Welcome to America

It seems as though, in this country, if you are black and fight with a cop, sell black-market cigarettes or brandish a toy gun, you are killed. You don’t get a trial, your motives aren’t investigated. The death penalty is doled out on the scene. You don’t even have to be an adult to merit this punishment.

But if you’re a white cop, you can shoot a man numerous times instead of calling for backup or using your ASP or pepper spray, use an illegal method of subduing and commit what the coroner calls a homicide, or jump out of your vehicle and immediately gun down a 12-year-old, and you’re off the hook. You don’t get a trial, your motives aren’t investigated. You’re let off scot-free. You don’t even have to be fit for duty.

What a country.

My So-Called Legislators

Recently Tennessee went through a redistricting process, and while I don’t fully understand why, I imagine that part of the reason was to confuse things for people who aren’t really on top of what district they’re in and who they are going to be asked to vote for when they show up at their polling place.

I am pretty Internet-savvy and it took me a good 10-15 minutes of research to find out what House and Senate districts I’m in now and whether I was redistricted into them, and I still can’t get a clear consensus on who I’ll be voting for in the TN Senate race. The US House is finally clear: I’m in the DesJarlais/Stewart race after being moved from District 6 to District 4. The US Senate seat up for election is Bob Corker’s, easy peasy.

In the TN House, I’m still in District 34. Ok, great. If I look at the sample ballot from the Rutherford County election commission, I’m told I can vote for either the incumbent Rick Womick or the challenger Luke Dickerson, and this matches a candidate list that I got from the Tennessee Department of State.

But it all becomes a shit-show when I start looking for information regarding what local Senate race I will be voting in.

Can I trust this information?According to the TN General Assembly’s website, I am in TN Senate District 14 and Bill Ketron is my senator “after redistricting.” The Tennessee Department of State confirms that I’m in District 14, but they give me a PDF of candidates that tells me Jim Tracy is my senator (and is in the race I’ll be voting for). The sample ballot I downloaded from the Rutherford County Election Commission also tells me that I’ll be voting for Jim Tracy.

So who do I trust? The Rutherford County Election Commission and the TN Department of State seem like two departments I should be able to trust, right? But what about the Tennessee General Assembly? They’re the only ones of the three to even mention redistricting, and they say that I’m in Bill Ketron’s district. Except I can’t find anything that talks about him being in a race (ballotpedia.org and votesmart.org say his seat isn’t up until 2014, but they also show him in District 13, not 14 like the Tennessee General Assembly does). And I seem to recall in the past being able to vote for or against Jim Tracy, but I can’t figure out if this has changed for sure even after checking three supposedly reputable state election sources.

All of this is made even weirder by the fact that the election is less than a month away and I have not received even one piece of campaign junk mail at my house. The rational part of my brain is happy about this, because it makes my recycling bin lighter. But the conspiracy theorist in me believes this is all just part of a plan to confuse me into not voting since I’m a Democrat in a very, very red state.

I should be able to find reliable, trustworthy information between these three sources, yet I can’t. I can honestly say now—after trying to find an answer to my simple question of “What TN House district am I in, and who will I be voting for/against in the election next month?”—that I can see why people don’t vote. There is no way something this simple should be this difficult to figure out.

And more importantly, if I can’t decide who to trust between the State Department, the General Assembly or the Election Commission, how am I to trust that my vote will even be counted accurately?

State Rep. Richard Floyd, the latest winner in the “Make Tennessee Look Like Assholes” contest

There are a few things that immediately jumped out at me regarding what Tennessee State Rep. Richard Floyd said, besides the obvious fact that it’s so unabashedly discriminatory I had to check my calendar to make sure we hadn’t been transported back to the pre-civil-rights era in this country.

1. For someone claiming to be concerned about the welfare of women, why is he creeping on the women’s dressing room? As a woman, I would not be worried by someone, regardless of gender, bringing a pile of clothes into a fitting room area where I’m also trying on clothes (in a private stall, for fuck’s sake, so NOBODY can see me try to jam myself into skinny jeans). However, I would be unnerved by an old man loitering outside, taking note of who goes in and out. That’s a call to mall security waiting to happen.

2. He’s an old guy, so I’m going to assume that his wife and daughters are adults. Why is he even accompanying them to the dressing room? Does he not think they can handle shopping for clothes on their own? That they need his protection? This whole “I am man, I must protect my womanly property” shtick is so tired. I feel sorry for his wife and daughters that they have to deal with someone in their life who obviously thinks so little of their ability to perform regular adult activities, like go to the store and try on clothes, without needing him present to hold their hands.

3. Why the violence? There’s a huge difference between “I am made uncomfortable by this” and “I WILL FUCKING MURDER YOU UNLESS THERE IS A LAW THAT STOPS YOU FROM DOING SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE.” The fact that this isn’t just some random weirdo ranting on an Internet forum but an actual elected official, chosen to represent the views of people in this state, is beyond scary.

From STFU, Conservatives:

[TRIGGER WARNING: Transphobic Violence]

I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.

Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk. We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he’s a woman and he’s a man and wants to try on women’s clothes, let him take them into the men’s bathroom or dressing room.

Do we live in a police state now?

I hadn’t formed a full-fledged opinion on the Occupy[ ] protests yet, but when I learned that Tennessee Gov. Haslam ordered the Tennessee Highway Patrol to arrest the protesters—who were peaceably assembled and exercising their First Amendment right—I realized it didn’t matter what I thought. Because agree or disagree with the reason, they have the right to protest. But apparently our governor decided to squash that right—which should concern any resident of Tennessee, no matter what your political or economic stance is.

As usual, Aunt B. explains it better than I ever could:

I want to say that, when you live in a state where they make up “laws” on the fly AND wait until the middle of the night to arrest people for violating those made-up on the fly laws so that their actions remain hidden from citizens, when they wait until the middle of the night to arrest people AND they arrest journalists so that your ability to learn about what happened is curtailed, it’s sobering.

(Emphasis mine.)

It’s also telling that after two nights of arrests, and two nights of the night court judge releasing those arrested because they were brought in under a newly created law that he deemed unconstitutional, last night there were no more arrests. So did someone finally bring Haslam a copy of the constitution? Did he realize that arresting people under the guise of “it’s for their own safety!” was bullshit and victim-blaming at its finest? Did the THP buck their orders and refuse to arrest people that weren’t breaking any actual law?

I’m interested in how this will play out. Our state has had its fair share of PR nightmares lately thanks to some small-minded racists. I wonder if we’ll make The Daily Show for our leader attempting to take away our First Amendment rights? I hope so. Because I think it’s going to take more than local dissent for Haslam to get what he’s doing is wrong.

Ten years

I don’t like writing about what I was doing or what I was thinking on 9/11 because I wasn’t in New York, and I didn’t lose anyone in the attacks, and I tend to get a bit irritated with all of the tragedy p0rn I read where people get over-dramatic and try to make it about themselves. But I understand the necessity to discuss feelings and thoughts about the day, though. For our generation, this is our Kennedy assassination. This is our Challenger explosion.

I’ve already written my “what I was doing” post, four years ago, and I don’t really feel like re-hashing it, but I have to write what’s in my head right now because I’ve been feeling increasingly uneasy as the day has progressed.

I can’t really remember much else about that day. Some friends and I were discussing last night where we were when the planes hit, and I seemed to recall that my second class of the day, my Spanish class, was canceled. But I honestly can’t remember for sure. I am inclined to think that it was, because I remember going to the KUC (Keathley University Center, the student center on MTSU’s campus) and gathering with probably 50 other students in the drab, dimly lit room that had TVs and couches and watching the news as everything was unfolding. I remember the low mumbles and sharp whispers as the newscasters announced that the first two planes were hijacked, and then that the Pentagon was hit and the other plane hit the ground in Pennsylvania. I feel like I remember a little later in that same room hearing that this group I had never heard of before called Al-Qaeda was taking responsibility for the attack, and I guess I went home some time after that.

That semester I believe is when I was working my insane schedule of 10-hour days on Mondays and Wednesdays, eight-hour days on Fridays and four-hour days on Tuesdays and Thursdays, because I scheduled all four of my college classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I think I was supposed to be at work at 2 p.m. those days. Since 9/11 happened on a Tuesday, I’m assuming that I went to work later that day, but I don’t remember what it felt like or what anyone said.

I remember watching non-stop news coverage for about a week, alone in my apartment, until I had to turn it off and rest my eyes and my brain. I felt fatigued by everything that I was seeing and feeling until I couldn’t really process what it all meant. I stopped getting upset when I saw images of the destruction, which might have influenced my part in the discussion we had in my Media Ethics class about whether or not we would publish the photos of people jumping out of the burning towers if we were newspaper editors. I said yes. I said I wouldn’t censor the news. I said no matter how bad things get, protecting people from what was really happening would only hurt our society.

I still agree with what I said in class back then. Although, as I sit here watching a 9/11 program on NatGeo, I wonder what I would have said if I’d known anyone who died that day.

Steve Jobs resigns as Apple CEO

This day was inevitable, even if he hadn’t been sick for years with pancreatic cancer, liver issues and god knows what else.

It’s inevitable that a man as brilliant (and anal) as Steve Jobs has left a succession plan and I can’t imagine that the last several years weren’t dotted with hush-hush meetings where “what if” chats eventually gave way to “it will” discussions, but I’m still a little nervous. I’m worried that the underlying oomph of what makes Apple products more than just metal and pixels and wires will slowly disappear from an empire, leaving the world with just another mediocre computer company.

From the early days when the Apple IIe was the first computer many ever got their hands on and the shitty, beige days of the mid-90s when nobody liked them to the more recent years when they flourished beyond all of the haters’ expectations, Apple computers—Apple products—have been part of my life. Playing Oregon Trail, learning how to type, slaving over high school and college papers, chatrooms explored, games played, thousands of pictures edited, poems written, blogs kept, emails sent, jobs worked—My entire digital life has been lived on an Apple computer.

To those who have never owned a Mac or used an Apple product, this all probably sounds dramatic and romantic. But to those who have, you know what I mean. They’re more expensive, but they’re worth it. When you buy a Mac, it’s not just a metal box that you peck around on. It’s a quality of life improvement. It’s an experience. It’s worth it.

I have never owned a computer made by another company and I do not intend to ever do so.

So I hope I’m over-thinking. Over-reacting. And I hope Steve Jobs finds peace and comfort despite whatever spurred this decision that was announced today.

Stop spamming me, Diane Black

In the wake of the vote to defund of Planned Parenthood, I sent an email to my representative, Diane Black, informing her of my disappointment in her vote. Admittedly, it was a canned email scraped from Planned Parenthood’s site, but I figured sending something to acknowledge my disappointment was better than nothing. Predictably, I received a canned response back explaining why she doesn’t want to fund abortions.

Ok, except she’s completely ignoring the fact that only about 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services involve abortion-related care, and none of the federal money they receive can be used for abortion services by law.

I obviously wasn’t going to argue with Diane Black, especially via email with a staffer at that, so I just grumbled and deleted the message. (Incidentally, I just tried to dig up the email and can’t find it anywhere. So much for archiving, Gmail.)

But today I got a spam email from her telling me about her newsletter and how to sign up for it. She also explains that I can unsubscribe at any time; which is all well and good, except I didn’t ask for her to continue to email my ass in the first place. And there was no unsubscribe option on that email.

Since email spam is one of my biggest pet peeves, and public officials who send out mass emails without the choice to opt out piss me off even more, I decided to write back. I’m sure she won’t even see it, and the staffer who does will laugh and shake his head at my heathen, baby-killing ways, but I don’t care. Here are the emails:

Dear Mrs. Morris,

Did you know that each week I put out an e-newsletter on my work for you in Washington? If you would like to sign up, just click here. I will only ever use your contact information for official purposes and will never share it. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Diane Black
Member of Congress

And my response:

Please remove me from your email list. I do not support nor do I want to hear from you, as you seek to limit and harm the health and choices of other women. Your vote against Planned Parenthood makes you an abomination to our gender.

Megan Morris

I wanted to sign it “smooches” but decided against it.

This burning the Koran business

Let me start out by saying, in case you’re new around here, that I do not support all this stupid Islam- and Muslim-bashing that’s suddenly come into fashion lately. I am no fan of any organized religion—I mostly identify as an atheist with the occasional pagan bent—but I tend to view Christianity in an especially negative light due to my own experiences and the overarching manner in which Christianity is used in this country as a crutch to hurt, exclude and bully others. For a religion whose chief text preaches tolerance, that seems to be the first thing to get thrown out the window in situations where I’d think it would be needed the most.

ANYWAY. So about this burning the Koran. I understand why people are upset that some dude is getting all the crazies riled up and excited about burning it. What I don’t understand, however, is why people keep talking about it, effectively giving this mustachioed nutjob a worldwide stage to preach his intolerance.

Maybe I’m naive, but I assumed people burned books all the time. I mean, there have got to be people in small towns still burning copies of Catcher in the Rye and Heather Has Two Mommies, right? I just assumed people burned books like the Koran as well as any other random texts they might find that deal with religions other than Christianity. Hell, aren’t there some fringe Christian groups that burn Bibles different from their own preferred version?

I don’t mean to be insensitive, and I get that a big display of burning a religion’s holy book is not going to be good for our foreign relations, but why are we paying so much attention to this guy?? It’s just some asshat in Florida, not President Obama or Paris Hilton or Oprah or some other big-deal, influential celebrity that’s running the show here, guys.

So what’s my point? I don’t know. I’d like to think that on one hand, if every time some whackjob decided to burn something in a grand display of ignorance we just ignored him, flicking the mention of him away like you would a fly buzzing around the adult table at dinner, people would get the concept that if you don’t feed the trolls they eventually get bored and disappear.

But I also realize that, as a whole, people are stupid. And there are bound to be those who would interpret the silent treatment of the offender to mean not “This is so dumb it doesn’t deserve a response” but instead “Silence means consent!” and decide to jump on the intolerance bandwagon to bigotsville, where a large, angry, jingoist mob lives.

I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that I’m getting really tired of all of the intolerance in this country, and the way that it’s being spun as patriotism and morality instead of the ugliness, hatred and fear it really is.

Pat Robertson is an asshat

First off, for some reason he thinks Murfreesboro, a city with more than 101,000 residents as of the 2009 census, is a “small town.” Murfreesboro is no stranger to the “small town” insult, but generally it’s hurled by Nashvillians pissed off at Rutherford Countians jamming up I-24 with commuting traffic or Vanderbilt alums crabby that MTSU beat them at football again.

Secondly, Robertson has decided that local Muslims could bribe county officials—apparently with $10,000—an insult to both the Muslim community and the local politicians. The Rutherford County mayor recognizes Robertson as a nutjob, saying that his comments “were so ridiculous they do not deserve a response.”

But the best part? Robertson’s worried that “Muslims could end up taking over the city council to pass ordinances that require public prayer and foot washing.”

Oh, you mean how Christians around the country are working on requiring prayer in school, and denying gay people their right to marry and women governance over their own bodies?

Yeah, god forbid we should let one specific religion dictate how the rest of society conducts itself. Oh wait.


E. Peterbus Unum!

Petoria!Ian and I stopped off at our polling place on the way home from work so that we could exercise our rights as citizens, despite it being a last-minute decision and neither of us knowing too much about many of the candidates in the primary.

I generally identify as either Democrat or Green Party, but seeing as how McWherter was the only Democrat running for governor and didn’t need my help here, I decided to temporarily vote on the dark side as a Republican. (I immediately felt the strong urge to take a cold shower when the pollworker checked the “Republican” box for me.)

But Zach Wamp is a freaking nutjob and I figured a vote for anyone else would be helpful. So of course I voted for Basil Marceaux. I don’t agree with him on anything, really, except legalizing pot. Or maybe outlawing gold fringe on American flags. That is pretty tacky.

But my proudest moment as a U.S. voter came when it was time to vote for the U.S. House seat that Lou Ann Zelenik was up for. Bitch is crazy annoying and has been canvassing my mailbox with her damn campaign mailings for what seems like an eternity. She’s also been an outspoken opponent of the mosque in Murfreesboro, so I’m assuming she’s a radical fundamentalist Christian. And lord knows I’ll take any chance I can get to vote against those assholes.

I didn’t know anything about the other candidates, so I did what any upstanding citizen would do: I wrote in Peter Griffin.