philosofunk

what if the worlds/were a series of steps/what if the steps/joined back at the margin


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Caitlyn Jenner’s Freak Show

Into episode four of “I Am Cait”, Caitlyn’s transgender identity is becoming more developed, but she is still hyper aware of what she calls the “freak factor” in her new life. In a conversation with Kate Borenstein, one of the most influential transwomen in America and author of Gender Outlaw, Cait asks “How do you get over the freak factor?” to which Borenstien answers “Owning the freak factor with heart”. Cait and Borenstein mindfully discuss how there will always be some segment of the population who views transpeople as “freaks” and as such feels that they are lesser humans than cis gendered people. For Caitlyn, this is intensified since her journey as a transwoman is being actively exploited by the paparazzi. To cis gendered people who feel transfolks are “freaks”, there is little understanding of how sex and gender are different and sometimes unrelated, and there is active fear about the transidentity and what it means for the person’s worldview. To understand that the gender binary is false is to unlearn something that was presented as true for much of one’s life. Cait asks Borenstein “How do you get over the freak factor” to which she replies “Owning the freak show with heart”. Essentially, Borenstein tells Cait, there is nothing a transperson can do about the people who feel they are a freak, their minds are closed and their perspective is too harsh to listen. However, one can relish in their freakishness and make it part of their identity, to understand it, to own it. This is a monumental task for transpeople, and requires the support of allies.

Borenstein clarifies what she thinks an ally is versus what is generally thought of as an ally. To most people, they assume that they are trans allied if they are accepting of the trans identity. For Borenstein, this does not meet the burden of an ally by simply being supportive. Active support is helpful, but action yields more results. An ally must be a person who responds to the needs of transpeople, as she says ally means “you ask me what I need, I tell you, and you tell me how much you can actually supply”. She then goes on to give the example that she may need an ally to act as a body guard in a crowd that she needs to get through. Why would Borenstein need an ally in a crowd of people? This is because transbodies are viewed as public property due to the freak factor. The twentieth century was awash with “freak shows” which treated people with abnormalities as exploitable commodities that the public had a right to access. All the humanity for these exploited people in the freak shows was lost, they were simply an exhibit to ponder. A transperson may not feel comfortable in a crowd because of how their bodies have been treated by cis people, as if they are an exotic specimen to be inspected by touching or being asked inappropriate questions. Cis people who feel transpeople are “freaks” are also curious about transbodies and trans lives. They will often become preoccupied with the transperson’s genitalia and their private sexual lives and sexual orientation. To be made into a freak is to have one’s personal space invaded and colonized. Allies must work in congruence with transpeople as to how best assess their most active needs and lessen the amount that the freak show factor has on them.

As Caitlyn’s family found out in episode one, Caitlyn is the same person as she was when she was Bruce, she just has a new identity to work into. Transpeople are still humans, their change of gender is akin to changing one’s clothes in terms of affecting the essence of a person. Clothing relects a peson’s thoughts about their identity, and chosing the proper gender is the way for transpeople to express to their satisfaction their identities. Obviously, the person will change with a transition, but the core of them remains intact. The freak factor takes this away and asserts that a person is the summation of their ability to be “normal” and any deviancy from normalization is paramount to betraying what is natural and what is right. Borenstein reminds Cait that the beginning of a transition is like a second adolescence, a time when people are very vulnerable to bullying and the outside opinion of the world. Acting as a true ally requires cis people to fight the notion that a person is a freak simply for transitioning genders and actively challenge real cis gendered people when they make transphobic comments.

While this episode positively and successfully gave cis people information about how to be an ally, as is a goal of Cait with this show, it also revealed the extent of the privilege Cait has as a rich trans person living in Los Angeles. There are several support groups and resources mentioned in the show for transpeople in Los Angeles, which makes sense as it is a large city in California and the center of the entertainment industry. However, these resources and support groups often do not exist for transpeople living in areas like the South or the Midwest whose populations may not be as comfortable with the idea of transpeople. Cait has professionals come to the house who specialize in trans issues to help support her through her transition, another thing many transpeople do not have access to due to location and the culture of where they live. This is an issue the show has yet to address or acknowledge in a significant way. There was a nod in the first episode by Cait to her privileged nature, however, the show overall has failed to note how privileged Cait is actively over other transpeople. It is sometimes a frustrating feature of the show because few things about Cait’s life are humble, and it would be constructive to see Cait humble herself and acknowledge with active mindfulness that the support she receives is a privilege that few are able to get.

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Queerism and Love

Earlier in this blog I introduced a social concept I had come up with during my time studying philosophy and LGBTQ issues: queerism. As it stands, my deceleration on queerism stands as: “I believe that queerism, as opposed to feminism, is needed as a national discourse because the recognition of genders and sexes other than the male/female binary will literally, quantifiably result in less violence in our society and lead to a more authentic, liberated identity expression that is actually more in align with what is natural, contrary to how we have been conditioned to recognize as true.” I wondered back in March, though, if I couldn’t include some kind of extra theory about love into the queerist definition.

Love is perhaps the most speculated, investigated, questioned, feared, and hoped for part of human existence. The feeling of love, real love that is about knowing and accepting another person for who and what they are, is a feeling all of us are either after or in revolt against. True love, truly dedicated love can change the course of lives. Love is also not simply an easy thing despite it feeling so natural, sometimes we must be willing to make great sacrifices for love if indeed that is what we are committed to doing.

After cleaning my room recently I found a New York Times article about a pair of star-crossed lovers in Afghanistan, Zakia and Mohammad who were forced to chose between each other and the tradition of their notoriously conservative society. After choosing each other, “the young couple had faced criminal charges and death threats after eloping and fleeing their village in the high mountains of central Afghanistan last year. Now they have had their legal issues resolved and their marriage legally recognized”. Most Afghanis have arranged marriages out of respect for tradition and keeping tribal bonds strong. In order to succeed with going against the grain of their conservative society, Zakia and Mohammad had to prioritize what was most important in their lives, and they both chose each other. However, triumph did not come without tribulation. After fleeing their families and then returning to their village, Mohammad was confronted with a gun and a knife and chased through the potato fields by Zakia’s brother. They’ve faced social repercussions that have made getting work difficult, and now with a baby, receive relief from “an anonymous benefactor in the United States who had read about their plight and sent them $1,000 via Western Union to help care for their baby.”

nytimes

Zakia and Mohammad qualified under international law for refugee status in order to escape the hardship of their situation in Afghanistan, however, they chose not to go that route. People are eligible for refugee status if they face “a serious threat to their lives based on discrimination because of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, and choice of spouse”. Zakia personally experienced an extension of rape culture by her own male relatives due to choosing Mohammad, she “never goes out at all, for fear that she might encounter someone from her own large family. her fathers and brothers publicly vowed to kill her and Mohammad Ali when they eloped”. Believing the female body to be an extension of the familial bond and/or public property and therefore a necessary thing to control is a form of rape culture. That Zakia’s male relatives could chose to end her life for her pursuit of romance, love, and sexual satisfaction is a form of the control rape culture employs and encourages. Queerism by definition must fight against rape culture because rape culture presents a direct threat to trans bodies. Many people hear about transwomen being murdered because “he found out she was a he” (to say it in a disgusting heteronormative manner) at some point during courtship or sexual encounter and then, in a rage, killed another human being out of issues revolving around convoluted notions of masculinity and dominance. For many years, murderers walked free because of the “gay panic defense” or the heteronormative solipsistic defense strategy to employ as many homophobic notions concerning the idea of proper male sexual attitudes against the murder victim. Sadly, one state in the nation, California, has banned the defense in 2014. It is shocking how badly transpeople are treated by the criminal justice system, but it is only a reflection of how badly they are treated in greater society.

While not a queer relationship, Zakia and Mohammad’s tale fits within the paradigm of the need for queerism because of the issues surrounding the rules of love in their society. Two people who the world tries to keep a part for reasons of socialized rules and regulations that are only as real as people make them need queerism because by definition queerism recognizes the legitimacy of love that is not viewed as an acceptable norm or even questioned on the legitimacy of the norm. For example, how could a straight man love a transwoman while knowing that that person used to be a man? To many in the heteronormative solipsistic world, it would be a demonstration that the straight man is not as masculine as he could be, and that the transwoman will never “really” be a woman. But for people who understand queerism, they recognize that the straight man is as masculine as he ever is, and that the woman he is involved with is a woman, and that there is no problem here anyway because it really isn’t anyone’s business except the two people involved in the relationship. Queerism grants autonomy and legitimacy to all consensual adult relationships without the societal pressures of aligning with norms of that culture.

Zakia and Mohammad represent a time old conundrum of love and injustice, which is that the most perfect person for you can bring you such pleasure while only to have societal norms and cultural customs screech with indignation at the boldness of your actions. It is an unfair and harsh world. One of the only points of peace for a person is intimacy and love. Part of realizing the ugliness of the world is understanding that there are people, cultural customs, and societal norms that will stand in the way of the one universal thing that will give people comfort. Queerism stands to fight against that in whatever form it takes.


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Corporate American Prison Culture

I know a lot about prison culture. This is from academic study, intellectual thought of that study, and personally knowing people who have been to prison. I also know a person who was for a short time a prison guard. Some of the most intelligent people I know have not achieved graduation from high school and instead spent their time focusing on immediate survival because the most dire of circumstances were occurring in their lives. They are beautiful human beings who have been forced through a series of situations, both beyond their control and within the scope of their control should they have made wiser choices at the time, to embrace the view of the world that we contain both the capability for doing bad deeds for reasonable reasons, such as feeding one’s own child and providing for their family in ways that they would not be able to achieve by the legally presented choices that are available to them. For some this had to do with race, but always it had to do with economic status. The intersecionality of race, socioeconomic status, and gender made each person’s experience unique in regards to how they interacted within what could be called, “the underworld”.

My time in the underworld was extremely colorful. I met some of the most influential people in my life, individuals who contributed greatly to my formation. All of these individuals committed illegal acts. Many of these individual’s familes knew that they committed crimes in order to make a living and accepted the money in order to live. I take a Kantian view of the law: the law is not inherently moral or ethical just because it is the law. Some of these individuals were my lovers, others were just my friends.

Currently, after devouring “The Jinx”, I tuned into “Oz” on Hbo.go (thank the Buddha for whoever came up with the idea of putting all of HBO’s programming online).  Yesterday, I picked up a copy of Harper’s and to my delight, Harper’s Index (an assortment of statistics that reveals a theme about domestic public policy or economic’s or sociological facts) focused it’s first on the American prison system, an institution I personally devote a lot of time to studying both academically and recreationally. Through my journey of “Oz”, I have found myself profoundly questioning the corporate American prison system. While reading Harper’s statistics, I found myself morally obligated to share my feelings and opinions publicly. For example,

  • Minimum number of times in 2014 that Rikers Island correction officers broke the bones of an inmate: 98
  • Days of solitary confinement a South Carolina prisoner was assigned in 2012 for threatening a prison employee: 41
  • Years of solitary confinement he was assigned in 2013 for posting on Facebook: 37

Read those last two statistics again. From this specific example, we can see that this inmate was being made an example of in the second statistic. In the first, we see what is viewed as a routine occurrence within prison due to the culture of violence. What can be derived from these statistics? That prisoner’s having access to the first amendment beyond the scope of the walls of the prison is more dangerous than a threat of violence to one of the prison’s employee’s.

This should be disturbing to any American who supports the first amendment because the discrepancy is between days and years. What is so horrible that a prisoner could tell us beyond inane ramblings of an inmate.

This this or this.

I am unsure what America is attempting to accomplish with the endorsement of a demeaning and violent prison culture given we are the number one nation for locking people in cages. I do believe that we need prisons, yet morally I feel obligated that a society should ensure the minimum number of human beings are confined by chains. Serious crimes that are directly related to harming other human beings are crimes that should be applicable for confinement away from society for a period of time, and these crimes are both directly violent and non-violent yet harmful. I do not believe that there should be a tremendous amount of comfort in prison, there should be bare conditions however they should be humane. If not for the prisoners, I am concerned about the mental health of prison employees working in such dire conditions.

The more disturbing phenomenon in the combination of corporate and prison culture in America is obviously the private prison system. Like Blackwater and other mercenary armies, private prisons are the antithesis to a democratic society due to the lack of government oversight and the inherently disturbing nature of making money off of the suffering of other human beings. In fact, this could be psychologically compared to antisocial personality disorder, known in laymen’s terms as psychopathy. American corporatism at it’s most depraved has already been compared to having antisocial personality disorder, especially given the Supreme Court decision that endorses the legal principle that corporations are persons.

If corporations are persons, and there are private prisons that are owned by corporations, then that means some of these prisons function as dysfunctionally as the violent offenders they house. This is clearly an ethical and moral threat to democratic ideals.


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“The Jinx” and Robert Durst’s Smoke and Mirrors

Though I know I’m a little late on this, HBO’s “The Jinx” is a goldmine and I finally got to sink my teeth into the six part docuseries by acclaimed documentarian Andrew Jarecki (“Capturing the Friedmans” is his other excellent work). As a writer, I spend a lot of time imagining. Some of the imagining is within the realm of normal, some of it is pretty bizarre, some of it is sick and twisted, and some of it is rather mundane and boring. For people like me, Robert Durst, the subject of “The Jinx” is a monster of a character both in terms of scope of the allegations against him and how enormous the eccentricities of his life have shaped his character. For instance, the “AAAANNNYYYWAAAAYYYYY” Durst blurts out after he forgets whether or not his victim Morris Black had a bow-saw or not (with which Mr. Durst AKA Bobby was going use to cut Black’s corpse) is spoken as an uncannily normal statement to make. He is not fazed by the fact that he was just describing tools with which he used to dissect a human corpse, and was treating the matter as a conventional conversation topic, like “I couldn’t find my socks today, but this and then that and my story the dog hid them blah blah blah AAAANNNYYYWAAAAYYYYY”.  The question becomes to the viewer, what the fuck is Bobby Durst’s normal?

Like “Serial”, which I am also infatuated with, “The Jinx”‘s true crime appeal acts as a stranger-than-fiction stage for which the real life characters who deceive, question, squawk, insist, and attempt to understand an act or acts of violence that seem beyond the comprehensible. Unlike Adnan, the subject of “Serial”, Bobby Durst is immediately identified as an atypical human being. Rich and privileged, Durst is portrayed as mentally unstable, seemingly sad and outright bizarre, yet Jarecki affords him a certain amount of dignity in the film. During the last scene, where Jarecki is interrogating Durst about the identical handwriting found on “The Cadaver Note” and an envelope written in his handwriting, Jarecki does not himself condemn Durst, instead he allows Bobby to do it for himself. Jarecki sets the scene up, but Bobby could have just as well gotten up, de-miced, and refused to talk about it. Certainly, one wonders why he didn’t.

Both in “Serial” and “The Jinx” the subjects want to tell their side of the story, and both subjects ask viewers to suspend their presumptions about their cases and examine the facts with the documentarians. However, in “Serial” Sarah Koenig concludes that she believes in Adnan’s innocence and approached the production of the series as giving Adnan back the presumption of innocence while looking for concrete evidence of his guilt. Finding vast amounts of ambiguity, deception, and flip-flopping stories, Koenig concludes that it is reasonable to believe Adnan’s account of his innocence. Jarecki seemed to approach his film in a similiar manner, giving Durst a presumption of not guilty but not wholly innocent either, and came to the conclusion that the New York Post had proclaimed several years ago:

run for your lives

When I rewatched “The Jinx” (always, always watch a documentary more than once should you wish to understand it better) it seemed to be that Bobby Durst was consciously making this documentary out of egotism, but subconsciously giving essentially a veiled confession. During the scene where Jarecki questions him about whether or not he sent The Cadever Note in the first interview, Durst keeps using the pronoun “you” while describing why it would be unintelligent for a killer to send a note to the cops with instructions to the murder they just caused. Its like he was describing his own mixed regret and guilt for sending the letter, one which he all but admits to sending in The Bathroom Scene when his mic was hot, “There it is. You’re caught…arrest him”. His rambling soliloquy racked with guilt, ambiguity, and what could be considered a confession, “What did I do? I killed them all of course” is absolutely the second most chilling thing I have ever seen in  a documentary, the first being corpses being thrown into a pit at a concentration camp in Nazi Germany.

There is speculation among law enforcement agents about whether or not Bobby Durst is a serial killer. I certainly believe that he is. One thing Jarecki commented on was how much he had grown to like Durst as a person during the course of the filming, so much so that Durst gains his trust enough that he does not question whether or not Durst really is in Spain in the last episode, to the shock of the production team’s camera man. Durst was not actually in Spain, but LA, he lied to Jarecki to get him off of his back, and not with a small lie either. One thing remarked about many serial killers is their charisma and charm. Durst’s access to huge amounts of money only seems to add to the enigma of what and who he really is since he can buy pretty much anything and is as Jarecki says “a smart fucker”. If anyone has doubt as to how seductive people who have the capability for serial killing are, watch “Manson” (which unfortunately is bizarrely banned in the United States but periodically shows up on Youtube) and evaluate the love Manson’s family had for Manson. In one Texas juror’s mind, Durst is a man who is “simply unlucky” rather than seemingly malicious. Given that he was on the jury for the dismemberment trial, Durst has some pretty amazing charming abilities (Durst appeared on the stand for that trial).

But Bobby seems guilty, he seems to want to shout “I really did do it take me away!” but doesn’t. He plays his part, like the rich are expected to do. The rich must toe the line within their segregated world, there is too much money and power at stake for them not to. Durst says his lines, “No I didn’t write that” when confronted with irrefutable evidence of his handwriting on The Cadaver Note. Its insisted that he did not murder Morris Black but with a warped rationality explains why he had to dismember Morris’ body. He doesn’t even know if Kathy is really dead, he says. He laments that his accomplishments are never really his because of all the money and prestige propping him up. If he was any one of the peasants, he knows he would have been dragged off by the legal system long ago.

Prior to watching this docuseries, I knew nothing about the Durst saga. I believe it will end anticlimactically, with Durst dying peacefully in his bed leaving behind a mass of questions. We can only hope he leaves confessions with his lawyers for after he is dead. But most certainly, the poor go to prison and the rich go to court.


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The Politick of Bruce Jenner’s Transgenderism

Over the past few years, the tabloid media have been speculating about Bruce Jenner’s gender identity, sometimes as an affront to the dignity of Jenner and his transgender brothers and sisters. Now, Bruce Jenner has revealed that he is indeed in transition, and very happy about it, thank you. This is significant for the place in time this announcement is being made for the transgender/intersex movement, and also for the celebrity culture Jenner is a firmly part of within a variety of avenues. Jenner is an Olympian, married into the Kardashian fame family. His part within the American celebrity fabric is extremely unique as an athlete and member of the Kardashian family. While we do not have noble royalty in America, we do have celebrity royalty, and if the Kardashians were a political family, they would be the Bush Dynasty (obviously, Kim would be George, pretty but dumb, just smart enough to prop up and snap photos of while being quietly steered by questionable forces, in this case Kris and Dick Cheney). If there was a family tree of his celebrity family demonstrating the power his clan claims, it would look like this: kardashian fame Bruce is placed very strategically within this family tree. In this hypothetical model, he is Jay-Z’s brother’s father-in-law, and Blue Ivy would be his granddaughter’s cousin. Kylie Jenner, his daughter, is hot shit within the teen sphere at the moment. A model dating a rapper, she lives the fantasy life of an American teen: young, rich, on television, and part of a fame dynasty. My theory is that if Kylie Jenner can accept her father for being a  transgendered woman, that will make transgender folks seem a little more normalized for the American teen because of how much of a hot fuss Kylie is. The younger a person is exposed to something as socialized normal, the easier it is for them to believe it is a normal part of life. Since there are many people with transgendered or gender queer parents who are young but do not know anyone else with a trans or gender queer parent, Kylie Jenner’s family can be an example of trans people being viewed as more normal. It is easier to accept something if a person can look to another person’s story and see themselves in it. Kim Kardashian’s role within Bruce’s transition is also important. As the Queen of Superficiality, she has made a career on essentially publicly whoring. Appearances are very important, but she has also exposed her celebrity behind the scenes, letting people in on the secret that celebrity lives are fantastical products of entire teams of persons. Her image is crafted, but she has done something strange and let us watch the production of the craft. If Kim Kardashian can be publicly supportive of Bruce, that would be highly positive for the progress of the making intersexed, transgendered, and gender queer people viewed as socially normal. The royal court is always a spectacle.


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Rape in A Man’s World

We live in a patriarchal, male dominated society. This is a fact. Children typically receive the last names of their fathers, not mothers, and it is clear to anyone with eyes and a sense of reality that men are at a more advantageous position in this society (as far as I know, relatively few people lobby for the erasure of men’s reproductive rights). However, this is America, and we live better off as a whole than many, many places in the world. Indeed, from what we can gather about the state of discourse about rape and the lived reality of threats and perpetration of rape in India, there are far, far worse places for women to live.

Today I opened up Gawker.com, scrolled around, and arrived at this article, “Thousands-Large Mob Seized Prisoner Accused of Rape, Beat Him to Death”. Slightly sleepy, I thought, “Holy jesus, what the fuck is going on in India?”. There was also a piece on the New York Times about government action preventing broadcast of a documentary about gang rape, and an article on Vice.com about the denial of a visa from the Indian government for a white American woman named Sabrina Buckwalter looking to write about the reality of rape in India. “Good lord,” I thought, “I must write about this immediately”. As a Buddhist, it saddens me that the land from which the founder of my religion hails, a man named Siddhartha Gautama, is having such a disturbing problem dealing with the dark and horrific reality of rape. Two of the world’s greatest religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, come from India. I speculate this is because of the incredibly harsh nature of Indian society that has existed as long as the civilization; the incredible discrepancy between poor and rich, the decrepit nature of the slums, the generational poverty, the danger of wildlife, all of which has essentially great insight that has come from the harsh conditions humans have endured in this part of the world.

As a Buddhist, I view rape as a deplorable crime by which a person’s safety, physical integrity, relaxation of mind, and personal control is obliterated. A perpetrator of rape is a traitor of all humanity. As a woman, I live in fear of rape because I can be a victim at any age, under any circumstances, and at any time.

As an American, I am ashamed of how our country has dealt with the reality of rape. In the military, rape appears to be viewed as a perk for the men of the military and a thing to be endured by the women. In college, “date rape” is normalized, and forced unwanted sexual contact is a somewhat regular occurrence. However, there is no difference between “college rape”, “date rape”, and rape that happens in the military. For some reason, here in America, we want to differentiate degrees of rape and explain the circumstances. It is taking away a woman’s humanity and giving power to the perpetrators. The way we talk about rape here in America contributes to global rape culture.

However, it isn’t just women who are at risk for experiencing sexual assault. I was watching “Sons of Anarchy” this weekend, or the most ultimate male soap opera in the history of ass-kicking television, and the opening scene of the start of season six is a male-on male rape scene. I was not expecting this and was jolted. I found it more brutal than the scenes of rape that we are somewhat accustomed seeing on television and in movies where the victim is female. I believe that that reaction is two-fold. First, the idea of being rectally raped is absolutely horrifying for any person, male or female. I would not say that I would prefer to be raped vaginally, however, I absolutely certainly do not ever want to experience a rectal rape. Secondly, when watching a male being raped, the viewer is also watching a man’s masculinity being taken away within the context of what our society has deemed masculinity to be. In our society’s sexual narrative, men are not penetrated, they do the penetrating. This folds into the homophobic narrative of men who enjoy receiving anal sex to be feminine, not really men, or “bitches”. This view is an out and out product of rape culture, as is the idea that a raped man has lost part of his masculinity. A raped man is no less masculine than a man who has never experienced that sort of assault, however, we look at him differently afterword.

If a man looses part of his masculinity after rape, what does a woman loose? In India, a more traditionalist society than America, it can be losing a reputation of femininity and propriety, becoming reduced instead to the assault perpetrated against you. She may no longer be a woman, but instead a different being, a raped woman. In parts of the Middle East, it can mean the woman’s life. In America, it means the safety of soundness of mind because now there is a “before”, and an “after” in life.

If rape in India is so prevalent, why was this man captured from a police station, dragged into the street, and murdered? If there is so much rape in India, doesn’t that mean that rape is accepted there? No. This is another thing that I gathered from watching so much “Sons of Anarchy”. Within the world of “Sons”, there are a lot of women who choose sex work and thus are at risk for experiencing rape. The members of the Sons of Anarchy take to protecting these women and beating up the men who rape or assault them. This is because the women raped are their mothers, lovers, cousins, friends, sisters of friends, etc. They are people the men in Sons of Anarchy care about. People who systematically rape or endorse rape as a legitimate thing to do are bad people, quite simply put. Unfortunately, there can be a high concentration of very bad people in one place if the conditions are conducive to creating unstable environments leading to unstable human behavior.

Just because there are a lot of bad people in one area does not mean all the people in that area are bad.

Many people are effected when a bad thing happens to a person that is loved. When the prevalence of rape occurs, many men are effected even if they are not the ones to experience the rape. Entire families experience the pain of rape. In India, this rage caused a man to loose his life. Rape culture breeds violence because it is one of the most violent things to do to a human being.

I feel it is time for the United States to intervene in some sort of humanitarian orientated manner with regards to the problem of widespread and systematic rape in India. In terms of policy, I am unsure of what this would look like. However, in order for this to be properly achieved, the United States must get rid of it’s own rape culture thinking. The women in the military must be treated with equal respect for their service to America as the men receive, and must stop having to endure sexual assault in their workplace. College women must be viewed as sexually independent individual’s whose assaults must be taken as crimes instead of campus incidents between two or more students. People must realize that when a man is raped, he is not less masculine because of his experience.

I can only hope, as a human being, that this can happen within my lifetime.


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My “Serial” Obsession- Political versus Philosophical Justice

before

I have a tumblr, gzeu.tumblr.com, and it is one of my favorite past times, to scroll through the endless series of images people decide to reblog. It is a wonderful source of bizarre fun, “from porn to puppies in seconds” is one of the jokes of  the site (though the Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is trying to do away with all the sex, in the spirit of corporate America) and so when I saw this wonderful image of one of my favorite television characters, Rust Cohle from True Detective, I knew I had to delve into Serial.

I listened to the entirety of Serial in nearly one day. I saved the last episode for the next day because the night was fading into morning, and I wanted to save it. I did the exact same thing with True Detective.

Then I did that weird thing that makes me an eccentric person. I really love cinema, and will often re-watch movies countless times until I can watch them in my head.  I did this with Serial. I fell asleep to Serial,  I ate breakfast to Serial, and I even did yoga while listening to the disturbing tale of this sad murder. Hae Min Lee became a person I thought about while I walked down the street to buy milk. Her mothers testimony at Adnan’s sentencing, about a Korean proverb that observes that when parents die they are buried in the ground, but when a child dies they are buried in the parents heart, made me think about my mother while I cooked macaroni and cheese one night. Clearly, it was very important that we know what happened to Hae. She sounded like the very definition of a good person, a true young lady who had a promising future and was well liked by peers and adults.

So, the thing that makes this story that Sarah Koenig narrates for us compelling is that essentially the entire state’s case rests on the credibility of the state’s witness, Jay. There is something significant; Jay knows where Hae’s car is. But that does not mean that Adnan killed Hae. That is a logical leap of epic proportions. And here is why.

Jay is a noted liar. Jen, the girl Jay was most likely cheating on his girlfriend with, says “Well, Jay lies. Everyone knows Jay lies”. Jay lies about all kinds of things, things that are both benign, and then things that are more shady. When The Intercept interviews Jay, he comes out with this absolutely incredible story that he had never told before.

One thing that everyone agrees is that Jay and Adnan were not “friends”. Adnan says “we didn’t exactly kick it per se” which as Koenig awkwardly seems to translate for seriously suburban white people as “yes we smoked weed together, but we were acquaintances and not friends”. So, in The Intercept interview, Jay now essentially says “so this dude who is not really my friend shows up at my grandma’s house with a dead body in the trunk and says hey you big drug dealer I’m going to rat on you unless you help me bury this body”. The entire trial Jay has this entire story built around seeing Hae’s body at Best Buy, the words “Best Buy” are used about fifty times every episode.

But now, this is not true. And Adnan is sitting in prison.

Or was something else going on entirely? Here’s where I am going to get wildly speculative. Throughout all the interviews with Jay, the detectives are clear to say that Jay was dealing marijuana, only marijuana, and no additional drugs. Jay, who appears to be egocentric to say the least, claims that he was the “criminal element” of Woodlawn. This makes me inclined to believe that Jay was dealing dimebags and thinking that he was a badass, but just because a liar does not mean a true statement cannot be made by that person. Jay gets a sweetheart deal with accomplice to murder after the fact with no prison time, and he gets a lawyer who was hand picked by the prosecution. What we know from watching The Wire, which I am completely aware is a work of fiction but has been critically acclaimed for its realistic storytelling, is that Baltimore is a narcotics town. Any and all towns that are heavy sources of narcotics are corrupt. Was Jay up to something else, and all this knowledge that he had was a thing about protecting a greater source? Everyone agrees that Jay and Adnan were not friends. But were they business associates? In the last episode, Josh, who was a coworker of Jay’s, attested to the fact that “he was scared” after the murder. He also says that he was afraid “people” were after him, “people” connected to the murderer. Did something go wrong while Jay was borrowing Adnan’s car and she got strangled?

It’s a complete theory. But its a question posed in philosophical justice that recognizes the corrupt relationship between government and organized crime.

Getting away from speculation, it is clear that Adnan’s Muslim identity was used against him. The prosecutor arguing against bail for Adnan tells a wild tale of all these “jilted” “Muslim” and “Pakistani” men who kill their lovers who reject them (because come on, all men of Pakistani descent who are Muslim have fantastic terrorist like connections who can get them out of one of the most policed nations on the planet) and then are never brought to justice.

Throughout Serial, Koenig does a good job of making the point that the American justice system has a clear distinction between the idea of what justice is and what justice actually looks like when enacted properly, what could be called the distinction between political justice and philosophical justice. Justice, to prosecutors, is winning the case. The state having absolute power over its citizenry is justice. This is the political definition of justice. As Koenig points out, the detectives were not incompetent. They followed procedure, and a detective on the podcast says that he probably would have followed the same course of action as the detectives did. Philosophical justice is what Koenig was looking for, who did this and why, and why should we believe this person who constantly lies and by all accounts is a shady character? I don’t like to judge people for how they make their living, but Jay was a criminal because he was a marijuana dealer, but to what extent is unclear. His claim is that Adnan threatened him with going to the police because of what he knew about his drug dealing activity.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that murdering someone is worse than dealing some weed. Even a lot of weed. Jay got a sweetheart of a motherfucking deal, and his lawyer was found for him by the prosecutor. That, as Koenig puts it, “is not a thing”. That is insane, and it is corrupt. I believe that the judge made the wrong call by asserting that Jay didn’t know he was getting a benefit. Jay was not stupid, a liar yes but stupid no. He was “street smart”, as described by one juror. He knew that lawyers are worth money.

But why are we getting political justice instead of philosophical justice? Because political justice is easier. This is so cliche, but anyone who has seen The Wire knows that Baltimore is a gritty city. The murder police there must encounter some truly gruesome things. This murder case looked good from a police perspective looking for political justice, to build the best case possible. The lawyers were going to take care of character assassinating Adnan, and everyone else was going to cover their ass on Jay’s case. Why go through extra steps when the suspect’s case was going to go through successfully.

If Jay is now telling the truth that Adnan showed him the body at his grandmother’s house and not at Best Buy, was this Best Buy story a cover for Jay’s marijuana operation? How big of a dealer was Jay anyway? Why is Jay talking about this grandma trunk pop business now, after the podcast, after all the Reddit.com speculation? Why did the prosecutor give him such an enormously good deal? Was Jay only a marijuana dealer, or was he connected in some way to some important person? Were these kids who were smoking weed, in 1999, maybe getting a little high on heroin in a place where that is somewhat normal? Intelligent people, intelligent adults and teenagers use drugs. This is completely speculative of me. But I’m just sayin’, I wonder these things.

Philosophical justice means exposing some things. Something that always bothered me was that Hae’s body was by all accounts well hidden. On the last episode, Koenig reveals that there is reason to believe that there was a serial killer operating within the Baltimore area at that time targeting Asian women. This would take massive amounts of time, coordination, detail oriented effort, creativity, and man hours to uncover a serial killer. Former chief of the FBI’s Crime Unit John Douglas states that a “conservative estimate” puts the number of active serial killers operating in the United States between 35 and 50. The FBI also cites that strangulation is the most common form of murder for serial killers, with 42.5% of victims strangled. Hae was strangled.

It is possible that Adnan killed Hae. Strangulation is also a very personal way to kill someone, and random lethal domestic violent attacks do happen. But the Kafkaesque maze of analyzing who Adnan is, evaluating which part of what Jay says is the truth or a lie, the entire bizarre situation with the prosecutor and Jay’s lawyer, and this strange observation that according to Koenig, the body was really well hidden, and according to Jay, it doesn’t sound like they put a lot of physical effort into disposing Hae’s body makes me feel like this was a case where political justice won. But an experienced killer would know how to dispose a body so that it would be hard to find and know that Baltimore is a place where many people are murdered.

The only two people who know who killed Hae are Hae and her murderer. And what is so absolutely tragic is when murders get away with murder, like George Zimmerman. But what might be more tragic, is when a man’s life is taken away based upon a narrative about his identity and a story told by an identified liar.

That to me is reasonable doubt.