This is How You Get Your Point Across

I have been following Lauren McNamara’s blog and YouTube Channel for a number of years now, and she has consistently impressed me with her outstanding ability to form a tight, well-thought out, well-researched, and interesting argument.  The arguments she makes in her videos and blog posts are so tight and concise that there is no real way for people to poke holes in it.  Lately, McNamara has been getting national media attention for being a witness for the Chelsea Manning case.  Much of her time in interviews, however, have been about Manning receiving hormonal treatments while she is in prison.  Here is McNamara’s latest interview on CNN:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JcC383pv5xA

As you can see from this video, McNamara gives factual, concise answers to each of the questions she is asked.  This is nothing surprising to me, since I am already aware of her intellect and the way she conveys an argument.  What I am really impressed by, however, is her ability to remain calm and collected while she speaks to the reporter.  The reporter doesn’t seem to accept being transgender as something that is legitimate, frequently referring to Chelsea Manning as “he”.  McNamara frequently corrects him without getting visibly angry or annoyed.  Her ability to maintain calm during that interview is impressive.

I hope we see a lot more of Lauren McNamara on a national stage.  Her type of commentary is something the world needs much more of!

Her YouTube Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/user/ZJemptv?feature=watch

Her blog:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/zinniajones

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

Dear “One pissed off mother”

***Warning: Extreme Amounts of Snark Ahead!***

How are you?  I just saw the sweet little letter you wrote to “lady living at this address,” and, as a person on the autism spectrum, I feel I and the autistic community owes you an apology.

I’m sure you didn’t think your letter would end up making the Huffington Post, but it did.  Now, a incredibly large audience is aware of your feelings about an autistic neighbor of yours.  Now, I know it must be awful that a woman had the audacity to not only give birth to a cognitive disabled child, but then had to nerve to live in a house which happened to be in your neighborhood?  Where does she get off?  And then she maliciously allows her child to go outside.  Call the National Guard!  I can only imagine the pain and anguish you must feel when you are at the park with your children, and this mother and child show up, and the child has the nerve to be openly autistic, “scaring” your “normal” children.  And where does this child get off making weird noises in a residential neighborhood?  I find it hard to believe that you didn’t suggest the mother get the child a muzzle!  At least that would somewhat drown out the sound!  I mean, how dare he?  How insensitive can this child be, making noise in a residential area and all?  And how insensitive is this mother by allowing the child to make these noises?  Something must be done!

***end snark***

OK, now I’m being serious.  I was going to be snarky with the rest of this woman’s letter as well, but it gets so horrid that I am not mentally able to do it.  Instead, here’s is an actual letter to this woman:

Dear “One pissed off mother,”

Where the fuck do you get off writing a letter like that?  What on Earth made you think it’s acceptable to antagonize a woman and her child just because the child is disabled?  The child you speak about is a person, despite your belief that he is a “wild animal.”  Along with being a person, this child has rights, such as being able to live in a residential neighborhood.  This child also has the right to make any noise he chooses (or doesn’t choose).  Although you write that his noises “scare the hell out of your normal children,” I can’t attest to how much they actually do.  Perhaps they scare you more than they scare your children.  Or, perhaps, the noises just make you uncomfortable.  Additionally, I have to note your use of the word “normal” within that sentence.  You use the term “normal” to posit your children as, somehow, superior to hers, thereby implicitly saying they have more rights than her child.  You make out being normal as something to be revered when it’s not.  At the same time, you imply that people who don’t fit within your standard of “normal” are less worthy, not only of rights, but of existing.

And, who are you to determine the entire outcome of this child’s life?  What makes you so certain that he’ll never marry, have a job, and spend the rest of his life being a “hindrance to everyone”?  Based on your comment about donating “whatever non-retarded body parts” he has “to science”, it is clear that you have little to no knowledge of anatomy and physiology, not to mention psychology, neuroscience, biology, and probably anything else related to science.  In short, you having nothing to offer this child or his mother in the realm of scientific advise, and you have no business mentioning it in the first place.

Then, immediately after you call her child worthless for a second time, you have the audacity of accusing her of doing something negative to you?  Do you have no self-awareness at all?  You’re acting like she is committing a crime by simply raising her child.  As I have said before, her child has the right to live and has the right to be in public.  This mother probably takes her child to the park for the same reasons you take your child to the park, so your vile malice and intolerance should have no place in your thoughts about her actions.  Her taking her child to the park is not “special treatment” if that is what you are insinuating (although you don’t make clear what “special treatment” means at any point in this letter).

Finally, telling her to euthanize her child brings any reader of this letter to the awful, irrefutable conclusion about the type of person you are.  You are a vile human being with no shred of decency within yourself.  I find it ironic that many people believe that people like me are incapable of empathy, when you, a presumably neurotypical person, demonstrate such an incredible lack of compassion and understanding that I cannot even comprehend.  If anybody deserves to be cut off from society in the way you suggest this mother and child should be, it’s you.  Writing a letter like the one you did shows, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you have no business interacting with the public in any fashion.  If I thought you were capable, I would tell you that you need to look long and hard at your actions and try to find a way to improve in the future, but I don’t think you’re able to do that.  You are someone who will probably live out their days holding on to your vile and disgusting attitudes along with your false sense of superiority.  I realize none of what I said will probably get though to you, but at least it is being said.  I’m glad your letter reached the Huffington Post, and I will revel in whatever isolation and ridicule it will cause you for the rest of your life.

Sincerely,

Towanda

Now can the media admit to there not being two legitimate sides to every issue?

A large majority of news shows feature panels debating an issue during one of its segments.  One person will be defending one position and the other person will be defending the opposing position.  It is a good way for news watchers to get a cursory view of an issue from both sides and allow for them to come to their own conclusion.  But what if one side ‘s positions are not based on objective fact or sound evidence?  There are many cases in which two people are invited on to a news show to discuss an issue and one side bases its entire position on half-truths and outright lies.  Issues such as climate change, gay marriage and the existence of trans* people are what immediately come to my mind.

Yesterday, CNN hosted a discussion of the passage of transgender rights laws in the state of California.  They featured and Transgender Law Center’s Masen Davis alongside Randy Thomasson, the leader of the SPLC-identified hate group, Save California.  In this segment, Thomasson calls trans* people “sexually confused” and “in need of counseling.”  He also believes being transgender is not immutable and that gender and sex are synonymous terms.  None of Thomasson’s assertions are backed by any credible evidence.  The interview ends with Thomasson saying, “Hey, nice talking to you ladies,” in reference to the host and Davis.  Davis is a transgender man.

I understand that new stations want to look fair and balanced, but there are times, such as this one, where looking fair and balanced allows for dangerous misinformation and harmful attitudes to be spread.  For Thomasson to refer to Davis as a lady is not only offensive and insulting, it portrays an attitude that it is ok for people to refer to transgender individuals as a gender they do not identify with. It allows for other people to mimic the childish, cowardly, and crass attitudes Thomasson displayed.  Additionally, it is clear that Thomasson has no idea what he is talking about from this segment.  Between his failure to understand the difference between gender and sex and his attempts to tie being trans* to child abuse and divorce, it is clear that he is pulling stuff out of his ass.  It irks me that someone is allowed to say these things without being fact checked all for the sake of “balance.”

I realize this is not a new phenomenon by any means.  I am speaking about this issue because it seems like people are starting to become cognizant of news stations showing two sides to a story when only one is legitimate.  There is demonstrable evidence which points to the existence of climate change.  Gay people and gay couples exist and should have access to a marriage license.  Trans* people exist and deserve to have access to facilities that match their gender identity.  There is no reasonable opposition to any of these.  The news media shouldn’t be intimating that there is.  It may be of good entertainment value, but it is not good journalism.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

Why Jenny McCarthy is Not the Person to Turn to for Autism Advice

Jenny McCarthy was just offered a spot on The View, replacing Elisabeth Hasselbeck.  McCarthy’s original claim to fame was posing nude on the cover of Playboy. Once she started becoming irrelevant, she began to pedal the idea that vaccines cause autism.  She also claims to have cured her son of autism by using a glutein-free casein-free diet.  Over the years, she has garnered support from Andrew Wakefield, the author of the now debunked study which supposedly showed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, as well as many other parent and others in the autism community.  Despite Wakefield’s study being debunked because of fabricated data and ethics violations, she still pedals this false idea, leading many to not vaccinate their children, or try other dangerous things, like chelation therapy.  Although she is equipped with a Ph D. from the University of Google, many are upset by her appointment.

It makes me glad to know that people are aware of the danger of her ideas, but there are still many who don’t.  There are many out there who will cling to her ideas because they are desperate to help their child and she seems to have a solution.  However, her solution is not one that is backed by credible science.  When told this, McCarthy respond’s “[My son] is my science.”  I think we all know why that is a problem.

I realize there are many who say their child received the MMR vaccine and the “regressed into autism.”  Although I don’t doubt their observations, they need to realize that correlation does not imply causation.  There may be many other explanations for why a parent begins to observe more autistic traits from their child once they reach a certain age.  It has been show over and over again that vaccines are not the cause. As of right now, the cause is unknown, but genetics seem to play a large role.  Of course, McCarthy continues to ignore this and pedal whatever she wants.

McCarthy is also not the most neurodiversity-friendly person the autism world knows.  She speaks of her son receiving the MMR vaccine and “Boom!  The soul was gone from his eyes.”  Her belief that autism steals people’s souls is highly offensive, and no one should be giving it credence.  That type of fear-mongering has no business in any discussion about any population of people.  If somebody were to say that about gay people, they would not be given such a large platform as McCarthy has.

One of the things that angers me about the United States is how poor our science education is in comparison to other developed nations.  I believe that everybody should be able to read an analyze a scientific journal article (no, not an article in a magazine, like Psychology Today).  I think everybody should know how to find credible journal articles on different subjects and, at least, gain a cursory view of what the scientists were trying to study, their hypotheses, their methods, their results, and their conclusions.  Yes, a lot of journal articles are in very specialized fields and you’d be lucky to understand even 20% of what they’re writing about (believe me, reading studies on proteomics and biotechnology is really hard!), but 20% understanding is better than 0%.  I believe all people should be exposed to journal articles at the High School level.  A strong knowledge of science and the scientific method should not put you in an exclusive club of people.  If the United Sates had a better understanding of science, people wouldn’t turn to a former playboy model with no scientific background for advice.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

Man Shoots and Kills Minor…Gets Acquitted

I honestly don’t know how to start this post.  Do I rehash what happened?  Everybody knows at this point the George Zimmerman was acquitted for the killing of Trayvon Martin. The jury couldn’t prove that the crime fit second-degree murder criteria.  I admit I’m no legal expert, and I am not knowledgeable about the ins and outs of a second-degree murder charge in the state of Florida.  I am also not very knowledgeable about Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law.  However, I am baffled by how Zimmerman is allowed to walk away a free man.

Yes, much of the evidence in the case is cloudy.  It is not clear how the altercation between Martin and Zimmerman started.  It is also unclear who was attacking who.  I also can’t speak to the character qualities of Martin or Zimmerman.  Despite this cloudiness, there are some things about the case that are clear.  Zimmerman was armed.  Martin was not.  Zimmerman approached Martin after following him for a period of time.  Zimmerman shot Martin multiple times resulting in his death.  Martin was also a minor.

I don’t know what Zimmerman’s intent was in shooting Martin, whether it was in self-defense or to kill him.  If we give Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt and say the killing was, indeed, in self-defense, it would only be reasonable that he would be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, or a crime along the lines of that.  It doesn’t make sense to me that he gets to go free.  What if Zimmerman does something like this again?  What do we do about the laws in Florida surrounding “Stand your Ground”, murder, and manslaughter?What do we do about people who think they have the right to take the law into their own hands?  Something isn’t right.

I am angry that somebody can shoot and kill a minor and not get any sort of punishment.  I am angry that there are people out there who think they can police neighborhoods without proper training.  I am angry that a man can go after a minor because he “looks suspicious”.  I can’t help but wonder if the case would have been adjudicated in the way it was if Martin was white.  I would like to think that white privilege is a thing of the past, but I’m not disillusioned.  It isn’t.  We are not living in a “post-racial” society as many people would like to think we are.  White privilege exits today, as it has throughout the history of our nation.  Did it play a role in this case?  I wouldn’t doubt it.  There are certainly historical precedents that would suggest so.

In the end, I feel that the ruling was an injustice.  A person should not be able to murder a minor and then be set free because of legal technicalities.  Laws need to be changed.  Now.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”