Sunday, January 23, 2011

Born This Way

I stumbled upon this blog, it's called 'Born This Way.' In the blog's own words, its goal is to provide "A photo/essay project for gay adults (male and female) to submit pictures from their childhood (roughly ages 2 to 12) - with snapshots that capture them, innocently, showing the beginnings of their innate LGBT selves. It's OUR nature, our TRUTH!"

Personally, I am surprised that I have not come across something like this sooner. It's an interesting blog. While it is presented in a lighthearted manner, the objective couldn't be more serious. The author decided to start this blog to counter the right-wing rhetoric that propelled Proposition 8 to success. I challenge any LGBT person who has unaccepting and bigoted relatives to show them this website along with a photograph of himself or herself as a queer child.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, the picture above my post is of me with a childhood friend circa '97 or ' a Spice Girls concert. Born this way, baby!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Name Game

In an equal world there would be no difference between you and I. In an equal world, a person's gender wouldn't matter.

We do not live in an equal world, and we all receive the most fundamental piece of this unequal world right at birth, a name.

Giving people gendered names instantly classifies a baby as a male or female. This identity then dictates what the child will play with, what will be his favorite color, what games she will play on the playground.

As the child moves into adulthood, the gender pressure will only increase. She will be given a range of acceptable careers to choose. He will be expected to show some emotions in a specific way and hide others altogether. She will be told that she can be strong, but expected to still display an underlying of weakness. And when this person dies, the tombstone will have the name that started this whole social process engraved on it, etched in stone.

'Men' and 'Women' are just caricatures. In a manner that is nothing short of totalitarian, our over-culture dictates to us how we are to behave and think based upon our gender. All the while, this tyranny of sorts masquerades as 'normal' and 'human nature.' There has rarely been a more insidious form of oppression. This whole process starts with a person's name-the presumed core of their identity.

I wonder how many couples sitting around me at Thanksgiving will be little more than unions of two gender stereotypes rather sincere unions of two individuals? What will happen to them when their role-playing runs stale? If a person is truly committed to liberation from the dictatorship of culture, then he or she should not give his or her child a name that symbolically sets all the social expectations in motion. They don't say that one in the parenting books.

Obviously we live in a time when some social gender norms and expectations are less rigid. I acknowledge our advances and the increased right to choose our own paths. However, progress must never be mistaken for resolution. Huge gender norms have yet to be dismantled and the need, no the requirement, to give a baby a name that is either a man's name or a woman's is one of them. Actually, it is the first big one.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Will We Ever Get a Millitary Cut?

Included at the end of this three paragraph post is an open letter addressed to Senators Bowles and Simpson of the Bowles-Simpson commission on deficient reduction. Any plan to reduce the crippling national deficit must include military cuts. The letter elaborates on the fact that the origin of our nation's strength lies not in the military but rather the economy.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has called for a rather conservative reduction in military spending to the tune of $200 billion over five years (the federal stimulus was about $800 billion). Given the current political climate, any politician would be hard pressed to convert this recommendation to a bill.

Still, defense cuts and maintaining our absolutely necessary global military dominance are not mutually exclusive. Anyone who has studies American military capabilities knows that our nation is so far ahead of all the others that we can stand to safely make cuts. Anyone who argues against defense cuts is simply not serious about reducing the deficit. Also, frankly, those who would cut health care benefits yet not insist on defense cuts posses a cruel outlook and do not understand what really makes America strong.

"Dear Co-chairman Bowles and Co-chairman Simpson:

We are writing to you as experts in national security and defense economics to convey our views on the national security implications of the Commission's work and especially the need for achieving responsible reductions in military spending. In this regard, we appreciate the initiative you have taken in your 10 November 2010 draft proposal to the Commission. It begins a necessary process of serious reflection, debate, and action.

The vitality of our economy is the cornerstone of our nation's strength. We share the Commission's desire to bring our financial house into order. Doing so is not merely a question of economics. Reducing the national debt is also a national security imperative.

To date, the Obama administration has exempted the Defense Department from any budget reductions. This is short-sighted: It makes it more difficult to accomplish the task of restoring our economic strength, which is the underpinning of our military power.

As the rest of the nation labors to reduce its debt burden, the current plan is to boost the base DOD budget by 10 percent in real terms over the next decade. This would come on top of the nearly 52 percent real increase in base military spending since 1998. (When war costs are included the increase has been much greater: 95 percent.)

We appreciate Secretary Gates' efforts to reform the Pentagon's business and acquisition practices. However, even if his reforms fulfill their promise, the current plan does not translate them into budgetary savings that contribute to solving our deficit problem. Their explicit aim is to free funds for other uses inside the Pentagon. This is not good enough.

Granting defense a special dispensation puts at risk the entire deficit reduction effort. Defense spending today constitutes over 55 percent of discretionary spending and 23 percent of the federal budget. An exemption for defense not only undermines the broader call for fiscal responsibility, but also makes overall budget restraint much harder as a practical economic and political matter.

We need not put our economic power at risk in this way. Today the United States possesses a wide margin of global military superiority. The defense budget can bear significant reduction without compromising our essential security.

We recognize that larger military adversaries may rise to face us in the future. But the best hedge against this possibility is vigilance and a vibrant economy supporting a military able to adapt to new challenges as they emerge.

We can achieve greater defense economy today in several ways, all of which we urge you to consider seriously. We need to be more realistic in the goals we set for our armed forces and more selective in our choices regarding their use abroad. We should focus our military on core security goals and on those current and emerging threats that most directly affect us.

We also need to be more judicious in our choice of security instruments when dealing with international challenges. Our armed forces are a uniquely expensive asset and for some tasks no other instrument will do. For many challenges, however, the military is not the most cost-effective choice. We can achieve greater efficiency today without diminishing our security by better discriminating between vital, desirable, and unnecessary military missions and capabilities.

There is a variety of specific options that would produce savings, some of which we describe below. The important point, however, is a firm commitment to seek savings through a reassessment of our defense strategy, our global posture, and our means of producing and managing military power.

Since the end of the Cold War, we have required our military to prepare for and conduct more types of missions in more places around the world. The Pentagon's task list now includes not only preventive war, regime change, and nation building, but also vague efforts to "shape the strategic environment" and stem the emergence of threats. It is time to prune some of these missions and restore an emphasis on defense and deterrence.

U.S. combat power dramatically exceeds that of any plausible combination of conventional adversaries. To cite just one example, Secretary Gates has observed that the U.S. Navy is today as capable as the next 13 navies combined, most of which are operated by our allies. We can safely save by trimming our current margin of superiority.

America's permanent peacetime military presence abroad is largely a legacy of the Cold War. It can be reduced without undermining the essential security of the United States or its allies.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have revealed the limits of military power. Avoiding these types of operation globally would allow us to roll back the recent increase in the size of our Army and Marine Corps.

The Pentagon's acquisition process has repeatedly failed, routinely delivering weapons and equipment late, over cost, and less capable than promised. Some of the most expensive systems correspond to threats that are least prominent today and unlikely to regain prominence soon. In these cases, savings can be safely realized by cancelling, delaying, or reducing procurement or by seeking less costly alternatives.

Recent efforts to reform Defense Department financial management and acquisition practices must be strengthened. And we must impose budget discipline to trim service redundancies and streamline command, support systems, and infrastructure.

Change along these lines is bound to be controversial. Budget reductions are never easy - no less for defense than in any area of government. However, fiscal realities call on us to strike a new balance between investing in military power and attending to the fundamentals of national strength on which our true power rests. We can achieve safe savings in defense if we are willing to rethink how we produce military power and how, why, and where we put it to use."


Gordon Adams, American University
Robert Art, Brandeis University
Deborah Avant, UC Irvine
Andrew Bacevich, Boston University
Richard Betts, Columbia University
Linda Bilmes, Kennedy School, Harvard University
Steven Clemons, New America Foundation
Joshua Cohen, Stanford University and Boston Review
Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives
Owen R. Cote Jr., Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michael Desch, University of Notre Dame
Matthew Evangelista, Cornell University
Benjamin H. Friedman, Cato Institute
Lt. Gen. (USA, Ret.) Robert G. Gard, Jr., Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
David Gold, Graduate Program in International Affairs, The New School
William Hartung, Arms and Security Initiative, New America Foundation
David Hendrickson, Colorado College
Michael Intriligator, UCLA and Milken Institute
Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Sean Kay, Ohio Wesleyan University
Elizabeth Kier, University of Washington
Charles Knight, Project on Defense Alternatives
Lawrence Korb, Center for American Progress
Peter Krogh, Georgetown University
Walter LaFeber, Cornell University
Richard Ned Lebow, Dartmouth College
Col. (USA, Ret.) Douglas Macgregor
Scott McConnell, The American Conservative
John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago
Steven Metz, national security analyst and writer
Janne Nolan, American Security Project
Robert Paarlberg, Wellesley College and Harvard University
Paul Pillar, Georgetown University
Barry Posen, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Christopher Preble, Cato Institute
Daryl Press, Dartmouth College
David Rieff, author
Thomas Schelling, University of Maryland
Jack Snyder, Columbia University
J. Ann Tickner, University of Southern California
Robert Tucker, Johns Hopkins University
Stephen Van Evera, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Stephen Walt, Harvard University
Kenneth Waltz, Columbia University
Cindy Williams, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

**This letter reflects the opinions of the individual signatories. Institutions are listed for identification purposes only.**

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

(No Title)

I was volunteering my time at an GLBT organization in my state when a recruiter asked me if I was interested in joining a random health spa. He claimed that gay males over 18 and under 30 become free members. I neither trusted the individual nor the 'spa' for which he was recruiting. I was instantly put off because not only was his proposal risky, but I do not appreciate as an individual being socially typecasted. It makes me feel more like an object than a person.

That said, I know how a man trying to convince a young woman into joining such a spa would be perceived. I feel this particular comparison puts this ordeal into perspective.

Now just to make sure that I do not paint an entire community with the same broad brush, I know that many in the gay community do not accept behavior such as the above (obviously!!).

All the same, I think a dialogue is in order-at least in that one organization.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why Do You Say That?

At work tonight, I had a discussion with my co-worker (more like a venting session) about having to implement a very specific telephone survey geared towards African-American males over 18. It was hard because no one was getting respondents easily over the phone.

In the course of the conversation I said to my white co-worker "the fact that we are only asking for African-Americans makes this number of respondents so small" to which she interjected "yeah as if they would even own phones."

Upon realizing the topic of this conversation now took a racist turn, I simply remained calm and ask "what do you mean by that?" I thought asking that simple question would simultaneously maintain decorum and reveal the statement for racist comment it truly was.

It worked, the woman apologized and the awkward situation ended.

I firmly believe that just calmly asking "why do you say that?" to a person who has just made a bigoted statement is the best way to begin to get your message across. Effective dialogues can only begin through benign patience by the person initiating it, even if the bigoted person isn't worthy of it.