As I was accidentally browsing my infernal Facebook feed today, I came across a video on a friend’s wall. This likely raises at least one question. For example, one might ask how one “accidentally” browses their Facebook feed.
Which is totally valid and fair, since I go on about how much I hate that sunken place pretty frequently. Short answer: I hate my MacBook Air anyway, but now that Apple has banned third party apps I haven’t yet found a good newsfeed eradicator, and since I have some random stuff that we brought with us when we moved here from Berlin, I wanted to sell it in a local group.
Which is a thing that I never really saw anyone using Facebook for back in Western New York, but you know, that was 3 years ago now anyway, maybe people do that now, the fuck do I even know?
But anyway… here’s the video:
It’s cute, it’s catchy, and it raises good points. At the end of the day I think it’s usually best to just let people just choose to oppress themselves. And it’s their First Amendment right! Americans do have a right to worship whatever god they want in whatever religion they choose. And that’s just what every major religion has been doing since they were invented by old men ranting, and no one is ever going to listen to common sense as long as religious rights are protected. (I swear I’m not even a Marxist but dude had a point…)
But the message of this video also minimizes the fact that while opinions and comments about things that people are not qualified to have are espoused and proliferated on social media and this is a hot mess, they are also legislated by people who have no right to be involved in the discussion at all, even if this is not always because of their religion.
Most politicians have no idea about much more about the stuff they need to legislate than a freshman poli sci major. And they have aides to find this out, to use Google for them. But aCatholic priest is the last person who should ever be advising anyone about sex and sexuality as well.
Such Priests have chosen to live with abstinence, and they don’t have uteruses. So priests should never be commenting on birth control, reproductive healthcare, or abortion. Those are healthcare decisions, and a priest is not a doctor, unless he went to medical school before Seminary.
This is true of so many more things, from policing sexuality and legally allowing ex-gay therapy to exist, to allowing employers and family owned insurance companies not to cover reproductive healthcare, to rationalising climate change as a sign of god’s dissatisfaction with the world and the encroaching apocalypse. Religious leaders are in most cases not qualified to be an authority on any of these things, catastrophic climate change being especially prescient in a conversation where some people will believe absolutely crazy shit (as in, Apocalypse level nonsense.)
Interestingly, some of the first Americans were descendants of those who survived the last Biblical “apocalypse” that came when Anabaptists walled themselves off in Münster, Germany and listened to a schizophrenic yet literate man who went mad upon interpreting Luther’s Bible for himself in the vernacular German… those groups, the Amish and Mennonites, are still around, and still speak that German in their faith and Biblical-based legal systems: Pennsylvania Deutsch, but English settlers at the time pronounced it as “Dutch.” Coming up on Thanksgiving, people are going to be having Pilgrim and Indian parties all over the place I am sure, so it’s worth noting that the Puritans had similar views rooted in Anabaptist thought, and that the British thought it was crazy and they left so that they could teach this crap to their kids… meanwhile the Founding Fathers, though now revered as a patriotic pantheon by many American “Christians,” were like most intelligent/educated people of note throughout history, fairly areligious for their day and age… and they built the Religion thing into a document that was elastic for this reason, so that those insular communities would support the secession from mother England.
It’s much worse today to follow an idiot like Trump today than it was for the 16th Century German peasant Anabaptists: Trump is not John of Leiden, and he does seem to be experiencing neurological decline in addition to some kind of mental health issue rendering him incapable of the judgment necessary to run a country.
And yet, people listen to him despite the fact that he is probably illiterate. It’s terrible; pretty much every American adult can read better than Trump can, and yet 40% still support him somehow?
Content warning for religious and spiritual abuse, coercion of a minor, and tales of the abuses by the real creepy uncles and cousins. And still, I have a misplaced urge to apologise for not keeping silent anymore.
This is all well and good. I wholeheartedly agree with my sister.
But it remains fact that everyone in our family was expected to just keep quiet about this shit happening in The *X* our surname *X* Family. And it has been dragging me down for some time. I mean, I’ve thought about this quite a lot. It is disgusting and hypocritical not to call out this behavior in families. And quite honestly, at this point it is only a blessing that I do not have nothing left to lose here. So I’m going to elaborate on this here, rather than on my Facebook wall.
First of all, what even is family? The only reason we know about the cousin younger than our “youngest cousin,” who was conceived while our youngest cousin’s mom was pregnant with her, is because our mom, who is a fucking heroine and does not get enough credit for that (especially among my dad’s family whom she regularly takes shit from, for telling her girls about this in order to keep them safe from their predatory uncle, among other unfair things).
She told us this after he was gross with our cousin, his niece, who is around our age (he grabbed at her chest at a family party). I do not know the specifics of that, but I don’t think my mom even knew my dad’s brother, Mark, had asked me if I had my genitals pierced in a moment alone at a family dinner with my lying and abusive ex (known as Spenser), when she told us this. (And of course, Spenser was the partner I was with when everyone blamed me for ruining that picture of the entire family at another cousin’s wedding, the last one with Grandma, by my and my dad’s not being in it… he was triggered by setting foot in a Catholic Church for a “breeder wedding,” which in hindsight does seem a bit ridiculous, even to me.) Oh well. Even Cher can’t turn back time, not that I’d want to for anything, and I am most certainly am glad I did not stay… though it would have been far better and cheaper if I’d never met him. The trauma and recovery therapy following that was not cheap.
And neither is family systems therapy… which is why I want to say here, where people can read it, that it is unfair that my sisters and I have had our own relationship with our dad suffer because of his choice to stand up for and “protect” the reputation of his fucked up little brother… but we do recognise that our dad made that choice, and I think we have all taken him to task quite enough for it by this point.
And no one is a minor anymore… including my youngest cousin, and her younger half-brother. Which absolutely could not be said for the teen mom in this scenario when it happened. The fact that it came from her attending a Catholic Youth Group, in Baldwinsville, New York, a supposed “safe space,” is all the more nauseating. Given my own active participation as a Youth Catechism (Lifeteen) leader at St. Mary’s Swormville in Western New York when Bob Yetter was pastor, which I already have nothing but shame and regret for, it has really been making me feel even more ashamed not to have said something sooner about this. I do not agree with Siobhan O’Connor’s beliefs or faith, but she is a courageous BAMF and a hero, and like early 90’s Sinead O’Connor, a role model to look up to. (Personally, like 90’s Sinead, I think the Catholic Church is still one of the most abusive, harmful and socially regressive institutions on the planet). But the abuse both Ms. O’Connors have faced/are facing is really the most disgusting thing about any of this short of abusive, sexually predatory and/or rapist priests, and decades of local, officially sanctioned cover-ups of these abuses. Let’s not even go there with how disgusting it is that priests and little boys are such a common punchline. It’s not funny. It is rape. And it is fucked up. Personally, I’m ashamed of ever having made such jokes in the past, and astonished by the gall of Malone in the article to claim he believes so devoutly in his internal integrity. Fuck. That. And fuck him.
That said… it is really terrible that it’s so common in Catholicism to only protect the daughters of one’s own family, and even so, I resent that when Uncle Mark grabbed my arms and stared me down at a Christmas Eve Dinner, less than a year after looking into my eyes and asking me if my genitals were pierced at a moment alone during a small family dinner with the aforementioned abusive ex, that I was asked not to make a “big deal” about it… a dinner where some of my relatives were incredibly rude and queerphobic to me (which I was well accustomed to by this time), and also treated my friend as such too, with an additional helping of overt racism as this friend is Black. (And to make matters worse, this friend had generously done me a personal favor by coming with me to this party for moral support).
My uncle impregnated a teenager in the Catholic Youth Group he was leading nearly 20 years ago now, but people always seem to want to blame people who dare let the cat out of the bag, rather than he who couldn’t keep his disgusting his disgusting urges under control, his vile snake in its pouch. This is especially galling as the girl was a minor at the time. Was the girl 16 or 17 when my uncle did this? I don’t know, but I think everyone kind of decided to agree that she was 17 because that is the age of consent in New York State, and therefore makes Mark seem less gross than he is somehow.
I might get dragged by many in this family for saying this, but my own hypocrisy of not having used my own voice to stand up for those with no voice has only been coming back and hurting me for years now. Carrying a name emblematic of this hypocrisy continues to smart… but ah well, at least all the child support is all paid up now, and we can only hope that my unknown cousin had a better dad and family than that of his bio-dad.
I mean, it’s bad enough that everyone beside my mom and sisters always acts like I’m dramatic and unfair for being upset at the many disgusting things our cousin Josh has done, from grabbing me and motor boating my chest when we were both teenagers to sliding into all of our DMs in the grossest way ever as an adult. But that pales in comparison to the sins of his father, even if that is not the type of thing you do to your first cousins. And on second thought, maybe Josh is perfect for politics after all.
And as my sister says of Bishop Malone, both my cousin Josh he and his father Mark will meet his own God on judgement day and have to answer to a higher power for his own sins. Booboo also hopes that Bishop Malone is ready for that. However, I really don’t care if Mark, Josh, Bob Yetter, or Bishop Malone are ready for that. I was not ready to be molested by my cousin, or asked about my genitals by my gross child rapist uncle… or to carry the burden of silence and abuse and shame for trying to call it out. And what teenage girl is EVER ready to be a teen my mom by a Catholic Youth Organization leader with a pregnant wife? It’s absurdly vile. Absurdly. And I literally bite back the urge to projectile vomit every time his daughter talks about being a “daddy’s girl” on any sunken place of a social platform.
And as for Bob fka Father Yetter and Bishop Malone… well it really says a LOT about the Church’s ideals and what the Catholic Church stands for, that an Archbishop would defend or hide the actions of priests sexually assaulting young men, young women, or young people in general, while denouncing consensual queer relationships and identities. Shame on Bishop Malone, shame on Bob Yetter, and shame on anyone who stands behind or defends men like these. #EnoughIsEnough.
These patterns of abuse need to stop, and I am sure that more than one relative, more than one person in my FAMILY will want to slap the mouth right off me for saying this, will want to break my fingers so I can no longer type. All I ask is that you examine why this violent response is directed toward me, and not the people who have hurt me, and/or my sisters (and those who are sisters in solidarity only). And if it’s you… well, examine your behavior.
Especially if you’re a young woman, queer, or otherwise vulnerable person who is really used to defending and/or hiding this type of shitty and abusive behavior in people close to you and “loved ones…” even more than we first realized. I have tried to talk about these things again and again. Each time, I was silenced by people who “love” me. By relatives, even if the definition Family is completely lost on them. Perhaps that is a family trait, after all. Who knows? That ship has long since sailed, and seasickness always sucks.
One more thing: people (ESPECIALLY members of the *X* our surname *X* Family) need to STOP using the excuse of losing one’s dad at an early age as an excuse for this shit. After YEARS of my casually dating and even sometimes being friends with people who were unkind to me, treated me like utter shit, and/or spread lies about me after the fact (which I still take responsibility for! After all, it was I who was unwilling or unable to call that out or stand up for myself, or get myself in a good enough place to make healthy connections.)
But now, I am finally with one of the good ones. And his dad died when he was 6, and he does not use that as an excuse to be a disgusting predator or abusive creep. Instead, he recognises the struggles his mom had in raising him, the youngest by over a decade, to be a self-sufficient and decent, upstanding human being, and treats her as the confidant and best friend she has been to him. Even further, he tries to make his incredibly white male-dominated industry (of intensive MtG/trading card and board gamers!) a safer and more welcoming place for anyone who just wants to enjoy that hobby. And he would hate the praise, because he is modest and humble and has that sort of sisu that the rest of us just can’t quite translate.
So to be clear, this is not some angry rant by some man-hating feminist, and I’ve been waiting for the time and place to say this for some time, even hinted at it on this blog at least a few times… Furthermore, this behavior is #NOTallMen. And we ALL know that. But we ALL need to be better about calling out the ones who are, and holding the institutions and individuals and families that uphold, silence, and normalise this violence, accountable. It is a damn shame that a few bad people poison the whole well, and it’s sadder still how everyone pays for this. Not calling out the bad ones delegitimizes all of the good ones.
This brief post is dedicated to my ex, the only partner I have lived with before my current partner, and his lies and destruction of reputations (including my own). I have known for well over three years that Spenser was telling people in my communities that I raped him.
And for juuust over two years now that Spenser had lied not only to me and my own community, but also to the midwestern slam poetry community (in particular, to garner sympathy from Layne, a poet whom he then dated and then proceeded to treat the same way, and also following with a social media smear campaign again (in which he told a bunch of people only he knows that two exes raped him rather than one.)
So in my experience, Spenser “needed” to be patently emotionally abusive at all times, and in need of pity and care and financial support because of all the shitty people who had hurt him and because he was a recovering addict and blah blah blahhhhh he is righteously angry and volatile, and no one is ever sensitive to that or him and I was the only person who had ever made that stone butch squirt before and the only one who ever “got” him or whatever…. and how could I call his slam poem about how the Irish were treated comparing them to slaves and the middle crossing racist when that’s just the history of the Irish and no one ever supports his art or understands him?!?!?!?!
….whatever, man. To be honest, I am not even sure he ever told me his real, LEGAL surname… and we signed a lease together. That stupidity is on me, and ever shall be. Maybe it’s Coughlin. I remember the day that I left him. I went in, and he handed me one long-stemmed rose and apologised for a heinously abusive tantrum he’d had in my car earlier that week, as I picked him up from work with one or two members of my carpool home from the university where I was working, and dropped him off on a corner near our apartment (as in within 300 yards of the house), as it was a hot day and we were all en route to go swimming. I don’t remember if we made it to the pool after that… but I don’t think so. Pretty sure we ended up at the splash park off Niagara St. in Buffalo, the one where the junction with the 190 (I-190, that is, for readers not using the Western New York colloquial vernacular.)
I moved out in a hurry that weekend, when my mom’s sister was in town. And Spenser kept the deposit, and never paid me back for the furniture or paint or other household items I’d bought, to the tune of over $1000. I remember when I found out he’d lied about all of this in order to endear Layne to him and later validate his abuse of Layne… I was in an İstiklal Vodafone outlet in Istanbul, having left all this drama firmly in my past (or so I thought), waiting for shitty service with my friend Bella. Upon discovering how Spenser had lied not only to me my own community, but also to more victims I burst into violent tears.
Even five years ago, I didn’t say much to combat the lies or feed the rumors. First of all… why bother fanning that flame. Second of all, I figured I’d be fine eventually. And I still believe that believing survivors is the most important message. If I was so fucking scared to say anything, I cannot even imagine how hard it is for someone to have to stand up to their abuser or attacker on a national stage.
And he knew 5 years ago that this would isolate me and give him credibility. People like Spenser are the reason that people like Dr. Blasey Ford are not believed. And I knew that then. So I never said anything. Believing survivors enough to look into it should ALWAYS come first, unquestionably so. And it is so rare we lie about this. The fact that Spenser used this lie to garner sympathy from Layne was a huge breaking point for me, shortly before the 2016 election.
So I have now known for over two years that I was not the only vulnerable queerwho was victim of his in this regard, and I remain committed to my own integrity and health and safety… and offer my solidarity to Layne, who also needed two years to be strong enough to speak up in October 2016, and ask forgiveness for the two years of silence. I wasn’t strong enough until now. And I’m sorry it took me so long to add this for the world to see.
Here’s Layne’s testimony, in case you need more proof:
In 2014 I dealt with an extremely abusive individual. I have him blocked everywhere I possibly can. He currently goes by Spenser Bakri Newton, Classic Pendergast and possibly, Spenser Coughlin or Spenser Cockcroft. This individual has hurt me and many others. This blog post is a timeline of my abuse.
If you are going through something like this, speak up and be loud. Message me if you need to talk and remember, it is not your fault.
Suffice to say that I don’t really want a bunch of drama again, I’m well over that. But adding my testimony to my own experience and backing up Layne’s words has been much too long in coming at this point.
We can only hope that anyone who wants to get involved with this creep will fucking Google him moving forward.
Note: This post is GDPR compliant as I am unsure if any of us really know this person’s real name.
At least, not in a vacuum. That’s a gross oversimplification of the problem. And women, girls, and anyone favoring democracy or democratic ideals must stand against the poison that gives way to the status quo.
What conservative Catholicism and Christianity does to men, how they think and perceive the world, and by extension, their families, and the societies and cultures they have built to uphold the traditionalist status quo both contradicts and parallels the ideals set forth in the United States Constitution.
You are damn straight I am coming for the First Amendment… but just not in the way we usually talk about it. I am talking freedom of religion, that poisonous legacy of conquest that the West was built upon. (Not to mention the Far and Middle Easts; though in my limited knowledge this is not true of indigenous/aboriginal groups native to the Pacific Islands and North American continent. By all means, if this is wrong, I do hope some kind reader will correct me on this.)
And let’s be real to the voter who believes the lies and empty promises of man like the TrumpDumpster, it really is something to blame. The politicians that are elected in a populist movement, the orange Dump himself included, are acutely aware that Americans who are women working outside the home, LGBTQ, and the Black descendants of those stolen from their homes and enslaved to build the very Capital (and Capitol!) which they legislate from within are people… because their representation in those austere halls would have dwindled to like… three sets of Duggar families and some Catholics… since the 1970s if not for Evangelicals bringing the votes, and Catholics bringing the brains, ideologies and strong opposition to family planning to the table platform.
But that leaves all women and girls getting the shaft (and no, that’s not a rape joke. But it might as well be, even though drawing that parallel is more depressing than it is funny.)
Be subservient to the dogma and maintain 1980s John Hughes teen movie ideas about how “our” men should behave, and follow suit as a woman, protecting their reputations and careers at the expense of your own dignity, bodily autonomy, self-efficacy and livelihood.
Act as like Jezebel Jezebel and buck every rule, time after time, until all those men can point at the crazy shrew who can’t hold her tongue or her temper.
Of course, this is only applicable to white women. And as previously discussed, in the modern America Religion, White Supremacy is the theology and the dogma.
Women always need to know their place, whichever of those two options they choose, and anyone outside this man/woman dichotomy shouldn’t have one at all, even if the Synod isn’t going to come right out and say that… (and no, that’s not a gay joke). At the end of the day, making more people feel welcome and comfortable to proudly believe in your absolutely mad special guy in the sky stuff means that there are more people PTS (proselytizing that shit).
This is mostly a problem because the sociocultural interests of traditionalist men broadly are not oriented in the direction of women being autonomous about anything, let alone their bodies. Or having self-sufficiency, of having careers and financial independence at all.
Being raised by or in faith systems (of any kind) upholds the status quo. And while it’s not all bad, it does first and foremost benefit the men ascribing to that faith, and its theology = dogma. Which does not make it any less absurd. Nor surprising that the US is a disaster because of this: a nation founded on the ideal of welcoming anyone of any faith, and protecting all faiths.
But it’s even more absurd that women continue drinking that Blood of Christ Kool Aid (and I’m not talking about all the teens and wine moms at your parents’ church taking longer-than-appropriate swigs of that virus-laden Jesus Juice after mumbling “Amen.”)
All religions have vested interest in ensuring that its adherents believe they need absolution from a spiritual authority within said institution, so any such group’s leadership and institution will be diametrically opposed to values like tolerance and acceptance, though they will preach the exact opposite.
This is true both of one’s own perceived flaws, and those proscribed by the institution itself. They need you to keep believing you are bad, you are a sinner, you need absolution (specifically their sainted absolution).
But this is 2018, and that is no way to live life, here on earth, in America, today. Even if you, personally, are not surrounded by people of all different kinds of lifestyles and backgrounds and ideologies, and the only people where you live in whatever neighbourhood you live in all look exactly like you and go to the same churches and send their kids to the same schools, public or otherwise.
There have always been other Americans who are not like you, in looks, in thoughts, in opinions. They have always been in government too… but it’s a big enough place that you never have to see or hear them or be around them… until now, with the proliferation of the digital media, when everything is televised 24/7.
(If this is a thing that bothers you, to see other people having more the same basic human rights because when they’re different from you, I suggest turning off the TV to remedy this. TVs have made America worse, and you want to Make America Great Again, don’t you? Good. Stop it. Turn it off. Same with talk radio.)
There is no absolution. At all. Ever. There are only other people… which is to say (within a faith-based framework), there are men and there are boys.
There have always been girls and women and girlfriends and wives and mothers who will forgive and pretend to forget, who will uphold the values of the Church, who will not only uphold that “boys will be boys,” but whose non-actions ensure that “boys and men can and will get away with behaving like savage cavemen, and acting in a dominant if not always sexually predatory manner.”
That is the sole purpose, function, responsibility and role of a Good Catholic Woman (outside of a nun’s habit. Nuns can engage in social activism surrounding issues like environmentalism or homelessness and poverty prevention, but need to be celibate, and not tempting to men in any way, shape, or form.)
Any woman who wants to know why those are the only two options, who dares ask, is a bad Catholic… and worse, is a bad member of their family, their family’s Church, community, maybe even their school, but hey, she doesn’t really need to read more than Beatitudes, Proverbs and Luke anyway.
And women who want to tear up a storm because the priests and youth ministers and bishops are not being held accountable for their actions, and scores of men do not and will not admit that they don’t see their women as people, and that men of the cloth do not need to be held accountable for their actions because they are accountable only to a higher power? Well, they are a threat. They are scary.
And the Church needs to shut them up. Because they are also right. Both logically and morally. Which is important because that is all a religion is: an institution to police morality in its adherents.
Good religious folks will then go proscribe that ish on everyone around themselves, PTS on more people and more people… In their homes, in their families, schools, communities, etc.
How the hell do I know?
Well, if you knew me three years ago I’d have been able to explain ridiculous minutiae about my life based solely on my birth chart (Sagitarrius/Gemini Moon/Rising Libra yo!) and read the tarot for you. Shit, I even paid my rent for 2 months in the summer of 2016 by reading tarot! I’m an atheist now, but witches are inherently queer and powerful women, with power outside the scary, fucked up patriarchy, so coming from the toxic faith background I did, I can’t be too hard on myself for that. Shit, I still want to call myself a witch. Maybe I will. They’re the only women in history with any agency, after all, and often some of the most pioneering freethinkers, for all that they and their writings were burned.
Once you’re raised in a faith, it’s hard to leave all of it. There’s a bit of spiritual or metaphysical Stockholm Syndrome at play. Love your captor. Embrace what binds you. Cling to magical thinking because it’s not abnormal or weird in your family anyway, and it is your Constitutional right to have some kind of magical megastructure, even if the dirty and nasty politics of the whole instituionalized ones are just so vile. The patriarchy doesn’t have any riot grrrl or queer best interests at heart, after all… shit, it hardly has any ethical interests at all! And it never will.
Of course, there’s an economic interest in this as well, since the amount/size of parish memberships contribute to the amount of tithes paid, the clergy’s salary. This is usually a share of one’s income, or in America, $20 or $50 or $100 per week for an activity you take part in for roughly and hour on a Sunday morning. My queer grrrrl lifestyle and ideas aren’t going to make a buck for me.
But that does not and cannot strip the truth, and sense in what I’m saying about the church and these religions either, even if some of it is a bit extreme and that alienates some people from absorbing the message.
Think I’m being unfair?
This is the parish I grew up in, where I was one of the most senior altar servers when I was 17. Not in the Church pictured in that article though! My parent donated quite a bit to the construction of that church, constructed in 2010, notably on the same razed swamp as the house I grew up in (built in 1975, replete with a sinking basement!) Its pews are a panopticon built around the altar where the priest who instilled so many moral lessons as a queer teen trying to figure shit out in my formative years not this one, though, thank God! (And really in this case, praise be for my second class meat sack avatar for ONCE).
Of course, I had summarily dismissed most of those lessons long before… once I realized that the heroes like Joan of Arc whom I’d looked up to (she saved France! …only to be killed by the English, who were still Catholic then, by the way...)
But still, total bullshit either way!
So the fact that clergy critical of the megastructure that upholds these abuses (like my mom and dad’s neighbor!) are not allowed to speak up against this in the church community in 2018 wasn’t really a surprise to me.
What’s more weird to me at 30 is why my role model at age 16 was both a martyr and a saint. Both really sound like incredibly boring if not downright miserable, ridiculous things to be. But this probably has to more to do with a different Freudiancomplex than the Madonna-Whore Dichotomy.
But I’m not going to go into much more detail here about the family I was raised in. Suffice to say that there is quite unfair treatment of women and girls versus men and the boys, which plays out across generational divides a little bit. My dad’s relationship with his daughters has suffered greatly over the years because he chooses to stand by his brothers rather than in solidarity against wholly Catholic ideals… but then, there’s really been no room for moderates in American Catholic families since The Feminine Mystique was published, even though Freidan never had such honors bestowed upon her as Simone de Beauvoir did (but then the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was abolished only a couple years after its publication, and back in those days, American Catholics weren’t Catholic enough anyway.)
Spoiler alert: Everything is terrible and nothing is okay.
Religious studies scholars will explain that all religions are, or were, cults at their inception. Really, there is no difference between religions and cults. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lis a lot of quantifiably false, made up stuff that Trump’s disciplesinitiatesmarksKool-aid drinkers followers believe… but that’s also true of Christianity, of Catholicism, of Islam, Hinduism… literally all religions. That’s the definition itself.
The choice to believe can certainly be therapeutic, soothing, dull the sharp pain of loss and make the grieving process easier. And it’s definitely your First Amendment right, (if you’re American), though grieving and coping mechanisms do not need to be linked to religion, nor does that minimize the fact that religion is delusion.
Religious congregations are communities, and can be social hubs, so these can be especially important for sad or lonely people, but so can secular community centers and recreation centers, libraries and senior centers (none of which have the funding for in-person door to door welcoming committees in lieu of proselytization street teams targeting lonely people who are at home alone).
According to vulnerability researcher Brené Brown, community, belonging, compassion, understanding, and the like are irreducible human needs, and religious congregations can fulfil all of these things. But so can social media, and we don’t call that a church. We call that an addiction, and most of us universally shame each other for those. But it’s taboo to question the religious, since it is a First Amendment right to be an insane religious zealot, after all.
When does having faith end and diagnosis begin? When do people of faith become a cult, or a cult become a church? And when can we just call all of it pathology?
But of course, women and girls are to blame for all the bad things that happen to men, and formidable women confident in their beliefs and self-efficacy are still a bit scary in 2018, especially when they’re intelligent and childless, emotionally sufficient and financially independent without men, are they not?
Women are so easy for powerful religious dudes to blame for stuff they can’t control, like for everything from the Fall [of Man], all the way on down to any legitimate opposition to Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court appointment. (His alleged sexually predatory behavior as a teenager notwithstanding; like, everyone knows he wasn’t on trial.)
It was a job interview though, and numerous letters of opposition, (basically the antithesis of good references) from those he’d worked with in prior Clerkships and Judgeships that attested to his poor judgment, partisan nature and lack of levelheadedness on the Bench… which should have been more than enough to eliminate him from finalists for the position, long before Dr. Ford even heard he was in the running, shit, even before Justice Kennedy was forced to step down.
So, “is Trump leading a new religious cult?” is a stupid question, and quite frankly I’m rather disappointed in Reza Aslan for even asking it, when such a better, obvious question is “why are scared, gullible masses so drawn to such unstable masculine charismatic pathologies, over and over again?”
And Masculine it is… even though it is #NotAllMen rather, it is damaging to all men). Also, to be clear I do not refer to The Masculine here, nor is paganism devoid of a lot of quantifiably false, made up stuff… but neither is it any kind of organized and codified religion, but hey, Catholicism/Christianity and Islam incorporated a bunch of completely made up paganism into their own completely made up traditions, so there’s that.
One common thread, the men who first edited the Bible, the Bishops at the First and Second Nicaea Councils, and this asshole in between the two, must have really wanted to keep women in their place. A big meeting of Catholic bishops in the 7th Century would hardy have been complete with a bunch of sex workers being trafficked into the place for the big event, just like today’s Olympics, World Cup Finals, Super Bowls, etc. But back then… I mean, eventually the Church itself was plagued by its own hubris: Schism after Schism, Reformation after Anabaptist Anarchist Revolution and finally, all those crazies moving to America to escape persecution….
Little known fact, the Amish are one of the most multilingual populations in the US: In addition to English, their Ordnung (Laws) are still written in Palatine German, and they speak a dialect called Pennsylvania Dutch (denn wenn man erwartet, dass Amerikaner “Deutsch” richtig sagen, würde das unsere Fähigkeiten überschätzen…) Also their blueberry pies are fucking phenomenal! So there’s that, but shit, the United States was literally built to defend and uphold this and similar religious delusions.
Which ironically but not unexpectedly has been our undoing: defending the rights of anyone to believe whatever they want has set up the US, as nation borne of the lofty ideas of academics and mad scientists (e.g. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin) to fall as a nation of fools. I mean, think about it: we are taught about how the Puritans were the first permanent settlers of families in what became the American Colonies.
The Puritans were brave and good, so kind! It was a freezing cold winter, and they shared their blankets with these savages, (and smallpox! And they had the nerve to call their welcoming hosts, who taught them how to hunt and prepare turkeys, and how to grow staple grain corn, savages!)
Then they shared that feast of Thanksgiving with the natives who had taught them how to survive after they had to leave England because of how they were persecuted in the countries they left for their beliefs… all those bad, horrible people trying to stamp out the insanity! (Shame on them, for trying to tamp that down! Then they went on to tax TEA of all things? The NERVE of those LobsterDads -Backs…)
Even though religious nuts have always come to America, hopefully this won’t always be so? After all, the Muslims coming to the US aren’t radicals. Radical types are staying much closer to their Mecca. This is, however, the same thing that happened with all 8 of my own Catholic great grandparents (about a century ago from Southern Italy and Poland) too… and yes, I have cousins who have congregated around the new Idol of TrumpDumpsterism, uncles and cousins who have gone into the US military to spill the blood of innocents in Vietnam and the current wars America is waging to line the pockets of our wealthiest citizens. I had a great aunt who was a cloistered nun, and I have a second cousin who is a Catholic Priest, whom I think is asexual but if not, I hope and pray he will leave the collar and pulpit if he one day wants to come out rather than touching the youth of his parish, unlike the father of the cousin I’ve never met because my uncle (a former Catholic Youth Minister) impregnated one of his teenage flock around 18 years ago. A creepy man who hugs too long and has asked me if I have my genitals pierced, whose son was made in his image and wants to go into politics (which is fine since he’s a total lech who has molested my breasts when we were teenagers, despite our dads being brothers, yuck!) and he’s done blow off a public bathroom sink at family weddings, so I’m sure he’ll fit right in at any hallowed house of legislature in the entire country; besides, that is really no secret anyway, so if he is given that opportunity I’ve sure as fuck learned from the public censure of both Dr. Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s experiences to just keep my damn mouth shut and just let the predatory man govern us all.
This is also Old News, but maybe the Churches and Mosques and Synagogues should all have returned to the dust from whence they came centuries ago, like the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, lost to antiquity forever. But I mean, they are beautiful, so even if we just lost all the dogma and got rid of all the stories and turned the buildings into schools and community centers at least this disaster would be salvageable. At the very least we can hope that the abuses and crimes done by these men will condemn them to public shame and ridicule in their communities and parishes, like their bad behavior does to the people brave enough to stand up to them.
And we women need to stop drinking that Blood of Christ too: the 53% of white women who voted for Trump largely did so because of their own misguided Catholicism. Yes, that is what I said, and that is what I mean: it is 100% misguided for women to continue to choose to be Catholic in 2018, and downright amoral/wrong of them to project those beliefs on other women.
The frustration of generation after generation collectively choosing religious delusion and social conservatism over progress and proof beyond measure of a doubt, given the option to do so is maddening. There is so much entitlement, and so much bullshit, and so much interest in Keeping Voters Stupid!
It is so counterintuitive to listen to the most entitled man of all in order to validate your own wounded masculine identity and belief in your own disenfranchisement, but drinking the brown, sludgy koolaid isn’t healthy for anyone… but hey, it’s less addictive than that Blood of Christ wine, and I guess some people are into that 2Girls1Cup deal anyway, or it wouldn’t be out there on the Internet.
Besides, we know who has the most intoxicating bullshit of all, for those of the bullshit drinking persuasion:
Sometimes I want to write, so I sit down to do it and I can’t. This can happen for any number of reasons, but usually it’s because I feel bored or sad. Anger and disappointment are pretty easy to write about, but to do so regularly just turns into a bunch of rants or a bunch of whining. And no one likes an angry non-Presidential rant (not that the rest of us can figure out what anyone sees in those aside from comedic value), and no one likes someone who is just whining all the time. Or someone nagging all the time, since to be fair, I guess different people express disappointment in different ways.
Regardless, I almost didn’t write today. This morning was too busy and hectic, and I got a bunch of stuff done that needed to get done, faster and earlier than usual. I went to the post office, brought a form to be filed at a government office, and came home and got some work done. Nothing too bad there either, just tying up some loose ends, so I didn’t have to deal with any of those more… ahem, particular, types of people online today.
(Sidenote: setting up my life abroad in different places, I’ve gotten used to engaging with about 8 different government offices on the regular in each and every one of them, so I’ll have to elaborate on that in a later post, because let’s just say that the DMV is kid stuff at this point… even though it’s still somehow a much more awful, dehumanizing and inefficient experience than most of the ones outside the US.)
So I almost didn’t write anything. I’m tired, grumpy, and a bit crampy, and I don’t want to just whine about that (or anything) with this blog. But that does quite defeat the purpose of having a blog to write in every single damn day if I don’t do it regardless. I am very lucky in that I have a loving partner and a good life and a great dog and we live on this beautiful Mediterranean Island in a house with a view. And I don’t want to complain about any of that. But this is also the cause of some of my sadness, or at least greatly contributes to it, since living in a rural village (population 1000) on an island that is only 67 km² (25.87 mi²) can be stifling.
For comparison by size, smallest to largest:
Rochester, NY: 59.77 km² (23.08 mi²)
Buffalo, NY: 136 km² (52.51 mi²)
Helsinki, Finland: 184.5 km² (71.22 mi²)
Raleigh, North Carolina: 370 km2 (142.8 mi²)
Toronto: 630.2 km² (243.3 mi² )
Berlin, Germany: 891.8 km² (344.3 mi²)
New York City: 783.8 km² (302.6 mi²)
Los Angeles: 1,302 km² (502.7 mi²)
Istanbul: 1,539 km² (594.2 mi²)
London, UK: 1,572 km² (607 mi²)
It’s beautiful… but it’s also kind of lonely. I’m no Thoreau, much as I’d like to be. I’m hardly able to run errands a few days in a row without spraining an ankle on the hills, or at least straining one. Also, we both work from home full-time, but my partner works twice the hours I do, and it is his work that dictates a lot about our location and lifestyle. Since I work less, I do more of the household chores and take care of our pupper. It’s getting to be a lot more work than it was just a year ago. He is such a dashing, yet odd looking pup, and his short legs and long stocky frame have given the poor boy some hip problems and pain in his dotage. He is such an amazing dog though:
I am lucky and privileged and blessed to live the way I do. But I am also so so so incredibly lonely. Some evenings while he’s working late, I sit in front of my computer and just cry a bit… then I knuckle down and keep working. There’s not much else to do. We keep different hours than our neighbors and the locals (most of whom are so very welcoming and kind! I think Malta in general has a bad rep for xenophobia… it’s not nearly as bad as most of rural Western New York, though to be fair that is a super low bar).
And even the local grocery store opens at 5 am and closes at 1 pm. Then it opens from 4:30 pm to 7 pm… 6 days a week. Since I grew up in a large Catholic family I get that there are families here and they all know each other and have been living here for generations upon generations, and we are outsiders.
There are some other outsiders here too, in spades! But most of them are tourists, or English pensioners who are mostly very kind and sweet, but a little condescending. Ex. I do not need an explanation of the right kind of cream to use in every conceivable cooking and/or baking situation whilst I am doing my shopping at Lidl (a supermarket, with better hours than the local one, but three times as far and with an abundance of loud German tourist and English pensioner patrons, and apparently a serious dearth of cream varieties: they only offer the shelf stable vegan kind, the shelf stable cooking kind in a box, and cans of the shelf stable Reddi Whip type dessert topping that doesn’t need to be refrigerated until you open it).
I have made one friend, and she’s quite sweet, in her late 20s from France. But we are both always working, and I expect she’ll be leaving soon since she also finds it quite dull and really misses the land where she’s from. For me, it’s especially bad on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. When in Buffalo, on Monday and Wednesday I used to attend potlucks with my friends at their housing co-ops, and Thursday I used to play DnD with a small campaign in one of their basements… it was a creaky old house, so it felt like we were playing DnD in an actual dungeon, too.
In Rochester I used to spend those same evenings going to meet ups, board game nights, or just doing my homework at the local Gay Café, Equal=Grounds, which was right around the corner from my tiny apartment. A nice little coincidence that.
And, I used to see those same groups of people those days and on Saturday and/or Sunday afternoons, taking part in different community volunteer initiatives or just shooting the shit over a cup of tea (or rather, an herbal infusion, as opposed to the English black tea). It was nice to always have a group where I felt I belonged, since I really hadn’t had one of those since I broke my ankle and couldn’t keep working at Girl Scout Camp… which of course was only in the summer.
There were messy parts in between of course, and in the moment it didn’t lend much to the consideration of my future (now current) nostalgia. But since now it’s now going on three years since I moved abroad and stopped having that social structure, I am starting to really miss that aspect of having community, in ways I’d never realized I would.
Today (yesterday? it’s after midnight now…) was kind of a long day. We slept in till almost one, which hardly ever happens, and then I accidentally took 2 different kinds of allergy meds to try to feel better and some of my contraband Excedrin. It helped but 12 hours later I have the foggy head and dizziness again, and an Excedrin crash too. We will go to bed soon because we are living the pensioner lifestyle these days. Sometimes I really miss the simple things, like American drug stores. Walgreen’s, RiteAid, and Duane Reade are a thing of my past these days, and I miss being able to just grab a bottle of Excedrin or Vitamin D3 or a tube of hydrocortisone and go check out, with minimal human interaction or talking to strangers.
I am probably remiss for not knowing our pharmacist’s names, and we are so lucky in that we really do have wonderful pharmacists here in our village, very kind and helpful. They even stock Essanelle and are super cool about it! Four pharmacies on Gozo (but not in our village) tried to tell me that the morning after pill is illegal in Malta, and when I called out that bullshit, that I have to “just walk around till you find one that sells it.” Not. Cool. Sometimes just how Catholic some people can be, especially about reproductive health care and protecting abusive priests, really grinds my gears!
With that, I suppose I should sign off and get some sleep. Perhaps this post will count as two days’ worth, since I have a whole lot to get done tomorrow…. ideally I will be writing here before noon in the future, since starting to write two minutes past midnight and trying to make such a short post stretch for two days does feel a bit like cheating, and also it’s not going to help me focus my writing if I’m just going here and rambling in the middle of the night instead of on my Facebook wall or in some group!
My interests insofar as linguistics and its applications focus more on modern “living” languages, so Luu’s latest in the series, The Tangled Language of Jargon, really hit home for me, as someone privileged enough to have obtained an advanced education, with a natural ease for language acquisition, to the extent that of my ability to communicate effectively in writing with friends/on social media is often obfuscatedconvolutedcomplicatedhindered weakened by the language I learned to use in grad school… and honestly, in most things I’m more stoic than peripatetic, but at least we can all agree that no one has time for any of that platonic nonsense.
I am a native academic English speaker… worse, I am a “jargonist” with more higher education using a primarily etymologically Latinatelexicon (in English) than that of say, business English, which originally used the simpler Germanic forms and grammar to make communication more accessible for non-native speakers (but has now given way to so much of it’s own disgustingly ugly vocabulary, as Luu explains): “Jargon has now become the devil’s corporate middle management’s language, making information harder to share and receive. It has seeped into almost every facet of a complex modern life, giving us new buzzwords not even a mother could love, with terms like self-actualization, monetize, incentivize, imagineering, onboarding,synergize, and the like.”
Some of my friends on social media will say things like “I can’t speak Spanish but I am fluent in gif” or “I am fluent in memes,” (referring to “image macros”). I barely understand what any of that means. It’s communication between friends, they must understand each other, and it incorporates a flashy visual component in ways that are completely new for human interaction in general. I also have at least one friend from grad school who is studying something like “memeology/the dialectics of memes, from a cross-disciplinary media studies perspective,” but I don’t know if that will help any of us communicate with each other over the internet better.
I am aware that my place of privilege is also unique in that I’m one of the few functionally monolingual people I encounter in my daily life. My partner has two mother tongues, Finnish and Swedish, and has native fluency in English, and is functionally proficient in basic German (about B2, though is a “typically modest” Finn). Most of my acquaintances and burgeoning friends I encounter in person speak English fluently/natively… but second to Maltese (and in some cases; Italian, a very popular third language here). Suffice to say it’s not usually the same English I speak. (Maltese English is a separate topic that I may cover later, but either way, after two centuries of English occupation, it’s much closer to British English than my original, nasally Western New York twang.) Other friends I see in person are also living abroad from other countries and speak French or Spanish or German (etc.) as their mother tongues, with varying levels and abilities of English.
So this is a struggle since I’ve learned to write almost exclusively in more formal, academic English than is appropriate for social media, but it took me a long time to realize this, and longer still to hack the regular code-switching, if you will… even to recognize this as code-switching! It’s much more common in verbal, face-to-face conversations. And there are so so so many synonyms in English, probably more than any other language. To someone like me, to a writer like me , so accustomed to writing with that woefully inaccessible academic precision, it is rarely apparentobvious clear just how many words there are for saying the same thing… which is a bit ironic, but not as coincidental as irony is sometimes chalked up to be.
Despite advanced or academic English being so rarely the most concise or accessible way to communicate, to the point that I am sometimes literally unable to convey my points simply, it nonetheless remains the language of my internal monologue, how my brain describes the thoughts that meander along, wondering and pondering and contemplating and thinking. I wonder, do we native English speakers really all speak the same language, when English has such a broad range of vocabulary, and there are clear uses of the more simple words of Germanic origin, and the longer, more complex lexicon of Latinate words? It is easy to find completely different definitions of jargon itself, depending on if you prefer your definitions to be brief and jarring or a paragon of specificity.
Luu points out that “together with conventional Latin and Greek scientific usage, Latinate forms by now make up a majority of English vocabulary [among native speakers]… and that number might be increasing, thanks to jargon…” but she doesn’t explicitly mention how the pushback of jingoismis almost exclusively the entire vocabulary of populist politicians and movements… especially in the English-speaking world… and not just the American part of it. Here in Malta, this is happening; Maltese nationalist politicians advocating for hardline immigration and anti-EU policies… despite the population of Maltese people globally, the Maltese diaspora, being at least as large as the entire population of the Maltese archipelago! Brexit came about almost exclusively by this same type of anti-immigration fearmongering by politicians making it their mission to bastardize and decontextulize immigration trends, using short sentences to whip up base fears among rural and poorly educated Brits. And of course, in the United States, the government’s own website on plain language looks like the source of the first fifteen seconds of every single one of Donald Trump’s hours-long soapbox rants, regardless of whether or not he is sending coded messages to Neo-Nazis in simple, plain English.