Changing the Conversation in 2014

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As we enter the new year, let’s take a look back at what the greater discourse has looked like these last few years. It seems that rational discourse has been pushed to the fringe, and the bizarre extremes have become the mainstream. This is a problem, not just for those of us who seek rationality, but for everyone, as it leads to typically poor outcomes. The blame for this lies on the shoulders of everyone, of all sides of the political spectrum, all religious and philosophical ideologies….this is what we need to change.

General Politics

The GOP is no longer the party of conservatism. They’ve been hijacked by the religious far right.

The Democrats are no longer the left. They’ve become centrist at best.

Dems don’t want small government. Neither does GOP. No politician wants small government…because they’d be out of job.

The current discourse about “small government” always revolves around keeping the government out of our healthcare and away from our guns. These are the same people who want the government to regulate what women can do with their bodies and who can get married.

It isn’t an honest conversation.

Our country is suffering while rich white men in Washington squabble about ideologies. Enough is enough. It’s time to tell Washington that we won’t let THEM freeload any longer. They need to do their jobs or lose their jobs. This shouldn’t be negotiable.

End the drone program. Stop spying on the American people. Stop focusing on regulated women and the LGBT community. Let’s work on jobs and the economy.

Gun Debate

The simple fact is that the gun control measures in America need reevaluated. Currently, every time someone says “gun control,” the gun proponents erect a giant strawman that claims the government wants to take away their guns. Many conspiracy theories follow.

With this ideology, an honest conversation is impossible.

What we want are sensible measures to ensure that only responsible, mentally stable, non-criminal citizens have access to firearms. Unfortunately, every time there’s a shooting or the debate is brought up, the NSA muppets make a big fuss and all the gun shops have big sales by claiming Obama is coming for your guns. The ONLY people winning here are the gun companies making a fortune off of your stupidity.

Social Safety Nets and Minimum Wage

The fact that these are such a big conversation amazes me. The biggest uproar I always hear revolves around food stamps. The claim is always about all of these ingrates who are freeloading off of the system and eating up all of our hard earned tax money.

This is dishonest, and takes away from any real conversation to solve the problem of poverty.

In reality, only about 2% of tax dollars go towards food stamps. Only about 10% of those are for people who are not working. The problem isn’t that people are getting food stamps. The problem is that that many working people need them to survive. The problem is the wage inequality in America.

I keep hearing that these people should just get a better job. This usually comes from people who have no idea what it’s like to be unemployed and struggling. Currently, there are 3 job seekers for every open position. More than half of those positions are part time or minimum wage themselves, yet often requiring quite a bit of education and experience. After all, in this market, employers can pay peanuts to massively over qualified people and get away with it.

Again, this is not conducive to an honest conversation.

Gender Equality

Today, we have misogynists calling themselves “Men’s Rights Activists.” These people claim that all feminists want is superiority over men, and that they should be fighting for the rights of men as well. We have feminists who seem to think the movement is about middle and upper class white women marching against “the man.” They seem to forget about the fact that the most discriminated against women are those of minority races in America.

This is hugely detrimental to any honest discourse.

Let me break this down a bit. First, let me address all the Men’s Rights Activists out there. Is forced male circumcision bad? Yep. Should men be able to get paternity leave? Yep. Should men not get put down for deciding to be stay at home dads? Yep. Should feminists be fighting for those things? Nope. Do you know why? That’s not what the movement is about. Should people be fighting for those things? Absolutely. It shouldn’t, however, be done by degrading those fighting for women. Men have always held a place of privilege in America. Fixing the few problems men may face may be your soapbox, but insulting feminists and claiming that feminism is somehow horrible because men may have some problems is sorta like stubbing your toe and telling your friend who had his leg blown off to suck it up because you stubbed your toe. Get over yourselves, please.

Feminism is as essential now as it was when it began. It’s not only essential in America, where most states still allow rapists to sue for child visitation, but worldwide, where women are forced to marry at age 10 and live forcibly veiled for fear of their life. When girls like Malala are shot for the crime of wanting to attend school, feminists need to be a loud voice. All feminists, not just white ones. When the minimum wage workers in America, who need all the help they can get to survive, are all too often women of color, THOSE are the voices that need amplified the most. Don’t forget that we are all in this together.

LGBTQ Equality

Homosexuality does not lead to anything except homosexuality. It isn’t a choice. It isn’t abnormal. It was criminalized, really, until the rise of the Abrahamic religions. In tribal culture and ancient civilizations, it was more often celebrated. “Traditional Marriage” is a myth. Their marriage has no effect whatsoever on yours. The LGBTQ community is also not only gay men. Those against it often focus primarily on gay men. Those fighting for equality often forget their transgender kin.

This thinking is harmful to the overall conversation.

These are people. These are people who were born differently than you. That doesn’t make them an abomination. It makes them people, no different than you. We all live our lives and we all want to be seen as equals. That’s part of what makes America great. Don’t let your fear of the different make you someone who destroys that integral part of our society.

Science and Medicine

Agricultural Biotech, GMOs, are not dangerous. Monsanto is not the root of all evil. Vaccines are not poisoning our youth or turning them gay or giving them autism. “Alternative Medicine” is inherently harmful to the overall understanding of medicine. Natural does not always mean good. Man made does always mean bad.

This is not conducive to honest and rational discourse.

Monsanto is a big corporation like any other. They are good and bad. They also don’t represent the entirety of the biotech industry. There are many types of GMOs. Each has different mechanisms and different technologies. No one has bought the FDA. Most of the things being spread about the industry is purely made of whole cloth. Educate yourselves. If you refer to any effect as from “GMOs” in general, then you don’t understand the technology enough to speak to it.

Vaccines are proven safe. Diseases have been eradicated because of them. A discredited doctor and a playboy pinup queen have no bearing on whether the science is sound or not. They aren’t a money making scam. If anything, the pharmaceutical companies lose money on them. Refusing them doesn’t just affect you. It affects those who cannot be vaccinated for other reasons. There are whooping cough outbreaks all over the country because of this idiocy. Even if you never get flu symptoms, you likely aren’t WHY we need the herd immunity for the flu vaccine. The flue kills mostly the very young and very old. Not getting vaccinated risks that you will be the cause of those types of deaths. Educate yourself. Speak to actual medical professionals, not some “mommy instinct” blog. Those who spread the anti-vaccination fear mongering should be charged with attempted murder, plain and simple.

There is no such thing as alternative medicine. There is proven medicine and there are scams. The “big pharma” that you think is pushing drugs on you to make money while suppressing the alternative miracle cures is the same industry that owns the alternative medicine companies. I hate to break it to you. Dr. Oz and people like that make more money off of your ignorance than pretty much any doctor. Educate yourselves. Too many people die because they choose magic over medicine. Don’t be that person.

Racism

Racism is not dead in America. It many not always be as blatant as it once was, but it’s present. It’s just more insidious now. It’s just as prevalent on the left as it is on the right. On the left, however, it’s very subversive. The same people yelling about equal rights and those damned redneck racists still avoid areas that are mostly populated by people of color. See my post on Passive Aggressive Racism for more details.

Veganism

This one is simple. There are good reasons to be a Vegan. Not everyone is a Vegan. Insulting those who are not vegan and calling them murderers makes you look like an idiot and makes people not want to be associated with you, thus discouraging them from even learning about Veganism.

On the other side, the constant flinging insults at Vegans needs to stop. Yes there is a vocal minority that acts like idiots. Don’t judge the whole by them. In the same way, EVERY movement has extremists like that. You wouldn’t want me to judge yours by them. Offering to eat “insert meat product here” in a Vegan’s honest makes you ignorant, not witty.

Conclusion

No matter what cause is yours, remember, those who fight for other causes aren’t downplaying yours by not talking about it. It just isn’t their focus. That’s not a negative thing. Fighting over it is not conducive to the conversation.

Today, there are allies that are not part of, but still fight for, many causes. Allies, don’t try to take over the conversation. It isn’t your narrative. Those who are of the cause, don’t look at these people with disdain because they aren’t like you. That ideology is why you need to fight for your rights to begin with. Work together. Make a better world.

Change the conversation.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

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