Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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The Work of King: A Panel in Sioux Falls

20 January 2014

If you’re local, please attend!

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The Work of Martin Luther King, Jr.

King’s politics had real depth, driven by a keen awareness of socio-economics, theology, and the human condition. Please join Sioux Falls Seminary as it celebrates the legacy of the great civil rights leader through a panel of esteemed commentators:

Mark Blackburn, Augustana College
Ceca Cooper, University of Sioux Falls
Robin Duncan, Sioux Falls Psychological Services
Christina Hitchcock, University of Sioux Falls
Gary Strickland, Sioux Falls Seminary

WHEN: Thursday, January 23, 7:30pm
WHERE: Sioux Falls Seminary, 2100 S. Summit Ave., Sioux Falls, SD

Refreshments will be served.

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Men Who Stop Rape

7 November 2013

Women have made considerable gains worldwide in calling attention to rape, whether it be the victims of American party-culture to Indian gang-rape atrocities to the pre-teen molestation culture in Papua New Guinea. In 2011-12 the United Nations conducted the largest worldwide study of rape, covering six nations. When taking into account non-consensual sex in marriage, or an inability of a partner to refuse sex, about one in four men surveyed reported committing some kind of rape. The issue is on the table.

But are the solutions being set forth clearly? One that must be put forward in any discussion, in my opinion, is the importance of raising up male anti-rape advocates. Because sexual force stems so much from a sense of entitlement to gratification, and because entitlement derives from cultural norms, men must be vocal in stating that rape is not normative or acceptable. More specifically, important men, “normative” men, must step up to the microphone and air this message.

A friend here in Sioux Falls was commissioned with the leadership of a domestic violence rehab group. He was surprised to find how resistant men were to admitting that they were in control of a situation involving physical or sexual violence. “I couldn’t help myself” or “She was asking for it” became common mantras to avoid personal responsibility. The leader had to walk the men through the decisions they had actually made: “Did you attack her?” “Did you choose to hit her with your fist or kick her?” “Which clothing did you try to take off her?” And so forth. Ultimately, these men hoped that male sympathy for “natural” passions would override personal responsibility. A group like this undid the hope. And it started with a strong male leader. Once multiple men took responsibility for their crime, others followed.

The same sort of thing has been happening in Nairobi, Kenya. After some rapists were released after receiving a sentence of mowing the lawn, the Men to Men program of FEMNET showed up to protest. Kennedy Otina was one of those in attendance, publicly demonstrating. “When there is a case in court,” Otina said, rapists “tend to think or assume that we [men] will be the ones to defend them, to support them in court, but you know when they get to us, we help them understand that violence against women is not acceptable.”

The crimes occurring in bedrooms start with the attitudes born in public forums. Fortunately, key men around the world are taking a stand.

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NASA’s Territorial Pissing

29 May 2012

With a blog name like “Men on the Moon,” why not talk about men on the moon every once in a while?

With the advent of commercial space flight, the old guard of NASA want businessmen everywhere to know that the moon (at least select parts of it) is their jurisdiction. In July 2011 the world received “NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities,” a set of guidelines to private sector missions. The document included parameters for lunar explorations, namely, “exclusion zones” of historically significant areas. The Apollo landing sites, for example, should not be approached by a lander within 2km, and even rovers are prohibited within immediate vicinity.

Is it just me, or is the “preservation” line ringing a little hollow here? Since the surface of the moon is essentially a collection of powder, what is being preserved is NASA’s claims to real estate, which belongs to them by virtue of a set of footprints. One doesn’t have to go to the moon to discern the tell-tale trail they’ve spritzed into the lunar dust.

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Will Michele Bachmann Submit to Her Husband?

15 August 2011

Every politician comes to a point where she has to heave herself headlong into the paradox. For conservative evangelicals like Michelle Bachmann, that happened last Thursday night when a Washington Examiner reported asked her if she was submissive to her husband.

Whom, after all, are voters electing into office? Michelle, or her “spiritual head”?

Marcus Bachmann Gay Therapy Marcus Bachmann Gay Therapy

The reporter’s question was booed, but I think that’s a great question to pose to a woman riding the God-and-evangelical-America wave. If only reporters would have the courage to ask left-leaning politicians the equivalent question: “Why should we believe you’ll bow to the peoples’ will, when you do no more than ‘respect’ your spouse, and conceive of God’s will so amorphously?”

The Salon.com feature is well worth reading.

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Yale University and the Sexual Harrassment Case You Knew Was Coming

18 May 2011

For a number of years Yale has established itself as a university pushing the boundaries of sexual discourse and mores. In 2012 the school celebrates the ten year anniversary of Sex Week at Yale (SWAY), a conference devoted to exploration of all issues sexual. Past speakers have discussed everything from condom use to bisexuality to genital piercing to destigmatizing sex work (provided it is one’s “chosen” profession). The language of “mutuality” tends to lubricate the conversation, ethically speaking. But not entirely: a recent presentation at SWAY encouraged men to “Think of yourself as a hunter” in order to get into women’s pants.

The necessary counterpart to Yale’s licentious conference exerted itself this week as school officials banned a fraternity from campus for five years over a chant they deemed to be sexual harrassment. Delta Kappa Epsilon, the expelled organization, had included as part of October’s initiation rites the following chant in front of the Yale Women’s Center: “No means yes, yes means anal.” The misogynistic chant was followed by another about necrophilia. It was the first phrase, however, that was cited as the basis for expulsion of the fraternity from campus.  Sadomasochistic fun during SWAY week?: okay.  Sadomasochistic humor during hazing events?: not so okay.

Much as corporate capitalism requires an ever-expanding national government to stimulate and regulate it in equal measures, so Yale University’s sexual openness demands a political counterpart to baptize and chastize.  Sexual permissiveness requires increased policing, therefore it comes as no surprise that administrators orchestrated a crackdown on the first public transgression.  Delta Kappa Epsilon initiates, being libertines in the wrong way at the wrong time, will have to take the fall.

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Are Women a Class?: Wal-Mart at the Supreme Court

6 December 2010

While this blog is devoted to men’s issues, this bit of news about women is too important to pass up.

Today the United States Supreme Court agreed to take on a court case in which female employees of Wal-Mart have filed a class action law suit, claiming payscale discrimination.  The nature of court case, however, is not whether Wal-Mart has paid many of their women less than men (this fact is largely obvious).  The Supreme Court is to decide whether women in the organization can sue as a class action suit.  In other words: Does “woman” classify as a category of discrimination on this enormous scale?  Sure, a hundred female employees working in a single factory might sue for the sexual bias – but what about hundreds of thousands of women, working in thousands of different locations under different conditions and management?

While the monetary consequence of this suit might amount to billions of dollars going to Wal-Mart’s female employees, the greater significance is what this case means as a litmus test for the nation.  Is America sympathetic to the feminist concern that women are chronically underpaid?  And the significance for governmental oversight: Will sex-based discrimination be regulated much more on a federal level?

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On Male Heroism and Empire

29 October 2010

“Leif [Erickson] and his fellow sailors performed miracles… in the drift ice, in fearsome gales, in fogs like wet sheepskins – but empires have to be built of commoner stuff than miracles.”
– Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism and the Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-100, p.56

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Al and Tipper Gore: A Public Marriage, a Private Divorce

1 June 2010

Gore Wedding, 1970

After forty years of marriage, Al and Tipper Gore let a circle of friends know that they were “separating,” seemingly calling quits to matrimony.  The email was leaked to the Associated Press, and while it has been confirmed by the Gores PR representative, the Gores themselves have already indicated that no more details will be forthcoming.

Al Gore has been a significant political figure in determining what should be deemed public  or private.  Atmospheric changes?  Public.  Presidential escapades with White House interns?  Private.  Electoral recounts?  Public.  The lives of politicians’ children?  Private.  Romance with one’s wife?  Public (according to the famous smooch at the 2000 Democratic Convention).  Divorce from one’s wife?  Very, very private.

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“First Dude” Todd Palin Was Heavily Involved in Wife’s Decisions

6 February 2010

Under Alaska’s public records law, 1,200 emails exchanged between Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd Palin, were disclosed to MSNBC.  Various shady dealings aside, investigative journalist Bill Dedman says the emails “provide a glimpse of the ways the Palins divvied up their responsibilities when she became governor in December 2006.”  According to the report, “first dude” Mr. Palin assisted in decisions regarding appointments, contract negotiations, and a whole host of sensitive matters passing through his wife’s office. 

To my knowledge, this is the first time a female politician’s husband has been singled out like this.  Spousal involvement has been commonplace, of course, but the fact that Todd Palin is a husband conjures up the specter of conspiracy rather than a feeling of mere “support.”  Perhaps it has something to do with the Palins’ earlier attempt to cast him as a down-home kind of man who just liked to take care of the kids and go snowmobiling.  In any case, my sense is that the public will be rather intolerant of political partnering with future “first dudes.”

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Rumpelstilskin, as Interpretated by a ManKind Project I-Group

1 February 2009

For those of you who don’t know, I am part of a ManKind Project (MKP) I-Group, which seeks to pursue healthy manhood in a small group format.  Besides some more modern therapeutic techniques, the I-Group utilizes “non-linear” methods like ritual, poetry and working out emotions through kinetic activities. 

Last month I brought to the group a classic fairy tale which, to no surprise, none of them had heard in years: rumpelRumpelstilskin.  I used the later version from Grimms’ compilation, one you can read here if you’re also having a hard time recalling the story.  I had rediscovered the story in a German textbook (the story was originally named Rumpelstilzchen) and was struck by its multifaceted presentation of important life themes.  Although (or maybe because) the story features a girl as the protagonist of the story, I wanted to see how a men’s group would respond to it. 

After telling the story with as much flair as I could muster, I launched a basic question: “With whom did you resonate most?”  Most of the men immediately said, “The girl.”  “Why?,” I asked.  “Because she was exploited again and again, and she did what she had to.” 

But upon my pushing for more details it seemed that, while they liked the story and felt it to be somehow important, they couldn’t put a finger on why they resonated with the girl, or anyone in the story for that matter.  We spent a chunk of time picking apart the significance of each character.  All of them are men, and most of them seem like evil bastards.  But did they have to be interpreted that way?

My own conclusion, one I had come to earlier, was that this story had pretty thick social meanings attached to it.  I suggested to the men that any girl who heard the story would be learning about what it is like to be a woman in the world of men.  Though people would expect her to have magical powers (even turning straw into gold), she would have to hope for resources beyond her, powers to deceive, manipulate and, through them, to survive in an androcentric world.  Maybe it helped us peer into the world of women and the demands we as men make upon them.

mentalkThis seemed to make sense to the men, but it didn’t make sense of it for a men’s group.  Where was the value in it for us?

Still, I stayed with this tack.  I wondered aloud if there might be a way to understand the story as an address to (or at) homosexuals.  Could it be that both girls and boys alike in old Germany were being warned about strangers, in particular “strange little men” who had their own magic at work, but were, at best, strange, at worst, conniving paedophiles?  The I-Group could agree to this hypothesis, at least cognitively.  Or, I mused on, we could queer the story by telling it a little differently, that this strange manling, Rumpelstilskin, was trying to deliver the girl-queen’s son from the world of oppressive men; that the reason he wanted to take the boy away in order to initiate him into a different kind of manhood, one not based on the patriarchal tyrrany exhibited by the girl’s father and king. 

This time no response from the I-Group. 

The problem, I realize now, was not that these hypotheses were uninteresting to them.  Nor were they unsavory (I would describe most of them as more consistently to the political left).   The problem was that my interpretations were primarily sociological, not psychological.  In a group dedicated to personal health (of five heterosexual men), social ramifications played second fiddle to personal application. 

With the evening coming to a close, one of the older members of the group began a very productive line of thought along Jungian lines.  He suggested that, perhaps, the bizarre character of Rumpelstilzkin could be interpreted as  one’s “shadow,” that part of us which we suppress but comes out anyway as a kind of dangerous but creative alter-ego.  That shadow must be honored in order to deal with crises in life.  One must deal with the devil, so to speak, in order to meet the demands of the “king” (or father), that archetype which would direct us in life directions.  The king’s men who go out through the kingdom to figure out Rumpelstilskin’s name are expressions of the “warrior,” the get-it-done part of the soul (or, externalizing a bit, maybe the king’s men can be our warrior brothers in ManKind Project).  And, lest the shadow dominate our lives too much, at some point the shadow must be “named,” exposed for what it is in the limits of its power. 

Now, you’ve got to admit, this is a pretty dang good interpretation.  Thanks to the last minute personalizing hermeneutic, everybody felt edified by the activity, myself included.

Still, I feel a little uneasy about how the personal so often operates independently of the political.  Can we hear the story of Rumpelstilskin and find in it something that speaks to us and addresses the situation of others? 

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Next session we’re hoping to do some mask-making.  Yes, I know you think that’s weird.  If you find wearing a tie and watching ESPN makes you a whole man, more power to you.  For some of us there are shadows to name – and who’s to say you don’t have one?