and Mohamed ElBaradei has emerged as an acceptable alternative to Hosni Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood appears to have had no role in the protests. Certainly, it’s possible that Islamists will take advantage of the unrest, in Egypt and elsewhere. Rachid Ghannouchi of Tunisia’s banned Islamist Ennahda party returned to his home country today, and though he has stated that he has no political ambitions for the present Ennahda’s future goals remain unclear. But it is premature to posit, as John Bolton and other right wing figures have done, that Islamist regimes are inevitable. To suggest this is to assume that Muslims are somehow incapable of building democratic society, that Islam is inherently more violent than Christianity or any other world religion. History disagrees, and so do the families and friends of  Egypt’s 100 dead.

If you’re interested in contacting the Egyptian embassy with your concerns please feel free to use the letter authored and shared by my friend Soumia. The addresses of the embassies in the US and the UK are included. Here’s the text of the letter:

To whom it may concern at

The Egyptian Embassy in the United States

embassy@egytembassy.net

Brigade General. Mohamed El Sangak

Defence Sector, Egyptian Embassy United Kingdom

Modegy2003@hotmail.com

24 South Street, London W1K 1DN.

Egyptian Consulate

consulate@egyptianconsulate.co.uk

Alistair Burt – Foreign Commonwealth Office – Head of Middle East and North Africa desk

burta@parliament.uk

Alistair Burt MP

House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

————————————————————-

Below is the sample letter. You can change this if you want to. But do make sure you do not insult any of the people above, do not use foul language under any circumstances regardless of your frustration as this will not help in aiding the situation and only make matters worse. We urge everyone to send the email below to the listed individuals.  No, we don’t expect to work miracles. And no, this is not about you. This isn’t about making a so-called “difference” or launching into a world-salvation escapade.

—————————————————————-

Dear (enter name)

It was with deep sorrow and regret that I write to you to express my concern over the policies and practices of the Egyptian governments’ retaliation against its people. I do this in hope that you will use your authority to help fight against this oppression.

Article 20(1) of the International law states “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association” Yet For the past 6 days there has been constant unrest and turmoil. The facts are the people in Egypt, our people, have been denied access to the Internet, phone lines have been cut and in consequence communication with relatives, friends and the outer world. They have been held Incommunicado as one would hold a prisoner behind bars.

It is alarming that such measures have been taken. The basic liberties to the rights of life, security and democracy have been unnecessarily denied and as proven by the present situation in Egypt no one has been allowed the right to voice their opinion.

The Egypt that was thriving with culture and revered for celestial ancient civilization, is now being burnt to the ground, live ammunition rounds  being shot into crowds, resulting in hundreds of deaths, and hundreds more yet to be confirmed. Jets being flown low in the sky as a subtle threat to the protestors and as of Sunday food and gas supplies are running low. No government should be so tyrannical that its people are afraid to speak out against it.

It is of the utmost importance that all individuals stand up and protect each other’s rights. I urge you to help us stand against this instability and injustice. These are what define inhumanity and persecution.

Thank you. I trust that you will act promptly.

Very respectfully yours,

(Your Name)

Thanks to Soumia and her coauthor Rawan.

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The right’s love affair with post-abortion syndrome

In case there weren’t already enough evidence against it, the New England Journal of Medicine just published yet another study demolishing the myth of post-abortion syndrome: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE70P8ZK20110126. For the uninitiated, post-abortion syndrome as defined by Ramah International is “a form of post-traumatic stress disorder” that manifests symptoms that include guilt, anxiety, depression and even “brief reactive psychosis.” In short: if you have an abortion, you will lose your mind. It’s true that the symptoms listed by Ramah International are certainly associated with post-traumatic disorder. I don’t debate this. I debate the premise that something called post-abortion syndrome exists, and can be legitimately connected to PTSD.

So do women sometimes experience regret regarding their abortions? Yes. People can regret any decision, particularly serious ones, and no reproductive justice activist I know would describe abortion as anything other than serious. But there is a significant gap between acknowledging the possibility of regret post-abortion and creating a psychological diagnosis. In 2008, the American Psychological Association (APA) released an exhaustive report on the subject of post-abortion syndrome. The conclusion: there’s no such thing. As quoted in Salon, the APA found that “The most methodologically sound research indicates that among women who have a single, legal, first-trimester abortion of an unplanned pregnancy for nontherapeutic reasons, the relative risks of mental health problems are no greater than the risks among women who deliver an unplanned pregnancy.” Entire report available here: http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/abortion/index.aspx.

The APA’s research has been backed up by the nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/j.socscimed.2010.10.006.pdf) and numerous other studies that have been featured in publications like Bioethics, The Harvard Review of Psychiatry, American Psychology and The British Journal of Psychiatry. Note that no one is  saying you cannot ever be depressed about getting abortion, or that it is illegitimate to feel this way, but that a clinical syndrome has not been observed. But if post-abortion syndrome is a myth, its proponents charged with “creating an affliction” in Bioethics, why do organizations like Ramah International and Feminists for Life continue to circulate it?

Simply this. The anti-choice movement cannot claim to be pro-woman if post-abortion syndrome does not exist. It is consistently repeated by anti-choice organizations because it allows them to appear sympathetic to the needs of women. If women are endangered by abortion, then it’s easy to be a “feminist for life.” Evangelicals are particularly prone to this myth. Note the name of Ramah International. It’s based on a passage in Jeremiah, specifically Jeremiah 31:15: A voice is heard in Ramah – mourning and great weeping. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because her children are no more.“

The evangelical anti-choice philosophy dictates that post-abortion syndrome must exist because abortion is murder. If it does not, millions of women are either emotionless sociopaths, or abortion is not murder. And that is why despite all evidence, anti-choice organizations will continue to cling to the post-abortion myth. They will recycle its pseudoscience (or pseudopsychology, in this case) and ignore the possibility that the reason some women  might feel shame about their abortions is because of signs calling them murderers.

None of this is particularly new information, at least for those who follow the debate on reproductive rights in America. The recent controversy over so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” run by anti-choice groups have catapulted their reliance on pseudoscience into the public consciousness.  It’s also vital information to remember when considering the religious right. Evangelical organizations that promote post-abortion syndrome don’t consider women to fully functional, intellectual human beings. There is no compromise with such organizations. Post-abortion syndrome also relates to a debate often seen in feminist circles: can one be pro-life and feminist? My answer is yes–sort of. I think you can be personally against abortion and a feminist. By this I mean that I believe it’s possible for an individual to decide that she is not comfortable with terminating her own pregnancy and be truly feminist. I do not believe that you can support political action against reproductive choice and be a feminist. And you most certainly cannot call yourself a feminist if you support organizations that dupe women.

For an organization that approaches the complicated post-abortion emotions many women do feel from a nonpartisan, nonjudgmental perspective, click here: http://www.4exhale.org/.

Christianity’s “fundasexuality”

Cathleen Falsani’s excellent piece for the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cathleen-falsani/the-great-gay-awakening_b_808235.html) draws some much needed attention to the existence of gay and gay-friendly Christians. Yes, that’s right. Gay people can be Christian too. Got it? Still with me? Good. Now let’s continue. The Bible is not actually anti-gay, despite what the James Dobsons of the world claim, and Falsani (much to her credit) addresses this in her piece. Fortunately, Christians like Falsani are growing in number.

In a media landscape dominated by the clownish antics of Westboro Baptist and other major figures in the religious right, the saner dictums of pastors and theologians like Jay Bakker and Brian McLaren are often ignored. Sanity doesn’t sell. Yet the insistent focus on hate is a disservice to GLBT Christians and their spiritual brothers and sisters. These individuals face a difficult battle within their faith as they struggle against centuries of church tradition and the American church’s recent preoccupation with political action in support of social conservatism. McLaren terms this preoccupation “fundasexuality,” and it’s a hypocrisy I felt strongly as I grew up in evangelical Christianity. Sex is verboten for the unlucky unmarried. In my experience, sex was only discussed within the context of abstinence. To sum it up: sex is for straight married people. Sexual content in books and movies is decried as filth, and yet there’s this strange voyeurism focused on the bedrooms of other people. Unhealthy is the mildest term applicable.

Gay Christians and their supporters are, if not thriving, finally growing in number, and provide perhaps the best counter to the religious right in America. The religious right pushes back, of course. The stories of young GLBT Christians can be heartbreaking. They are often rejected by their friends, their family, and their spiritual brothers and sisters. And they are changing Christianity from within. They challenge the traditions that seek to deny their very existence at churches and colleges across America, and their bravery should not be drowned out by the insane ramblings of hate. I believe that message cannot be emphasized more strongly due to America’s highly vitriolic religious and political landscape, especially since that vitriol has now been exported and feeds homophobic violence in nations like Uganda.

So kudos to Cathleen Falsani. Kudos to the Huffington Post for recognizing the importance of her message. And to my GLBT Christian friends: much, much love.

Also, just because I can:

Today is my birthday. I’m 23. And the universe has seen fit to grant me beautiful snow and a total lack of harassment for the day. Thanks, universe. And thanks to everyone who has supported me and this blog during the Great Trolling Debacle of 2011. May there be only one.

Jared Loughner: Refocusing the debate

Now that Jared Loughner’s tragic assassination attempt appears to have been driven by mental illness, not political extremism, there’s been a predictably hyperbole-laden debate over mental illness and gun ownership. Time magazine demands to know why the mentally ill are allowed to arm themselves at all: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2041448,00.html. As SE Smith reported in her excellent piece in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jan/10/jared-lee-loughner-gabrielle-giffords), The LA Times provides readers with a handy guide to violent crime committed by the mentally ill (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2011/01/gabrielle-giffords-jared-loughner-assassinations.html). Comparisons to the tragic massacre at Virginia Tech simply reinforce the erroneous perception that mentally ill=violent.

Jared Loughner is very likely mentally ill. He also happens to be violent. The two traits can exist independently of each other, and to conflate them may be easy, but it is also illogical and discriminatory. It also obscures the reason behind Loughner’s tragic actions. Six people are dead not because Loughner was able to purchase a gun, though a review of Arizona’s gun ownership laws is hardly remiss; nor are they dead because Loughner is mentally ill. They are dead because he never received  treatment for his illness. They’re dead because Jared Loughner slipped through the cracks and no one bothered to stop his fall.

This is a failure of the mental health care system more than it is a failure of gun control laws or even the vitriolic, often violent rhetoric employed by certain politicians. It’s a tragedy on several levels and not one of them should be ignored in favor of an eye-catching headline. And the problem won’t necessarily be resolved by tougher gun control laws or by forbidding gun ownership by the mentally ill. If you believe that the Second Amendment guarantees American citizens the right to bear arms, then you cannot advocate for that right to be removed from someone because of a health condition. That measure should be reserved for cases of documented irrational behavior, and that is hardly unique to the mentally ill.

So let’s not confuse the debate. The best way to prevent another Jared Loughner from pulling the trigger is by improving access to quality mental health care.

Project Cunt Count

As of today, RAINN has earned $60. $40 of  that is pledged from me as soon as I get my first paycheck. Thanks to Jen for the other $20. If you donate, don’t forget to mention it here so I can update the count. To recap: Each use of the word cunt as an insult earns RAINN $10. That will also apply to any use of “mangina,” “faggot” or any variations on “slut.”

Two trolls are confirmed from the Manhood Academy, if anyone’s interested.

moving forward, redux

My past was never the focus I intended for this blog. And I hope to bring it back to its original purpose soon, which has everything to do with religion and feminism and world events and nothing whatsoever to do with navel gazing. You may have read certain comments on this blog. I approved them because I believe that my life, and the decisions I have made regarding it, speak for themselves. I have a job and an internship with an incredible organization (www.feminijtihad.com). I live on my own and I support myself. I manage dual diganoses of bipolar depression and a genetic disease called hereditary spherocytosis, and I think I do so pretty damn well. I have incredible friends, a supportive family, and I am determined to use my experience and my education to the benefit of as many people as possible.

I am a good person. I have a future. I am not a liar and I am not delusional. And I’m going to be ok.

That’s a mantra, of a sort. It’s what I think to myself when I’m trying to sleep at night. It’s what I cling to when it’s gray outside and the snow has turned to slush and it’s impossible to get warm. I am ok. Three words. It’s enough. And so am I. I am enough. I am good enough for myself and for everyone else.

I believe we create our own karma, that the things we do eventually catch up to us. Whether it’s the day or ten years after, the paths we choose to take lead us to an inevitable destination. And I am comfortable with my path. So I will not delete this blog. It’s protected speech, and it’ll take more than a couple trolls to intimidate me into shutting it down. Thank you all for your patience and your support.