The dangers of magical thinking.


When one thinks of the people of Papua New Guinea, one might conjure up an image similar to this.

tribalgirl

A 16 year old girl from a Mount Hagen tribe.

But Papua New Guinea is not just tribal paint, shells and grass skirts. For instance, the bystanders who watched a 20 year old woman as she was tortured with a hot iron rod, bound, doused with gasoline, then set alight on a pile of car tires and trash in the Western Highlands provincial capital of Mount Hagen, were dressed in T-shirts and shorts. Why am I mentioning what they were wearing? It makes a difference in the way people will view the act.

Papua New Guinea Sorcery

Bystanders watch as a woman, accused of witchcraft is burned alive in Papua New Guinea.

If they were dressed in tribal garb, this story might never have been made global. It might have been excused as just a barbaric act carried out by a people who don’t know any better. The fact is those, not so innocent, bystanders were educated in a place that has long been civilized. They have a police force and a government. It is a democracy and is part of the Commonwealth. The most popular religion in Papua New Guinea is the Catholic Church, with 27% of the population identifying as Catholic, followed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church with 19% and a slew of Christian offshoots. I mention this because it is important to understand that, by and large, the people of Papua New Guinea are taught the same religious doctrine that the rest of the Western World is taught. Yet, Kepari Leniata, a 20 year old mother was not only accused of sorcery, but tortured and killed in front of hundreds of people who took pictures and cheered, because people believed in magic.

Or was is that simple? Were she a man, would this have happened? Accusations of witchcraft and sorcery are usually targeted toward women. Is this just another instance of a woman cut down in the prime of her life as an example to other women not to get too comfortable? Either way, if people didn’t believe in magic, or if women weren’t painted as the enemy, it would never have happened.

The good news is that the Police Commissioner isn’t having any of it. He was quoted as saying, “We are in the 21st century and this is totally unacceptable.” The Prime Minister is also on the right side of history, calling for the arrest of the killers and saying, “It is reprehensible that women, the old and the weak in our society should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongs that they actually have nothing to do with.”

It is unfortunate, however that the Police Commissioner wants to establish courts to deal with sorcery allegations as an alternative to villagers dispensing justice, instead of stating outright that there is no such thing as magic. I guess that would mean that the religions that have a foothold in the area might lose some members of their congregations. If the people actually come to their senses and realize that if there is no such thing as magic, then maybe, just maybe, religion’s biggest role is keeping the people from the truth. The truth that they exist solely to rob you of your money, your intellect, your dignity and your human rights.

churchmeme

And I am not ashamed


It was 1983 and I was a sexually active 18-year-old young woman. One night, in the back of a Shelby Cobra (I have always been somewhat of a car nut), I was in the middle of what can only be called a couple of hour stand, when, unbeknownst to me, the condom broke. It wasn’t until after the deed was done that either of us realized what had happened, but at that moment, I knew I was pregnant. I have no idea how I knew, but I knew. I also knew right away what option I would choose and never had a second thought about it.

The wait until I missed my next period seemed endless. Finally, when I was absolutely positive Aunt Flo would not be visiting, I went to my doctor and had the test. The results were positive, as expected and I immediately scheduled an abortion. There was only one hitch. In Canada, you had to be 19 years old (the age of majority) to get an abortion without parental consent. So, I had to tell my Mother. I told her that I was pregnant and without taking so much a the tiniest of breaths, I told her that I wanted to abort and that I had the procedure already scheduled, and that all I needed was her signature. To my mother’s credit, she was extremely supportive. She drove me to the appointment and was waiting for me when it was over. She even made my favourite dessert (witches nut cake) and had me stay at home with her for a few days until the tenderness and the bleeding was under control. She never made me feel guilty or judged.

I look back on my decision to have an abortion as one of the best decisions I ever made. I was in no way ready to have a child at that stage of my life. Having that baby would not have been fair to either myself or the baby. It could be said that my decision was selfish. To that I say, yes it was, and what is so wrong with being selfish? After all its my life to live as I see fit and I am free to do as I choose with my life and my body. I have not, for a moment, regretted having an abortion and I am not ashamed. Would I have preferred that the condom had done its job? Of course, but I am extremely happy that there was an alternate option available to me as that was not the case.

It has been said that no woman wants  an abortion. I can tell you that when I found myself with an unwanted pregnancy, there was nothing I wanted more.

There has been a lot of hoopla recently from Conservative politicians who want to ban abortion. The conversation has been derailed slightly due to some incredibly ignorant quotes about abortion in the case of rape, so that now all we are focused on is rape, when what we should be talking about is the necessity for abortion. Women’s reproductive rights are just that… rights, hard-fought and earned. Even entertaining the question of whether or not a woman should have those rights just proves to women that you do not see us as human beings capable of thinking for ourselves.

There seems to be only one American politician who gets it.

I couldn’t agree more. Male legislators need to stay far away from women’s uteri. If you don’t have one, you shouldn’t get a say.

Shhhhhhh


A while ago I read a great blog post by Amanda over at Musings from a Misfit Named Amanda regarding Christians who think they are being persecuted and prayer in school among other topics. Amanda was recounting an online conversation she had with a person who believes a moment of silence is a compromise for those people who do not want public prayer. That person wrote, “That’s why I say having a few moments of silence is the best option-those who want to pray can pray quietly, and those who don’t can simply reflect on the situation, or whatever they choose to do. If it’s silent, everyone can do what they want w/o bothering others :)  It won’t kill anyone to be quiet for a few moments lol-both sides should just respect the other’s rights, even if their beliefs r different, is what I’m getting at…”

This stuck with me for quite some time, getting me angrier and angrier until finally I felt the need to post my opinion.

As an atheist, I am entirely opposed to forced public prayer, whether it be in schools, or any other public forum (unless, of course it is in the confines of a church/mosque/temple with other, like-minded individuals.) But, at the risk of stating an unpopular opinion, I am also against a forced/organized/national “moment of silence”. For example, to commemorate a tragic event like the events of September 11th, 2001, I think a moment of silence is insulting. Insulting to all of the people who rushed to ground zero to save survivors and dig bodies out of the rubble and debris. Insulting to all those who lost loved ones in the attacks. Insulting to all the people who are now suffering from Cancer and other deadly diseases as a result of actively helping rescue others from the wreckage. These people could still use financial and legislative help. My suggestion is, instead of using a ‘moment of silence’ to bow your head and look sad and thoughtful, why not use it to write a check to a first responders charity… or a letter to the Federal Government, demanding that insurers cover the ailments of first responders and area residents. If more people had gone that route, perhaps it would not have taken 11 years before the President officially recognized the need to financially compensate these people.

Is it just me, or does a ‘Moment of Silence’ look an awful lot like prayer? To me it’s a lot of pomp and circumstance accomplishing absolutely nothing. Perhaps people should remember the words of Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  and actually do something to help others instead of just stand there doing nothing.

The Great Rape Debate


In the wake of Todd Akin’s now infamous comments about “legitimate rape”, there have been quite a few rather offensive and uneducated bon mots in the news on the subject of rape.

Krista Ford

In Canada, the niece of the Mayor of Toronto, Krista Ford got into the debate via her twitter account by giving this bit if advice to women. “Stay alert, walk tall, carry mace, take self-defence classes & don’t dress like a whore. #DontBeAVictim #StreetSmart,”  Never mind that it is illegal to carry mace or pepper spray in Canada unless you work in law enforcement, or that not everyone can afford to take a self defense class. The fact that Krista Ford, who is famous for playing football in her underwear and teetering around Toronto in stiletto heels and mini dresses so tight that it looks like she’s trying to get toothpaste back into the tube, had the nerve to say don’t dress like a whore would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. This kind of slut shaming and victim blaming has got to stop. Why are we not teaching men not to rape, instead of preaching to women not to dress provocatively. This boys will be boys attitude is not helping the situation. 

Chief Prosecutor Paul Richwalsky

Then there is a case out of Louisville Kentucky where a 16 year old girl was sexually assaulted by two boys who thought it would be funny to get her drunk, expose her breasts and genitals, penetrate her with their fingers and take pictures of the event with their cell phones. The two boys plead guilty  to charges of first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, and misdemeanor voyeurism. For their crimes they are required to do 50 hours of volunteer work and attend treatment. As if the 16 year old girl’s violation and humiliation was not enough, the Chief Prosecutor of the case, Paul Richwalsky, actually told the girl, when she complained about the plea agreement being too lenient, to “get over it and see a therapist. … The jail was for ‘real’ rapists, murderers and robbers.” This from the man who was hired to serve the best interests of the victim! 

Victoria Jackson

SNL alumnus and Tea Party darling, Victoria Jackson, came out in defense of the aforementioned Todd Akin’s legitimate rape comments. She was quoted as saying, “The Todd Akin thing was so blown out of proportion — it’s a joke. How many times do people get pregnant from rape? It’s point zero zero one percent. It’s a joke. I read lots of articles. I know people, because I’m 53. I’ve know a lot of people, and I’ve actually never known anyone who got pregnant from being raped.” She went on to say, “If I got raped, I would have the baby. And if I didn’t want to keep it because I had these [mocking tone] horrible nightmares, I would adopt it out. But I think that God can turn a bad thing into a good thing. And that, if I got raped and a beautiful baby who was innocent was born out of it, that would be a blessing. The DNA of a baby is individual. It’s not the mother’s DNA. It’s not the father’s DNA. And that’s why I believe abortion is murder, because it’s not the woman’s body. It has it’s own DNA. If there’s a boy baby inside of me, he has a penis. That’s not my body.” Good for you, Ms. Jackson, but not every woman feels the same way. To deny others a choice just because you think that everyone should believe what you believe is the antithesis of what the pro-life movement should be doing more of… live and let live.

With a tip of the hat to Bill Maher, I would like to suggest my own New Rule. Unless you are a woman or a man (yes, men get raped too) who has been through the violation, humiliation and emotional toll of the crime of rape, you must keep your pie hole shut. All you are doing with ignorant statements like the ones above is opening wounds and putting the responsibility for the crime on the victim instead of the criminal. It’s attitudes like these that make rape the most unreported crime on the planet. You are only showing a lack of compassion, empathy and humanity when you vilify a victim of rape, not to mention giving rapists the message that you are on their side.

What’s he really saying?


Canada’s Foreign Minister, John Baird

This week Canada’s, usually outspoken, Foreign Minister, John Baird took a decidedly timid stance on Russia’s harsh sentencing of three members of the punk band Pussy Riot. Meanwhile, leaders from all over the world spoke out loudly against Russian authorities.

The three members of the band Pussy Riot who were sentenced to 2 years in prison each for singing a protest song about Vladimir Putin.

In Britain, Alistair Burt, a junior foreign minister, had this to say, “We have repeatedly called on the Russian authorities to protect human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, and apply the rule of law in a non-discriminatory and proportionate way. Today’s verdict calls into question Russia’s commitment to protect these fundamental rights and freedoms.”

In the United States, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was quoted as saying, “The United States is concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences… and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia, we urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld.”

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton called on Moscow to overturn the punishment, saying, “This case adds to the recent upsurge in politically-motivated intimidation and prosecution of opposition activists in the Russian Federation. I expect that this sentence will be reviewed and reversed in line with Russia’s international commitments,” she added, saying the case “puts a serious question mark over Russia’s respect for international obligations of fair, transparent, and independent legal process”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the sentence was “excessively harsh” and “not compatible with the European values of the rule of law and democracy to which Russia, as a member of the Council of Europe, has committed itself. A dynamic civil society and politically active citizens are a necessary precondition for Russia’s modernization, not a threat,”

I have included the above quotes as a contrast to what John Baird had to say on the matter. John Baird is known for saying that he “won’t just go along to get along”. Baird has been a staunch supporter of Israel, gay rights and religious minorities facing oppression. He has publicly criticized China’s human rights records as well as the repressive regimes in Syria and Iran. Yes, Baird has been one tough cookie. That’s why his quote about the sentencing is so confounding.

Here is Baird’s quote. “We believe in every part of the world of sentencing having some relation to the serious nature of the crime. Obviously, there’s, I think, widespread concern that this was perhaps too much and that were perhaps political considerations. We support around the world independent judiciaries, and we certainly take note of what’s happened.”

That was preceded by the tame statement that Baird’s office released the day of the verdict that didn’t even mention the trial, “The promotion of Canadian values, including freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, features prominently in our ongoing dialogue with the Russian authorities.”

That wasn’t even a weak slap on the wrist, which makes me wonder what he’s really saying. Is Canada on the verge of passing some strong anti- protest legislation? Is he just so sick and tired of protesters getting all the attention in Canada (and yes, contrary to what some might think, Quebec is still a part of Canada)?  Is he in bed with the Russian authorities in some way that Canadians don’t know about? Does he hate women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds? Is he putting religion above human rights? What dirty little secrets is he hiding? His uncharacteristic lack of stance makes me wonder all sorts of things. When the public begins to wonder about the motives of an elected official, they start digging to come up with the answers, spelling the beginning of the end for said official. John Baird needs to choose his next words very carefully if he doesn’t want the public supplying his motives for him.

Baird also needs to remember that we elected this guy…

not this guy…

Putting the cart before the horse.


Bill and Melinda Gates

Yesterday, it was announced that the Gates Foundation is about to pledge an obscene amount of money for a campaign to improve access to contraception for women in the developing world. I applaud their excellent intentions and agree that giving women in these countries better education about and access to contraception is a step in the right direction in dealing with the issue of over population, but I don’t think it should be the first step we take. Yes, there are many couples who are having a lot children in developing countries, but most of them will not use contraception because of their religious belief that a child is a gift from God… besides, these couples are not really even the biggest worry in the over population problem.

I can’t help but wonder what, if anything, is being done about one of the main causes of over population in the developing world… rape.

The above statistics are only for cases of rape that were reported and are worldwide. There are countless more that go unreported every day.

The ‘developing world’ is defined as the nations of the world which are less economically and technologically advanced. It’s the politically correct way of describing what used to be called a Third World Country. The map below illustrates the countries that are currently considered to be part of the developing world in yellow.

As you can clearly see, the developing world consists of over half the land on the planet. In many of these countries marital rape is still legal. In many of these countries rape as a weapon of war is a common occurrence. In some of these countries women who are raped are stoned to death for committing adultery. There are many children borne from rape in the developing world. How many of these rapes do you think would not have happened if each of the rapists were forced to pay child support for the children they sired? Do you think there would be  fewer rapes occurring in these countries if each of these men were faced with consequences to their actions, like ostracism, jail time or even chemical castration? I do understand that religion often plays a large role in the way women in developing countries are treated, but for once, I am going to cut religious beliefs a bit of a break. (It should be noted that Gates is receiving criticism from the Catholic church for this campaign because they see contraception and abortion as part of the same issue).

I think it is naive to make women entirely responsible for birth control in countries where rape is so prevalent. If they have no control over, or even consent to, the sexual act, then how is birth control really going to help the situation? A rapist isn’t going to wait until you insert your diaphragm, or sit still while you put a condom on  his willy. In some cases, a woman who is known to be using contraceptives may be even more of a target for rape and even murder  (honour killings).

None of these methods will stop a rapist in his tracks.

If I were lucky enough put in charge of doling out obscene amounts of money to causes that would help women in developing countries, I would first offer a huge sum to any of these countries that would protect women by making rape a prosecutable and felonious offense with real consequences. (I can’t imagine any organized religion, even the Catholic Church, publicly speaking out as pro rape.) Only then, would I move to step two and offer education about and access to contraception. Why are we putting the cart before the horse? Or, in this case, filling the cart with contraceptives and ignoring the horse entirely.

My top ten favourite things about living in Canada


I live in Quebec, which, despite what some people may say, is in Canada. In this post I will be listing some of my favourite things about living here, in no particular order.

UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE

In Canada we have universal healthcare. Our essential medical needs are taken care of no matter what.

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS FOR WOMEN

Henry Morgentaler

Women in Canada can have an abortion if need be and it will be covered by Universal Healthcare.

WE ARE A SECULAR NATION

In Canada we have the separation of church and state… and we mean it.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE

In Canada same sex marriage is legal. The LBGT community enjoys the same human rights as every other Canadian.

CULTURAL DIVERSITY

Canada has become a successful melting pot of people from all races. Sadly, we are not yet entirely free of racism, but we are working toward that goal.

THE FRIENDLY FACTOR

Canadians are known world wide for being a friendly people, and it’s true.

CUBAN CIGARS

One of my favourite New Year’s Eve rituals is a chilled glass of single malt scotch and a Cohiba cigar. In Canada we have no trade embargo with Cuba, so I can indulge all I want.

WIDE OPEN SPACES

I love time alone. In some countries it is next to impossible to escape the crowds. In Canada, there are still plenty of wide open spaces in which to enjoy your me time.

SCENERY

Canada has some of the most spectacular scenic views to inspire even the most jaded among us.

WILLIAM SHATNER

The geek in me (not so) secretly loves that we Canadians get to claim our country as the birthplace of Captain James Tiberius Kirk, himself, William Shatner. Sure there are many famous people who come from Canada, but in my eyes, none are cooler than Shatner.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

CORNER GAS RE-RUNS

Along with Anne of Green Gables and the Beachcombers, Corner Gas takes it’s place among television shows that have achieved the status of Canadiana… plus it’s frickin’ funny as all get out.

CANADIAN TIRE

 

A store that sells literally everything under one roof. A store so big it even has it’s own money. What’s not to like?

I will leave you with this hilarious video of the aforementioned, William Shatner talking about being Canadian.