Happy Fourth of July

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY, AMERICA!

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Things I love about the United States:

1. The regional, cultural, and bio-diversity

2. Apple pie

3. You have most of the NHL hockey teams*

4. The relatively inexpensive gas

5. The incredible national parks

6. A rich, fascinating, complex, painful, triumphant history that I’m really enjoying learning

7. Toni Morrison, Harper Lee, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Maya Angelou, Junot Diaz, Marilynne Robinson, Ernest Hemingway

8. American Netflix

9. The Supreme Court’s (long overdue but no less thrilling) ruling in favour of same-sex marriage

10. The American road trip (when you have 50 states to travel through it’s just more exciting – except maybe Nebraska, sorry NE)

* This point in no ways implies support for US Olympic hockey teams or the Boston Bruins.

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Love Wins

What a great weekend for love. On Friday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote, had this to say on the decision:

“No longer may this liberty be denied,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in the historic decision. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

On Saturday, I had the privilege of witnessing this profoundly moving phenomenon as two of my best friends became husband and wife. Their union was not directly affected by the Supreme Court’s decisions as they are a heterosexual couple and the wedding was in Canada where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2004. Nevertheless, the coincidence that I was attending a wedding the day after marriage equality was achieved in my adopted home country heightened my celebration of both events. I felt overwhelmed with feelings of love and pride for my two friends as I stood next to them while they exchanged their vows. These feelings were made even sweeter by the knowledge that now my gay friends south of the border could have their love affirmed in a similarly legal way.

This weekend was a powerful reminder that love is a powerful force. And that love always wins.

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My Questions for Anti-Immigration Advocates

So this happened today…

Donald Trump is officially running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. Although there is no shortage of reasons why Trump is a terrible candidate (and is therefore unlikely to actually win the nomination) his stance on immigration is particularly troubling. For one, he continues to perpetuate the myth that immigrants “steal jobs” from Americans. Although this idea is a popular rallying cry for those opposed to immigration reform it is not supported by either economic theory or empirical data. In fact, there may be significant economic benefits to enhancing immigration. See this excellent piece by Adam Davidson for further reading.

As a data-loving nerd, the lack of appreciation for empirical evidence is always irksome but what is especially troubling about anti-immigration sentiment is its racist and xenophobic underpinnings. Canada and America are both countries founded by immigrants and built by immigrants. To the detriment of the peoples who came before us and who have experienced systematic mistreatment and cultural genocide at our hands.

So my question to anti-immigration advocates (who are often, though not exclusively, white) is this: Are you prepared to return your land to the Aboriginal people and move back to Europe? Are you willing to offer your property as reparation to those forcibly brought to your country as slaves?

If the answer is no, then perhaps you may want to reflect on your anti-immigration stance because guess what, you’re an immigrant. Maybe you’re not the first generation to settle in Canada or the United States but, given that both of these countries are relatively young in the grand scheme of history, you’re probably only the second or the third.

If Donald Trump, whose mother was born in Scotland and whose paternal grandparents were German immigrants, can become a job creator, why are those arriving to the United States mere decades after his family doing, in his mind, the complete opposite?

If there is an answer to these questions that isn’t rooted in ignorance, bigotry, racism, or xenophobia I’ve yet to hear it.

What I’m Reading About the Baltimore Riots

Several months ago, Michael Brown and Eric Garner died during encounters with police. The horrific nature of their deaths, and the fact that they represent just two of the many black men who experience discrimination and violence at the hands of law enforcement, spawned uprisings in Ferguson and elsewhere. At the time I wrote a post about choosing to listen to this important conversation.

That conversation is on-going and I’m still choosing to do more listening than speaking when I can help it. Although discussion never really died down, it was brought to the forefront of consciousness once again when 25-year-old Freddie Gray died of spinal injuries in policy custody in Baltimore. Once again, I hope that my relative silence on social media and this blog with respect to this conversation and these events is not interpreted as indifference. Rather, it is a recognition that there are far more authentic and expert voices out there that I’m listening to.

Having said that, I couldn’t help but tweet this on Monday which is, at least for now, all I really have to say:

Instead of leaving it there, however, I thought I’d share some links to the best stuff I’ve been reading online about the Baltimore riots. Check it out the non-exhaustive list below.

11 Stunning Images Highlight the Double Standard of Reactions to Riots Like Baltimore
Interesting how the Baltimore residents fighting against discrimination and violence are labeled “thugs” but the (predominantly white) people who riot after winning/losing a sporting event are….what exactly? Many have made this point but Mic’s use of images really drive it home.

29 Moments That Show Another Side Of The Baltimore Riots
Buzzfeed is full of ridiculousness – time-wasting quizzes and inane but addicting commentary on random bits of pop culture (that I read faithfully) – but every once in awhile it does some more serious journalism that is usually quite good. The photos curated above are an example of this.

Hillary Clinton Laments ‘Missing’ Black Men as Politicians Reflect on Baltimore Unrest
Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton offered remarks on the Baltimore riots in which she called for an end to the mass incarceration of black men. Sure, she may be pandering to voters but the fact that she made explicit mention to racial fissures and a broken justice system is significant. Especially considering this is the first substantial policy statement she has made since launching her campaign.

The problem with wanting ‘peace’ in Baltimore
One of the most frustrating reactions to the Baltimore riots has been the invocation of Martin Luther King, Jr. to condemn the protesters. This Waging Nonviolence blog post does an excellent job of tearing that critique down. Even better, it’s written by a Kingian Nonviolence trainer.

Nonviolence as Compliance
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n a similar vein, Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a compelling and eloquent explanation of the problem with calling for non-violence in the midst of systemic violence. As usual, Coates is on point.

Brief Thoughts on Equal Pay Day

It’s Equal Pay Day – a day intended to recognize “how far into the new year the average American woman would have to work to earn what the average American man did in the previous year.” Hashtag activism is surging today via #EqualPayDay. Below is a small sample of Tweets – including Tweets from The White House and the U.S. Labor Department – referencing the gap and demanding equality.

As a feminist, I’m absolutely in favour of the sentiment expressed by these Tweets. But as a feminist, I’m also discouraged by the lack of specificity in these demands. To be fair, hashtag activism doesn’t lend itself well to specificity, but I think we can do better than recycling the “for every dollar a man earns, a woman makes 78 cents” tagline. The statistics regarding the gender pay gap are knotty and not easy to interpret, causing many to declare the wage gap a myth, a bogus statistic. Missing from online activism is acknowledgement that there is some truth to this claim.

Research suggests that women tend to make less than men not because of blatant discrimination but for a variety of other, more complex reasons that are still steeped in sexism but are less overt than the “78 cents” statistic suggests. Issues like society’s perception of women as the default caregivers, lack of paid maternity leave, lack of societal support for paternity leave, confidence gaps, male-dominated professional networks, and occupational choices may account for the wage disparity between men and women. As Hanna Rosin said in her 2013 Slate article, “The point here is not that there is no wage inequality. But by focusing our outrage into a tidy, misleading statistic we’ve missed the actual challenges. It would in fact be much simpler if the problem were rank sexism and all you had to do was enlighten the nation’s bosses or throw the Equal Pay Act at them.”

Which is why I wish #EqualPayDay conversation did more than emphasize the inherent unfairness of pay inequity and instead emphasized the specific changes that are needed to close the gap. It’s easy to talk about the injustice of the wage gap, it’s much tougher to figure out why it persists and take action to change it.

Earlier I Tweeted this:

My point is not to deny that sexism plays a role in the gender pay gap because it does. My point is that we must uncover the particular sexist mechanisms that are causing wage disparity and actively dismantle them. As a starting point, I would love to see #EqualPayDay activists demand not just pay equity but paid maternity leave, support for paternity leave, professional networks for women, or whatever specific proposal they believe to be most valuable. Then the arduous task of turning conversation to action must begin.

It’s Official – She’s Running for President

Hillary Rodham Clinton announced yesterday that she is running for president which should come as a shock to absolutely no one. She made her announcement via the video below.

Some thoughts:

  • If you already like Hillary Clinton then you’ll probably like the video. It’s pretty warm and fuzzy but not too cheesy.
  • As many others have already pointed out, Hillary herself does not appear in the video until 1:30 of the 2:18 minute video. The decision to keep the focus on other people is strategically wise for two reasons. First, it conveys a clear message: Hillary is running as the champion of the middle class and “ordinary Americans.” Second, Hillary has near universal name recognition in the United States so unlike other candidates, she doesn’t need to introduce herself to the American public. It was therefore smart for her to get out of the limelight to reinforce her campaign message.
  • The cast of her video was quite diverse, as it should be.
  • “Little tiny fishiiiiiiiiies…”

  • The logo. Oh the logo. I admit that I find it a little weak. But some of the reactions online are just out of control. No, Wikileaks, she didn’t steal your logo. No, it doesn’t look like a plane going through the twin towers that’s just the way an “H” is shaped (yes people have actually said that but there are multiple links for this one so I don’t want to single one out). No, the fact that the arrow is red doesn’t mean communism for goodness sake. Yes, it points to the right, no, I don’t find that ironic. No, it doesn’t really look like the Cuban flag but if you’re going to point that out shouldn’t you acknowledge that the American flag (and so many other flags out there) looks a bit similar to the Cuban flag? Ugh, enough about the logo.

    Clinton will almost surely get the Democratic nomination even if other candidates emerge but the GOP race is just getting started. As of this morning Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio have announced they are running for president. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker seem poised to run while Chris Christie, Rick Santorus, Rick Perry, and maybe Mike Huckabee also seem like potential candidates. It’s not clear who Clinton’s challenger will be but the race should be fierce.

    I’m often critical of the amount of time and money that is spent on US presidential elections, but I have to admit to feeling a bit excited as election activity slowly ramps up. Fatigue will undoubtedly set in but right now, I’m sitting back and enjoying it.

Run, Hillary, Run (Or Rather… Announce, Hillary, Announce)

There’s one Twitter handle that everyone will be watching this weekend: @HillaryClinton.

According to several sources, Hillary Clinton will announce her candidacy for president this Sunday. According to at least one other source, she will do so via Tweet.

The fact that Hillary Clinton is running for president is no surprise. In fact, at this point it would be shocking if she announced that she isn’t running. Which means that reactions like this are pretty common:

In addition to making me giggle, this Tweet also accurately reflects how I (and many others, I’m sure) feel about the impending announcement. As expected as the announcement may be, however, I’m really looking forward to it so that we can stop speculating about Hillary’s inevitable announcement and start talking about what she offers as a declared candidate and potential president. That conversation should be much more interesting.