Posted tagged ‘Cruelty’

A Lesson In Compassion (From Within A “Family Values” State)

January 30, 2014

Nothing says the dignity of humanity; nothing says kindness; nothing says how a high level of public religiosity makes for a better society than literally ripping  food out of hungry kids hands, and, in front of them, throwing it away:

Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts — a move that shocked and angered parents.

Max_Liebermann_Kindervolksküche

“It was pretty traumatic and humiliating,” said Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had her cafeteria lunch taken from her as she stood in line Tuesday at Uintah Elementary School, 1571 E. 1300 South.

Eleven years old!

I’m a dad, as y’all probably know.  My kid is 13 now.  He’s a total pain in the ass about food right now — won’t touch most stuff, including his school’s cafeteria fare.  He takes food from home and we top him up when he gets home.  But he used to get some stuff there.  I remember topping up his account once or twice when I dropped him off — we’d either crossed over into the red or come too close to it.  No one at his school would have dreamed of grabbing his bagel; we’d get a note asking for another five bucks for the system.  That’s how you do it.

If anyone had stopped my son in the middle of the cafeteria line, grabbed his tray and dumped his lunch?

I can’t imagine what I’d have done and said.  I can imagine what that experience would do to my child — to any kid.  Public poor-shaming –turning some little kid, with no power, no agency, no ability to defend or deflect or do anything, into nothing more than your prop in some twisted morality play about the undeserving proles.  I’m sorry about the run-on there. The rage and refracted sorrow/sympathy for the chidren some asshole(s) decided it was OK to hurt just overwhelms my ability to calm down my syntax.  But you get the point:  this  is no way to teach an 11 year old anything.  Or rather it’s just the right way to learn both that child and all her or his peers how to be the worst we can be.

One more thing:  I’m slamming on Utah in the headline, because I’m sick of sitting here in godless Massachusetts listening to folks from the religiousist corners of our country tell us how we all need to emulate the values in which such places are alledgedly rich.

But I take this personally too.  This isn’t just Utah.  An action like this is the logical endpoint of a culture that frames all things as the battle of the individual against society.  I like living in a social setting.  I think the genius of American democracy in the abstract is that it provides a once-novel way of mediating between levels of association from village on up and the individual.  So when  I hear the words “American exceptionalism,  I’d like them to have some other meaning than that we are exceptional in our capacity to be cruel to hungry children.

Image: Max Liebermann, Kindervolksküche, 1915

Where Mike Huckabee Needs To Go

December 15, 2012

Mike Huckabee has never been what you might call my favorite person.  But it’s always depressing to see folks with influence plumb new depths.  By now, I’m sure you’ve heard he had to say about the Sandy Hook School shootings:

“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools,” Huckabee said on Fox News.”Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

In other words:  Twenty-eight deaths, including the murder of twenty kids, was the fault not of the shooter, nor of a gun lobby that portrays military weapons as household tools.  Rather, said Huckabee, it was your fault and mine for having failed to appease his angry god by public worship in school.

Saying so is to implicate not just America at large in the crime.  It also adds up to a claim that those involved in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in particular were complicit in this massacre, for the banishment of one deity or another occured in that particular school too.  Lost a kid?  Too bad.  Shoulda prayed harder; shoulda held up a cross; shoulda, coulda, sorry old chum.

I can’t begin to write the rage and disgust I feel for that sanctimonious shit.  (Whether the word “shit” in that sentence applies to the man or the thought I’ll leave it to the reader to decide.) I want to say that it seems to me that there is a special place in hell Mike Huckabee.

37.262

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can say that any more eloquently  than a howl and a “with a rusty pitchfork too!” kind of remark.  Fortunately, there are others who could and did describe exactly the appropriate fate for Mr. Huckabee — from one of whom, with your permission, I will now borrow.

Here’s one possibility that would satisfy my sense of justice:

The sides were crusted over with a mould/Plastered upon them by foul mists that rise,/And both with eyes and nose a contest hold./The bottom is so deep, in vain our eyes/Searched it till further up the bridge we went,/To where the arch o’erhangs what under lies./Ascended there, our eyes we downward bent,/And I saw people in such ordure drowned,/A very cesspool ’twas of excrement./And while I from above am searching round,/One with a head so filth-smeared I picked out,/I knew not if ’twas lay, or tonsure-crowned./‘Why then so eager,’ asked he with a shout, ‘To stare at me of all the filthy crew?’/And I to him: ‘Because I scarce can doubt/That formerly thee dry of hair I knew…

But perhaps that’s not miserable enough.  How’s this?

Then we descended from the bridge’s head,/Where with the eighth bank is its junction wrought/And full beneath me was the Bolgia spread,/And I perceived that hideously ’twas fraught/With serpents; and such monstrous forms they bore,/Even now my blood is curdled at the thought./Henceforth let sandy Libya boast no more!/Though she breed hydra, snake that crawls or flies,/Twy-headed, or fine-speckled, no such store/Of plagues, nor near so cruel, she supplies,/ Though joined to all the land of Ethiop,/And that which by the Red Sea waters lies./’Midst this fell throng and dismal, without hope/A naked people ran, aghast with fear—/No covert for them and no heliotrope/Their hands were bound by serpents at their rear,/Which in their reins for head and tail did get/A holding-place: in front they knotted were./And lo! to one who on our side was set/A serpent darted forward, him to bite/At where the neck is by the shoulders met./Nor O nor I did any ever write/More quickly than he kindled, burst in flame,/And crumbled all to ashes./And when quite He on the earth a wasted heap became/He on the earth a wasted heap became,/The ashes of themselves together rolled,/Resuming suddenly their former frame.

(Dante, Inferno, Canto XVIII, lines 106-121 and Canto XXIV, lines 79-106)

The translation’s a little old-fashioned, I know — but that’s what Gutenberg.org had on hand.

In any event, if I were a believer, I’d be hoping that Dante’s description of the torments of the damned is spot on.  And if it were then I would suggest to Mike Huckabee that he be afraid.  Very, very afraid.

Image: Pieter Huys, The Last Judgement, between 1555 and c. 1560

It’s A Tear Down

April 24, 2011

That would be any culture that could produce a video/mobile game like this. Before you click that link, be aware that it takes you to the beta site of an Android game called Dog Wars.  From that link (all typography in the original):

Raise your Dog to Beat the Best!

A GAME THAT WILL NEVER BE IN THE iPHONE APP STORE!!!

Feed, water, train and FIGHT your virtual dog against other player’s… action games, chatroom, many characters and dogs to choose from, virtual store, etc.

If this already has been blogged widely, my apologies.  Hell, my apologies for belonging to the same species as the presumptively sentient types who wrote the necessary code.

I know that there are all kinds of real arguments folks have over whether or not games or porn or violent kids shows or Kill Bill evoke or displace the behaviors they depict.

What’s more, I’ll concede that point, FWIW:  if I were a betting man, I’d lay cash down on the proposition that no one is going to be seduced into dog fighting by playing with digital pit bulls on a three inch screen.  But that’s not my point.

It is that our culture — all the ways we experience, interpret and express feelings and ideas about the business of living in the world — dies just a bit every time something like this slips by.  If we think that cruelty isn’t be fun, then representations of the joy of sadism can’t be passed by in silence.

Perhaps I’m just too much of an alter-kocker in saying so, but there it is.  To be clear:  I do not argue that games like these should be banned.  I think it, its makers, and anyone playing it  should be shamed.

It should be no more acceptable to play this than it is scream “kike” in Fenway’s bleachers (happened to me once; called the guy on it; did not get my head removed, to my rather surprised relief).

I would not let my son play with any kid who showed him that game, and I tell the parents so and why.  I would respond to anyone who talked of it with gusto to me (pretty unlikely, I’d say, given my DFH-ish daily round) that this kind of thing is a moral and an aesthetic cancer.  I’d write this.

It just isn’t acceptable to celebrate others’ pain.  Dogs, people, whoever.  I’m sickened, saddened and most troubled by the comments at that link that tell me to chill, because after all, it’s only a game.

Well yes it is…but if the old writer’s adage — you are what you read — has any truth to it, we need to be damn careful about what we play.  And if we care about our collective capacity to care about what happens to one another, then it seems to me both right and necessary to name and shame those who wallow in this particular swamp.

Please forgive the rant.  I’m just gobsmacked by this one — perhaps over reacting to what is, after all, just one more in a long line of stupid human tricks.  But still…

Image:  William Blake, The Stygian Lake, with the Ireful Sinners Fighting, (illustration for Dante’s Inferno, Canto VII), 1824-1827.

Yes Dear, I Remember When Women Were People Too

March 31, 2011

Yes Dear, I Do Remember When Women Were People Too

by Tom Levenson

Blogging  in haste whilst waiting out the sprout’s martial arts class, this from the ACLU blog seems an excruciatingly appropriate follow up to ABL’s post below:
On December 23, 2010, [Bei Bei] Shuai, a 34-year-old pregnant woman who was suffering from a major depressive disorder, attempted to take her own life. Friends found her in time and persuaded her to get help. Six days later, Shuai underwent cesarean surgery and delivered a premature newborn girl who, tragically, died four days later.

On March 14, 2011, Shuai was arrested, jailed, and charged with murder and attempted feticide. Had Shuai, who is being represented by National Advocates for Pregnant Women and local attorneys, not been pregnant when she attempted suicide, she would not have been charged with any crime at all.

I’m fair gobsmacked with outrage and sorrow at this.

Full disclosure: this story strikes home personally—there is a history of depression and associated suicide on one side of my family, and the thought that someone enduring that particularly vicious illness being further tortured by the modern inquisition is just grotesque.  No one who has either suffered major depression, nor anyone who has loved someone thus afflicted would see the state of Indiana’s actions as anything other than vicious.

That this action is enmeshed in religious and political fanaticism and intolerance of views other than those of particular faiths and cults does not excuse the behavior.  The reverse, in fact.

Beyond my personal revulsion and rage at those who would so use a woman already mired in sorrow for their own ends,* the only thing I want to add in this brief piece is that the actions of the state here are part and parcel of a pattern of GOP lawless exercise of state power under the color of law.  Here’s the ACLU blog again on the way Indiana prosecutors are abusing the criminal statutes at their disposal:
The state is misconstruing the criminal laws in this case in such a way that any pregnant woman could be prosecuted for doing (or attempting) anything that may put her health at risk, regardless of the outcome of her pregnancy.

That’s right: according to the ways the laws are being applied here, the state of Indiana believes that any pregnant woman who smokes or lives with a smoker, who works long hours on her feet, who is overweight, who doesn’t exercise, or who fails to get regular prenatal care, is a felon. And the list of ways these laws could be construed to unconstitutionally prosecute pregnant women goes on and on.

That is, as this report goes on to argue, in the view of the prosecution, women are not autonomous citizens.  They are wards of the state…and while I’m sure the earnest sex-phobic, women-denigrating apologists of the right (I’m looking at you, Ross Douthat) would argue that matters would never get this far, I don’t see how the theory of the Indiana prosecution wouldn’t stretch to cover the “reckless” behavior of any fertile, sexually active woman.

After all—if you don’t know whether or not you are pregnant, how can you responsibly risk any potential fetus by injesting the demon rum or what have you.  If there is any woman, or any friend to any woman out there who thinks that the GOP can be trusted with their body, they need to think long and hard on the show trial of Bei Bei Shuai

Image:  Cate Bischop Sorrow, before 1928


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