Thursday, December 2, 2010

Judge me by the company I keep...

I've just scanned through the Vancouver Police's list of "Wanted" and "Most Wanted" suspects, and fondly recognized no less than five mug-shot individuals (more than double last month's total of two!), wanted for theft and assault, theft and assault times two, drug code violations and breach of probation, possession of stolen property, and "theft, breaking and entering, theft, and fraud," respectively.

Sadly, no one I know has yet to make the elite "Most Wanted" list, which ranks only ten individuals at a time.

Also of interest...there is a wanted person listed solely by the name "Pringle." No crimes or bodily descriptions are mentioned. I think someone at the police station is hungry.

Feeling special because you recognize someone on the Most Wanted list is kind of like feeling special because you used to go to elementary school with a celebrity - you become vicariously special and celebritized because of that person - or in this case, vicariously sad. And you, too, could feel vicariously sad! Check out if you know any wanted criminals today!


American Thanksgiving Weekend has come and gone and so, officially the Christmas season is upon us.

This time of year is many things...a consumerist feeding frenzy which forms the tennant of the Western economy, a perversion of various pagan rituals in support of the Catholic church, an opportunity for kitty cats, everywhere, to eat and then vomit up brightly coloured tinsel. In brings about many a warm-fuzzy feeling it love, or anaphylactic shock brought on my nut-laden fruitcake.

But I like to see Christmas time as an opportunity to take stock of your life. The holiday season, for most of us, brings all the things we love and hate about ourselves and those closest to us into sharp focus, so it’s worth taking note - all the better to appreciate the good things, and revel against the bad.

If, for example, you are currently a student, and consequently brain-deep in a cesspool of papers and exams, then take note. You are an unhappy person. Your life, in general, resembles the sort of scum one finds at the bottom of a wind-swept marshland, and you’d probably rather be licking toilets for a living than writing one more properly formatted footnote. But that’s your life.

Or maybe you’re bogged down by December’s diverse obligatory social gatherings - including family gatherings, which have been known to render adults of otherwise sound mind and judgment into huddled masses of unravelling rage and despair. Unreasonable expectations abound, there’s not enough money or time to appease everyone you care about, and of course there’s that sickening feeling, deep within your gut, knowing that in two week’s time you’re going to come face to face with your much-loathed, commandeering, passive aggressive mother-in-law, Pam.

I don’t have a mother-in-law named Pam - I don’t have a mother-in-law at all. I do have a grandmother who once hit me with a soggy rolled up newspaper and then publicly announced she was disowning me (Christmas 2007), and a stepfather who beat another family over the head with a lead pipe...but no matter.

The point is, take stock. Recognize that certain circumstances are likely to make anyone miserable. And if, like me, you find yourself all by yourself this Christmas season, dropped out of university without even a basic bachelor’s degree, isolated and out of touch with many of your friends, and separated from your nearest relative by a staggering mountain range and about a thousand miles...rejoice.

My Christmas plans include sitting alone, in my apartment, obsessively crocheting tiny animals composed of yarn according to the Japanese art of amigurumi, and watching reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and yes, you can think that I’m sad, but honestly, I’ve never been happier.

In support of my argument...

It’s a seal...or baby walrus, or maybe a fish of some sort...and a turtle!

The Legality of Polygamy, and why it really doesn't matter

Confused? Read this first!

The problem isn’t polygamy. The problem is abusive religious institutions - a problem which our laws are currently ill equipped to face.

Which is why we need new laws. BC judges and political leaders, it’s time to step up to the plate.

Going after religious organizations isn’t an act which will win many friends - most people are opposed to the concept of judges and politicians telling them how to practice their individual faith. If we go after fundamentalist sects of polygamous Mormons, who’s next? Pentecostals and Catholics? Amish people, and Hasidic Jews?

However, even the strongest dissidents can agree that, in extremist religious sects like the polygamous community of Bountiful, BC, something is very wrong. Girls are groomed for sexual contact by elders from an early age. Boys are driven out. Women are told - and believe - that opposing the will of church elders is tantamount to opposing the will of God. And if young girls and women refuse to marry, or decide to leave, they lose absolutely everything - their entire community, family, and their chance at religious salvation - which they’ve been taught to believe is the most valuable thing a person can possess.

So we have to such a context, can anyone give informed consent to marry? And in doing so, does it really matter if you’re becoming a person’s one-and-only, or their sixteenth wife?

Polygamy is a problematic practice, because it is often coupled with abusive communities and scary religious practices. But it in itself is not the problem. Consenting and competent adults can, and likely do, make up their own minds whether they want to share their lives and beds with however many people they choose. One wife? Two? One husband, or six? One wife, one husband, and a transgendered person named Phil? I really don’t care, nor do I want to know the details.

We can’t really know if polygamous marriage is ever a good thing, because the practice is currently outlawed. Functional and competent polygamous couples (er, threesomes? sextuples?), and other non-traditional marriages, are likely to shy away from the limelight, with good reason...the current court cases are proof that the government is not opposed to prosecuting polygamists using existing archaic laws.

Of course they’re only pressing charges against polygamy in order to address the polygamist community’s religious practices...which are abusive and should be illegal, but have little to do with polygamy.

Teaching children that you are a spokesperson for God, and then using that power to engage in sexual relationships with them (whether they are of a consenting age or not) is an obvious and blatant abuse of power. Teaching children that they will lose their entire family, community and salvation if they refuse to consent to a potentially abusive marriage is wrong. Teaching children that they will burn in the boiling lava of Hades for all of eternity if they refuse to believe a very specific religious doctrine, and then using that religious doctrine to compel them to marry, have sex, have children, or make any decision at’s abusive, and it’s wrong.

That last example doesn’t come from the Mormons, who don’t actually believe in Hell, which is nice.

The point being, someone needs to address these abuses of power, in the same way we’ve addressed other abuses of power in the past. Tackling child abuse wasn’t easy, but it was necessary, and we’re all glad that beating your children unconscious is no longer viewed as acceptable parenting. In fact, it’s illegal. Raping your wife is no longer legal. Whipping your wife, servants, and longer legal. Abusing children, spouses, and elders, or failing to report a suspected case of abuse? Illegal.

All with very good reason.

It’s time for our definition of abuse to include abuses of religious power. It’s time to address such issues with enforceable laws, and using those laws to prosecute the leaders of Bountiful.

And then maybe then we could address other forms of abusive religious doctrinarian....

...Wake up, Ivy. This is the real world, and it’s very likely that no justice will arrive for anyone involved in this case, ever. And also, I’m a very jaded person, and its rainy outside, I’m feeling pretty disenfranchised by the existing politico/legal structure at work and powers-that-be....but even so, it’s not reason enough to stop trying.