Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Just Say It

And while we're talking about religious narratives and female sexuality and virginity and the value of a female person, there's this:
A senior Egyptian general admits that "virginity checks" were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities.

The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn't later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

"We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," the general said. "None of them were (virgins)."
Did you get that last bit? Mind-blowing isn't it?

Or maybe not.

Cuz really, how is this different from our cultural beliefs about rape, and who can be raped, and under what conditions? Why else do we spend so much time investigating the sexual habits of women who claim they were raped? I mean, if she would voluntarily sleep with Joe on Tuesday, then can we believe her claim that she didn't consent to sex with Bob on Wednesday? If she was seen dancing with or leaving the bar with a man on one occasion, then doesn't that mean she gave blanket consent to all men in all bars on all occasions for any sexual activity they might wish to engage in with her?

Of course, if asked these questions point-blank we'll claim that we don't believe that. But look around at the reporting on - and discussions that follow - rape cases, and you'll see that we pretty much do believe these things. So maybe our attitudes are a little less extreme than the ones being voiced by this Egyptian general, and for sure most people would never actually say out loud the things they think about women who "get themselves raped." But the attitudes are still there, and a person can't live within a culture without being aware of these unspoken beliefs.

Which is another factor in our fascination with/horror about the Elizabeth Smart story. I mean, there she was, modestly dressed, not drinking alcohol, not walking down a dark alley, being a virgin, in her parents' home. And she got raped. How could that happen? Don't you have to do something to entice men to rape you? It contradicts everything we "know" about rape.

In other, sort of related news...

If you read the rest of the article at CNN, you'll also find that the prison sentences most of these protesters had received have now been revoked, because some of the detainees had university degrees. Not because they had good reason to protest or they were just being used as an example or because maybe they really were guilty of some crime but now there's a lot of international pressure on Egypt to mind its human rights bidness. No. It's because they had university degrees so they should be given an extra chance.

In America we're not classist, so we would never admit that the justice system went easy on a defendant because s/he was educated or wealthy or had good connections. We'd never say it. Right out loud like that. That would be embarrassing. But again, what's the difference, really?

It's almost refreshing that this guy will say this stuff right out loud. It's honest in a way that we're not. And when you're willing or able to articulate your cultural beliefs and attitudes like that - you make this stuff explicit - then the mind has a chance to critically engage with it.

For instance, if I said to you "if you drink x brand of beer, then hot chicks will love you. They'll come out of fucking nowhere and rub their bodies all over you as soon as you crack that can/bottle open," you would find that laughable. Or if I said to you "women are the only ones who are competent enough to do housework, and anyway, cleaning the house makes them deliriously happy," no doubt you would argue with me.* And yet, you've had these messages communicated to you over and over and over again, and you've probably never really thought about it. But no doubt you've internalized it.

If you took an implicit association test, you'd be much faster at connecting female names (or pictures of women) with cleaning products than male names or pictures of men. You'd be much faster at connecting certain beer brands with adjectives that suggest sexual appeal than those brands that don't use the hot-girls-will-love-you advertising formula. No matter what you would explicitly say you believed about these things, somewhere in your head, these implicit beliefs have been safely planted and reinforced over and over and over again. The implicit association test tells us that, at some level, you got the message. You learned what the advertiser wanted you to learn. You absorbed the implicit belief without ever actually engaging intellectually with it.

So in a way, although the things this Egyptian dude will say right out loud are sort of shocking to me, I appreciate the fact that he'll say them. We can engage with a belief that's explicitly stated, and discuss what's right or wrong about it. But beliefs and attitudes that are implicitly held and communicated are much more insidious and hard to address. And that's why articulating the implicit beliefs behind media reporting and advertising and the discussions we have around issues like this is so damn important. Even if it makes you the stick in the mud or the oh-rape-jokes-are-funny-to-you? buzzkill or the uptight fat lesbian feminist in the room.

*In the latest estimates I've seen, the average American child will see over 600 images of women vacuuming before the age of 4, while they will see few or no images of men vacuuming. And although this wasn't included in the research, I'd bet a lot of those women were smiling, or at least acting content and happy.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Remember how there was pending legislation in 3 states that would make it illegal to take picture or videos of farms, or to post said pics and videos? Well, a bunch of people got upset about that, and some of them signed a petition and some of them spread the word on Facebook and other places, and at this point the bill has failed in Florida and looks to have a similar fate in Minnesota and Iowa. To celebrate, Slow Food USA put together a little slideshow of farm images sent in to them. You can watch it here. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Virginity and Religious Narratives and Elizabeth Smart

Trigger warning for sexual abuse.

Earlier this week I heard on NPR that the sentencing hearing for Brian David Mitchell, who abducted and sexually abused Elizabeth Smart, is happening this week. From what I've heard, Mitchell needs some serious mental health care, which he won't get. Instead he'll probably spend the rest of his life drifting through the prison system, with many other mentally ill folks who are dysfunctional - and therefore imprisoned - because of their illness and the lack of available care. And of course, because of this dynamic, prison is an even more dangerous and counterproductive place to be for most inmates. So this story disturbs me on that level, and in general I've avoided media coverage of it.

But a quote from this article pulled me up short, and I've been thinking about it pretty much non-stop since I read it. When recounting her experience with Mitchell, Smart says this
I felt that because of what he had done to me, I was marked, I wasn't the same. My personal value had dropped. I was nothing. Another person could never love me. I felt like I had a burden the size of a mountain to carry around with me the rest of my life.
To me, these words are so striking and so tragic because of the cultural and religious narrative they tap into. I don't doubt that part of what's going on here is based on the way Mitchell and his followers treated Smart. She described it as being treated "like an animal." Abusive personalities often use this kind of tactic to erode the self-esteem of their victim to ensure compliance. Clearly that has a profound impact, and probably factored into her feelings about her personal value.

At the same time, I think her response to the abuse is deeply connected to her worldview, and the role that virginity and sexual "purity" play in her religious context. When you grow up in a very conservative religious environment in which your parents try to prevent you from coming into contact with "secular" values, and when sexual purity is emphasized almost above all other values in that context (at least for girls), your sexual status cannot help but hold a central position in your self-conception. Your assessment of your self-worth will unavoidably be tightly connected to it.

This might be all sunshine and rainbows, if we lived in a world where you always have control over your own sexuality. But this view of female worth and sexual purity goes terribly wrong when you find yourself in a situation where somehow your sexual "purity" is forcibly "taken" from you (as if it's a thing you can possess). It doesn't matter that you had nothing to do with it. Even though you never made any choices that led to this ostensibly huge change in your sexual status - you never voluntarily took any action that led to this change - it is still a profound measure of your personal worth. Because the fact remains that the most valuable asset a woman in this context can have is her virginity. Losing it, regardless of how it happens, is an event that takes a woman or girl out of the realm of cleanliness and innocence and intactness, and transitions her into a state of being polluted and damaged. Less valuable. Less desirable. Blameworthy somehow, even though she was unable to control the events that took place.

This is significant for all of us, because conservative religious attitudes toward female sexuality have a considerable impact on our broader cultural views. Read through the abstinence-only sex ed curriculums that are federally funded and utilized in public schools to see how pervasive this is. Female sexual purity is highly valued, and the onus for abstinence falls largely on the girls. Girls who don't abstain until marriage are often portrayed as being dirty or damaged in some way - offering less to their future spouse than if they had abstained. So even if we're not functioning in the very narrow, conservative world that Elizabeth Smart lives in, we've all been exposed to (and to some extent internalized) these same attitudes.

I remember feeling both skeptical and resentful as a kid when discussions of "sexual purity" came up. Because of my abuse, I didn't feel like I fit into the category of "virgin" even at a really young age (9? 10?). Yet I also felt like that had nothing to do with me as a person. I was pretty contrary and constantly questioned what I heard at church, but I was still a very young person immersed in a world where apparently everyone else believed this stuff and didn't question it. This can leave you in a strange position where you have these conflicting thoughts and feelings that you're trying to sort out, but the fact that everyone around you seems to accept these sometimes harmful and frequently contradictory things as truth can make you feel like you're either defective or crazy. So, accepting that sexual purity was the most central element of female virtue (and what made a woman valuable) while also thinking of myself as a person who could be a good person, and who was valuable, presented a bit of a conflict for me.

On the one hand I didn't believe that I was responsible for my abuse in any way, but it was still this shameful thing that I had to hide (for the sake of others) and that fundamentally changed me as a person. Ironically, it also made me feel like I was immune to all the talk about sexual purity. If I wanted to sleep with my high school boyfriend, why shouldn't I? That ship had already sailed, so to speak.

In fact, I think I actually became sexually active at a younger age than I probably would have because it was almost a way of reclaiming my sexual identity. All my life my sexuality had been defined by the abuse, and my abusers. Embarking on my own sexual relationship was a way to stake out my autonomy and take control of my own life. So this compromise slowly emerged between this worldview that I had been so surrounded by and my own view that struggled to integrate it all and make sense of my own experiences.

In my early teens I concluded that being sexually active had nothing to do with personal virtue or worth. For one thing, I didn't believe I was personally worth less because of my "lack" of sexual "purity." Then there was the fact that the adult males in my world (two of them) who behaved in a sexually inappropriate way were still highly valued and held up as role models. So my initial response was to separate the two and dismiss all the hype about sexual purity, or at least conclude that it didn't apply to me.

Over the next few years, of course, I had to continue to refine that view to include the fact that you can inflict great harm on others sexually. First there was the obvious fact that one ought not to fuck around with one's defenseless 6 year-old niece or granddaughter that had to be accounted for. But this also included the degree of vulnerability and emotional connection that generally accompanies sexual intimacy in a reciprocal, consenting relationship, and the harm you can do to others because of it. Unfortunately, my earlier splintering of sexuality from morality allowed me to be less than careful with the feelings of my first few sexual partners, but these early experiences are part of what shaped my understanding of the moral responsibility that comes with sexual activity.

So...what if I had grown up in a world where, rather than placing this huge value on virginity and "purity," and tying these especially to female morality, there had been open and honest conversations about sexual intimacy and why it can be so dangerous and so rewarding, and how that gives it special moral weight that other social interactions don't share? Not because it has something to do with your personal worth or cleanliness or lovability. Not because your partner's body is your possession and any sexual contact they might have had with others is some kind of violation of your property rights. Simply because sexuality is often a locus of intense emotion and vulnerability (and sometimes very clouded judgment) that can result in a special kind of pain inflicted on others if one is not careful. For that matter, what if my abusers had grown up in a world like this? And what if Elizabeth Smart had grown up in a world like this?

I don't know much about her recovery process, but I would bet that it's involved a lot of unlearning things she had internalized about female sexuality and personal worth. Unless she has somehow been convinced that her case involves a special exemption from the rule, a part of her recovery will require an uncoupling of the ideal of the "sexually pure" female body from her conception of female virtue, or her sense of what a morally worthy person looks like. And I would bet that this is a pretty hard transition to make for somebody from her background.

So this is one reason I don't want my girls going to my parents' church or involved in any sex-ed program that emphasizes abstinence. Not because abstinence is bad, or because waiting until you've grown up a bit to engage in sexual relationships isn't a wise thing to do. Rather, it's because the ends don't justify the means. Planting irrational fears in young people's heads, and trying to manipulate them, and teaching them to value themselves in counterproductive ways cannot end well. It just can't. And beyond that, it's simply not true that a woman's value is connected to her sexual history. And the quicker we get rid of our religious and cultural obsession with virginity, the better.

Wednesday Miscellanea

The Supreme Court has ruled that California has to significantly reduce its prison population in order to prevent the routine violation of inmate rights due to the overcrowded conditions. Among other things, the prison system can't provide (and, let's be honest, doesn't give a flying fuck about providing) adequate medical care and secure living conditions while functioning with such high numbers of inmates in limited space. The ruling has led to much hand-wringing from social conservatives over the thought of all these violent thugs running the streets.

In reality, of course, mostly non-violent drug offenders will be released. Admittedly, these types are generally maladjusted and frequently lack a viable social network on the outside and the basic life skills needed to become a functioning and fulfilled member of society. In fact, they may have even picked up some violent and anti-social behaviors during their incarceration. But rather than addressing the issue of the personal and social impact of incarceration in our prison system, or the issues in these peoples lives that led to their incarceration to begin with, folks like Justice Scalia prefer to wallow in their fearful fantasies of all the "fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym" (the gym which ironically no longer contains any iron to be pumped, seeing as how it's packed to the gills with bunks). In Scalia's view, we as a society are better off disposing of this segment of the population by funneling them at an early age into a system that more or less guarantees their lifelong dysfunction and need for institutionalization. Cuz that's just worked so damn well, why would we change a system that's profoundly broken, classist, racist, etc that functions so well and meets all of our needs with such breathtaking efficiency? Why indeed?


In other news, the Environmental Working Group has released their 2011 guide to choosing a sunscreen that's both highly effective and nontoxic. If this year's guide is anything like last year's, I highly recommend it. It can be confusing and intimidating to sort through all the info available (and the corporate propaganda from cosmetic companies) about ingredients in skin care products and make a well-informed choice, and tools like this greatly simplify things. I also highly recommend the EWGs shopping guide for produce, which you can find here: The Dirty Dozen. Or if that's too analog for you, get the app. Whatevs.


Over at CNN, Dr Drew takes on the story of a family raising a gender-free child, pretends to explore the story in a neutral manner, and then goes on to defend our system of enforcing the sex and gender binary, and to freak out about the terrible social cost that this child will inevitably end up paying. His child psychologist guest concurs that the social cost to the child will most likely be unacceptable. Of course, neither Dr Drew nor his guest consider the social cost of the current system by which we socialize kids into gender roles, police their performance of gender, and box them into a neat binary system which turns out to be uncomfortable and restrictive for most, and downright catastrophic for some. No social cost there, of course. No, the real social cost is the bullying that this child will inevitably (rightfully?) receive from hir peers. Which is a serious issue, of course, but maybe the problem is not with this child or this family, but with a system that enables/encourages such bullying in the first place?

This story also left me wondering - why the child psychologist? From my understanding, psychologists do one thing - they focus on how well an individual functions in hir social context. By definition this precludes a questioning of that social context. Asking the bigger questions like "should we embrace/enforce our current gender system?" and "would we all benefit from a paradigm shift in this area?" don't really seem like the job of psychologists, so it seems like an odd choice to have a psychologist speak as the expert in a case like this. But more often than not, we do assume that psychologists are the experts and should have the final word in these situations. It reminds me of this one quote I've heard a few times: "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." Seems to me that a psychologist can tell you how to get along well in the society that you're born into, and that can be pretty damn helpful. But on a deeper level, what does that tell you about the society and it's practices? Nothing.


And finally, this week the New York Times has this interactive feature going that focuses on the experiences of young LGBT individuals. Seems pretty cool so far.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What women love

This morning the Yahoo news feed told me that women love make-up. Even worse, apparently there are lots of beauty trends that women love and men hate. So the idea is that women are running around spending thousands of dollars and wasting countless hours and damaging their skin and hair and exposing themselves to toxins in various beauty products in order to appeal to men, but most of what they're doing is actually aimed at appeasing or showing up other women, and the end result is actually less appealing from the standpoint of the all-important male gaze.

And none of this really adds up, which generally means that you need to back it up and take a look around for some other dynamic that is probably the real controlling mechanism.

But first, I'm kind of curious about this. Is it true that (some) women love make-up, or any of the other beauty regimes that are thought to be so central to the performance of femininity? If you're a woman reading this post, and you wear make-up, do you love it, or even like it? Do you identify with wearing make-up, or any of the other beauty rituals in a significant way? I guess I always thought that for women who wear make-up, it's just another one of those slightly unpleasant, time consuming things that you nevertheless feel obligated to do. Or that you've internalized the idea that you can't look good without.

At my stepdaughter's afterschool program a few months ago they had a spa day for the girls which involved styling their hair and applying some awfully adult looking make-up. She came home and showed me and said "don't I look beautiful?" It was like a trick question. I didn't want to say "yes," and reaffirm the idea she's already picked up on that what makes a woman's face beautiful is the stuff she puts on it. But I also didn't want to tell her she didn't look beautiful. Needless to say, a long conversation ensued.

So, if men aren't particularly turned on by a lot of our beauty conventions, and women don't love them for reasons that are entirely independent from the social dictate that women must cater to the male gaze, then what's driving these beauty trends? What's motivating them?

You can probably guess that my theory will have to do with the beauty-industrial-complex, and the need for constant market growth, which requires ever-evolving and increasing demands, which in turn requires a set of constantly-changing perceived needs on the part of the consumer. I have a vague sense of how this might work. It seems to me that the make-up ads out there are always telling you about how some cosmetic product solves some problem you have with your existing one, or does something your old brand doesn't do. Some lipsticks last longer, or make your lips shinier (if that's the current trend). Some mascaras don't clump as easily, or they make your lashes longer (seriously, now) or plumper or something. Foundations have a (get this) more "natural" look. Like they make you look like you're not wearing any make-up.* And then there's eye color, which is one of the things the panel of male experts consulted by Yahoo for this article complained about. It seems to me that the trendy eye colors have to change from year to year, or you'll be able to buy one color or set of colors and it will last you a really long time, so you won't be spending money on it. But if no make-up trend lasts for more than a few months, or maybe a year, and if your beauty "needs" are constantly evolving, then you'll constantly be buying new products.

And that's how an industrial-complex works, right? You have to constantly be manufacturing both the demand for your product and the product itself. It's a self-sustaining system. What gets left out of the system is 1) what women actually love like, or would like if they hadn't been taught to think of themselves as unattractive unless they participate in the various beauty rituals; and 2) what men actually find attractive. It's even more complicated than that, of course. What we find attractive is largely conditioned by our culture. Add to this the fact that neither group is monolithic, so talking about what all women like or what all men dislike is just kind of silly. I'm sure there are some men out there who think that dramatic eye makeup and two-tone lips are the hottest things around.** I suspect there are even some women who really do love makeup and those hairstyles that make the little bump on top of your head.

...anyway, the beauty-industrial-complex theory seems like a compelling explanation for this dynamic to me, but I'm sure it will have it's critics. So, what other competing explanations are there? How do we make sense of all the collective silliness?

*Incidentally, I have an idea about how you can make your face look like you're not wearing any make-up, and it even has the added benefit of allowing you to sleep in an extra half hour every morning, or however long it takes to apply make-up. Send me $50 and a self-addressed stamped envelope, and I'll share my idea with you. Your life will never be the same.

**Of course, none of this conversation will have anything to do with what lesbian and bi women find attractive in women, because hetero relationships are always centered in these kinds of discussions, so it's just plain silly that you would even notice the fact that in articles like this we always talk as if the whole world is heterosexual.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Disney porn-fairy

At the grocery store. Work that ass, Tinkerbell's little ethnic friend.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The story we need to hear

A few years ago I was at the bar with a group of friends, and another of the regulars at this particular bar came over to our table and told us a far-fetched, self-aggrandizing story. As he walked away afterward, there was much eye-rolling and irritated head-shaking, but I just shrugged and said "we all tell the stories we need to hear." And that stuck and became a much-quoted line we'd use after listening to the stories people tell at the bar.

I think this little statement has application beyond the self-aggrandizing anecdotes so common in situations like that one. I think in a broader sense, we all really do tell the story we need to hear, all the time. The problem is, we don't realize that we're not telling it with words. Sure, what we say is a part of it, but it's a very small part. What we do, how we respond to the actions of others, which events we take to be significant... all of these do much more to weave together the narrative of who we are than anything we might say. And when that broader narrative is in conflict with the story we're verbally telling about ourselves, there's a problem.

I mentioned in my last post that the fact that Americans are celebrating Osama bin Laden's death (and calling for the release of photos of his corpse) is problematic. It's problematic because of the story it tells about us - to ourselves and to the world. Since I posted that yesterday afternoon I've received a bunch of angry emails. In addition, the administration has announced that the photos will not be released, and I've gotten some preemptive (I assume) emails about that too. Instead of replying to the individual emails, which would be exhausting and time-consuming and probably unproductive, or just ignoring them, I've decided to reply to them here. So here we go:

aBob (and 2 others) says that "wussy liberal types" (like me, apparently) lack a basic understanding of what we're dealing with in al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. His claim is that "these types" don't understand anything except violence, and they would be the first to release gruesome photos of dead US soldiers or citizens given the chance.

I say that it's not about being wussy or liberal. Arguments that center around what kind of person bin Laden was are not going to get anywhere with me, because they miss the point. This is not about bin Laden; it's about us.

I think the story of Achilles and Hector illustrates this better than anything I can say. When I read through the Illiad in Greek a few years ago, it struck me how English translations just don't do justice to Hector. When you read the Illiad in Greek, you realize that Hector is the most compelling character in the book, while Achilles is basically a boorish, whiny, self-centered brat. And the scene where Achilles defeats Hector (only with a ton of help from the gods, not through his own personal prowess), and then drags his body around behind his chariot, is a perfect example of this. What does this scene tell us about Hector? Nothing. Hector was on the losing side by birth, and he paid for it with his life. Being physically mutilated after his death simply doesn't reflect on Hector at all. But it tells us a whole heck of a lot about Achilles.

In our case, celebrating bin Laden's death, and releasing photos of his body, are the equivalent of Achilles dragging Hector's body around. This is not about bin Laden or terrorism or 9/11. It's about who we are.

In another email, PJ says that I ought to apply my own argument about transparency and having nothing to hide to this situation. In a recent post I argued that laws prohibiting taking and distributing photos and video of farming practices are problematic in that it simply reveals that there is a heckuva lot wrong with the way we do agriculture in our country. So, rather than seeking to stop the flow of information, we should alter our practices so that we have nothing to hide. PJs claim is that not releasing the photos suggests either that we have something to hide and are in some way ashamed of our actions, or that it didn't really happen, and this is just a fictional event that the Obama administration is making up to boost it's numbers.

The thing is, there's a difference in what these photos say about us. Photos of abusive farming practices are an important tool in educating the public about the realities behind our agricultural system so that we can bring about real change. They're an example of a portion of our story that we need to be informed about, so that we can change it. Publishing photos of our enemies after we've killed them does nothing to bring about change, and only serves to demonstrate that we're barbarous and bloodthirsty people.

Incidentally, this response also applies to the claim that "wussy liberal types" didn't object to the Abu Ghraib photos but have a different standard regarding the bin Laden photos. Yes, there is a different standard - for good reason.

As to the conspiracy theory problem... posting an official legal copy of Obama's birth certificate has done nothing to curb the birther conspiracy theory. Among these types, photos of bin Laden would be dismissed as photoshop fakes before they even hit the press.

Finally, Mr. M claims that this is a great example of "feminine thinking." My objection to our celebrating bin Laden's death and publishing the photos is based in a "feminine" shrinking from violence and a wish to be in denial about the hard realities of "what the world is really like." He adds that I'm probably worried that my kids would see the photos, and I just want to shield them from this kind of thing. By doing so, I'm doing them a disservice, and producing another generation of people who can't face reality.

I most certainly agree with Mr. M that I don't want my kids to see these photos, or any others like them. In fact, I'll take it a step further and say that I don't want my kids to live in a world where these kinds of photos are publicized and gawked at and celebrated. But it's not because my lady-parts render me incapable of facing the hard realities of this violent world we live in. In fact, if "feminine" here means passive and dainty and weak, then I think Mr. M's line of reasoning is "feminine." You just resign yourself to living in a world where tragedies unfold and nobody tries to stop it, and instead escalates the violence through short-sighted, irrational knee-jerk reactions? And this is somehow bold and admirable and "masculine?" It seems brutish and unintelligent to me. But maybe that's just because my feeble lady-brain can't wrap itself around your mysterious logic.

There are good reasons why we no longer hold public executions or display the severed heads of executed criminals on spikes in the town square. It's all tied up with civilization and who we are and who we take ourselves to be and who we aspire to be. We're weaving a narrative here, and there's a particular version of that story we really need to hear. As they say, the whole world is watching.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Celebrating bin Laden's death

A flashy animated banner just asked me how I'm celebrating Osama bin Laden's death. Not if. Not whether I think it's something that ought to be celebrated. Just how.

Because somehow the things we view as worthy of celebrating have no reflection on who we are and what our values are, I guess. I know I've discussed this here before, but all this gets me thinking again about the complicated relationship between justice and civilization and how, when it comes right down to it, our actions tell the whole story about what kind of people we are. And you can argue until you're blue in the face about how we're a civilized nation, deeply invested in freedom and human rights and democracy, but this champagne-fueled dance on the grave of anyone - even a murderous, brutal man - tells me all I need to know about who we are. And it ain't pretty. A barbarous response to a tragic series of events, topped off with a heaping portion of bad faith. Somehow it's not quite the America of my dreams...