America’s Constitutional Cowardice

“Don’t glorify him” “Don’t show his face” “Don’t say his name”

One of the most freaking-cowardly reactions to a mass-casualty event I’ve ever seen, and us Americans are usually cowards when it comes to our slave-owning zombie overlords, the Founding Fathers(TM).

How about own the fact that he is a product of our zeitgeist? How about taking some responsibility for the mess we’ve allowed? How about recognizing that school shootings have been taking place since the early 1800s, and we refuse to change because we love our “Founding [Slave-owning] Fathers”?

“America, America, This is YOU.”…/List_of_school_shootings_in_the_…

‪#‎Repeal2A‬ #UCCShooting #gunsense #MoveToAmend


Not Surprised by #Ferguson or #Occupy

“A system cannot fail those it was never built to protect”.

– W.E.B. DuBois

As I see how the demonstrating public lashed out in Ferguson against the state of their community, and I see the prevailing national reaction to the local reaction – “violence/looting/burning buildings isn’t the answer”, I think back to #Occupy 2011.

I remember the police abuses of young white Occupy protesters, from New York to California. I remember how the police were defended by those who decried Occupy as “dirty”, “lazy” “thugs” and “trust-fund babies”.

I remember how they were exceptionally othered by those who are incredibly addicted to their own comforts and distance.

I remember the gross class resentment against college students, from people in a likely-similar income bracket as those protesting. I remember some bastard who screamed “stop raping people!” for his online fans’ shits and giggles.

And when Zucotti Park was forcibly cleared, signifying a formal end to the Occupy period, the police were cheered for “bringing law and order back to the streets” and “allowing businesses to function again”.

That moment was about class inequality. This moment – Ferguson – was about racial inequality.

And yet the militarized police, once again, show their ugly head. And their groupies itch for the police to save them from those who would “bring down America” through upsetting the status quo.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr., who said it best, so long ago:

And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.

Most concerned about tranquility. Damn the urban peasants, especially those “colored” ones. Damn the college students. “Get out of our country if you don’t like it.”

The “Founding Fathers'” Revolution can’t repeated with these defenders of the status quo. Another Constitution can’t be drafted with these people.

The folks who defend police conduct toward unarmed protesters/AAs are likely the same folks who decry jackbooted government thugs elsewhere. I find this comfort for hyperviolent forces of the favored status quo to be funny, in a gallows-humor kind of way.

Stop inconveniencing the thugs in black and blue. Stop inconveniencing their slavish, status-quo-defending groupies. Stop disrupting the flow of traffic, of capital, of bigoted values, of firearms, of military training.

Worship our agents. Accept your inferiority. Do what we tell you. Appear how we want you to appear. Never resist us.

Then tell yourself: I AM FREE.

The Big Tent Sucks

Watching last month’s general election in Sweden, I was once again treated to the non-majoritarian nature of proportionally-representative election systems like Sweden (although the Feminist Initiative barely missed the 4%). It is not as zero-sum as ours: a total of 8 parties are now represented in the Swedish parliament (Riksdag), encompassing a range of variably-compact ideologies in a variety of portfolios.

I favor proportional representation due to its ability to better reflect the political diversity of the voting population, as well as its ability to let candidates be more honest and thorough about their ideologies.

In this year’s election, the Social Democrats gained the largest vote share and is tasked with forming a coalition that can back the next prime minister and cabinet; possible partners include the Left Party and the Green Party. On the opposite end, the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats gained more seats from the free-market parties of the outgoing Alliance coalition, such as the Moderate Party, Liberal People’s Party, Christian Democrats and Centre Party.

In the United States, potential candidates and their supporters at the federal level would be grouped into just two parties – Democratic and Republican, Blue and Red, Liberal and Conservative, etc.

I contend that the sheer forcing of multiple ideologies together under two roofs is stifling. It forces all of the partisans who may not be predisposed to a whole-hog ideology to adopt such an ideology for the benefit of an unwieldy party unity. As a result, reasonable-minded people may find themselves trapped in an unpopular party because of the words, policies and actions of fellow partisans.

If you need to switch to another party, it shouldn’t have to make the news as some sort of epiphany or “I’ve seen the light” moment, whether it is the Charlie Crists, Lincoln Chafees, Gary Johnsons or Cynthia McKinneys of American politics. The candidate or voter shouldn’t have to feel like some sort of “traitor” for switching or creating new parties.

That’s why I support the Single Transferable Vote. I support having more options in Congress and state legislatures, including more equal representation for the six most-popular parties in the United States: Democratic, Republican, Green, Libertarian, Working Families, and Constitution.

I could see Rand Paul as an LP senator, Bernie Sanders as a WFP senator, at least a quarter of the House Republican caucus being Constitution Party members (including the likes of people like Louie Gohmert), a quarter of the same caucus being LP members (including some of the Tea Party-backed members like Justin Amash), most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus being members of the WFP or Greens, and so on, while center-right or center-left candidates would stick with more uniform, less-problematic Republican or Democratic parties.

Maybe after all the libertarians and socio-conservatives left for their own parties, the GOP would revert back to its image as the “Party of Lincoln”, or even to the pro-civil rights stance of the Radical Republicans of the Reconstruction era, or even to the likes of Eisenhower. I could imagine people like Rob Portman and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen remaining in this incarnation of the GOP.

Maybe after the progressives of the CPC left to join the Working Families Party and Greens, the Democrats would get much more pushback against their acquiescence to pro-MRI policies. Centrists like Dianne Feinstein, Kay Hagan and Harry Reid would still likely remain in this incarnation of the Democratic Party.

Maybe after the far-right Republican Study Group joins the Constitution Party, that party would be marginalized in their socially-far-right politics by the other parties in Congress through a sort of cordon sanitaire.

Any of these possibilities would perhaps prevent people from associating “fright-wing” politics with a plurality of the voting population, and allow voters to make a better distinction between the candidates for whom they would vote, as well as the issues on which they would campaign.

I just want more diversity of party labels to choose from, not this frustrating, debilitating duopoly in which we’ve been stuck for so long. And to have more diverse party choices in our politics, we need to dispense with the idea that anyone has to win a majority to be part of the political process.

We just need to win 4%.

Mormonism/LDS is the most honest Abrahamic sect

The fact that Joseph Smith Jr., questionable as he may have been in his ethical choices, built a religion on 1) a continuing prophetic line of succession and 2) an open scriptural canon shows Mormonism and the LDS movement to be the most “honest” Abrahamic sect. 

Every other Abrahamic sect, save for the Bahai, has operated on the claim of preaching the final and closed testament of a deity and its works on Earth, as well as an extinct line of prophetic contributors to scripture. The LDS movement, on the other hand, challenged this notion in such a flagrant way that they were chased out by Christians of the then-current states of the Union in the 19th century. 

This also benefitted strongly from improvements in publishing technology in the 19th century, which allowed more mass publication of printed books and a reduction of cost. If most Abrahamic religions originated from the times when books were still hand-copied by scribes, would it really make sense to rely on such a scarcity-driven paradigm of “revelation” when books and printers were more plentiful?

The LDS refused to comply with this deliberate conceit of a “sealed revelation”, or of over-reliance upon interpretation of scriptural literature, and inaugurated a continuing expansion of scriptural literature. The implied “scarcity” of revelation was rendered moot, and the LDS movement made their “Doctrine & Covenants” more of a “Living Word” than Christians consider their Bible or Muslims consider their Qur’an. 

I say all this as an atheist. 

Steamfunk, Sword-and-Soul and Afrocentric Fantasy

While reading about Black characters and authors within the speculative fiction genres, I came across two terms: “Afrofuturism” and “sword-and-soul”.

I was more familiar with the first term, at least in reading about how African-descended writers incorporated vivid and challenging mishmashes of aesthetics and cultural experiences into their science-fiction writings, including Samuel Delany and the late Octavia Butler. But the latter term – “sword-and-soul” – was something less familiar to me, but it appealed to me a bit more.

Sword-and-soul?” As in, “sword-and-sorcery”, but with Black people in it, set in Africa?

Then I searched into it, found several articles which helped to explain what is meant by sword-and-soul: “fantasy fiction which involves African/African-descended people and their mythologies in the same way that ‘sword-and-soul’ revolves around people of European descent and their mythology.”

This intrigues me. Finally, a term for the type of fantasy fiction I was looking for, even though the genre has only been revived and expanded from just one writer – Charles Saunders – to an entire publishing label – MVmedia – thanks to an Atlanta-based professional chemist and part-time writer, Milton Davis, who has taken strategic advantage of the e-book era to publish Afrocentric SpecFic.

Finally, we have “sword-and-soul” as another fiction genre to geek out over!

Steamfunk and the Question of Continuity

While we’re on the subject of Black SpecFic, I looked at the subgenre of “steamfunk”.

Again, it’s similarly set in the “steam” era of the 19th and early 20th centuries, just like the pseudo-Victorian “steampunk”.

But that’s it, though. Unlike the striking visual difference between Sword-and-soul and Sword-and-sorcery, the art used in current works of Steamfunk largely harkens to Steampunk’s Victorian-era European aesthetics. Why?

Instead, shouldn’t there be a continuity between steamfunk and African-themed sword-and-soul?

I cite Nickelodeon’s Avatar franchise for its setting in a pan-Asian fictional universe. The first series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, takes place during an earlier period that’s wedged somewhere within ancient/medieval (“sword-and-sorcery”) Asia with a bit of steampunk mixed in at certain points. The second series, The Legend of Korra, takes place 100 years after the Avatar, in a world that is between steampunk and dieselpunk, but still within a very pan-Asian setting and with harkenings to the “past” of sword-and-sorcery.

I think the way that Nickelodeon’s Avatar franchise handles this historic continuity from the medieval to the steam era within a thoroughly pan-Asian fictional universe is a model that can be followed for an “Afrocentric” fictional universe. Avatar, which I guess could be described as “sword-and-chi”, has a sense of alt-history chronology and technological succession that those who write Afrocentric SpecFic really need.

Simply placing Black characters in pseudo-Victorian-era garb, or medieval armor, is not enough. Let’s start with the aesthetic of Sword-and-Soul and work our way forward.

Sword-and-Soul in Fantasy Art

Finally, when talking about aesthetics, I feel that Fantasy Fiction Artworks, especially works which are commercialized, are seriously lacking in the inclusion of People of Color (PoC). The artistic depiction of sword-and-sorcery themes, at least here in the U.S., are typically steeped in medieval European culture and aesthetics. But I think there is precedent in works like Avatar for the medieval aesthetic to be shaken up and made more diverse.

The issue raised by the initiative against the “whitewashing” of lead characters in Nickelodeon’s Avatar franchise brings to mind just how non-diverse that modern fantasy fiction tends to be, or at least the commercial challenge faced by artists and writers of fantasy fiction which is affirmatively diverse in skin color. Avatar is perhaps the most groundbreaking Western-authored fantasy fiction franchise in terms of PoC inclusion, as the story universe of the franchise is set in a highly-inclusive pan-Asia-Pacific setting, pulling together anagramic ethnicities, languages, kingdoms, topologies, geographies, climates, skin pigments, clothing, cuisine and so on from the entire continent and almost all ends of the ocean.

With its ongoing realization of a newer pan-mythos from the entirety and vicinity of Asia, Avatar and other similar franchises have ship-tons-plenty of written history and mythology to draw from.

Unfortunately, as a PoC of African descent, I feel incredibly jealous for this pan-Asia-Pacific setting. I don’t feel that Africa, as a continent, lends as well to such an expansive pan-mythos as does Asia or Europe. Africa doesn’t have the the sort of geographic or climatological expanse that is endemic to the Asian continent, nor does it have the heritage of written language which is endemic to both Asian and European peoples, nor do its peoples – including our ancestors – have the best experience or history of relaying their own mythological, spiritual or artistic canons on their own terms, nor do Africans have the history of mass settlement outside of the continent like Europeans (the slave trade still constitutes the primary historic source of the African diaspora in the Americas).

Hence, for developing a fertile space for fantasy art and fiction, African-descended artists and writers who are conscious about PoC inclusion have more of a reason to improvise and derive. I guess that’s where Sword-and-soul kicks in.

On the Internet

These galleries provide good sources for PoC-affirmative fantasy fiction, and I’ll add more links in the future:

And MVmedia, Milton Davis’ publishing label, is the premiere house for Sword-and-soul fiction. Please check it out.

Bill Maher is right about Abrahamic religion

The pattern that I’ve noticed about Bill Maher is that he seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Every time he criticizes Christians or Muslims, he is criticized in return by the targeted parishioners and praised by the other group of parishioners, and he is almost always criticized by “liberals/progressives/etc” who take him to task for either his “literalism” or his “excuses for American empire”.

The praise heaped upon him by conservative cultural Christian blogs whenever he calls the Quran a “hate-filled holy book” or describes equating religious terrorism between Christians and Muslims “liberal bullshit”, and the praise heaped upon him from progressive blogs whenever he calls the Abrahamic God a “psychotic mass murderer” and Christians “hypocrites”, all come in spades.

I wonder if people will get that his critique of religion is primarily squared against Abrahamic religion in its entirety, ripping apart all of the sanctimonious rhetoric and ideologies espoused in Abrahamic religion regarding personal (and corporate) morality (not just the mythological stuff). Muslims criticize his critique based on the fact that one of his parents practiced Judaism (???? I mean, he was raised Catholic, he hates both Catholicism and Judaism), the Christians espouse everything from merely “praying for that sinner” to wishing torture on the guy.

I’m not an “admirer” of Maher – the “Gay Mafia” bit during the Brendan Eich-Mozilla-Prop 8 issue was rather ignorant and gave ammo to so-called “Persecuted Christians(TM)” – but he does attack Abrahamic religions in both their “conservative” and “liberal” manifestations. He criticizes the Jim Wallises and Tariq Ramadans, the Anjem Choudurys and John Hagees, and does not give one inch to their rationalizing bloviations about their Abrahamic religions.

And he doesn’t mind being called “hateful against” so-called “people of faith” (which is pretty much code for “Abrahamic religionists and their self-appointed leaders” anyway).

So when it comes to critiquing Abrahamic religions, the concept of “faith/belief”, and their often-unfortunate impact upon civil and cultural life in the world, I wish more people would have as similar of an equal-opportunity secularity as that espoused by people like Bill Maher.