Parenting

“I Turned Out Just Fine” Part I- Spanking IS Assault.

Posted on January 3, 2014. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Children, Parenting, Personal, Politics, Religion, Social Justice |

Spanking children is assault.
It’s not “technically not assault” or “similar to assault“- it is assault.

Image credit: HA! Designs/Creative Commons

Image credit: HA! Designs/Creative Commons

If you physically discipline your child in a way that would be legally assault if you did it to me or any other adult- then you have assaulted your child.

This is not “poisoning the well” for a discussion of spanking.  This is a plain definition of what it is.  In many jurisdictions spanking doesn’t meet the legal definition of assault- but it fulfills every characteristic of “assault” that we would apply to the agreed use of the word.  The only thing that changes “reasonable discipline” to “assault” is the relationship of the victim to his/her attacker and not being old enough to have a reasonable right to personal security.
I’ll say that again: Our society has a magical age at which you have a reasonable right to personal security.

Before you reach this magical age, you still have- in most every jurisdiction in the Western world- this right unless your attacker happens to be your parent.  If it is a teacher?  Assault.  If it is a coach?  Assault.  The parent of a friend? Assault.

If I say to you “My child spoke back to me so I bent them over my knee and smacked their ass with an open hand”- that statement is totally fine, legally permissible and called “spanking”
If I change “My child” to “My wife”, or “My employee”- it is assault.
If I change “My child” to “My prisoner” (if I were a jail guard), or “My student” (if I were a teacher), or “My perpetrator” (if I were a police officer)- it is assault.

For crying out loud….if I change “My” to “Your”- it is bloody well assault.

What is it about being a parent that allows you to be justified in doing something that is assault if you do it to anybody else?  What is it about the legal definition of “parent” that absolves you of wrongdoing if you spank YOUR child, as opposed to SOMEBODY ELSE’S child?

Most of my posts are long, well researched and thoroughly argued cases for a view I hold.  This time, I would like to give people the opportunity to argue why I am wrong and our culture is right on this issue before I write my follow up post.  I will follow this up with a post on why I think spanking is counterproductive, potentially harmful, unreasonable and should be outlawed.  For the time being, I want to defend solely my position that whether it is a useful tool, whether it is helpful, whether “good” parents are “strict” parents- spanking is assault for anybody but parents spanking underage children, and consequently that there is nothing magical about “parents” that absolves them from this definition.

Links to follow up posts will be added to this article as necessary, and I have a possible “guest post” from a blogger who disagrees.
Feel free to post arguments for or against here or on my Facebook.

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On Marriage, Part 1: Whereby a Father Explains Marriage To His Son In A Conservative Dystopia

Posted on April 13, 2013. Filed under: Atheism, Forward Thinking, Humour, Parenting, Personal, Religion |

This is Part 1 of my two part contribution to the Forward Thinking project  on this months topic “What Does Marriage Mean To You?”  The Forward Thinking Project is an amazing online community project started by Libby Anne of Love, Joy, Feminism and Daniel Finke of Camels With Hammers.  For more information or how you can contribute click on the links above.

Part 1 is a satirical imagined conversation between a father and son regarding the meaning of marriage.  For my personal feelings on what marriage means to me, please check out Part 2.

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Son:  Dad, What is Marriage?

Father: Oh boy.  Is it really that time already?  I’ve been dreading “the talk” since the day you were born…..

Son: Really Dad?  You are aware that I am seventeen, right?  I mean, I thought that “the talk” was about sex and stuff- we never had that talk either……

Father:  And we never will, son; we never will.  Sex is a conversation you need to have after an awkward and humiliating honeymoon with your equally clueless wife.  It’s the way God intended.

Son: I did hear a bit about it from friends at school.  Well, the ones who got permission from their parents to attend the “Commitment Classes” that the Priest came in for.  Why didn’t I get permission to go to that again?

Father: He was Catholic and I didn’t want you to start questioning the degree of your depravity, I thought we went over this.  Can we get back to marriage?

Son: Sure.

Father: You see, son, as we all know- the government owns a woman’s vagina.  One day, when you are older and ready to breed, you are going to meet a woman who makes you want to pray a little harder to Jesus for the strength to overcome sexual sin- and this is the time you are going to contemplate marriage.  When you are ready, you will complete a three way transaction between the woman’s father (her owner), the government (the owner of her vagina), and yourself (the prospective owner and lessee).  Essentially you are seeking a licence from the government to transfer ownership from her father to yourself as well as secure a lease of the woman’s vagina from the government.  My wedding was beautiful…..

Son:  That doesn’t sound all that beautiful, dad.

Father: But it is, son, it is!  There is nothing better than a wedding- it’s one of those “milestone moments” in your life- like showing off your first muscle car to your buddies.  You wax her all up, get’er real shiny, then burn rubber around the neighbourhood to let everyone know who’s got a new set of wheels….

Son: Are you talking about Mom?

Father: Sorry, got carried away.  Did I ever tell you I had a ’74 Charger with a 318? God I loved that car…….

Son:  Don’t people get married for love?

Father:  No! Who told you that?  Love has nothing to do with marriage.  Just think about it- if you could just marry ANYTHING you loved, then men would just go around marrying their favourite dog, or their mom, or even another man!  Heck, I’d be married to a ’74 Charger.    Love is just a pleasant bonus in a marriage, like finding a $10 bill in a pair of jeans you bought at the Goodwill.

Son: So you didn’t love mom when you married her?

Father:  Is she in the room right now? ….Yes, of course I did.  Love can be something to consider when you get married- I’m just saying it isn’t definitional to a marriage.  People who don’t love each other get married all the time.

Son: Then why do they read 1Corinthians at weddings?

Father:First, Paul wasn’t writing that about marriage.  Second, you remember when you were a kid and you had a dental appointment that you didn’t want to go to, so I told you there was candy in the car so that you would go with me- and then I bought you a Blizzard afterwards because I felt guilty for lying to you?   It’s kind of like that.  And by “kind of like that” I mean it’s exactly like that.

Son:  This is all quite confusing and depressing, Dad.  I don’t think I want to get married…

Father: I know son.  I blame the liberals.  Do you want to see pictures of me with my ’74 Charger?

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Meaning In A Time Of Mourning: Secular Celebration of a Life Well Lived

Posted on January 30, 2013. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Forward Thinking, Parenting, Personal, Religion |

This post is my contribution to the Forward Thinking project, an amazing online community project started by Libby Anne of Love, Joy, Feminism and Daniel Finke of Camels With Hammers.  For more information or how you can contribute click on the links above.  The topic of interest this time is “Mourning Death Collectively”.

Forward-Thinking-3-1024x253

When my Grandfather passed away two years ago, I sat in the chapel of the funeral home where his service was held and listened to a Minister deliver a eulogy to a man he had never met.  My Grandfather was not a religious man- at least not in my lifetime.  He was clever, kind, jovial, and gentle; he was the kind of man that made a room light up with his presence.  He never talked about God, and he never went to church.

The Minister did an admirable job of ducking and weaving; he recounted the life of a man who left so much love in the hearts of those he touched, a man whose life had purpose and meaning, a man whose life seemed bursting with grace and bereft of God.

The Minister had clearly done his homework; he had spent several hours during the days leading up to the service talking to several of the friends and relatives who would be in attendance.  He had cornered me on the day of the funeral- asking me to share the memories I had and the things I might miss most now that my Grandfather was gone.  He listened attentively to the stories of going to visit my Grandpa on the farm he had worked at when I was little; how I was thrown ten feet by a sheep that took exception to my petting her lamb.  Stories of him taking me up to the top story of the barn to look through all the arched doors, stained glass and cast iron fixtures collected over a lifetime of renovating century homes and landmarks with his construction company, of giving me my sense of wonder and a love of architecture and history.  What I would miss most about my Grandpa, I said, was how he would always have a magic trick or two to show us when we sat around drinking coffee; he would confound everyone with his sleight of hand, showing us the same trick over and over as we tried desperately to figure out how he did it.

During the eulogy, the Minister recalled this story of my Grandfather and the magic tricks.  Being the rhetorical magician that most Ministers are, he took the moment to try and teach us a faith lesson about how a man can be so close to the beauty of religion without ever actually expressing it in words.  The Minister seized upon this moment, telling us all that here was a man who loved the mystery- who embraced the illusion; here was a man who saw that there was something more to things than what lies at the surface.  Isn’t that what faith is about?  Isn’t it about trusting that there are reasons that lie beneath everything that we see, even when it is not visible to the eye?

There was a part to the story of my Grandpa and his magic tricks that the Minister had left noticeably absent from his retelling.  The reason I liked those tricks was that after frustrating over so many of the solutions, and admittedly solving very few of them on my own, my Grandpa would show me how it was done.  He would slow it down, take special care to make me aware of his hands and what they were doing- and expose the illusion as just that: an illusion.  My Grandfather loved the mystery, yes.  What I want to think he valued more was watching me solve the puzzle; he wanted me to look past the surface and see that there was no magic there other than what he had wanted me to see.  I like to think that my Grandfather did much to train my mind to break an illusion down into simple, explainable steps and not get caught up in what seemed to be the implausible.

Maybe this Minister thought that in a moment of grief that none of us would give much thought to what can only be described as the worst analogy ever.  Maybe he thought it was just a cute segue from a personal story to the conciliatory platitudes of his faith.  I wanted to laugh.  I thought to myself that my Grandfather had played one last sleight of hand that day- he had let a rhetorical magician build an illusion; he watched as I carefully examined the sleight of hand and exposed the trick.  My Grandfather respected illusions, but he always wanted you to be in on the sleight of hand.

As we gather together to celebrate the lives of those who are close to us, it will increasingly be the case that we will have these confused mash-ups of religious tradition and secular culture.  Funerals are, of course, for the living and not for the dead.  At this moment in time we have families and communities that are not, as we were perhaps a half century ago, religious monoliths.  It was the case with my Grandfather that his funeral was religious more because the people who planned it were religious and not because he would have wanted it that way.  I was in the minority in that room, and I’m in some sense glad that the Minister was able to balance those religious platitudes with an honest acknowledgement that my Grandfather was not one to suffer religious hand-wringing.  Increasingly though, there will be more and more people like me who are grieving more and more people like my Grandpa.  As our society shifts farther toward the irreligious, those traditional ceremonies will be increasingly less relevant to both the mourners and the memory of those being mourned.  The religious people delivering eulogies, too, will feel the pressures of the tightrope walk between not disparaging the dead and the honest acknowledgement of what their faith says lies ahead for those who “turn their back on God”.

It was amusing for me to watch a religious man wax poetic about how downright godly my atheist Grandfather was.  I wonder, too, if these moments take hold in the imaginations of the religious mourners who must be torn between reality and faith.  How can a man who has done so much good be destined for eternal torment?  Why should my belief in Jesus be the difference between everlasting bliss or punishment?  Is there no value to being a positive light if that light doesn’t give all credit to God?   In death the assumptions of religion come to loggerheads with the reality of a life well lived- for every person who tastes their own mortality perhaps another will see how simple it is to live on. Mourning is a cathartic moment and each of us has unique and meaningful experiences.

With the death of those closest to us comes the cold realization of mortality and the inevitable questions about the meaning of life, consciousness, and what lies beyond.  These questions are the bread and butter of religion- many a person has taken comfort and refuge in the idea that corporeal existence is merely a springboard to the eternal.  I don’t believe that we are all taking part in some “cosmic audition” for a role in eternity.  I don’t believe that my life can be boiled down to a job interview for my spiritual career.  I don’t find those ideas compelling or even desirable- but so many of us do. I would rather a compelling explanation over a desirable one- but for me religion offers neither.   This doesn’t mean that I don’t think that atheism has a compelling or even a desirable narrative to offer those of us struggling with mortality, grief and the meaning of life.  I think we have both.  Life is transitory, death is not; it is not a path to something that transcends it.  This is all we have, and all we ever will have.  We need to make the most of our time under the sun.  I was not aware before I came into this world and I will have no awareness once I leave it.  Compelling? Yes.  Desirable? Perhaps not.

This is just one part of the narrative of life, though; we do afford ourselves some measure of immortality.  The lives that we touch and the differences we make will outlive us and outlive their contemporaries.  We do get to be a part of the eternal.  My Grandfather was a product of those who touched him and the culture of his time- and he in turn touched my life and the lives of so many others.  The buildings he built still stand; and they will be here long after I am gone.  His life was bursting with meaning- and he was just a construction worker and farmhand.  He was infinitely special and nothing special at all.  So am I; so are you.  We leave an eternal footprint deep and tangible, regardless of whether we are giants or mere men.  We are the only known species to have a robust understanding of history and culture, and these things will make us immortal for better or for worse.  So be better, not worse.

That, to me, is a desirable way to live- and to live on.

Funerals can and should be an opportunity to reflect on the ways that the mourned have changed us- and in so doing have changed the world.  We ought to be sharing the value of a life that will transcend its corporeal limits.  I’d like for my funeral to be a time where my friends and family share the ways that my life gave them something that cannot die.  I’d like it if we all took the time to think about a life well lived and share that message with others.

If there is one thing that I believe important to take away from the grief of losing someone who was close to us- if there is something that we ought to take away from our mourning and build upon- it is that our lives are not strings that are measured and cut by the Fates. Our lives are braids that are woven with every other person we come into contact with.  Even after our string has come to its end, that braid goes on in perpetuity through those we have allowed ourselves to be tied to.  If we take the time to change the course of others around us, we don’t die- we just take a well earned rest.  My Grandfather taught me to see wonder- he taught me to appreciate architecture and history- he made me open my eyes and question what I saw.  I will take those lessons and teach my children, and they in turn will give those lessons to others.

My Grandpa isn’t really dead, because his life has shaped my own.

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2012: The Year That Was……

Posted on January 7, 2013. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Children, Parenting, Personal |

blogging1Two years ago at about this time, I had a roundup of my blogging year.   The blog was 7 months old, I was just making the transition from being a “longtime commenter” to being my own blogger, and the whole enterprise was fresh and exciting.

In seven months I had written 40 posts, had 215 comments, my busiest day was 69 pageviews and the blogging world was my oyster.

By this time last year I had published 83 total posts, had 1183 comments (well, half that- since that counts my comments, and I almost always respond), my busiest day was 270 pageviews.

In a whole year I had mustered 43 posts.

This year, I managed just 21 posts, had 193 comments (again, half that), and had a post go semi-viral netting me my best-ever day of 477 pageviews.

In short, 2012 was a blogging flop for me.  I had little motivation to write and I went from having almost 100 regular visits a day down to a pretty steady 20 visits the past few months.

What The Hell Happened?

Here’s the thing:  I don’t know exactly what happened.  There are a few contenders for my bout of  “Creative Depression”- as Glendon Mellow called it in the great post he had recently about his struggles with it.  The best way to explain why I have been largely absent from blogging is to do the opposite of what I did two years ago when I posted that first “Year In Review”.  The best way to explain it is to avoid stats and figures- the best way to explain it is to get personal.

So here is my “Year In Review”- the one that really matters.   Here is a list of ups and downs in 2012- things that distracted me, enthralled me, or annoyed me.  This is the year that was…….

  1. I welcomed my second daughter (and fifth child) into the world.  Geneva Belle Blanche Waye was born
    genny

    She gets her hair from her mom……

    on January 6th, 2012.  Having kids never gets old.  It gets expensive, but it never gets old.

  2.  I lost my job in February.  Not the best timing, I must confess.  The good news is that I found another job pretty quickly at a place I had worked before.  Being unemployed gets old fast…..
  3. During the break between jobs, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be the guest blogger at Le Cafe Witteveen for my friend Jeremy.  What an amazing experience, and proof positive that I can be a regular blogger- so long as I am motivated by my duty to a friend.
  4. My laptop got FUBAR’d.  This is what happens when you let your 12 year old son complete the trifecta of clicking happily on any link he sees, leaving the laptop in places my 4 year old son can reach it (and proceed to rip 1/2 the keys off), and then stress the charging port until it doesn’t charge any longer.  I had to switch to my “emergency laptop” running XP, with 1GB RAM, no webcam, and no mic.  I’m not entirely sure if we are spoiled by technology in 2012 or if we just patiently suffered through horrible technology in 2005.
  5. I turned my Facebook into an atheist networking bonanza.  Thanks to Dan Finke (If you don’t know who he is, you should) I was able to become “friends” with a bunch of people who identify as atheists.
  6. The atheist community forecast was upgraded (or downgraded) from a tempest in a teapot to a shitstorm in a shallow pool.
  7. I joined Twitter (yay!!!!)- then proceeded to cause a major rift in my family by tweeting my anger about the way Islam treats women (boo…)

    Who has two thumbs and is about to alienate his whole family? This guy.

    Who has two thumbs and is about to alienate his whole family? This guy.

  8. My brother got married and I did not go to the wedding (For an explanation, see #7).
  9. I became obsessed with atheist moral theory.
  10. I wrote a popular post about Tone Trolling
  11. I co-founded (and then completely ignored- sorry about that!) a skeptics group in my hometown.
  12. I got deeper into the Scouting movement, becoming the leader of my son’s Cub pack.  (They don’t officially allow atheists, but, hey….)

So those are some of the important and/or annoying and/or enraging moments of this past year for me.  Not all of them are responsible for my lack of blogging, and ultimately it is myself that I have to blame.

My next post is going to tease you (yes, you) about what to expect from me in the New Year.  I’m going to have some blogging resolutions, and some totally unspecific/ mysterious announcements of things that are in the works for me over the next year.

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I Had Hope For The World- Then This Happened……

Posted on July 2, 2012. Filed under: Abortion, Atheist Ethics, Parenting, Personal, Politics, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Religion, Science, Social Justice |

The Catholic Church wants to party like it’s 1399.  Seriously.

There is a new ad campaign launched by a Catholic blogger that wants to make birth control “like,

Yes, HYSTERICAL- and by “hysterical” I mean an attitude causing a disturbance of the uterus

so lame” to the hip, impressionable young Catholics (and your kids, too!) out there.

Speaking as a parent, this is infuriating.  Speaking as a humanist, it is disappointing.  Speaking as a skeptic, it is indefensibly dishonest.

Here’s the scoop, from Claudia at Friendly Atheist:

Fellow Patheos blogger Marc Barnes over at Bad Catholic has realized why the Catholic mandate against contraception enjoys such pitiful support amongst American women.

It’s not because it’s an archaic, unrealistic standard that turns couples — and particularly women — into slaves of their own biology despite the existence of readily available alternatives. The actual problem is that it hasn’t been sold in a sufficiently attractive package.

Enter the new website 1Flesh, which seeks to sell 19th century ideas (12th? 1st?) in a 21st century package, Facebook page and all. According to Barnes, its purpose is “documenting the silliness that is artificial contraception, a grassroots movement promoting great, natural sex to the entire universe.” He then cites a list of “facts” that range from outright false to outrageously misleading.

Read on….

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JC Penney: More Than Just Ignoring “One Million Moms”

Posted on June 6, 2012. Filed under: Children, Parenting, Personal, Politics, Religion, Social Justice |

A few months back One Million Moms, a group whose members number in the thousands, launched a campaign to boycott retail giant JC Penney if the company refused to dump spokesperson and openly gay celebrity (also, one of my favorite people) Ellen DeGeneres.  This came just a few months after a group had succeeded in pressuring Lowes Home Improvement Centers to end their sponsorship of the show All American Muslim.

The difference this time is that JC Penney didn’t dump Ellen as their spokesperson.  No, this time, they did something epic.  Instead of crack under pressure, JC Penney decided to make a concerted effort to do the opposite.

Check out their Father’s Day ad ………

Ad Copy reads: first pals- What makes Dad so cool? He’s the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver — all rolled into one. Or two. Real-life dads, Todd Koch and Cooper Smith with their children Claire and Mason.

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Bill 13: Ontario Picks A Fight With Bullies. The Bullies Fight Back.

Posted on June 4, 2012. Filed under: Atheist Ethics, Canadian Politics, Children, Parenting, Personal, Politics, Religion |

Ontario will sometime today have a final reading for some of the most comprehensive anti-bully legislation in

Is this supposed to be insulting?

history.  Bill 13, known as the Accepting Schools Act, aims to amend the Education Act in our province to define and address bullying in schools. 

Bill 13 does an admirable job of defining the concept of bullying.  Section 1(1)(ii)(b) even explicitly addresses the concept of power imbalance. 

1.  (1)  Subsection 1 (1) of the Education Act is amended by adding the following definition:

“bullying” means aggressive and typically repeated behaviour by a pupil where,

  (a)  the behaviour is intended by the pupil to have the effect of, or the pupil ought to know that the behaviour would be likely to have the effect of,

           (i)  causing harm, fear or distress to another individual, including physical, psychological, social or academic harm, harm to the individual’s reputation or harm to the individual’s property, or

          (ii)  creating a negative environment at a school for another individual, and

  (b)  the behaviour occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance between the pupil and the individual based on factors such as size, strength, age, intelligence, peer group power, economic status, social status, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, family circumstances, gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, disability or the receipt of special education; (“intimidation”)

This definition goes a long way toward explaining how privilege plays a part in bullying- the difference between “punching up” and “punching down”.

Ontario may be the first jurisdiction in North America to enshrine programs to address equity and inclusiveness in education that explicitly includes a comprehensive spectrum of sexual identity- including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited, intersex, queer and questioning.  In those exact words.

During the public consultation process, it was brought to the attention of the government that extra-curricular and social groups helped to foster an environment of tolerance, understanding and inclusiveness for marginalized groups- and that students have had problems at their schools attempting to organize clubs and social groups that include LGBTTIQ issues.  To this end the government included in the legislation provisions to give interested students the right to start Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) within their school.  It also closed a loophole in previous drafts that would have allowed schools to refuse to allow students to name these groups “”gay-straight alliances”. 

Bullies To Province: “Only We Get To Define A Group By Narrow Criteria”

So by now I have given away the punchline- you already know who stands opposed to the new anti-bullying legislation.  Just to give a little more context though, let me tell you a little more about education in Ontario….

Ontario has a Constitutionally protected  publicly funded Catholic school board.  This protection is, funny enough, the result of an agreement at the time of Confederation that was designed to acknowledge the privilege of being a Protestant in the province and to give some bit of cultural real estate to a marginalized group.  It was enshrined in Section 93 of the British North America Act in 1867- it was protected by section 29 of the Charter in 1982.  Since 1867, of course, the naturally privileged Protestant schools in Ontario have all disappeared in favor of secular education while the Constitutionally protected Catholic minority has been allowed to keep their schools religious

Poor, poor, parents. This new law completely infinges on their right to create second-generation ignorance.

focus.  Now, the minority that has benefited so greatly by laws designed to level the privilege playing field is shouting at the top of their lungs to avoid giving another minority protection under the law.  “This is not something that needs to be protected under the law”, they say.  “There is no good that will come from laws focusing on protecting one minority more than all the other disadvantaged groups”, they argue.

Perhaps they are right.  There is reason to believe that well-intentioned laws have unintended negative consequences- we have precedent.  One need look no further than the protections we afforded to the Catholic church regarding denominational education back in 1867.

The problem with this argument, of course, is that Bill 13 doesn’t focus solely on LGBTTIQ bullying.  It points to them by name- as a group that has struggled most with acceptance within the school system.  Bill 13 addresses a problem unique to this group when looking to organize extra-curricular groups sanctioned by the school board.  It does these things, for sure, yet it still addresses the power of privilege and the roadmap to making headway in the fight against bullying.   Why does it focus on LGBTTIQ rights when so many other underprivileged groups also suffer at the hands of bullies?  Because the rot of ignorance and ambivalence extends beyond the hormone-swelled students and into the faculty and administration.  It is necessary to spell this out for even the adults in the system. 

When I went to high school, I was not at the bottom of the pecking order- but I certainly wasn’t near the top.  I was called a “fag” for two whole school years because I stood up to a homophobic asshat of a teacher.  Oh, and I was in Drama. Also, the Tennis Team-so I was pretty much “asking for it”.

  You know what though?  I was an “artsy geek”, and I wasn’t entirely alone.  I had teachers who befriended me- and helped to make a difference in my life.  So did the “MtG geeks”, who had a Staff Advisor who was into D&D as a teen.  So did the “Mathletics/Chess Club/Brainer geeks”, who had staff who had been there themselves.  Who did the gay kids have?  Sure, they fit into other groups.  Groups that probably still marginalized them, and staff who probably didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to them.  Hell, I was in the Drama Club- that seeming safe haven for homosexuality.  We had (that I know of) two closeted gay guys, one bi-curious (at least openly) guy, another who was lifestyle-queer(but swore he was totally straight) and a bunch of girls who made out with each other at parties.  Pretty gay, right?  Well the one guy who was closeted got called “Princess” by many of the members, and the other one quit after one year when it was apparent that we were just as hostile as the sports clubs.  The bi-curious guy was one of my best friends- and I am ashamed to say that I occasionally chastised him for being a bit too “homo” in public. The other guy prided himself on being called gay- at least outwardly.  I will tell you that our group was probably the most “gay friendly” you could get in high school.  I will also tell you that I wouldn’t trade my hetero-privileged life for theirs.  It was still a shitty time for them. 

So to me, Bill 13 is very important legislation.  Will it end bullying?  Nope.  Will it make high school easy?  No.  Will it give bullied kids a real avenue to address the daily torture they face? Yes.  Will it give some much needed shelter to the queer community from the privilege of a hetero-centered and homophobic school system?  Yes…and it should. 

The public hearings on Bill 13 were a  three-ring circus.  There were accusations that Gay-Straight Alliances were “sex clubs”.  People testified that schools would have forced GSA’s even if no students were interested- it was mandated. 

Why would people be so ridiculously misinformed about this legislation?  I’ll give you a guess…..

  O.K., still not sure?  Here’s a hint.

It’s a group.  A group who has the word “Family” in their name.  Are you surprised?

  Go check out their site.  It’s a real prize.

You Know How To Terrorize A Kid?  Make Up Shit That Could Plausibly Be True- Tell Everyone, Repeat.  How Do You Attack Anti-Bully Legislation?  Do The Same…..

Here is a couple of tips for those who want to kill this bill.

  • If you are going to write to your Liberal or NDP MPP to tell them how unbelievably horrible this legislation is, you might start by not using the epically ridiculous form e-mail offered by the Family Coalition Party.  You know that MPP that you are writing? Yeah. About that.  He/She has read the bill. She knows what it does and doesn’t say and do. Why does she know this?  Because she read the fucking bill!  Hell, she might have actually assisted in drafting it.  Don’t piss on someone’s leg and tell them it’s raining.
  • If you are going to testify before committee-and I’m dead serious here- read the bill!  Know what it says.  Know what it doesn’t say.  Point out something clever, like the fact that a Staff Advisor may be required to oversee a GSA against their religious principles.  Don’t make shit up.  Don’t tell them that it is a sex club.  Or that kids are going to be forced to join GSAs.  Or that “gay kids don’t get bullied any more than other groups”.  That’s patently false.
  • If you are an opposition MPP, don’t write a letter telling people a whole gaggle of bald-faced lies and logically disjointed arguments in an effort to sway opinion.  It makes you look even more ignorant when you are expected to know better.
  • If you are the opposition Conservatives- for the love of all that is sacred in this universe- do not introduce a competing bill that has multiple clauses stating “this legislation means absolutely fuck all”.  The point of legislation is to legislate something.  As near as I can tell, Bill 14 only actually legislates “Bullying Awareness  and Prevention Week”.  Everything else is just polite suggestions.  For those who have better things to do with their lives than read Conservative toothless platitudes, let me sum it up in my revised preamble, then just click the link above and scroll to  sections 303.1 (2), 303.2(5), and 303.2(7).

Preamble

Bullying, particularly in schools, has become an increasing problem in Canada. Victims of bullying have suffered mental anguish, bodily injury and even death at the hands of their tormentors.  We as a society must at least feign concern, or else people might say we are heartless.

Bullying is a problem we don’t really want to solve. It can leave children with painful emotional and mental scarring and a lifelong struggle with self-esteem- but it also teaches some good life lessons.  Like what to expect under a Conservative Government. 

Bullies suffer as well, since bullying may be indicative of deeper psychological and emotional problems. Children who bully more frequently experience psychological problems later in life, such as aggressive tendencies and occasional symptoms of depression. Childhood bullies often display the same types of behaviour as adults and are found to be more likely to harass co-workers or commit spousal, child or senior abuse.  So why are you picking on the poor bullies?  They are only carrying out the natural social order.  It is in this spirit that we introduce this anti-bully legislation.  As a Government, we must send an ambiguous but public message that bullying can go on as usual, but we kind of don’t really like it.  School officials must have tools in place, other than themselves, that they can use to consider, then disregard if they find cumbersome or inconvenient. 

We need anti-bullying legislation that is going to take steps to fix a problem that has been- and will continue to be- with us since we came down from the trees.  No one is saying that Bill 13 is going to end bullying.  It is going to put the burden on teachers and administrators to act and intervene.  It is going to make it illegal to brush it aside as the natural order.  It is going to allow students to be proactive in reaching out to fellow students who need a safety net.  It is going to allow students to do something about the ignorance and misinformation that exists around a certain flavour of being different. 

Bill 13 may be the warning shot in the battle to remove public funding of the Catholic School Board in Ontario- but it won’t be the Province that does them in.  It will be themselves.  It will be a group that benefited from a gift of synthetic privilege that can’t see the reason for helping their own marginalized students.  It will be a Church that wants to be the piglet that insists on being fed well without ever having to walk to the trough. 

In Ontario, from now on at least, schools will be places that aren’t endemically homophobic, transphobic, or biphobic.  It will be there, for sure, but the ignorance and hatred will be swimming against a current of tolerance.  I couldn’t be happier.

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Canada has issues too……

Posted on February 28, 2012. Filed under: Canadian Politics, Children, Parenting, Personal, Politics, Social Justice |

I’m going to send you a link to a story from the Toronto Star.  Be prepared to first shout “WTF?”, then be immensely angry, then shout “No, Srsly……WTF?”

The story is here.

A Kitchener father is angry at police after he was arrested at his child’s school and later strip-searched at the police station, all because his 4-year-old daughter drew a picture of a gun in class.

“I’m picking up my kids and then, next thing you know, I’m locked up,” Jessie Sansone, 26, said of his ordeal on Wednesday. “I was in shock. This is completely insane.”

The school principal, police and child welfare officials, however, all stand by their actions. They say they had to investigate to determine whether there was a gun in Sansone’s house that children had access to.

My favorite line in the whole article?

After he was released, Sansone was asked to sign a paper authorizing a search of his home. He signed, even though he didn’t have to, he said.

So yeah, they got him to sign a paper authorizing the search they had already performed.  You know, so that he can’t sue them.  This is monumentally ridiculous.  I wish I had Ed Brayton on my Facebook.  He’d get a kick out of this.

In the same local newspaper I found this news story, there was a great piece on the front page interviewing our Chief of Police about Bill C-30 (A Canadian Bill that would force ISP’s to keep data on their customers internet usage that police could access on request).  He made it clear that he supports the initiative.

You know, because police would never overreach their authority or abuse their power.

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Speaking of Children……..

Posted on February 27, 2012. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Children, Parenting, Personal |

Many of my readers know that I have children.  Some may not.  In a comment thread over at Lousy Canuck, it was mentioned by more than one commenter that there was a dearth of atheists blogging about parenting and the intersection of parenthood and skepticism. At that moment it struck me- why do I never blog about fatherhood or the challenges and rewards of parenting?

I mean… in my life outside the internet, I am regularly accused of spending an inordinate amount of time talking about my kids.  I excuse myself of it by explaining how very much of my time is actually spent with my kids- and how I might have very little to add to any conversation if you held “off limits” the majority of my waking hours for the last 12 or so years. Yet if you came to this blog and read every post without ever clicking the “about” tab, you likely would have no idea that I am the father of five (yep, you read that right, FIVE) kids.

I assumed that since many of my readers don’t have kids, and no other bloggers were really talking about parenting, that it was a subject that was of little importance in the skeptical community.  I assumed that on a scale of relevance for the average atheist, children were ranked slightly higher than baseball scores but merely a fraction of LOL Kittens.  It turns out that some people actually want to discuss parenting and children with like minded atheists.  Huh. Who knew?

Now that I think about it, virtually every blog I frequent has some co- or sub-theme to atheism that I find less than interesting to me.

For example, Jeremy over at Cafe Witteveen (the first stop on my daily blog rounds) has many interests outside of atheism that I find fascinating- photography and cooking are a few examples.  On the other hand, I tend to skip over Caturday posts and feel ambivalent about Wednesdog.

Likewise, when I visit Jason over at Lousy Canuck I enjoy his posts about old school Nintendo games and physics- but tend to avoid posts about Ubuntu or how to hack source code.  At Dan’s blog, Camels With Hammers, I love all things philosophy and Star Wars but skip over some of his questionable music suggestions.

Anyway, you get the picture.

I have been running a pretty shallow blog for almost two years now.  I never took the time to consider that maybe a blog is a place to do more than rant about how wrong someone else is on the internet.  (Don’t worry, I’m still gonna do that)  I’ve spent the last two years writing opinion pieces at the expense of really injecting myself into my blog.

So, as of today, that all changes.  My blog is going to be anchored to atheism, devoted to skeptic and rational thought, and be about how I apply skepticism and atheism where the rubber meets the road.

I’m still ironing out the details.  Do I use the names of my kids? (probably not)  Do I change certain details to maintain some sense of privacy? (likely)

Expect posts that speak directly to my experience raising kids who are engaged, educated, and empathetic.  Expect me to relate some anecdotes about raising my kids that tie into certain atheist related issues in the blogosphere.  Expect me to talk frankly about the challenges of parenting as well as the infinite rewards.

I hope that this is going to lead to new readers- people who want to share their own experiences with parenting, people who want to learn from my mistakes, and people who want to point out those mistakes I’m not aware I’m making.  I hope that this will get me back on track with a regular posting schedule- since now the most important thing that keeps me from regular blogging will be a topic of conversation.

I hope you are going to stay tuned.

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