Monday, February 11, 2019

The Abortion Debate: What the Pro-Life side gets Wrong

I don't often get political on my page. But I will talk about abortion because I think it's a bioethics debate that's important to human rights and the quality of life.

A friend of mine shared a political cartoon (but actually anti-abortion propaganda) on his page. 

Like me, he was shocked by the lack of understanding about the recent New York bill that safeguards the right for hospitals and doctors to perform emergency abortions when either the fetus will die in the birthing process or the mother will die. 

Really, that's all the bill protects. The right to save life via a necessary emergency medical abortion.

But cartoons like this pop up and play to the emotions of an uneducated public whose reaction is...oh, they're killing babies! Caterwauling about all the baby killin' goin' on in the U.S.

But this just goes to expose the irrationality of the pro-life side and reveals they prefer hyperbole and scare tactics to science and truth.

I've stated quite emphatically before that the pro-life position isn't a rationally devised argument.

But breaking it down is easier said than down. So, let’s begin with the pro-life premise.

The entire premise behind the pro-life argument is that *life begins at conception.*

This sounds true enough, but is it entirely accurate? Maybe not.

The process of life starts with fertilization, this is true. But the notion of conception according to the religious right who challenge abortion doesn’t just entail fertilization, it lumps in assumptions about ensoulment and personhood too.

Personhood is what pro-life advocates want to actualize so they can give a zygote the same legal protections as a child so as to make abortion a criminal act rather than a vital and often necessary medical procedure.

Additionally, the religious right considers life at conception sacred because they believe in ensoulment—that a human zygote is given a soul at conception. 

Hence life at conception takes on a whole new theological meaning. 

If it were just a discussion of the biology alone, then the claim life begins at conception wouldn’t be incorrect.

But the claim is more than that, because the majority of pro-life advocates assume ensoulment and personhood at conception too, which is why pro-life advocates say abortion is murder.

Science says personhood isn’t clearly definable at conception and suggests we ought to examine the stages of biological development and think about life in terms of viability and not magically fully-formed “life” for no other reason than its presumed ensoulment/personhood.

Because ensoulment and personhood aren’t easily definable, to claim they are given facts about the nature of life after conception is misleading.

Its a way to push theological assumptions into the debate about biology where they don’t belong.

It's not an entirely true statement about life because the science demonstrates that even if we accept the life beginning at conception spiel that there are various instances in the fetal development that can make the life self-terminate. 

This biological objection suggests that a self terminated life in the early stages of fetal development is fundamentally incompatible with notions of ensoulment and personhood. In other words, you cannot be a sacred life and simultaneously be dead.

That doesn’t make any sense. 

It’s illogical. And this ill logic arises when things that are supposedly living don’t meet the requirements needed to be deemed viable. 

The confusion here arises around the difference of a life and a potential life. 

Although nuanced, the difference shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of jumping to the conclusion that all life after conception must be viable therefore congruent with religious doctrine.

So, at most, the claim life begins at conception can only mean fertilization begins and a potentially viable life starts a long series of developmental stages before becoming a viable fetus.

But this says nothing on the ethical considerations of abortion, because all the statement reveals is that fetal development starts at fertilization. And nobody is denying this. Yet it would be stranger still to say this is your basis for your moral argument against abortion, minus the concepts of ensoulment and personhood.

At best, we’re dealing with the chance for a viable life. 

But we NEED to think of viability because ONLY viable zygotes can grow into fetuses that can be described as a life.

And we need to keep viability in mind throughout the whole biological process because biological life happens in stages. It doesn't just spontaneously appear as though a stork left a baby on your doorstep and it’s a fully formed person.

So, life beginning at conception, although not entirely inaccurate also isn’t entirely accurate given the theological assumptions tacked onto it. 

Simply put, science shows there are numerous stages before life can even be deemed viable -- that is, before it can be said to be alive in any meaningful way beyond the observation that we have a collection of living cells.

That said, another problem I have with the abortion debate is how if you want to support women's health, women's rights, and women's safety -- it is always these things that are the first to come under attack when pro-life legislation gets involved.

Make no mistake, anti-abortion legislation is almost always a deliberate attack on women and women's reporductive rights. 

And erecting anti-abortion laws has NEVER made women or babies any safer. All it does is place an unnecessary burden on women and their lives.

Now, the *pro-choice position isn't a counter-argument to the pro-life argument. 

The pro-choice side is, in philosophical terms, a contra-argument.

Now what does that mean? 

A contra-argument is an objection to a separate, flawed argument.

The way pro-life arguments are usually presented are to claim abortion clinics, doctors, and mothers are killing a babies by having an abortion at any stage (although we know this to be false based on taking into consideration viability and biological stages of development). 

What the *pro-choice argument does is say, hey, that pro-life argument is misleading at best and, contrary to popular opinion, is actually being used to restrict women's rights. 

Because it (the pro-life premise) is problematic and tries to smuggle in religion into the debate while ignoring most of the science, we cannot accept it and we do not accept it when given as the reason to protect unborn, potential life and not viable life at the expense of women's health, safety, and legal rights.

A third area we need to be aware of is that the claim that abortion is murder is a highly controversial one.

Now, murder is a nuanced legal term. And there are degrees of murder distinguished by the law and for good reason.

There's first, second, and third-degree murder. But none of these fit the description of medical abortion. 

And so to claim abortion is the murder of babies and not a vital and sometimes necessary medical procedure is FACTUALLY WRONG.

Nearly all abortions happen before the 12 week mark, and this is due to the fact that 8 to 12 weeks into development the baby's central nervous system has NOT developed enough to feel pain. 

That's why, in only the most extreme medical cases, where there is a clearly defined medical EMERGENCY that late-term abortions are permitted. 

And even then, the CDC estimates that it’s rather low. According to them, nearly 70% of abortions happen before 8 weeks. The rest usually occur before 20 weeks. Very few ever occur after that. If they do, it’s almost certainly because of a medical emergency.

As such, this is the call of medical professionals, doctors in the know, and not merely the whim of mothers who don't want babies. 

So scrub that falsehood from your brain right now. 

Late-term abortions have, and always have been (at least in the United States) reserved for medical emergencies where the fetus or the mother's life are in danger. 

Never because the mom simply didn't want it.

The pro-life argument gets so much wrong because it ignores the science, it ignores the medicine, it ignores the bioethical concerns regarding both the mother and child, and it ignores cold hard facts. It relies only on emotional appeals and magical thinking about ensoulment and personhood.

Does that mean I think you're irrational if you're pro-life? 

No, but it means that in all likelihood you haven't probably given the abortion debate the consideration it deserves before finalizing an opinion. 

But all this just goes to show why we're still having the abortion debate even though the pro-life side has offered a complete NON-STARTER. 

We're still having it because emotional appeals tug at people's heartstrings and facts bore people to sleep.

AND I'm not saying that the pro-life side doesn't mean well and I'm not attacking them for their irrationality because I merely take the opposite position. 

I am saying it's an problematic and highly flawed position because, logically speaking, it is. 

And because if you consider all the evidence, all the facts, and stay awake long enough to give it a proper vetting, then you would see the flaws too. 

You would come to understand that offering an emotionally pleaded opinion is not the same as a scientific medical fact. 

I know it bothers me, especially when I see propaganda cartoons like the one my friend shared instead of a real discussion with real facts.


--Tristan Vick (author / humanist / human rights advocate)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Proud Father

My daughter asked me why the majority of my heroines are lesbian and/or bisexual. I explained to her that I write heroines that embody the essence of the Goddess archetype, and that any ole ordinary mortal man isn't worthy of being with the Goddess. 

As such, it compels me to write strong women who avoid the need or even desire for men. If they need companionship, they turn to other women. Unless, of course, the man is exceptionally worthy. But, I added, in my stories the women don't *need* men to get by.

She nodded quietly, taking it all in. She's only 8 and hasn't read any of my books but has often asked what story I'm writing so I break down summaries of them for her. 

She's fascinated by the fact that women can like women and men can like men. She knows that homosexuality is a thing. And she recognizes that it's becoming acceptable in society and was curious as to why I incorporate such things in my stories.

I found it to be a rather sophisticated question for an 8-year-old.


Bill Cosby Behind Bars: Seperating the Man from the Art (Some Thoughts)

Well, Bill Cosby is in cuffs and heading off to jail for 3-10 years.


It's weird. I despise what he did. I find him a grotesque human being. But the art he put out into the world I admire greatly. 


It's hard to separate the man from the art for many people, I know. But The Cosby show is such an invaluable tool in teaching parents how to communicate with their own kids, and more importantly, in teaching non-native speakers the values of good communication in a family and among friends.



The Cosby show is an educational tool I rely on heavily in teaching my students good communication skills. And you might say, well, can't you use a different series? And the answer is no. Because there is no other series that does what The Cosby show did. And there's no other series that covered the importance of family values, of setting ground rules for your kids, and in teaching basic decency and respect for others to the same degree that this show succeeded in doing it.


It feels weird to see a person I once looked up to fall so epically from grace. It's weird to go back to the series he created knowing what he's done and find value in the art, even though the man in his real life was a piece of trash.


And that's the thing I think we all have to remember. The Cosby show is a work of fiction. The Huxtable family is the ideal family. But, in a way, that's why the show works so well. 


The Huxtables showed us what we could achieve as a family if we all worked together. If we took the time to talk about our problems and worked, as a family unit, to understand each other's points of view and worked together to overcome the challenges that life throws at us daily.


It contains very positive moral messages involving culture, music, education, work, along with valuable life lessons for both children and adults. Its importance in television history will not likely fade anytime soon nor do I think it should. 


Maybe some of you will disagree, and that's your right. 


But I for one choose to separate the art from the man and not let one define the other. After all, we don't judge the value of our hamburger cook on how well he made our burger before serving it to us. That would be strange. 


So, yeah, I will still allow myself to enjoy The Cosby show even as I find Bill Cosby repugnant. That's just my choice. Yours could be entirely different and equally valid. What works for one person may not work for all.


In the meantime, Bill Cosby will now serve his time for the crimes he committed.
That's my two cents at any rate.


(Just realized invaluable and valuable mean the exact same thing. Yeesh! English.)


Thursday, August 30, 2018

The End of a Journey and the Beginning of a New One


Where one journey ends a new one begins.

I have decided to call it the end of my Advocatus Atheist journey.

This blog was monumental in helping me grapple with my loss of faith and working out my thoughts and feelings as I approached new belief systems and looked toward an uncertain future.

Now, after years of writing and years of speaking on religion, I've decided to call it quits.

Many of my atheist friends have also moved on. Once prominent bloggers are now focusing their energy and activism into things closer to them, taking on more personal challenges, and living their lives.

As you can tell by the lack of posts over the past couple of years, I too have shifted focus.

No longer do I feel the religious debate has anything worth discussing. That doesn't mean it's not a discussion worth having if you're engaging it for the first time. I'll continue to answer any questions directed my way, but as for new content, don't expect anything other than once in a blue moon.

Nowadays I have shifted all my focus and energy on my fiction writing, which has become rather lucrative for me.

What isn't lucrative is this blog. No matter how hard I tried, this simple expression of my ideas and thoughts, no matter how well researched, never generated a dime for me. And that wasn't such a concern when I was single and fresh out of college.

But, now, with three children, two dogs, and two rabbits I have many more mouths to feed and many more lives I am responsible for. Which also means I need to spend more time working for them and less time with online activism that seems to do little in the way of convincing anyone -- no matter how disciplined the rhetoric or how factually backed the arguments.

As such, it's time to close shop.

Naturally, all good things must come to an end. However, I realize that this blog has helped many others navigate their own loss of faith and perhaps helped, in some small way, give them direction in a turbulent, frightening, and uncertain time in their lives.

As they move forward in their own personal journeys and dare to look out beyond an absence of their faith for something to anchor them in a godless and vastly indifferent universe, if anything here can provide a small modicum of comfort during that terrifying existential crisis, then I'm certainly happy to leave up all of my past posts and discussions.

Over the years I've received numerous correspondence from people thanking me for this blog. I forged numerous friendships because of it and am proud that after a decade I still am friends with all my secular skeptics who I first met when I launched The Advocatus Atheist.

Because this blog has always been a valuable source for not only myself but others, I will leave it up. It won't be as active as it once was, but don't be surprised if the occasional political or religious reflection shows up.


That said, I will pour all my energy and artistic creativity into my books such as my science-fiction fantasy series Jegra: Gladiatrix of the Galaxy and the spinoff series Skywend: The Last Peacekeeper and the Knights of Caelum.

I also have a couple of new series planned for next year (2019) called The Wayfarer, a Tomb Raider styled adventure series, and Blood Alchemist: The Untold Tales of Dracula, a Vampire series -- obviously.

These, along with my current projects, will take me well into 2023 with non-stop writing. At the same time, I continue to teach English in Japan and will divert more time to my own English school as I continue to add students and build clientele.

Anyway, I wish you all well. And as always, live well and be wise. Finally, in this day and age of instant outrage and seemingly endless online profiling, doxing, and hypersensitivity, I will share this bit of wisdom I learned from my grandmother.

If there's anything in this world you could choose to be, it is my hope that you'd choose kindness. Be kind to one another.

Love one another.

Let go of the hate.

And live your lives to their fullest.

Do it in that order, and be content. Life if too short for senseless bickering, petty grudges, and no room for forgiveness.

Be kind.

Choose love.

That is all.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Top Ten Annoying Kinds of Athiests!

If you must know, my all time most viewed post is the Top Ten Annoying Types of Christians post from 2011. I figured it would be fun to turn the tables and critique some of the annoying kinds of atheists there are. Fair is fair, after all.





1.      The Fanboy Athiests

These are the Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson (instert famous atheist here) die-hard fan-boy  types that will defend every little thing said or done by their favorite celebrity atheist no matter how absurd or wrong. There's nothing they won't come to the defense of it it's their bro-atheist.


2.      The Atheist + Atheists

A movement championed by Richard Carrier among others to make Atheism more inclusive. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But the way these A+ movers went about doing it was to burn all the bridges and slam anyone who disagreed with even one minute aspect of the movement's screed. It was left-leaning and very dogmatic in it's zeal for revolutionizing the New Atheism movement. Needless to say, it crashed and burned within a matter of months. Like the Spruce Goose, it just didn't have what it needed to keep itself in the air. But that doesn't mean there aren't A+ sympathizers still loitering about the Interwebs. They pop up once in a while to remind you of your folly for not believing exactly as they do.


3.      The I'm Atheist But Don't Do Facts Type

These atheists proudly admit they don't believe in God, but then they turn around and espouse the benefits of supplements, crystal salt therapy, and acupuncture. Some even believe in ghosts! These atheists are into alternative therapies and believe they work, because unlike many atheists who come into atheism via a desire for more rational grounds for believing things, these atheists are just living life without facts. And they're content to continue to do so. Which makes them really annoying.


4.      The Can't Stop Being an Anti-theist Prick Atheist

Understandably, many coming out of religion go through an unavoidable anger phase. It's inevitable. But after about a year of blogging and lashing out at the folly of religion, most atheists calm down or find a nice balance to their secular life. The types that really grate, however, are the ones that can't stop being angry and continue to attack religion with the same dogmatic zeal they exhibited when they were a believer. And this religious need to always attack religion makes them one side of a very ugly dogmatic coin, bringing them squarely onto the list of annoying types of atheists. My advice, get it out of your system, sure, but then take a chill pill.


5.      The I Wannabe an Intellectual Too Type!

I hate to knock people's intelligence, as that's generally an ad hominem. But as with the Christian community, there are atheists who pretend to know more than they actually do. And they'll be the first to tell you. Which, I think you'll agree, makes them pretty dang annoying.


6.      The Atheist who Doesn't Know the Difference Between Atheism and Agnostic type

If you don't know the difference between agnosticism and atheism, then you probably shouldn't be getting into arguments about the meaning of either. Yet, there are a handful of atheists who continue to conflate the two, or else dismiss agnosticism entirely, not realizing the nature of their mistake.

Atheism deals with the *personal belief propositions of theism whereas agnosticism deals with what we can *know for certain regarding theistic claims; e.g. whether God exits, etc. There's room for both. I am, for example, an atheist due to my personal beliefs regarding my understanding of theism, but I am also agnostic because I am nearly certain I can't know with any certainty, given my current understanding, whether God exists or not. This makes me an agnostic-atheist. And that's fine. But thinking agnostics are scared atheists or to diminish the position in any other way reveals a lack of understanding on the critics part, making them rather annoying know-it-alls who don't know much of anything.


7.      I'm Atheist But all Atheists are Crap Type

These atheists have had a rough go of it, and have found lots to dislike about the atheist movement, so have sworn off all atheism. Just for the fact they think they're better than all of the rest of us, they make the list.


8.      The Chauvinistic Atheist

These are the horrific womanizing, women-accosting, women-bashing, women-molesting, predatory atheists and their asshole defenders. These are the atheists who wonder why more women atheists don't speak out or attend conventions but then slither into elevators at 2 AM and hit on unsuspecting women then get angry when they're rejected. These are also the atheists who defend these kinds of boundary crossing, disrespectful, predatory atheists by falsely crying "outrage culture" and "political correctness" fatigue, but then turn around and argue with all the women non-believers who are sharing their personal accounts of terrible atheist experiences within the community as though their opinions didn't matter because they were female. Yeah, fuck you pricks and your tiny dicks. Women atheists rule, and if you can't accept that fact, go fuck yourself.

9.      The Devil's Advocate Atheist

Usually this is the one guy in a chat thread that constantly takes the side of the theist in an attempt to, in their estimation, elevate you to higher standard of truthfulness. Therefore, they challenge you on every little detail and ask you to share all your research. Not for the benefit of the theist you happen to be debating, but for your own good. Often times, you end up burning out because you're fending a gish gallop of questions from both sides. And when you finally do throw in the towel, they apologize and express their concerns for the discourse. After all, it's the thought that counts, right? 

10.   The 'I need money so bad I'll debate anyone' Atheist

Most atheists don't do the professional debate circuit, that's true. But some make a good living at it. However, some atheists might want to be more discerning in who they agree to debate. If you're just debating people who want to rile up audiences and use the platform -- and subsequently your atheist fame -- to blast their hate speech, then you're part of the problem. Hey, if you need the money that badly, I hear Starbucks is hiring. And, hey, they offer sensitivity training. Which will help you in the long run. At the very least it will prevent you from becoming the next Lawrence Kraus.

***

There are many more types I could name, and many of these areas are overlapping, but these are just the types of Atheists which bother me (personally) to no end. I should know—I am one.



Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Anti-Rationalism of Pro-Gun Activism



Recently, I stumbled across this inane meme (above). Not once. Not twice. But FIVE times on my various social media accounts. So, allow me to respond.

***

If social media existed when the Constitution was written then right to privacy laws would likely have been included in it. But that's why we have the 9th Amendment anyway, because it clarifies there are moral laws & rights that aren't included in the Constitution as it is not an exhaustive text.

That said, there's a difference between calling for a ban of a lethal weapon which was used to murder all your friends vs. calling for more rights.

One is a response to a problem and the desire not to be murdered by a lethal weapon, mainly a gun. Which is a real problem in America. Although fatal school shootings aren't on the rise compared to previous years, they still register a higher fatality rate than soldiers in active service. That says all you need to know about the gun problem via statistics.

Also, when it comes to "ownership" of weapons, freely giving up weapons to maintain civil and peaceful society is a form of progress. The most peaceful societies on the planet do not allow weapons. Of the few who do, their regulations far outstrip those of standard American systems. In societies like Finland, with high gun-ownership per capita, they are offset from the U.S. by having amazingly good universal socialized health care, including more than adequate care for mental illness, among low poverty and disenfranchisement rates among its citizens.

Basically, in America, angry and poor people without access to good mental health care are arming themselves. And a lot of this "their taking away my rights" paranoia has led to people doubling down on their desire to own something they don't inherently need for happiness or survival in the modern world.

Privacy is far more important than guns in the digital age, and if you don't see this then, by all means, feel free to go build a log cabin somewhere remote and live off-grid until you're able to partake in civil and polite society again. I mean, that's about the only real way you're going to be able to hold onto your guns *or privacy, for that matter* in the future. By waiting till the Feds show up to your front doorstep and pry them out of your hands.

But this just goes to show the crux of the gun problem isn't so much the proliferation of guns, although that is a symptom of bad gun policy. But the fact that so many people think they need to "own" guns when they are merely confusing the desire to maintain an unnecessary privilege with a right.

Yes, in 1789 a well-organized militia could fend off the United States military. It was not a robust military.

Yes, in 1861 the North and the South fought and you could have a need for self-defense in such a scenario as enemy soldiers tramping through your fields and property. But in today's world, the 2nd Amendment's intended purpose of overturning a corrupt government is impossible. A single drone strike would end any militia or insurrection and 'we the people' simply are underequipped to take on a state of the art military, regardless of how many guns we might have. I mean, they can literally kill you with a flight simulator. Game over, man.

And, even I admit, there could be valid reasons to have shotguns and rifles on farms and for hunting, but with much stricter gun access laws and in a limited capacity. And I'm not talking about mere regulations. But real restrictions. Like you have to prove you need the tool for its said purpose and obtain a special license for it. After all, they don't let just anyone use large commercial vehicles like heavy equipment and airliners. There are a whole slew of regulations and special licensing that is required to use such tools and machines. They're specialized. And in a way, so are weapons designed to kill.

So do I see Hogg's comments as hypocritical. No.

He's sayings these are separate issues about different kinds of rights. And we can either evolve our thinking on the issue or keep going around in circles because people don't want to relinquish a lethal tool designed for killing just because.

I know the standard fair whataboutism styled arguments. But what about cars? But what about hammers? What about all the crazy murderers who'll still resort to stoning you with rocks if they really want to kill you? Well, yes, life is a fragile thing and we can die from any numerous causes. Even eating too much cheese.

But, come one. Let's be adults here. Cars, hammers, and rocks were not deliberately designed with the function of killing others. That's a side effect of bad safety when using a device improperly. Guns are no different in that they can be extremely unsafe, except in the way of their standard function of killing is also extremely unsafe. And that sets them apart in a degree from, say, hammers and cars where hammers and cars are no different (i.e., their standard and proper function is non-lethal. Cars are for transportation and hammers are for construction. Guns are for killing).

And only in a non-rational debate would these self-evident truths about the true function and nature of a gun be so brazenly ignored.

As for the argument, well, 'bad-guys will still find a way to get guns' doesn't necessarily hold either. Because even if they do, it doesn't mean they'll use them. In Japan, for example, which has some of the strictest gun laws on the entire planet, the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) do in fact get guns. They typically shoot up each other, and very rarely turn their weapons on the public.

There's a very good reason for this.

When it comes to crime, it pays to stay off the radar of law enforcement. Because having an illegal gun in Japan is like waving a big red flag that says, "Arrest me! Arrest me! I'm up to no good!" And criminals tend to shy away from drawing too much attention to themselves just as a matter of habit. So, I've never bought into that argument that criminals everywhere would arm themselves and then turn their weapons on the public. It seems to be a kind of paranoid thinking that leads one to conclude that anyone you don't like who happens to get a gun will try and harm you with that gun, hence the need for more guns.

I think the usual rationalizations gun proponents use just don't hold up under rational scrutiny. I've considered them and thought about them for over a decade now and I haven't found one that relies on the inherent strength of a basic rational tenet that isn't propped up by whataboutisms and poor moral rationalizations that conveniently seem to ignore the stronger counter-arguments to the position. Like, literally disregard the arguments because they don't fall in line with the gun-mentality, to call it that. And that's a sign of dogmatism. Something that's dangerous whether or not guns are involved.

Kid President once said if your dream is stupid, get a better dream. I think that applies here too with the entire gun debate. It's not stupid for people to have the healthy desire not to become a victim of gun crime. What is stupid, in my opinion, is in the light of so much gun crime to think it's stupid for a person to want to ban guns out of their fear of guns rather than do the irrational thing -- which is to arm themselves with more guns -- of which they are afraid of being harmed by.

That's a very irrational response to not wanting to become a victim of a gun-related crime and or death. If you're afraid of dying by eating the sashimi of the poisonous puffer fish, you don't go on a raw puffer fish eating binge to counteract this very real fear and potential risk to your safety and life. That's entirely irrational. If you don't wish to die by poisonous fish, you simply avoid eating raw puffer fish at all costs. Problem solved.

And yet, there are at least 6 deaths a year from eating raw poisoned fish meat. So, when I see people claiming more guns will solve our gun problem, this is what I think of. It's the ole puffer fish excuse. It's just a bit irrational.

(Coincidentally enough, the rate of gun death in Japan is equivalent to the rate of death by the consumption of poisoned fish. So, scaling up the analogy to 300 million American gun owners should show you the absurdity of the gun rationale. Just saying.)

Being a gun culture simply for the masturbatory lust for guns is a stupid dream. Let's all grow up and realize that the value of life should outstrip the value of ownership of lethal weapons. We don't let people carry around vials of lethal poison just because they feel it's their right to do so. That's insanity. Why should it be any different with guns?

Really, the only real moral argument for owning a gun is to safeguard oneself from a present and imminent harm. Something that is threatening one's life and the life of their loved ones. But, in America, in many cases this threat is simply another person with a gun. Think about that for a moment. Then, you'll see the solution to ending this threat is quite simple.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

**Me Too** (My Sexual Harassment experience that I've kept silent about for more than 10 years)

I came to Japan in my mid-twenties and started my career as an English teaching professional teaching TESOL to Japanese students at elementary and Junior high school.


One of the first experiences any foreign teacher has the privilege of experiencing in Japan is the infamous "kancho." 


It's basically a physical gag where a school child will sneak up behind you and wait till you bend over to wash your hands or drink from the drinking fountain, and then, placing their hands together, their index fingers pointed toward your nether regions like a gun--they jam their fingers into your anus with as much force as possible.


Many foreigners yelp out in shock at the first time small probing fingers try to enter their asshole. If you're a guy, sometimes the little kids miss and mash your balls, which really smarts. If you're a girl, sometimes they hit you right in the glory hole. Either way, none are immune to this childish prank.


During my first week in Japanese public schools, I got kancho-ed no less than seven times. Each time I felt myself getting angrier and angrier. I eventually complained to the vice principal of the school who informed me it's simply something children do.


When in Rome, I thought to myself. And sure enough, the antics of the school children blew over once they got to know me. As a matter of fact, I later found out that many school kids do this to new teachers to "test" them and see how they'll react. And being a foreigner in a strange land, I knew that they were taking advantage of the situation. But this isn't a case of sexual harassment since, in most cases, school kids six and seven years old aren't even aware of what sexual harassment is. To them, it's just a silly prank.


What came as a rather big shock to me, however, was when my 14 and 15 year old junior high school students did the same thing my first few weeks of school.


Again, as a new teacher, I got the sense they were testing me. But the guys also liked to swat at my balls in the bathroom when I was taking a pee--as a joke. And if you've ever listened to pubescent teenagers of 15 talk, you know they are all entering their hormonal stage where everything becomes about sex for them.


After my second year teaching, several of my third year students (the equivalent of freshman in high school) decided to play a naughty prank on me.


As it turned out, I achieved the thing I was aiming for--familiarity with my students. I went through great trouble to learn each and every one of the names of my graduating students. I wanted them to like me and think of me as a cool, hip teacher. And to that effect, I succeeded. Also, being the token foreigner amongst an all Japanese staff, many of the students would approach me with questions asking about the difference between their culture and mine. 


I was always happy to answer such questions except when they were sexually explicit and entirely inappropriate.


Once a boy student asked me, "Are Japanese girls' pussies tighter than American girls' pussies?"


I was taken aback by the bluntness of the question. I merely replied to him in Japanese, "I can't talk about such things at school. It's not appropriate."


He laughed and wandered off with his friends. Another time, a different boy student asked me how big my penis was and if he could see it. I didn't know whether to be flattered or traumatized. 


I politely apologized, as is custom in Japan, and informed him it wasn't appropriate to talk about such things and shrugged it off and went about my week. 


But the more familiar my boy students became with me as their teacher the more emboldened they got and, soon enough, began asking me all kinds of lewd questions. 


Granted, they were curious and I was technically the only one who could answer such questions about the "cultural" differences they were interested in, except for the fact that it would have been entirely inappropriate. So, as always, I deflected their questions or did my best to change the subject to something that would hold their attention--such as sports.


As the boys kept me preoccupied, I never saw the real threat of the girls--who were equally curious and perhaps a little more aware of their own sexual maturity. Whereas with the boys it was just a game, the girls approached their sexuality in a more up front sort of way. A way which snuck up on me. Quite literally speaking.


In Japan, the students all have a cleaning hour at the end of the day. They all work together to clean their school. Which is why Japanese schools don't have janitors.


One day while cleaning, a couple of girl students of mine rushed over to tell me that their friend had fallen down and hurt her knee. They were adamant that I should come right away. Worried that a student of mine was actually in trouble, I followed them to the stairwell.


One of the girls pointed to the dark area behind the staircase, which was merely a storage area, and stepped to the side as I leaned in to see what the matter was. Without warning, from behind, both girls shoved me into the nook behind the stairs.


I reached out as I fell forward and my hands mashed into something soft. When I looked up I found one of my girl students, her shirt and bra pulled up over her chest, laying under me as she stared up at me with brown eyes and flushed cheeks.


I looked down to find my hands firmly pressed upon her small budding breasts and I quickly recoiled, pulling my hands away. But as I tried to clamor to my feet, the two girls behind me leaned into my back, practically hopping on me piggy-back style and forced me back down onto the third girl.


I caught myself with my hands, my face hovering dangerously close to the third girl's face. As she looked up at me, she asked me in a deliberately sensual tone, "Do you like me, Mr. Vick?"


One of the girls from behind said in a loud voice, "Mr. Vick, please touch my breasts next!" 


The other girl from behind quipped, "I want him to touch me someplace else."


All three girls snickered and giggled excitedly. I remember one even snorted and that made them laugh all the more.


Angered, I pushed myself up and shoved the two girls behind me out of my way. I retreated to the hallway when, turning to the right, I saw Kanda sensei making his way toward us.


I knew that if he caught wind of anything that had just transpired, I could get in huge trouble. I might even lose my job. And the girl students, for their crime of adolescent naivete and sexually immature antics, could get expelled. 


Flustered, I didn't know what to do. My heart raced with nervous embarrassment and fear gripped me. I remember panic set in and I began to have trouble breathing.


Meanwhile, the girl beneath the stairwell pulled down her clothes and casually stepped out into the hall with us. All the girls turned as Kanda sensei approached and when he saw them giggling he ordered them to get back to cleaning. Without even batting an eye they took off, giggling amongst themselves down the entirety of the school corridor.


Seeing that I was without a broom, Kanda sensei opened the broom closet underneath the stairwell and handed me a bristle broom. I thanked him and moved on. He immediately turned to see boys throwing rocks at each other outside and rushed out to chastise them and order them to get back to cleaning.


As I stood in the hallway, sweeping the same spot over and over again, I tried to wrap my brain around what had just happened. Of course, I never mentioned it to anybody. I was too scared.


I knew that if I came clean with what had actually happened the girls could team up against me and lie about what had occurred, claiming that I attacked them and molested them. I knew they were all close friends and so would protect each other--if push came to shove--and being minors I could lose my job. 


And even if it was deemed that it wasn't my fault--that I merely was a victim to their adolescent antics, at the very least it cast suspicion on me as a potential sexual predator. Which was practically just as bad as actually being falsely accused as one. Because then everyone would be wondering whether the rumors were true and this would give rise to new rumors--none of them bound to be good.


At the same time, I didn't want the girls to be unfairly disciplined, and from my short time in Japan I had seen first-hand how harsh some of the school's punishments were for things that, by my American standards, were trivial non-offenses. I didn't want to get them suspended from school for a one-time offense. Moreover, I didn't want my relationship with my students to become strained to the point where they didn't feel like they could trust me or be themselves around me.


So, I did the only thing I could do. I kept it to myself.


Was it the right thing to do? I think so. 


I couldn't change what had happened. But at least I had some small control over what happened next.


I went the rest of the year without another incident. If it would have continued, I would have certainly mentioned it. But instead, the girls just blew me kissy faces, batted their eyes at me, and giggled the rest of the year long. They were only teasing.


But, in retrospect, I think their big prank was perhaps a little too much. And because it was overly sexual and placed me in an awkward and potentially problematic situation, I sometimes grow anxious whenever the memory should resurface. Which is why I have never talked about it till now.


That said, this account showcases only a mild case of sexual harassment. These students all acted out of innocent ignorance and out of a sense of fun and wanting to get to know me better. And, as the saying goes, no harm no foul. 


In fact, all three girls stay in touch with me to this day. And if that should sound weird, consider that they're all college graduates now, and are the age I was when I first taught them (25). Two of them are married with children and they send me pictures of their families and tell me that whenever they get together they reminisce about the good old days and tell me they always talk about how I was such a fun teacher for them.


Sexual harassment is a sensitive subject matter because it's also a highly personal subject matter--and because people will undoubtedly respond differently to it. Most assuredly, there are cases far more severe and damaging than what I experienced, so please don't feel sorry for me. Everything worked out well enough in the end. Nobody was hurt by it, other than a bit of awkwardness it may have caused me. 


Needless to say, I was on my guard around young adolescent people from there on in, and I most certainly never followed students blindly into dark corners of the school ever again.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist